Most “hidden” restaurants are small, demure things, tucked away out of sight and only accessible with a whispered password. But Restaurant 917, the recently opened Porsche-backed restaurant strutting atop the sports car manufacturer’s Experience Center (a fancy phrase for their driving school and showroom) in Carson, CA doesn’t fit that mold at all — yet it’s practically guaranteed you’ve never heard of the place.
The grounds on which Restaurant 917 (that’s “nine-seventeen,” a famous Le Mans-winning car from the Porsche lineup) span acres, with a couple of rolling hills, tight racing corners and mechanic bays. It’s a noisy plot of land tucked into a triangle between the 110 Freeway and the 405 Freeway, a few hundred yards from the eye-catching Goodyear Blimp landing pad. Not exactly out of sight (and with the low thrum of tuned engines cresting hills every so often, not out of sound either).
That said, Restaurant 917 doesn’t much cater to the public. The second-floor restaurant sits inside a looming Porsche facility packed with timeless auto racing relics, its entrance hidden behind visitor badges, locked doors, and long hallways. The clientele is almost exclusively folks who work at Porsche, and those who have come to drive.
But the truth is, anyone can show up. You can even make a reservation on OpenTable for a weekday lunch or weekend evening meal, then be whisked away to your seat against floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Porsche performance track. There’s a bar, a private dining room, and a small outdoor perch for catching the action with your ears as much as your eyes.
As for the food, it’s far better than you might think, owing in no small part to the discerning clientele coming in for a bite to eat. Chef Matt Lee comes over from a stint as executive chef at the restaurant at the Getty, and he’s turning out a tuned-up menu of basics — grilled flat bread, ahi tuna, flat iron steak, an $18 burger — and notable surprises, not least of which is Lee’s commitment to sourcing everything from within less than 200 miles away. A lunch tasting menu runs $35 a head, and cocktails hover in the $15 range.
Really though, the sweetest part of the whole experience is the automobile eye candy. Cars line up for road course jaunts every hour or so, and in the meantime guests can wander around downstairs to watch the mechanics do their thing on some truly classic rides. After all, just about everyone in the restaurant is there because they love Porsche — even the guy in the kitchen who makes sure the butter that accompanies each table’s bread service is shaped like the iconic Porsche 911.
Restaurant 917 quietly opened late last year, and keeps hours for lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner Thursday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
19800 S. Main St.