After eight years, Brad Johnson stepped down as owner and operator of Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills. This legendary restaurant owner opened Post & Beam on the grounds of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in 2012. He’s handing over the keys to chef John Cleveland, who started leading the kitchen two years ago.
Johnson opened Post & Beam during the last housing crisis to create something the neighborhood was lacking: a sit-down, full-service restaurant. Post & Beam is one of Baldwin Hills’ most beloved places, partly because Johnson initially recruited chef Govind Armstrong to build the menu. Post & Beam’s menu was impressive enough for the late Jonathan Gold to add it to his 101 list during its first five years of operation, and garnered a positive review from then Los Angeles Times Critic Irene Virbilia.
Post & Beam was Johnson’s second restaurant with Armstrong. After doing Post & Beam together, they teamed to open Southern brunch spot Willie Jane, which closed on Abbott Kinney in 2016.
Prolific LA entrepreneur Ken Lombard first approached Johnson in 2008 to open Post & Beam. Johnson then partnered with real estate developer Quintin E. Primo III, and Capri Capital to figure out what restaurant would go into the unusual location. The unattached building sits just outside of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza parking lot, with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy just across the way.
The restaurant keeps a vegetable and herb garden on the patio and focuses on comfort food, rather than what tends to be expected from black-owned restaurants: soul food. Armstrong’s menu included vegan crab cakes made from hearts of palm, a wood-fired pizza oven, and organic chicken, but the side dishes were a nod to soul food with greens, black eyed peas, and mac and cheese. Later, chef Cleveland even used his family’s recipes for the house made barbecue sauce.
Post & Beam wasn’t Johnson’s first time in the restaurant rodeo, with over 40 years of work in the hospitality business. He started washing dishes in his father’s Upper West Side restaurant, The Cellar. Johnson later redeveloped the 20/20 Club, owned by songwriters/producers Valerie Simpson and the late Nick Ashford. Johnson also opened the New Orleans-style Memphis in New York City, and Windows, a 10,000 square foot fine dining restaurant on the top floor of South Park building in downtown Los Angeles.
Johnson also opened the famed nightclub The Roxbury in 1989, followed by the well-known Melrose restaurant Georgia with partners Debbie Allen, former Laker Norm Nixon, and Denzel Washington in 1993.
Johnson has no future restaurant in the works — only travel and writing projects. Johnson tells Eater that Armstrong will remain on board to mentor Cleveland. Cleveland wrote the following statement on Post & Beam’s Facebook page:
Post & Beam. 3767 Santa Rosalia Dr, Baldwin Hills, CA