At Los Angeles restaurant Sausal, longtime resident Chef Anne Conness (formerly at Napa Valley Grille and Simmzy’s) is fascinated by the culinary history of the South Bay’s founding rancheros. “Reimagining those flavors in a way that speaks to the modern palate has been a goal of mine for quite some time,” she said of a vision that came to fruition in September 2015 with the opening of Sausal, named after the Rancho Sausal Redondo farmstead that once encompassed the area. Located in El Segundo, the beautifully designed restaurant is a welcome addition to the area’s Main Street.

What makes Chef Conness’s menu at Sausal so successful is that the dishes are authentic and modern at the same time. Throughout the menu, she incorporates local ingredients related to the produce of missionaries and the early Californios of Alta California (modern day California plus states to the east). “Our cuisine is based on local Native American foods, such as black walnuts, blackberries, pine nuts, chia seeds, prickly pear, as well as the foods that were brought here by the Spanish and Mexican people,” she says. “The Spanish brought figs, pears, olives and citrus; the Mexicans brought pumpkin, tomatoes, corn and chilis.”

Using wood fire and slow roasting techniques popularized by the rancheros’ communal feasts means that Sausal serves a variety of soulful dishes, from snacks to stews. The sophisticated drinks menu uses housemade infusions and small batch spirits – the Jalisco Pear (tequila, pear brandy, house allspice dram, lemon) is a smooth choice. Save room because the Spanish sticky date cake is worth the indulgence.

The Mariachi Mondays features an actual mariachi band along with chef specials. Come early for happy hour and $5 margaritas and check the website for Chef Anne’s dinner series.

Sausal, 219 Main St, El Segundo. 310-322-2721,

Marina Chetner is a Los Angeles-based Australian freelance writer.