Richard Mandeville's life used to revolve around basketball. These days, it's consumed with his twins, his wife -- and a pair of eateries named in honor of his beloved pet.
Bottles of Johnny Walker Red label, Chivas Regal and cans of Old Speckled Hen rest on various shelves in Mandeville's office at . The "fat dog" is Luther, the family bulldog who passed away in August.
“I carry his dog tags with me in my pocket every day,” he said. “We recently got a bulldog puppy and named her Lucy. She will never replace Luther, but she is a sweetheart.”
The Montrose edition of The Fat Dog opened in 2008 at 2265 Honolulu Avenue, and the couple recently opened up another one in Hollywood on Fairfax Boulevard. They co-own the eateries with chef John Gladish. It's been a long, winding journey for Mandeville, an Echo Park resident whose passions used to lie in hoops.
History on the Hardwood
In the early 90s, Mandeville could be found at center for the La Cañada High School varsity hoops team. He was the tallest player in team history, and in 1992, he had college recruits from UCLA, Notre Dame, Virginia and Indiana University luring him to play ball at their schools.
Mandeville eventually played for “The General” Bobby Knight, the coach of the Indiana Hoosier and winner of three national championships from 1971 to 2000.
“I really liked the idea of going out of state,” said Mandeville. “It sure made me appreciate La Cañada more, once I returned. Winters in Indiana were 10-degrees. I had to de-ice my car and shovel snow. I don’t miss that at all,” Mandeville said with a laugh. “I do miss buying a cool winter jacket.”
Mandeville played ball for Knight for five years. “I was too young making the biggest decision in my life,” announced Mandeville. “I wasn’t emotionally ready for Bobby Knight’s style.”
“Playing college basketball is one step away from professional ball," he added. "The pro players are mentally tough, as well as athletically talented. To be that good, you must play 24-7.”
After Indiana, Mandeville was invited to play basketball in Wollongong, Australia, just one hour outside Sydney. After a year “down under” he came back to Pasadena and eventually met Suzann at Garden of Eden in Hollywood. “She was a great bartender,” he said with a smile.
In 2000, he was invited to play basketball in Croatia and convinced Suzann to join him for the year. “Croatia is an amazing country,” beamed Mandeville. “It’s awesome. You drive from the north down to Dubrovnik and see hundreds of islands. The cruise ships were just arriving when we lived there.”
After a year overseas, Mandeville came back to California and played in the minor leagues in Anaheim. That's when, he said, his itch for the game left him.
“I just got tired and burned out when I came back here,” Mandeville said. “I had been playing basketball since I was 6-years-old and didn’t have the hunger anymore. It wasn’t in my heart.”
A Passion for Restaurants
Mandeville did have a passion for something else -- bars and restaurants. He remembers writing a paper in his marketing class at Indiana University about running a restaurant.
“During the summer in Indiana, we were required to work. I worked at a bar/restaurant Yogi’s,” he said. When he met his wife Suzann, she had years of restaurant experience, so the two of them wanted to own their own place, instead of making a career of bartending and managing some else’s restaurant. They put together their ideas and came up with a Gastropub.
“During this time, Father’s Office in Santa Monica was the greatest pub and burger place in Los Angeles. We wanted to bring that to Montrose,” Mandeville said.
So in 2008, they met Gladish and created a concept and menu. Someone told them that the Barru Martini Lounge on Honolulu Avenue had closed. “It was a turn-key space. We just tweaked the design a little and named the restaurant, The Fat Dog, after our bulldog Luther.”
After three years, The Mandevilles and Gladish were ready to open another location. They selected a spot in Hollywood on Fairfax Boulevard. It’s been well received by the Los Angeles foodie-crowd and is open for lunch, brunch and dinner.
High School Memories
When I asked him what he enjoyed most about going to La Cañada High School, Mandeville said, “The friends I made. I only have two friends I keep in contact with at Indiana, yet from high school I have so many more.”
Most of his friends live in La Cañada and Pasadena, or their parents still live here and they come home to visit. “La Canada is such a unique community. My mom grew up in Pasadena and has stayed here her entire life,” said Mandeville.
Next time you are in the mood to meet some friends for great drinks and food in a fun pub-like atmosphere, visit The Fat Dog at 2265 Honolulu Ave., Montrose or call (818) 236-4810 for questions.