Letter from the Editor: Honest Food in Lalaland Vol: 108

March 2014
Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor-in-Chief


America’s trendiest city now has a twang. Southern cuisine has wrapped its soulful arms around the City of Angels, and we heard its resounding rebel yell echoing through kitchens from Venice to Culver City to West Hollywood. The Southern Creep has infiltrated Los Angeles.

At Hart and the Hunter the accent is thick. Chef Brian Dunsmoor took his chef-partner, Kris Tominaga, on a road trip across the American South for inspiration for their menu. They came back with barbecued oysters, a hankering for shrimp boils, and the spirit of Southern hospitality to share. South of Santa Monica Boulevard, Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Whitener  has found a West Coast home for the dirty South on the menu at Animal. Learn his approach for braised and fried rabbit legs in our Technique feature (not for the faint of heart, there’s a smothering of sour cream gravy!).        

You can take away a healthy helping of sorghum biscuits with date butter and strawberry jam from Pastry Chef Nicole Rucker’s Gjelina’s Take Away, or a handy pork and pea pie. While the pork is Niman Ranch and the gravy-fillings includes apples and rosemary, it’s all about the crust. Just from the look of it, you know you’re going to love it—the way it hangs over the side of the dish, begging for attention. For Rucker’s recipe and story, hit up our pastry column, Whipped.

Just as they’re embracing the foods of the South, fickle L.A. diners are also welcoming new neighborhoods to the dining scene, flocking to areas that had previously been food deserts and barely had any foot traffic. In Echo Park, a new guard of chefs like Miles Thompson of Allumette, Trevor Rocco of Red Hill, and Jessica Koslow of SQIRL are breathing new life into a historically rough neighborhood. In Downtown L.A., Angelinos are now coming to eat at Ari Taymor’s Alma and Andy Villaluna’s Baco Mercat. And in Culver City there’s Nikki Nayama’s N/Naka, Ted Hopson and Sang Yoon’s Father’s Office, and coming soon from dream team Sherry Yard and (again) Sang Yoon, Helms Bakery.       

As the savory scene in La La Land grows up, past Rising Stars are growing along with it and leading it. David Myers opened Hinoki & The Bird and Michael Cimarusti opened Connie & Ted’s. Walter Manzke opened Petty Cash taqueria and the much anticipated Republique in 2013, in addition to his successful chain of Bakeries in Manila, Philippines, Wildflour. Neal Fraser, who launched Fritzi Dog last fall, followed that up with BLD; Redbird is also forthcoming. Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook followed up Animal with Son of a Gun and now have a joint venture with Ludo Lefebvre called Trois Mec. Restaurateurs Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s empire is continually expanding with Sweet Rose Creameries and a new Santa Monica project Huckleberry Café. David Lefevre added Fishing with Dynamite to his M.B. Post. And Jason Travi is increasing his influence and presence with Little Fork in Hollywood.

With new food neighborhoods, new chef-blood, and leadership coming from an ambitious group of Rising Stars, the restaurant scene in L.A. has come into its own since we first came knocking a decade ago. Chefs are literally enlivening the city, restaurant by restaurant, block by block—sometimes warming things up with a little Southern charm. Chefs in L.A. are no longer a small group of celebrities. They’re the people’s chefs, with ties to communities and the (fickle) diners they’re cooking for.         

Antoinette Bruno