An outdoor food hall bonanza hit DTLA. Maybe you heard about it? Smorgasburg is the Brooklyn-born extravaganza hit Los Angeles with a vengeance this summer, sending folks in a frenzy for what feels like a weekly food festival. This weekend will be the fourth Sunday in a row that dozens of restaurants, pop-ups and vendors hawk their edible, wearable and decorative wares to the masses at the new ROW DTLA complex. For an extensive list of what to expect, head over to CBSLA.com for my rundown!
When Elephant Bar closed in Burbank, I wondered what would fill the corner space in the Downtown area. Now we know the answer–Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill. Last week, the restaurant hosted a media preview of its 17th California outpost, which features a large bar and lounge area next to a spacious dining room. The main dining space faces an open kitchen with numerous booths and banquettes for guests. The menu features all of the main dishes that are Wood Ranch specialties, but there are three new ones that will only be served in Burbank. The Ultimate BBQ Sandwich is Carolina pulled pork, Carolina slaw, swiss cheese-topped brisket, kielbasa, grilled jalapeño and fried, shredded onions on brioche. Manny’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a stack of brined and fried thighs paired with peanut-cilantro slaw on brioche. Last but not least, patrons can nosh on smoked pulled pork nachos with Monterey jack and cheddar, black beans, jalapeños, salsa, guacamole and sour cream available only at the bar. Those nachos are also on the happy hour menu offered Mon-Fri from 3-6p.
Those familiar with Wood Ranch BBQ’s menu will be happy to know that its solid selection of house-smoked ribs and brisket, roasted chicken and Western Carolina-style pulled pork remain as signature offerings on the menu, along with burgers, steaks and salads. As a vegetable-lover, I can appreciate the focus on a mix of sides (many traditional, others on the healthier end of the spectrum), as well as nearly ten market salads. As much as we may love grilled and smoked meats, this is L.A.–we need options to add balance to the meal. The BBQ Chopped is a bowlful of Texmex ingredients with your choice of chicken or tri tip over mixed greens with ranch and bbq sauce. Notables sides include mashed sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus, fiery green beans, peanut cole slaw and mashed potatoes.
Speaking of balance, the menu features a few made-in-house desserts, including crushed Oreo cookie-coated balls of ice cream, peach cobbler, chocolate cake, and what Wood Ranch deems “the best cheesecake”. Wood Ranch Burbank opens today at 4pm for dinner. The restaurant will operate on a dinner-only basis for the first week and a half, launching lunch service on June 22.
The Guild’s new American fare hit Sunset Boulevard in April, and the restaurant hopes its take on Californian-inspired cuisine will prove to be a lasting addition to Sunset Boulevard. It’s in the space that previously housed the Screen Actors Guild (as well as a few other restaurants), so it’s a location steeped in Hollywood history. The rustic, wood-heavy design and architecture reminiscent of a quaint home foster a warm, intimate dining experience. It’s just the kind of spot you’d enjoy a glass of wine with a friend at the bar or nestle into the back and dine sweetly with a significant other.
The evening menu’s small plates includes a Cuban shepherd’s pie with picadillo and plantain crumble, bone marrow with braised beef tongue and crisped shallots, honey and bacon cornbread, and roasted rainbow vegetables in turmeric butter. Mussels with Italian sausage, Korean beef tartare, and the house’s own Game of Thrones lamb chops with pomegranate demi sauce are just a few of the larger platters. I always find room for dessert and enjoyed the milk & cookies whose best component is the creamy milk sorbet. In addition to this city’s insatiable need for new restaurants, The Guild will soon open its adjoining marketplace. Pick up artisanal goods and wine for summer parties at home, outdoor movie screenings and concerts under the stars.
The Guild’s patio is prime for people watching and enjoying sunny days and warm evenings. The restaurant serves dinner and bottomless weekend brunch, which seems to be necessary in today’s culinary landscape. Happy hour? Yep, it’s on deck as well from Mon-Fri from 5-7p and Sat-Sun from 3-6p.
Disclaimer: Both restaurants hosted complimentary media previews. All opinions are my own.
There are a couple of new spots in town that you may not have heard of, and they’re worthy of discussion. The first is LUKE Bar & Restaurant in Woodland Hills. Yes, Woodland Hills. As someone who lives in the SFV, I recognize that neighborhoods past Sherman Oaks are widely regarded as “lands far, far away” by those who live in the central hubs of L.A., or goodness, Westside or South Bay. But every neighborhood is searching for a way to distinguish itself as a culinary destination, and it could be argued that LUKE wants to lead the way for its suburban enclave.
Executive Chef Nico Sy serves weekend brunch and daily lunch and dinner, as well as daily happy hour. Individually bagged salt and vinegar chicharrones, roasted heirloom carrots with cumin yogurt and a deconstructed baby gem lettuce Caesar are notable starters. If you’re there for dinner, go for the salted fish fried rice and grilled beef yakitori. Each one is uniquely flavored and accented–the former with earthy mushrooms and bright lemongrass, the latter with yuzu glaze and dried marash peppers. I’m never one to say no to dessert, and the caramel budino with chocolate crumbles and candied hazelnuts was a pleasant finish. My favorite bites of the night came from a plate of dry-aged meatballs in a creamy, butter-laden steak au poivre sauce with caramelized fennel. Cocktails are sophisticated, yet very approachable, and the wine menu features an array of mostly Californian bottles chosen by house sommelier Elizabeth Blankstein. Woodland Hills, you have LUKE to thank when it comes to stepping up your food game.
How can a spot in Hollywood be tucked away? Especially when it’s part of the Columbia Square multi-use space. Well, somehow I missed the arrival of Rubies + Diamonds, which finds itself tucked away between Paley and Sugarfish on Sunset Boulevard. The coffeeshop operates on the nitro tip, which, if you haven’t heard, involves pumping a little nitrogen into drinks thanks to their Bkon machine for a silkier, smoother texture. If you’re a coffee fiend, then you know what this means. But what about folks like me who prefer tea? Well, R+D has you covered. Nitrogen teas are available as well in a few flavors–ginger ale green tea, turmeric and matcha. I suggest mixing the ginger ale and turmeric as it’s just the right combination.
If you’re a traditional coffee and tea drinker, don’t worry. Leave the nitro-infusions to the kids, and enjoy drips, cold brews, hot and iced teas, and signature house drinks. Buy a house growler, take home your own batch of coffee or tea for a few days. Bring it back for a refill, and you’ll get a nice discount. Wine and beer are also on the beverage menu, along with pastries, sandwiches and snacks.
Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend! I spent that Monday afternoon Downtown on the rooftop at the Ace Hotel, also known as the Upstairs Bar. While half of the party was lounging by the pool, I kept it moving thanks to the day’s DJ rotation, happy hour and a newly launched cocktail menu. L.A.’s making attempts to pump up the volume on public transportation, and the new transit menu at Upstairs Bar is a playful tribute to Los Angeles and its transpo-friendly brethren around the world (New York, Paris and London).
L.A.’s section, sweetly dubbed the Line, includes five new drinks, of which I sampled three. The Downtown Santa Monica (blanco tequila, amaretto, creme de pamplemousse, coconut, orange, hopped grapefruit bitters) is described as fruity, light and refreshing and tart and sour. It’s also on the sweet and creamy side, if you like that sort of thing. Next up, the Vermont & Beverly (blanco tequila, watermelon, lime, agave, rhubarb bitters, tajin, black sesame), which is also described as fruity, light and refreshing. It’s akin to biting into a piece of spiced fruit straight from the neighborhood carts. Finally, the Little Tokyo (plum wine, salted honey, douglas fir eau de vie, 13 ponzu, cremant di limoux,
dried chili tincture), which is described as complex and herbaceous. Little did I know this would be my favorite of the bunch. Everyone else in my group ordered the Hollywood & Vine (vodka, cucumber,lemon, 13 honey, lavender, ginger beer) multiple times, so it was another winner. Don’t forget Upstairs Bar also has happy hour Monday through Friday. If you’re going for cocktails, make sure you put in an order of the day’s oysters. They’re only a buck each, which is a great savings on food after blowing half of Friday’s paycheck at the bar.
Speaking of happy hour, Hanjip recently launched a new daily menu featuring food and drink specials. If you haven’t been to Hanjip yet, it’s the new Culver City joint from the Bombet Hospitality Group (Viviane, Faith & Flower and Terrine) who dipped their hands into Korean bbq late last year. The happy hour menu features a handful of dishes, including a golden brown seafood pancake with rock shrimp and bay scallops, shrimp tempura with pickled ginger sauce, sweet and spicy ribs and pork buns with gojuchang glaze. Pair these shareable plates with soju, beer or wine, also discounted. I would suggest a soju shot paired with jicama juice, which may not be the first combination that comes to mind, but just trust me.
If you’re going with a big group, spring for the beef or pork platters that you can grill yourself right at the table. There are a la carte additions, of course, such as pork belly, octopus, bulgogi and ribeye. Supplemental sides on the menu include kimchi fried rice, uni steamed egg, chicharrones with kimchi aioli and the magnificent bone marrow corn cheese. The latter’s a bowl of sweet, summer corn piled around a crackly hot bone, then topped with dancing shreds of bonito flakes and parmesan. Scrape the marrow into the corn, and after one bite, you’ll ask the server for another order. It’s that good. Hanjip’s happy hour couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Disclaimer: Both restaurants hosted complimentary media previews. All opinions are my own.