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Some 2020 Quick Hits

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on February 10, 2020

Hello Enthusiasts –

Well, here it is, 2020. And it’s been a few months since my last post – not that there has been any shortage of places that deserve some love and attention. But, you know, life.

So, in the interest of playing a little catch up, this is gonna be a quick hit post. No photos, no long ruminations on “what it all means”. Just … places you should know or go to more or remember. So … here goes.

The place at the top of the list that I’ve been wanting to write about, and actually started a post about, is Nightshade. Tucked into a somewhat obscure location in the Arts District (the former home of R23 Sushi for you Downtown OGs), Nightshade is a meal that you won’t soon forget. It’s Asian food from a former Top Chef winner – two things that would normally give me pause. Because (full disclosure), I’m not a huge fan of Asian food generally (and yes, I know there’s no such thing as “Asian” food … I’m using it to mean the varying cuisines from that part of the world). I don’t DISlike it, but I would normally not make a special effort for it. And I certainly wouldn’t splurge for it. But … Nightshade changed all that. It is – perhaps second only to Bavel, and I’m not even sure of that – the best meal I’ve had in Los Angeles all last year. It’s one of those places where you can order something you’re not sure of, and it will be amazing … and also where one of its signature dishes can be lasagna. Yes, lasagna. So … Nightshade is the one place I have regretted not writing about sooner. If you haven’t been, go.

Extended side note: Speaking of Bavel, you have likely heard of it by now. Is it really that good? Yes. Is hummus that takes days to make really worth it? Yes. If you haven’t been, should you make the effort to go? Yes. (And, I’ve actually walked in a couple times and been seated, so don’t necessarily think you have to reserve 3 months out. Just take a shot.)

OK, back to the new, Sibling Rival, in the lobby of the new Hoxton Hotel at Olympic and Broadway (near the Ace) is a worthy addition to a burgeoning section of Downtown. Its rooftop bar, Pilot, wasn’t open yet when I went, but the whole setup is part of a new generation of places that are high quality, inviting, and yet somehow still “neighborhood-y.” And since DTLA is a microcosm of increasingly distinct neighborhoods (South Park, Arts District, Historic Core, Financial District, Fashion District, etc.), these kinds of places will become increasingly important. Also, I like that places can “just” be really good and really inviting and attract a crowd. They no longer need to have some big hook or story or famous backers to justify people venturing to Downtown. I don’t mean to sound like I’m damning it with faint praise – it really is excellent. I’m just saying that it doesn’t depend on the restaurant equivalent of click-bait to bring people in. Although the Hoxton mostly did make its name in the UK/Europe, so it does have some of that pre-Brexit Brit cachet…

Oooh, and speaking of the Arts District, have you checked out neighbors Arts District Firehouse and Bon Temps? The former is exactly what it sounds like – a restaurant and bar (and boutique hotel!) inside an old firehouse, which always makes for good ambience. The latter is right next door (both of them are right by Bestia – further proof of the drawing/economic development power of one good restaurant), and is founded by the former pastry chef for Michael Mina – and increasingly finds itself on lots of “Best of” lists, including the LA Times’. The Firehouse is better for a more atmospheric, “this place is cool” visit. Bon Temps is better for an “Arts District-ish” experience, and the pastries are out of this world. (Haven’t been there for dinner yet, when it allegedly transforms to a more proper restaurant, so feel free to report back on that…)

(And now that I’ve written all that, a couple loyal readers are telling me that the Firehouse is CLOSED … even though I went there for an event last week. I’m not deleting the above because I can’t stand deleting my work. But, you know, just so you know.)

BTW, another side note: you’ll note that I haven’t mentioned cocktails once, yet all of these places have really good, high quality cocktail programs. Simply put, you just can’t open up any kind of respectable restaurant in Downtown anymore and NOT have a respectable cocktail program. It’s like not serving dessert or wine or something – it’s just part of what makes a good restaurant now. You can thank Cedd Moses (sure, among others, but mostly Cedd) for that.

OK, well, there’s 4 newish places for you, all wrapped in a bow. But, before we wrap, for those of you reading this and thinking “why is the text so small? And why does his picture look so out of date? And why are some of the links out of date?” well, I agree with you on all of that. Which is why this will be the last blog post you see that has all those problems. A total redesign is coming your way along with what I hope is some pretty exciting news about this little vanity project. So … stay tuned.

But until then … happy travels.

Nightshade

923 E. 3rd, Suite 109 (in the alley between 2nd & 3rd next to Hauser & Wirth)

Bavel

500 Mateo St. (on a funky corner near Santa Fe & 4th)

Sibling Rival at the Hoxton

1060 S. Broadway (near Olympic)

Arts District Firehouse Hotel

710 S. Santa Fe

Bon Temps

712 S. Santa Fe (toldja is was right next door to ADFH)