5 Overlooked L.A. Dining Trends of 2012 (That Will Change the Way You Eat in 2013)
Cortez in Echo Park
5. Echo Park/Silver Lake Ups Its Dining Game:
Prior to 2012, one of the common laments from Northeast L.A. residents was the lack of contemporary dining (one can only eat at Taix and Elf Café so much, after all). Establishments like Black Hogg, Red Hill, L&E Oyster Bar, and a re-vamped Cliff's Edge made eating in this section of town more exciting then it's been in years. The recently opened Cortez, which is already enjoying fascination from L.A.'s hippest circles, along with the upcoming Alumette, aim to turn Echo Park and Silver Lake into a dining destination worthy of a cross-town, rush-hour drive.
4. A Continental Comeback:
One of the most influential openings of the year, in a sense, was Papilles, which opened up shop late last December in Hollywood. Chef Sanots Uy and Tim Carey, inspired by the bistronomie movement in Paris, championed simple French cooking served via reasonably-priced prix fixe menus. Classic European cuisine was a major casualty of the recession, (see: Bastide) but just like the slow growth of GDP, entry-level-priced French and Italian cooking have found their way back on the scene, with places like Papilles, Gusto, Racíon, Maison Giraud, BierBeisl and Ba Restaurant leading the charge. Look for more higher-end options coming in 2013, including Evan Funke's Italian homage at Bucato and Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo's Le Routier, inspired by the homey cooking of rural France.
Cider Glazed Wings at Corner Door
3. The Gastropub Bubble Bursts:
To clarify: It's not that 2012 didn't produce some top-notch gastropubs (The Parish, Freddy Smalls, Black Hogg, and The Pikey come to mind) but it appears, rather, that the tired-formula of gourmet burgers and overpriced craft beers no longer equated instant success. For every outstanding new gastropub there were several mediocre incantations (Corner Door, Little Bear, Spanish Fly) and more that were downright unremarkable (The Fat Cow, Eat.Drink.Americano, Link N' Hops). Also: when gastropubs begin to turn into mini-chains, in the case of Pasadena's Haven Gastropub and the new Public School 310 in Culver City, it should tip you off that the days of this trend's dominance are severely numbered.
2. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid):
The recipe for success in 2012: taking food people already love and making it more convenient. Sycamore Kitchen, Storefront, and the recently opened Sqirl Café are examples of restaurants and delis emphasizing to-go goods and hyper-focused menus. Sycamore Kitchen and Storefront are casual offshoots from Hatfield's and Salt's Cure respectively, condensing the cooking style of both restaurants into take-out friendly pastries, sandwiches, and salads. At Sqirl, Jessica Koslow's homemade preserves, long available via retail, are spread on humble slices of toast and topped with thin slices of cheese or a fried eggs to create simple nourishing snacks at her Silverlake shop. Even booming burger giant Umami Burger saw fit to debut U-Mini, a burger shop that condenses Umami's already casual dining set-up into a fast-food style operation. Next year keep and eye out for Michael Cimarusti's Connie and Ted's, an East Coast-style seafood shack (think crab cakes and chowder) that plans to be much more casual than the high-end Providence.
Lobster at the Vagrancy Project
1. Pop-Ups Go Legit:
Pop-up restaurants certainly weren't new in 2012, but their transition from temporary restaurant to full-time brick-and-mortars was definitely unprecedented. Two of L.A.'s most buzz-worthy restaurants, Alma and The Hart and the Hunter, both started the year as pop-ups but now exist as thriving self-sufficient spaces, albeit unconventional (Both don't have liquor licenses, H&TH's kitchen relies on induction burners, and Alma runs of an iPad payment system). There's more to come in 2013, too. Miles Thompson's Vagrancy Project is becoming Echo Park's Alumette restaurant in January, Kevin Meeham of Kali Dining is shopping for a permanent Westside location, and celebrated underground chef Craig Thornton is rumored to be taking his Wolvesmouth concept to a space in Little Tokyo.
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