As Recess Eatery Morphs Into a Gastropub, Is Highland Park Falling Victim to Echo Park Syndrome?

The interior of Recess Eatery, now 51 Tavern
The interior of Recess Eatery, now 51 Tavern
Ben Mesirow

It was only this past January that Recess Eatery made its debut on York Boulevard in Highland Park. The project, which was more than two years in the making, transformed a historic building into a breezy restaurant. Based on owner Sevan Abdessian's popular restaurant of the same name in Glendale, Recess served modern Mediterranean food, and it seemed to be an ambitious but perfect fit for the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Perhaps not. Less than a year later, Recess Eatery has (seemingly overnight) changed names and concept, becoming 51 Tavern, which appears to be a gastropub of sorts. The menu includes fish and chips, sliders, a burrito and shwarma tacos. Abdessian remains in charge as owner and chef. Press materials we received say that the restaurant "has rebranded and is relaunching itself ... into a fun, comfortable, kid-friendly gastropub, geared to cater to foodies, the community, destination-goers and tourists alike."

I'm not sure exactly what "a new beautiful street-side sidewalk-adjacent lounge" is, but according to those same press materials, the newly branded restaurant has one, as well as an event space and a garden patio in the back. When you go to the website, a message pops up (and continues to pop up whenever you navigate to a different page on the site) that reads: "Recess Eatery is now 51 Tavern. A place to eat, drink and socialize. EVERY DAY!"

Given the emphasis on "EVERY DAY," I wonder if Recess was having trouble ingratiating itself to a crowd that wants a neighborhood restaurant more than a destination restaurant. It's too bad — pub food is fine, but Highland Park already has plenty of it. Could the neighborhood be falling into the Echo Park trap, in which a slew of ambitious restaurants open and then fail to find an audience? Keep your eye on Cafe Birdie to find out.

51 Tavern is located at 5022 York Blvd. and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.


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