Gorgeous and Ambitious Recess Is Now Open in Highland Park

Ahi tuna salad and a cocktail
Ahi tuna salad and a cocktail
Ben Mesirow

If you’ve walked down the main strip of York Boulevard anytime in the last couple of years, maybe on your way to grab a beer at Hermosillo or buy a trellis for your plants at Do It Best Hardware, then you’ve probably walked past Recess. You would be forgiven, however, for not realizing it — Recess has been hidden from view for almost that entire time, its façade blocked off by a wall of black wood protruding just a bit onto the sidewalk between the York and the storefront now occupied by Arroyo General.

But those walls are down and Recess is now open to the public, revealing the fruit of two and a half years of hard labor by wife-and-husband owners Tamar Kevonian and Sevan Abdessian (who is also the chef) and their team, who have brought to Highland Park an expansion of their popular Glendale restaurant of the same name. The work appears to have been worth it: Recess is gorgeous, big and open, all wood and metal with an earthy green and brown color scheme and the ever-present (but still beautiful) exposed brick and beams. There are patios both in front and out back, the latter of which includes a giant fireplace and two olive trees, perfect for the weekend brunch.

The menu is mostly modern American, influenced by Abdessian's Armenian and Mediterranean roots, which adds an interesting layer of flavors to many of the dishes. The flatbread comes topped with soujouk, the seared ahi salad is dotted with Sriracha labneh aioli, and you have the option of adding falafel to any of the salads. Otherwise dishes are classic with some intriguing twists, such as New York steak crusted with Aleppo pepper, confit tomatoes in the Caprese salad, and edamame tossed with the traditional Armenian salad fatoush. Pastas are made in-house, and the cheese board comes with a chunk of honeycomb.

The elegant dining room
The elegant dining room
Ben Mesirow

The price of the bulk of the entrees is right around $20. It’s a bit of a jump for a neighborhood that has only recently grown accustomed to $7 pints, but if the prices at the home goods stores and art galleries that now populate York are any indication, the neighborhood may well be ready for an alternative to the quietly great Ba.

Despite the higher prices, Kevonian and Abdessian have made a point of keeping the restaurant family-friendly. They say they’d love to see strollers and kids there anytime, and they have changing tables in the bathrooms, power outlets at every table and a kids section on the menu.
But going out without kids is fun, too. There are a handful of seats at the bar and the cocktail list is interesting and fun, with drinks that feature ingredients such as chai and pistachio and rum, gin and mezcal and turmeric, or tequila and cucumber and spicy egg-white foam.

In other words, Recess wants to be a bit of everything for everyone, a truly ambitious project in this hip but still changing neighborhood. It’s been a long time coming, but between the appealing menu, the beautiful space and the welcoming attitude, Recess just might have the chops to reach its ambitious goals. 

Recess, 5022 York Blvd., Highland Park; (818) 507-0592, recesseatery.com.

Panna cotta
Panna cotta
Ben Mesirow

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