Two short blocks on Beverly Boulevard are all that separate sibling restaurants Grace and BLD. But not for long. Chef Neal Fraser recently announced plans to sell his original Beverly Boulevard location in order to relocate Grace Restaurant to a 133-year-old historic rectory of St. Vibiana's Cathedral, downtown. While east side diners may be excited by the news of the future move, there are plenty of Beverly Boulevard neighbors sad to see Grace go. Luckily for Fairfax Gulch, BLD will remain at its original site on Beverly Boulevard.
We spoke with Fraser to learn more about the future home of Grace and what culinary links tie his two restaurants together.
Squid Ink: In terms of food, what makes your two restaurants similar--other than currently sharing nearly the same street address?
Neal Fraser: Product. We try to the best of our ability to use certain products at both restaurants. We have to be creative with protein. Both menus feature the braised pork shank and the butter lettuce salad. The pork shank at BLD has the same prep as the entrée at Grace, except at BLD we put it on the breakfast and lunch menu. At BLD, we do it with a citrus hollandaise, grilled pain de mie, and potatoes.
SI: Do you create all of the menu items for both restaurants?
NF: No, not really. I might find a product that I want to use, something like smoked trout, and maybe I'd run it at BLD as a special. Feeding Diana Stavaridis, the chef at BLD, a recipe isn't something that I would do. I want her to have a certain amount of autonomy. It's like I started my own church teaching the BLD gospel. She came and became a disciple. Then she started her own church based on what she learned. Now she's teaching her own gospel.
SI: Tell us more about your plans for Grace in the future.
NF: We're selling our space on Beverly and moving to the rectory of the former St. Viviana church, located on 2nd and Main. We'll be on the first three floors of the historic space. In the rectory we'll have an inside dining room, outside seating, a rooftop patio, and four private dining rooms. We'll be a block away from LA Times, the new Caltrans building, and the police station.
SI: Are you going to miss your two-block, walking commute on Beverly Boulevard between Grace and BLD?
NF: Selling the current Grace space makes me sad. But the commute [to downtown] isn't that far. Our daughter's school is halfway between our home and the new location. I love downtown. It's definitely something I've wanted to support.
SI: How will the new Grace be different?
NF: It'll still be Grace. But we'll offer lunch, dinner, and brunch on Sunday. The brunch won't be typical. It'll be more like a hotel with a Champagne brunch with a great spread. It'll be the kind of thing you'll get dressed up for and make a day of it. There's a fifty-fifty chance we'll get a train stop near our restaurant, so hopefully people can take the train down around 11 and leave at four o'clock. You know, make an event out of it.
SI: Would you give us the recipe for your two restaurant's butter lettuce salad?
NF: Sure. But it's really basic. It's basically a classy version of a white trash salad.
Butter Lettuce Salad
From: Neal Fraser, chef-owner of Grace Restaurant and BLD
Makes: Four servings with extra dressing
2 heads of butter lettuce
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ounce of diced, cooked bacon
1 cup butter lettuce dressing
1 tablespoon of minced parsley and chives
1. Pick through and wash the butter lettuce. Spin lettuce in a salad spinner until dry.
2. In a medium sized bowl, toss the cleaned lettuce with a quarter of the dressing.
3. On each plate, create a stack of dressed leaves--starting with the biggest at the bottom and go upwards.
4. Toss tomatoes, bacon and crumbled blue cheese with the remaining dressing. Add tossed ingredients to stacked salad. Serve immediately.
Butter Lettuce Dressing
Makes: 1 quart. Remaining dressing can be used as a dip or for future salads
2 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
3/4 cups vegetable oil
4 tablespoon diced white onion
1/2 cup sour cream
½ pound blue cheese
3 cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon Worcestershire
½ teaspoon Tabasco
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salt and pepper, to taste
1. Combine yolks and vinegar in blender. Gradually add oil until emulsified.
2. Slowly add onion, sour cream, blue cheese, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and buttermilk; pulse until combined.
3. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate remaining dressing.