The chef, Robbie Richter, has worked in two of New York's well-known barbecue restaurants, Hill Country and Fatty 'Cue. He's also a competition barbecue champion.
The restaurant came about when a partnership was forged between Umami and Levity Entertainment, which owns the Improv. "We saw that they had a beautiful bar, full liquor license, lots of parking, everything you need for a restaurant," says Adam Fleischman, Umami's CEO. "We were unable to do an Umami Burger there because it's too close to other Umami locations."
So the idea was born to do a Southern food and barbecue spot. "But we want to take barbecue traditions and turn them on their ear, give them a global spin," Fleischman says. The This is not a pop-up folks got involved when they introduced Umami to Richter. They also will be involved in planning the mixology program and other aspects of the restaurant.
The restaurant will operate as part of the comedy club but also independently. It will serve lunch, and customers will be able to have dinner there whether or not they are seeing a show in the evening. Showgoers will be able to order restaurant food from inside the comedy shows, and there will be priority seating available at shows for preshow dinner guests of the restaurant.
The menu includes a lot of smoked meats, which will be cooked on the industrial smoker Richter has used for competitions. Expect a lot of international influences.
"We're looking to combine barbecue with other cultures," Fleischman says. " So, for instance, we're going to do a fajita plate, but instead of the same old fajitas we'll do smoked lamb neck, jerk chicken and short rib randang fajitas."
"If you look at the category of barbecue, everyone's doing the same things, the same dishes," he says. "People aren't looking inside their own souls for inspiration." Fleischman says he hopes to do more than one location of Roadhouse L.A.
The current restaurant at the Improv is being gutted and completely redesigned for the new restaurant. When it's done, it will seat about 100 people. Some of the other dishes expected on the opening menu are Punjabi poutine with curried goat, paneer and gravy; pork ribs with fish sauce, palm sugar and long pepper; pimiento mac and cheese; noodles with smoky bone broth; and large-format dishes such as "Head of the Day" (as in, yes, an entire animal head) and whole shoulders of lamb, beef or pork.
Roadhouse L.A. is expected to open sometime this summer.