Tourists have long been flocking to Melrose Avenue, ducking happily into the street’s many boutique shops, thrift stores, salons and theaters. There have always been restaurants to feed those crowds, of course, but most come with a touristy edge to them, set up as quick-service concepts catering to little more than one-off foot traffic.
But lately, with the addition of relative newcomers like Smoke.Oil.Salt. and L’Assiette, Melrose is seeking to redefine itself as a culinary corridor that caters more to the surrounding neighborhood than the flocking weekend crowds.
With a renewed dining interest along the stretch of Melrose between La Brea and Fairfax, some restaurants are even staying open later, offering twilight-hour meals — often at an enticing reduced price. Alongside neighborhood stalwarts like The Village Idiot, this new crop of hip eateries is helping to reclassify Melrose as a dining destination that’s not to be missed, even after all those boutique clothing stores have closed up shop for the evening.
Here are five of Melrose Avenue’s best options for eating out after hours:
The recent Sawtelle transplant Tatsu Ramen has immediately become a late night anchor for diners along Melrose, offering customizable bowls of brothy goodness at practically all hours of the night. Weeknights, Tatsu’s entire menu of inventive ramen styles (consider the Naked Ramen, which arrives with vegan noodles and no broth) is available until 2 a.m., and on weekends closing time stretches to 3 a.m. And what better way to enjoy a night at the Dark Room than with a late-night ramen finisher, ordered up from a sleek iPad at the front of the restaurant. 7111 Melrose Ave., 323-747-1388; tatsuramen.com
Just barely a year old, L’Assiette is a Parisian bistro that specializes in one of the City of Light’s favorite late night meals: steak frites. The idea is simple — take a hefty side of coulotte steak, cooked sous vide and draped in a proprietary house sauce, and then add a pile of fries to cover up whatever’s left of the plate. But from 9:30 p.m. until midnight (10:30 p.m. on the weekends), L’Assiette goes a little off the rails, shipping up demi-sized steak frites portions for $16, along with poutine fries covered in house sauce and roasted goat cheese or open-faced steak sandwiches. Guests can even toss a fried egg onto just about anything they damn well please for just a $1 — as if a place like this is in short supply of protein. 7166 Melrose Ave., 323-274-2319; lassiettesteakfrites.com
Perfecto Rocher’s Smoke.Oil.Salt. is already a neighborhood hit, offering inventive, often-meaty Spanish dishes that come packed with flavor. Sundays are devoted almost entirely to paella, which is served by the tableful for anyone with $45 to burn and a friend to bring along. And now, in an effort to buoy out the midweek dinner doldrums, Rocher has invited the locals back in for late night simple sandwiches, priced at $14 apiece or $20 when paired with a beer or wine. There are only two options on rotation— one with house-cured lomo, bacon and a fried egg, the other featuring tuna, boquerones and olives — and they’re only available after 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday or 10:30 p.m. on the weekends, but it’s hard not to see these sandwiches catching on. 7274 Melrose Ave., 323-930-7900; smokeoilsalt.com
Melrose Umbrella Company
Though technically just a cocktail bar (albeit a very good one) Melrose Umbrella Company has fallen into the late night snacking game as well, now that its next door neighbor Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese is fully operational. Remember, Melrose Umbrella Co. occupies what was formerly the front half of Eric Greenspan’s now defunct restaurant The Foundry on Melrose, while the back half is still in construction with an as-yet-named fine dining concept from the former Iron Chef. Because Melrose Umbrella and Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese share more than just some wall space, the pair have teamed up to offer evening grilled cheese sandwiches from the entire Greenspan’s menu from 5 p.m. to close, nightly. Sunday through Wednesday, that translates to 11 p.m., but Thursday through Saturday the grilled cheese flows like wine until 2 a.m., including unique happy hour offerings and a one-off sandwich called the Umbrella that comes with sourdough bread, provolone and muenster cheese, mushrooms, onions and bacon, which is only available inside the bar. 7465 Melrose Ave., 323-951-0709; melroseumbrellaco.com
The Village Idiot
Of course, there are always places that are ahead of the curve. That’s where The Village Idiot comes in, the all-day soccer-and-drinking destination favored by locals since 2007. The comfortable pub has been putting out plates of fish & chips, burgers and nightly specials for years, and keeps their open kitchen running at full steam until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. 7383 Melrose Ave., 323-655-3331; villageidiotla.com