When European art powerhouse couple Iwan Wirth and Manuela Hauser Wirth opened their expansive gallery compound in the Arts District, the move signaled that the global art world was beginning to invest big money in our city. With high-profile names lined up to populate the exhibition spaces, it was surprising to discover that the real gem of the reimagined 19th-century flour mill was its restaurant, Manuela. The elegant space, designed by Matt Winter, encompasses everything that is great about dining out in L.A. The restaurant's interior is a glass-enclosed room, perhaps like a cozy conservatory in a Montreal manor (or the boardgame Clue), which creates a seamless indoor-outdoor feel with the expansive patio area. There, brunchers lounge and Instagram each emerging dish, like paparazzi for chef Wes Whitsell's grilled peaches or sizzling Texas quail. At night, the thick marble bar becomes a launching pad for discussions on gentrification or (post)-postmodernism fueled by Manuela's craft cocktails, served under the yolky glow of the chandeliers. Art lovers can make discoveries of their own, too, such as the large-scale expressionistic cityscape by South Los Angeles painter Mark Bradford and a pastoral mural by Black Flag's illustrator Raymond Pettibon. When your meal is done, you can stroll to the nearby gardens and chicken coop to personally thank the hen responsible for your omelet. This merger of sophistication and casualness reflects the Angeleno experience, where cultural collisions and mashups are never-ending.
Credit: Anne Fishbein