With Coachella, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, the Santa Barbara Vintners spring festival and myriad other events in town, this is probably a good weekend to soft open a restaurant. Half the city will be gone, the other half will be more relaxed because the streets, dining rooms and bars will potentially be less crowded. Here are five newcomers places to seek out before everyone else can.
Downtown LA: We're big fans of chef Eric Park's sandwiches at Sopressata - only on the lunch menu he serves at Black Hogg. So his new venture, Hero Shop, which opened this week in the former Babycakes spot near Cole's, already has a lot going for it. Here Park focuses on banh mi, which he calls heros. He makes them with headcheese, pate, relish, pickled and fresh vegetables, among other combinations. Limited hours for the soft opening phase are 10:30 AM-4:30 PM but they'll expand soon (130 E. 6th St.; 213-265-7561).
Venice: After much teasing and anticipation, Superba Food & Bread makes its official debut on Friday, April 11. This is the gorgeous new restaurant on Lincoln Boulevard from Paul Hibler and his American Gonzo Food Corporation (Superba Snack Bar, East Borough). Chef Jason Travi (Littlefork) takes charge of the savory menu. Pastry chef Lincoln Carson and head baker Jonathan Eng are working magic with the breads and pastries. Ashley Ragovin (Scopa, Trois Mec, Animal) runs wines and beer and Tyler Wells (Handsome Coffee) is working hard to keep us caffeinated in high style. In short: it's another dream-team. The restaurant is open for all meal periods and fashions itself as much as a coffee and wine bar as a neighborhood cafe - a little bit of everything for everyone. Daily hours: 8 AM-11 PM, Tuesday through Friday; 10 AM-11 PM, Saturday and sunday (1900 S. Lincoln Blvd.).
Melrose: Another rather sneaky debut: here comes Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese from Eric Greenspan - just in time for National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12). Situated right next to the former Foundry on Melrose (now Melrose Umbrella Co.), it's a casual spot for melty sandwiches and more. Of course there's The Champ, the sandwich that started it all (short rib, taleggio cheese and apricot spread on raisin walnut bread), which won him a title at the Grilled Cheese Invitational along with national recognition, plus a classic grilled cheese, and others stuffed with various meats, cheeses and vegetables. There are also latke bites with dipping sauce, a few salads, desserts and fun sodas. Melts happen 11 AM-10 PM, Monday through Saturday, and till 9 PM on Sunday (7461 Melrose Ave.; 310-555-1111).
Beverly Hills: For something a little more zen, Shiki has debuted in the former Enoteca Drago space. Chef Shige Fujimoto, previously of Matsuhisa and Asanebo, creates modern and traditional Japanese cuisine, things like Wagyu beef with sukiyaki sauce or fresh truffle, hamachi sashimi, homemade sesame tofu and more. Shiki opens for lunch from noon-2:30 PM, and dinner from 6-10:30 PM (410 N. Canon Dr.; 310-888-0036).
Silver Lake: Those that lamented the closure of El Conquistador can rest easy: El Condor, from the same group behind L&E Oyster Bar and Bar Covell, has opened in the same space. It's a bit lighter and brighter, but the margartas, tacos, enchiladas and now pombazos are all there. Read more about it, right here (3701 Sunset Blvd.; 323-660-4500).