Feature

The Most Anticipated Los Angeles Restaurant Openings of 2016

By Lesley Balla  |  January 4, 2016
Credit: Shake Shack

Every new year on the Los Angeles drink and culinary scene seems to be even more exciting than the last, and 2016 is shaping up to be mouthwatering. There are so many newcomers on the horizon, from high-end sushi imports to celebrity-chef-driven fast-food concepts, butcher-focused restaurants and the tallest restaurant in LA. Here's a snapshot of LA's most anticipated restaurant openings this coming year.

BIG-NAME CHEFS

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Locol: After planning, whipping up interest and running a successful crowd-funding campaign, chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are getting their new chef-driven fast-food concept underway quickly, with the first location opening in Watts. If you’ve been following Choi on Instagram, you’ve seen snippets from the menu, including burgers, quesadillas and the like. The idea is that this new concept will grow and fuel food deserts across the country. From the website: “We fundamentally believe that wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food. We believe that fast food restaurants can truly empower the communities they currently underserve. We believe that the giant corporations that feed most of America have degraded our communities by maximizing profits over decades. We believe that chefs should feed America, and not suits.” Opening date: Jan. 18, and the first 100 people in line get free grub and a T-shirt (1950 E. 103rd St.)

Sqirl Away: Jessica Koslow swears her new expansion of Sqirl will debut this spring. She’s also putting the final touches on her cookbook, Everything I Want to Eat, which will come out in the fall. The new restaurant, which is adjacent to her original teensy spot, will have a different menu and hours (you will be able to get dinner there). Target date: spring (720 N. Virgil Ave.). 

Gwen: As a follow-up to his extremely popular Maude restaurant, chef Curtis Stone’s sophomore effort in LA is a partnership with his brother Luke and chef Chad Colby (chi Spacca). The restaurant will take over the former Mercantile and Township space in Hollywood and will include a butcher shop, fire-centric cooking, housemade charcuterie and so much more. The restaurant inside the former 1920s building is designed by Brooklyn-based hOmE Studios. Target date: mid-2016 (6600 Sunset Blvd.).

The Slanted Door: Charles Phan will be bringing San Francisco's much-lauded Slanted Door to the new City Market South complex in the Fashion District Downtown, which is being shaped out of a historic warehouse (it was the first wholesale produce market in LA when it opened in 1909). One of the most notable restaurants at The Ferry Building in San Francisco, The Slanted Door has received accolades from the James Beard Foundation (Outstanding Restaurant in 2014) and food critics across the country. This is the second location for Phan, and his first project outside of the Bay Area. His modern Vietnamese fare and cutting-edge cooking techniques will be very welcome in this growing neighborhood downtown. Target date: summer (11th Street and San Julian Street).

Fin and Fire: A new restaurant led by chef Steven Fretz (The Church Key) will debut in the same corner of the Arts District as Bestia, Stumptown, Bread Lounge and Everson Royce Bar. The seafood-focused restaurant will feature things like tataki, tartar and cataplanas cooked in the wood oven and served tableside, he told the LA Times. Target date: late 2016 (2140 E. Seventh Place).

Craftsman & Wolves: The famed San Francisco patisserie from James Beard–nominated William Werner will debut in the splashy Platform complex in Culver City this year. Werner is known for an ever-changing menu of pastries, cakes and other confections, as well as breakfast, lunch and tea service, and his restaurant joins other notables like Cannibal from New York City at the new hub. Target date: late 2016 (8850 Washington Blvd.).

LOCAL STARS

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The Belvedere: The main restaurant at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills has been closed since September for a complete overhaul. The room now has more outdoor seating — it's actually half of the restaurant now — with more fire pits, waterfalls and lush foliage. Chef David Codney's menu has Mediterranean influences with a focus on seafood. Opening date: mid-January (9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-788-2306).

Moruno, Bar Moruno, Bar Vermut: Two Osteria Mozza alums, general manager David Rosoff and chef de cuisine Chris Feldmeier, opened a take-out window to test their Spanish kebabs and sandwiches, which was a good introduction for what they plan for the full restaurant and bar in the multilevel Short Order space at the Original Farmers Market. Moruno lives on the first floor and is based on Spanish snacks called morunos, or little skewers of pork or lamb cooked over a fire. Bar Vermut, which specializes in vermouth and conservas, is upstairs. The duo also plans to open a Spanish bar concept at the Grand Central Market. Opening dates: Moruno opens Jan. 15, with Bar Moruno at the GCM in February/March and Bar Vermut after that (6333 W. Third St.).

Knead & Co. Pasta Bar: Things are not slowing down for the Grand Central Market. First up, Union chef Bruce Kalman brings his handmade pastas, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, with this new counter and retail space. The menu will offer a mix of elevated Italian-American dishes that nod to Kalman's East Coast roots (think baked ziti and spaghetti Bolognese) and more creative dishes akin to what you'd find at Union, like pappardelle with rabbit sugo, all made with freshly milled flours from purveyors like Pasadena's Grist & Toll. There will also be made-to-order panini, fresh pasta salads and sides, and housemade meatballs and sausages, and classic cannoli. Beer and wine will be available, plus a small marketplace for fresh pastas; sauces, cheeses and butter, all made in-house; Kalman's legendary gardiniere; and, an array of local and imported specialty goods. Target date: mid-January (317 S. Broadway).

Recess Eatery: Already a hit in Glendale, chef Sevan Abdessian will debut a second outpost of his modern cafeteria concept in the heart of Highland Park. Spacecraft designed the massive eatery, which features a large outdoor patio. The restaurant will serve dinner nightly with breakfast and lunch on the weekends. Opening date: Jan. 18 (5022 York Blvd.).

Maradentro: The seafood-focused Mexican spot from Jesse Gomez and chef/partner Jose Acevedo (Yxta, Mercado) takes over the short-lived Cafe Rockenwagner space in Brentwood. The restaurant will have a similar menu to the Studio City location, and will also serve lunch. Target date: Feb. 18 (1168 S. Barrington Ave.).

Paley.: Part of the complex that houses new co-working space NeueHouse, this seasonal California spot with a period in its name is located in the 1930s landmark building that was formerly home to CBS. Chef Greg Bernhardt (Church & State, Perch, Sixth St. Bar) is leading the kitchen. Target date: before spring (6115 Sunset Blvd.).

71Above: Set high atop the US Bank Tower, this ambitious project from hospitality vet Emil Eyvazoff, the same man who brought the first high-rise restaurant and nightclub, Takami Sushi and Elevate Lounge, to the Financial District, will be the highest restaurant in LA. And before anyone thinks this is just another “view” restaurant, Eyvazoff enlisted chef Vartan Abgaryan, most notably of Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake, to lead the kitchen. Target date: spring (633 W. Fifth St.).

Rossoblu: Sotto chef Steve Samson and wife Dina's second restaurant will feature regional Italian cuisine — specifically from the Emilia-Romagna region and its capital, Bologna — including housemade sausages, salumi and freshly baked bread. It’s opening next to The Slanted Door at the new mixed-use Market City West in the Fashion District Downtown. Target date: mid-summer (11th Street and San Julian Street).

Officine Brera: A second Italian restaurant from Matteo Ferdinandi and chef Angelo Auriana will debut next to their Factory Kitchen in the Arts District. This will also be quite large with an expansive dining room, patio and private dining rooms, and a menu featuring regional, rustic Italian cuisine. Chef de cuisine is Mirko Paderno (Olivero). Target date: March (1330 E. Sixth St.)

Birdie: Wade McElroy and Russell Malixi, the guys from Horse Thief BBQ at the Grand Central Market, are expanding to Highland Park. The planned neighborhood bistro is set to open along a stretch of Figueroa that’s quickly gentrifying, with new restaurants and bars popping up along the strip. Target date: summer (5631 Figueroa St.).

Mixed Company: Mediterranean fare is poised to be huge in 2016. The guys behind The Village Idiot on Melrose, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and The Black Cat in Silver Lake, will open a Mediterranean-inspired spot in a former Laundromat in Sunset Junction. Partner Lindsay Kennedy calls it “Pan-LA,” meaning the flavors might be global but it’s really very Los Angeles in concept. Target date: late-summer (3909 W. Sunset Blvd.).

CHEAP EATS

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McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams: Finally opening its second LA outpost, the ice cream shop will feature a rotating roster of 22 flavors, including the ever-popular salted caramel chip and Golden State vanilla, along with seasonal offerings. This is a win-win for the block that includes Joan’s on Third and the weekly farmer's market. Target date: mid-January (12075 Ventura Place).

Cava Grill: Another outpost of the growing chain — a location opened at the Village at Topanga last year — will debut in Westwood. The menu includes health-conscious, fast-casual Mediterranean fare plus local beer and wines on tap, juices and teas. Target date: late January (1073 Broxton Ave.).

Pono Burger: After a few years in a historic Quonset hut in Santa Monica, and winner of this year's Best Burger vote on ZagatMakani Gerardi will expand her burger concept to the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Known for her use of organic, locally sourced, grass-fed meats and ingredients, plus hand-cut fries, onion rings and damn good shakes, this location will also have a full bar overseen by Brian Van Flandern, The Food Network’s "America's Top Mixologist." Target date: February (8830 Sunset Blvd.).

Howlin’ Ray’s Hot Chicken: After the tease that they’d open in Hollywood fell through, Ray Zone and Amanda Chapman will debut their first brick-and-mortar location of the very popular hot chicken food truck in Chinatown. The menu will be bigger and badder (and hotter), with everything from the super-spicy fried chicken to fried chicken and waffles. Opening date: Feb. 13 (727 N. Broadway).

Shake Shack: Danny Meyer’s much-ballyhooed NYC burger joint finally hits the West Coast this year, and it’s coming in a big way. The first location will open in West Hollywood in the spring, the second at an extension of The Americana at Brand in Glendale later this year. East Coasters are devoted to the all-natural burgers, griddled hot dogs, frozen custard and crinkle-cut fries the same way we are to In-N-Out’s Double Doubles and Animal-Style fries. Target dates: spring and fall (8520 Santa Monica Blvd.; 232 S. Brand Blvd.).

Golden Road Brewery: This new stand at the Grand Central Market will feature all of the Golden Road brews on tap plus a food menu from chef Adam Levoe, who will serve an array of vegan-leaning pierogis, the Polish dumpling. Target date: spring (317 S. Broadway).

Wexler’s Deli: After the success of their Grand Central Market stand, chef Micah Wexler and partner Michael Kassar will debut a Westside location in the heart of Santa Monica. The smoked fish and pastrami are pretty legendary, so this will be one of the biggest openings of the year. Target date: spring (626 Santa Monica Blvd.).

GLOBE-HOPPING

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Obicà Mozzarella Bar Pizza e Cucina: This second outpost of the Italian cheese, pizza and pasta concept (there’s one at the Westfield Century City mall) will take over the former Hostaria del Piccolo space in Downtown Santa Monica. The menu will feature the imported mozzarella di bufala it’s known for, whether smoked over a hay fire or fresh and creamy. Opening date: Jan. 11 (606 Broadway).

Norah: Set to debut in West Hollywood this month, Norah will feature an eclectic menu with a focus on wood-grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. The space was designed by Thomas Schoos and features a dramatic marble bar for seasonal cocktails. Chef Mike Williams (The Tasting Kitchen) is overseeing the menu. Target date: late January (8277 Santa Monica Blvd.).

Baldoria: Taking over the former Aburiya Toranoku space in Little Tokyo, this eclectic spot will feature family-style bites — a mix of comfort food tinged with Southern flair — from chef Duke Gervais, plus an extensive housemade bottled and draft cocktail selection, quite possibly the largest in town. David King, a Mozza alum, is one of the owners. Target date: March (243 S. San Pedro St.).

Avec Nous: This is the newly redesigned restaurant for L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills; it replaces Livello, which closed last year. Chef Olivier Quignon is at the helm; he's formerly executive chef of Bar Boulud in New York, so of course there will be some insane charcuterie offerings. Expect a St. Tropez vibe with Spanish and Italian influences. Target date: March (9291 Burton Way).

Sushi Ginza Onodera: This famed Japanese omakase specialist, which has locations in Tokyo, Hawaii, Paris and Hong Kong, will finally debut in West Hollywood this year. Game-changer is often used in reference to Ginza Onodera, which is big praise for a sushi town like LA. Target date: March (609 La Cienaga Blvd.).

Loqui: This Baja-inspired taqueria will land at the Platform in Culver City, alongside other biggies like Craftsman & Wolves and Blue Bottle. One owner is from Mexico City, the other was a bread baker at Tartine in San Francisco, and the space is pure Baja: street food, mesquite-burning grill, handmade tortillas and more. Target date: spring (8850 Washington Blvd.).

Still Unnamed: Madcapra's Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson, who brought big falafel wraps to the Grand Central Market, will open their first full-scale Mediterranean-focused restaurant in the former Mother Dough space in Los Feliz sometime this year. Animal’s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are backing them. Target date: TBD (4648 Hollywood Blvd.).

BAR STARS

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The Cannibal: This NYC import rolls into the Platform in Culver City, bringing a butcher-focused menu, retail shop, huge beer list and bike-friendly vibe. This location will sport an open kitchen with a wood-fired grill in the center, plus a beer list with more than 500 labels, 10 tap lines and draft cocktails. Target date: late January/early February (8850 Washington Blvd.).

Still Unnamed: Joining Rossoblu and The Slanted Door at City Market South Downtown will be a new cocktail spot from Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix, Mario Guddemi and Sal Aurora (Black Market Liquor Bar, Scopa Italian Roots and the Chestnut Club). Located in a former banana warehouse, the indoor-outdoor space will also have a small food menu, à la The Chestnut Club. Target date: spring (11th Street and San Julian Street).