What’s for Dinner? Anything from Fried Chicken to Falafel, Thanks to These Unstoppable Restaurants
We mourn every local eatery that has had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But today we celebrate a few favorites that have found a way to carry on. It’s Best of the West, plucky survivor-style.
All Day Baby, Silver Lake Neighborhood, L.A.
When one of my local favorites, Here’s Looking At You, closed its Koreatown doors early in the pandemic, it seemed like my entire neighborhood was mourning the loss of its inventive cocktails and spicy, polycultural small plates. The one bright spot: Their sister restaurant, the All Day Baby diner in Silver Lake, was open. But just barely. With the perseverance of owners, the notoriously friendly managing partner Lien Ta, chef Jonathan Whitener, and pastry chef Thessa Diadem—who makes the best biscuits in town—they stuck it out, through pop-up bake sales and takeout brought to the curb and placed carefully in your backseat. One highlight of our work-and-school from home year has been an occasional fried chicken sandwich lunch for four. (Warning: The menu is indulgent. It’s called “All Day Baby” not “Every Day Baby.”) Now that the world is slowly opening again, we’re looking forward to breakfast on the patio ASAP. —Christine Lennon, home and design editor
Pomella, Oakland, CA
One of the restaurants that has been getting me through the pandemic is Pomella, on Oakland’s Piedmont Ave. They’ve had a rough go of it, having opened in March of 2020, about a week after California shut down. But they’ve got two things going for them: A large, two-level patio, and delicious Israeli-California cuisine overseen by chef/owner Mica Talmor. (Their goat cheese-stuffed falafel is the best I’ve ever had.) On a warm day, I love noshing on tagines and mezze on-site, but my favorite thing about them is their holiday meals. Their special Thanksgiving, Hannukah, and Passover menus have been the perfect solution to quarantine holidays, when my little household didn’t want to make a turkey or fry latkes for just two people, but couldn’t bear to let the day pass without a special meal, either. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer
Prospect Gourmand, Beverly Hills
When the pandemic hit and Southern California shut down, Prospect Gourmand had to reconfigure how they could provide for their family. The restaurant is run by a husband-wife duo, Isaac and Chancey Gamboa, who took the hardships of the pandemic and reconfigured the business’ identity. During the shutdown, the restaurant transformed from fine dining into a taco shop. They rolled out a grill, and set up shop right out front and served street tacos to the community. They also used their access to fresh and high-quality produce to set up a farmers market outside of the restaurant so people could buy their groceries without having to endure the supermarket. Today, the restaurant has re-opened with a smaller capacity, and luckily the tacos are here to stay. I am guilty of eating the fish ones every week. —Teaghan Skulszki, Editorial Intern
I landed on the west side of Los Angeles in August 2020, the same month that Mexican cantina Nueva, helmed by chefs Vartan Abgaryan and Mesraim Llanez, opened. According to restaurateur Jared Meisler their April opening was pushed out but they persevered to keep 60 people working (note: mezcal helped). The other motivator and ultimate reward? Feeding thousands of happy people.
It was on a bike ride home from Venice Beach on Washington Boulevard when I actually discovered the restaurant. I saw the sign first. Then braked to gaze at diners on the cheerful mid-century inspired patio with its multicolored seating, teak tables, and striped umbrellas. The moment said ahhhh, life was returning to normal. Or would keep trying to.
While the lure of that patio still holds, it’s most tempting to take their tacos to the beach to people watch. My triple try: the Mediterranean Octopus, the Roasted Pumpkin (vegan), and the Carne Asada. They have craft cocktails and pours to go if you’re so inclined. The mezcal list? 117 offerings from 28 brands. Mezcal is also used in the making of their Cast Iron Skillet Pancake Syrup, so brunch is a must-do simply for that. Certainly the restaurant doesn’t stop at tacos and mezcal. My near-future eyes are on their Roasted Beet Salad, Sweet Corn Elote, and wood grilled Bronzino. Just as soon as we close the current issue of Sunset! —Christine Bobbish, photo editor