It’s easy to make popcorn at home, and the buttery, salty snack is also a staple at sporting events and movie theaters. Still, what does popcorn look like in a chef’s hands or paired with great beer or booze? Several Los Angeles chefs have taken a swing at popcorn, with satisfying results. In some cases, this artisanal popcorn made with higher quality ingredients actually costs less than it would at a movie or game. Find 5 places to score seriously fun popcorn in L.A.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
A-Frame is a Hawaiian-Cali soul food emporium from chef Roy Choi and business partner David Reiss in an A-frame structure on Culver City’s westside. Choi has been a longtime fan of Hawaiian food. As always, he encourages diners to share and eat with their hands. Furikake Kettle Corn ($7), his play on Hurricane popcorn, is listed on top of the menu under Grindz. Choi tosses popcorn with furikake, an umami-rich blend of nori, sesame seeds, salt, sugar, and more. He also adds crunchy corn pops, chile, chives, and butter. This snack is a great starter and awesome with beer.
Scratch|Bar & Kitchen is the San Fernando Valley’s most ambitious restaurant. On the second floor of Encino Place, Phillip Frankland Lee and pastry chef/wife Margarita Kallas-Lee lead visitors on a 21-course, $185 culinary journey from their bar to the dining room and back. Each experience begins with a parade of snacks and complementary cocktail pairings. Their popcorn has become an early mainstay, tossed with roasted garlic and fresh thyme.
On Monday and Tuesday nights, when their back room Sushi|Bar is closed, the Lees host Magic|Bar. Guests receive roasted garlic and fresh thyme popcorn with their sleight of hand performance.
Popcorn with foie gras and thyme was also a hit at neighboring Woodley Proper, but now that California’s foie gras ban is back in effect, popcorn consumption at the LeePlex is limited to Scratch|Bar & Kitchen.
Tim Sturm and wife Orchid Mazurkiewicz, a pair of librarians, teamed with Brendan Gormley on Southland Beer in Koreatown’s Heyman Center. They’ve built one of the neighborhood’s best beer bars complete with communal seating and vintage posters touting hop varietals like Southern Cross, Pacific Jade and Pioneer. Blackboard menus show what’s pouring on 19 taps and a cask engine. They also serve simple beer-friendly food. Orchid’s Famous Popcorn ($3) is freshly popped and appears in an overflowing, cornucopia-like cardboard boat on a stainless steel tray. She drizzles the popcorn with olive oil, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder and other savory spices that practically beg for another round.
Veteran chef Dakota Weiss found her siren-like calling with Sweetfin Poké, partnering with Seth Cohen, Brett Nestadt, and Alan Nathan on a breakout hit that now has nine SoCal locations. By the register, she sells a fun impulse buy: popcorn available in two flavors. I prefer Matcha Pop, featuring popcorn coated in a light shell of white chocolate, matcha powder, black and white sesame seeds. Sriracha Pop is nearly as charming, tossed with spicy Sriracha-infused chocolate.
5. Tar & Roses
Tar & Roses chef-owner Andrew Kirschner and GM/partner Johnnie Jenkins have become known for seasonal food cooked with smoldering wood in Santa Monica. The restaurant also cuts loose with some fun twists on recognizable comfort foods. Popped Corn ($9) is frequently on the menu and features crunchy caramelized popcorn with crispy Nueske bacon bits, brown sugar and Aleppo pepper for a finishing kick.