Even with 13 years (and thousands of meals) under my belt, Los Angeles continues to amaze me. The sprawling city has a phenomenal depth and breadth when it comes to food, history and culture. With that in mind, I’ve enjoyed organizing and leading tours of distinct neighborhoods like Santa Monica, downtown, Highland Park/Glassell Park and east Hollywood. On July 25, my mission was to spotlight four top spots centered on Beverly Boulevard.
Although the focus was clearly on consumption, since our route practically radiated history, I thought it was important to stop at a few points to share some key facts.
Some of our stops spotlighted recent Los Angeles restaurant history. At 7360 Beverly Boulevard, I discussed GRACE, the higher end restaurant that the Frasers recently closed. They’re working to reopen in the rectory of downtown’s Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, a spectacular setting for a restaurant.
The GRACE space will house R26, which is a casual, higher-energy offshoot of Rivera from chef John Rivera Sedlar, restaurateur Bill Chait and designer Eddie Sotto. 26 refers to the number of predominant Latin cultures that Sedlar will draw from. Top flight bartenders Julian Cox and Kristina Howald are developing the cocktail program. R26 should open in Fall 2010.
From MILK, we walked west, passing the site of Pan Pacific Auditorium, which was built in 1935, housed 6000 people for ice skating, USC basketball games, auto shows and more before the LA Convention Center rendered Pan Pacific Auditorium irrelevant in the early ‘70s. The building was in limbo for years before succumbing to a 1989 fire. Eventually a rec center arose in its place, in the original style, along with a surrounding park.
Across the street, we spotted Cobras & Matadors, a tapas concept opened by restaurateur Steven Arroyo in 2004. The space previously held Boxer, where Neal Fraser teamed with Arroyo in 1995. Boxer is where Fraser first became an Executive Chef and restaurant owner.
Arroyo also owns a sandwich shop next to Cobras & Matadors called Potato Chips and is about to open Taqueria Escuela in his office around the corner. Just like Potato Chips, this was named for a vintage sign Arroyo found, in this case a metal crossing guard that says “Despacio, Escuela,” which translates to “slowly, school.”
CBS Television City currently resides on the southeast corner of Beverly & Fairfax. From 1939 – 1957, the location hosted Hollywood Stars baseball games. The minor league team played before 12,000 fans at Gilmore Field, which was built by oil tycoon Earl Gilmore, he of the Gilmore family that continues to own The Original Farmers Market.
The stretch of Fairfax between Beverly and Melrose has been popular for Jewish residents since the early 20th century. It might be hard to imagine now, but Boyle Heights used to be L.A.’s Jewish capital, with César Chávez Avenue previously called Brooklyn Avenue. Eventually, Jewish immigrants moved west to Fairfax. Canter’s Deli even moved west from Boyle Heights in 1948, after 17 years in business.
Thanks to the participants, chefs and restaurateurs, and the writers who helped to promote the event, for making my progressive eating tour of Beverly Boulevard a success.
Which neighborhood would you nominate for a future progressive eating tour?