I asked eight prominent L.A. chefs one question: “What is your top selling dish, and why do you think that’s the case?” The responses seem to say as much about their clientele as their restaurants.
Brendan Collins (Waterloo & City + Larry’s)
At Waterloo the best selling dishes are the pork chop with fried pork belly caramelized apple and bacon butternut squash. And the chicken liver and foie GRAS mousse. I’m not completely sure why other than the fact we always get really good feedback on the dishes and it’s possible that the servers use it as a safe bet for new customers and returning customers just want to have it again.
Also whenever we put our beef and bone marrow pie on the chalk board it sells out extremely quickly which tells me people are getting more adventurous with there meal choices and hopefully trust us as chefs!!
Neal Fraser (BLD)
Our top selling dish at BLD is tomato soup and I have no idea why. I try to take it off the menu and my wife won’t let me. I think it’s simple and satisfying. People crave those things. They know what they’re going to get, and it’s vegan and it has a lot of flavor.
Eric Greenspan (The Foundry on Melrose + The Roof on Wilshire)
The Foundry: It’s my grilled cheese, because it’s perhaps the finest sandwich in this land. Because success begets success. Since we’ve been open, this restaurant has built a reputation, and the grilled cheese represents that, as far as sophisticated comfort. A lot of people see us as the gateway drug to fine dining, and the grilled cheese sandwich represents that extremely well.
The Roof: Breakfast, I’m going to go with my egg sandwich, which is fucking awesome. It’s not on the menu, but I recommend getting it with corned beef instead of sausage, because that’s how I eat it, and I’m fat.
At lunch, it’s the chicken club, pressed or open faced. It’s perfect poolside dining. A club sandwich is named a club sandwich for a reason, because it’s from a club, and the outdoor roof has that feel, like a roofside pool bungalow club. It’s actually probably a tie between the club and the burger. The burger at the Roof, it’s a beast. I think I’m going to take it to South Beach to compete in the Battle of the Burgers.
At night, the best seller at The Roof is nori nachos. It’s an innovative dish, but it’s light and has an heir of familiarity to it, and it’s a great dish to share. At the end of the day, a lot of people are going up to The Roof to socialize.
Casey Lane (The Tasting Kitchen)
Top selling dish would probably be one of the pastas, either the squid and Serrano pepper (taglia)rini or the bucatini with the amatriciana. The squid and the Serrano pepper is something most people have never even thought of putting into a pasta before. One of my proudest moments of all time was Joe Bastianich sitting down and eating it and literally asking the server how it was made because he liked it so much.
Or the bucatini. It was a conversation I had with Marco (Canora), who owns Hearth and is the chef at Hearth in New York and helped Tom Colicchio open Craft – the first one – in New York. When he had our bucatini, he was like, “You guys did everything.” Yeah, we did. We made the tomato strata, which is done on old Barolo barrel planks inside the oven with tomato sauce and then cooked down for hours and scooped and folded over itself on the old Barolo wood so that you get a depth of flavor that’s as close to a raisin as a tomato’s ever going to get because it’s so concentrated and so sweet. Definitely, when he ate it, he was like, “This is fantastic because you guys did everything.” We cured everything. We made the pasta. We made the conserva, we made the guanciale, every step of the way, and I think it comes out as a quite extraordinary example of what that dish should be.
Megan Logan (Nick + Stef’s)
At Nick + Stef’s, dry-aged ribeye and petit filet, for lighter eaters, are neck and neck. Ribeye has more fat, so more flavor. People know ribeye, so it’s more comfortable. We have people that are uncomfortable with the fat, so they’ll send it back, but there is more fat on a ribeye.
Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill)
Our biggest selling entrée downtown is our Yucatan pork, which is braised. We love it. About 15% of our diners order that. People come back for it again and again. They really like the flavors, the achiote and sour orange. It’s Yucatecan style, pibil, wrapped in banana leaves. It’s very aromatic, and you don’t get that flavor very often.
In Santa Monica, our chicken Poblano enchiladas. It’s again about 15% of our entrées. Our pescado Veracruzano is also a huge seller, and grilled turkey is moving through the ranks. A lot of times it has a lot do with how we talk to our servers and how they talk about the food. It’s amazing how much influence they have. We sell a lot of vegetarian at Santa Monica, and about 30% of our diners order guacamole as soon as they sit down. It’s very focused on the flavor of avocados. We’re really proud of it, so we tell every table. We go through 2,500 cases of avocados a year, just at our two Los Angeles restaurants. We use that many, if not more, in Vegas, too.
Kris Morningstar (Ray’s and Stark Bar)
Our top selling dishes are the benedict burger; Agnolotti pasta with lime brown butter, hazelnuts, and wild arugula; Squid ink tonnarelli with bottarga, mint and chile; Hanger steak with smoked marrow.
Ricardo Zarate (Mo-Chica + Picca)
Mo-Chica: I have six dishes on the menu, and this question, I’ve been asking myself many times. It’s very hard because six of them are very top sellers…But if I need to choose what is the top one, I would choose what I like more, it would be oxtail with risotto and arroz con pollo. They’re very earthy, I would say, very strong, flavorful.
Picca: From the ceviche bar, it’s the sea bass tiradito. That dish is light, simple. It’s tasty and refreshing. From the hot section, we sell a lot of bistec a lo pobre. If you think about bistec a lo pobre, it looks like a deconstructed burrito. You have the rice with chickpeas mixed together, instead of beans, then you have the steak, then you have the fried egg and the fried banana, and the sauce…I think that’s what people like. You recognize all the ingredients, like the fried egg, and it’s small too. It’s a small portion. It’s not a big portion where you’ll feel full. It’s four or five spoons and you’re done with the dish. That’s why I think Picca is cool because you can taste. If you eat this one dish in another Peruvian restaurant, they will serve you so big that you will need two people and you won’t have much chance to choose something else.