DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - A constant in Downtown over the last five years has been the surge of restaurant activity. Chefs and investors have streamed into the community hoping to serve (and cash in on) the residents, workers and visitors.
This year, Downtowners will see everything from more “chef-driven” eateries at the upgraded FIGat7th food court to some new spaces for old favorites. Below are a few food highlights for 2013.
Acquiring a Taste: The 25,000-square-foot Taste at FIGat7th will slowly fill throughout 2013, adding more than a dozen restaurants. The Melt and Juicy Lucy were joined last week by Oleego by Parks Barbecue. Coming soon are the third Downtown Mendocino Farms, along with outposts of Sprinkles Cupcakes and Loteria Grill. Opening later in the year is a second brick and mortar spot for the Flying Pig, which began as a food truck and now has a permanent space in Little Tokyo. Another establishment that has signed a lease is The Pizza Studio.
Wolvesmouth and Beyond: The ongoing renovation of the 25-year-old Little Tokyo Galleria won’t just open up the fortress-like shopping center at 333 S. Alameda St. It will also open the door to new restaurants. The big one for foodies involves Craig Thornton, who gained culinary acclaim for his private occasional supper club Wolvesmouth. Although a recent New Yorker article indicated a permanent spot could open early this year, a mall official told Los Angeles Downtown News that they are in lease negotiations with Thornton for a spot that once housed a curry restaurant, though nothing has yet been signed. In the meantime, the mall is readying other eating options, among them Tsurumaru Udon Honpo, a small udon chain based in Japan that will begin serving at the end of this month. By February the mall’s bowling alley should be open. It will include the restaurant X-Lane, which will serve American and Italian food.
Spring for Food: The discount electronics and clothing shops at the Spring Arcade Building will be joined this year by some quality restaurants. Boyle Heights taco haven Guisados is working on obtaining city permits to open at the property at Sixth and Spring streets, while the British pub Royal Claytons, which closed in 2010 after four years of serving pints and fish and chips in the Arts District, is set to begin construction on a new space in February. The pub will occupy a spot on the Spring Street side of the building. A property official said Royal Claytons could debut by the summer.
Two in One: A double debut is slated for the end of January. James Ta, a fourth generation restaurant owner, will open Fickle LA and The Sandwich Smith at Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo. During the day the spot at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and First Street will become The Sandwich Smith, serving sandwiches, salads and pastries. At night it will operate as Fickle LA, a sit down “chef inspired” restaurant offering seasonal dishes.
Kitchen Star: It should be an interesting year for Nguyen and Thi Tran of Starry Kitchen. The adventurous Asian-flavored establishment closed at Cal Plaza last year, but they’ve been doing a dinner pop-up service since August at Tiara Café. Nguyen said that will continue, and they are also looking to open one or two lunch spots in Downtown this year, possibly in South Park and Bunker Hill.
Searching for Homes: Also looking for a new home is Urban Noodle, which closed last spring (it was succeeded by Josef Centeno’s Southwestern spot Bar Amá). Owners Ada and Arlene Tai are still searching for a new Downtown space and expect to have something this year. Another person searching for a long-term space is Bryant Ng of the Spice Table. Last year he announced plans to open a new Spice Table in Downtown by the time the original closes because of construction activity on the Regional Connector. He is slated to stop serving by the end of the year. Weiland’s Brewery and Señor Fish will also be forced out by the Metro project.
Must Open: This year Downtown residents may once again sip a glass of wine and play board games at the wine bar The Must. Last summer Coly Den Haan and Rachel Thomas signed a deal to reopen their popular spot on the ground floor of The Jeffries, an apartment building at Winston and Los Angeles streets. The original Must closed in 2010 following a nasty property dispute. The 2,800-square-foot space at The Jeffries is larger than the former location at Fifth and Spring streets that now houses Onyx Lounge.
Food Factory: Although Walter Manzke picked Hollywood over Downtown for his French restaurant Republique, the Factory Place Arts Complex could still get a destination eatery. Property owner HBK Investments has filed plans with the city for a 99-seat business in a three-story warehouse at 1300 E. Factory Place. No details have been revealed on an operator or timeline.
Following Fat: Poor sales last year prompted Michael Cardenas to close Fat Spoon, his Little Tokyo pasta-curry hybrid. The space at 329 E. First St. won’t stay closed for long. Cardenas sold the restaurant to a Las Vegas-based Japanese restaurant company, which is turning the 50-seat spot into an as-yet-unnamed udon noodle joint. It is expected to open late this month.
Contact Richard Guzmán at email@example.com.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2012