So you are catching a movie at The Arclight in Hollywood and you just don’t have the time or energy to think of another place to eat around Sunset and Vine despite there being a ton of places to eat but you are really hungry and you don’t want to be late for your movie so you decide that, yes, you are going to chance it again—after you swore against it the last time you were there—at the Arclight Cafe. This is a restaurant known for its clapperboard sheets so you and your waiter can countdown when your movie starts and a menu that features a lot of common classics you might actually find at a chain restaurant down near the Regal Stadium 20 back home. You always eat here and feel rushed and are unhappy with the food and are just in a silly headspace going into your film. “Why didn’t I just get one of those fancy hot dogs?” you think to yourself as you rush to your showtime. Why do we go to The Arclight Cafe even though we know we shouldn’t? It’s convenient and it’s strangely homey and there is a bar.
I’m not gonna lie.
If you told me several years ago I would enjoy eating “healthy” food I’d snigger, publicly doubt you, and walk away. When I first started writing about food I initially thought my adventure would be led by my love of hearty, wholesome, American and Mexican cuisine. A former citizen of Chicago and Nashville, light meals could simply be measured by how many pounds of beef was on my plate or how much cheese was present. My return to Los Angeles only meant a diet of tacos and burgers and pork belly. But a traditional diet? No way. Dietary restrictions? None whatsoever. Macrobiotic? Hell, I don’t trust antibiotics.
Doesn’t it feel like all the best restaurants in Los Angeles are on the West end of the city? There are reputable, fantastic places Downtown and Mid-City but the Western pocket is quite extensive and arguably stretches from Malibu to Manhattan Beach. They range from high end seafood shacks to insanely fresh food fairs to fancy pasta producers. The Westside feels like a magnified, always shifting destination for food, one in which persons on the Eastside or far North cannot keep up with. A newer, buzzed about entry is Abbott Kinney newcomer Salt Air, a shining white woody dining space that feels very emblematic of a yuppie beachside lifestyle that everyone wants out in Venice. There are soft wood rafters and a giant, entry way Magnolia tree tied to the ceiling, small ceramic light pieces above the bar, and a calm over the entire space. It’s very much of a specific Western world.
Most Angelenos hear the words “Hollywood And Highland” and cringe. The three words, often described as Los Angeles’ Times Square, bring forth images of confused tourists and suburban clubbers hoping to get lucky and traffic, traffic, and more traffic. If there isn’t a movie premiere, there is a concert happening. If one lane isn’t blocked off for construction, the entire intersection is at a standstill as a result of too many pedestrians storming the street. The place is generally considered to be a clusterfuck—and you would think that nowhere in a five block radius of the area would be worth your time…especially to eat!
With the exception of legendary dive Power House and culinary classic Musso & Frank, locals have little reason to venture through this urban bog unless they are doing their best to be an LA tour guide by bringing parents, inlaws, siblings, friends, etc. to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Hidden in front of everyone, nearly on the same block as this LA headache, is Hollywood Roosevelt, a historic local hotel now overseen by Thompson Hotels. The space is very old Hollywood and usually misunderstood by tourists, who walk in thinking it may be as gaudy an attraction as the El Capitan and “Cabo Wabo Cantina,” and is avoided by locals because of the area’s reputation. But should it really be treated this way? We have a reason for you to weather the area for drinks, dinner, and more.
It’s been a month or two since visiting Echo Park’s Allumette—but the place has stuck itself onto the mind. The dinner had there may have only been a handful of hours, a one night thing, but the meal wore itself into you. If you go in with no expectations, you will be impressed. If you go in with expectations, you will be impressed. Allumette is one of those magical over and under the radar establishments that doesn’t intend to confuse you with culinary magic but subsequently does because you don’t understand how they do what they do.