First Course

4 new places in town with inventive concepts and big-name talent

Barrel & Ashes

French-trained executive chefs Timothy Hollingsworth (French Laundry) and Rory Herrmann (Bouchon) meet Texas barbecue in a renovated space (formerly Spark Woodfire Grill) that includes an open kitchen and chef’s counter. Meat is smoked in-house and “The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had” is indeed just that. Must-eat sides: hoe cake (crazy-decadent cornbread), miner’s potatoes, pork ‘n’ beans, shells and cheese, Frito pie. LA’s most revered barman, Julian Cox (Brilliantshine), created the drinks menu with highballs, sours and shandies, as well as local beers. Don’t leave without indulging in the apple cobbler or banana pudding. FYI: 18% tip automatically added to bill. 
11801 Ventura Blvd., Studio City,


Coastal Mexican cuisine featuring a predominately small-plate menu is the theme behind Top Chef alum Alex Eusebio’s Cascabel, which he co-owns with wife, Sara, along with the nearby eatery Sweetsalt. The charming, 1920s Spanish structure, once home to D’Cache, has three dining rooms, turquoise accents, rattler wall art and an ample bar. Recommended: lobster tacos, celery root puree flautas, short rib mole and shrimp ceviche. The chocolate marquis dessert is a decadent delight, while breezy cocktails seal the deal.
10717 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake,

The Gadarene Swine

Vegetables star at The Gadarene Swine—a “plant-based” restaurant from Chef Phillip Frankland Lee who, in case you’re wondering, named it after a philosophical theory about the path one follows. Chef Lee has built an ambitious menu around everyday vegetables turned into colorful works of art served in garden pots. Splurge at the chef’s counter for a 10-course dinner ($85) or order à la carte. Standouts: tomato with sourdough and roasted mushrooms with sweet potatoes. Sip on wine, Champagne, beer or hand-pressed juices. Deal: three-course lunch with juice, $25.
11266 Ventura Blvd., Studio City,

GC Marketplace

Gary Arabia has spent three decades catering for celebrities and big-name events. Heard of “body sushi?” He’s the guy behind it. With GC Marketplace, he’s built a sleek culinary destination for coffee, dine-in, grab-and-go, catering and dessert. The coffee bar turns into a wine bar at night, with 300 bottles for purchase. The rotisserie, smoker and wood-burning oven are constantly in use; charcuterie and cheese are freshly cut, and there is a catering concierge on-site to help plan party menus. Reserve the private chef’s table with a special menu. Don’t miss: crab and truffle risotto, house-cured salmon and, if you are so inclined, the foie gras burger on house-baked challah bread.
3315 Caheunga Blvd. West, LA,


The Woodman
Rustic roadhouse is the theme at this spot from Los Angeles’ beer impresario Ryan Sweeney (The Blind Donkey, The Surley Goat). The menu features small plates, unique beers, cocktails, bourbon and whiskey. Festive, centrally-located bar. Noteworthy dishes: grilled corn lollipops, bacon-fused Waygu burger, fried Twinkies. Flat-screens are overhead and free board games are on-hand.
13615 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks,

3 Other Eateries With
“Over-The-Hill” Heat

Joan’s on Third
The second location of this gourmet food emporium that established itself nearly 20 years ago on the Westside is a one-stop shop for dine-in, take-out, baked goods, catering and finely curated culinary gifts (including cookbooks). Fluffy omelets, fresh-baked goods, Stumptown coffee, Mother Moo ice cream and Joan’s meatloaf are faves. Added bonus: the spacious outdoor patio out front, which is great for people watching.
12059 Ventura Place, Studio City,

This “new-fashioned” Mexican eatery opened its third outpost (Santa Monica and Los Angeles) in the location that once housed Spoonful and Henry’s Hat. Not-to-miss dishes with a mod twist include: tostaditas de ceviche, tamales, carnitas and jumbo deep-sea scallops. Cocktails feature tequila and mescal. Plus, hands-down the best flan in town.
3413 Cahuenga Blvd. West., Los Angeles,