From Bourbon to BBQ

3 new joints that are tickling our tastebuds.

After Dark

Ah, Los Angeles—where waiters become actors and actors become restaurateurs. The latest multi-hyphenate is actor Duane Martin, married to actress Tisha Campbell-Martin (“She’s definitely influenced the menu,” according to the PR rep) and the force behind Studio City’s Xen Lounge. 

The space is imaginative and chic. Electric red umbrellas dangle from a tree overlooking the back patio; tabletop knickknacks are space-aged; the private dining room is gothic. Settle into a serrano chili cocktail in a leather booth inside or find regulars like Stevie Wonder, who inspired Xen’s braille menu, enjoying the al fresco garden. 

Chef Neil Shuman’s dry-aged rib-eye, slathered in bone marrow butter, and mac- and-cheese cupcakes are touted as favorites, although on a recent evening, the menu appeared to have some kinks in it—as both entrees were a bit underwhelming. With the kitchen open until mid-night, Xen joins the growing cast of new Valley ven-ues for having fun after dark. 

By Tiffany Shinn



Southern Comfort

Another gastropub has popped up on the Boulevard. So what else is new? But before you glaze over, hear us out on Spoonful. The brainchild of Georgia-born restaurateur Frank Foley, Spoonful offers classic southern dishes (sometimes with a modern twist) and drinks. 

We liked it from first sighting—a dark-stained wooden sign with an artful, yellow font. The interior is attractive and well-appointed. Pendant lights mixed with antique crystal chandeliers offer the perfect lighting (instead of what we often find: too dark or bright).

Our favorite dishes were the simpler ones: A super-moist blackened chicken sandwich ordered with a (porkless) side of collard greens—slightly spiked with vinegar. The mac-and-cheese with just three ingredients, showcasing the perfect crispy—but not burned—top. The blow-your-mind appetizer braised pork belly—glazed with an apple cider vinegar/vanilla reduction and served with a panko-crusted, soft-boiled egg on the side (photo on left). Devouring it felt like discovering Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Who knew this combination could be so delicious? 

The star beverage here is whiskey. There are 40 southern varieties and a handful of “moonshines.”  

Diners can choose from a large bar area with ample wooden barstools and nearby copper-topped tables (TVs are visible from every angle), a quieter main dining area or a smaller, living-room-like back room. 

Don’t miss the homemade ice cream. Chunks of toffee in one version steals the show aside sticky toffee pudding; another, laced with bourbon, is irresistible alongside a lovely pecan pie. Lordy May, Miss Scarlett!

By Linda Grasso



Wing Man

From a visual standpoint, everything about Daddy J’s WingShack hints at a fast food experience—from the primary colored outdoor sign to the red plastic serving baskets. Even the name of the place connotes fast food! 

But from a pure foodie standpoint, this place is more palace than shack. The grub here is gourmet.

Actor-turned-culinary-arts-schooled-chef Joseph Phillips serves his homemade sauces—from spicy to mild and sweet to salty. The most popular variety is apple BBQ, but we took a special liking to the garlic Parmesan.  

Perhaps the best news of all: they deliver. We’re thinking Oscar night nibbles—you?



Face Forward

Every wrinkle cream boasts some new miracle ingredient; it’s tough to assess what to buy these days. But the stem cell technology behind the new Lifeline Skin Care line is pretty darn impressive. 

Lifeline features a unique combination of stem cell extracts, vitamins A, B, E and antioxidants that work to create new healthy cells. Reps tell us it’s the only skin care line based on human non-embryonic stem cells. The line is now carried at Blue Medi Spa, the first medical spa to sell it in LA. Day and night serums available.