In Los Angeles, 2016 was the year of the beautiful restaurant. Big new openings splashed onto the scene in bold ways, bringing color and light and lots of fanfare to diners across the city. Whether it’s pizza from a gorgeously renovated bowling alley in LA’s hottest ‘hood or a Downtown tiki stop with a boat for a bar, 2016 pulled out all the stops. Here’s a handful of the most stunning bits of restaurant design work to come alive in 2016.
Highland Park Bowl
A preservationist’s dream, Highland Park Bowl emerged from 2016 as the clear-cut fan favorite for its timeless aesthetic. Old pin racks got converted into hanging bar chandeliers, classic bowling banners hang against the walls, and the dim, cavernous charm of one of Highland Park’s most beloved spaces came into full focus with this April opening from the 1933 Group.
Soaring high above the city like a Bat Signal for fine dining, the brand new 71Above has called to thousands of diners — locals, business types, and out of towners alike — since opening in July. Designed by Tag Front, the Vartan Abgaryan-cheffed spot provides 360-degree views of the city below, where helicopters fly at eye level and the ocean seems foolishly close. There’s even more architectural wonder inside the space itself, from carefully crafted geometric sound panels to high-tech windows and just the right amount of brassy gilding to give the place some real shine.
Hollywood’s got it good these days, as evidenced by the likes of Paley. The throwback option along Sunset Boulevard has immediately become a hit with the studio types from nearby, while simultaneously offering itself up as a haven for couples on a date, or anyone interested in sipping a strong cocktail at the wraparound bar. Full of Art Deco charm and with food from chef Greg Bernhardt, this Bishop Pass-designed space already feels lived in.
Bathed in warm red light and wrapped in tiki ephemera, Downtown’s Pacific Seas is a truly amazing turn for the ageless Clifton’s Republic space. Executed by Andrew Meieran, this bold, hidden space offers a real boat for a bar, handiwork from “Bamboo Ben” Bassham, and tons of relics from past tiki bar legends. Stop in for a drink every night for a month and you’d still find something new to admire here.
Curtis Stone spent his own money (and plenty of his own time) to bring Gwen to life in Hollywood, and the obsessive attention to detail shows. Who else could pull of the fire-throwing meatiness of an upscale asador spot with the decadence of an Art Deco dining room with just the right amount of glassy chandelier lighting. Evan and Oliver Haslegrave completely revamped the Sunset Boulevard address, putting Gwen among the most ambitious new places to sit and watch a master at work.
With its arid landscape and charming array of colors, Salazar put tons of diners back on their heels with a river-adjacent opening in Frogtown. Early waits for a table climbed by the hour on weekends, with folks happily queueing up for on-tap margaritas and carne asada tacos among the cactus and succulents. The M+ team brought this former auto body shop back to life, making for a May opening that continues to be among the most talked-about spots in town.