Looks like El Chavo is changing again. The longtime Los Feliz Mexican dining anchor first had plans to close outright last fall, before being taken over in January by a trio of industry vets who brought the building back to life. Now it’s turning yet another corner.
The initial run included Octavio Olivas from Ceviche Project, Freddy Vargas of Scarpetta, and Brandyn Tepper from Cocktail Academy. Now Vargas has stepped away, and in comes former Top Chef contestant Phillip Frankland Lee to help run things, along with Mexican-born chef Alejandro Carasco.
The plan is to switch up the dining format, turning from a sort of small plates bar-focused program to something more closely resembling what Lee is doing at Scratch Bar: maneuvering diners through a handful of a la carte options that build into a complete meal, or letting the kitchen take over with a multi-course family-style chef’s choice experience.
With Carasco on board, there’s a stronger menu connection to Mexico directly, meaning newer options like squash blossom quesadillas, a $24 pescado zarandeado (the famous dish of places like Coni’Seafood), and tortillas that are made to order by hand. There’s still lots of seafood available thanks to Olivas, but it's clear that El Chavo’s new menu is a strong departure from its last. Tepper, meanwhile, stays on to oversee the well-received drinks program.
The new menu (available below) arrives today, with Phillip Frankland Lee officially taking over last weekend. It marks yet another notch in Lee’s expanding empire as well, alongside the news from March that Lee would be partnering with Luke Reyes to open a ramen shop right next door to Scratch Bar in Encino.
Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the final iteration of El Chavo yet, though. As has been previously known, the business interest behind the ownership move back in November has big plans for the site — and they may or may not include El Chavo as we currently know it — and those have really yet to formally take shape. But for the foreseeable future, you’ll now be able to get even more top-notch Mexican food from the long-running El Chavo address.