Welcome back to One Month In, a periodic series in which Eater editors connect with chefs and restaurateurs about their first months of operation. Now up, All Day Baby, the highly-anticipated follow-up restaurant from the Here’s Looking At You team.
The last day of January proves to be an unseasonably warm one, which means that the patio at Silver Lake’s All Day Baby is wide open and diners are lingering at their tables even though there’s only 30 minutes of service left. The restaurant’s team of waiters, managers, and bussers — smartly outfitted in navy aprons with sea-foam trim — have been on their feet since before 8 a.m., and the anticipation of finally taking a breather is palpable.
It’s been two months since the team behind Koreatown’s popular Here’s Looking At You debuted their second restaurant — a morning, noon, and (eventually) evening hangout on the corner of Sunset and Descanso — and the reception from neighborhood residents, industry pros, and local food media has been largely positive. Eater chatted with managing partner Lien Ta, chef and owner Jonathan Whitener, and pastry director Thessa Diadem to hear about the restaurant’s early wins and challenges, the menu’s most popular dishes, and what’s holding up dinner service.
On opening with a bang: “Our first day was Black Friday. I didn’t think we were going to be this popular right from the get-go. We weren’t ready the first weekend — we didn’t have all the kinks worked out. I was on the line with the guys and we’re like, ‘shit, oh my god, we’re going down.’ It’s like a seven-hour service of just cooking eggs, and we just weren’t ready for it.” — Jonathan Whitener
On managing walk-ins: “Coming from Here’s Looking At You, which is very reservations-heavy, this restaurant is the exact opposite. Everybody’s just walking in. It’s relentless. It’s pretty intimidating when you’re new to the process and you’re training hostesses that are obviously new to the process and new to your restaurant, and you don’t even know how long people are going to eat. So we’ll take 70 covers for reservations on a Saturday and end with 330 covers. That’s a lot of people to manage their expectations and get them in, get them fed, and hopefully, make them completely happy.” — Lien Ta
On what’s selling: “There’s been an overwhelming demand for biscuit sandwiches. I didn’t think that was gonna be the big hitter. We’re going through a disgusting amount of biscuits every day. It’s kind of nuts. On the weekends we topped out at 130, on weekdays 50 or 60. A third of our sales are biscuit sandwiches.” — Jonathan Whitener
On baking enough biscuits: “We start making the dough around 4 a.m. — mixing it, sheeting it, punching it. We start baking around 6 a.m. and have about 300 biscuits ready for service. That’s 30 pounds of flour and maybe 20 pounds of butter.” — Thessa Diadem
On what should be selling but isn’t: “The sundae — it’s so good, it’s weird with random textures. When you look at it on the menu early in the morning, you wouldn’t want to get a sundae, but once they eat it, it’s more like a surprise factor.” — Thessa Diadem
On the subject of check averages: “It’s $30 to $35, which meets projections. People are drinking a little bit more than I even thought they would for this 8-to-3 hour, but you always want people to drink more; they’re drinking lots of coffee.” — Lien Ta
On how business is going: “Business is good. It’s very good on Saturdays and Sundays — I call it a spanking. And I think it’s just fine Monday through Friday. I think it was great in the beginning, because it was holiday season and not a lot of people were committed to jobs or January diets. But we need more business in the morning to sustain the seven-hour service, to pay the people that work here. Overall, we’re pleasing people in our neighborhood and filling a void. Someone called us the ‘nucleus’ the other day.” — Lien Ta
On the best time to snag a table: “I thought there would be this break and lull in the afternoon following lunch, but the break and lull is honestly in the mornings. People do come in the mornings, but it’s not full, and for it to not be full, it’s not a sustainable model.” — Lien Ta
On adapting to diners’ expectations: “Breakfast people get really frustrated when their food doesn’t come out fast. People come to us and they see a breakfast spot, but what separates us from all the other breakfast or brunch places is that all of our stuff is made fresh every day — sausage patties, biscuits, everything. Some of our food takes a minute to cook, and we can get really behind when there’s an overwhelmingly big push. It’s been a big problem for us trying to figure out how to get the timing just right in such a small-capacity space.” — Jonathan Whitener
On the difference between All Day Baby and Here’s Looking At You: “The main thing that I talked about with my managers and my front-of-house team is we have an even shorter time to make a genuine impression. When you’re serving a dinner-type meal at Here’s Looking At You, you have several opportunities to have a cute little banter session. You don’t have that kind of time here. It’s like an eight-table section for a server here. This is breakfast, this is coffee, it’s really fast. It’s easy to disappoint someone, so we need to be quicker on our feet, and we’ve had to train up to meet those expectations.” — Lien Ta
On what’s holding up all-day service: “I’m desperate to open for happy hour and dinner. The only thing holding us back is we’re having a hard time hiring cooks. I know people want it because they yell at me all day and say, ‘It’s not all day baby, is it, if you close at 3.’ I think what we’ll have to do is extend to 14 hours a day for five days a week to start, and we’ll save two nights until we find staff members. I wanted it to be in January, so now I want it to be in February.” — Lien Ta
- Inside Silver Lake’s Glorious New All-Day Restaurant From the Here’s Looking At You Team [ELA]
- Former LA Mag Critic Writes New Book on Hardship and Triumphs of Owning a Restaurant [ELA]