There’s comfort in the great American steakhouse, that historic bastion of deep leather booths and big, sizzling chops served hot off the flame. But now, with the Los Angeles restaurant world contending with unprecedented pandemic issues, everyone is rethinking the old models, from the menus themselves to how to serve dishes safely in the new al fresco reality.
“If we did a steakhouse in California, what would it be?”, asks Bull & Butterfly co-owner Alan Jackson, who along with partner Heidi Jackson founded the Lemonade group of restaurants. “It certainly wouldn’t be the Chicago model, or New York-style steakhouse. That’s been done. We wanted to create something that had the longitude and latitude of where we live, and the influences that are all around us.”
That means a roving menu that moves from the seafoods of Baja to the grassy ranges of the Central Coast, with nods to traditional cooking formats throughout. Think albondigas starters and crispy oysters Rockefeller, before moving into thin quick-grill cuts like hanger steak and into traditional porterhouses and Spencer cuts. The Jacksons have brought on chef Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station) to conceive the opening menu and execute dishes at the outset, and from there will hand day-to-day responsibilities to executive chef Robbie Nowlin (Otium).
Calling the space a more muted “California brasserie,” Jackson says that the finished restaurant is an upscale nod to the meaty restaurants of the past, and the coastal location the restaurant finds itself in today. Deep blue banquettes mix with teal tones and light blonde wood, with hints of pink inside. But right now, it’s all about spending time on the patio due to prohibited indoor dining. “We spent the last year and a half focusing on the inside build-out,” says Jackson, “and of course as we got ready to open we found we had to re-focus our attention.” Now the patio space has been doubled, with built-in features like a gazebo and planters. “It’s become this indoor-outdoor restaurant, where both sides open up and the inside spills out,” says Jackson.
Of course, no opening today is without its concerns. Jackson admits to being “worried about the state of the restaurant business” right now, whether here or at his more quick service Lemonade restaurants. “I’m fortunate enough, but I think of my colleagues who have been so creative and steadfast in trying to keep their business afloat. I feel an obligation to join them with a new concept. It feels a little brazen, but in our hearts we’re cooks and people who love hospitality. In my heart, I have to do this. I can’t mothball this.”
And so tonight, after months of waiting, the Jacksons will open Bull and Butterfly at the Runway in Playa Vista at 12746 W. Jefferson Boulevard, with reservations available via Tock. Expect hours from Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. with an extension to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night. The opening menu is below.