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A New Chef Steps in at One of LA’s Most Anticipated Upcoming Restaurants

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Plus, Jon & Vinny start smashing burgers, Tinhorn Flats is forced to close, and and Mario-style fries return to Howlin’ Ray’s

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Octopus and chorizo at Adamae
An octopus and chorizo dish
Wonho Frank Lee

Big changes have come to the long-awaited Soulmate restaurant in West Hollywood. Reps for the project have confirmed that the patio-focused space at 631 N. Robertson will no longer be helmed by former Manuela star Wes Whitsell, meaning the menu will also no longer feature Whitsell’s personal brand of Texas heritage cooking done over live fire.

While no cause was given for Whitsell’s departure, it now seems that Rudy Lopez, the former chef de cuisine at the NoMad in Downtown LA (and previously an executive chef for the H.Wood Group) is on to run the project. With that update comes a new menu direction, as Lopez leans into a more Spanish Mediterranean direction. As for timing, Soulmate was originally plotting a December 2020 opening, but is now on track for a late spring arrival. Whitsell, meanwhile, tells Eater that he’s moving on to pursue other personal restaurant projects, but will remain in Los Angeles.

In other news:

  • Burbank’s Tinhorn Flats was officially ordered to close last night, as the city revoked owner Baret Lepejian’s conditional use permit. If the business attempts to continue to operate in defiance of public health orders, the city can move to forcibly take the business.
  • The Jon & Vinny team have turned to smash burgers for their West Third Street shop Son of a Gun (for now, at least). The plan is to run the new Larry’s Smashburgers and Ice Cream from the storefront daily from noon to 5 p.m. with on-site pick-up and delivery available.
  • Meanwhile Sweet Chick has switched things up on Fairfax, offering a more focused takeout menu of chicken and waffles with all-day appeal, including a standalone breakfast menu. Sweet Chick also plans to open inside of Dodger Stadium this spring.
  • The folks from Red Boat Fish Sauce, including founder Cuong Pham, former Good Girl Dinette chef Diep Tran, and food writer Tien Nguyen, have collaborated on a new fish sauce cookbook that weaves personal stories in with the recipes.
  • Looking for that long-lost taste of Howlin’ Ray’s loaded hot chicken fries, affectionately known as Mario style? Good news, they’re back in action from the Pasadena delivery kitchen starting this week.
  • Patio dining is back in Los Angeles at places like Hinoki + the Bird (and just about everywhere else) too, but for some it’s the first time around. Case in point: the plant-based Jewel at the edge of Silver Lake and Virgil Village, which redid its parking lot recently.

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