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Classic Japanese Diner in Boyle Heights Could Receive Historic Designation

Plus, a new McDonald’s collab with Saweetie, and Monty’s Good Burger expands to Culver City

Japanese curry with pork over rice with vegetables on a traditional blue plate.
Japanese curry with pork over rice at Otomisan
Farley Elliott
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

LA Cultural Heritage Commission will vote on whether to recommend Otomisan restaurant in Boyle Heights to become a historic cultural monument later this week, reports Rafu Shimpo. The building is the home of the last remaining Japanese restaurant in the now predominantly Latino neighborhood, though in decades past the area had been an enclave for Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, Armenians, and other immigrants. The building was originally built by Ryohei Nishiyama in 1924, and operated as a Japanese grocery store and later a florist and barbershop. LA Conservancy says the vernacular building is “an excellent example of a 1920s streetcar commercial development” with a “cozy interior of three red button tufted booths and short counter with five stools.”

The Nishiyama family was part of the Japanese incarceration after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, where they were interned in Arizona and ultimately Tule Lake Concentration Camp until 1946. They eventually retained their property on East First Street and converted it into a food establishment in the 1950s.

The restaurant inside the space was originally called Otemo Sushi Cafe before it was sold to new owners in the 1970s and changed to Otomisan. Yayoi Watanabe, who owned a nearby dry cleaner, acquired the restaurant in the mid-2000s and has been operating it since. The menu is homestyle Japanese fare like salmon sushi, oyakodon, tonkatsu, and soba. The designation would also include the Queen Anne-style Nishiyama residence on the property, and would ensure the building that Otomisan occupies would require permits before any potential demolition, significant altercation, or removal. More likely the designation ensures the building will remain part of LA’s history for the foreseeable future. Other notable LA Historic-Cultural monuments that have restaurants include the Original Pantry in Downtown and Vibiana Cathedral.

In other news:

  • Westside reporter Toddrickallen says plant-based Monty’s Good Burger is expanding to Culver City in the former Tentenyu Ramen space.
  • Dave’s Hot Chicken continues its inexorable march into every city and locale in the universe, with another outlet opening this week in Rosemead.
  • LA rapper Saweetie gets the next collaboration with McDonald’s, according to LA Magazine. The rapper is known for putting ranch salad dressing on her spaghetti and is serving a fairly large meal of a Big Mac, four chicken McNuggets, a medium Sprite, and “Saweetie “n Sour” sauce. McDonald’s has had major success with its music collaborations, most recently with Travis Coss, J Balvin, and BTS.
  • New York and Las Vegas’s Lavo is expanding to West Hollywood, as if LA needed more Italian restaurants, reports What Now LA.
  • Hilltop Coffee and Kitchen received a small scale miniature of its building in Inglewood:

Otomisan Restaurant

2506 1/2 E 1st St, , CA 90033 (323) 526-1150