Chef Brian Dunsmoor isn’t done with Southern food — far from it. It’s just that the longtime Hatchet Hall and Hart & the Hunter chef increasingly views Southern cuisine, with its rich history, interwoven dynamics, and broad applicability, as part of a larger whole. The coal-roasted oysters and house-made country ham on the menu at his new Glassell Park restaurant Dunsmoor are only one part of the restaurant’s entire perspective. Really, the restaurant is focused on history.
Chef Dunsmoor and his team first began tinkering with nearly-forgotten foodways and lesser-discussed techniques and technicians with Fuss & Feathers, a rotating pop-up series that explored America’s history with preservation, fire, and time. At his new corner restaurant at 3501 Eagle Rock Boulevard, housed inside a 1929 Spanish Revival building that sat empty for years, that heritage can be seen and felt thanks in part to a glowing wood-fired hearth, where rainbow trout will be seared off as other proteins smoke away slowly from above. The coals will be used to slow-cook seafood, the attached wood-fired, high-heat oven used to boil and brown meats and breads.
A separate, small, open raw bar is where Brian Dunsmoor will spend most of his time (chef de cuisine Manuel Mendoza and staff will heavily man the fire and small back kitchen), popping oysters and thickly slicing albacore onto a decorative plate. The larder, as it were, is where pork butt rillettes and chopped duck liver and pickled vegetables will get their due, showcased alongside Bub & Grandma’s breads and spreads made in-house. In all, the restaurant’s menu, with its aged filigree detailing and nods to regions like the Carolinas, the low country, and the Pacific, is meant to take diners across time and place — a journey made for a wandering and thoughtful chef like Dunsmoor, plunked right down in Glassell Park.
Dunsmoor’s specific food is a first for the neighborhood, which has seen dramatic change in the past several years. Around the corner, the Grant now offers upscale evening cocktail service, and soon SolArc Brewing and a restaurant from the Bub & Grandma’s team will also appear. Not far away is the new Capri Club, an aperitivo bar with a coastal Italian sensibility. Each new restaurant offers something different, though not everyone in the neighborhood believes these spaces offer something for them. The most expensive item on Dunsmoor’s opening menu is a $39 lamb sirloin, a price far below the dry-aged steaks found at other LA restaurants but still no slouch in a neighborhood where the median household income is $50,000. Both Dunsmoor and Taylor Parsons, a longtime hospitality veteran and part of the restaurant’s Whole Cluster Hospitality group (including Johnny Jain, Nisha Maniktala, and Ali Vazin), say that price considerations and availability are just one part of a spectrum of conversations that they want to continue to have with the majority Latino community, along with ongoing outreach that could include more affordable meals, food donations, and other activations and engagements.
For his part, Parsons has also helped to round out a respectable wine list, after spending years at places like Republique. Mostly though the beer, wine (including a dozen options by the glass), and aperitifs will be in the hands of beverage manager Rachael Davis, who will also run the separate wine bar at the back of the restaurant, which comes complete with its own entrance on Avenue 35 and seating and menu culled from larder items. The opening menus are below.
For Dunsmoor’s design, the group is relying on low light and the amber glow of fire and coals to offset the worn wood found along communal tables and two banquette lines that run along opposing walls. The restaurant is tall and touched off with brick, lived-in textures, and terracotta tile work, plus spiral exterior columns that showcase the building’s previous life as a bank. Lovers Unite is behind the open floor plan restaurant, where the warmest seats may well be at the small run of bar stools looking directly into the hearth. In all, there’s room for 75 or so inside, plus another 15 outside.
There are plans to offer progressive prix fixe dinner experiences at those counter seats eventually, with Dunsmoor and company walking customers through a bit of regional heritage with flair and detail. For now those conversations can be had at the long communal tables, peeking over to see Dunsmoor slicing off a bit of his own food history with each run of the knife.
Dunsmoor opens Wednesday, June 29 at 3501 Eagle Rock Boulevard, keeping hours from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. Expect expanded hours down the line, including options for brunch and seven-day-a-week service. Reservations can be made via the Dunsmoor website.