Back in 2017, celebrated Mexican chef Diego Hernandez made a splash when he landed at the short-lived Verlaine in West Hollywood, which occupied the former Dominick’s space. Hernandez made a name at his Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Corazón de Tierra and has recently been the chef at Ensenada’s La Bete Noire, a high fidelity bar and lounge with a seasonal small plate menu. Now, Hernandez has landed as the chef of Dudley Market, a beachside Venice restaurant that sources much of its own seafood from its fleet of fishing boats that get fish from nearby waters. Dudley, which was closed for a short period, reopened earlier this week with Hernandez at the helm.
Hernandez is now incorporating a lot of his well-seasoned Baja-Mediterranean approach to the menu, though Dudley will keep on some classics to cater to regulars. Given his considerable talents as a former chef of a Latin America 50 Best Restaurants winner, Hernandez’s cooking at Dudley Market is a huge boon for the Westside neighborhood.
The updated Dudley Market menu features a shrimp quesadilla with ajillo spices, cabbage, and pickled onions while a line-caught tuna tostada comes with chimichurri. A stripe bass collar taco or tuna collar quesadilla shows the restaurant’s commitment to using as much of the fish as possible while adding flavors from Hernandez’s Mexican flavor arsenal.
Hernandez will join forces with Dudley’s partners Connor Mitchell and Dina O’Connor, as well as Ray Wicks and Alexandra Purcaru, to create an LA version of La Bete Noire they’re calling Gray Area. With an even stronger slant toward grilled fish, meats, and vegetables, Gray Area will echo the Ensenada bar with high-fidelity tunes curated by local DJs paired with the food in a space that will start the evening as a date-friendly lounge and then open up to more standing room and mingling. Taking elements from Japanese listening bars and scene-ier, loungier environments, Gray Area should be a solid hit with music-loving Venice denizens, who already have places like Winston House to enjoy music with food. The cocktail menu will receive a dose of consultation from Purcaru, who helped assemble the drinks at La Bete Noire, but became a bigger name from her work at Oaxaca bar Selva, a North America 50 Best Bar this past year.
Gray Area likely won’t open until spring 2023 in the space adjacent to Dudley Market on Dudley Avenue. However, the building has gained yet another item of note: Christopher “Nicely” Abel Alameda, a longtime barista at nearby Menotti’s, has opened a coffee pop-up called Hooked inside the space that serves daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (closed Tuesdays) featuring only natural processed coffees via espresso and batch drip, with some of his signature coffee drinks on the menu as well. Overall, between Hooked, Dudley’s new menu, and Gray Area, the building just off the Venice waterfront should bring a slew of revitalized cocktails, food, wine, and coffee to thirsty and hungry locals.