Spend enough time watching chef David Kuo’s social media accounts (on Tiktok he’s racked up 90,000 followers, and another 103,000 followers on Instagram) and there’s a prevailing sense that the Westside chef can sort of do anything when it comes to ingredients. He’s thoughtful but easygoing, playful but deeply knowledgeable, and he really, really loves to show people what good food looks and tastes like — and how to make that same food at home for themselves. Now Kuo is ready to translate that perspective into a physical space — an actual market, hot food bar, takeaway counter, and on-site dining compound that brings all of that heart and heat to the real world. Welcome to Fatty Mart.
Kuo is no stranger to the Mar Vista dining scene, having run the ultra-successful restaurant Little Fatty for years, selling Taiwanese staples with comfort food appeal and big flavors. Little Fatty is one of the busiest takeout restaurants in all of Los Angeles, which means that Kuo has had plenty of time to cull data about what his customers want, and to think independently about how to give them those items as efficiently and deliciously as possible. Kuo has been considering the world of packaged goods and takeout somewhat seriously for years now, and he’s dreamed for nearly as long that he’d be able to share some of his findings with a culturally curious audience. Fatty Mart is the culmination of all those thoughts and dreams, a multi-hyphenate space that pushes far beyond Taiwanese food or grocery fare to become — if Kuo has his way — one of the coolest culinary incubators and retail spaces anywhere in the city.
The sense of scale that Little Fatty brings can’t really be felt over the internet. The 5,000 square-foot-space is best experienced in person, walking through orange aisles of dried goods, packaged noodles, condiments, and snacks. There’s a long cold case hugging one wall for drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, and boxes and end caps filled with produce and other perishables. Shoppers can score a ripe pineapple, while lunchtime diners can pick up a sandwich or a slice of pizza (created in partnership with Slow Rise’s Noel Brohner). There are full dinner meals like curries and Taiwanese dishes to be snatched up on a whim (complete with reheating instructions), bento boxes and sandwiches for the eat-now crowd, and a coffee and pastry bar for customers arriving in the morning.
The Design, Bitches team (Verve, Button Mash, Superba) and Curato built a space with flow and intention, ringed at the edges by hot bar stations filled with Mexican food at the Juntos stand, Korean dishes at K Fatty, Vietnamese options, American staples at Pizza and Deli, and beyond, all compiled by Kuo and culinary director James Lai (Republique). There will even be small pockets of countertop for culinary demos, or for customers to sidle up to score a draft beer. On-site eating inevitably leads past the checkout counters to breezy patio dining in the front, home to 45 seats for customers and some bright, sweeping murals. Graphic design and branding work was also handled by the Design, Bitches crew and has been managed by Arnold Byun (Maum Market), pulling the whole place together into one big package.
Of course, it’s Kuo who is really the glue for Fatty Mart. He’s not only the on-site culinary lead and owner, he’s also the primary buyer for the goods on the shelves, and the voice and face of the project for his hundreds of thousands of followers. His enthusiasm for not only the food he serves but also the purveyors and people who bring that food to market is undeniable; now he’s got a true showcase to hand that enthusiasm over to a very eager audience. It’s going to take time to all come together, with various menus (particularly at the hot bars) coming online over the course of the next several weeks. For now, expect drip coffee and pastries, as well as pizza and the full array of prepared grab-and-go food items. The grocery store portion is fully stocked too with labels like Mejorado tortillas, Wanderlust ice cream, and Jyan Isaac bread, so there’s plenty of opportunity to corner Kuo into a deep conversation about bonito flakes or instant ramen. That’s just his style.
Fatty Mart opens Thursday, May 11 at 12210 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90066, keeping hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., with an extension to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.