Eater LA has learned that chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo will close their seminal restaurant Animal on Saturday, June 17 after 15 years of operation. The Fairfax Avenue stalwart debuted in June 2008 and soon received local and national attention for its bold cooking and even bolder chef personalities. Known as the Two Dudes, Shook and Dotolo grew Animal’s following with a menu chock-full of rich cuts of pork belly, under-appreciated offals, and plenty of then-legal foie gras.
“After 15 years we have decided to close Animal. Our last day of service will be the 17th of June. A huge heartfelt thank you to all of the farmers, artisans, purveyors, team members past and present, guest chefs, the diners who came to support us and to all of our friends and families. We had fun, made great memories and will cherish it forever,” said Shook and Dotolo in a joint statement sent to Eater.
Animal took the city by storm with its no-holds-barred approach to food, and demand quickly ballooned for dishes like foie gras loco moco, crispy pigs ears, and a bacon chocolate crunch bar. This style of cooking grew to prominence in places like Montreal at Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef, and in London at Fergus Hendersons’s iconic St. John, but was a novelty at the time on this particular stretch in the Fairfax District.
While then-LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold mostly embraced Shook and Dotolo’s drippy, over-the-top “Boy Food,” former Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila sniffed at its approach (“Hide the salt and the sugar … and maybe — just a thought — cut back on the bacon”) and former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni wasn’t completely sold (“Animal isn’t a great restaurant, or at least it wasn’t when I tried it”). Shook and Dotolo received best new chef honors from Food & Wine magazine in 2009. Despite the mixed critical reception, Animal came to define an important moment in the late aughts LA dining scene.
Shook and Dotolo, who met at culinary school in Fort Lauderdale in the late ‘90s, initially rose to fame with a Food Network show called “Two Dudes Catering” and the cookbook Two Dudes, One Pan. In 2004, the two chefs launched a successful local catering company called Carmelized Productions. The chefs continue to operate Son of a Gun on West 3rd Street, Jon & Vinny’s (multiple locations), Helen’s Wines (multiple locations), and Cookbook Market in Echo Park and Highland Park.