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How West Adams Is Coming Alive As LA's Next Culinary Destination

By Kathryn Romeyn | January 15, 2019 | Food & Drink

A one-time hot-to-trot 'hood is being reborn as LA's next buzzy eat-drink destination.

There’s nothing more Hollywood than a reinvention story. West Adams, the district straddling West Adams Boulevard and bordered by Culver City, Baldwin Hills and Mid-City, is LA’s latest comeback story. The neighborhood—the city’s first elite suburb—dates back to the 1880s and comprises Craftsman and Victorian homes, and manses that at one point housed the likes of Hattie McDaniel (the first African-American Oscar winner, for Gone with the Wind), Ray Charles and Little Richard. Highs and lows followed before young creatives and Industry types began moving in, lighting the current fireworks.

highly-likely.jpgHigh tea gets hip at hot-cool all-day West Adams cafe Highly Likely.

One such couple, Chelsea and Alex Matthews—Matte Black culture-marketing firm founder and CEO of Juice Served Here, respectively—were so inspired by their budding community that they joined forces with Cafe Gratitude owner Cary Mosier to open Highly Likely, an all-day cafe that’s as hot as it is chill (4310 W. Jefferson Blvd., (310) 622-4550). Tricked out with blond wood and leather banquettes accented by potted botanicals, it serves classics with a twist, like the Not Another Kale Salad and Ubiquitous Avo Toast with Yemeni S’chug hot sauce. “I see the change in the neighborhood as a positive for residents and business owners alike,” says Chelsea, who oversees Sunday Suppers and their housemade Imperfect Produce jam. “With greater options come greater opportunities... across the board.”

In late summer, Open Face Food Shop (5577 W. Adams Blvd., (855) 676-3223) debuted featuring a trendy mostly Scandinavian-inspired menu of gourmet sandwiches brimming with house-cured gravlax, house-smoked Icelandic cod and Danish meatballs. Chef Lene Houck harnesses fresh, seasonal ingredients that make for truly technicolor plates at her instant hot spot, which is also open for Saturday brunch (French toast casserole, anyone?).

adams-coffee-shop.jpgThe open-concept interior of Adams Coffee Shop.

Lastly, this past fall San Francisco’s celebrated James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Patterson opened a pair of unpretentious yet elevated venues, Adams Coffee Shop (don’t miss the meatloaf sandwich at the midcentury-styled cafe) and Alta Adams (5359 W. Adams Blvd., (323) 571-4999). Though his star power is evident, Patterson let Watts native Keith Corbin take the lead on the dinner lineup, a deeply personal ode to Corbin’s LA upbringing. “The menu just poured out of me,” says the chef, who grew up making soul food with his grandmother and uses seasonal produce to infuse indulgent yet light dishes—oxtails and rice, skillet-fried chicken, black-eyed pea fritters—with California love. “It’s inspired by Los Angeles but still grounded in the traditions of my heritage—with an Alta spin! Our collard greens, for example, are presented as a lightly charred whole leaf, like one would present a whole fish on a plate.” A comfortable atmosphere pervades, from booths to the back patio to the bar (where the list of innovative cocktails includes the Lunchbox, featuring butter-washed bourbon). Ultimately, says Patterson, “our team has been very intentional about creating restaurants that are designed to not only serve a community but be part of its very fabric.”

Culturally speaking, West Adams is hot too. No fewer than a dozen galleries have opened in the last five years, and rumors keep spreading about big-name gallerists moving in. And the foodie wave is far from over. Speculation about Gjelina chef Travis Lett’s arrival in the area is confirmed by permitting requests for Gjohnny Pastrami, a 24/7 sandwich stand, on-premises microbrewery and beer garden, to be designed by Kelly Architects (Mozza, Clifton’s Cafeteria). And this spring, Jason Eisner—responsible for Gracias Madre’s legendary cocktail program—and Josh Beane reveal the guaranteed-to-be-disruptive Party Beer Co. (4203 W. Jefferson Blvd.), a brewery and fun-time hub where patrons can bring their own food or feast from a food truck or plant-based food pop-up while sipping craft brews, hard sparkling water and Beermosa Snow Cones (housemade Pilsner and Sicilian blood orange bitters with cold-pressed OJ) on a 5,000-square-foot patio. There’s even retro-cool miniature golf. Says Eisner, “Right now, the energy in the neighborhood is just electric.” We can feel the heat.