Review: Silver Lake’s All Day Baby is brightest at breakfast and lunch
If you’re thinking about which hour to visit Silver Lake’s buzzing new morning-to-night restaurant All Day Baby, start by going for breakfast.
Open the double-glass door and walk into a daydream of the American corner diner. A compact coffee counter, manned by a barista who’s a blur of motion, and a beckoning pastry case near the entrance give way to two rooms full of snugly situated tables set with green-tinted glasses and crafty cutlery holders. Speckled floor tiles recall the patterns of midcentury linoleum. Red awnings over the picture windows block sunlight from flooding in too mercilessly, though some customers still never bother to take off their sunglasses.
Plenty of eyes, shaded or not, gaze on biscuit sandwiches. One version is a vehicle for a mug-size hunk of chicken fried in rippling batter KFC-style. Its dimensions are a spectacle, but I’d suggest instead turning your attention to the number known as the ADB Biscuit Sandwich. Some topnotch blueprinting went into its construction.
A sausage patty rests on the split biscuit’s bottom half; the meat and bread are nearly equal in width and girth, fortifying the sandwich’s foundation. Next in the stack: scrambled eggs, folded into a plump envelope; white American cheese melts lazily down the sides. A spoonful of strawberry jam completes the assembly. Somewhere in the tumble of flavors, the jam happens upon the meat and the sweetness ends up making a strange kind of sense.
Other breakfast dishes wage their own strong campaigns. A plate-size hot cake, two shades less puffy than a Dutch baby, is a vehicle for thick dollops of ricotta and blueberry compote. Two round, crisp buckwheat waffles hide beneath ruddy veils of Benton’s country ham. A bowl of grits contains a moat of shrimp “Bolognese” covered in wisps of fried leeks that look like dark, discarded feathers.
Not in the mood for eggs and pancakes? From opening to closing All Day Baby serves its entire menu, lunch and dinner fare included: wedge salad, patty melt, mussels on toast, smoked beef short rib. Swinging back to the pastry case: Take home its two unmissable delights — strawberry concha or sticky bun spread with juicy minced Asian pear — if you don’t have room for them alongside everything else.
There is a lot going on at all times at All Day Baby. Behind the operation’s sweet, bustling air is a juggernaut of ambition.
This is the second restaurant from chef Jonathan Whitener and business partner Lien Ta, who run Here’s Looking at You in Koreatown. At HLAY, which opened in 2016, Whitener is a singular practitioner of the global small plates genre — a nonconformist who fuses seeming disparities like bigeye tuna, hibiscus, palm sugar and amaranth into alchemies. Ta is an effervescent front-of-house ace who engenders loyalty; I still recognize servers from my first visit to Here’s Looking At You three years ago.
Whitener and Ta went to see the vacant space at 3200 Sunset Blvd. last year. Ta remembered living in the neighborhood and brunching there back when it was a place called Dusty’s. The pair had been discussing the foods of their childhood. Ta was raised in the Atlanta suburbs; Whitener grew up in Orange County but spent some of his summers in South Carolina. Themes of daytime dining and Southern traditions became encoded in All Day Baby’s chromosomes.
To follow the Southern trail: A more complex and compelling lunchtime fried chicken sandwich (served on a potato bun) glosses the bird with pimento cheese, peppery mayo and green tomato. The unavoidable nod to the Nashville hot chicken moment results in a hot catfish sandwich. Its cayenne luster doesn’t burn beyond a pleasant smolder.
Chicken-fried steak loiters at the end of the breakfast options; it’s too heavy for a daybreak meal, though, and being as long as my forearm I can’t imagine devouring the beast alone. But it’s a beauty to share — sawing off portions of the still-rosy skirt steak underneath the thin crust, swabbing bites through country gravy flecked with paprika. Texas ex-pats might find their heartstrings tugged hard.
Ta and Whitener invested in a not-so-small Little Red Smokehouse smoker, from which emerge nicely tensile spare ribs scented with cacao, and smirched chicken served with Alabama-style white barbecue sauce. As a meat-free option, smoked cauliflower florets are tossed in barbecue sauce and then crusted with fried garlic, sesame and cumin. A smoked beef sandwich drips cheese sauce and horseradish mayo; you know it’s around 11 a.m. when this Insta bait replaces biscuit sandwiches as the most-seen dish through the restaurant.
It’s all very fun … and very rich. Salad time? Though wonderful, a bacony cheese wedge doesn’t exactly reel back the calories. Gem lettuces with sprouts and radishes in buttermilk dressing, or pickled beets fanned between avocado slices in sumac vinaigrette, provide contrast and welcome acidity. A green tomato salad, full of tough squares of the unripe fruit, veers too far into sourness. May as well stick with the Southern motif and fry those suckers.
Whitener’s masterful grab-bag approach to flavors shows up here and there: roasted carrots anchoring swirls of apple butter, walnut dukkah and vadouvan; the fleeting weird-but-it-works presence of blueberry in the za’atar dusted over white bean dip; huevos rancheros with nose-tingling salsa verde that tip a hat to his Mexican American heritage.
But if the cooking at HLAY is an intellectual exercise in culinary pluralism, the food at All Day Baby is much more carnal, in the way memoirist Mary Karr would use the word. These are dishes that involve the senses, that brim with warm fragrance and crisp edges and vivid colors. When skillfully executed, they deliver easy, comforting deliciousness.
All Day Baby opened in late November but only recently made good on its name: It expanded to dinner hours in February.
A recent evening meal didn’t live up to several previous, joyful daytime experiences. Service, which I’d known to be efficient and confident, felt slow and tentative. A queso appetizer came out lukewarm. Smoked pork belly, served with fixings for tacos, was rubbery and overcooked; the dish has been spot-on at brunch. Smoked beef short rib, the menu’s most expensive item at $42, also showed up overcooked, its meat tough and its fat unevenly rendered. Blue-plate dinner specials (spaghetti and meatballs, curried chicken pot pie) are in the works; it might be better to feature the rib also as a weekly feature, so closer attention could be paid.
A slice of pastry chef Thessa Diadem’s banana cream pie, bolstered by a crust so flaky you can count layers into the dozens, eases most any disappointment. But right now, as the restaurant adjusts to night vision, concentrate on eating at All Day Baby while the sun is still shining.
All Day Baby
Location: 3200 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 741-0082, alldaybabyla.com
Prices: Breakfast dishes $12-$18, sandwiches $15-$17, entrees $18-$42, pastries and desserts $3-$11.
Details: Credit cards accepted. Full bar. Street parking. Wheelchair accessible.
Recommended dishes: Strawberry concha, sticky bun, ADB biscuit sandwich, chicken fried steak, wedge salad, banana cream pie.
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