You want to put a restaurant where? Lingua Franca opens on this L.A. landmark
Nearly six years in the making, the highly anticipated restaurant Lingua Franca — from the owners of one of L.A.’s most lauded sandwich shops — is finally open. Wax Paper’s Lauren and Peter Lemos are turning out inventive but still-homey dishes in the Elysian Valley/Frogtown neighborhood, situated along the bike path and overlooking the L.A. River.
“I know a lot of people sort of looked at the project that we were doing and didn’t get it, or were like, ‘You want to do what? You want to put a restaurant there? Why would you do that?’” said Peter Lemos, co-owner and executive chef.
Within a year of being married and after roughly 20 cumulative years of working in restaurants for others, the Lemoses dreamed of opening their own space to create and serve their own menu. They debuted the Frogtown location of Wax Paper in 2015, pouring all their savings into the tiny sandwich shop. Soon after, the duo was approached about developing a space nearby: a restaurant that would sit along the river and at the base of a new residential project. The building’s shell needed a complete restaurant build, and in the meantime, the couple launched their second Wax Paper, in Chinatown, in 2018. At the end of February, after years of pandemic setbacks and roughly six years of planning, Lingua Franca finally opened its doors.
Now the restaurant — serving a kind of “New California” take on comfort food — offers root-beer-braised beef cheeks in a kind of stroganoff; confit steelhead trout with grilled fava beans and lemon dressing; plates full of braised leeks and endives with roasted walnuts; and a years-in-the-making grass-fed beef burger with black-garlic sherry brown butter and burnt onion on a custom house-made bun. It is, Peter Lemos says, trying to encapsulate a feeling of comfort and familiarity rather than a strict regionality.
A daytime menu, set to launch in the coming months, will offer dishes such as buttermilk waffles; crispy bologna or mushroom breakfast sandwiches; overnight oats with banana purée and whipped mascarpone; cold fried chicken with jam and honey vinegar; and Peter Lemos’ burger. Having the larger kitchen space also will be an aid to Wax Paper, Peter Lemos says; new specials with more intricate items cooked in Lingua Franca’s facilities most likely will make their way to the sandwich shops. Unlike the set staples at Wax Paper, Lingua Franca’s menu will change regularly depending on inspiration and seasonality.
“We constantly, every single day, have a million ideas,” Peter Lemos said. “It’s hard to wrangle that in, you know?”
Lauren Lemos, a former bartender, serves as a manager as well as the guidance for much of the beverage program, which includes West Coast wines with a focus on female vintners, local craft beer and drinks such as a frozen concoction sporting wine, lemons from the garden, guava and Aperol. Nonalcoholic beverages include Lauren’s Spicy Cooler, a seasonal rotation of juices, peppers and herbs, as well as teas and coffees in forms like iced matcha with pistachio rosewater. Wax Paper’s signature Canadian cold brew, made with almond milk and maple, here takes the form of a granita for dessert.
With more space and kitchen to employ, the team has expanded too. Kirstin “Kiki” Bliss (formerly of Hotel Bel-Air) serves as pastry chef and bakes not only the custom English muffin buns for the signature burger but also desserts such as chocolate cake with olive oil jam and a Persian-inspired roasted walnut tart with labneh, phyllo dough and vanilla custard. Mark MacInnis, bar manager, and Victor Feliz, lead bartender, also aid in the beverage programs.
“I feel so, so lucky that the heavens opened up and people reached out and said, ‘Hey, I want to be a part of this,’” Peter Lemos said.
Lingua Franca is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., with daytime service to follow.
2990 Allesandro St., Los Angeles, linguafrancaco.com
A new taste of New Orleans just landed in Long Beach with Bar Envie, a cocktail bar that’s been built as an ode to the Big Easy. The new Zaferia District bar with Southern bites is the latest project from Geoff and Karna Rau and chef Carlos Jurado, the trio behind Colombian restaurant Selva, a Los Angeles Times 101 List awardee. The Raus, who say they split their time between New Orleans and Long Beach, wanted to bring a bit of the city to the West Coast. At Bar Envie the cocktail list from beverage director Mike Borowski riffs on its regional classics with options such as a rhubarb take on the Ramos gin fizz, a julep featuring chartreuse, and a sazerac with chicory-infused whiskey, among others, plus customizable boozy floats. From the kitchen, Jurado’s menu offers Creole-spiced shrimp and grits, pimento cheese, a muffuletta, a po’ boy, spicy frog legs and a fried-bologna sandwich, with weekly specials such as étouffée and jambalaya. Bar Envie is open Sunday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
4000 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 342-4255, barenvie.com
Honey’s at Star Love
An inclusive new bar from a trio of LGBTQ owners is now open in Hollywood, filling the former Girl at the White Horse space with cocktails, nonalcoholic beverages and events such as DJ sets and comedy nights that spotlight queer artists. Honey’s at Star Love is a sort of indefinite queer-bar residency from Kate Greenberg (director of operations at Mozza group), designer and events producer Charlotte Gordon,and Mo Faulk (Bluedoor, an LGBTQ-friendly wellness center and urgent-care facility), who could extend the concept into a more permanent bar. Their cocktails can involve ingredients such as peanut-washed whiskey, pimento liqueur and gin infused with butterfly pea flower, with a bar team that can also concoct no-ABV drinks with fresh fruit and other inventive ingredients. Similar to Silver Lake’s new sapphic wine bar, the Ruby Fruit, Honey’s is intended as a gathering place that can provide a more casual setting for relaxing and chatting than one-off or monthly LGBTQ events.
“I think it’s super important to have an actual brick-and-mortar venue for people to go that doesn’t feel charged or loaded about an event,” said Greenberg. “It can just be a place to go and hang out and have a drink for one.” While Honey’s functions as a full bar that the owners hope will be a casual space for all, it also hosts events. The footprint includes a small stage area as well as a patio, which can host performances, food pop-ups, karaoke, vinyl DJ sets and wine tastings. Honey’s at Star Love is open Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
1532 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, honeysla.com
Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen DTLA
A beloved Black-owned L.A. cafe recently expanded to new, spacious digs downtown. Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen — from owners Ajay Relan, Issa Rae and Yonnie Hagos — is now open within the former home of Gusto Green. The new Hilltop offers the same food and beverage menus of its Inglewood, Eagle Rock and View Park-Windsor Hills counterparts but features a larger dining room, plus a full bar that could begin offering cocktails in the future. Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen is open downtown daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
718 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, (213) 567-9800, findyourhilltop.com
After a 2018 closure — and last year’s comeback in a new space and under new ownership — long-running burger shack Irv’s is opening a second location, this time in the former home of another L.A. burger spot. On March 3 Irv’s Burgers will open its outpost in the Mid-Wilshire area, at an 1,100-square-foot space where Pop’s Burgers once sat but which more recently housed roast beef specialist Top Round. Irv’s figurehead and former owner Sonia Hong, beloved by customers for her sketches of the guests and their pets on paper plates, will be serving at the new location as well as the West Hollywood Irv’s that opened last year, and offering the same menu of burgers, tuna melts, shakes and cookies. A new burger, inspired by the film “The Menu,” recently launched as a monthlong special; it’s become so popular that it’s now a permanent item at both locations. The newest Irv’s Burgers will open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.
1000 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, irvsburgers.com
Farewell to Alpine Village Market
The iconic German market, deli and Oktoberfest destination that brought throngs of epicureans to Torrance for gourmet sausages, imported pantry goods, Bavarian pastries, enormous fresh pretzels and other treats permanently closed on Feb. 27 after more than half a century in operation. Fans have responded over multiple social media platforms sharing memories and calling for its reopening. The neighboring restaurant, which sat hundreds of diners and served as the area’s festive Oktoberfest dining hall, closed in 2020. Representatives of the Alpine Village center could not be reached for comment; the European-inspired Alpine Shops in the complex, which include multiple antique stores and other specialty businesses, remain open.
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