Porridge + Puffs changed the way we dine out in L.A. — now it’s back

An overhead spread of porridges, salads and fried "puffs" at Porridge + Puffs, which reopened in Historic Filipinotown
The artful bowls of porridge topped with savory jams, pickled goods and vinegars at Porridge + Puffs are back this month with a new chef and new focus on market and pantry goods.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Porridge + Puffs

With brimming bowls of porridge, colorful jams, jammy eggs, fresh herbs and dazzling garnishes, Porridge + Puffs helped to invigorate the way L.A. eats — and after a few years of pandemic-spurred closure, Minh Phan’s Historic Filipinotown restaurant is back.

Phan’s restaurant reimagined the culturally ubiquitous and beloved rice porridge, topping her bowls of long-simmered Koda Farms grains with vibrant pickles, jams, microgreens and flower petals to delight diners. In 2014, while the concept ran as a pop-up, Jonathan Gold called Phan’s cooking “as dazzling in its complexity as anything coming out of the most famous kitchens in town.” In 2018 she launched Porridge + Puffs as a restaurant in Historic Filipinotown, but in 2021, after more than a year of weathering the pandemic, it closed.

The highly driven chef, self-described as a perfectionist, pivoted to open Phenakite, the intricate, fine-dining, outdoor-only restaurant that went on to be named the 2021 L.A. Times Restaurant of the Year. Phan always planned to reopen her cozy porridge-based restaurant, but it wasn’t until she found a new chef and a renewed calling to provide a more accessible option that she realized it was time.


Phenakite is an ambitious fine-dining project with the most heartfelt cooking in Los Angeles.

May 16, 2021

“That’s where my heart was, so I did it. I continue to love Phenakite, but it also feels really shameful to not have a community space where you can eat affordably,” Phan said. “There was always a pain in me at Phenakite that people can’t get in all the time because there’s always a wait. It feels weird for me to have a huge reservation list.” Cost, she said, is also a concern. At Porridge + Puffs, everything costs less than $20.

Chef Minh Phan stands outside Phenakite in 2020 in front of a wood fence.
Chef Minh Phan took time away from Porridge + Puffs to open her fine-dining, outdoor concept Phenakite during the pandemic. This month, she reopened her genre-bending neighborhood restaurant.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

At Phenakite, Phan can be controlling and expressive in her execution to her heart’s content. At Porridge + Puffs, she said she’s been learning to find tranquility in relinquishing some of that control and allowing her staff to take the reins. She found the ability to trust her concept in the hands of another chef with Eleanor Hurtt, former sous chef of Cassia turned Porridge’s chef.

The recipes remain Phan’s, though Hurtt’s interpretations are different: a bit more European, in Phan’s words, and fewer pickles, in Hurtt’s. Phan found that her team was right in playing with the founder’s highly specific recipes and the ones fans might recall: Though similar, they’re slightly different and, Phan said, in some ways better. It’s helped her to see the restaurant and her role in a new light. “This food should hit your soul and your comfort,” she said. “It shouldn’t just be my personal expression, and that was like a big, big wake-up call for me.”

We all have particular ideas of what a porridge restaurant might look like, whether a Hong Kong-style congee shop like Delicious Corner in Monterey Park or a Taiwanese porridge hall like Lu’s Garden in San Gabriel, Atlacatl and its list of Salvadoran atoles, the Koreatown pumpkin-porridge specialist Bon Juk or Veronica’s Kitchen in Inglewood, with its Nigerian fufu menu.

Dec. 12, 2014

Hurtt hopes to add a few new items and flesh out the pastry offerings beyond the restaurant’s now-iconic brown-butter mochi cakes, while adding drinks for the warm months ahead. The reopening also marks a larger focus on prepared foods such as refrigerated quarts of porridge and bottles of seasonal shrubs. Hurtt says that as the to-go pantry and market expands, they can begin marketing to those especially in need of high-quality, comforting meals, such as hospitals and new mothers.

“It’s just still wanting to care for the community,” Hurtt said, “and lovingly you can do that through food.”


Porridge + Puffs is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

2801 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles,


An overhead photo of whole fish at Bombo
Restaurant E.P., part of West Hollywood’s E.P. & L.P. complex, is now Bombo: a multiregional modern Mexican restaurant headed by a “Chopped” winner.
(Jennifer Johnson / Bombo)

A new Mexican restaurant has opened in one of West Hollywood’s most recognizable nightlife spaces: With a focus on upscale, modern Mexican cuisine inspired by a number of regions, Bombo replaced long-running E.P. this month. E.P. & L.P., from Botanical Hospitality Group, opened in 2015 as a split concept: The main dining room, E.P., offered dinner and brunch on the middle floor, while L.P., on the roof, focused on cocktails and, later, sprouted a cinema pop-up called Melrose Rooftop Theatre. The building will maintain its E.P. & L.P. name — with rooftop bar L.P. and the theater still in operation — but gone are E.P.’s offerings, which throughout the years included Southeast Asian curries, five-spice ribs, pastas and fried crab buns. At Bombo, new executive chef Samantha Quintero (a “Chopped” winner and a Night + Market Sahm vet) is focusing on Latin flavors such as chile poblano croquettes, agave-glazed octopus skewers, lamb al pastor with herbed crème fraîche, and fish tacos featuring a coconut batter. There are aguachiles, tacos, tostadas and larger-format plates, as well as frozen margaritas and a cocktail list from the restaurant group’s lead mixologist, Milosz Cieslak, that spotlights agave spirits. Bombo is open 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, with daily operations to follow.

603 N. Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 855-9955,

La Morra Valley Glen

Some of L.A.’s best pizza has a new home in the Valley. La Morra, the Neapolitan-leaning operation from Zach Swemle and Marlee Blodgett, is headed to North Hollywood with a to-go-only location that opens April 14. Characterized by a bubbly, just-blistered crust and toppings such as raclette, burrata, fennel sausage, kale and house-made hot honey, La Morra’s pizzas are “spectacular” and some of the finest in L.A., according to L.A. Times Food critic Bill Addison. The new location is set to offer La Morra’s signature pies, along with a new build-your-own option, plus salads, wings and other sides; an expanded menu with more vegan options, desserts and collaborations will launch after the opening. The couple’s former mobile pizza oven grew to a walk-up window on West Third Street in late 2020 but closed the following year, with the business focusing instead on events and a burgeoning frozen pizza line. This week Blodgett and Swemle return with their operation run out of a commercial kitchen offering takeout and delivery to Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, Studio City, Encino, Toluca Lake, Bel-Air, Laurel Canyon, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Burbank, Beachwood Canyon and Tarzana, with more neighborhoods to follow. La Morra’s new outpost in Valley Glen will be open 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

7333 Fulton Ave., North Hollywood,

A close-up photo of La Morra's margherita pizza
The classic margherita pizza will appear on the menu of La Morra’s new to-go location, along with a new build-your-own format.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Dear John’s

Dear John’s — Culver City’s steakhouse and red-sauce joint, reborn — could close next month. The lauded project from Hans and Patti Röckenwagner and Josiah Citrin reprised the 1960s restaurant and former Sinatra hangout with hallmarks of throwback dining such as tuxedoed servers, heavy martini pours and tableside preparations, but it was always planned as a temporary concept. The restaurateurs initially planned to close Dear John’s in spring of 2021, its expiration date timed to the building’s demolition, but renegotiated extensions on their lease into 2023. They have been unable to pen a deal that would allow the restaurant to operate beyond May 31. “We wish we had better news, but we have not yet come to terms for an extension of our lease at Dear John’s,” according to the restaurant’s newsletter and social media. “We will keep you posted and hope to see you before it’s over.” Due to the ongoing negotiations, co-owner Patti Röckenwagner declined to comment beyond the fact that they hope the restaurant can continue to operate in the storied space.


11208 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 881-9288,

Tacos 1986 Santa Monica

Now with seven bricks-and-mortar locations across the L.A. region, Tacos 1986 is open in the former Taco Libre space in Santa Monica. The popular Tijuana-style taco operation from founders Jorge “Joy” Alvarez-Tostado and Victor Delgado began in 2018 as a street cart, then a stall at Smorgasburg L.A. (where it can still be found on Sundays). It will continue to serve its signature adobada, carne asada, pollo asada and mushroom tacos, vampiros, quesadillas and mulitas at the newest outpost — in addition to a new item, a burrito. Tacos 1986 is open in Santa Monica from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

135 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica,

An overhead photo of a Tacos 1986 carne asada quesadilla. The chain expanded to Santa Monica this month.
Tacos 1986 now serves its carne asada quesadillas — along with adobada, chicken and mushroom tacos, mulitas and vampiros — in Santa Monica.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Raw Wine

One of the world’s largest events dedicated to natural wine returns to Los Angeles this month, bringing two days of tastings and talks to City Market Social House. Roughly 80 vintners from Italy, Austria, France, Spain, Lebanon, Georgia, Germany, the U.S. and beyond will be pouring their wares, all made using little to no chemical intervention. Discussion panels led by industry vets include the natural wines of Mexico; Oaxaca’s single-batch agave spirits; and California’s wine history and beyond seen through the lens of Rancho Cucamonga’s wine “revolution.” Raw Wine runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 23 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 24. Tickets cost $70 per day or $110 for both days.

1145 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles,