West Adams is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and at one point, it was one of the wealthiest. With its stunning Victorian and Craftsman architecture, it also was one of the first areas African-Americans fought and won the right to own property, setting a precedent for similar housing covenants around the country and eventually becoming home to well-heeled celebrities, musicians and public figures like Butterfly McQueen, the Mills Brothers, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Marvin Gaye and attorney Johnny Cochran.
But with the construction of the 10 Freeway, the neighborhood was split, homes were torn down and many of the wealthy moved to areas like Baldwin and Beverly Hills. Needless to say, things changed.
But West Adams is still what I’d consider one of L.A.’s last real neighborhoods. We walk each other’s dogs. We keep an eye on each others houses. We look out for each other. There are art galleries, comedy nights and, behind it all, a real sense of community. There’s also what I consider to be one of the best slices in L.A.,
at Delicious Pizza, owned by Mike and Rick Ross of Delicious Vinyl, who also happen to throw one of the area’s best block parties.
But in terms of upscale dining, West Adams has been mostly neglected by outside developers, entrepreneurs and chefs. So the arrival of Daniel Patterson, whose San Francisco restaurant Coi has received three stars from the illustrious Michelin Guide, definitely got the attention of locals and the food community alike.
At Alta Adams and its accompanying Adams Coffee Shop, which is just a few doors down from Delicious Pizza, Patterson has high hopes of serving the community. He’s made it his mission to empower rising culinary talent at his restaurant group’s recent projects, and Alta Adams is no exception. Here, he’s teamed up with chef Keith Corbin, a Watts native who began working with him during the opening of the original LocoL in Watts, where Patterson was also a partner.
At Alta Adams, Corbin is fusing traditional West African food and California cuisine with Southern flair. You’ll find dishes like black-eyed pea fritters, a snacky party popper that lies somewhere in between a hush puppy and a falafel that’s served with green goddess-style dipping sauce. There are perfectly fluffy miniloaves of cornbread served with honey butter, and a really great version of braised oxtail, done in the Southern style and fall-off-the-bone tender. Then there’s the fried chicken, which, if you closed your eyes while biting into that crackly skin, you’d swear you were a few blocks away at Gus’.
And then there are the greens, like the whole leaf stuffed with braised collards. Yes, they may be folded into themselves like a little papillote, but when you take a bite and savor the rich flavor lent from the smoked oil, you’ll be blown away to know that there was no ham hock used. That’s right. They’re vegan. Trust me, you’ll need to pause for a Fabio “I Can’t Believe It’s Not” moment.
As far as beverages go, Aaron Paul and Garrett McKechnie put a playful cocktail menu together that includes drinks like the Lunchbox, essentially an adult’s version of PB&J in a glass, made with peanut butter-washed whiskey, huckleberry and just the right hit of Aperol that gives what could have been a totally saccharine drink a nice hit of bitterness to round it out. For fans of 1886’s Honey Nut Old-Fashioned, this is an absolute must-order.
To finish, make sure to get a slice of coconut cake. Taking a forkful of the dense and decadent double layers, you get the feeling that there’s a grandma delivering them in a Tupperware cake carrier each morning. This is the kind of dessert you become famous for at the neighborhood block party. Yep, I think they’ll fit right in.
5359 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., 323.571.4999
Dinner: Tue.-Sun., 5-10:30pm; Snacks: $3-$7; starters: $10-$18; plates: $16-$28; sides: $6