Don’t Expect Burgers at the Spotted Pig’s New Restaurant
When the Spotted Pig opened in New York’s West Village in 2004, it fundamentally changed the concept of what a restaurant could be: a dining room cooler than a club, with a democratic mix of uptown and downtown guests perched on stools eating exceptional chicken liver toasts, blue cheese burgers, and the occasional pig’s head.
When the Pig’s owners, Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield, open the Hearth & Hound in Los Angeles in late September—their target date is Sept. 22—they plan on bringing a related kind of dining room cool to Hollywood, joining the new outposts from Tao and Beauty & Essex.
“Most of our friends work in the hospitality and entertainment business, and they work late,” says Friedman, who comes from the music industry and whose friends range from Bono to Mario Batali. “In New York, all the bartenders hang out at the Spotted Pig at the end of their shift. In San Francisco, everyone that works in restaurants comes to our place, Tosca. We want Hearth & Hound to be that. In Hollywood especially, where the music industry meets up.”
The Hearth & Hound is located in a space that went by a similar, pub-styled name with an ampersand, the Cat & Fiddle. The legendary British bar was known for its beer selection and the cast of musicians who lounged around the vast courtyard. (Friedman, an L.A. native, knew it well. “Every band would go to Cat & Fiddle. Guns & Roses, Metallica,” he says. “The Smiths, who I used to manage, would go there to get a proper pint. Liam Gallagher, Damon Albarn—I’d run into them all there.”)
At H&H, Friedman plans on putting musicians to work.
One of his early hires is Mike Diamond—Mike D of the Beastie Boys. Diamond is an avid wine collector enlisted by Friedman to work with sommelier Taylor Parsons on the list.
“It’s going to be a fun list,” says Diamond via phone. “We are putting together a wine program that will get customers tasting things they might not taste. If you like California Syrah, I might point you towards a wine from another part of the world that’s better value. We’re going to pour half-bottles, so you can try different things.”
At the same time, Diamond promises that the list will be accessible. “If you want a glass of wine, you shouldn’t have to spend an hour figuring out what that wine is, what you’re going to drink,” he says. “The restaurant is in the middle of Hollywood. A lot of people will be using Hearth & Hound for work; a lot of people will use it to be social.”
Diamond is also working on a reserve list, though he dislikes that moniker. “There will be some sort of list that will have more interesting back vintages, rarified wines that you might not find in a casual restaurant like this. It’s a list that digs deeper. But a reserve list sounds full of s---. I’d rather say, it’s a ‘digging deeper in the crates’ list.’”
As for the food, Bloomfield, an expert on cooking vegetables despite her more meaty fame, is planning a menu that will take advantage of the terrific produce scene in southern California. She’s aiming for flavors that are crisp and clean but hearty and delicious. She describes it as “a little bit of fresh, a little bit of fat.”
There’ll also be a giant hearth allowing cooking over live fire. “I’m planning a lot of vegetables. A lot of birds—maybe pigeons and ducks and chickens, a little bit of beef,” says the Michelin-starred chef. “I have a lovely French rotisserie that I had made for chickens, and maybe some lamb. I might have a section on the menu of ‘Family Style’ dishes.”
She’s envisioning hearty salads, and she muses about short ribs, “glazed and cooked on the hearth over the embers until they’re all crispy, with lots of herbs.”
Somewhat shockingly, given the legendary status of the burger at the Spotted Pig, she says there won’t be one on the dinner menu, although she might add one for late-night eating. “I’ve gotten burgers out of my system,” she laughs. (Bloomfield’s Salvation Burger in New York, with a worth-it $25 dollar offering, just closed a month ago.)
Another point of evolution from the Spotted Pig to Hearth & Hound are the uniforms. At the Pig, servers wear t-shirts emblazoned with a pig-related logo that they’ve often decorated themselves, a style that went as far as to catch the eye of a megawatt regular such as Rihanna.
“I was constantly told at restaurants you can’t wear shorts or high tops,” says Friedman. “I said, when I open a restaurant, no one will feel under-dressed.” At H&H, people will see servers wearing button-down shirts, “but they can cut them up and put them back together. I won’t be mad at that.” At the holidays, Friedman is in talks to have celebrity-designed hoodies made for loyal customers.
Among other differences for anyone who has ever waited hours at the Pig: Hearth & Hound will take reservations. And in the design from the vaunted Roman and Williams team (which just won a James Beard Award for the dining room Le Coucou in New York) there will be chairs at the tables, instead of uncomfortable stools. “We’ve grown up,” says Friedman.
As for entertainment, Friedman has plans: “In L.A., we’re going to have our first turntables and a bunch of vinyl, and everyone will have their hard drives. At the Pig, Jay (Shawn Carter, a Spotted Pig co-owner) would DJ with an iPod on the third floor—sometimes, we’d plug his play list into the second and first floors, unbeknownst to him.”
Friedman declines to name the Hearth & Hound investors, except to say that virtually everyone involved in the Pig has invested in the Hollywood property. Which no doubt means that the private dining room, located just to the left of the entrance, will get heavy use.
“It used to be the Casablanca Room, and it had a history of gangsters and actors and actresses,” reports Friedman. “We might keep that name. We’re planning to use it as a place to let a party erupt.”
He’s asked Diamond to act as the occasional DJ, joking that the Beastie Boy is the ‘wine and vinyl guy.’
Diamond rejects that idea: “I’m going to make some record donations, I’m sure other people will make some vinyl donations, too, that reflects all of our history. That is actually fun.
”But I don’t think DJ-ing in a restaurant is a good idea—I’ll go bold on that. Playing records is fun. DJ-ing with turntables when people are eating; I don’t know if that would be fun for anybody.”