What was old is always new again in the Arts District, where warehouses seem to flip to new artist spaces, lofts and restaurants every week. But today, one of the neighborhood’s most chic newcomers opens its large red doors—not the doors of a converted warehouse, mind you, but of a 1927 fire station—and it’s been years in the making. Firehouse is finally here, the long-awaited restaurant, café and nine-room boutique hotel from one of the city’s favorite restaurateurs—and it’s got one of the best patios in the area.
Dustin Lancaster is no stranger to the hotel game, though most of his operations skew toward wine and food: our Bar Awards 2018 wine bar of the year, Bar Covell, for instance, or Chinatown’s French wine bar and bistro, Oriel. But in addition to helming popular spots like L&E Oyster Bar and the Hermosillo, Lancaster also owns Hotel Covell, now a Los Feliz go-to for stylish out-of-towners or staycationers. Following suit—and after eyeing the 1927 building for a decade—today he and development company Creative Space finally launch Firehouse: part bespoke experience, part all-day restaurant from an up-and-coming chef.
“This is by far the biggest project I’ve done so far,” says Lancaster. “Even Bar Covell and [Hotel Covell] were separate, because they were five years apart. I’ve never done all of it at once: a full restaurant, a hotel, a coffee program—I had to think of so many angles and avenues I hadn’t done before.”
Enter through the large red doors or the quaint side alley to find yourself in the lobby, where you’ll be greeted by a coffee bar and pastry case. Expect a full café menu that ranges from Counter Culture Coffee drip and espresso to quick-and-casual sandwiches, salads and breakfast items, plus fresh baked goods from the restaurant’s pastry chef Rose Lawrence, formerly of Rustic Canyon and Manuela. (We’re talking cornmeal cookies with apricot and pink peppercorn, and ham-and-cheese hand pies with za’atar—this ain’t your typical pastry case.)
Round the corner past the shelves of the L.A.-made retail, boutiquey items—tempting as they may be—and you’ll find yourself entering the 100-seat restaurant. You’re in executive chef Ashley Abodeely’s territory now.
You enter through the bar, an industrial-chic setting with a handful of tables, plus a range of international mescals, amari and other trendy bottles that line up along a glimmering wall (the backsplash is essentially a flat disco ball, after all). Drinks are set to be fun and breezy, with options like the Floradora on Holiday, made with hibiscus, ginger, lime, vodka and tiki bitters, and the Ghost Dance, a mix of coconut, lemon verbena, falernum, cachaça and tequila. From there you can walk forward onto a small patio with a fire pit, or to the left, where you’ll find yourself in the main restaurant: a long stretch of patio dotted with white tablecloths and bulb lights.
Abodeely’s menu is decidedly modern-American, which means the kitchen gets creative with the classics: handmade cavatelli swaps traditional ricotta for yogurt in the dough, to better complement the pasta’s dressing of lamb and mint. The burger’s patty is a blend of dry-aged, high-quality Niman Ranch and Creekstone Farms beef, then comes sandwiched between a pretzel bun with smoked onions and cheddar. There are Manila clams in smoky bacon broth; marinated-and-grilled octopus with bitter greens; and fried brioche toasts topped with Dungeness crab, avocado and cured egg yolk—basically everything we’d like to eat at any given time, all executed by a former NoMad and Eleven Madison Park chef.
Of course, you shouldn’t overlook the rest of the building. Firehouse’s renovation process and design alone took roughly three years, though Lancaster first fell in love with the space over a decade ago. His new hotel’s overhaul included a lot of reverent restoration work to maintain the charm, and as you stroll through the space you can still see traces of the building’s past: circles where fire poles once anchored to the floor; small alcoves over doors where firefighters placed statues of the Virgin Mary to protect them; a near-hidden tower where fire hoses used to dry. It’s worth wandering through whenever you stop in for a drink and one of Abodeely’s new dishes.
“As a neighborhood spot—and all my places are neighborhood spots—I want this to be an anchor and a place you can come to at all times of the day, whether you’re looking for coffee or cocktails,” Lancaster says. “I would love to add to the creative types and artists and craftsmen that all exist down here already, and add to that vibrancy which is evident on the street. It’s palpable out there.”
Take a peek at the restaurant, bar and hotel, below, then stop by for a meal, a coffee or a tour of the space, starting today.
Firehouse is now open in the Arts District at 710 S Santa Fe Ave, with restaurant hours of 11am to 3pm daily with lunch and brunch; from 3 to 5:30 pm and late-night, daily, with a snack menu; and from 5:30 to 10:30pm Monday to Thursday, and from 5:30 to 11pm on Saturday and Sunday.The lobby café and coffee bar keeps hours of 7am to 5:30pm, daily.