17 Dec Eating: MessHall Kitchen Los Angeles
MessHall is the newest incarnation of the original Brown Derby in Los Feliz. Built in 1929, it was originally the home of Willard’s Chicken Inn until 1941 when director Cecil B. DeMille bought the restaurant and turned it into the Brown Derby, birthplace of the “Cobb Salad.” It was Michael’s of Los Feliz from 1960 – 1992 and then became The Derby nightclub, home of swing dancing. After The Derby, the space became Louise’s Trattoria and then a Chase Bank and in 2006 the building was declared a Historic Cultural landmark.
Today, MessHall Kitchen is a 14,000 square foot space with seating for 175 people and a corrugated metal bar located in the center of the room. The long wooden communal tables and fire pits on the patio will transport you to an upscale version of an army mess hall or camp.
The wine, beer and cocktail menu is otherwise knows as the “survival” list. The cocktails were developed by Erik Lund and are divided into two categories: Citrus/Nog and Aromatics/Bozzy. We selected three from the Citrus/Nog category. The Amanda “Snowsuit Edition” made with Serrano-infused rum, cilantro, lime juice, pineapple, was sweet upfront and very spicy on the finish. Marie Goes to Church is made with Cynar, rhum agricole, lime juice, sugar, orange zest. Tigers Milk, with aged cachaca, coconut cream, ginger, whole egg and lime leaf, is a creamy, aromatic cocktail that if you wait just a minute, the gingery spice and lime will pop through. As for prices, the Citrus/Nog cocktails cost $9-$10 and the Aromatics/Boozy cocktails cost $12-$13, all rather affordable. While we didn’t drink wine on this particular night, the wine list is succinct and predominantly domestic. Most wines are offered by the glass and the classic varietal options are what you should expect.
Once drinks are underway, flip over the oversized card-stock menu to find the food choices. The gastropub menu features a modern American take on classic dining hall dishes. We began with three selections from the “Begin” section. Although these were small starter dishes, they were quite hearty.
Grilled Oysters Casino with tarragon, bacon and shallots ($12)
Smoked Corn Fritters with poblano and pumpkin romesco ($7)
Shrimp & Grits with rock shrimp and maque-choux ($8)
We skipped the “Greens” and “Next” sections on this visit but selected from the “Hardwood” and “Rations” sections.
Ribeye Steak with pan roasted Chinese long beans and Yukon mashed potatoes (a special of the day)
Braised Brussels Sprouts with sweet butter, shallots ($6)
We finished the dinner with a selection from the “End.”
Banana cream jar pie with vanilla wafer, whipped cream, toasted almond and banana brulee ($7)
A vast improvement over the former Louise’s Trattoria, I enjoyed the open yet cozy ambience and friendly service at MessHall, as well as the straightforward approach to the food. Flavors were good although a few items could have used a little more enhancement. It is a perfect neighborhood spot that doesn’t take itself too seriously. They want the guests to have fun and when the bill (or as they call it, the “damages”) arrive to the table, a letter to “mom and dad” is included for you to share your feedback .
4500 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027