This Retro 1940s Gas Station Now Serving Buttery Lobster Rolls in Koreatown


Royal Lobster

A restored 1940s Texaco gas station serves Maine-caught lobster rolls and lobster salads in Koreatown. Royal Lobster, from husband-and-wife team Justin Sok and Ashley Cho, opened their first location in Waikiki about two years ago, but after regular suggestions and pleas from vacationing customers, they decided to bring the lobster shack to Los Angeles .

Royal Lobster took over the former Full Service Coffee Co. space, which was originally a Texaco gas station.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

“We wanted to start something new,” Sok said. “There are some lobster roll places in Hawaii, but I think they go overboard with the seasoning. We wanted something pure and simply simple. And we trust in the quality.”

Sok and Cho, who also run Topped Korean restaurant in Waikiki, found a distributor in Maine that ships lobster to their restaurants daily. They serve their buns simply, drizzled with melted butter and on a toasted brioche bun with Old Bay, a lemon wedge and garlic aioli on the side, with fries and slaw. For the salad, they toss greens with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and top it with lobster and grated Parmesan cheese.

The former gas station formerly occupied by Full Service Coffee Co. coffee shop has seen its bright red sign change from “COFFEE” to “LOBSTER.” The space offers patio seating and parking, plus a small area that Cho and Sok plan to convert to indoor seating sometime next year. They are also planning to expand to other locations in Los Angeles, including an upcoming location in Beverly Hills, which will provide enough space to serve as a commercial kitchen for the booth and allow for new items like lobster bisque and lobster ramen. Royal Lobster is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

4450 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, theroyallobster.com

An aerial photo of dishes from the Highly Likely cafe, open all day, on a white table: fried fish sandwich, rice bowl and more.

The all-day Highly Likely cafe serves dishes like sandwiches, salads, grain bowls and pastries with influences from the Middle East, Japan, California and beyond.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Highly likely Highland Park

A popular all-day cafe, beloved for its globe-trotting menu, has opened in Highland Park with new dinner service, cocktail program and a spacious backyard. Highly Likely debuted in West Adams in 2018 and made its name with tartines, sandwiches, cereal bowls and wraps that were inspired by chef and partner Kat Turner's travels during her years as a private chef.

Now those flavors and ingredients are finding their way to new items at a new 120-seat location with a nearly 3,000-square-foot patio with its own bar, under the banner of the Delicious Monster restaurant group.

Counter service during the day transitions to full table service for dinner with a menu including walnut lumache, filet au poivre with Sichuan pepper, yuzu deviled eggs, harissa dumplings, and koji chicken schnitzel. Turner previously worked at Blue Hill and as a private chef for a touring band, cooking around the world with everything she had at her disposal. That's not to say the menu isn't also rooted in American culture.

“I like to say I'm not afraid to play the hits,” Turner said. “I'm from Wisconsin and it's a big part of my identity. “I love taking really familiar, classic things and doing them really well, doing it in a fun way.”

José Bejarano serves as beverage director for both locations. Considering affordability for the Highland Park neighborhood, wines by the glass are as low as $11. Diana Daaila, the bar manager, spearheads a cocktail program that draws inspiration from some of Turner's foods and her Japanese, Latin and Middle Eastern influences: rye with cherry and saffron bitters, mezcal with apple and ginger tepache, gin with shibazuke. She's also created a tight menu of carefully crafted zero-proof cocktails.

Vertical close-up of herb and pecorino breakfast sandwich from All Day Cafe Very Likely in Highland Park

Highly Likely's daytime menu offers a variety of breakfast items throughout the day, including a herb and pecorino breakfast sandwich.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Turner says she has been conscious of offering dishes at prices that are affordable given the cost of running a restaurant, including some for less than $10, as well as kids' meals like butter noodles.

Earlier this year, the Highland Park location saw protests online and in person prior to opening, citing gentrification. Turner says he has reached out to community members and protesters to continue the discussion. He also says he received more than 1,000 applications and has prioritized hiring from the neighborhood. An upcoming happy hour special, in collaboration with Community Spirit Vodka, will raise funds for local nonprofit No Us Without You, and like in West Adams, the team hopes to use the patio to host community events and speaker series .

Highly Likely is open daily from 7am to 10pm, with plans to extend until 11pm on weekends.

5526 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 310-622-4550, eshighlyprobable.com

All'Antico Vinaio

A popular Italian sandwich shop just landed in Los Angeles and customers are lining up the block to try the schiacciata. All'Antico Vinaio has specialized in flatbread sandwiches for over 30 years in Florence, and when Tommaso Mazzanti joined his family's restaurant business, he helped expand the sandwich shop to the US with multiple locations in New York City and now one in Venice. . After multiple pop-up ads and months of teasing, the casual restaurant officially opened in late November with more than a dozen sandwiches, including signature items like La Favolosa, with sbriciolone salami, house-made pecorino cream, artichoke cream, and eggplant, plus newer news. additions like the LA Fadeaway, with gorgonzola, zucchini, eggplant, dried tomato and arugula. A display case displays the fresh meats and pastas, salads and cheeses piled high on the sandwiches. A variety of Italian wines by the glass, soft drinks, teas and imported specialty drinks are also available. All'Antico Vinaio is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 310 3747, allanticovinaiola.com

A hand holds a slice of pumpkin pie on an orange plate at Fat + Flour cafe in Culver City.

In addition to salads and other new savory items, Culver City cafe Fat + Flour serves the classic cakes, cookies and biscuits for which baker Nicole Rucker is praised.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Fat + Flour Culver City

One of Los Angeles' most lauded bakers just brought her famous cakes, cookies, and other treats to the Westside. Nicole and Blaine Rucker's Fat + Flour still operates its stand at Grand Central Market, but a new location in Culver City offers a longer menu of savory items, plus pantry and homemade goodies. It marks a coming-of-circle moment for baker Nicole Rucker, who years ago sat in the café space while she waited for her clothes in the adjacent laundry room and reflected on how she would run the café if she owned it. Now it is, and the new Fat + Flour features slices and whole pies in flavors like walnut and its signature key lime, plus cookies, apple butter scones, sweet or savory scones, granola, panini and salad options. like roasted beets with blood orange and feta cheese; ravioli with radicchio and pumpkin; and farro with dates, walnuts and broccolini. A cafe complete with homemade syrups is also offered, as well as home items such as candles, Christmas decorations, and coffee bags. Fat + Flour is open daily in Culver City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

11739 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, fatandflourla.com

Gao barbecue and crab

A Dallas-founded chain that combines Chinese barbecue with Cajun-style crab boils recently opened its first location in the Los Angeles area. Gao's BBQ and Crab, with restaurants also in New York City, Chicago and San Jose, offers late-night Northeast-style charcoal-grilled Chinese skewers in options such as beef, sausage, prawns, tendons, skins tofu, chicken, lamb, tongue, quail and squid, as well as stir-fries and grilled oysters. The signature seafood boil cooks crabs, snow crabs, corn and other dishes in a broth of Cajun spices and the Chinese shi san xiang 13-spice blend. Gao's BBQ and Crab is open Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 1 a.m.

1390 Fullerton Road, Suite 102, Rowland Heights, (626) 295-2085, gaosbbq.com

sweet maple

Brunch classics and "Billionaire's Bacon" have come to Santa Monica via the Bay Area's popular Sweet Maple chain.

Brunch classics and “Billionaire's Bacon” have arrived in Santa Monica via the popular Bay Area chain Sweet Maple.

(sweet maple)

A rapidly expanding Bay Area restaurant group just landed in Los Angeles for the first time, bringing brunch classics and Korean-influenced dishes to Santa Monica. Sweet Maple, from husband-and-wife team Hoyul Steven Choi and Jiyeon Choi, serves “soufflegg” pans, Benedicts, pancakes, omelettes, burgers, sandwiches, Korean fried chicken, wine, beer, sake, and also “morning cocktails.” like “Millionaire's Bacon,” a Sweet Maple signature that bakes thick-cut bacon in brown sugar, cayenne and pepper. The Santa Monica location spans over 4,000 square feet just blocks from the beach. The Chois launched their Bay Area restaurant empire with Taylor Street Coffee Shop in 2002 and later expanded it with a revitalization of the 1960s Fred's Coffee Shop restaurant; his first Sweet Maple in 2010; and a host of other restaurants, including Korean restaurant Berkeley Social Club and Thai-leaning Blackwood. In addition to its first restaurant in the Los Angeles area, Sweet Maple recently expanded to three other Bay Area locations, while U :Dessert Story, its candy concept that designed the dessert menu now located in Santa Monica also opened a new outpost. Sweet Maple is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

1705 Ocean Ave., Suite 110, Santa Monica, (424) 268-4190, sweetmaplesf.com

The Christmas paradise of Grand Central Market

The historic downtown food hall is hosting a series of events for the holiday season, where in addition to festive bites, visitors can enjoy culinary workshops, live performances and other programming through the end of the month. During Grand Central Market's Holiday Wonderland, head to the lower level of the food hall to enjoy something planned each day, including a charcuterie workshop led by Charcuterie LA (December 13), drag queen bingo (December 15), a Christmas cocktail workshop (December 20), ugly sweater karaoke (December 22) and visits from Santa (December 17 and 24).

317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, grandcentralmarket.com/events

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