Headed to Staples Center? 5 New Nearby Restaurants Worth Trying

Stafford + Mathis Kitchen

Several spots have opened within walking distance, drawing rising stars straight from Michelin kitchens and begetting hashtag-worthy irreverent menus

This story first appeared in the July 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Downtown L.A. was a dining desert when Staples Center opened 15 years ago. Now it's the center of the city's culinary conversation and boasts an admirably rich pre- and postgame food scene. Just within the past year, several new spots have opened within walking distance, drawing rising stars straight from Michelin kitchens and begetting hashtag-worthy irreverent menu concoctions.

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ACROSS THE STREET 

In a glitzed-up former Holiday Inn, Stafford + Mathis Kitchen (1020 S. Figueroa St.) offers a Jekyll-and-Hyde menu of straightforward basics (French onion soup, linguini with clams) and far more ambitious offerings (bone marrow with a 61-degree egg and pork jam). Chef Michael Chavez-Martinez hails from a stint at b.o.s., the under-the-radar Little Tokyo offal joint with a serious foodie rep. Be sure to take a seat on the patio boasting a billboard-bedecked view spanning L.A. Live and beyond.

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A BLOCK AWAY

Faith & Flower(705 W. Ninth St.), from the folks behind the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, is Gatsby-esque in a decidedly Luhrmann vein, with gilded deco motifs and discordant high-volume contempo-pop -- all ensconced in the ground floor of the subdued condo high-rise where Joaquin Phoenix lived in Her. Michael Hung, who made his mark at the Michelin-starred, French-formal La Folie in San Francisco, goes New American with deviled Jidori eggs with kimchi and beef tendon chicharrones.

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THREE BLOCKS AWAY

Adam Fleischman, who dreamed up the genre-busting Umami burger a half-decade ago, recently stepped down as CEO of the burgeoning chain to focus on ChocoChicken (403 W. 12th St.), his new fried chicken concept, where cocoa is part of the crispy-crust batter. S'mores, white-chocolate mashed potatoes and flaky biscuits (served with habanero-flecked honey) round out the menu.

SEVEN BLOCKS AWAY

The owners of Brooklyn's Five Leaves, backed by the estate of Heath Ledger, have branched out west by opening their literally named LA Chapter (929 S. Broadway) off the lobby of the new Ace Hotel. This double-height brasserie specializes in a studiously on-trend, farmers-market-driven output. Expect mochi corn cakes with house-cured salmon and aged-Gouda gougeres with salted guava butter.

A FIVE-MINUTE DRIVE … BUT WORTH IT

Mere steps from Bestia, its fellow Arts District sensation, 4-month-old Fifty Seven (712 S. Santa Fe Ave.) features a different pedigreed chef launching a menu of elevated, boundary-blurring New American cuisine every few months. First up was David Nayfeld, a top lieutenant at Manhattan's Eleven Madison Park. Thomas Keller protege Josh Drew (most recently of Santa Monica's Farmshop) is the current chef in residence.

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