She Runs Ryan Murphy's Company and Moonlights as a Downtown L.A. Restaurateur

Producer Alexis Martin Woodall with husband-chef Dave Woodall - Publicity - H 2019
Amanda Friedman

Alexis Martin Woodall is readying the new Red Herring to debut in December.

Later this month, Ryan Murphy Productions president Alexis Martin Woodall and her chef husband Dave Woodall will open the new Red Herring in downtown Los Angeles, the big-budget sequel to their Eagle Rock debut: an elevated neighborhood restaurant serving made-from-scratch regional American comfort food.

The downtown iteration — the result of being headhunted by the developers behind luxury apartment complex 8th & Grand — will be Eagle Rock amplified (the couple closed the original earlier this year to focus on the new endeavor), with more sophisticated dishes like sweetbreads and crispy quail being added to the menu of comforting but light plates cooked with 100 percent made-in-house elements, from pastas and cheeses to bacon. Woodall says the duck confit scallion pancake ("It's like, murder me now, it's just too good"), mac and cheese, and French fries are "the best things I've ever had in my life," adding, "I know I sound gushing, but I am a picky bitch, and I don't put my seal of approval on anything I don't believe in. This is the kind of food you fall in love over, and fall in love with."

Dave's menu is informed by a few things, says his wife: "What's he intrigued by? What has he read something about that he goes deeper into? What's in season?" The playful bar menu includes a monthly rotating cocktail whose proceeds are donated to area food banks and shelters.

Industry graphic and interior designer Marissa Zajack, whom Woodall met on Running With Scissors, "designed the most gorgeous room ever. It feels like a spot you would see in a Ryan Murphy show." Red Herring inhabits a Deco-inflected, 3,300-square-foot space on the ground floor of 8th & Grand featuring brass inlays, terrazzo tables and a mural by Mike Willcox full of jungle life, trees and stars. There's even a dog-friendly patio. The blush banquets of Perino's on Feud inspired the blush velvet barstools. "I'm constantly thinking about the curves and the spaces and the color palette and how does it read," says Woodall. "I think that's just the nature of my job."

The Emmy-winning producer's latest project is a different enterprise from The Politician, Pose or the upcoming Ratched on Netflix. But her approach to creating a dining experience is similar to her thinking in a screening room, working on cuts and stories. From waiting tables while PA-ing on FX's Nip/Tuck, Woodall says she developed a highly attuned sense to anticipate needs: "I've always been a step ahead for Ryan. I could look at the room, essentially his dinner table, and say, 'Oh, shit, he needs a salad fork and more water, and a little bit of salt. And I'm going to get that for him before he asks for it."

Woodall is fortunate her longtime boss was supportive of their venture from the start — even if he didn't fully understand it. "Ryan's like, 'Wait, why are you doing this?' I said, 'We have other stories to tell. It's not just one thing in life; you can have multiple dreams.'" For her, the restaurant is an inspiring place to experience fresh stories with great human characters daily. "What I love is it's like a stage production where you have a nightly show, and all you get is one go. Every day is its own performance."

Woodall and Murphy were walking across the lot when she shared the news of her sophomore effort. "We're doing it again, only this time on a bigger scale," she told him. "He looked at me and said, 'That's amazing.' And I told him the truth, which was that every single thing about success I learned from him." Woodall's secret to juggling her diverse interests is making sure her focus is squarely where it needs to be. "It's a little bit of a dance," she says, "but it's never been a problem."

"At the end of the day, the love of my life is my career with Ryan Murphy — aside from my husband, obviously," says Woodall. "Sometimes I say to Dave, 'I can't do this right now.' I never put Ryan in second position because that just doesn't work. Nobody puts Ryan Murphy in second position. It's about balance." Her role in Red Herring is big-picture stuff: voice, story, aesthetic. Essentially the same things she does at RMP.

Years of problem-solving in Hollywood, as it turns out, perfectly positioned Woodall for the trying task of running a restaurant. Learning to "roll with it" has kept her calm through ups, downs and delays. "My job as executive producer is to make sure the talent has the confidence and mental space to tell the story they need to tell," says Woodall, who sees herself spending many evenings at Red Herring, greeting guests — who will undoubtedly include many of her colleagues. "I love to witness people enjoying something I'm proud of," she says. "It's why I work in television." She adds, "The truth of the matter is I am married to two creators — Dave and Ryan — and it is so incredibly inspiring watching them go within themselves to create something."

770 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-375-3290, redherringla.com