Executive Chef Neal Fraser and General Manager Cesar Lopapa are brilliant. They saw an opportunity to feed a slew of millennials drinking craft beer at the Arts District Brewery. They secured the space next door, popped out a wall for the Generation X & Y crowd to walk up to a counter and order elevated burgers, gourmet hot dogs, naked wings or salads to pair with their brews.
Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News readers know Chef Neal Fraser as a local boy who with his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll Fraser, opened the neighborhood café BLD in 2006. Later they secured a space at the Original Farmers Market and opened the gourmet and healthy hot dog shop – Fritzi Dog.
Fraser got his start as a line cook at Wolfgang Puck’s Eureka Brewery and Restaurant. Realizing that he wanted to open his own restaurant one day, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After graduating, this talented chef worked for Joachim Splichal at Pinot Bistro downtown, Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and Hans Rockenwagner’s at Rox. When he felt he was ready, Fraser opened his first restaurant, Boxer, in 1995, and later Rix in Santa Monica. With wife Amy they opened BLD, Grace, and next the acclaimed Redbird at Vibiana. He brought in his friend Cesar Lopapa to run it smoothly.
On television Fraser has battled with Iron Chef Cat Cora on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and became the first California chef to win the culinary competition. He also appeared on BravoTV’s Season 5 of “Top Chef Masters” and was victorious on the Esquire Network’s “Knife Fight.”
His newly opened Fritzi Eats is a beautiful symbiosis of a popular beer drinking destination interacting with a dynamic chef’s gastropub menu at reasonable prices. Watch out Umami Burger down the street, there is a new darling in the Arts District serving a burger patty made with a bacon and beef blend topped with fontina fondue, crunchy iceberg lettuce, a touch of Thousand Island dressing and Calabrese relish. It’s beyond good, especially with a pint of the easy to drink Mateo Golden Ale offering notes of fresh baked bread and subtle spices.
The Fritzi Eats window inside the brewery offers some of the same food as the casual sit-down just opened Fritzi LA next door. Using the same kitchen, the menu at Fritzi Eats has a few of Chef Fraser’s gourmet hot dogs that are popular at his Fritzi Dog. There is his one-of-a-kind, whole carrot sous-vide in 26 spices dog topped with a parsley gremolata and crispy Brussels sprouts. He also serves his Snappy O’Brien with smashed tots, grilled peppers, bacon, onions and cheese, and his Four Alarm Fritzi jalapeño chicken dog with jalapeno relish, Sriracha ketchup, and a super spicy mustard.
My Baby Boomer husband and I were envious of these hipsters wearing beards, plaid shirts and jeans, sporting man buns and playing Skee ball and darts throughout the cavernous brewery. We didn’t have a place like this when we were their age. We lived next to Park LaBrea and frequented El Coyote, City, and on special occasions Campanille.
Watching groups of echo boomers sipping beers while popping Fraser’s rock shrimp tempura with winter squash and yuzu kosho aioli in between foosball games, I realized, who cares if we are the oldest in the place, and inserted money into a Skee Ball machine to play a few games, before walking next door to Fritizi LA.
To my delight, my friend Cesar Lopapa was there and gave me a big hug. I met the handsome Lopapa in 2012 when he opened Short Order and Short Cake in the original Farmers Market. Besides being an expert in opening restaurants and hospitality, Lopapa has become a professional photographer exhibiting his pieces at the Hotel Normandie, L.A. Now he is helping Fraser and 213 Hospitality Group open and run this wood-fire rotisserie restaurant as the General Manager. Ingenious!
I learned he will soon be welcoming his first baby girl into the world. His enthusiasm and positive outlook was contagious and set the mood for our dining experience.
We stood at the front counter and noticed a retro black board with small white letters offering the cocktail menu. I ordered the Nitro Mai Tai made with Martinique rum, Jamaican rum, dry Curacao, fresh lime juice and orgeat. Fritizi staff member Stacey made the Mai Tai to my liking, not too sweet and garnished it with sprigs of mint.
We placed our order at the counter with server Alexandra. She gave us a number to place on our high top wood and metal table with matching stools. The ambiance is concrete flooring, high and low tables, white globe lighting and big metal windows looking out on Traction Ave. I wished Lopapa’s photographs graced the walls. They would give this dining room even more pizzazz.
My husband ordered a pint of Bonzai Pale Ale offering a citrusy aroma with hints of grapefruit. It paired nicely with the wood fired rotisserie chicken. Diners get a choice of mostly white or dark meat. The chicken comes with a vegetable of the day, tots, fries or two potato waffles. These potato waffles are another creative idea. They are a blend of hash browns, with an egg and butter mixture that are poured into a waffle iron. They rise like a waffle, and look just like a waffle, yet go better with ketchup, than maple syrup.
Our order of the baby iceberg wedge was different than a traditional wedge with small wedges topped with heirloom cherry tomatoes. Instead of the traditional crumbled bacon, the salad has pieces of moist rotisserie chicken and crispy chicken skin on top. It’s dressed with a pleasing Point Reyes blue cheese dressing. At first the crisp chicken skin looked like potato chips, yet when I bit into one, it was much more flavorful.
The menu has Steak frites with black garlic aioli and a healthier dish of Santa Barbara whitefish. Be sure to try the crispy tater tots that are slightly salty and pure comfort food.
For dessert right now they only have a selection of four ICDC ice cream flavors from restaurateur Amy Knoll Fraser and Pastry Chef Mariah Swan’s artisan ICDC, located near Fraser’s BLD. My husband wished for a bigger dessert menu with slices of pie to go with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.
After we said goodbye to Cesar and his staff, we explored more of downtown’s Art District. The nearby Angel City Brewery had just one lone food truck parked outside to feed its imbibing guests. Once the word gets out about the creative fare at Fritzi LA and Fritzi Eat, Fraser’s newest endeavor will be one of the most desired brew and casual food destinations in LA. $$ Fritzi is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 814 Traction Ave. (213)537-0327. Fritzi Eats is open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. 828 Traction Ave. (213)537-0327.