New Team of Chefs & a New Way To Dine at The Fields LA

Not too long ago, dining options near Exposition Park, USC and the California Science Center were a few fast food chains and mom and pop places. Then with the announcement of the 22,000 seat Los Angeles Football Club built by Gensler at L.A.’s Exposition Park, an exciting new food hall and full service restaurant was designed. Attached to the anchoring Figueroa corridor, The Fields LA offers dining opportunities to stadium-goers, locals, tourists, families, museum attendees, USC students and faculty. 

Home to the LA Galaxy and others, the Banc of California Stadium’s dining hall is open daily for lunch, a snack and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

While attending a preview earlier this month, I met with Victoria Frazier, Vice President of Event Sales for a tour of The Fields LA. Standing by the large bar area, she told me the exciting cocktail program is designed by Nick Meyer. There is also a beer garden outside of the stadium offering beer, wine, mixed drinks and boozy shakes. 

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Walking over to the elevated first floor food court, I discovered some of my favorite Los Angeles chefs in front of their counters at the spacious dining area. The first chef I recognized was Timothy Hollingsworth (Otium) at C.J. Boyd’s Fried Chicken. He offers sandwiches with names that include Malibu, East LA, K-Town, Buffalo and Otium. For children he offers Lil Biddie chicken strips, waffle fries and his signature banana pudding with a Nilla wafer.

Next door at Akko Port, the affable Executive chef Roy Ner offered a warm smile while handing me one of his Laffah rolls. He is a star chef in Sydney, Australia with two successful Middle eastern restaurants including ARIA. Taking a bit of his chicken laffah roll, I enjoyed the playfulness of the wrap filled with charcoal eggplant, golden beets, slaw and cultivated yogurt. Other items on his Middle eastern menu include falafel wraps, a smoked hummus bowl with a protein, old school pickles, organic grain and raw root vegetable salads. Staying near downtown Los Angeles, Chef Roy will be making the 14 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles every 10 weeks to introduce new seasonal delights to his menu. 

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Next to these two esteem chefs were two other favorites Jason Fullilove (Barbara Jean) and Shirley Chung (Ms. Chi). Fullilove prepares exciting American soul food that includes Jambalaya, slow cooked BBQ ribs, oyster Po Boy, crawfish mac n’ cheese, and a soul food bowl filled with braised greens, black-eyed peas, a sweet potato latke and bacon on steamed rice.

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Next door Shirley Chung excitedly told me that she will be opening her first restaurant in Culver City before the end of September. Known for her delicious dumplings, she fills them with chicken, shrimp, and pork. She also makes beef with sweet carrot potstickers, and a vegan potsticker filled with spicy tofu. Her noodles include vegetable chow mein, and a chilled glass noodle bowl. Chung offers three different rice plates and specialty tea beverages that include a Milk Tea, Jasmine green tea with fresh chopped peaches, and a signature cheese foam oolong tea.

Taking an elevator with Frazier to the second floor, she gave me a tour of the sit down restaurant and bar called Free Play. It’s Timothy Hollingsworth’s stand alone with a huge bar scheduled to open by October 2018.

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Above this restaurant on the third floor is a large and open rooftop for events. At sunset, the views of USC, Exposition Park, and Downtown were spectacular.

Taking me back down to the ground floor, I enjoyed small plates of shrimp ceviche and fresh shrimp and octopus tostaditas, chips with guacamole and salsa from Coni’Seafood. Connie Cossio of Coni’Seafood imports shrimp, whole fish and other fresh products from Sinaloa and Nayarit to prepare Nayarit-style seafood. She has one brick and mortar traditional Mexican restaurant on Imperial Highway in Inglewood and another on Centinela Ave.

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I met up with Alberto and Lauren Bañuelos at Burritos La Palma. Lauren told me they have a restaurant in El Monte and Santa Ana. Their house specialty Birria burrito with shredded beef was one of the late Jonathan Gold’s favorites. As they handed me one, it looked like a toasted tortilla tube. Taking one bite, I enjoyed the beef stew flavors and understood why Gold loved this beef burrito. They also handed me one of their griddled whole milk cheese quesadillas. “We were saddened to hear about Gold passing away,” said Lauren. “When he came into our restaurant and wrote his review, it brought so many people from all over the world.” She also told me that Alberto was so honored when he received a phone call from Jonathan Gold’s family inviting him to help cater Gold’s funeral. “We made a bean and cheese burrito, Jonathan’s favorite birria de res, and Gold’s son’s favorite burrito chicharrón prensado,” Lauren said.

Nearby another Gold favorite, Al Pastor by the Aqui es Texcoco team had street tacos and mesquite street corn made with cotija cheese, shaved off the cob grilled corn and mayonnaise.

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For sweets, I met Katie Hagan-Whelchel a finalist in the PBS Cooking Under Fire show. She and pastry chef Leah Chin-Katz have Sweet and Savory inside The Fields LA. They sell salads and snacks to go, along with baked item including cupcakes, teacakes, cookies, bars, and eclairs. “Go try our soft serve outside at the beer garden. We have vanilla and salted caramel,” Katie said. Kids can enjoy this cool treat in a cup, while adults can order this soft serve as the key ingredients for the boozy milkshakes for adults.

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Next to Katie’s space was chef Chad Colby offering a casual Piccolo Antico Pizzeria Focacceria. His team was making light, yet thick focaccia crust pizzas and sandwiches reminiscent of the style in Rome, Italy. There was a margarita, pepperoni, tomato pie, white sausage with sage and three meat pie topped with bacon, sausage and salami. His sandwiches on the menu include mortadella, salami, porchetta, sweet poppa and vegetarian ricotta. 

img_93312Before leaving I asked Frazier how these wonderful chefs and owners of restaurants were selected for The Fields LA. She told me “These are the restaurants a lot of chefs dine in when they finish the night in their own kitchen.” She also told me they wanted to provide game day fans, University students, and the broader community with new dining options from a newer generation of popular local chefs. Executive chef Michael Teich will supervise the operation of The Fields LA daily.  $-$$ 3939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

This review is featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News –

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