We're currently in the throes of food nostalgia, thanks to the likes of fried brussels sprouts, lobster mac and cheese and plated desserts in jars popping up with startling predictability at every other new restaurant in town. Nowhere is this romanticization of the era more bluntly manifested than at MessHall in Los Feliz. The theme here is glorified summer camp food, with the intention to improve upon, rather than reinvent All-American comfort food favorites—the lunchtime fried oyster po’ boy is served with preserved lemon chow chow and Old Bay aioli, while Hog Chops is served atop white Cheddar grits (Anson Mills, if you’re asking) and topped with Tabasco butter. And at very adult prices, the results vary: Steak tartare tacos ($12) wrapped in a crisp Parmesan shell are creative, refreshing and tasty, but the slow braised short rib ($24) is just decent, improved slightly by a mild horseradish créme fraîche served with—surprise!—brussels sprouts. For dessert, the banana cream pie ($7), deconstructed into a silky banana pudding, is a pleasant improvement on the classic, even if unnecessarily made kitschy by its presentation in—you guessed it—a jar.
What to Eat: The steak tartare tacos ($12) come two to an order and make for a fine appetizer to share. If you're not feeling in the mood for meaty comfort food, the raw bar features fresh oysters (MP)—served with smoky mignonette sauce—brought in daily and a daily crudo specials.
Where to Sit: To recreate the mess hall experience, sit at one of the restaurant's communal tables (just resist the urge start a food fight). Otherwise, stick to a booth, or, on a warm night, grab a table on the patio.
What to Drink: If you like whiskey, you’ve come to the right place. MessHall’s lively bar offers on an impressive, extensive list of domestic bourbons and ryes from Four Roses to Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye. For cocktails, choose a "Citrus/Refreshing" drink like simple, well-executed Mint Julep ($9) or an "Aromatic/Boozy” libation like M.H.O.F. ($11), an Old-Fashioned with Michter's Bourbon and bitters.
Conversation Piece: MessHall is located in the former home of the Brown Derby, once owned by legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. Old Hollywood lives on as the building was designated a Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument in 2006.