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Animal (CLOSED)

  • Restaurants
  • Fairfax District
  • price 3 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Animal Dining Room
    Photograph: Courtesy Sacha Cosentino/Animal
  2. Animal Bone Burger
    Photograph: Courtesy Animal/Sacha Cosentino
  3. Hamachi Tostada at Animal
    Photograph: Courtesy Animal/Sacha Cosentino
  4. Animal Ricotta Gnudi
    Photograph: Courtesy Animal/Sacha Cosentino
  5. Animal Chicken Liver Toast
    Photograph: Time Out/Patricia Kelly YeoAnimal Chicken Liver Toast

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

After closing for over two years, the most Fairfax hypebeast restaurant of all time is still delicious—though far less relevant—in 2022.

Once upon a time, when obnoxious, mostly white dudebros crowned themselves the nation’s leading tastemakers, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Animal held the title of hottest restaurant in Los Angeles. After opening in 2008, the small, unmarked eatery on Fairfax helped kick off countless national food trends, from the ubiquity of decadent, meaty small plates to the extended phase where bacon just needed to be on every gourmet dessert. In time, Shook and Dotolo expanded their restaurant mini-empire to the seafood-oriented Son of a Gun, partnerships with Ludo Lefebvre’s Petit Trois and Kismet (the latter has since gone independent) and their flashiest, most commercially successful concept: pricey red sauce point Jon & Vinny’s.

When the pandemic first hit Los Angeles, the pair kept their eponymous eatery open, but shuttered the rest—including Animal, the decidedly takeout-unfriendly restaurant that started it all. Now open again after over two years, and as geriatric as the older Millennials and Gen X-ers who initially catapulted it to fame, the well-preserved Animal is on the verge of becoming an L.A. classic, with all the requisite grumblings about datedness that follow. Though no longer a must-visit, the minimalist shrine to all things meat, seafood and cheese is still a nice-to-visit for all the reasons Animal was a Cool Restaurant in the late aughts.

Today, Shook and Dotolo’s menu has thankfully removed its famed emphasis on bacon and its fancier cousin, pancetta. What remains are slightly tweaked but no less excellent renditions of the restaurant’s classic, widely imitated dishes, like the bone burger (the "R" dropped from its phallic, highly overcompensatory name) and the hamachi tostada—an herbaceous, fish sauce-laden creation with more contemporary riffs on display at Chinatown’s Angry Egret Dinette and Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks. Despite the various, snooze-inducing versions all around the city, the chicken liver toast still delights with well-buttered pieces of toast and a sweet shallot jam. Not every dish reads as exciting as it might once have been, however; one could skip the assortment of Dungeness crab, sliced tomato and shiso leaves in a rather mediocre kombu broth.

Decadent signature dishes, like the melted petite Basque cheese and oxtail gravy poutine remain on the menu, steadfast and unrepentant, in the face of a cultural shift towards plant-based diets in the name of fighting climate change and greater sustainability. A lot has changed in the last two years since Animal first closed, direct effects of the pandemic aside, including a distinct movement away from straight-up dudebro chef worship, increased general awareness of the fragile supply chains that feed us and the uncertain environmental future of the foodways we hold dear. 

Rather than satisfying to the point of blissful oblivion, the restaurant’s fare recalls an illusory abundance we now know is no longer quite secure, as delicious as it might be today. Animal, after all, is all about eating animals: the particular and not necessarily universal joy of tearing into marbled mixtures of sinew and fat; navigating the brittle bones of well-cooked hamachi collar or grilled quail; even the tangy, creamy appeal of the cheeses that often flavor Animal’s vegetable plates, courtesy of dairy cows. I find it difficult to imagine Shook and Dotolo’s iconic restaurant ever being about anything else.

The vibe: Minimalist and sparse, the unmarked restaurant still rings out with the particular, slightly deafening cacophony of rap and other diners’ conversations.
The food: Meat, seafood and cheese galore, with signature standouts including the bone burger, hamachi tostada, melted petite Basque and ultra-pillowy ricotta gnudi. (Don’t bring vegans, though you might be able to placate a vegetarian nowadays).
The drink: A mix of French, Italian and Californian wines by the glass; a small selection of sake and craft beers; a larger selection of wines by the bottle.
Time Out tip: Make sure to note Animal’s required 18% service charge, which does not include gratuity. 


435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles
Opening hours:
Tues–Sat 6:30–9pm
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