The reams of butter, lard and salt are perfectly calibrated at Dunsmoor, a new eatery in Glassell Park with the same communal tables, wood-fired hearth approach to cooking and hit-or-miss service as its predecessor, Culver City’s Hatchet Hall. Led by namesake chef Brian Dunsmoor, who left the Westside restaurant in April 2021, Dunsmoor has quietly built up a steady mix of clientele despite initial furor last summer by community activists angry about the predominantly Latino neighborhood’s ongoing gentrification. Neither the Grant, the intimate cocktail bar next door, or Bub and Grandma’s, which still buzzes daily with Angelenos visiting from all over, has drawn the same level of public ire from community members. The key difference, it seems, lies in the upscale menu prices, which are squarely out of reach for many area residents. There’s also the fact that Dunsmoor (the chef) has dedicated his career to promoting a branch of American culinary heritage whose roots overlap with the Confederacy and the centuries-long enslavement of Black people.
Whether you consider this damning or not, the restaurant has managed to survive and thrive in its first six months, making it clear plenty of diners care little for the ongoing ethical debate. In many ways, Dunsmoor has become a Northeast L.A. satellite serving a more unadorned but no less elegant form of the Southern decadence on hand at Hatchet Hall, which received a 2022 Michelin star under newly installed head chef Wes Whitsell. Where Whitsell tends to sprawl—a recent menu features 50-plus discrete offerings—Dunsmoor prefers to stay focused, with under 20 savory family-style dishes, plus a few sides and desserts. In Glassell Park, the chef’s popular cornbread still drowns in what feels like two sticks of butter, but lighter fare like the baby albacore and the bison tartare add pops of freshness and zing with ingredients like ginger root relish and mullet roe, respectively.
Week to week, the seasonal menu changes here and there, but the focus remains: a few types of dressed raw seafood, meaty larder sides eaten alongside bread, a rotating mix of salads and small(er) plates and finally, large-format meat and seafood entrées that are better shared among four than two. (Combining the unctuous cornbread and a couple of larder items, like the chopped chicken liver and meat rillette of the moment, make finishing a main course ambitious at best for a pair.) Other dishes, like a transcendent mushroom-stuffed trout I tried last July, fall short of their former glory in its current iteration: a less labor-intensive filet with chanterelles and brown butter. Desserts are sweet, simple and to the point, like an apple cobbler and seasonal citrus custard.
Though you probably won’t get seated at your reservation time, service is generally decent, though I would suggest not letting anyone seat you at the far end of the second communal table closest to the expo station. It’s where an employee will be yelling deafening orders to the open kitchen, as well as to right next to your ears. Multiple servers will drop off and pick up dishes destined for other tables, ignoring your party all the while. In other words, the restaurant doesn’t take anything close to a fine-dining approach with service—just like Hatchet Hall, where I’ve also had terrible experiences with getting seated.
Is Dunsmoor overall better than its predecessor, you might ask? Probably not, though dishes here manage to feel slightly more refined despite the rustic cooking methods and preparation. For me, the slippery chicken and ham dumplings, wood-roasted oysters and bandera quail served with pepper jelly all demonstrated the possibilities of Southern cuisine as a person who doesn’t normally gravitate toward any type of heavy American fare. Then again, the lack of a full liquor license means that you’ll only find beer and wine on hand alongside dinner, compared to the host of whiskeys and bourbons available through Hatchet's Old Man Bar. The warm, well-lit dining room—a step up from Hatchet Hall’s darkened confines—buzzes with activity each evening, and the adjacent wine bar, open to walk-ins, is seemingly never empty. I wouldn't recommend going out of the way for it, but for those who live nearby or those head over heels for traditional Southern live-fire cooking, Dunsmoor is definitely worth paying a visit.
The vibe: Communal tables, an open kitchen and warm lighting make for an inviting upscale atmosphere fit for a neighborhood eatery.
The food: A highly focused menu of broadly Southern cuisine that includes well-dressed raw seafood, salt-forward larder meats, seasonal dishes and hearty meat and seafood mains designed for sharing. Highlights include the slippery dumplings, the wood-roasted oysters and the chopped chicken liver.
The drink: Wine, beer, and one lonely non-alcoholic option that isn’t water (Heineken 0.0). The selection includes sparking, white, rosé and red.
Time Out tip: Solo diners and pairs on the earlier side will have an easier time being seated in the next-door wine bar, which has a separate entrance.