1900s-era American cooking gets a rare spotlight at new LA restaurant Dunsmoor

Regional American cooking is the focus at Los Angeles restaurant Dunsmoor. Photo credit: Antonio Diaz

In Los Angeles’s Glassell Park, Dunsmoor is all about spotlighting regional American foodways, with a focus on cooking techniques from the turn of the 20th century.

The food at Dunsmoor is prepared on an open hearth and in a wood-fired oven. This cooking approach is rare in the city, though restaurants such as Dunsmoor and Meteora are dedicated to bringing them back to prominence. “A vast majority of the food is made entirely with hand tools and cooked over live fire,” Brian Dunsmoor, the chef and owner of the restaurant, says. With the exception of temperature control, there are no electric machines used in the kitchen. The only gas used in the restaurant is in the form of a two-top French stove that Dunsmoor describes as a modern potbelly stove.

“Dunsmoor is the result of my years-long study of the diversity of American regional cooking,” Dunsmoor says.

Ham being placed in the oven by a chef at the Los Angeles restaurant Dunsmoor

Dishes at Dunsmoor are prepared on an open hearth or in a wood-fired oven. Photo credit: Antonio Diaz.

There are no processed foods on the menu at Dunsmoor, and all the vegetables are sourced from local farmers. Dishes at the restaurant pull both from the chef’s family recipes and from classic American cooking from all over the country. It’s an approach Dunsmoor calls heritage cooking. 

The sautéed rainbow trout, served with brown butter, chanterelle mushrooms, and pine nuts, is an homage to the dishes of the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin. A pork and green chile stew that’s topped with aged white cheddar and served with a stack of freshly-made flour tortillas, is a nod to the chef’s aunt’s Southwestern cooking. And the blue crab salad is inspired by She Crab Soup, a defining dish of the Low Country cuisine of South Carolina and Georgia. Dunsmoor’s version swaps crab roe, the traditional topping for the soup, with mullet roe.

A house favorite is the sour milk cornbread, fortified with cheddar and green chiles, and served with cultured butter and a drizzle of honey. “The base recipe is an adaptation of an Edna Lewis recipe that I’ve been toying with for quite some time,” Dunsmoor says, referring to the legendary American chef. “The additions of the green chile and cheddar come from my mom who is a pretty fantastic Southern cook who never quite lost her Southwestern roots.”

A bar with a row of wine bottles at Los Angeles restaurant Dunsmoor.

Small-production wines are the focus at Dunsmoor. Photo credit: Gari Askew

Dunsmoor features a rotating mix of 60 small-production wines and beers, alongside a selection of fortified wines and wine-based aperitifs. The drinks menu was created by Dunsmoor beverage manager Rachel Davis and restaurant partner Taylor Parsons. Options include a Pinot Gris rosé from France and Spanish Tempranillos.

The interior of the restaurant Dunsmoor with exposed brick walls, large windows and globe-like overhead lights.

Dunsmoor is located in a 1929 Spanish Revival building. Photo credit: Antonio Diaz.

Low lighting and the glow of the coals from the open hearth create a rustic ambiance at Dunsmoor, which is in a 1929 Spanish Revival building. “The space was designed to have an old American tavern vibe combined with handcrafted, modern touches,” Dunsmoor says. 

The walls feature terracotta tiles and the main dining rooms seats 74, including long wooden communal tables set with candelabras. At a small, open bar in the space, Dunsmoor prepares dishes such as thinly sliced albacore tuna topped with a sweet ginger relish and shallots, and shucks raw Pacific Oysters. A patio outside seats 20. 

“Everywhere you look in the space, you see something beautiful that was made by a true craftsperson,” Dunsmoor says. ”The sum total of all that is a feeling of genuine warmth.”

The Los Angeles chef Brian Dunsmoor skinning salmon in his restaurant.

Chef Brian Dunsmoor wants to bring cooking techniques from the turn of the 20th century back into prominence. Photo credit: Antonio Diaz

Dunsmoor is open Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 pm to 10 pm and Friday from 5:30 pm to 11 pm.

Kristin Braswell is a journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel, a company that customizes travel guides and authentic experiences around the world. 

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