While fried chicken and grits aren’t the first foods that come to mind when one thinks of California cuisine, Brad Johnson, owner of the month-old restaurant Willie Jane, said the decision to start a farm-to-table Southern eatery in Los Angeles was an easy one. “The first venue that I opened in L.A. was a nightclub called the Roxbury, on Sunset Boulevard,” says Johnson. “And one of the most popular items on our menu was fried chicken.”
The restaurant is Johnson’s second venture with chef Govind Armstrong and is named after Johnson’s aunt, who turned 100 years old last month and is his oldest living relative. Many dishes on Armstong’s menu are inspired by Willie Jane’s family recipes, albeit updated for West Coast diners. California quail is paired with cornmeal dumplings and collard greens and rainbow trout is served with peanut-and-black-eyed-pea hummus and Brussels-sprout coleslaw.
Johnson isn’t exaggerating when he says the restaurant is farm-to-table. He is planting a 4,000-square-foot vegetable and herb garden in a vacant lot behind the property, meaning fresh vegetables will have a very short trip from the plot to your plate. But most of all, Johnson wants to retain the authenticity that Southerners are known for. “We want to be warm and welcoming so that people feel the embrace of a cool L.A. neighborhood,” he says. “But not too cool—we’re still in the hospitality business.” 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-392-2425; williejane.com.