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L.A. Live serves up eateries and clubs

November 21, 2008|Jessica Gelt | Gelt is a Times staff writer.

L.A. Live, the $2.5-billion, 4-million-square-foot "sports, entertainment and residential district" next to Staples Center, is in the midst of the second phase of its rolling openings. This latest push involves 10 of the 15 restaurants and clubs that make up the site, which launched in October 2007 with the Nokia Theatre presenting six nights of the Eagles and the Dixie Chicks.

Much like Universal CityWalk, the Grove and the Hollywood & Highland complex, L.A. Live is almost Homeric in its aspirations to become a cash-gulping, densely populated entertainment destination that is carefully stage-crafted and yet somehow still an organic public space.

To that end, AEG, the company behind the development, recruited a group of heavy-hitting chain and mini-chain restaurants. At the top of the list was Wolfgang Puck.

"I think L.A. Live will be very important in finishing the whole downtown scene," said Puck, who will have a restaurant and provide catering at the complex. "It's probably our biggest project, and the whole thing will be rocking and rolling. There is something for everyone at every price point."

L.A. Live managing director Lisa Herzlich said the group talked to about 200 potential occupants before settling on the final list, which was decided on in part to keep it free of competing styles of food.

"We wanted the best of different types of food and a mix of regional and national concepts with local appeal," she said.

Opening in late November and throughout December will be the ESPN Zone restaurant and sports bar, Fleming's Steakhouse, the Yard House, the Farm of Beverly Hills, Lawry's Carvery, New Zealand Natural Ice Cream, the Conga Room and Starbucks. The music venue Club Nokia debuted Nov. 9, and Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge will hold its grand opening party tonight (it opens to the public Saturday).

The remaining restaurants -- Katsuya, Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill, Trader Vic's, Rock'n Fish and Rosa Mexicano -- will open after the New Year, with Puck's "modern brasserie," as he is calling it, aiming for March. Trader Vic's and Rock'n Fish were the last two to sign on; and Rosa Mexicano had written into its lease that no other restaurant there can prepare guacamole table side.

L.A. Live will emphasize outdoor dining, with plenty of double-wide patio seating along a paseo informally called "Grammy Lane," in honor of a walk of fame that will extend through the development beginning at the Grammy Museum, which opens on Dec. 6.

If you're not up for throwing down cash to dine formally, you can pick up food at vending carts around the property stocked with Puck's catering. His establishment will be L.A. Live's most visible restaurant. It occupies a coveted spot at the far end of Nokia Plaza, where the red carpet is set up for the Emmys and Grammys and will be seen in telecasts.

"I didn't think about having the red carpet right next to us at first," said Puck. Instead, he was thinking about the menu for his latest endeavor. "I think L.A. people will remember the beginning of the old Spago. It will be straightforward and simple, with some of the old favorites on the menu like our chicken with garlic and our duck sausage pizza."


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