When it opened in 2016, Destroyer felt like a restaurant sent to us from the future. The food was strange, beautiful, and tasted like nothing else in town. All of that continues to be true and gimmick-free. But since then, it’s only become more apparent: Destroyer stands up to any three-figure tasting menu in the city. Except you can only eat it for lunch or brunch, for around $20, whenever you want to do that.
Destroyer is in the Hayden Tract, a part of Culver City that’s mostly known for being home to various start-ups and metal buildings that double as sculptures. But it’s this zen-feeling, order-at-the-counter daytime cafe that’s made the area a destination. On the days when Destroyer is open (Wednesday through Sunday), you’ll find a line out the door and lots of tables set up on the sidewalk.
While you can walk in and order a coffee and a (very good) pastry, that’s not what all those people are here for. They’re at Destroyer for intricate, interesting dinner food that’s masquerading as breakfast and lunch. And even the typical breakfast dishes come out looking like a vortex to another millennium, with common ingredients hidden at the bottom, disguised as frozen discs, or just simply presented in a way we’ve never seen before. Sure, there’s avocado toast, but it’s billed as loaded avocado confit, and puts the simple avocado and lemon mashes of other toasts to shame.
Then there’s the sourdough sunchoke waffle, topped with braised kale, shaved speck, spicy pepper jelly, gruyere emulsion, and a fried egg. It might just be a waffle, but with a perfect combination of sweet, salty, deep flavors, and a general essence of “what the hell am I eating?” it also might haunt you for weeks to come. Asking yourself “What is happening here?” is what Destroyer is all about. Sometimes this approach results in dishes that don’t entirely work, like the good, but one-note schnitzel, or stracciatella with yuzu kosho and paratha that feels like a work in progress. There are more hits than misses, though, to the point that any time we’re in a three-mile radius, we start to wonder whether we have time for lunch at Destroyer.
If you’re looking to take some out-of-towners for an only-in-LA lunch, a very strong contender, without hesitation, is Destroyer. It doesn’t feel like an LA restaurant, but it’s also a restaurant you could only find in LA. A place where sunchoke waffles aren’t immediately out of the question, and where top tier fine dining-esque food can be found on a sidewalk in the backstreets of Culver City in the middle of the afternoon.
We’ll admit raw oatmeal sounds like something your kind of questionable friend who brews their own kombucha would give as a terrible Secret Santa gift. But this is far from that. And also not cold like we’d assumed. The warm oatmeal is creamy and delicious, and there’s a disk of crispy vanilla on top you tap to get through to the main event. We feel healthier just looking at this.
Sourdough Sunchoke Waffle
We would do potentially unspeakable things for this waffle. Crosstown drives, long waits in line, eternal rights to our life story. The complexity and uniqueness of this dish would make almost anything worth it.
At one lunch here, a friend whispered, “What am I eating?” as she dug into this. The answer is simple: a top-three beef tartare in Los Angeles that’s smoky and rich, while somehow also not making us want to sleep through our afternoon meetings. OK, maybe not so simple. But definitely delicious.
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel
A lot of these come out of the kitchen, but what sounds good on paper and looks good on the plate, doesn’t really come through like other dishes on the menu. The schnitzel itself ends up overwhelmed by the salad on top and, unlike the waffle, every bite ends up tasting the same.
This one also didn’t quite get there for us. The paratha is quite good and while, in theory, a big bowl of creamy cheese is something we’re highly interested in, there ends up being something lacking. That could be just not enough of the yuzu kosho, but we’d still recommend putting your money elsewhere on the menu.