LAReview

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image
7.5

Lingua Franca

American

Frogtown

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerEating At The BarDate Night
Earn 3x points with your sapphire card

Included In

Lingua Franca is the Swiss army knife of the Frogtown dining scene. This charming spot set up against the LA River can function as a snacky wine bar if you want to graze between sips of chenin blanc, an under-the-radar weeknight option with candlelit tables and roast chicken, or a sunny brunch destination if you need a stack of sweet potato pancakes come the weekend. It gives you flexibility and natural beauty all day long—just expect to pay upscale prices for pleasant food that’s not quite great enough to plan a whole day around.

This riverside restaurant comes from the people behind Wax Paper, a Frogtown shipping container-turned-sub-shop that dresses up familiar sandwiches with fancy condiments and pickled veggies. Two blocks away, Lingua Franca applies more or less the same philosophy to a sit-down space. The A-frame building right along the bike path is definitely a scene—in a low-key, high-fidelity vinyl collection kind of way where Eric Wareheim wouldn’t be out of place. Throw on some suede clogs and you’ll fit right in.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lingua Franca  image
Lingua Franca  image
Lingua Franca  image
Lingua Franca  image
Lingua Franca  image

The menu is made up of share plates you’d expect from a neighborhood spot, usually infused with something quirky (like root beer in the braised beef cheeks, or pomegranate seeds in the squash risotto). The whole thing changes semi-frequently, but you can always expect a mish-mash of dips, seasonal salads, and a few meaty entrees.

Most dishes, like a lavash with crudo and cream cheese for scooping, or a grilled salad with citrus agrodolce and blue cheese crumbles, are perfectly fine but slightly forgettable. If there’s one that stands out, it’s the house burger—a thick, bistro-style creation that oozes brown butter and meat drippings between two english muffins. It tastes like a Big Mac grew up, spent a year in Lyon, and got sexy. But at $25 (or $30 if you add a side of fries), it’s not cheap, which is a recurring theme at Lingua Franca. As much as the distressed wooden tables, cozy banquettes, and countertop stools give off “casual neighborhood spot,” a full dinner here approaches splurge territory once you’ve added on wine and dessert. 

If you’re looking for a spot that’s as flexible as your friends are flaky, Lingua Franca fits the bill, especially for a leisurely lunch or Happy Hour drinks. And for dinner, it’s a respectable back-up option if you’re already in the area. The food isn’t going to blow your mind, but given the limited amount of places in LA where you can spend an evening sampling natty wine and listening to birds chirping by the riverbed, we’d still send someone here for a last-minute date night or impromptu friend hang.

Food Rundown

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

The Lingua Franca Burger

Can we hear a little commotion for one of the best burgers in LA? The grass-fed beef patty is so juicy, it doesn’t need much else. The melted Toma cheese, black pepper mayo, and toasted english muffin add layers of decadence without being too overwhelming. The toothpick-esque matchstick fries on the side aren’t our favorite stylets, but we can’t deny how well they sop up all the onion-y meat drippings.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Kiki’s Lavash

A solid appetizer. Lavash baked in-house with the crispy crackle of a massive cracker towers over sesame-crusted slices of cured albacore, some pickled veggies, and a few dollops of ginger cream cheese. Pair this with a glass of wine at the bar or pass it around the table like a dressed-up crudo.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Charred Salad

Any time you go to Lingua Franca, a salad should be on your table. This one has lightly grilled lettuce sitting pretty under a blend of toasted breadcrumbs, sweet citrus agrodolce, and blue cheese for a nice bit of funk in every bite. It’s essentially a wedge salad sans bacon, and we’re very big fans.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Clams & Chorizo

These people know their way around a bowl of steamed clams. Each mollusk holds a small pool of miso butter, which blends nicely with the spicy chorizo and rich broth. You’re going to need an extra side of grilled sourdough, which costs a few dollars more.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Grilled Pork Collar

There’s always some variation of a pork entree on the menu, but the one we had lacked the pop of flavor we’d expect from a $40 entree. Unless you’re craving a slab of meat, skip it. This grilled pork collar was tender and filling, but the citrus marinade and green lentils were in need of seasoning.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Fish Dip

Smooth, smoky salmon dip that you could probably find at a gourmet market around the corner. Pleasant, but not totally necessary.

Lingua Franca  image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Roasted Walnut Tart

Vanilla custard and phyllo crust are like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, a timeless duo we’re always excited to see together. Naturally, we loved this creamy, crunchy, dessert. It’s a strong way to finish your meal, thanks to the flaky layers of walnut-crusted dough and the not-too-sweet labne whip plopped on top.

Included In

FOOD RUNDOWN

Infatuation Logo

Cities

2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.

FIND PLACES ON OUR APP

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store