LAReview

Manuela review image
7.5

Manuela

Seeing art can be intimidating. Typically you’re welcomed by a stone-faced gallerist wearing octagonal glasses. The space is silent, but it’s likely you’ll forget this vital fact and wear your loudest pair of shoes. And when the show turns out to be a conceptual video loop of middle-aged men sitting in silence, you’ll find that you’ve worked up quite an appetite. The good news is, if you’re at Hauser & Wirth, you’re standing 100 feet away from Manuela—a restaurant that, despite being inside an art gallery, isn’t intimidating or stuffy. It’s just a cool place to hang out, whether or not art is part of your agenda.

Located on 3rd Street a stone's throw away from the pricey candle shops and specialty cafes at the heart of the Arts District, Manuela is a charming escape. The part-indoor, part-outdoor restaurant faces an expansive courtyard that feels more like the quaint square of a little European town than a converted milling plant downtown. Maneula’s open-air space extends from a covered patio to a roofless garden that ranks among our all-time favorite outdoor situations in LA. When you step into the lush courtyard hidden behind the gallery’s gift shop, you’ll be met with chickens waddling around a coop surrounded by herb beds, fruit trees, and murals. 

Jakob Layman

Manuela review image

At Manuela, most of the dishes are Southern and involve lots of vegetables. From skillet cornbread to pork chops with charred broccoli di ciccio, the somewhat fancy menu has subtle nods to down home cooking that should mostly feel familiar. That said, most of the entrees are a little disappointing. The $24 deer burger comes on a chalky brioche bun and is in desperate need of salt. And the $31 chicken plate is just that, a $31 plate of chicken that falls flat. With drinks, you could easily spend $100 per person on an underwhelming dinner here, but that doesn’t mean Manuela isn’t worth your time.

Watch and learn from the Arts District regulars sipping negronis and sharing smoked albacore dip at the bar — stick to the small plates. From sweet Kusshi oysters to trout tartare, Manuela has lots of great options to choose from. But their fluffy cream biscuits are a must-order. You get three on a wooden butcher block, along with a small mountain of aged country ham that’ll make you consider selling your car to open a farm. Whether you’re visiting the gallery or not, we can’t think of a better spot than Manuela to stop by for drinks and a light bite in the late afternoon.

Manuela is an art gallery's restaurant, but it doesn’t feel like an afterthought. Sure, you’ll likely be surrounded by people who apparently prefer clothes that require an instruction manual to get into. But Manuela is both approachable and ideal for a laid-back hang in the area. A meal here might not help you understand that video loop in the gallery, but it will lead to some life-changing biscuits on an outstanding patio.

Food Rundown

Cream Biscuits With Country Ham

These biscuits are scrumptious. Light and fluffy on the inside and crispy in all the right places on the outside, we would consider entering a domestic partnership with the baker if the opportunity presented itself. Eating them with the rich and smoky aged ham is the most euphoric experience we’ve had in the Arts District.

Jakob Layman

Manuela review image

Smoked Half-Chicken

Fine, but not great. Bonus points for the very crispy skin.

Jakob Layman

Manuela review image

Charred Cauliflower

It’s cauliflower. It’s charred. You’re probably going to get it. The colorful vegetable bowl is solid, but we would have liked more date vinegar, parsley, and salt.

Jakob Layman

Manuela review image

Deer Burger

While we appreciate pimento cheese as a burger topping, the burger itself just didn’t have enough flavor. Skip.

Smoked Albacore Dip

It’s hard for us to say no to smoked tuna. Especially when the tuna in question comes in the form of a creamy appetizer with massive rice crackers on the side. If you’re big on briny, smoky, salt-forward tuna, you'll love this.

Kusshi Oysters

These small, sweet oysters are served on the half-shell and topped with a carrot mignonette which adds some pleasant color and slight crunch.

Shrimp & Grits

If you’re here for brunch, don’t skip these. The grits are creamy and rich (and were given the seal of approval by the Southerners at the table) and the shrimp were perfectly cooked. We also appreciate the hen of the woods and bacon cooked in with the grits, which give it a meaty texture without overpowering the seafood.

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