bunker hill, downtown los angeles, guest writer

Nick & Stef’s Reboot Combines Great Steaks and Fine Dining in Downtown LA

The newly remodeled Nick + Stef's on Bunker Hill reopened in October 2015 (Photo: Nick + Stef's)

It’s no secret that Bunker Hill has seen a surge of redevelopment activity recently. The debut of new housing and restaurants including The Emerson Apartments and Vespaio affirm the neighborhood’s continued role in Downtown L.A.’s renaissance, while the grand opening of The Broad Museum has cemented Grand Avenue as one of the California’s most important cultural corridors. (Click here to take a tour of the new museum and its amazing contemporary art collection.)

For over 15 years, hidden toward the back of Wells Fargo Center, has been a solid, but understated member of The Patina Group family of fine dining restaurants. Nick & Stef’s, named after Chef Joachim Splichal’s twin sons, began its life in 1999 as a traditional, white tablecloth steakhouse ideal for power lunches and expense account meals between law partners or accounting firm execs. Sensing the changes taking place in the neighborhood and the presence of emerging competitors, the restaurant recently emerged from a 4-month remodel with a revamped interior and updated menu that introduces several new items while preserving the high quality steaks and mainstay dishes that made it a favorite in the area.

The restaurant’s new interior is simple and classic with a mid-century aesthetic, expansive bar area, and multiple dining rooms that can be customized for different types of gatherings. The redesign provides an atmosphere that feels elegant without being stuffy. The white tablecloths have vanished into permanent storage and thankfully, there are no vintage Edison light bulbs or overly distressed wood panels in sight, a restaurant design cliché that has hopefully gone on hiatus. The menu doesn’t disappoint, offering a solid selection of well executed dishes and some of the best steaks in Downtown L.A.

On my recent dinner visit we started with a three Kale Salad topped with cranberry bean vinaigrette and pecorino cheese. Kale salads are a dime a dozen in L.A. but this was one of the best I’ve tasted. The bean vinaigrette and pecorino add a really great bite to what could be just another run of the mill salad. I then moved on to a great selection of fresh oysters from both the east and west coasts and the main course, which of course was a signature steak.

My party opted for the Tomahawk Rib Chop, which is large enough to serve 3. The steak is carved tableside in dramatic fashion and can be accompanied by a variety of side dishes that for us included: creamed spinach with fried egg, bacon and breadcrumb, orecchiette mac and cheese with gruyere and shallots, and Szechuan long beans with peppercorns. The side dishes were very tasty, but the steak was definitely the main event. The tomahawk was perfectly cooked and easily sliced by the various steak knives were asked to choose from.

Following the main course, we sampled a selection of desserts including the Meyer lemon meringue pie, buttermilk donuts and oatmeal cookies. I found the pie and donuts to be too rich after a large meal, but enjoyed the cookies, which were served with awesome mascarpone cream and berry compote.

Throughout my dinner at Nick & Stef’s, I was impressed by the service we received. Our server, Rocky was attentive without being intrusive and she made it a point to ensure that our dinner was an experience rather than just a meal. She succeeded. In L.A. it’s not uncommon to receive terrible service at even the priciest restaurants so it was nice to feel taken care of by a server who was both enthusiastic and professional.

The new Nick & Stef’s remains a great dining option on Bunker Hill. It’s the perfect precursor to a nice evening out at the L.A. Philharmonic or Music Center and continues to serve some of the best steaks in town. The remodeled space and updated menu combine the best of the old with solid new additions. It’s well worth checking out if you haven’t been lately. — Lawrence Aldava

Nick + Stef’s Steakhouse Remodeled

The now updated decor befits today's modern aesthetic preference

The now updated decor befits today’s modern aesthetic preference (Photo: Nick + Stef’s)

Spacious and airy newly remodeled dining rooms (Photo: Nick + Stef's)

Spacious and airy newly remodeled dining rooms (Photo: Nick + Stef’s)

Nick + Stef's amazing dry-aged steaks (Photo: Nick + Stef's)

Nick + Stef’s amazing dry-aged steaks (Photo: Nick + Stef’s)

Nick + Stef's amazing wine collection (Photo: Nick + Stef's)

Nick + Stef’s amazing wine collection (Photo: Nick + Stef’s)

The outdoor patio seating (Photo: Nick + Stef's)

The outdoor patio seating (Photo: Nick + Stef’s)

The Food

Plan on having the full dining experience at Nick + Stef's (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Plan on having the full dining experience at Nick + Stef’s (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Three Kale Salad

Three Kale Salad (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Oysters from both the east and west coasts of the US (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Oysters from both the east and west coasts of the US (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Various side dishes including Creamed Spinach with Fried Egg and the Orecchiette Mac and Cheese (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Various side dishes including Creamed Spinach with Fried Egg and the Orecchiette Mac and Cheese (Photo: Brigham Yen)

The amazing Tomahawk Steak sliced in front of your table (Photo: Brigham Yen)

The amazing Tomahawk Steak sliced in front of your table (Photo: Brigham Yen)

The Tomahawk Steak, so juicy, so tender, delicious (Photo: Brigham Yen)

The Tomahawk Steak, so juicy, so tender, delicious (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Dessert can include buttermilk donuts, oatmeal cookies, and the Meyer lemon meringue pie (Photo: Brigham Yen)

Dessert can include buttermilk donuts, oatmeal cookies, and the Meyer lemon meringue pie (Photo: Brigham Yen)

4 Comments

  1. Christopher says

    This looks spectacular, but these “fine dining” places (read: expensive), are coming and going downtown. What the area really needs are reasonably priced places. With people spending a fortune for their lofts and apartments, many simply don’t have the disposable income required to support these upscale places for very long.

  2. Lawrence Aldava says

    Christopher – I agree. Nick & Stef’s is great for what it is a high end establishment, but it’s definitely a special occasion type option. Given the current setup of Bunker Hill and the cultural establishments that exist there, I expect to see restaurants of this type nearby, but I completely agree that downtown as a whole is severely lacking in a diverse range of affordable options that residents can patronize regularly. The notion that every new restaurant has to be an expensive chef-driven concept ignores the needs of average residents. A great city offers options of all types at all price points. We’re not there yet.

  3. Paul wright says

    I completely disagree with Christopher. DTLA has tons of cheap places to eat. How can you say it doesn’t? They’re everywhere. I think a few more restaurants like this are great for downtown especially with more new hotels and visitors coming in. There are more people dt than young hipsters sharing an apt with a dog.

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