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In Brad Taste: A Night Out with Marcus Samuelsson

Brad Johnson is no newcomer to the L.A. food world. The experienced restaurateur—who most recently launched Post & Beam in Baldwin Hills with chef Govind Armstrong—opened his first local spot, Roxbury, on the Sunset Strip in 1989. And if you know anything about the Strip in the '80s, it won't surprise you that Johnson knows his way around the L.A. club scene like he knows his way around a kitchen. Here, we premier our monthly blog series, "In Brad Taste," with the seasoned businessman, where he'll reflect on L.A.’s food, nightlife, chefs, and the delicious (and sometimes debauched) places where they all intersect.

First Up:

A Night Out with Marcus Samuelsson

On a recent Friday night, Chef and Restaurateur Marcus Samuelson was in town. After seeing each other during the summer in Harlem at his game changing restaurant The Red Rooster, we agreed to connect next time he made it out to the West Coast. True to his word Marcus called to let me know he was in town for a quick trip doing press and we decided to head out into the LA night. Our conversation during the course of three hours flowed effortlessly over a sound track I’d programmed that included Ashford and Simpson, Michael Kiwanuka, Gil Scott Heron and Freddie Hubbard. I invited my partner in Post & Beam, Chef Govind Armstrong to join us but having just become a father to a lovely daughter Willow Rae, he took a rain check.

In a text Marcus mentioned he wanted to experience a taste of Black L.A. night life. He later told me my “ha” reply to the idea that there actually was a “Black” scene made him laugh. As I write this, a few places do come to mind that we could have checked out: Mavericks Flat, Harold and Belles, La Louisiane, or the fried chicken at my favorite Adolf Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen to name a few. My thinking at the time was there is no Red Rooster, or for that matter Georgia in L.A. right now. No disrespect to the aforementioned establishments, all of which have long histories. Next time we will make the rounds including these places for sure.

I picked him up at the Standard on Sunset, suggesting and he agreed to rolling around while we decided what stops to make. True to form, having seen Marcus recently in the Style section of the New York Times, he’s got great taste and is very stylish. Not over the top though, just cool and effortless, like the way we all wish we dressed. Do I dare rock an Orange scarf?!

Riding together gave us a chance to talk, as two people of color in the same business in two different markets, comparing notes as well as life experiences. Our first stop was decided after Marcus received a text from Sang Yoon, owner/chef of Fathers Office. He was at the newer Culver City location, so we headed south from Sunset Blvd. Our conversation started briskly and never subsided the entire night. Topics ranged from how the “open 24 hours” coffee shop at the Standard could close while he was waiting for me, to the almost nonexistence of Black food writers, to what had become of Black-Jewish relations after the much in common struggle during the civil rights era.

When you go out with Marcus to a restaurant it quickly becomes apparent the proliferation of food/chef/restaurant- related entertainment on television has made some of those appearing on these programs big stars. He was approached constantly. The place was packed. I guess we looked like we could use some help and were soon offered by some very nice folks to share a corner of a table for six that already had six people seated. If you want to eat really well, dine out with a chef. Most chefs when hearing one of their contemporaries is in the house start sending complimentary food to the table. Sang was very gracious, food flowed; we shared with the table and also discovered 4 Calling Birds, a tasty Dark California Ale suggested by the knowledgeable bartender Ryan.

From there Marcus wanted to see the still-under-construction Post & Beam, so further south we went. I found out things about him and he in turn asked about me. This bears mentioning because often anyone in the midst of a run like the one he’s having, is so lost in their own world that inevitably the conversation becomes one sided. We circled Post & Beam, Marcus gave his approval and we were off to Hollywood Blvd. to visit Elie Samaha’s Supper Club and adjoining Writers Room.

 I wanted Marcus to see Supper Club not because either of us had an interest in clubbing (at least not on this night) but rather to show him the unique set up. The Supper Club is formerly the classically cool Vogue Theater and has an exposed kitchen on a stage, a setting I thought Marcus should see for some future idea. Next door at the Writers Room, a cool intimate bar designed by the talented Gulla Jonsdottir, who also designed David Rabin and Will Regan’s Double 7 in New York, we drank coconut water infused cocktails served by the dapper mixologist and head bartender, Daniel K Nelson, who came out from behind the bar as we toasted.

The night was getting late, so time for one more stop. We decided to visit Son of a Gun on 3rd and say hello to GM Dan Warrilow. Marcus and I sat at the bar, had a couple of beers and shared a fried chicken sandwich. It reminded me of visiting my dad years ago at a hotel he was involved with on the US Virgin island of St Croix. After the clubs and bars let out there was a guy who sold fried chicken and ice cold Red Stripe from a little road side stand. Fried chicken and beer after our evening on the town is damn close to a perfect finish to a stellar night.

-Brad Johnson is owner/principal of Post & Beam restaurant.