When we learned that one of L.A.'s premier chefs, Susan Feniger (of Border Grill and Two Hot Tamales fame), was closing her ode to international street food, there was a good deal of curiosity involved in what would come next. Today, Feniger announces her next move: Mud Hen Tavern is taking over the old STREET space on Highland.
Along with executive chef and partner Kajsa Alger, Feniger has been crafting this concept in her head for years. "I grew up in Toledo, and after we'd watch the Mud Hens play, my dad and I used to go to a place called Andre’s, which is sadly now closed. They used to have this fried baloney sandwich on the menu that is literally one of the best things I ever ate. We're not putting that on the menu [at Mud Hen], but it's always stuck in my mind. So, my dad and I would wander over to Andre's, and I'll never forget, it had the whole 'Cheers' thing going on—everybody knew your name. That's probably when I started to love restaurants. Plus, my mother was a great cook and we'd have dinner parties every week. They would start out with three people and then as the night went on, there would be eight or 10 people around the table and tons of food and talking and fun."
As you'd expect from a tavern, the food and atmosphere at Mud Hen are rustic and relaxed. Seasonal, gourmet pub food is on offer here. Feniger talks excitedly about the cinnamon roll bread pudding, chicken and waffle croquettes, an Italian deli panino ("we're going to have a whole panini station"), and "delicious" roasted artichokes. The menu has something for everyone, with pizzas ("our wood-burning oven is one of the few in town"), plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, burgers, and bar snacks. "I've been working on a great mac 'n cheese. It's not perfect yet, but we're close," says the chef of her recent menu testing and tasting.
The space has been outfitted with new booths, communal tables, and an expanded bar in the front room, with eight brand new taps. And that's the other thing Feniger is really excited about: The new bar at Mud Hen, which will be run by Morgan Fox (Upstairs II, Poutal Wine Bar) with cocktail consultations by local mixologist Tricia Carr. Wines, craft beer (notably, from Golden Road Brewing and Strand Brewing Company), and artisanal cocktails ("they're like putting a dish together—I've learned so much about cocktails in the last month!" exclaims Feniger) complement the cuisine.
"I wanted to do a neighborhood place, yes," says Feniger, "but also, my nieces and nephews live in the neighorhood, and one thing they always told me was that it was hard to find a place that was open late and had larger tables. When they go out, they might start with a group of four people, but then 12 other friends join them as the night goes on. Plus, they want great drinks, and Mud Hen has all of those things. Who doesn't want that?"
Unlimited weekend brunch is back from the location's STREET days. For $25 per person, order an unlimited number of small plates for you and your table. Along with the $15 bottomless bubbly cocktails, it's one of the best brunch deals in town.
But STREET isn't gone. "We’ve built a name for STREET, and it’s still going to live on. We're looking for a new location, and the catering business isn't going anywhere," notes Feniger.
Mud Hen Tavern is Feniger's twelfth concept in her 25 years as a chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. She says of her growth and business, "The coolest thing about being in this industry is that every time you do something new, you learn so much. It is cool that this a profession where you can just keep growing. That’s why I think I have so much more fun than all my lawyer friends!"
Set to soft-open for private events on December 4, Mud Hen Tavern will open to the public and for reservations on Saturday, December 7 at 4 p.m. Mud Hill will be open nightly at 4 p.m. (until 1 a.m. on the weekends), and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Mud Hen Tavern, 742 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, 323-203-0500 or mudhentavern.com.