A trip to S.F.’s State Bird Provisions and the changing landscape of downtown L.A. set the wheels in motion for chef John Sedlar of Rivera. He decided to have small, cold and room temperature dishes wheeled out on carts for diners to grab on the go, before they hit the Staples Center, Nokia Live, or one of DTLA’s many bars. “People just don’t have the time to eat, they want to head to the next event”, says Sedlar, owner and chef at the 5-year old modern-Latin restaurant—Rivera (#39 on our 75 Best Restaurants list). The roving cart style of service is a recent trend in fine dining, but something about Sedlar’s lonchera (a name for traditional food trucks) menu is very familiar.
The experience begins with fruit-infused tequila, dubbed aguas frescas, and a salad of greens picked daily from Sedlar’s Cielo Verde, his rooftop aeroponics garden located on the roof of Petty Cash Taqueria. Grab the broccamole too—a playful riff on guacamole made with pureed broccoli.
L.A.’s original street food gem, the tamal, was once served on a cart and today is a hot item at many loncheras. At Rivera, Sedlar offers a mixture of corn masa, squash and spicy pork baked into a whole glistening green gourd, for a refreshing take on the tamal.
Another lonchera dish combines Santa Barbara sea urchin and mussels with pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, beach-style, inside a radicchio-lined shell. Its taste is reminiscent of a Sunday on Olympic Boulevard in Boyle Heights, where you can visit one of many mariscos trucks.
If you’re not in too much of a hurry, you can order one of Sedlar’s classics, or one of the new cooked items like a tempura battered oyster po-boy maize cake—not a taco, I am reminded--with salsa verde remoulade. The loncheras menu will officially hit the aisles of Rivera’s dining room in a couple of weeks, with a special collaboration between chef Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos and Sedlar.
Rivera, 1050 S Flower St. Ste 102, Downtown Los Angeles, (213) 749-1460, riverarestaurant.com