Food Lover: Dustin Lancaster, L.A.’s Eastside Tastemaker

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Dustin Lancaster was an actor-slash-bartender before he helped turn L.A.’s northeast corner into one of the city’s most exciting places to eat and drink. He now has a gaggle of restaurants and bars under his belt including L&E Oyster Bar, El Condor, Covell, and the Hermosillo, and soon he’ll be launching a wine bar in the Valley and a hotel above Covell. Here, he shares a defining moment that took him from behind the bar to the forefront of L.A.’s Eastside:

“I was 29 and acting in a lot of beer commercials, but I was also bartending at Cafe Stella. One of our regulars came in and said, ‘I’m thinking about investing in a restaurant.’ I said half-jokingly, ‘You should give me the money and we’ll open a bar.’ I took a 12-week UCLA Extension course to develop a business plan and threw Covell together on a shoestring budget. But eventually the project was four months overdue, and I was broke. Then the family who owned the building called and said, ‘We have a famous monk in from Thailand. Would you like him to bless your space?’ This monk in an orange robe came in, drew a symbol on the window, and blessed it. That was Thursday. Friday morning I got a call that our liquor license had come through.”


Dustin Lancaster is one of 25 L.A. “Food Lovers” featured in our November, 2014 Food Lovers Guide on newsstands now