When Amy Sweeney opened Ammo on Highland Avenue in 1996, farm-to-table wasn’t even a culinary catch phrase. But that’s what she was doing, utilizing ingredients plucked from local farmers, many of whom are now name-checked on just about every menu in town. Now Sweeney will close this location on July 25 and relocate to Melrose Avenue come August. There’s still time to get in on the special $19.96 menu until then, too.
For almost 20 years, Ammo has been a Hollywood commissary of sorts. An evolution of her successful catering company, Ammo debuted as a take-out window in post-production and studio land. Sweeney was sort of a pioneer, not only for opening a restaurant where few existed, but also for serving the kind of seasonal cuisine we almost take for granted now. When Benny Bohm joined the restaurant, the two expanded the original to-go-window operation into a full-fledged restaurant — first adding a dining room in 2000 and then expanding to the space next door in 2004. Chefs Daniel Mattern and Roxana Jullapat joined the kitchen in 2010 garnering huge praise for their seasonal cuisine and amazing desserts; they went on to open Cooks County.
Over the years you could drop into Ammo at lunch or dinner and see studio execs dining in the back booths, sipping wine and iced tea, talking shop, and maybe even grooving to Bohm’s always well-chosen playlists. And celebrities of every ilk were addicted to the tofu and veggie rice bowls before rice bowls were a thing (one of my last meals there, years ago, we ran into Busy Phillips with kids in tow and a very hunky-looking Jake Gyllenhaal). The fare remained fresh and menus changed seasonally, all de rigueur for dining today.
Sweeney will revisit her original concept with the new location, which will open at 6909 Melrose Avenue in a few months. Designed by Commune, the same firm who outfitted the original and the location at the Hammer Museum, the new Ammo will once again serve as a grab-and-go cafe with delivery. There will also be a new emphasis on quick-serve morning pastries, granola, coffee and teas.
“We felt it was time to look for a new home that meets our needs for where our business is now,” Sweeney says. “Our take-out and delivery business is steady, and we’ve recently expanded our catering and events services and needed a space that would better support both a return to our roots and a new direction while remaining in the area.”
Until the restaurant closes on July 25, there’s a special three-course menu harkening back to the good old days: fresh market lettuces with shaved radishes and lemon vinaigrette; brown rice with seasonal vegetables and chicken or tofu; and dessert all for $19.96. The Ammo Cafe at the Hammer Museum remains open and unchanged.
The Highland Avenue space won’t be empty for long. Chris Phelps and Zak Walters, chefs and co-owners of Salt’s Cure, are moving in. After cooking up fantastic breakfasts, lots of bacon, and wine-friendly dinners in West Hollywood for the last five years, they’ll double the size of the dining room, gain a patio and be able to serve cocktails with the move. The original restaurant will remain open until the new one is ready sometime this fall.
Ammo, 1155 Highland Ave., Hollywood, 323-871-2666; 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, 310-443-7037