The Village Idiot is an iconic spot on Melrose Ave., ahead of the gastropub curve when it opened in 2007 and still offering fun, fine dining, and a lively bar scene today.
According to co-owner Lindsay Kennedy, the former Chianti and Chianti Cucina space was “opened up to make it light and bright, and better positioned as a place to provide what we thought was missing in Los Angeles at the time – a bar that took the food as seriously as the drinks.”
Kennedy and his partners took out a wall and exposed the building’s architectural bones, and then set to work on providing a gastropub menu. “Ten years ago, dining in LA was either high- end restaurants or dive bars. Our goal was find the middle ground. It was roughly modeled on establishments my partner and I experienced when we’d spent time in London a number of years before that.”
London was, at the time, undergoing a serious gastropub revolution. “We applied that concept to our space. London has some of the most exciting pub food in the world. But we’re more than just an English pub. We do serve some English dishes, like fish and chips, and meat and vegetable pies, but we also serve hamburgers.”
Kennedy says the main idea behind The Village Idiot was to provide a place where the community could get a little bit of everything, and experience strong hospitality in the mix.
“We wanted to make a commitment to really appreciating everyone who comes through the door. We wanted to let our guests know that we felt fortunate when people chose to dine with us.”
For the first two years, Kennedy served as chef, while his partners ran the front of the house and administrative operations. None of them had owned a restaurant or bar previously, although they all had plenty of experience in hospitality and operations.
“The menu started with a lot of staple items,” Kennedy reports. “We had fish and chips and bacon potato pie, for example. “Those remain on the menu today, but over the years the menu has evolved, and we’ve had different chefs.” While the menu is meat-focused, they do have solid vegetarian options, such as a curry vegetable pie.
Today, chef Matt Ranney has assisted in the gastropub’s efforts to purchase all meats as whole animals.
“We don’t buy meat in bags,” Kennedy relates. “We buy sides of beef, whole pigs, and lamb. Our chef has the skill of butchery and has trained his staff in those skills as well. That drives the menu, and has helped us to evolve into a deeper philosophy about how we should eat responsibly.”
The pub cooks its food over a wood-burning grill which forms the heart of the style and type of cuisine the convivial restaurant offers. But the two most popular dishes are fish and chips and potato pie.
The inviting community quality of the space is a conscious effort from Kennedy and his team. “Our staff defines the feel of the place more than the design element. But it’s a light-filled room that looks out on Melrose Avenue, and it’s a great people-watching spot. Our guests can watch the world go by outside.”
Kennedy is also committed to providing a strong menu from the food to the drinks, with customers coming in equal numbers to experience both, he says. Weekend brunches are popular and so are the pub’s late hours.
“We take a ton of pride in the food and beverages. And, our goal is to find really good people who love to take care of other people. That’s how it works.”