Art galleries can be intimidating places. They tend to be in a specific part of town, so you have to make a special trip to get there. They’re quiet, but you’ll forget this vital fact and end up wearing your loudest pair of shoes that day. And then the exhibit turns out to be a conceptual video loop of middle-aged men sitting in silence, and you end up making a quick exit. If you’re in the Arts District, that exit might lead you to Manuela - a restaurant that, despite being inside an art gallery, isn’t intimidating or stuffy. It’s just a cool place to hang out.
Located right in the middle of the Arts District action, Manuela is surprisingly charming. It’s inside the huge Hauser & Wirth gallery, in an internal courtyard that feels like you’re in the quaint square of a little European town, not a converted warehouse in downtown LA. The waitstaff are nice, and the food is a modern take on Southern cooking. Which mostly seems to mean they use a little less butter. Not none, just less.
The best way to use Manuela is as a spot for drinks and a few things to eat. That’s certainly what all the Arts District people at the bar are doing. (If you are here for a full dinner, get the shrimp and grits and you’ll leave happy.) But whatever you end up doing at Manuela, it does need to involve ordering dessert. The meringue with berries, yogurt, and lemon zest is the best thing we’ve eaten here and shouldn’t be skipped.
Don’t be scared off by the idea of eating in an art gallery, adjacent to people who probably know more about art than you (and apparently also clothes that require an instruction manual to get into). Manuela is a solid option when you’re in the area and need somewhere for a casual hang that is nicer than one of the 67 breweries nearby. You might not understand that video loop, but you did eat shrimp and grits, so things are going pretty well for you.
The name might be politically incorrect, but this platter of things is the right way to kick things off (and goes well with the mezcal cocktails you will order too many of). Deviled eggs, country ham, pickles, pimento cheese, and biscuits are all present.
You should have some fried things at Manuela. These are good fried things.
This is fine, but it’s also just a grilled avocado. It definitely needed some salt, and also something bready to spread the avocado on.
While we appreciate the use of pimento cheese as a burger topping, the burger itself just didn’t have enough flavor. Skip.
Don’t skip these. The grits are creamy and rich (and were given the seal of approval by the Southerners at the table) and the shrimp were perfectly cooked.
We were bullied into ordering these, but turns out we’re occasionally glad when our friends strongarm us. The tomato sauce is spicy and pickle-y, and it all goes really well with the shrimp and grits.
It’s cauliflower. It’s charred. You’re probably going to get it.
Fine, but not great. Bonus points for the very crispy skin.
A must-order. This involves crispy bits of meringue, creamy yogurt, and plenty of berries. Coming to Manuela and just eating this would not be the worst idea in the world.