The new folks behind Freedman’s are asking themselves some compelling questions:
What does a neighborhood bistro look like, for Silver Lake?
How can a restaurant become your new favorite wine bar?
And—this is the one they ask most passionately—how can they get a bottle of wine on every single table. Wait, better yet, a whole-ass magnum?
The answers that chef Ryan Costanza and general manager/beverage director Matt Bone have come up with are beginning to spark some fun changes. The Silver Lake strip mall joint started off with a lot of ambitions already—its nouveau-Jewish deli cuisine made Bon Appetit’s Hot 10 Restaurant List in 2018, spearheaded by young sibling-owners Jonah and Amanda Freedman, who found a creative niche riffing on Jewish classics in a town with an abundance of tradition to cull from. At the beginning, they recruited Bon Appetit wine editor and Silver Lake local Marissa Ross to curate their wine list, honing a philosophy that centered bottle affordability in the spirit of vin-to-table.
Now with Bone at the helm, “her concepts definitely live on,” he says, but they’ve tweaked their approach after a couple of years in the neighborhood. Bone, a chipper new dad who arrived at Freedman’s after working for chef Brian Dunsmoor at Hatchet Hall, has big goals of making Freedman’s the new kickback spot for natural wine drinkers in town—even if they’re not doing dinner. Bone and Costanza have been collaborating on this vision together, which looks like a way to make Freedman’s into the likes of an all-night hang spot, from dinner date to nightcap. They’ve noticed since broadening their by-the-glass list and increasingly educating their staff on the wines, they’ve gotten closer to that goal of wine on every table. While they still pursue Ross’s vision of accessible sub-$60 bottles, their tweaked approach has made a good impact on business. “It’s been easier to get, like, people on Tinder dates to come in and have a couple glasses,” Costanza’s observed.
“I’m so excited by the idea of a bar where people drink bottles of wine,” Bone says. “I don’t know that place. Ordinaire in Oakland, maybe? That’s what wakes me up in the morning. I want it to be normal to meet up and just crack a bottle of wine, sit down, and just chat.” Fortunately for Bone, who joined Freedman’s earlier this year, a lot about the space already works in the favor of his restaurant-as-wine-bar vision. A contrast to all that is breezy and IKEA-wood-and-white about contemporary LA dining, Freedman’s is a cozy cave, grandma-luxe with leather banquets and baroque wallpaper best for holing up after dark. Amazingly (this is Los Angeles, the city that often sleeps), it’s open until 2:00am on weekends.
What else works is that Freedman’s oft-rotating wine list focuses on smaller producers who are genuinely affordable. Plus, even if you can’t polish off the bottle you ordered for whatever reason, you’re able to take the rest home with you. These are specific choices that help Bone facilitate the casual and affordable drinking atmosphere he wants to see in the world, or at least, in Silver Lake.
“There are some of the best natural wine destinations within earshot,” Bone says. It’s true; they’re just a tumble down Sunset Boulevard from several of LA’s most exciting places to drink wine. But it’s extremely worth noting that Freedman’s glasses tend to clock in at $13 and under, and a handful of delicious bottles land in the $40 and under range, rendering Freedman’s one of the more, shall we say, safe spaces to show up at night wanting to try a bunch of stuff just for fun. In Bone’s vision of “de-preciousizing” natural wine (which certainly picks up from Ross’s influence), this affordable curation is where the walk meets the talk. “In the end, I want this to feel like a neighborhood bar with a wine program,” Bone says. “When the people from Night+Market Song get off and come drink bottles here, I think that's the end goal. I take that as the best compliment: when industry people end up drinking here.”
Costanza’s been busy crafting a revamped menu that maintains a couple of classics—the waffle-iron latke, the glorious glazed brisket—but adapts the Jewish deli influence into subtler, more Parisian bistro shapes. He notes the proliferation of Israeli cuisine throughout the city (most of which are knockouts, like Mh Zh, Dune, Kismet, and Bavel), and points to Freedman’s instead looking to Ashkenazi influences which have deep roots in Los Angeles, but with less contemporary adaptations. As Freedman’s evolves and continues to ask itself questions about what it can become, it shows a commitment to staying close to its roots. It all started just a few years ago, with Jewish traditions and low-impact wines. Those beginnings seem as fertile ground as any for an exciting, continuing conversation about how and where we drink good wine. And that conversation is one that ideally unfolds over a magnum, plopped in the middle of a table, surrounded by friends.
Top photo by Dylan + Jeni.
Dylan Tupper Rupert is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Rookie, the Guardian, MTV News, Billboard, and the Pitchfork Review.