Chef Ari Taymor’s pop-up sequel to Alma is getting a royal welcome in Santa Monica
By Jessica Koslow
There’s a huge fork on the exterior of 2424 Main St. in Santa Monica, signaling this might be a place to eat. And it is … at least for another month or two, or maybe longer.
What used to be the California-Mediterranean eatery Fork in the Road is now a pop-up brunch and cocktails spot called Little Prince, so named after the French children’s book which chef Ari Taymor’s mother read to him as a kid.
Taymor has a few notches on his culinary belt: He has been named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and was nominated as a Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation. The celebrated culinarian was the force behind Alma, which closed its doors inside The Standard in West Hollywood this past New Year’s Eve.
Perhaps there were many signs pointing to Taymor’s eventually landing on the Westside. His first Los Angeles home was near Rose and Pacific avenues. His first-ever chef job was in Santa Monica, across the street from Little Prince. And he loves to surf.
Taymor’s new pop-up brunch spot is his foot in the door to the area’s booming restaurant scene.
A career as a chef came out of the blue for Taymor, who hardly ever cooked until age 20. A student of philosophy and international affairs in Washington D.C., he was on the pre-med track with an emphasis on health and nutrition when inspiration struck.
While researching diabetes, he began reading up on how chefs were at the forefront of the clean and healthy food movement, supporting local food systems and advocating food justice. After graduation, Taymor decided to go back home and work in local kitchens around San Francisco. And he fell in love.
“Alma was a huge part of my life. It was an idea in my head since the day I started cooking. It’s what brought me to L.A., and kept me here,” Taymor says. “When we moved from downtown to The Standard, I started processing the loss. … I felt like it was the right time to move on.”
It’s the first Sunday Little Prince is open, and it’s packed — a feeling of excitement and newness swirling around the space. People are streaming in to try The Little Prince green pea pancake, and the pleasantly sweet and brightly colorful green chia pudding with a stripe of coconut strips, crunchy cacao nibs and raspberries.
The avocado toast, a staple on most Westside breakfast menus, is topped with labne, shaved fennel and a poached egg that gives delicious drippings. If you’ve planned for brunch to be your biggest meal of the day, add a side of crispy potatoes with seaweed hollandaise. In between bites, sip on a coconut oatmilk Horchata or Mezcal Cactus Cooler.
The all-brunch menu is filled with breakfast items Taymor would like to eat — “fun, lazy Sunday dishes,” he calls them.
From the response of the first weekend, it looks as though Little Prince is on Main Street to stay. Their team is ready to go. Pre-opening, Taymor and his partner Shane Won Murphy spent about four to five months putting together a strong team.
Murphy and Taymor met six years ago while Taymor was searching spaces to open Alma. As a consultant and developer, Murphy has been involved in a string of restaurants, including Alma, Zinqué and Plant Food + Wine. The two also like to surf and have traveled as far as the beaches of Mexico to catch waves together.
“There’s a perception of Main Street as oriented to partying and bar hopping,” says Taymor, “like the area is not serious about good food. But it’s a high-profile part of L.A. with pricey real estate.”
Main Street is also intimidating.
“People have to be the first ones to take the risk in the neighborhood,” he says. “Who’s going to be the first person? After that, everyone will follow.”
If Little Prince decides to stay, Taymor will join newcomers like Chez Tex and more established eateries like Chaya Venice and Chinois on Main in upping the food ante.
For now, Little Prince only serves brunch on Saturday and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Next up would be weekday evenings for dinner and drinks, and then weekday lunch.
While it’s hard for Taymor to look beyond the next weekend, he’s excited to speculate that Little Prince could be permanent.
“I like the community here,” he says. “People hang out. Word-of-mouth is huge here, and the rest evolves naturally.”
That’s your cue: Book a reservation now, because word really is spreading fast.
Little Prince 2424 Main St., Santa Monica littleprince.la