Humble City: Moby’s Little Pine Restaurant Opens Today
DJ, musician, and dedicated vegan Moby blends ethics, a penchant for oddball architecture, and laid-back California vibes at Silver Lake’s Little Pine— which opens it’s doors today after switch up in the kitchen. Chef Kristyne Sharling will be replacing the restaurant’s original chef, Anna Thorton. The vegan cuisine fuses French, Italian, Spanish, with a bit of North African.
Los Angeles is split into two camps. “There’s the LA of pine trees, and the LA of palm trees.” At least that’s what Moby tells me, as we chat over the phone on an unusually gray May morning. “Of course, there’s more to it” he adds; “that was just my kind of glib response.” Still, we’d say it’s as good a rubric as any for decoding what the renowned DJ and singer/songwriter refers to as “this giant, baffling, byzantine city.”
Moby (aka Richard Melville Hall) moved to Los Angeles from New York nearly six years ago, lured by the promise of warm winters, progressive politics, and the freedom to fail. “When people fail in New York,” he explains, “they’re essentially run out of town on a rail. But I feel like [in] the culture of Los Angeles, everybody—every writer, every director, every musician—has at some point, or probably on multiple occasions, failed pretty hard.” As a result, there’s “an ethos that’s sort of engendered by that, where people become a little more introspective…[and] draw on inner resources of strength.” Now, to be clear: “I don’t want anyone to fail,” Moby disclaims, “and I don’t encourage failure.” Then again, we wouldn’t be surprised if a man on the cusp of opening a new restaurant—one held to the highest ethical and environmental standards, no less—might cling to this aforementioned “ethos of failure.” After all, restaurants are a tricky business.
But this isn’t Moby’s first rodeo. In addition to his music career, Moby is a dedicated vegan and passionate animal rights activist—not to mention an experienced writer, photographer, and entrepreneur. “In 2002, I opened a couple of little vegetarian cafes in New York called Teany,” he says of his first foray into the restaurant biz. “At the time, I made pretty much every mistake that anyone could make.” He checks them off, one by one: “I had no entrepreneurial experience, no small business experience…I opened the restaurant with my then-girlfriend, and we broke up the day it opened.” Nevertheless, the cafes thrived—or at least, as Moby puts it, “they all did okay.” They also taught him quite a few lessons about the industry—lessons he intends to apply at his new restaurant, a casually elegant, 100% organic vegan eatery tucked away in the heart of Silver Lake.
Dubbed Little Pine, the venture enables Moby to satisfy myriad interests—from organic food and veganism to architecture, design, and community building—in “one fell swoop.” With characteristic self-deprecation, he admits he “has no idea how to run a kitchen.” “I make lots of suggestions,” he says, “but I fully understand that some of my opinions and suggestions simply
might not make sense in the day-to-day reality of running a restaurant.” His modesty belies a sharp eye for other aspects of the business, however—particularly when it comes to sustainability. “Producing meat and dairy uses, in some cases, 100 times more water than producing vegetables,” he explains, quoting figures without missing a beat. “I mean, a pound of beef can require up to 10,000 gallons of water, whereas a pound of broccoli takes 90 gallons of water.”
At Little Pine, environmental awareness isn’t simply a branding strategy; it’s intrinsic to everything from recipes to landscaping—drip irrigation, to be specific, as well as a pledge not to hose off the sidewalks “unless California is suddenly awash with more water than it knows what to do with.”
Moby has established “very strong operating principles, and rules as opposed to guidelines.” Moby’s vision for the restaurant ranges from removing skepticism surrounding a vegan diet to simply “treating people with decency and respect.” As he sees it, “a restaurant…can be a way of not only providing healthy food, but also making everyone involved…feel looked after and taken care of.” This includes patrons and employees, but also “the people who pick up the trash, and who deliver the food.” In other words, Moby walks the walk when it comes to integrity: “It just doesn’t make sense to me to compromise principles in the interest of entrepreneurialism.”
But enough about principles: let’s hear about the restaurant itself. Little Pine is housed in “an odd little art-deco battleship” on a mellow stretch of Rowena Avenue. “The funny thing is, I have a weird architectural blog, and I’d actually taken pictures of the restaurant two years before I bought it,” Moby explains. Funny—but also fortuitous. “I’m really provincial; like, I love not going outside my neighborhood. Technically, I can ride my bike to the restaurant in about 15 minutes.”
Moby’s vision for the space itself is “very relaxed modernism,” a style reflective of his own home, and of the Silver Lake neighborhood at large. “What doesn’t exist [in LA] is just a nice, modern, well-designed, clean, simple, sort of mid-century aesthetic to a vegan restaurant. So that’s kind of what we’re going for.” In addition to the food (think palate-pleasing creations like lemon mint pea pâté and cauliflower steak), the restaurant will also feature a retail component. “I don’t quite know what we’re going to sell,” Moby says with a laugh. “I think it’s going to be pretty random.”
Nevertheless, he is excited about the possibilities: “We’re giving ourselves the freedom and license to just be as subjective and personal and eclectic as we want to be.”
And really, at a restaurant inspired by the “open, progressive and tolerant” mindset of Moby’s beloved east-of-Hollywood enclave, what could be more fitting? “I’m a proud Angeleno for many reasons,” he says. “There’s a kind of innate humility here, and I find that it suits me.”
Humility is central to Moby’s personal ideology—so much so, it even helped dictate the name of his restaurant. “I really like the word ‘little,’ because it’s humble and unassuming,” he explains. As for “pine?” “As much as I love the beach, I find myself really drawn to the mountains, to the Angeles National Forest…to more the LA of pine trees.”
Perhaps humility isn’t the first thing most of us think of when we envision the glitz and posturing of Hollywood. But for Moby, it all comes back to that “ethos of failure:” to a city built on the necessity of perseverance, the will to create, and the promise of reinvention.
Little Pine is located at 2870 Rowena Ave. Los Angeles, CA.