Dustin Lancaster of L + E Oyster Bar
What is your name?
What are the names your restaurants/bars?
Covell, L&E Oyster bar and The Hermosillo
What sparked your interest in opening a restaurant?
After graduating from CalArts where I studied theatre I moved to Los Feilz in 2002. Like most actors I started bartending and waiting tables to supplement income. In 2005 I landed at was at the time the only real destination restaurant on the east side, Café Stella. I ended up manning the bar there for 4 ½ years and garnered quite the neighborhood following. At this time I was also booking several guest stars and commercials, which allowed me to pocket some savings, which I later used to open Covell. Well that, along with selling my car and going into tons of credit card debt.
Why did you choose to open in establishments in Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Highland Park?
I’m a diehard eastsider, always have been, always will be. There is a different crowd over here. I’m not sure what I do would translate as well on the west side? I love the people over here and a lot of my customers have become friends.
What was your concept behind L+E and why an Oyster Bar?
My partner Tyler Bell and I felt that were a lot of restaurants that had Oysters as an afterthought on their menu. We wanted to open an authentic oyster bar, where the feature was the actual Oyster itself.
We read that you named Covell after the street in Oklahoma where you bought a house for your mother. (So sweet!) What is the meaning behind L+E, what does it stand for?
This is true, I’m from a small town in OK, called Deer Creek. The main street in that town is Covell, on which I bought my mother a house a few years ago.
There are a lot of speculation about what the L&E initials stand for. It’s become a rather fun game listening to what people think it means. I think it’s more fun to let the guessing continue. My favorite I’ve heard so far is Little & Expensive!
What was the most important thing to you when opening L+E? (As far as the feel, menu, atmosphere, overall experience of the restaurant, etc. What did it definitely have to have?)
I believe that a person’s restaurant experience begins the second they walk in the door, long before they even have a bite of food. That starts with being greeted positively by a host or server all the way down to the dimness of the lighting and the volume of the music. Coming from a longtime server background, I’d say I put customer service at the top of my list. Not a night goes by that I don’t get a compliment about the quality of service. I am quite fortunate to have some of the best staff in Los Angeles. That’s totally unbiased by the way!
Can vegans dine at L+E?
Kind of! Maybe not as much as they’d prefer but we have about 5 options that are vegan friendly, and then there is this argument. Haha!
Where do you get your oysters and other seafood?
Quite literally all over the world. We try source as much as can directly from the oyster farmers themselves. As far as the rest of the seafood, we 100% believe in farming sustainably. We only serve fish that meet the Morro Bay Seafood Watch guidelines.
What is the most fulfilling thing about owning your own restaurants/bars?
Having customers tell you how much they truly enjoy your establishment. That never gets old, never! That fact that someone can say to me that I own their favorite restaurant in all of LA is one of the most gratifying and humbling things I’ve ever experienced.
What is your favorite food? And what are you cooking at home?
Mexican food, always! And I almost never cook at home. When you own three bars and restaurants you’re really not home that often. However, I most consistently toast an English muffin for breakfast.
What is the most common ordered item at L+E? Would you consider that to be the best thing on the menu?
Oysters! And I feel they are the best Oysters being served in Los Angeles. The rest of Chef Spencer Bezaire’s food is pretty unbelievable too. There are some regulars that come in 3 times a week for his Beet cured Salmon or Trout salad.
What are your top recommendations from each of your restaurants menus?
At the Herm I’d say the fried pickles, and Covell I love the Mac and Cheese (with Mortadella and jalapenos)
Can we look forward to you opening future restaurants and bars?
Without a doubt!