Fishing For Gold: Red Herring opens in DTLA


Graphic designer Marissa Zajack flaunts her interior designer bonafides in her show-stopping design of restaurant Red Herring’s new space in downtown LA

Photos throughout by Jennifer Chong

When Chef Dave Woodall and his wife and partner Alexis Martin-Woodall decided to relocate Red Herring, their American comfort food restaurant, from Eagle Rock to DTLA, Alexis, who’d shouldered the responsibility of creating the chic look of the first spot knew that her full plate — which included a couple of Emmys courtesy of her work as president of Ryan Murphy Productions — would necessitate handing over interior duties. She turned to interior designer Marissa Zajack.

“Alexis and I met on the movie, Running with Scissors, years ago,” remembers Zajack. “Our mutual admiration for all things beautiful and fabulous helped us form a creative shorthand.” Martin-Woodall had turned to Zajack to design the restaurant’s evocative logo. “There was something alluring about helping brand a restaurant,” Zajack says. So, when the couple grabbed an offer to open a new iteration of Red Herring in a 3,300 square foot space in the bottom of the 8th and Grand development in DTLA, Martin-Woodall knew she could entrust the design to Zajack. “It meant everything to me and the process has far exceeded my expectations,” Zajack says.

For inspiration, Zajack first turned to the couple themselves. “Alexis is all glamour all the time and Dave is not only a talented chef but also a woodworker,” says Zajack. The Art Deco history of LA’s downtown also played a role. The bar face — created from alder wood with a light rosy-hued stain — channels that decadent era. The pattern is carried through in the restaurant’s business cards, its coasters, even in the geometric design on the restaurant’s ceiling.

The menu, which draws on comfort foods from around the globe, was also a touchstone. “Because it encompasses so many dishes and flavors, I felt as though I had the luxury to be equally innovative and creative,” she shares. Fun was another important quality. “Dave and Alexis really wanted Red Herring to be stylish and chic but, above all else, they wanted me to create an environment where guests would immediately know they’re going to have a fabulous night. We didn’t want to take anything too seriously. That gave me the freedom to go bold with color, patten and material choices.”

The start-from-scratch ethos for Chef Woodall’s food finds it echo in the unique pieces that Zajack commissioned. “I was so fortunate to work with artists and makers that helped contributed to the details that make this space shine,” she says. Wallpaper, designed by artist Mike Willcox and printed by Astek Wallcoverings on a linen paper that brings depth to a vibrant design rich with plant life and the couple’s favorite animals, dances across the restaurant’s back wall. “It’s a real show stopper,” Zajack shares. The Light Cookie sconces in the restroom area led to the fabrication of a light sculpture, designed by Zajack and created by the brand’s principal, Dora Koukidou, which hangs behind the bar. “It’s truly one of my favorite pieces in the restaurant.” The main dining room’s 3 globe pendant lights were created by lighting designer Adir Yakobi. The fixture’s arched design echo the room’s curves. “Sal from New Tolteca Upholstery is an upholstery god,” raves Zajack. “He made all of our banquettes, booths and upholstered our Thonet bentwood dining chairs.”

The result is a restaurant that looks as good as it eats. “We’re taking everything we learned in our Eagle Rock kitchen and upping the ante,” says Chef Woodall. “And we’re also giving ourselves more room to play. Yes, the menu is larger and more refined — but it’s also more adventurous, and lends itself to a more exploratory experience.”

Red Herring, 770 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5 pm to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays to 11 pm.