New Restaurant: Black Market Ups the Bar for Cocktails and Eats in the San Fernando Valley

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This week Studio City saw the arrival of Black Market Liquor Bar, a new cocktail driven eatery which replaced the decades old Wine Bistro. Gutted from floor to ceiling, the space is unrecognizable and now stands with vaulted brick ceilings complete with an open kitchen, trolley ceiling fan, a long wood bar, an antiqued stone floor, gas lamp style fixtures, cozy booths and high tables and stools. Noticeable is the absence of big screen TVs that seem to glare from every restaurant these days—and that is refreshing.

Black Market Liquor Bar on opening night. It replaces the longstanding Wine Bistro. Photos: Karen Young

Black Market is a conglomeration of talent in all areas— owners Sal Aurora and Mario Guddemi who are partnered in Happy Ending in Hollywood and (My Daily Find fave) Local Peasant in Sherman Oaks, worked with Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni of Descarga and Harvard & Stone to create the innovative cocktail list. Beer expert Jace Mistead is responsible for the carefully selected craft beer list and Sally Kim from Terroni oversees wine. Helming the kitchen is Season Four Top Chef and recent Top Chef All-Star finalist,  Antonia LaFosa.

Red Hot and Bothered: Jalapeno infused vodka, strawberry, blood orange, agave, gingerbeer ($11).

Sal Aurora describes Black Market’s food and drink as “from farm to shaker” — meaning everything from the cocktails to the food is seasonal and locally driven. Cocktails are a mixology breed unlike any you’ve seen in the 818. So far there are twelve listed for opening, but the intention is to work up to 30 with three a week being inspired by farmer’s market finds.

Mussels with chili, fennel and garlic baguette ($14).

Check out such mixology as Boulevard Sour (rye, cynar, lemon, sugar and egg white), Blackberry Cobbler (genever, blackberry, lemon, sugar) and Punch for One (pisco, pineapple agave, angostura, lime), to name a few. There’s no muddled martini mixes here. These are solid drinks with five to ten steps each. Look to the bar and you’ll see bartenders doing double fisted shakes with the shakers in the air. Liquors used are atypical for most bars and come from all over the world.

Chef LaFosa was known on Top Chef for Italian cooking, but the truth is she has French training from the French Culinary Institute. With a newly signed book deal and long stints in the kitchens of Spago and Foxtail, LaFosa comes with an eclectic and impressive background. She says she cooks how she wants to eat when she goes out—many of her dishes are made for sharing and are far more creative and sophisticated than normal pub grub.

Soft shell crab po'boy with Sririacha, chinese cabbage and shiso ($14)—delicious.

Selections run the gamut — alligator sausage and peppers, mussels with fennel and chili (ask for more grilled baguette to soak up the delicious sauce), soft shell crab po’boy with sririacha, chinese cabbage and shiso, oxtail ragu, deviled quail eggs, a shaved fennel salad with feta and watermelon radish, and dill chips thickly cut with a malt vinegar aioli. So far absent on the menu is a burger. LaFosa says she will change the menu according to the season and what’s fresh.

Crispy fluffer-nutter with bananas, peanut butter and marshmallow...insane. ($7)

Desserts are few, but the choices are tasty—spiced chocolate pudding, lemon curd and cream on shortbread (like a big cookie) and the super indulgent crispy flutter-nutter with peanut butter, bananas and marshmallows.

With its unique menu and ambitious cocktails, Black Market brings a whole new element to the San Fernando Valley — it’s a casual, fun and lively place to meet friends, have drinks and share some plates.

Dill chips with malt vinegar aioli ($4)—positively addicting!

The Oxtail Ragu is rich and comforting.($13).

Prices run $4 to $18 with most dishes averaging $8-$14. Cocktails are $11. Beer and wine $7-$14.

Black Market Liquor Bar 11915 Ventura Blvd. Studio City (just west of Radford). Valet Parking $3.50. Open 5 p.m.- 2 a.m. daily.

Karen Young is the Founder/Editor of My Daily Find. Email:

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.