Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant

The Linden Team: (L-R) Vincent Bryant, Chef Jonathan Harris, Scott Williams, Alahna Jade, Sterling “Steelo” Brim. Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

Located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the Black-owned and operated Linden uses its aesthetic and carefully-curated menu to provide the perfect dining experience for everyone. Helmed by restaurateurs Sterling “Steelo” Brim and Alahna Jade, alongside Chef Jonathan Harris. Together they are aiming to reshape the landscape of the hospitality industry, one establishment at a time.

With years of hospitality and entertainment industry experience between them, the Linden team knows what it takes to run a flourishing restaurant. Brim and Jade have achieved a significant amount of success with their concept Las’ Lap in Manhattan, and decided to bring a bit of the Big Apple’s flavor to Los Angeles.

“It has a certain intimate ambiance, and New York in particular just has a really unique dining culture,” Jade tells ESSENCE. “We recognize that there wasn’t anything that necessarily felt like that here in LA, so we wanted to bring that here. Most of our partners have deep roots in New York and the East Coast, so I think it was just a really easy brand story to tell as well.”

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

Similar to NYC’s eclectic demographic and culture, Linden’s menu highlights the African-American, Caribbean, Jewish, South Asian, and many other influences found along Linden Boulevard. The venue’s food selections serve as a tribute to the flavors that speak of history, migration, and the enduring power of community.

Linden is so much more than just a restaurant; it’s a place where every dish has a story that can resonate with anyone, regardless of their walk of life. From choices such as the Rhode Island Style Calamari, Breaking Bread, Waygu Pie, and the Prawns & Polenta, every bite brings guests on a journey inspired by Chef Harris’s life experiences to create an unforgettable meal – one that’s deeply rooted in his diverse heritage and family legacy. 

“The menu is crafted to take diners on a journey through the flavors and stories of Linden Boulevard, offering a taste of New York’s diverse culinary landscape,” Harris explains. “ It’s an experience that is both deeply personal and universally appealing, reflecting my journey and the rich, multifaceted tapestry of cultures that Linden Boulevard represents.”

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

ESSENCE: What went into the decision to bring this East Coast inspired restaurant to Hollywood?

Sterling “Steelo” Brim: I’d say the decision wasn’t one we made overnight, but Alahna was originally a part of the decision of us bringing it here as we already had Las’ Lap. Vincent Bryant, Scott Williams, our partners out there had been looking for a location out in Los Angeles for a while just because this is kind of our stomping ground. We have other partners who are out here in Los Angeles as well, and we just felt like the community we had built in New York, we wanted to somehow accomplish that here in LA and we were just looking for the right location.

Once we stumbled upon the location, everything just clicked for us. We realized that we also needed Alahna, she’s a very big part of this company. I think we also have New York Chopped Cheese next door as we wanted to make the whole corner feel like a small taste of New York. That’s what made us do Linden. Linden is the street that connects Queens to Brooklyn. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but we wanted to tap in, I think all our partners, others ourselves, me being from Chicago, Alana’s from Montana, but ourselves, every single other person is from New York. So it’s definitely, the group is a very New York group other than ourselves.

Alahna Jade: Yeah, I think there’s a certain intimate ambiance and New York in particular just has a really unique dining culture and we recognize that there wasn’t anything that necessarily felt like that here in LA and yeah, we wanted to bring that here and like he said, most of the partners have deep roots in New York and the East Coast, so I think it was just a really easy brand story to tell as well.

Chef Jonathan Harris: Opening a restaurant here was never part of my original plans, but when individuals who shared my vision and achievements approached me with the opportunity, it felt like the right move I couldn’t ignore. The local food scene, while expansive, lacked the diverse flavors and cultural fusion I was accustomed to. Without causing too much disruption, we aimed to honor local regulations while infusing our own New York style. Our approach combines high-quality, flavorful cuisine with a hint of nostalgia, offering a unique dining experience.

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

Chef Harris, can you tell me a little about your background and how it came to influence your cooking style?

CH: Growing up amidst the vibrant atmosphere of my father’s restaurant, “Cornbread & Caviar,” my initial foray into the kitchen was hesitant. However, a significant sports injury redirected my focus back to cooking, reigniting a latent passion that would shape my career trajectory.

Embracing my father’s culinary legacy and the ethos of “Hook or Crook” – symbolizing unwavering determination in the face of adversity – I forged my own path in the culinary realm. Becoming a respected talent in his establishment, I crafted dishes that resonated deeply with diners. Pursuing formal culinary training at Johnson & Wales University refined my skills, yet my inventive culinary style stems from an insatiable passion for flavors and a dedication to challenging stereotypes surrounding black chefs in the industry.

Coming from a blend of Costa Rican and African-American heritage, I grappled with societal expectations placed on black chefs. Determined to defy these stereotypes, I mastered a diverse array of cuisines, continuously expanding my culinary repertoire. My journey epitomizes a commitment to diversity and excellence, challenging conventions and showcasing the multifaceted creativity of black culinary professionals.

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

So how did you two connect with Chef Harris? Why was he the perfect fit for Linden?

SB: We connected with Chef Harris somewhat through the location our partners had already purchased. I’ve been an investor in different locations and different brands and they had already kind of started a different concept, and once we jumped in we changed everything throughout the concept and everything with the location. The only thing we did not want to change was Chef Harris. Our friend, our partner Bryce bumped into him at a party that he was catering with him and his team. 

He fell in love with him instantly and just let him know, “Hey, I think you’re bigger than catering, I think you should be doing a restaurant. But you probably hear that kind of story all the time of somebody coming to you telling you, you should do a restaurant.” I don’t know if he necessarily bought into it or believed right away, but once we got the actual location, he picked up the phone, called Chef Harris and we all connected with him and we fell in love with him. He’s a star and I think our food has really represented what Linden stands for and what we are trying to create.

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

How did y’all develop the unique concept for the restaurant?

SB: Alahna and I  jumped in and when it came to the core of things, I think we had a vision of what we wanted. We’re always designing our house. We collect art. We’re just always these people who have a taste of what we think works and then again, us being big consumers here in Los Angeles as well. You understand what works out here. I can’t speak specifically about any restaurant, but I’ll say for the most part my restaurants that work out here are based in ambiance. The food is secondary and that’s not the same thing that’s in New York. The food is first and foremost and you can have a place that just has literally a table, brick walls and the food’s really good. You’d go there in New York, but in Los Angeles that’s not the case. So we knew that it was important for us to develop a very sexy and warm looking environment and ambiance and that if we could have great food on top of that, that we would win.

AJ: He said it perfectly. We talk about it all the time that in LA, vibe is so important and we’re consumers of that. We really enjoy going out. We both like to go out to eat and all of those things and we wanted to make sure that the vibe was really good here at Linden, I think, and especially for people who look like us, we wanted to give them a place that kind of divides the stereotypical vision you see with black-owned restaurants.

We wanted to give people an elevated space, an elevated dining experience while still serving them food that resonated with us and felt familiar as well, but it felt like we wanted to give them an upscale environment and I think we’ve achieved that. It’s definitely the intimate environment which we love. There’s not a lot of places like that in LA that give you that intimacy. Most restaurants can feel kind of big and you feel kind of lost in it, but Linden is just not like that. So we just really wanted to give people an intimate, upscale place that was black owned and fight those stereotypes.

Meet The Creators Of Linden: Hollywood’s Hottest Black-Owned Restaurant
Photo Credit: Emilio Sanchez

As young black restaurateurs, how have you been able to navigate past some of the obstacles that the hospitality industry poses?

AJ: I think for us we’re really grateful for the support of our team and definitely our community. I think that it’s been crucial for our journey so far. The restaurant industry as a whole, I think it can be one of the most unforgiving industries as it pertains to customer service and the margins are extremely thin. I think for us, we’ve really just relied on assembling a really great team around us and focusing on everyone’s individual talents, and we really just dove into the support of our community. They’ve rallied behind us in ways that—I feel like they really believe in us, just like we believe in them and that’s really torpedoed us through the first couple months. We only opened in January and the success that we’ve had so far has been solely upon our community wanting this.

SB: A hundred percent. Just piggybacking on what Alahna said, I think in all honesty we’re still learning every day. You need your 10,000 hours to be great at something, but we’re all on our team. Her and I have always been good at putting events together or gathering people, managing marketing, and PR, but that’s just one side of it. So the other side of it is a learning process for sure. Basically growing within our network, there’s a lot of room to grow ultimately. Having a strong network. Myself being here 17 years Alana’s been here 11 years, we have our own individual networks and bringing those things together. Now our team, again, like we keep saying, our team, our team, our team, I think we try to make sure it feels like that when you come in there. There’s a community that built this together.

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