How a Soul Food Spot Became Black Hollywood’s Top Restaurant for Power Dining

By Leah Faye Cooper

Restaurateur Keith Corbin's Alta Adams, with its reimagined cuisine, is loved by Jay-Z, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross and Lena Waithe.

A recent photo from Corbin’s Instagram, captioned: “What Happens when P Diddy ask Jay Z where he can get some #soulfood” From left: Diddy, Corbin, Jay-Z and former Alta Adams sous chef Gwen Etta.

There are dozens of L.A. restaurants that draw actors dining with agents and directors imbibing with studio executives. Only one, however, lays claim to an outdoor space where said guests also will do the electric slide, mid-meal, while belting out Luther Vandross. Such was the scene at Alta Adams a few months ago, when Lena Waithe and her Hillman Grad Productions team convened there for a night of soul-food-laced revelry.

A restaurant that would foster that level of comfort and joy is exactly what co-owner, chef and Watts native Keith Corbin was aiming for when he opened the West Adams restaurant with Michelin-starred restaurateur Daniel Patterson in 2018. To that end, it’s fitting that Alta Adams has become a favorite among Black Hollywood and neighborhood residents alike. Still, like many restaurateurs bringing a new concept to life in a notoriously fickle city, he was cautiously optimistic about its success.

“I was nervous as hell,” says Corbin of his mind-set shortly before its opening. “[But] for our soft opening, John Legend showed up. Then, from there, Tiffany Haddish. Tracee Ellis Ross showed up, and she told me that she would be the first person to book my restaurant for an event.” Ross made good on the promise, buying out the spot for a “Women of Black-ish” dinner.

“When you go in there, you feel so welcome and you feel at home,” says Compass real estate agent and Alta Adams regular Pam Lumpkin. “[Corbin] is liable to walk up and sit at your table whether he knows you or not, and you don’t get that a lot anymore, especially since COVID.”

temp-post-imageThe outdoor space is where spontaneous dance parties are not uncommon.

Corbin’s hospitality is matched with a menu of reimagined soul food classics. Collard greens are made sans pork or turkey, instead owing their flavor to wood-chip-smoked oil. Whereas Corbin grew up eating his grandmother’s fried pork chops, his are brined with salt, sugar, citrus zest and spices, then grilled and topped with Southern chow chow relish. Fried chicken, corn bread and impossibly tender braised oxtails have enticed everyone from Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown to Jay-Z and Diddy. When UTA partner Andrea Nelson Meigs and her husband, attorney John Meigs, wanted to cap a private tour of LACMA’s Obama and Black American Portraits exhibit with dinner, Alta Adams was the obvious choice. “That was an extraordinary night,” she says, noting that the couple was joined by friends for a meal paired with wines from Black-owned vineyards.

temp-post-imageThe exterior of Alta Adams, at 5359 West Adams Blvd., features a mural by local artist Aise Born. “Our mission at Alta has always been to create a space of love and inclusivity, to cook the best food we can, to provide warm service and to support our community,” says chef Keith Corbin, a Watts native.

temp-post-imageOn Corbin’s menu are fried chicken and pork chops with Southern chow chow relish.

Before opening Alta Adams, Corbin was tapped by Patterson and Roy Choi to work at their restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco, among them the now-shuttered fast-casual eatery Locol in Watts.

Corbin’s foray into hospitality came after he lost his job at an oil refinery, and he’s thankful that his wife and their blended family of six children are supportive of his “late start.” But having coincided with a tremendous period of success for Black Hollywood — and helping to revive a once-thriving Black neighborhood that was dissected by the 10 Freeway and neglected by the city for decades — perhaps his start was right on time.

Corbin with Alta Adams regular Issa Rae.

temp-post-imageCorbin with Tracee Ellis Ross, who bought out the restaurant for a “Women of Black-ish” dinner.

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