For our latest installment of The One Who Keeps The Book, we checked in with the duo behind one of the hottest seats in Los Angeles. Here’s the good news: Their new expansion, The Garden at Horses, is now open for reservations. So one of the hardest bookings in town just became a bit easier.
Within weeks of its opening last fall, Horses was a bona fide sensation. Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian, the esteemed chef couple at the helm, swiftly won over Angelenos with their contemporary revival of Ye Coach & Horses, the storied British pub that stood in the space for decades. The couple kept the pub’s historic bones intact but added bold splashes of color, and crafted a France-meets-Cali bistro-style menu that produced a handful of instant hits.
“But you can,” encourages Johnson.
As the duo gears up for another opening — The Garden at Horses, just next door — we sat down with them to get the scoop on how to nab a table, the differences between dining in the Sunshine Room versus Kacper’s Room, and what to expect from the forthcoming Garden.
Resy: What’s your best advice for getting into Horses?
Liz Johnson: You gotta try. Sometimes we get walk-ins and we’ll be like, look, we can accommodate you. You got one hour. And we’ll make it happen. You just have to be flexible. Or be willing to sit at the bar. The bar experience is as good and our bartenders are really great.
How many seats do you have?
LJ: Almost 100.
And how many of those are bar seats?
LJ: There’s 14 at the front and then the back has six. Or is it eight?
Will Aghajanian: It can be eight sometimes when people want to squeeze in. When people know each other there can be more seats, but when people don’t know each other, it’s six.
Do you book out all the tables, and reserve all bar seats for walk-ins?
WA: Yeah. Sometimes, if a regular wanted to come in that night, we’ll book bar seats for them.
LJ: And sometimes we reserve the back bar, too, specifically on Sundays.
Why on Sundays?
WA: People weren’t [walking] in as much for the bar on Sundays. It wasn’t busy. So we opened up the seats [on Resy] and they filled. So people should know they can come, we’ll accommodate them.
LJ: It’s a funny thing. People are discouraged from attempting to get in here.
WA: We got two bad Yelp reviews of like, “I can’t eat there because I can’t get in and you guys are jerks.”
LJ: You can’t give us a bad review for that.
What is the best time to try walking in?
LJ: It’s a better bet to show up at 6:45 instead of showing up at 7:30. Even if you show up at 7:15 you’re more likely to get a seat. Everybody shows up at 7:30, 8, or 6:30 on the dot.
WA: If you show up here at 10 p.m., I guarantee you’ll get a seat.
How would you describe the vibe of each room — Drinkery (front room), Sunshine (with the skylight), and Kacper’s (back bar room)?
LJ: They definitely have different vibes and are suited to people who want different experiences.
WA: Some art guy said the back room was like Siberia, that it’s the worst room. But then other people think it’s the best room because it’s so far away from everything. The older, wealthy clientele likes the big bar room, the artsy clientele usually likes the back room, and then the cheffy clientele likes the front room.
LJ: Well, it’s funny because we can’t always tell. We think the scene-y cool people would prefer the back room, but then sometimes they prefer Sunshine. It’s weird. It’s kind of up in the air. But if you want a show, I would say the Sunshine Room is for you. If you like nostalgia and bar culture, the Drinkery is the way to go. And then the back room is more like…
WA: It’s like a little ship, a little boat.
What do each of you think is the best seat in the house?
LJ: It depends on who I’m with.
WA: It depends if you want to not talk to anybody else and you want to be in your own world or if you’re our cheffy friends who want to be by the kitchen.
LJ: I like 32.
WA: 32 is one of the banquettes in front of the kitchen.
LJ: And 43, which is the two-top in the drink room, because you can see the kitchen and you can also be in that room. Also D3 is low-key one of the best bar stools. You get to sit next to Ben and also you can see the kitchen, too. Ben is a regular who comes in every single night.
And Ben sits at D2?
LJ: D1. We save the seat for him every night.
WA: We inherited him from [former tenants] the Pikey. And the Pikey inherited him from Ye Coach & Horses. He lives a block away.
LJ: He’s just the best guy ever.
How far out do reservations drop on Resy?
LJ: 30 days out.
And how quickly do they get snapped up?
WA: All of the prime tables go really quick. But then sometimes there are remaining 10 p.m. [reservations], even a week out there are usually a couple of 10 p.m.s.
I imagine you have a very long Notify list.
You also don’t have a phone. Is that something that customers get annoyed about?
LJ: Honestly, I don’t think so.
WA: We charge cancellations within 24 hours. A lot of the excuses are like, I tried to call. But we will text you [via Resy] the day before to ask if you’re coming the next day. You can say yes or no, and you can text that number, too.
When the Garden at Horses opens, how many seats will it have?
Will all of them be bookable on Resy 30 days out?
WA: We’ll probably book half of them and then keep the rest for walk-ins. We’ll see how the neighborhood fills it, and if not, we’ll just put everything online.
Emily Wilson is a Los Angeles-based food writer from New York. She has contributed to Bon Appétit, Eater, TASTE, The Los Angeles Times, Punch, Atlas Obscura, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.