Two-Story Mexican Restaurant Alma Is the Grove’s Hottest Dining Option in Years

If the name Grupo Hunan is not immediately familiar to Angelenos, that’s okay. There’s a good chance, following the opening of Alma at the Grove, that the two sides will become acquainted. Grupo Hunan is a major Mexico City player, known for some of that city’s most well-regarded restaurants across the dining spectrum (the name comes from the family-run empire’s first Chinese restaurant); Angelenos are known as a fiercely loyal group that wants no punches pulled when it comes to flavor, heat, and ambience. The sensibility of the two cities meets perfectly at Alma.

The Grove’s newest dining entrant, which opens its ground-floor taqueria and cocktail bar first on May 5, looks almost nothing like, well, the Grove. The restaurant is a destination unto itself — part taco spot, part patio hangout just steps from the famed fountain, part upscale second-floor white tablecloth hotspot where the beautiful flavors of Mexico will be on full display when it opens in the coming weeks. Not even the corner space’s previous tenant, none other than Dominique Ansel, can match the vigor of Alma, from the tacos on handmade tortillas to the bright cocktails to the varied, sweeping dinner menu, served with flourish.

To start, there’s a ground floor taqueria and tiendita, a space for casual lunchtime dining and a little bit of shopping. Here, cooks carve al pastor from the spit and others press tortillas to order, while diners can move through the states of Mexico with every bite. There is birria de res, which calls to Jalisco, and cochinita pibil from the Yucatán. Churros are a cross-border must, and the wraparound bar with imported mezcal, tequila, and wine sets the early stage for an upstairs dinner to come. Shoppers can swing through for Mexican-made goods, cookbooks, and more, or simply linger on the patio.

Upstairs, which opens later this month, focuses on evening dining with a refined service touch. Here white tablecloths, low lighting, waves of tile, light woods, and twine serve to backdrop bowls of albondigas in chipotle sauce, or a slow-cooked center-cut steak filet served in its own jus. There are all manner of raw seafood starters, grilled meats, and poached fish as well, ensuring a good time is available to anyone. Cuaik Comprehensive Design Studio (a sister company to Grupo Hunan) laid out the restaurant, leaving ample room for al fresco dining at both levels.

Taken together, this is Alma, a space as soulful as its name would suggest. There’s something for all comers here at this corner of the Grove, including spice and savory flavors and sweet finishes for a summertime evening. It’s just what LA loves, and in that way, it’s a welcome arrival for one of Mexico’s biggest and best dining groups.

Alma opens its downstairs taqueria and cocktail bar at the Grove (189 the Grove Drive, suite H-10) on May 5, keeping downstairs hours from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for food; the tiendita is open daily from noon to 10 p.m. The more fine dining upstairs space, with its own menu, will operate from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily when it opens later this month.