Meet the Mayor
Chef Alvin Cailan fucking loves Los Angeles. He loves it in that unapologetic way that lifelong Angelenos do, that way that suggests he can’t understand why you’d want to live anywhere else. When I ask him, with the curiosity of a transplant, why he likes it here so much, he says:
“It’s the best city in the world.” Full stop.
That unqualified adoration is at the root of all Cailan’s culinary moves. His first spot, Eggslut, is positioned in the heart of Grand Central Market. The name and the juicy-crispy egg and bacon-centric breakfast sandwiches are part of the Los Angeles lexicon now. They’re so good that savvy/lucky tourists and hungover locals flock daily to stand in an ungodly line that, even after three years in business, is regularly over an hour long. “We could have opened in multiple places, but I was in love with the idea of Grand Central Market. I felt like it needed to be known and seen,” Cailan says.
Eggslut has arguably become the market’s main attraction, the first stronghold of Cailan’s slutty empire. In addition to the downtown flagship, Venice and Vegas outposts just opened and a Glendale location is coming this month.
Cailan’s new baby, Unit 120, opened last year in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. The brainchild of a Cailan creative collective including chefs Isa Fabro and Lung Ly and his brother/sommelier Anthony Cailan, 120 is a culinary incubator – an experimental test space for restaurant ideas, mentorship opportunities, and new menus.
They knew the concept was working when they hosted nine Filipino chefs in nine weeks and sold out every week. Their most recent Bob’s Burgers event fed 500–750 people a night. And their industry-only fried chicken night (every Monday eve until they shut it down) was almost too fire. Per Cailan: “It got too crazy.” But he chalks that last one up to a close-knit restaurant community. They show up. They show out. “It’s a real-recognizes-real situation,” he says “The core group, the Bestias, Republiques, the Otis and Penelopes are all like family and we all support each other.”
But it’s more than that. People are drawn to Cailan. He’s got a ‘sí se puede,’ we’re all in this together vibe that’s magnetic. As a kid in East LA, Cailan’s friends called him ‘The Mayor’ because he “was always the one who says what’s up to every single person and slaps them five.” He embodies the nickname. So much so that years later, in culinary school in Portland, a totally new group of friends picked the nickname up again, unprompted. “It evolved that way. That nickname found me. That’s the one common denominator to my whole life. I’m very community oriented.”
What’s next for a man of the people? “Pizza,” he says. “It’s something I’m really passionate about. If the right spot comes along in Chinatown we’ll open a pizza place. I think we deserve good pizza in Downtown LA.”