Vanderpump’s New Sandwich Shop Is One of Los Angeles’ Anticipated Openings

June 5, 2024
Dining & Wine
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The fans control everything in the “Vanderpump Rules” multiverse, and lately what the fans want are crisp, pressed turkey sandwiches and prebiotic sodas under the soft glow of shabby-chic chandeliers in West Hollywood.

Something About Her, a new sandwich shop from the Bravo stars Ariana Madix and Katie Maloney, is a two-hour drive from Kim Mykitta’s home in Huntington Beach, so she took the day off from work as a social media manager and copywriter to turn up on its first day of business.

Arriving an hour before the shop opened, Ms. Mykitta settled in as the 15th person in a line that grew steadily throughout the day, snaking down the block. And it wasn’t just a line, but a cultural phenomenon, tourist destination and social event covered in detailed play-by-plays in news stories, blog posts, podcast episodes and social media reels.

Ms. Mykitta runs Bravo Breaking News, an Instagram fan account that’s part of a complex cottage industry built around Bravo’s cultish reality shows and their stars. “We are die-hard and we are dedicated,” said Ms. Mykitta, who had been reporting on the ups and downs of the opening for about two years.

It might seem hard to square the devotion of these crowds with a restaurant industry in crisis. The Los Angeles Times called 2023 “the year that killed L.A. restaurants.” The article mentioned, among the dozens and dozens of notable departed, the closing of Jean-Georges Beverly Hills and three spots from the acclaimed restaurateur Nancy Silverton.

Though the restaurants of “Vanderpump Rules” aren’t immune to the soaring rents and inflating food and labor costs that bog things down, they double as set pieces where an extensive and powerful fandom can step right into the show and watch the heroes and villains of reality TV play out their biggest story lines.

The cable series just wrapped its 11th season, which brought in around a million viewers per episode during last year’s Hollywood writer strike. Celebrity chefs, even those with serious P.R. muscle, couldn’t dream of similar interest in the dreary details of their pre-service routines or point-of-sale systems.

I waited outside Something About Her over the weekend, along with mother-and-daughter pairs, groups of middle-aged women on brunch dates, young queer couples and several small dogs who seemed happy on the sun-warmed curb. Tourists were drawing up their restaurant itineraries in Los Angeles from places featured on the show — Sur, Jax’s Studio City, Schwartz & Sandy’s.

The question was, what to do between meals. “We could walk around Rodeo Drive and just … be poor?” said one visitor to her friends.

Around the time Something About Her was meant to open, a cook walked through the jasmine-lined alley to apologize: They were a bit short-staffed, and there would be a delay in opening the doors. Another 20 minutes, at least.

The line had been fairly patient and orderly, but now I expected mutiny or at the very least a bit of grumbling. Instead, a woman shouted with absolute sincerity, “Thank you for your service!” Even farther back in the line, I caught an encouraging, “Woo!”

Someone passed menus down from the front of the line. They included a letter from Ms. Madix and Ms. Maloney about how they wanted the place to be more than a sandwich shop. How they “might have been slightly delusional, dreaming of romantic lunches and whispered conversations that wove stories of empowerment and resilience.”

There was a cute, ’90s lilt to the ingredients, which featured sun-dried tomatoes and “rustic ciabatta.” And though sandwiches were described in what seemed like too much detail, with every ingredient listed down to the salt and pepper (“S&P”), this turned out to be useful later on when diners wanted to know what the green stuff was in “the Diane” (sunflower microgreens) or the sweet smudge in “the Viola” (balsamic onion marmalade) or the jam in “the Drew” (mango-jalapeño).

The Hollywood-adjacent sandwiches seemed named for movie stars and directors, though the connection to the contents of the sandwiches wasn’t immediately clear. The Nancy (Meyers?), a BLT on sourdough made with romaine, was crisp and toasted, pleasingly drippy and well-seasoned. Generously filled, but not to the point of becoming unmanageable, it was a perfectly good sandwich, though it’s fair to say no one would be waiting for it if Ms. Madix and Ms. Maloney weren’t behind it.

“Each restaurant represents the cast member who opens it, and its success is directly tied to fans’ opinions of them on the show,” Ms. Mykitta said. “The fandom right now is firmly on Team Katie and Ariana.”

Some of this loyalty can be traced back to “Scandoval.” About a year ago, the discovery that the “Vanderpump” cast member Tom Sandoval was cheating on his longtime girlfriend Ariana Madix with another cast member, Rachel Leviss, played out dramatically on “Vanderpump Rules,” and projected Mr. Sandoval as a national villain.

Scandoval also bumped the show’s ratings and shot its stars and their businesses to new levels of fame. In 2022, when Mr. Sandoval and his fellow cast member Tom Schwartz opened their Los Angeles bar Schwartz & Sandy’s, it was to much less fanfare. Post-Scandoval, fans called for a boycott, and theories about the bar’s various failures and possible demise are a major topic of conversation, both among fans and on official channels.

Many of the women who visited Something About Her were stepping into this snarl of a story line, showing support for Ms. Madix, who along with Ms. Maloney had been in and out of the shop since it opened, busing tables, rearranging the big patterned pillows that lined the benches and taking selfies with diners.

They weren’t just waiting for a sandwich, but for a chance to break the fourth wall over a passion-fruit-guava spritz — or three.

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