With A.O.C., which opened in 2002, chef Suzanne Goin and sommelier Caroline Styne have proven their uncanny ability to create not only an essential L.A. restaurant, but also one with true staying power. Although the Mediterranean-meets-Big Sur–style eatery moved to its present location (formerly the Joe Allen pub) in 2013, it feels as if it’s always been there, with pottery from the 1960s and ’70s, laurel trees, and creeping fig vines creating a warm, grounded atmosphere. But it’s Goin’s James Beard Award–winning finesse in the kitchen and Styne’s inspired wine menu that keep the place packed. Angelenos love to indulge in romantic dinners of seasonal small plates (ask for a table by a balcony in the wine room) or long lunches on the sun-dappled patio. The generous by-the-glass menu of biodynamic, sustainable, or organically farmed pours invites tasting and experimentation. If barman Christiaan is in the house, make sure to also try one of his intriguing cocktails—like Fire & Smoke, with mezcal, sweet wood, and chile
de arbol. Communal tables are popular, especially when there are bacon-wrapped dates on offer during the daily 5 to 7 p.m. cocktail hour.