The Best Restaurants in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, you’ll taste everything from modern food fusions to classic diners, roadside fruit stands, and global cuisine. Look to Beverly Hills for the A-List restaurants, and head downtown for a cheap, delicious meal from one of L.A.'s signature food trucks.
9043 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA
Kris Yenbamroong opened Night + Market (and its sister eateries, Night + Market Song and Night + Market Sahm) with no formal chef training. But Yenbamroong grew up in his family’s restaurant, and his Thai heritage is reflected in every dish on the menu, from the pork satay skewers to the larb gai. Night + Market has gotten nods from the James Beard Foundation and gained critical acclaim for its authenticity; a meal at any of its three outposts is an experience comparable, at least in taste, to eating at the many food stands lining the streets of Bangkok or Pak Kret.
2100 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA
The Mexican food at Guisados is great simply because it doesn’t try too hard. The owners, Armando de la Torre Sr. and Armando de la Torre Jr., aim to make every dish just how mom used to make it, and they succeed on every level. From humble beginnings in Boyle Heights to outposts in Echo Park, Downtown L.A., West Hollywood, Burbank, and a Koreatown location on the second floor of the Platform 35 food hall. Guisados has flourished thanks to handmade tortillas anchored by braised chicken breast, flank steak, or pork. The mole poblano taco is especially mouthwatering, and the quesadilla con chorizo is big enough to share—though you probably will want to keep it all to yourself.
720 N Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles, CA 90029, USA
Since opening as a preserves shop in 2011 (and adding breakfast and lunch service in 2012), Sqirl has become an East Hollywood staple. The tiny space—only 800 square feet—invites crowds of hip Angelenos looking for a bright space for all-day breakfast and brunch that’s carnivore-, vegetarian-, and vegan-friendly. There’s an airy outdoor patio where diners can take in the L.A. sun and sip on the fresh-squeezed juice of the day while ruminating over the eclectic menu. The buckwheat pancakes make for a great healthy unhealthy breakfast: They’re made with buckwheat and cactus flour, cocoa nibs, and toasted coconut, making them vegan, gluten-free, and not-so-sinfully delicious.
624 South La Brea Avenue
The largely French-inspired menu at Republique has more than a few surprises on it, like the generous selection of oysters and kanpachi crudo in Thai green curry and peanuts. The high ceilings, walls of windows, and loads of natural light make the atmosphere ideal, as the omnipresent line outside suggests. The grilled octopus salad—made with cabbage, Santa Barbara pistachios, chile, citrus, and lime—is a must. Brunch, however, is the real draw. The brioche French toast is doused in Vermont maple syrup; pupusas come with Oaxacan cheese, avocado, a fried egg, and roasted poblano; and the kimchi fried rice is dished up with beef short ribs and eggs.
863 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005, USA
Palsaik Samgyupsal, which means, “Eight Colors of Pork,” is a divine discovery for a bacon lover like myself. Seriously, what can be better than a restaurant that specializes in flavored bacon? You can’t help but salivate as marinated slices of pork sizzle and pop on the grill in front of you. The eight flavors—Original, Wine, Ginseng, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso Paste, and Red Pepper Paste—take your tastebuds on a delicious journey as K-Pop music videos play on flat screens in the background. There is always a crowd, so make sure to call ahead, get there early, and prepare yourself for a massive meal of meat and endless sides.
9149 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Like Five Guys in DC, Whataburger in Texas, and Shake Shack in NYC, In-N-Out is the West Coast burger joint for those in the know. It’s been a SoCal staple since it first opened in 1948 and has since developed a cult-like following throughout the Southwest. Order like a local off the not-so-secret-menu and either indulge with an “Animal Style” burger (extra pickles, extra spread, grilled onions and a mustard-fried patty) or pretend to be healthy with a “Protein Style” burger (gluten free with lettuce instead of a bun).
8350 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA
The bustling Joan’s on Third gourmet marketplace is a staple of the Los Angeles lunch scene. It is a revolving door of characters for which L.A. is known: celebrities, aspiring actresses, power moms, and entertainment industry executives. However, it also appeals to those simply with good taste, such as the 70-year-old man who has been lunching with his wife every day since Joan’s opened 14 years ago. While it can feel a bit chaotic with the buzz of the crowd and unintuitive layout, it is a place to experience Los Angeles at its finest and will be hard not to find yourself becoming a regular. Front and center upon entering is their artisan cheese bar, which makes for a perfect pit stop on the way to a dinner party. To the left is their New York deli-style salad and sandwich bar, which includes popular items like the Chinese chicken salad, apricot glazed ham & Brie sandwich, and short rib sandwich with melted Jack cheese, onion, and arugula. To the right are the sweets and snacks with a gelato bar and displays of their delicious pastries including the Nutella-filled ‘pop tart.’ You can order to-go or take your number, find a table and let the people-and-dog watching extravaganza unfold before your eyes. Hit the original on 3rd Street in West Hollywood or the newer outpost in Studio City.
Downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market has been operating in one capacity or another since 1917. Its past lives have seen it housing fish dealers, butchers, Jewish delis, flower shops, and an egg vendor. Nowadays, the market is a lunch and dinner hot spot nestled among skyscrapers full of white-collar workers. Inside, neon signs showcase the names of more than three dozen vendors. Highlights include the restaurant Eggslut, known for its creative approaches to the classic breakfast sandwich and other lunchtime edibles; Sticky Rice, serving Thai comfort food; and China Cafe, which locals just refer to as “the wonton soup place.”
Fusing the trends of sushi and build-your-own grain bowls, Sweetfin in Santa Monica, has created a customizable poke destination that is convenient, cost effective and creative at its core. The Hawaiian raw fish dish traditionally combines cubed tuna, rice, shoyu sauce, and veggies—but Sweetfin’s menu provides multiple ways to mix and match your fish of choice, base, add-ons, and sauce. You can start with a completely blank slate to create your own masterpiece, or, if options are overwhelming, you can begin with a pre-made signature bowl like the Mango Albacore with ponzu-lime sauce, macadamia nuts and ginger. Make sure to experiment with toppings including wasabi toasted coconut, charred habanero, and pickled shiitake mushrooms. No matter your choice, everything from the sauces to ice tea is homemade and gluten- and dairy-free, so you’ll feel as fresh as the nearby ocean breeze. Sweetfin started a poke revolution in L.A., and has since expanded on its OG Santa Monica location to Woodland Hills, Larchmont, Westwood, West Hollywood, DTLA, Silverlake, Venice Beach, and San Diego.
120 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
When 800 Degrees Pizzeria opened in the neighborhood of Westwood, there was a line out the door for days. Since then, the build-your-own-pizza place has expanded to other L.A. locations in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Downtown, Playa Vista, and LAX, as well as further afield to Las Vegas, Japan, Dubai, and Qatar. First, request your base and watch the assembly line spin raw dough into a pizza shape and make it saucy, then add your cheese. Next, pile on the toppings, wait a few minutes for the pie to come out of the oven (which is cranked up to—you guessed it—800 degrees), and enjoy. The Downtown and all new locations will be known as 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen to reflect its rotisserie chicken, porchetta, and other new menu items. With the menu expansion came some downsizing—the original Westwood location closed in 2018 when the space’s kitchen couldn’t support the pizzeria’s new offerings—but the close was short-lived, and the original location was back up and running again the next year.
114 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Located inside the rectory building of the former St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, Redbird pays homage to its historical walls by keeping decor simple and minimal. The patio outside was practically built for brunch, which features an impressively deep set of cocktail options alongside frittatas and ricotta-blueberry pancakes. The real draw of the place, though, is its fabulous dinner menu, which offers American-inspired dishes like California sea bass, Day Boat Scallops, and a thyme-heavy chicken potpie. The wine list is extensive when it comes to both bottles and sips by the glass, so follow your server’s lead when it comes to picking the perfect one for your meal.
5233 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
With a profusely sweating forehead, bright red face, and tears forming in the corner of his eyes, my guest continued to shovel chopsticks full of Crying Tiger Beef into his smiling mouth. The spicier the better at Jitlada, an authentic Southern Thai restaurant in an unassuming strip mall in Los Angeles’s Thai Town. To balance the heat, the Crispy Morning Glory Salad and Coco Mango Salad are just cool enough to give your mouth a reprieve. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Kua Kling, a turmeric dry curry pork dish that is one of the hottest items on the menu. No matter your tolerance for heat: make sure to have a Lassi, a traditional yogurt-based drink, next to you at all times to soothe any unexpected (but always to be expected) burn.
6602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038, USA
Servers, somms, and chef-owner Nancy Silverton all swirl around Osteria Mozza’s centerpiece Mozzarella Bar, where small dishes of freshly imported mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata are plated with pairings like bacon or braised leeks. With eyes closed, white-tablecloth diners attempt to fully savor each bite of cool, moist cheese before it melts in their mouths. These flavors are a tough act to follow, but the restaurant certainly steps up to the plate with signature meals like the Squid Ink Chittara Freddi with crab, sea urchin, and jalapeño. Just be sure to leave room for a rosemary olive oil cake for dessert: The eatery’s Dahlia Narvaez was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2016. Reservations at least one month out are recommended unless you have the flexibility to take a chance with a walk-in seat at the Mozzarella Bar itself—a one-of-a-kind experience.
25653 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, USA
There is no better reward after a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains or a bike ride up the coast than to stuff your face with fresh fish at the fishermen-owned Malibu Seafood. Your order will most certainly change as you pass the fish market case while moving up in line through the little beachside shack. The grilled fish (with two sides) and the clam chowder are personal favorites, but fried fish dishes with tartar sauce are a guilty pleasure. Whatever your order, the tiered deck and covered patio seating with ocean views won’t disappoint.
2121 E 7th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90021, USA
Husband-and-wife team Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menashe are behind Bestia, an Italian haven that consistently ranks high on local “best of” lists. The decor follows the name—which translates to “beast” in Italian—with its wall of weapons and meat-hook chandeliers. There’s no wrong choice on this menu, but the roasted marrow bone and alla ‘nduja pizza are favorites for first-timers. Without a reservation, expect to wait at least an hour, even on a weeknight. If you’re looking to dine in a big group or want a primo time slot (7 p.m. on a Saturday night, say), then you’ll need to plan ahead and make a reservation at least a month in advance.
6667 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA
This restaurant is such an institution that it predates the city’s most iconic landmark—the Hollywood sign. In a way, Hollywood was born in Musso & Frank’s red booths, back when the famed boulevard was still a dirt road. The restaurant opened in 1919, and much of the menu remains from the first chef, Frenchman Jean La Rue, who used to specially prepare fettuccini alfredo for silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Only two executive chefs have held the job since. Dinner dishes such as lobster thermidor and grenadine of beef take you back half a century, while chicken pot pie (on Thursdays only) and steaks, cooked on L.A.’s oldest open-fire grill, taste comfortingly familiar. Don’t miss brunch, which features Greta Garbo’s favorite Flannel Cake, a cross between a pancake and crepe invented by chef La Rue in the 1920s. In keeping with the authentic vintage spirit, martinis are strictly stirred—never shaken—and served with a mini glass sidecar containing the rest of the drink in its own tiny ice bucket. Pro tip: Order the off-menu slow-roasted prime rib, finished on the mesquite grill and served rare.
2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA
The strip of Sawtelle Boulevard between La Grange and Tennessee avenues is a hotbed of spots with unbelievable Asian cuisine, and Tsujita LA is no exception. The noodle house has two specialties: tsukemen and tonkotsu ramen. The former relies on a pork-bone soup that’s simmered for a very long time before the chef adds seafood for thickness and sweetness; diners dip noodles briefly into the strong broth and slurp them up. The latter is based on the ramen at Tanaka Shoten, a famous eatery in Tokyo. In both dishes, the broth is the star. It’s creamy and packed with flavor.
408 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
There is a first for everything and prior to dining at Bäco Mercat, I had never had spaghetti squash. Having tried it elsewhere since, I never want to have it anywhere else again. While spaghetti squash may not currently be on their rotating menu, there is no place you’d rather eat any of the seasonal ingredients that chef Josef Centeno decides to magically transform. The fresh veggie plates are great for sharing—and while their signature flatbread-meets-taco sandwich “bäcos” aren’t as easy to split, ordering a variety and trading bites is a great way to sample their diverse flavors. They put just as much care into their cocktails and their homemade vinegar-based sodas. Their savory tomato-basil soda was another tastebud “first” during my visit, and will certainly not be my last—especially because you can buy select flavors bottled to go.
267 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, USA
You can’t talk about cafés and coffee shops in Los Angeles without mentioning one of its most popular places: Urth Caffé. For an organic fix, there’s no better place. There are a number of locations throughout the city and in Orange County, including Santa Monica, Melrose, and Beverly Hills. With their trendy ambience and large outdoor patios, they are the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon, especially if you love herbal teas, organic coffee, and green-tea Americanos—and if you’re keen to spot celebrities around the metropolis. Aside from delicious drinks, they also have a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan food options.
8428 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069, USA
The flagship Alfred Coffee opened on picturesque Melrose Place in 2013. Since, the café has expanded to include locations in Brentwood and Silver Lake, as well as a Studio City location, an outpost in the hip Line Hotel in ever-evolving Koreatown, a tea room in West Hollywood, and a mini location just minutes from the original. Widely known for its relatable slogan, BUT FIRST, COFFEE, and its favorite menu item, the Ten Dollar Latte (retired earlier this year to make room for more oat milk lattes), the upscale shop is full of heavily Instagrammed areas, from the lettered decals to the modern and charming accent walls and artwork. There’s always a photo shoot or two going on here, but that doesn’t seem to bother the MacBook-armed freelancers and creative types who flock to the space for the Wi-Fi and matcha lattes on weekdays.
1050 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90015, USA
Chef Ray Garcia, a native Angeleno, is the chef and creative mind behind Broken Spanish, an upscale Mexican eatery in the heart of Downtown L.A. Here, the caracoles—snails—are slathered in mole verde and cooked with mushrooms and stinging nettles, and the result is a flavorful delight. There are also plenty of classic mainstays, such as a chile relleno, a quesadilla with oxtail and plantains, and a whole red snapper made with clams and avocado. The drink menu offers several options for mezcal-based cocktails (including one with caramelized pineapple and lime) as well as wines and Mexican beers.
176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA
Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant Spago is simple but delicious, serving classic California fare in a bright room of dark booths and white linen tablecloths. The seasonal dinner menu is split into three courses, plus a “From the Garden” selection of sides. Fresh fish and seafood—such as Spanish octopus in young coconut and crispy black bass—are heavily featured, as well as meats like rib eye cap steak and grilled rack of lamb. The California tasting menu is another option, and, at $145 per guest, presents a good deal for what you get: Spicy tuna tartare, grilled Wagyu beef, and handmade agnolotti are among the highlights.
516 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90020, USA
Few burger joints have a backstory as quintessentially L.A. as Monty’s Good Burger. Koreatown’s first all-vegan restaurant, the In-N-Out-style hole-in-the-wall serves Impossible burgers on vegan buns with lettuce, tomato, Follow Your Heart “cheese,” and a faux thousand island sauce, plus creamy shakes, loaded tots, and not-so-secret menu picks like Dog Pile loaded fries or tots (check their Instagram for the latest options). Before it was a bright blue exclamation point on the corner of Western and 5th, Monty’s was a Coachella food stall debut with a queue that gave founders Lexie Jiaras (USC class of 2017), Max Angles, and Dennis Gomez an idea. Now, Monty’s—named after Jiaras’ Maltese—is full steam ahead, with locations in Riverside and Echo Park and an Instagram following of over 100k. The food itself is especially tasty—if a bit pricey. But you pay for quality, and the locally sourced, organic ingredients deliver a cruelty-free burger that tastes pretty dang close to the real thing.
5359 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016, USA
Alta Adams’s executive chef Keith Corbin didn’t attend a culinary academy to earn his cooking stripes—instead, the Watts native spent hours on end whipping up dishes in prison while serving out a seven-year sentence for armed robbery. When he got out, Corbin entered the food scene with an entry-level job at Locol (Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s restaurant), where he quickly worked his way up and gained the attention of Patterson himself. Fast forward to October 2018, and Patterson and Corbin are cutting the ribbon on Alta Adams, a West Adams soul food restaurant with upscale eats for down-home prices. Where Locol failed, Alta (and the adjoining Adams Coffee Shop) aims to fit in amongst both the locals, with average incomes around $40,000 per year, and the Angelenos who travel from further afield. They’re off to a good start. Drip coffee at the adjoining cafe costs a mere $2 a cup, while cornbread off the “snacks” menu goes for $4.
220 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA
Known for its movie-themed decor and a selection of over 250 types of tequila, and beloved for its Mexican brunch, Casablanca Restaurant opened in 1980 with a menu of traditional and lesser-known Mexican entrees that it holds to this day. The family-owned space was the brainchild of Carlos Haro, Sr., who loved the movie Casablanca almost as much as he loved Mexican-style calamari steak. The restaurant has one of the largest collections of memorabilia from the film in the world, including a life-size statue of Humphrey Bogart. Haro’s son, Carlos Haro, Jr., runs the place these days, though not much has changed since the restaurant first opened almost 40 years ago. Come for Sunday brunch, where one price includes an entree (think enchiladas or fajitas), mimosas, and unlimited tortillas—handmade right in front of you.
512 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291, USA
“I am grateful” is just one of the ways you order lunch at Cafe Gratitude. “I am whole” is another; as is “I am glorious.” Every dish on the menu has a name like this, and whether you’re in the mood for gratitude (the community bowl with shredded kale, black beans, garlic tahini, and quinoa), wholeness (the macrobiotic bowl with braised butternut squash, adzuki beans, and sautéed greens), or glory (the blackened tempeh Caesar wrap), Cafe Gratitude guarantees your meal will be as much an experience in self-affirmation as a delicious jaunt into vegan fair. The Venice location is eclectic in patronage and airy in design, while the swanky Larchmont restaurant draws a more Hollywood cast of characters. Other locations include the Arts District, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, and a little further south in San Diego. For larger events, Cafe Gratitude can also be hired for catering services.
3361 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005, USA
Ask anyone who lives from Central L.A. to Downtown where to go for steak, and we bet they’ll all say the same: Taylor’s. The steakhouse has been operating in the Koreatown area of Central L.A., just a few miles west of Downtown, since the ‘50s. It’s won all the awards: Best Steakhouse in L.A. from almost every L.A. based news outlet, as well as coveted spots on must-eat lists in Eater and Bon Appetit. The menu is classic and no frills, and the affordable prices reflect a time before celebrity chef-driven restaurant concepts. Your choice is clear: Order the Taylor’s Special Steak, a grilled filet mignon that comes loaded with grilled sweet onions, and the French onion soup.
1850 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Retro diners from America’s golden years dot Los Angeles. Their original décor elicits nostalgic memories even in those too young to have them. A new wave of retro-inspired diners like 101 Coffee Shop, Fred 62 and Swingers have become staples for a younger generation but the classics like Apple Pan’s hamburgers (1947), Rae’s biscuits and gravy (1958), Brite Spot ‘s sweet potato fries (1949) and Pann’s fluffy biscuits on the route to/from LAX (1958) still reign. For tasty food almost any time of day or night, these spots are sure satiate, just make sure to also order a shake!
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA
I’ll never forget my first time trying avocado toast. It was at the West Side’s quintessential brunch spot, Gjelina, while sipping rose with friends on the cozy sun-soaked back patio. I moved to Venice Beach three months later and regularly return to this local vegetable-forward joint with visitors to enchant them with a memorable experience. Gjelina is such an iconic Venice Beach restaurant that it feels like set piece: communal tables, avocado toast, beautiful people, great pizza. With a menu of fresh oysters, seasonally-inspired pizzas, endless combinations of baked, poached, and scrambled eggs, Gjelina is an immediate delight.
3455 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034, USA
You’ll want to block off at least three hours of your day for a meal at n/naka, Los Angeles’s temple to the elaborate, multi-course traditional Japanese feast known as kaiseki. Chef-owner Niki Nakayama—one of the world’s few female kaiseki masters and a James Beard semifinalist—has created an intimate, authentically Japanese space for up to 26 guests to savor one of two 13-course tasting menus. In a serene setting of minimalist, hand-built furniture, the Japanese American chef serves up a parade of vibrantly colored, elaborately plated dishes, each made with hyper-local ingredients. A typical menu begins with a modern take on sashimi and then proceeds through a series of innovative vegetarian, fish, meat, and dessert courses. One stop-you-in-your-tracks favorite: the Shiizakana (which translates to “not bound by tradition, chef’s choice”), in which spaghettini is twirled with abalone, pickled cod roe, and Burgundy truffles. At the end of the meal, chef Nakayama and sous chef Carole Iida-Nakayama emerge from the kitchen to greet each diner. Pro tip: Plan ahead. A two- to three-month waiting list means you need to be flexible with early or late dinner times.
620 Santa Monica Boulevard
Chef Nyesha Arrington’s personality may have won her fans on Top Chef years back, but it’s her talent in the kitchen that shot her to success at various Michelin-starred restaurants. With Native, which opened in late 2017, she brings together Los Angeles’s diverse influences and cultures through food. Pastrami from local Langer’s deli inspired her roast duck breast with pastrami jus and marble rye tuile; her Wagyu beef tartare seasoned with Aisoon sauce was named for her Korean grandmother. Enthusiastic waiters—many of whom go the extra mile by getting to know diners by name—may suggest favorites such as chestnut spaghetti with shiitakes and burrata, or even a secret item like a super-tender steak when available. As with Arrington’s cuisine, the 95-seat restaurant is approachable yet elevated, with rich honey-hued wood, brass, and a touch of marble. Don’t miss weekend brunch for the crazy-sounding but addictive kimchi latkes, as well as the coconut brown butter pancakes. Pro tip: If you can’t make it for a sit-down dinner, come to bar during Community Hour, daily from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and ask for the off-menu burger along with your rum-based cocktail Right by the Beach, served in a coconut.
1147 3rd St, Santa Monica, CA 90403, USA
Tucked away on Third Street since 1979, Michael’s is arguably the best-kept secret in Santa Monica—a Cheers-like stalwart for locals, who return to proprietor Michael McCarty’s inviting restaurant and bar regularly. It hasn’t hurt that star chefs Jonathan Waxman, Nancy Silverton, Sang Yoon, and Mark Peel have all done time in the kitchen. Artwork by John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Cy Twombly set the backdrop for equally creative, flavor-packed masterpieces by the current chef Miles Thompson. Modern California-sourced dishes change seasonally, but octopus is a must-order. (If you’re lucky, Thompson will be serving his confit version with burnt butter and Sichuan peppercorn marshmallow.) A relaxed, jungle-like garden patio invites late-night lingering over a drink from the creative cocktail menu; be sure to try the popular Road to Kyushu, a mix of Japanese whiskey, kumquats, cloves, and barrel-aged bitters. Pro tip: For early birds, Michael’s lounge has probably the best happy hour in L.A.: a $1.79 cocktail from 5:30 to 6 p.m. (to honor its opening year), plus the signature barbecue aioli–topped Smash Burger available in limited numbers until 7 p.m.
3599 Hayden Avenue
Verspertine isn’t so much a restaurant as an experience—a collaboration between chef-owner Jordan Kahn and architect Eric Owen Moss. The futuristic four-level structure, wrapped in undulating steel with glass walls and minimal design elements, sets a dramatic stage for the art on the plates. The restaurant serves dinner only—and by reservation only. Pull up to valet parking and they already know who you are. Wait briefly on the garden’s heated benches for the elevator up, where chef Kahn—whose bona fides include French Laundry and Per Se—is the first to greet each guest by name. Tables seat four people at most, keeping things intimate for a sensorial multi-course meal that’s unique each night. Sculptural dishes could include delicate snowy white asparagus with sword fin squid and macadamia nut, or hirame (fish) served in a glittering black bowl that appears empty at first glance. (They do accommodate dietary restrictions and can offer modifications.) Essentially, get ready for a lot of surprises. One thing that doesn’t change: the layered, effects-heavy original score created by the band This Will Destroy You specifically for Vespertine. Pro tip: Opt for the I beverage pairing option (III features nonalcoholic juices and infusions), which offers a libation for each course.
8700 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA
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.
1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA
As the name suggests, the best way to experience this Abbot Kinney stalwart is to order the three- or five-course family-style tasting menu—never written and unique for each table. While James Beard finalist chef Casey Lane’s innovative, Mediterranean-influenced food is ever changing, certain recurring favorites include tagliarini with shrimp and serrano and or roasted branzino (with always-changing toppings). A pair of olive trees and candlelight soften the glass-walled main dining room, while in the humming bar, hip-hop or house music plays while patrons order cocktails off the chalkboard menu (ask for the Braveheart, featuring whiskey, ginger, and honey, or a spicy tequila Crazy Horse). Weekend brunch is a locals’ affair that can’t be missed, especially for the decadent waffles (sweet or savory) with “fried clucks” (chicken). Pro tip: Ask for mezzanine table 64 for the best sunset view, or in the summer, request one of the two outdoor tables for a date night.
5951 Melrose Avenue
Santa Barbara spot prawns roasted under a layer of salt. Nasturtium leaf tacos filled with scallop tartare. Gelée of littleneck clam and chorizo served in the clam shell. These are just a few of the delicacies guests might taste at chef-owner Michael Cimarusti’s seafood mecca Providence. This top Los Angeles chef is so masterful with unusual ingredients that he even serves a course inspired by his travels in Japan called the Ugly Bunch, transforming unattractive ingredients into a breathtaking plate. The game-changing chef is also the West Coast pioneer of Dock to Dish Los Angeles, a restaurant-supported fishery program promoting sustainably caught seafood. Naturally, the menu at this destination, decorated with driftwood chandeliers and ceramic barnacles, changes nightly and always includes three tasting menu options. Those in the know book the four-seat private chef’s table overlooking the kitchen for a special occasion, or go for Friday lunch, when they can enjoy chef Cimarusti’s skills in the light of day. Must-order: One of head bartender Kim Stodel’s “zero-waste” cocktails, like the Tom Kha curry–flavored Muay Thai creation, with a rum infusion made from lemongrass, ginger, and kaffir leaf leftover from the kitchen, and served with a biodegradable straw.