By now it's pretty clear that much of my travels are planned based solely on restaurants I love or am dying to try. Los Angeles is no exception: there is so much great food happening there now, and it's such a great break from the New York dining scene. Here, some of my most recent favorites.
2121 7th Place, Los Angeles
+1 213 514 5724
The space feels more NYC than LA with raw, industrial finishes a raw copper bar top. The food, though, by LA-born, Israeli-raised Ore Menashe is multi-regional rustic Italian. Standouts are the Slow Roasted Lamb Neck with Arugula, Hazelnuts, Pickled Fennel, Dill, Salsa Verde and Pomegranate and the Cavatelli alla Norcina: ricotta dumplings with house-made pork sausage, black truffles and Grana Padano. And if you’re into sweets, they come courtesy of Menashe’s wife, partner and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis and they are spectacular.
BLUE PLATE OYSTERETTE
1355 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
+ 1 310 576 3474
Oysters, oysters and more oysters. And steamers. And lobster tacos. And bouillabaisse. You get the idea – it’s the perfect lunch spot: across the street from the beach in Santa Monica, plenty of outdoor tables and plenty of rose.
*NOTE: The same group also owns Blue Plate (1415 Montana Avenue) and Blue Plate Taco (1515 Ocean Avenue). Equally as good comfort food and tacos, respectively.
1810 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
+ 1 310 394 5550
Capo is definitely on the fancier end of the dining spectrum, especially for Santa Monica, but the food - modern Italian - is as delicious as any I’ve had in Italy. Favorites are anything grilled in the fireplace and the pastas are perfection. The space, in a stand-alone house near the beach, is rustic yet elegant and the perfect place for a cozy dinner for two.
*NOTE: Dinner only
1314 7th Street, Santa Monica
+ 1 310 393 6699
Part French Brasserie, part Asian eatery, Cassia has been getting RAVE reviews across the board and for good reason. The menu is an eclectic mix of both countries: Chopped Escargot with Lemongrass Butter and Black Cod in Anchovy Broth, Chinese Romaine, Lychee Relish and Herb Salad are great examples of the perfect marriage of flavors and ideas.
CECCONIS WEST HOLLYWOOD
8764 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles
+ 1 310 432 2000
We ended up here because some members of our group who shall remain nameless refused to go to Sur, and this stand by is just across the street. Having been to the Miami outpost, we knew the Italian menu would be solid (go for the pizzas and the spicy whole chicken for two), but what I didn’t know was that the room would be so beautiful. Glowy, luxe and perfectly LA.
425 Washington Boulevard, Venice
+ 1 310 751 6794
We ate here on our first night in LA, and I have to say it set the bar REALLY high. A neighborhood restaurant, but so much more. The Chef, Josiah Citrin has two Michelin stars at his other restaurant Melisse, but at Charcoal the white tablecloths have been replaced with communal seating and family-style dining. The menu, which changes daily, is cooked almost exclusively over live fire, wood burning ovens, over charcoal, in the coals or in a Big Green Egg (get it? Charcoal). We ate the entire menu, literally, and while choosing favorites seems cruel and unusual, I would beg you to have the Cabbage Baked in the Embers, Yogurt, Sumac and Lemon Zest; the Smoked and Grilled Bone in Short Rib; the Beef Heart, Pickled Mustard Seed, Charred Celery, and Chives and the Aged Lamb Leg.
8221 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood
+ 323 848 5908
It’s not the food that’s memorable here. Yes, it’s fine, but the real deal is the patio at lunch with incredible views of LA, and more often than not, some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters.
FARMER'S MARKET AT THE GROVE
6333 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles
There are stalls upon stalls upon stalls of food vendors at The Farmer’s Market serving everything from pizza to kebabs. The two standouts for me, though, are these:
+ 1 323 930 2211
The fare here is genuine Mexican, but it’s far from typical. The entire menu is unique, but the stars of the show are the tacos, specifically the new-style chicharron en salsa verde: Pork Rinds stewed in a Spicy Tomatillo Sauce. Onion and Cilantro, Queso Fresco.
+ 1 323 761 7976
After you stuff yourself with tacos, you need something sweet to wash it all down, so walk over to Short Cake and order any of their sweets (I’m partial to the brownies). And their coffee is extraordinarily delicious.
1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice
+ 1 310 450 1429
Dark, moody, delicious and oh so hip, Gjelina serves the kind of food you want to go back for time and time again. For starters, the menu is huge (it’s also printed in the smallest font on the planet, so bring your readers), and incredibly varied. There's an entire section devoted to vegetables (all of which are elevated to be more than just vegetables), a large selection of charcuterie and cheeses, amazing wood fired pizzas and a great mix of small and large plates. The food tends towards New American with great combos (think Santa Barbara Uni with Horseradish, Chive, Lemon and Sea Salt or Heirloom Bean & Herb Stew with Freekah, Crispy Shallot & Tomatillo Salsa). Lines are long and tables hard to come by, so make sure to make a res beforehand or prepare to be relegated to standing against the back wall until you can grab a seat.
320 Sunset Avenue, Venice
+ 1 310 314 0320
Gjelina’s little sister, this counter-service only café / bakery / deli has some of the best and most inventive food I’ve ever had. Top of the list goes to the Bialy Egg Sandwich with breakfast sausage, fried egg, cheddar and harissa ketchup; followed by the Porchetta Melt, a porchetta laden baguette with rapini, onions and fontina; and the Banh Mi Americano, with paté, testa, pickled daikon-carrot-cucumber, cilantro, chili dressing and garlic aioli. Breakfast is served all day.
HINOKI & THE BIRD
10 Century Drive, Los Angeles
+ 1 310 552 1200
One of the things I love most about LA is the fact that some of the greatest restaurants are in the most unassuming places. Hinoki & the Bird is just that place: a fantastic travel-inspired eatery buried in the basement of a residential building in Century City. But don’t be fooled: the indoor/outdoor space will transport you, as will the food, which is Asian-inspired, super flavorful and light. The Hinoki scented Black Cod with Dashi and Shishito is a signature dish and shouldn’t be missed.
844 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach
+ 1 310 318 2939
We made the drive to Hermosa Beach simply because the Chef is the person responsible for ending the foie gras ban in the State of California, and anyone who has the balls to fight for foie gets our vote. What we found was surprising: a sort of sports bar meets fish shack on a non-descript stretch of Hermosa Avenue (although there’s a great tattoo parlor just next door). But the food – WOW. It’s all about the tacos (after the foie gras, of course) and what tacos they are! The menu includes over 50 choices, with plenty of standards mixed in with the much more adventurous such as The Hanukkah Taco (chicken, noodles, matzo balls and matzo), Fried Chicken (mashed potato, cornbread nuggets and gravy) or the Thai Pesto Cauliflower (roasted cauliflower, Thai basil pesto, peanuts and fresno chilis). It's well worth the drive and after lunch you can walk it off on th ebeach where you'll also see some killer beach volleyball.
1014 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica
+1 310 451 2311
Huckleberry Bakery & Café is owned by the same people behind Cassia and the food, while totally different, is just as good. This is the perfect spot for breakfast, although with limited seating and long lines, I’d advise getting there early. You can’t get much more California than the menu here, and it’s all clean, healthy and delicious without hitting you over the head with virtue. We had Green Eggs & Ham with prosciutto, pesto and arugula on a housemade english muffin, Brisket Hash with two sunny side up eggs and arugula, Poached Eggs over farmers’ market vegetables with pesto, and Quinoa with Farmers’ Market vegetables with two sunny side up eggs.
THE PENTHOUSE AT THE HUNTLEY HOTEL
1111 2nd Street, Santa Monica
+1 310 394 5454
I have no idea how the Huntley is as a hotel, but what I do know is that The Penthouse, the restaurant on the roof, is an excellent place for brunch. The food is good with all of the standard fare, but it’s the view that’s staggering. The hotel is probably the closest thing to a high rise Santa Monica has, and the dining room has views for days. Call ahead and ask for a booth overlooking the Pacific. I also hear it’s a fantastic spot for a sunset drink.
113 N. Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles
+1 (310) 274-8303
IVY AT THE SHORE
1535 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica
+1 310 393 3113
The Ivy is an LA institution. Long before I ever visited this city, I knew about The Ivy and it doesn’t disappoint. With a menu that runs the gamut from raw bar to my favorite grilled vegetable salad to ribs; from fish tacos to artichokes and pasta, it’s a little all over the place but the food is solid. It’s also THE place to see and be seen, especially on the terrace at lunch, which overlooks N. Robertson with all of its incredible shopping and people watching.
*NOTE: Don’t miss the outpost, Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica, with the same menu, floral-clad waiters and old school clientele.
1447 2nd Street, Santa Monica,
+1 310 747 6533
There are five locations around the city, but the one we ate at almost daily on our trip was in Santa Monica. Basically a Mexican-inspired diner, the menu is humongous and replete with every breakfast item you could EVER want (yes, they even offer s'mores pancakes). I’m partial to eggs in the morning and the huevos con pollo (with grilled chicken breast and salsa verde), is my idea of heaven. My other idea of heaven is having tater tots on the side.
246 26th Street, Santa Monica
+1 310 310 8064
8164 West 3rd Street, West Hollywood
+1 323 951 1210
Fantastic French Moroccan with two locations, and if you like a good Couscous Royale (with lamb, chicken and morgues), then you’ll love Little Door.
pier café: + 1 310 456 1112
restaurant: +1 310 456 8850
When you think about Malibu, this is probably what you picture: a perfectly laid back, casual, super healthy café perched on a pier in the Pacific Ocean. Malibu Farm is really just everything you want it to be. There’s the café with counter service only (burgers, salads) and a new restaurant that is far from formal, but has an expanded menu and table service.
22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
+1 310 317 9140
It’s Nobu so there’s no need to talk about the food, which while I love it, is still stuck in the 90s. What I do need to talk about is the location, which is maybe the most perfect I have ever seen. Super sleek and modern and literally on top of the ocean, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. I’ve heard it’s great for dinner, too, but my money is on lunch when you can sit in the sun, drink rosé and eat sushi until you burst.
The LINE Hotel
3515 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
+ 1 213 368 3030
Roy Choi is one of the LA cool kids, and all of his restaurants have an interesting edge to them. Pot, his newest in The Line Hotel, is yummy Korean, and based on – you guessed it – pots. They’re all great but my fave would have to be the Old School - marinated rib eye bulgogi, noodles, kimchi and scallion.
624 S La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
+1 310 362 6115
All I can say about this place is pan drippings. Seriously – you can order bread and the pan drippings from their incredible roast chicken. Please, just do it. And when you’re done, eat the chicken, too.
With 10 locations across the city, you’ll never have to go without the freshest sushi around. It’s Nowzawa-style, which means the preparation is based on a commitment to a number of principles:
• Quality starts with the best fish every morning.
• Simplicity and balance should be used to accent the flavor and texture of the fish. Sushi should not be stringy, chewy, tough, or fishy.
• Rice should be warm and loosely packed so it melts in the mouth
I kind of think ALL sushi restaurants should abide by these laws. Don’t you?
606 N Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywoo
+ 1 310 289 2824
As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t eat here. But I wish we had for obvious reasons.