We’re just back from LA where in addition to stops at The Broad and the beach we ate, ate and then ate some more. LA is one of our favorite eating cities; restaurants are laid-back and creative, showcasing seasonal and local fare thanks to produce that is off the charts. LA reflects the rich cultural diversity of America, in the mood for Thai, Korean, Mexican, or Chinese—no problem! Like many food obsessed cities there’s always something new opening, but here’s a list to get you going with some of our favorites. As an added bonus, we asked our friend and local foodie guru Alison Dinerstein of Twist Your Spirits to share her favorite haunts listed below. Check out Twist Your Spirits artisan cocktail kits and be your own mixologist at home—just add your favorite spirit and some friends and you’ve got a party!
Bowl Food Nirvana: Breakfast at uber popular Sqirl is worth waking up for -- it’s best to go early, anyway, to avoid a long line, and be warned—you’ll want to order everything on the menu. On a non-descript street in Silver Lake, the space may be minimal but there’s nothing simple about the flavors of the food. Sure you’ll see the sorrel pesto rice bowl on everyone’s table, but we’re still dreaming of the chicken and rice porridge, and addictive, crispy rice salad. It was so good we ordered the cookbook as soon as we got home so we can recreate it all summer long. Oh and you need to get the ricotta toast with homemade jam, it may be an over order, but who cares you can skip lunch.
Better at Breakfast: Don’t get us wrong we love Republique at dinner, but with reservations hard to come by, breakfast works just fine for us. Order at the counter and grab a seat at one of the large communal tables where folks are digging in to shakshuka, mushroom toast, kimchi-fried rice or one of the excellent pastries. And can we talk about the bread--we would be happy with just a baguette and the Normandy butter, the best bread and butter anywhere. Republique is striking, especially during the day with the light streaming in.
Good Fellas: Everyone squeezes into the tight, narrow space at Jon and Vinnys - and they’re having a great time. And why not? Serving excellent pastas and delicious pizzas forget your diet for the night and dig in. Order their signature “LA Woman” pie and two orders of the meatballs. Served with garlic bread and a side of ricotta— it was the star of the night, even for a table of non-meatball fans. Jon and Vinnys is also a good idea at breakfast and lunch, and it’s easier to get in to. (From the team behind meat-centric Animal, another great dining choice.)
Italian Corner: Over on Highland and Melrose, there’s an Italian trifecta from Chefs Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali—casual Pizzeria Mozza, meat centric Chi Spacca and fine dining Osteria Mozza. We ate at Osteria Mozza known for its mozzarella bar, flavorful salads and great pastas. (Order the orecchiette with sausage) Don’t skip desert here-- Dahlia Narvaez won Outstanding Pastry Chef at the 2016 James Beard Awards—one bite of the huckleberry bombolini and you’ll know why.
Spicy: Night and Market is fun for addictive chicken wings and papaya salad unless you’re spice sensitive-- the thai food here is hot, as in spicy hot. (There’s also sibling Night and Market Song in Silver Lake) Jitaldia may be in a strip mall, but this southern-thai spot with an extensive menu is the real deal. Jitaldia doesn’t take reservations so go early or at lunchtime, if you don’t want to wait.
Downtown Smorgasbord: It was love at first sight for us at the historic Grand Central Market, a massive food hall and serious eating destination with overwhelmingly good choices. The only problem is deciding what to eat, from breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut, burgers at Bel Campo, falafel at Madcapra, smoked fish at Wexlers Deli, that street food at Sticky Rice or tacos at Tacos Tumbras A Tomas. Brand new from the owners of Republique, Sari, Sari Store is one to watch for Filipino comfort food—we expect his will be a new go-to in the market. Finish it all off with an excellent coffee at G & B Coffee.
Scenic: The waves are the soundtrack at stunner Nobu in Malibu where you could say the food, though excellent, is the supporting actor to the ocean setting. Go for lunch, sit on the patio and don’t forget your sunglasses. After lunch go for walk on the scenic Malibu Pier and watch the surfers. Malibu Farms, is a great healthy spot for salads and sandwiches on the pier, read more about it here.
Inventive: In a hip space in Koreatown, Heres Looking at You serves creative small plates made for sharing alongside delicious cocktails—take an uber and don’t drive. The Hamachi Collar with fuji apple, snake beans and Nashville Hot sauce demands a return visit on our next trip.
Local: Rose Café is the kind of place you wish you had in your neighborhood—it’s great at any time of the day—with friends, with kids, a date or even solo. This iconic Venice restaurant has been completely redone into a multi-concept eating venue. The large, eclectic space boasts a bakery, coffee bar, bar area, big open kitchens, plus two patio’s. The food is good, it wasn’t our best meal in LA, but we loved the space and the vibe, all in all a fun night.
Just Opened: From Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon, Cassia and Milo and Otis fame its no wonder Tallula’s, though new to the scene, is already packing in the crowds in Santa Monica. The menu reads Mexican modern with SoCal influences served up in a fun, beachy space. Leave room for Nathan’s desserts and definitely have one, or more, of the delicious cocktails.
Ethnic: Out scouting USC for Daytripper University we had lunch at Chichen Itza in the nearby Mercado la Paloma. There’s a reason locals rave about the pork and chicken pibil--its the kind of plate where everything speaks to each other in each bite—sweet plantains, black beans and oh so flavorful meat. The owners have just opened Holbox in the same market featuring raw and cooked Yucatan-style seafood, now there’s even more reason to go to the Mercado hungry.
Anytime of Day: From the first moment we walked into Gjusta we were smitten—the chic industrial space, the beautiful food displayed behind glass cases, the bakers at work. Gjusta is the younger sibling of one of our favorite restaurants in LA--and really anywhere else too—Gjelina. (Book well in advance for Gjelina) If we lived in LA you’d find us here a few times a week eating on the back patio or grabbing take out to bring home or to the beach. The breakfast Bialy sandwich is seriously addictive; loaded with egg, merguez sausage, arugula, gruyere and harissa--so good were still thinking of it while eating our grain free granola back home.
Pasta Master: Chef Evan Funke is back in action with hand rolled pastas at Felix in a Venice bungalow on Abbot Kinney. The centerpiece of this buzzing Italian is the climate controlled room where pastas are being made in front of you—this is cacio pepe heaven!
Fish, Fish, Fish: Connie and Ted’s is loud and bustling—with a New England menu of lobster rolls, clam chowder, grilled fish with herbs and a seafood boil that is summer in a bowl. It’s a fun, casual place for good reliable seafood and perfect for larger groups. Dig in to the Parker Rolls and order the calamari to start—trust me.
Word of Mouth: Everyone’s talking about Kismet, and for good reason. This all day, packed, minimalist spot in Los Feliz showcases a veggie heavy, Middle Eastern menu, from the team behind Madcapra. We don’t know about you but we are over avocado toast and the delicious broccoli toast is a welcome spin. You need to order the Persian cucumbers with lebneh and parsley seed za'atar-and the shakshuka-and the flaky bread. Better yet, go with a friend or two so you can share.
Salads: Joan’s on Third is great for breakfast and lunch with a side of good people watching. This is the space that I’m convinced Nancy Myers used as her inspiration for Meryl Streep’s gourmet kitchen shop in the movie ‘It’s complicated’. Come here for a quick bite—there’s an array of good sandwiches, veggie plates and salads. On a nice day sit outside before heading over to Melrose to shop.
Good Luck: Book way in advance at Bestia, located downtown in the hot arts district. The food is rustic Italian, the space is industrial, and the place is perennially packed-one of the hardest reservations in LA to get.
Ran Out of Time: We so wanted to try the bowls we’ve been seeing on Instagram at Baroo. And tacos at Guisados, Oaxacan food at Guelaguetza, and French-Asian fare at Cassia. We didn't have time to visit old favorites like Suzanne Goin’s Lucques or AOC, Italian classic Giorgio Baldi, or Spago in Beverly Hills. And, of course all the restaurants on Alison’s list below.
Los Angeles Favorites by Neighborhood from Alison of Twist Your Spirits
- Top Silverlake/Echo Park: Cafe Stella, Alimento, Botanica, , Ostrich Farm, Winsome, Sqirl
- KoreaTown(Ktown): Ham Ji Park, Le Comptoir, Here’s Looking at You
- West Hollywood/Hollywood: Papilles, Petit Trois, Nora, Jon and Vinnys, Gwen and Salt’s Cure, for brunch.
- Downtown: Bestia, Wurstkuche, Sushi Gen, Ka Ga Ya, Sushi Enya, Kozunori
- Santa Monica: Felix, Scopa
- San Gabriel—Mian Restaurant (insane homemade Chinese noodles)