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.

Alison's List

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 GabrielMian Restaurant (insane homemade Chinese noodles)



Related Destinations

Tennessee: Local Take with Eric and Mandee McNew of Knox Foodie

Photo credit: Don Dudenbostel

Photo credit: Don Dudenbostel

Daytripper travels to Knoxville, Tennessee with Eric and Mandee McNew of Knox Foodie, a website that chronicles their food adventures. The South is a hot culinary destination and here Eric shares his ideal day in his hometown. “Knoxville, known by its residents affectionately as “The Scruffy City”, is in the middle of a mini renaissance. The food scene has started to come into its own after a too long love affair with chain food. There are some big name newcomers, such as star chef Joseph Lenn, who after ten years at Blackberry Farm is opening his own restaurant. Knoxville just won a large grant to create new mountain bike trails, and the waterways are healthier than they have been for decades. The once scrappy downtown is now bustling with city dwellers. Knoxville makes a perfect spot for a long weekend or as an outpost while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just a few minutes away.”

Tripper Tips:

Eric and Mandee say…Downtown Knoxville's upscale, boutique hotel The Oliver lands you right in the middle of downtown within walking distance of many of my Knoxville highlights. If you're lucky, you can get a seat at the speakeasy inside the Oliver called The Peter Kern Library. Seating is quite limited and they do pick and choose who can go in, so be prepared to venture to one of the other fine beverage establishments if they are at capacity.

Splurge and stay at Blackberry Farm, 30 minutes away in Walland, set on a 4,200 acre ranch at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Check the schedule for special weekend events such as photography workshops, wellness weekends, food and wine experiences and concerts in the barn.

Morning Wander: Start your Saturday morning with a trip to the Market Square Farmer’s Market. From May until early November, farmers, artisans and food trucks take over the Market Square district of downtown Knoxville. Whether you’re looking for the freshest tomatoes, sweet corn, foraged mushrooms or Lambsquarter greens, you’ll find something interesting to fill your shopping bag. To fuel your day, you can grab a cup of pour-over coffee from Old City Java and grab a quick snack from one of the many fine food trucks. If you’re more health-conscious, Benefit Your Life has outstanding gluten-free munchies. Enjoy the talented buskers on every corner, and there’s a fountain fit to play in the square center. 

Breakfast: After getting your fill of shopping at the Farmer’s Market, walk a couple of blocks down to Central Street for a proper Southern breakfast, with a Latin flair at Olibea. Chef Jeff DeAlejandro’s small restaurant in the Old City district immediately became a landmark when it opened. The weekly torta, using vegetables available seasonally is a must! 

Get Moving: You will need some exercise once you’re finished with breakfast at Olibea!  An excellent choice would be exploring Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness at Ijams Nature Center. Enjoy the easy-to-walk 12 miles of trails at this 300-acre urban green space. Rent a canoe and float on Meads Quarry Lake, or bike the 9 miles of beginner to intermediate trails including a trip through the “Keyhole”, a large Tennessee Marble pathway that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Test your skills at the Ijam’s Canopy Zipline Experience, and the kids can explore the whimsical Jo’s Grove.

If Water Sports are More Your Thing: Kayak, canoe and stand up paddle board rentals are made available by River Sports Outfitters at ljams, the Cove in Farragut and their Sutherland Ave location. Knoxville is a town that loves the water so access is easy to find no matter where you are in town!

Lunch: Returning downtown, visit Holly’s 135 for a lunch fix. Chef Holly Hambright has brought her seductive flavors downtown to 135 Gay Street. Her weekend menu includes brunch sandwiches named after local friends, delicious curated cocktails, and a new addition of Italian favorites. Chef Holly’s other successful endeavors: Holly’s Eventful Dining (a catering company which frequently wins Best Catering awards in Knoxville), Holly’s Homberg (a weekday lunch and weekend dinner spot), and Holly’s Corner (a sandwich and soup lunch spot and music venue). 

Drink: In the afternoon, book a tour with Knox Brew Tours  to discover some of Knoxville’s established and up-and-coming breweries.  It’s a fun bus ride across the city on a 3 to 4 hour guided tour. Knoxville’s brewery scene is currently exploding with an expected 5 new breweries and at least one new distillery opening by the end of the year. There are flavors for any beer lover. There’s even a tour that lets you visit some of the not-yet-open breweries so you can taste beer that’s not yet available to the public! 

View: If you prefer something a little less boozy, head across Henley Street to World’s Fair Park (site of the 1982 World’s Fair) to check out the skyline from the observation deck of the Sunsphere and catch the latest exhibits at the Knoxville Museum of Art. There you will experience local, national and international art alike. 

Dinner: There’s a quaint little spot in the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood that’s a great place to unwind and enjoy unique Southern flavors. Chef Drew McDonald and his wife Bonni quietly opened The Plaid Apron in an almost hidden location and it has become a go-to spot for both dinner and their famous brunch. A new Monday tradition is their Fried Chicken and Champagne dinners. Each week Chef Drew uses locally provided vegetables to accent his delicious fried chicken thighs. Also look for specials like: Sheep’s Head with seared romanesco, fennel and charred carrots, the Mitchell Family farm ribeye, and the addictive southern club with chicken thigh, braised local collard greens, garlic aioli, and Benton’s bacon on a Ciabatta. Here’s a tip: their brunch burger may also be the best burger in town!

After Hours: Late night drinks abound in Knoxville. A solid choice, with a great mix of fans is the Public House. The friendly bartenders mix intricate cocktails using house made shrubs and tinctures. There’s also a varied selection of craft beer and an impressive list of liquors including the occasional appearance of Pappy Van Winkle. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, check to see if they are hosting one of their Sunday Suppers. During these occasional dinners, local invited chefs host a full family style dinner. The Public House offers a selection of gourmet hotdogs, (Try the Kim Chee Dog), charcuterie, and seasoned popcorn for when the late night munchies hit.

All Seasons: Knoxville continues to grow with more adventures on the horizon, but the annual traditions are still not to be missed. In the fall, be sure to head over to the University of Tennessee for tailgating and college football the Big Orange way. In the winter, Market Square turns into a winter wonderland complete with hot chocolate and ice-skating. You can also enjoy a trampoline adventure at several places around town. Be sure to visit often so you do not miss anything Knoxville has to offer!

Honorable Mention: There’s more good stuff to eat…

Bida Saigon, an out of the way Vietnamese restaurant that serves the city’s best Pho. Southern elegance comes at a price, but the Grill at Highland’s Row is perfect for a special occasion. Knox Mason – is a small upscale southern spot from a Blackberry Farm alumni, Chef Matt Gallaher. From his tiny kitchen, Gallaher produces some of the most unique offerings in town. Knox Mason shows up very frequently on lists of top restaurants in Knoxville. Prepare to wait for a seat, but it’s well worth the wait! It’s All So Yummy Cafe serves gourmet grilled cheese and homemade Hilton Head Ice Cream, on the West side of town. Dead End Barbecue, from local BBQ champs turned restaurateurs has two area locations offering traditional smoked meat and southern vegetables. 


Social: Follow Eric and Mandee’s food adventures in Knoxville and beyond @ and on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.