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Best of 2013: The 55 best things we ate and drank this year

As 2013 draws to a close, indulge in this foodporn slideshow of some of the best things we ordered in Los Angeles restaurants.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The All-Star at Salt's Cure

The oatmeal griddle pancakes hold their own in this brunch-crazed town with its thick batter, slightly charred edges, cinnamon butter and dusting of powdered sugar. But why not fill up on the off-the-menu All-Star—house-cured bacon, homemade sausage, two eggs alongside two flapjacks. $15 —Katherine Kims

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Artichoke Oysters at Crossroads

If this is what vegan tastes like then we’ll happily take another order of these bites of artichoke purée, crispy oyster mushroom, yellow tomato sauce and kelp “caviar.” $10 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Banana Hammock at Pettycash Taquería

Julian Cox’s concoction starts with a rum blend mixed with banana infusion, lime, tamarind, cassia and garnished with a banana chip and umbrella that screams “staycation.” $10 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Pork and crab tang bao at Wang Xing Ji

Wang Xing Ji is the champion for tang bao, massive soup-filled dumpling from China’s coastal Jiangsu province. Like the xiao long bao, the soup-filled dumpling is pinched with crown of folds on top, but five times larger. Directions: Stick a straw into the leathery, flour wrapper and start sipping. Just be mindful of the soup—it can burn. $4.95 —Clarissa Wei

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Mint Cream Oreos at Sycamore Kitchen

What happens when the Thin Mint and Oreo have a love child? It grows up to be a not-too-sweet mint cream sandwiched between delicate chocolate shortbread cookies that make us feel like a kid again. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Burrata with Grilled Watermelon and Toasted Milk at Goldie's

Burrata is like ooey gooey, buttery mozzarella cheese. Top it on almost anything and it’s a no-brainer hit. Thomas Lim rethinks the cheese with grilled watermelon and crunchy toasted milk crumbs. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

China Doll at No Vacancy

Between the Old Hollywood charm and the all-star cast of barmen (Julian Cox, Marcos Tello, et al.) to fill the bill, it’s no wonder this Hollywood hideaway got our five star vote. Sean Hamilton creates this stunner that tastes as good as it looks: Gin, coconut-jasmine cream, jasmine water, lemon juice, egg white bring delicate aromatics to this foamy, coupe-glassed beauty. $11 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Chicken Tikka at Badmaash

The self-described Indian gastropub proves that fusion works. Case in point: Chicken tikka poutine. Masala-dusted fries are smothered in cheese curds, gravy, cilantro and chicken tikka for a combo that’s half Canadian, half Indian and totally delicious. $12 —KK

Photograph: Courtesy Melisse

Egg Caviar at Mélisse

The classic French Egg Royale gets the Josiah Citrin treatment with a soft-poached egg, American osetra caviar and a lemon-chive crème fraiche that throws some tang in the otherwise creamy/briny mix. When you reach your spoon into the eggshell in which it's served and mix all the flavors together, you'll instantly wish you ordered a dozen. $25 supplement to the $125 tasting menu —Jason Kessler

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Elote Especial at Tinga Tacos

Authentic? Not quite, but the taquería serves up a new-school corn off the cob of sweet, grilled kernels layered with lime, cotija cheese, chili powder and poblano purée. —KK

PhotographL: Jakob N. Layman

Almond capp at Go Get Em Tiger

True, almond milk cappuccinos are nothing novel in this town. But take a sweet, housemade variety; perfectly pulled espresso, a side of caffeine cheer, and you’ve got a game changer. $5.75 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Tasting menu at Alma

Chef Ari Taymor really is doing something special at Alma, his quiet, completely unassuming restaurant in Downtown where he’ll combine flavors of the season with the most unexpected ingredients — a roasted smoked duck that’s served with turnip, pear, peanut and coffee, say — and yet somehow does it without being either too heady or too intimidating. Alma recently switched to a prix-fixe menu format, and it’s really the best way to experience what a gem this restaurant is. $65. —Tien Nguyen

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

PB&J donut at C+M

PB&J donut. We’ll say that again: PB&J inside a donut. Yes, the childhood favorite meets everything-we-love-about-fried-dough to create this brilliant lovechild of housemade olallieberry jam and peanut butter with a brioche, sugar-raised donut hole. $3.50 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Six-taco sampler at Guisados

The Boyle Heights taquería opened a second location in Echo Park. Translation: More taco lovin’ to go around from cochinita pibil to mole poblano. The polyamorous can mix it up with a six-taco plate. $6.99 —KK

Photograph: Courtesy Providence

Uni Canapé at Providence

Chef Michael Cimarusti's menus change often, but if the “uni canapé” is around, make sure to snag it. A huge piece of ultra-fresh sea urchin is topped with a circle of black truffle, wrapped in lardo, and perched on a tiny slab of buttery focaccia. Available on the $190 tasting menu —JK

Photograph: Becky Reams

Oxtail agnolotti at Bestia

We can’t think of a better cold weather comfort than this pasta dish that fills cacao squares with braised oxtail finished with Grano Padano-butter sauce, pine nuts and currants. $22 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Dim sum at Ping Tung

Ping Tung is the answer to your ADD Asian-menu navigating. From sushi rolls and ramen to Taiwanese and Vietnamese, it’s all here. But point your attention to the lengthy dim sum options: steamed BBQ pork buns, crystal shrimp dumplings, radish cake—all tasty finds outside of the SGV. $4.95-$6.95 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Old Fashioned at Sayers Club Front Room

This new front bar annex to the staple music venue is churning out some impressive cocktails—probably some of the best for such an establishment and the staff whips up a hell of an Old Fashioned with Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whiskey, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, along with some lemon and orange oil, which contributes to a pleasant olfactory experience—all stirred in a rocks glass for your sipping pleasure. $15 —Jonathan Cristaldi

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Pig Ear Nachos at Pettycash Taquería

Some may say they wouldn’t eat pig ears, but haters can’t deny the crisp, chewy strips of the pig part that elevates this gussied-up plate of housemade tortilla chips, Monterey Jack, chile crema, cilantro and soft-cooked egg. $12 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Langostinos at Coni’Seafood

Connie Cossio and chef Sergio Penuelas, who hail from Nayarit and Sinaloa, respectively, have managed to turn sea-blue Coni’Seafood into an oceanic destination. People know about their pescado zarandeado, but another standout dish stars sweet langoustines, which bathe in garlic, chiles, lemon juice and, if you’re lucky, roe. $20 —Joshua Lurie


Photograph: Becky Reams

Crostata al Cioccolato e Caramello Salato at Bestia

We fell in love with this best new restaurant contender that wowed with its pastas, pizzas and all things meat. But Genevieve Gergis stole our hearts with her chocolate tart: Valrhona chocolate budino, salted caramel, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Swoon. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Clams Casino at Littlefork

2013 was a big year for seafood, namely clams. The salty bivalves were served raw on the half shell, breaded and fried, steamed and boiled in chowder. We’d do it again in ’14 if we can get them stuffed with cracker crumbs and bacon and baked. —KK

Photograph: Dan Oliver

Bone-In Rib-eye at Mastro's Steakhouse

Mastro's may be multiplying around the country, but the quality of their aged prime beef remains the same. The bone-in rib-eye is broiled at a blazing 1,200 degrees and topped with a little clarified butter before arriving at your table on a 400 degree plate to prove that there's nothing more beautiful than a giant hunk of meat sizzling on a plate. $44.95 —JK

Photograph: Becky Reams

The Daily Punch at The Black Cat

Be surprised. The Daily Punch at this Silver Lake haunt is true to its moniker and changes with the hours of time: maybe there’s a vodka base with rum, citrus and bubbly or perhaps it’s tequila with tropical juices and spice. You won’t be disappointed and who doesn’t love a good punch in the old palate? $5. —JC

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Tex-Mex Queso at Bar Amá

Chef about town (namely Downtown), Josef Centeno, schooled Angelenos on Tex-Mex. His version of chile con queso melds five cheeses into a velvety, molten dip crowned with avocado, sour cream and salsa. It’s How to Please a Crowd 101. $9 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Affettati Misti at Chi Spacca

The star (and what started it all) of this meat-centric Mozza child is the salumi. And why wouldn’t it be? With LA’s first certified dry-cure program, Chad Colby shows his meat skills with this board of patés, salami, lonzino and capocollo. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Bubble tea at Coco Fresh Tea & Juice

Bubble tea has upped its game and is making a comeback. Boba 2.0 goes beyond the usual milk tea and tapioca pearls at this Taiwanese chain that use teas brewed every other hour, freshly squeezed fruit juices and housemade jellies. Cue the balls jokes. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hui Tou pot stickers at Hui Tou Xiang

Hui tou means "to return" in Mandarin and that’s exactly what you'll do at this family-run hole-in-the-wall. A unique take on the average crispy dumpling, the hui tou pot stickers are stuffed with generous helping of meat—choose pork or beef—and pan-fried on all four sides. $6.95 —CW

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Twiggy at The Pikey

Ivy Leaguers have a place to call home here and there’s a perfect drink for your date, which you’ll order without hesitation (don’t even let your date see the menu, just act like you own the joint). For this quaff Bombay Gin, Aperol and St. Germain is topped off with Champagne. Try out a British accent (why not?) demanding that they “not be shy with the bubbly.” $13. —JC

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Carnitas de pato at CaCao Mexicatessen

There are several wonderful tacos at Eagle Rock's Cacao Mexicatessen, but our favorite is the deeply flavorful carnitas de pato (duck confit) taco in which the confit is topped with radishes, pickled onions, avocado and a drizzle of chili oil, then served on a terrific homemade tortilla. $4.25. —TN

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Crab xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung

Los Angeles definitely doesn’t have a shortage in soup dumplings, but Din Tai Fung is really the gold standard of the xiao long bao. The ever-so-popular outpost in Glendale and Arcadia lives up to the hype. Each soup dumpling is meticulously made—the elastic skin is paper thin but resilient enough to hold a small pocket of soup plus minced pork and crab and soak up its flavors. $9 for 10 —CW

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Farmers market-driven tacos from Guerrilla Tacos

Wes Avila's resume includes long stints at various fine dining restaurants around town, so maybe it's not a surprise to find that the tacos he serves out of his Guerrilla Tacos truck are filled with the sort of ingredients you'd expect to find at your local farm-to-table restaurant — things like cremini mushrooms, braised lamb, live uni. The menu follows the season and thus changes weekly, and seeing what he does with what he finds is half the fun: Avila really knows his way around these ingredients, and the results are consistently fantastic. $5-$7. —TN

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Hit & Run at The Hudson

A recent tequila and mescal craze has shaped many a drink in LA and peppery infusions are par for the course with these spirits. One of the best serrano infusions came to us from The Hudson’s Hit & Run cocktail, though the drink is seasonal and at the time of this writing a similar concoction called The 8 Track offers serrano infused Milagro, silver tequila, yellow chartreuse lime, agave and cucumber—if it’s anything like the Hit & Run, there’s just enough fire and smoke to make things exciting. $11/Seasonal. —JC

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Khai Mun Gai at Sticky Rice

This Thai version of Hainan chicken rice gets a double dose of schmaltz: The garlic-infused rice as well as the accompanying consommé get a hit of chicken fat to perfect this comfort dish. $9 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Fish Taco at Tacos Punta Cabras

We’re just going to come out and say it: The best fish tacos in LA aren’t Ricky’s Fish Tacos…and it’s in—gasp—the Westside. This Santa Monica newcomer dishes out damn good Baja-style seafood tacos. We’re partial to the fish tacos and prefer ours battered gluten-free for a light, crispy bite topped with cabbage slaw and tangy lime vinaigrette. $3.50 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Chocolate pretzel challah at Got Kosher?

This isn’t just challah, it’s slightly salty pretzel challah spiked with chocolate chunks. Amen. —KK

Photo courtesy Valerie at Grand Central Market

Chasen’s Banana Shortcake at Valerie Confections

Valerie Gordon takes a cue from the Old Hollywood hangout, Chasen’s, for this multi-layered cake dolled up with banana slices, whipped cream, rum-infused shortcake, banana sauce and hot fudge. $6 a slice, $45 for 9-inch cake. —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Chashu Hash Skillet at Jist Café

Breakfast just got a little more…Asian. Breakfast potatoes meet pork belly chashu in this hearty hybrid. And what would breakfast be without eggs? Two 6-minute eggs round out the skillet-cooked hash. $11 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Bramble at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge

Giovanni Martinez has served as the brand ambassador for Chivas Regal and is the resident mixologist at Sadie Kitchen and Lounge. He’s the guy you want behind the bar if you’re having a bad night because he’s a great conversationalist and will help elevate your mood. His Bramble concoction does just that—a refreshing mix of Bombay gin, fresh lemon juice, crème de mure and fresh blackberries, it is sure to please. $12. —JC

Photograph: Benny Haddad

Tsukemen at Tsujita

Once you have the tsukemen at Tsujita, it’ll be hard to have it anywhere else: Simply, there is no other ramen joint in town that makes tsukemen as good as Tsujita. Served only at lunchtime, the stock here is simmered for some 60 hours, yielding a fantastic, deeply porky broth. $9.95-$13.95 —TN

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Monkey Bread at Salt Air

What is monkey bread? The cinnamon-sugar, pull-apart cake turns up at Abbot Kinney’s latest restaurant, where balls of puff pastry are coated in a slightly crunchy, raisin-pecan toffee and plated on a pool of crème anglaise. It’s one dangerously good dessert that doesn’t mess around. $8 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Heller Moritz from The Know Where Bar  

We’ve been telling everyone that a drink was named after our favorite Jewish uncle, the old timer Heller Moritz, who happened to play a mean banjo. It’s all a lie of course, but the drink itself, Hefeweizen, topped with sparkling wine, garnished with a slice of lemon, is refreshing and may inspire your to take up the banjo just because it has that rough-around-the-edges feel. $7 —JC

Photograph: Ryan Tanaka

Pasta at Bucato

We haven’t met a pasta we didn’t like at this Helms Bakery gem. From ravioli to pappardelle, we’d happily break our diet here. For the indecisive, here’s a word of advice: Evan Funke has a way with ragús—lamb or duck, pork or rabbit, all are tender, flavorful and coat glorious al dente noodles. Carbs be damned. $13-$15 —KK

Photograph: Courtesy LifeFood Organic

Super Smoothie at LifeFood Organic

Raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, avocado, kale, walnuts, agave, bee pollen, spirulina, hemp protein, coconut oil, Celtic sea salt, tastes as delicious as it all does a body good. $8 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Clam, bacon and potato pizza at the Doughroom

There are some timeless combinations that never fail—PB&J, ham & cheese, milk & cookies. And the Palms newbie doesn’t mess with a good thing. Clams and pork (as in house-cured bacon) unite on a—wait for it—pizza. Add sliced potatoes, chili and a squeeze of lemon on this white pie and you’ve got an instant hit. $15 —KK

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Xiao Long Bao at ROC Kitchen

Finally, Westsiders can stay on their side of the 405 for xiao long bao aka soup dumplings. And this Sawtelle Blvd spot is as good as any in the 626. Shrimp, pork, lobster, crab or chicken—just bite, slurp, eat, and repeat. $9.25 for 8 pieces —KK

Photograph: VIctor Leung

Chirashi sushi at Spago of Beverly Hills

In a town filled with Japanese sushi masters, sometimes you have to trust an Austrian to get it right. That's the case with Wolfgang Puck's chirashi sushi, a beautifully refined box of fresh fish and rice showing off perfect cuts of blue fin tuna, hamachi, and uni accented by burst-in-your-mouth salmon roe. $21 —JK

Photograph: Courtesy Big Bar

Full Monty Smash from Big Bar within Alcove Café and Bakery

We are living in a cocktail world that is going through another Sherry renaissance, and the Full Monty Smash, a product of much experimentation, is your key to one of the best-made Sherry cocktails in Tinseltown. Amontillado Sherry, Galliano Ristretto, lemon and mint provide an aromatic backdrop that seems almost medicinal, and seems like something one should drink every night, just before bed. $12 —JC

Photograph: Christine Ver

Congee at Delicious Food Corner

The Chinese translation of this SGV restaurant is yuanwei dian, meaning "authentic diner." And the name is spot-on: The menu selections at this no-frills Cantonese eatery are truly reminiscent of the morning fare in Hong Kong. Be prepared to wait in line for star dishes such as the congee, mixed with hefty pieces of chicken and abalone. $8.50 —CW

Photograph: Victor Leung

Hainan chicken at Savoy Kitchen

There are only a couple of tables at Savoy but if you've managed to squeeze in, order the Hainan chicken rice. It’s an all-white-meat poached poultry platter served with three dipping sauces (ginger-scallion, garlic-chili and dark soy) over a large serving of oily rice. Add an extra two dollars for dark meat. $5.75 —CW

Photograph: Courtesy Lawry's the Prime Rib

The Beef Bowl Cut at Lawry's the Prime Rib

If you're already launching a cholesterol assault by ordering prime rib, why not go for the biggest cut out there? The Beef Bowl Cut is 24oz. of carnivorous glory and started as a Rose Bowl tradition before finding it's way onto the regular menu for all to enjoy. $55 —JK

Photograph: Courtesy Lock & Key

The Torpedo at Lock & Key

There are times when you feel like being obnoxious—like around the holidays because your bonus check arrived just in time, covering the cost of the deposit you put down for that in-ground pool you’ve always wanted. And the best way to celebrate is with The Torpedo (you are encouraged to shout “bomb’s away” when taking the first sip), which offers a luscious explosion of pear vodka, pear nectar, balanced by lemon juice, egg whites, maple syrup, fresh ginger juice, black pepper and droplets of toasted sesame seed oil that add nutty complexity and a savory surprise. Just keep calm until you get through Lock & Key’s foyer or you may be denied entry. $12 —JC

Photograph: Victor Leung

Bento box at Restaurant Aoi

Restaurant Aoi is one of the few remaining mom-and-pop restaurants in Little Tokyo, a lovely, relentlessly friendly spot that's worth a visit for its great bento box. The set meal includes rice, a few pieces of the restaurant's fantastic tempura, fresh sashimi and thick slices of eggplant sticky in a sesame-miso sauce. It's a perfect lunch. $12.95 —TN

Photograph: Ryan Tanaka

Pacu ribs at Paiche

Ricardo Zarate’s newest Peruvian outpost pays tribute to the Amazonian fish, Paiche. Paiche lettuce wrap, paiche tiradito, paiche stew…you get the idea. But our favorite way to enjoy another Amazonian creature, pacu, is the ribs: meaty white fish glazed with a sweet lime miso and grilled to a perfect crisp. $12 —KK

Photograph: Victor Leung

Mentai Squid Butter Udon at Marugame Monzo

You’ll find some of the best udon at this Little Tokyo newcomer where housemade noodles are made and cut by hand. While traditional hot and cold bowls are on the menu, we’re going Italian with thick, chewy “pasta” slathered in buttery cod roe sauce and slices of squid and nori. —TN

Get your foodporn fix with our picks of the best of 2013 in food and drink. Our food and drink critics pick their favorite dishes and drinks from the best restaurants and bars in LA, plus vegetarian, ethnic and cheap spots. Click through the slideshow to see the top 55 mouth-watering things we tried in 2013 and start the new year by tasting some of our picks.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best things to do in Los Angeles

Featured food

Salt's Cure

Critics' pick

The idea behind Salt’s Cure is a noble one: every meal is made from ingredients grown and raised in California, all of which are carefully butchered and crafted in-house. And it's not just a tagline here; it's a way of life for the young chef/owners. The challenge of being so noble and sticking to their guns is that the menu ends up being extremely limited. But for the most part, that's a glass half full because the restaurant is so tiny. Really, it's just a kitchen closet with a few tables and chairs gathered around the grill. You can always count on a great burger. And there's almost always a good steak of some sort. Black kale, mashed potatoes, grilled corn...you almost expect to see an old red farm truck parked out front. It's best to get there early because the dish you really want will surely sell out before the night is over.

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West Hollywood


Simply put, Crossroads is a high-end vegan restaurant for carnivores. Plant-based chef to the stars Tal Ronnen—he counts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres as clients—is reinventing meat-free meals with flavorful and imaginative dishes that are reasonably priced and served in a cozy, white-tablecloth Melrose Avenue dining room that have been drawing in a surprisingly older, suit-clad crowd. Grab one of the comfy round booths and start with one of the signature small plates: Artichoke oysters ($8) layer five artichoke leaves with pureed artichoke, a fried oyster mushroom, kelp caviar and a drizzle of yellow Bearnaise, and crumbly rounds of "crab cakes" ($10) are packed with diced hearts of palm, apples and beets. Do they taste like the real thing? Not exactly, but the dishes are fun, flavorful and pair well with the seasonal list of well-made libations mixed with ingredients such as Sriracha bitters and passion fruit. Both the thinly shredded sweet and tangy kale salad flecked with currants and pine nuts ($6) and the Farinatta ($10), an arugula salad dressed with a sun-dried tomato pesto over a thin earthy and umami-rich pancake made from chickpea flour and roasted wild mushrooms, are standout plates. For a more substantial dish, try the lasagna ($14) made with layers of slightly overcooked noodles, creamy almond ricotta cheese, and a faux tomato marinara doctored with wheat protein that could have benefitted from an extra pinch of salt.   Vitals What to eat: Chef Ronnen explai

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.


When you first step into Goldie's, you can’t help but love the space: A raised garage door separates a lovely patio from the pretty interior dining room, and, as is for farm-to-table restaurants these days, there’s lots of wood. Both inside and out, you’ll find wood panels, wood shelves, wood tables, even neat stacks of logs shelved in a back wall, as if you were in the middle of Iowa preparing for the winter rather than the middle of LA perusing a distinctly Californian-style menu. The fare here is both expected and not: There's the almost obligatory kale salad ($12), but also burrata with cubes of watermelon grilled just enough and toasted milk powder that lends a welcome crunch ($14). Some flavors, though, like the roasted carrots with buttermilk and spiced pistachio ($10), don’t quite come together; still, you appreciate the effort. The bigger downside, really, is the price: While plates can be comfortably shared by two, you'll have to order at least four to feel sated. And that can add up. Vitals Eat this: The menu is separated into four sections, Raw, Veg, Small Plates and Large Plates, and you’ll do well to order one from each section. The sea bass ($24) and other seafood choices are strong, and grilled dishes take advantage of the kitchen’s wood and coal-burning oven. Drink this: Goldie’s has a very well-stocked bar with excellent cocktails, several of which follow the season as faithfully as the food fare. Try the Battery Park ($14), a sort-of Old Fashioned made with

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.


Critics' pick

DTLA's newest culinary concept is a family affair with father-son team chef Pawan and Nakul Mahendro' mash up of old and new, traditional and modern, East and West at this Indian gastropub. A welcome change to Downtown and the growing intersection of 2nd and Main streets, traditional and updated Indian street foods and favorites are served in a design-forward space. White tiles and black chalkboard walls meet color block banquettes and a central art piece inspired by the colors, while vintage Bollywood posters and aluminum tumblers straight from the motherland add authentic flair. Sit at the bar, upstairs or along the sidewalk and take in the Bollywood movies projected on the wall as small plates arrive at the table. Start with street cart classics such as addictive 2-Bite Fish Fry ($9); crunchy papri chaat chips($7) served with masala-flavored potato and chickpeas, yogurt and tamarind and mint chutneys; or fried samosas—choose traditional potato and peas and not-so-traditonal short rib and pineapple. Beef eaters can fill up on the Badmaash Burger ($11) gussied up with mango jam and spiced mayo on a brioche bun and Holy Cow! Keema Pow ($10) of beef, pea, tomato stew served with mini brioche buns, while old schoolers can opt for butter chicken ($12), good ol' saag paneer ($11) and tandoori oven faves like naan ($3) and Badass Chicken Tikka ($12). Thirsty? New World wines by the glass and bottle and a limited, yet impressive, selection of CA-local beers by the bottle and can. T

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Tinga Santa Monica

Review When the "artisan taquería" Tinga opened in a tiny space on La Brea in 2010, it was an interesting distraction from the street tacos reigning supreme at that moment: Tinga’s tacos were unabashedly more refined, upscale and cheesier than almost anything off the most popular trucks, with the prices to match. Three years later, Tinga's expression of the taco has not only persisted, but it also has just expanded westward. Tinga's Santa Monica outpost is a sprawling, multi-room funhouse: There's a bar everywhere you turn (three in total), all of which flank a beautiful courtyard that makes for great patio dining. As for the food, the tinga here ($7.75 for two) doesn't quite match the intensely flavorful version at Guisados, and the tacos al pastor de Jerry ($8.75 for two)—named after chef Jerry Baker, pineapple-marinated pork is topped with pineapple-lime salsa and Scotch bonnet peppers—won’t replace your love of Leo's. But that's almost all besides the point: When the atmosphere of a parking lot won't do, Tinga fills in nicely, especially on a side of town that could use more great taquerias, artisan or otherwise.   Vitals Eat this: In addition to tacos, try the Elote Especial ($5.25), a take on the classic Mexican-style corn, with grilled sweet corn off the cob, a kick of lime, crema, chili and poblano purée. Drink this: With three well-stocked bars, there’s everything here from frozen margaritas—try the Dirty Hor-chata, spiked with espresso and rum ($10)—to creative cock

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Santa Monica

Sycamore Kitchen

Karen Hatfield follows up her fine dining Hatfield's with a casual bakery and cafe that serves the breakfast and lunch crowd with morning pastries and sandwiches all on housemade bread. Order at the register and take a seat at the lofty outdoor patio. Late afternoon sweet seekers—the sticky bun is a must—are rewarded with pastries that are half off at 4:30pm.

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Los Angeles


Critics' pick

Alma is small restaurant next to a big strip club, down the street from the future location of the Ace Hotel and, with it, the continuation of the so-called revitalization of the Broadway Corridor. And that, in a nutshell, is Alma: On the cusp of today and tomorrow, it's not so much the restaurant of the moment as it is likely a restaurant of the near future when farm-to-table will be less a concept and more a reflex, the response to 2012's excesses—fried bacon, fried Brussels sprouts, et al.—will be thoughtful restraint and diners will be equally wowed by smoked duck breast as by crisp pears and sprouted peanuts that accompany it. Chef Ari Taymor combines hyper-seasonality with almost confounding modernism that may look odd on paper but works startlingly well in execution: That duck, for example, is finished with a small cupful of coffee, poured over the dish at the table. You might look on skeptically as coffee and duck fat swirl together, but you'll give it a go and take a bite. Time will stop as you try to decipher exactly what astounding flavors you're tasting. You'll figure it out: It tastes like 2013. Vitals Eat This: Alma's short menu is extremely dependent on the season and what obscure ingredients the restaurant may unearth, so the kohlrabi that accompanies tonight's hanger steak ($26) may be replaced by another vegetable from the cabbage family next week. That said, start with the airy chicken liver mousse ($9), served with toasts slathered with a subtly sweet date

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The Boyle Heights taco institution, Guisados, launches into the new year with a second taqueria in Echo Park. Handmade tortillas are made to-order and filled with the house signature (hence, its namesake) braised goodness. Snag a table on the outdoor patio or sit inside to watch the kitchen in action as you dig into the mouthwatering tacos ($2.50)—we like the moist tinga de pollo, rich and juicy mole poblano and flavorful cochinita pibil topped with spicy red onions—washed down with refreshingly tart jamaica aqua fresca or creamy, spiced horchata. Can’t decide what to order? The six-taco sampler ($6.99) offers two-bite tastes, while spice fanatics can’t miss the chiles torreados—it’s muy caliente.

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Echo Park


Very few restaurants aim for, little less achieve, the level of grace exhibited nightly at Providence. While this hushed, white-tablecloth restaurant is based around seafood, it’s really much more than a fish palace. It’s one of the finest restaurants on the West Coast. Fish just happens to be its primary muse—from farm-raised sustainable caviar to Dungeness crab, Maine lobster, abalone, geoduck clams, Spanish octopus, Santa Barbara spot prawns and wild, line-caught Atlantic striped bass. The lobsters are strictly females weighing in at precisely one and a half pounds, because chef Michael Cimarusti is just that sort of perfectionist. There’s always a prime rib-eye steak or an incredible milk-fed veal thrown into the mix as well. Bonus: Providence serves lunch only on Fridays, and it’s one of those Champagne lunches you’ll be reminiscing about for the rest of the year.

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Los Angeles


Critics' pick

Don’t try to walk into Bestia without a reservation. As the most talked about (and as a result, packed) restaurant at the moment, securing a table at least a week in advance is a good idea. And even then, you might have to wait for a table.  The up side: The bar is a happening place to be not only for dinner but also for drinks with mixologist Julian Cox behind the seasonal libations. It seems like most everything that restaurateur Bill Chait touches turns to gold—places like Sotto, Picca and Short Order, and, now, Bestia, another white-hot hit. Ori Menashe, a longtime Angelini Osteria chef, is the brains behind Bestia’s thoughtful, ingredient-driven Italian menu that doesn’t shy too far away from California. Menashe’s house-cured salumi is superb, especially atop a puffy pizza with ricotta, charred Brussels sprout leaves and chili oil. Housemade spaghetti tangled together in a sea urchin tomato sauce was both creamy and balanced and a stew of braised pork sausage and veal ribs was comforting enough to evoke nonna's. Perhaps one of the Bestia’s best kept secrets is wine steward Maxwell Leer—he joins the restaurant by way of the Tasting Kitchen and the Bazaar—whose strength is selecting obscure wines from boutique producers around the world that you’ve likely never heard of. Don’t be surprised if he tries to pour you an orange wine or a dry Sherry with dinner. Go with it. To describe Bestia as a brick bunker isn’t intended to insult. The wide open restaurant, defined by walls

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Featured drinks

No Vacancy

Leave it to Mark and Jonnie Houston, the twins behind Harvard & Stone, La Descarga and Pour Vous, to conjure up another uniquely-LA affair involving craft cocktails, performances (burlesque acts, tightrope walkers) and live music. Once past the smartly-dressed chaps holding court over the door (and behind door number 1902), prepare to be enamored as you descend into old Hollywood. The impressively restored Victorian home is outfitted with elegant dark wood paneling, red velvet tufted banquets, café seating and ample space that spills out onto a garden-style courtyard illuminated by two positively baroque fireplaces, which burn even in the thick of summer. And appearances are everything here, so patrons should adhere to a classy dress code.   Vitals Good for: Stepping out of the 2000s and into the 1900s, to indulge “all your pleasures,” from sipping pre-Prohibition era craft cocktails, taking in mesmerizing tightrope and sexy burlesque acts, to picking out little treasures from a “gift shop.” Big fishes sporting tailored suits and slick hair who want to impress all the little fish can reserve a spot upstairs with a private bar and bottle service, while partygoers in groups down below indulge in punch bowls (gin, rum or vodka-based for $300 plus, per bowl), as well as reasonably priced craft beer and coupés filled with elevated swill. The scene: The party starts late, and if you’re not on the list, you better arrive early and make nice with the doorman. Inside, well-versed bart

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Sayers Front Room

The idea behind the new intimate Sayers Front Room bar that serves as a buffer between the bustle of Hollywood and the semi-exclusive atmosphere of one of LA’s best live-music venues, is the breaking of barriers—attracting more neighborhood locals to stop by for wood-fired pizza (go for Green Goddess, pesto, spinach, arugula, pickled onions and burrata, $12) and a list of signature cocktails prepared by attractive, friendly staff. Housed in the former Papaya King space and richly outfitted with plush leather banquets, black-art deco walls interrupted by in-set guitars on display, gives way to a dramatically lit V-shaped bar that edges into the room, giving patrons a taste of what to expect on the other side of the curtain where impromptu celebrity musician sets have been known to take place. Tucked into one end of the bar is a flat screen TV, which is reflected in the adjacent mirrors, lending that unmistakable blue-hue and game-day vibe to an otherwise elegant space, which seems a little out of place. The old adage of, “something for everyone” is surely the inspiration for this blunder.   Vitals Good for: Even if you’re not planning on taking in a music show stop in for a cocktail before or after dinner or meet a friend and share some of their tasty bar snacks (try the generously portioned Cheese Board for $11 or Hand Cut Fries for $7), plus there’s always the potential for a celebrity sighting. Bring a date or come early with friends for some pre-music lubricant before pass

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PettyCash Taquería

Critics' pick

Review Before entering PettyCash Taquería, you may note "RIP Playa" tagged right outside the door; this would be a nod to the Beverly Boulevard space's previous occupant, John Sedler’s Playa. Save for that reminder, though, you may fail to recognize its old self: Gone are the dim lighting and the intimate tables. Instead, the bright, open space is filled with graffiti dancing on the walls, communal tables and, as is fashionable for painfully cool places these days, very loud music. This is PettyCash—Mexican street food as reinterpreted by Los Angeles chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State). Crispy Brussels sprouts are nicely amped-up by Morita-cauliflower crema ($9), a beautiful ceviche negro made with mahi mahi, squid ink, mango and peanuts ($14), and, of course, tacos, at about $4 each, are filled with ingredients such as Berkshire pork, grilled octopus and nicely marinated al pastor. Overall, what you have is truly an upscale taqueria, and quite a good one at that, though its name does make one suspect there’s as much irony at work here as there is homage being paid to Tom and Johnny.   Vitals Eat this: The pig ear nachos ($12) are delicious, with crispy strips of pig ear layered with the tortilla chips, a subtly spiced crema poblana and a perfectly soft-boiled egg ties this ultimate party food together. And while you probably can’t go wrong with any of the tacos, the tacos dorados ($4)—potato tacos, rolled, fried and served with avocado, tomatillo and cotija cheese—w

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

The Black Cat

Critics' pick

The dawn of the new Black Cat is upon Silver Lake. In the space of a former bar of the same name, this upscale, polished gastropub makes its debut courtesy the team behind the Village Idiot. The long, dark wood bar and adjacent cocktail-table seating is perfect for pre-dinner drinks and romantic cocktailing; an attractive, attentive staff donning dark jeans, collared shirts with grey fitted vests, serve up nightly punch specials ($5 per glass) from pristine and elegant silver punch bowls as well as an array of bottled craft beers, wines by the glass and craft cocktails. For a dinner and drinks outing, the front room is warm and inviting—architectural details fine moldings grace an off-white ceiling and comfy leather banquettes line the walls of the dining room for a cozy-sophisticated, pre-war feel. Vitals Good for: Eastsiders can put on a sharp jacket, elegant dress, and have a civilized dining and imbibing experience without making the trek to the Westside. Late night dinner—the kitchen doesn’t close until midnight and the bar stays open until 2am—and a wide selection of wine, spirits and beer means everyone will be happy here. The scene: Curious locals drop in to scope out the revived space for the first time and chat it up with the bartenders. Ask about housemade spirit infusions. Currently it’s fig-infused Four Roses bourbon; try it mixed with Fernet and Orange Bitters in the Half Flight ($12). The playlist: Background jazz and groove set the atmosphere. The bartender sa

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Silver Lake

The Pikey

Critics' pick

This is the Hollywood good old boy’s pub you’ve been waiting for. Owners Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson (Il Covo, Roger Room) have transformed the former dive into a spacious country tavern where grand iron chandeliers and wall lamps illuminate British paraphernalia on the walls, red leather booths and two dark wood-paneled bars and dining room. A friendly and helpful staff serve up a full bar of beer, wine, spirits and a stellar selection of specialty cocktails pair perfectly with a menu of elevated pub fare for vegans, locavores and omnivores alike. Chef Ralph Johnson, formerly of NYC’s gastropub the Spotted Pig, brings organic, local ingredients to a menu of pub favorites. Opt for Mary’s Vinegar Chicken ($19) or a Worcestershire aioli-smothered burger ($15), both served with "chips", thrice cooked and possibly the tastiest this side of the pond.   Vitals Good for: Bring a date for drinks and supper in one of the booths. Singles can drop in after the dinner bell and hold up at the back bar. Take advantage of daily happy hour from 4-6pm, which sees reduced prices on their specialty cocktails, red and white wines, bar snack and well drinks. The scene: Couples and larger groups fill the front bar and dining room most nights of the week. This is a social crowd and if heads are hung low, it’s because they’re reading Facebook feeds and checking in on Foursquare. The playlist: A mix of British pop and American rock, from the Beatles to the Black Keys, are on the playlist, while

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The Hudson

Critics' pick

A complete remodel from owners Beau Laughlin and Brett Cranston (the Churchill, Clover) reveals a fresh feel and upgrades galore—a spacious white marble-top bar, comfy new industrial-craft stools, newly upholstered banquettes and Edison lighting—to the Hudson’s lofty, wood-beamed, homey space. New seasonally appropriate cocktails have arrived as well—ten quaffs of craft spirits offer plenty of fresh citrus, herbs and warm-weather fruits. If you’re lucky enough to have Jenn or Jason behind the bar, they maintain great conversation while whipping up delicious drinks. There are also eight draft beers, 11 bottle selections ($4-$8 on tap, $14-$20 for pitchers) and a number of red, white and sparkling wine options by the glass—try a crisp and fruity Rhone Valley 2011 Listel Rosé ($9). Happy hour (4-7pm daily) gets you $3 drafts, well, wine and $6 snacks from chef Conrad Woodul. His gastropub fare satisfies across the board. We love the crispy chicken sliders served on soft mini-buns with aioli and housecured pickles.   Vitals Good for: A weeknight dinner, pre-dinner cocktail or nightcap. Call ahead for a table or secure a place at the bar while you wait. Admire an incredible, vintage map of Paris over a pint of draft beer. There's also an unobtrusive TV sandwiched between top-shelf spirits for game-day satisfaction. The scene: A positively attractive WeHo crowd come dressed to be seen, from bespoke suits and crisp, white button-downs to faux-hipster garb (i,e. designer t-shirts and

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West Hollywood

Sadie Kitchen and Lounge

Critics' pick

As LA’s cocktail revolution doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, a stop at Sadie’s Kitchen is a must. The star of the bar—or lounge, rather, located adjacent to the restaurant—is celebrated resident mixologist, Giovanni Martinez. On any given night, loners, couples and groups flock to this Hollywood tavern, hoping to catch Martinez in action, schmoozing and shaking seasonal cocktails on or off the menu. Previously, Martinez served as brand ambassador for Chivas Regal and bartended at Les Deux Estate and Buffalo Club, bringing his cocktail chops to more than satisfy the aficionado and surprise the amateur with drinks that pair well with the restaurant’s New American fare. Grab a comfy seat at the bar—hooray for barstools with backs—or sequester yourself to a banquette and settle in for a good night of people watching.   Vitals Good for: Conveniently located, and just far-enough removed, from the Hollywood strip, this is a good stop for dinner and classy cocktails—save the Redbull vodka nonsense for later—before heading out for a night of clubbing. The alfresco courtyard adjacent to the bar offers a comfortable spot for group celebrations as well as some intimate nooks for date nights. The scene: The restaurant attracts a decisively local crowd of business owners and residents, while the bar fills up—expect a full house after 9pm—with groups making a pre-clubbing watering hole visit. Energetic gatherings of girls in slinky dresses show up with boys in tow, sporting a m

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The Know Where Bar

There’s something wildly refreshing about The Know Where Bar, a no-frills establishment that bills itself plainly as a place for "beer, wine, sparkling, & small bites." Many of the bars that have opened for business in and around Tinseltown by some of LA's elite bar collectives offer up themed experiences designed to look like bordellos and lived-in mansions (think: No Vacancy, Sassafras). But none of that is present at this wholly minimalist watering hole (on Hollywood Boulevard, no less). Simple, elegant lighting barely illuminates the intimate space—a rectangular room with suede couches, coffee tables and a long, light-wood paneled bar. It's a homey refuge from Hollywood. Vitals Good for: Local residents who live within walking distance and are tired of the craft cocktail scene, lines out the door and over-priced quaffs. Come after dinner with friends for rounds of sangria or late night with just your creative thoughts—who knows, maybe you and your friends will reinvent yourselves as the next generation of beat poets. The scene: Gents sport a jeans-and-T-shirt look, while the gals are fashioned in urban flirty layers of lacy material. Goblets of wine make way for tumblers of beer and sparkling wine and beer cocktails. Groups huddle together and chew the fat about nothing in particular. On weeknights, the place is dead, but it picks up on weekends, and it's likely the quiet laid-back atmosphere won't last long given the location at Hollywood and Wilton Place. The playlist:

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Big Bar

Tucked into a small corner of Alcove Café and Bakery, a favorite lunch and dinner spot for Los Feliz locals, Big Bar is a slice of craft cocktail paradise that's seen a recent menu upgrade. Grab a comfy stool—there are 12 total—at the white marble bar for a "New Featured Cocktail." Check the bar's Twitter (@BigBarAlcove) feed for the night's special concoction from spiked coffee-based drinks to ones with tiki flair such as the Port Royal with overproof rum and kola nut. Though these quaffs may not all end up as permanent residents on the menu, talented and friendly bartenders are happy to shake up any drink new, old and otherwise that'll run you $12.   Vitals Good for: Alfresco drinks and happy hour. Daily 2pm to 7pm specials make it easy for boozy afternoon lunches with $7 cocktails and finger foods such as delicious Angus beef sliders ($7.95). Don't miss outdoor dinner and a movie screenings every third of the month starting May 20. The scene: Groups and locals order at the bar, then head for the coveted patio under heat-lamps and umbrellas. Inside, lucky stool-squatters sip on cocktails and massive cups of coffee, gearing up for a caffeinated night out on the town. The playlist: Thursday’s Mixtape Mixology night let’s you unwind with themed playlists like "Saxual Healing" and "the Spring Shazam Mix." Drink this: With all the coffee imbibing, the staff finally decided to give everyone's java an upgrade—get your heart rate going with Full Monty Smash ($12) made with Amontill

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Los Feliz

Lock & Key

Following in the speakeasy trend set by the likes of the Varnish and La Descarga, this Koreatown lounge—a low-ceiling, white marble and green-leather banquettes set the "Caesars Club" vibe, perhaps a nod to the former karaoke inhabitant. As expected, the entrance is unmarked: A stylish red door leads to a theatrically disorienting wall of doorknobs and keyholes. Once inside, there’s a small selection of beer and wine—four bottled beers (IPA, Lager, Brown Ale, Triple) and six wines by-the-glass (bubbly, white, rose and red)—but the cocktail program is front and center. Fresh herbs, fruits, simple syrups and torches set the stage for well-made, craft cocktails prepared by attentive and friendly bartenders donning classic white collared shirts and black vests. There’s a limited late-night, food menu from the next door Stall 239—try the Lollipop Chicken Wings ($7) and not-so-date-friendly garlic fries ($3). Vitals Good for: Sipping craft cocktails amongst a celeb contingent, thanks to co-owner/actor Hill Harper. The scene: Weeknights offer more of a "Sinatra" vibe, which we take to mean there’s “No one in the place." The focus is entirely on the art of mixology and serious aficionados can indulge in well-made drinks. Weekends offer a completely different experience with an undoubtedly Koreatown contingent of the young, attractive and well-dressed—dress code is enforced—crowd into banquettes. When the bar gets slammed, an abridged cocktail list replaces the 11 signature cocktails

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