Coachella 2014: What to eat and drink

Some of the best Los Angeles restaurants and bars are popping up at the music fest. Fuel up for Coachella 2014 at these local favorites.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Coachella 2013, Weekend 2, Day 3

Coachella is all fun and games until hunger strikes and you find yourself in a desert (literally). This year, you're in luck—some of the best Los Angeles restaurants and bars are setting up shop at the music fest, and not just for VIP ticket holders. Head to the Terrace for plenty of vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and even kosher options. Planning to camp out? Wake up to juice and coffee at the Camping Counter. And for those who scored VIP tickets, head to the Rose Garden for drinks and eats from LA tastemakers including food from Joseph Centeno's DTLA hot spots, libations from Cedd Moses' bars and more.

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General admission: The Terrace

Crossroads

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 e

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

Mexicali Taco & Co.

This city-wide favorite is favored for flame-kissed steak and small-batch salsas, along with high-quality ingredients delivered across the border from Baja's capital city. Clever and captivating regional recipes include the gluttonous, triple-meat and cheese Zuperman ($5), crunchy cachetada tostadas drizzled in gooey cheese and creamy, piquant chipotle aioli ($3.25), clay-pot broiled, wine-infused queso fundido ($6) and garlic-lashed Vampiro quesadilla($3.95) stuffed with with hand-chopped carne asada.

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Chinatown

Night + Market

Los Angeles is home to the best Thai food in America, and Night + Market is easily one of the best Thai restaurants in LA. Chef/owner Kris Yenbamroong serves a menu like none other in town, inspired equally by the night-market street foods of Bangkok and the rustic hillbilly cooking of rural northern Thailand, where he still has distant relatives. The moo sadoong (“startled pig”) might be LA's single best Thai dish, a fiery, sinus-jolting, tear-jerking slap in the face that tastes a lot like grilled pork with lemongrass, fish sauce and a fistful of Thai bird chiles. And nobody makes a better crab fried rice. Period.

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West Hollywood

Mohawk Bend

This vegan-friendly bar/restaurant along Sunset Blvd has taken over what was once an old Vaudeville theater, redesigned to feature lofty, vaulted ceilings and light fixtures that might have come from a dressing room. The emphasis here is California-made, namely wine, spirits and beer. Where tap dancing routines may have once been, an impressive fleet of 72 beers on tap—all from California brewers (save for one monthly featured out of state brewery)—are at your beck and call. Beer enthusiasts can grab a seat at the communal table or expansive bar. Snag a spot outdoors if you don’t mind the hum of Sunset; inside, head for a booth or the real aesthetic draw—the massive indoor brick fireplace, which sets a romantic dinner atmosphere in the spacious back room. Vitals Good for: Groups and weekday dinner/drinks with friends. It's also fun to fly solo at the bar that faces the open kitchen with a custom-designed wood stone pizza oven. You might get a chance to chat baseball with executive chef Mike Garber as he plates the signature dish: Buffalo Style Cauliflower with vegan "bleu cheese" dressing ($7).  Or just sip your beer and take in the action while snacking on perfectly crisped sweet potato fries with maple chipotle aioli ($6). The scene: A super casual crowd with no dress code and plenty of spatially appropriate options are perfect for small and large groups. The playlist: Brunch on weekends is a must when a live jazz band performs in the back room. The bartender says: The

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Silver Lake

Beer Belly

The first thing you need to know about Beer Belly is that the parking lot is not the one directly in front of the restaurant, as one might logically conclude, but rather the one next door, on the other side of the fence. The second thing you need to know is this: fried chicken. Everything else is just background noise. Although, pretty much everything is highly enjoyable—the eclectic Koreatown clientele, the ear-splitting rock-n-roll, the French fries slathered with duck confit, the sloppy, grease-dripping grilled cheese, the well-curated craft beer list. Order at the counter, then try to find a table. Tables are first-come, first-served, so be prepared to circle like vultures.

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Koreatown

Tony's Darts Away

This laidback spot—one of the few late-night hangs and even fewer vegan-friendly options in Burbank—has gained a loyal local following since its opening in 2010. Find a large selection of sausages (both vegan and meat varieties) and sides like Disco fries with gravy and cheddar. But the star of the show here is the beer; the eco-friendly, bottle-free bar has 38 taps and serves only California brews. Drink up and relax with friends by playing pool or, naturally, darts. Tony's also hosts events like "Trivia Night with Geeks Who Drink" or its weekly "Beers & Beats" night where you can bring in your own vinyl collection to DJ.

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Burbank

Stumptown Coffee

If by the late afternoon, you still haven't met your day's caffeine quota, make your way down to Stumptown. The PDX coffee company makes it way to Downtown's Arts District in a 7,000-square foot warehouse space that houses a 60-kilo Probat coffee roaster, pastries from Sugar Bloom and a menu of 20+ coffees and espresso-based drinks. Plan your visit for 3pm, when the staff leads daily cuppings (that's coffee tastings, for you non-coffee nerds) .

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Downtown

Crème Caramel LA

Tucked into a narrow space off Burbank Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, Crème Caramel LA is bringing creative desserts to the valley, from the Filipino-influenced ube upside-down pie ($5) to flavored and traditional bread pudding ($5.50), which comes with your choice of sauce (we love the salted caramel). The shop, which gained a steady following by selling their sweet concoctions at farmers' markets throughout LA, also sells Cafecito Organico coffee, savory quiches and a variety of artisanal goods from Colwater Canyon Provisions, Plush Puffs (grab a bag of their heavenly hand-crafted marshmallows) and more. If the case of crème caramels, brownies and crème fraîche pies have you stuck on what to get, simply ask for a sample—the service here is sublime, and they always let you taste before you buy.

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Sherman Oaks

General admission: Camping Counter

Short Order

Short order is a celebration of over thirty years of friendship and culinary collaboration between Amy Pressman and Nancy Silverton. Highlighting their shared passion of bringing the best seasonal ingredients to the table, each menu item at Short order is crafted emphasizing locally raised, organic, artisanal and handmade products. This restaurant is Amy and Nancy’s showcase for foods prepared the way they personally love to eat. Short Order represents their comfort in the simplicity of cooking as they would in their own homes.

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Stumptown Coffee

If by the late afternoon, you still haven't met your day's caffeine quota, make your way down to Stumptown. The PDX coffee company makes it way to Downtown's Arts District in a 7,000-square foot warehouse space that houses a 60-kilo Probat coffee roaster, pastries from Sugar Bloom and a menu of 20+ coffees and espresso-based drinks. Plan your visit for 3pm, when the staff leads daily cuppings (that's coffee tastings, for you non-coffee nerds) .

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Downtown

Clover

To juice or not to juice, that's not even a question in this town. And in the midst of the city-wide juice frenzy, the latest to open up shop is this La Brea storefront. Pick up bottled, cold-pressed juices—try the eponymous green with pear, lime, cilantro, mint and kale or a seasonal concoction like the cold-weather comfort made with yam, carrot, cinnamon, ginger made from organic, local ingredients—or detox with an eight-juice-a-day cleanse from 1 day ($70) to five ($350). There's also Kombucha on tap—hello, Portlandia—and power shakes—we love the eye-opening Rise & Grind ($8) with espresso cubes, Stumptown coffee and chocolate protein powder and dark chocolate chips and chia, banana, almond butter mix called Chia-Spa ($8), perfect for a post-yoga drop-in from the next-door Moksha Yoga. For those who prefer to chew, there are vegan selections of sandwiches and salads from Silver Lake's Flore and locally baked, gluten-free sweets. Peruse other locavore goodies like handmade aromatherapy candles and paintings for sale from Lab Art.

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Los Angeles

VIP: The Rose Garden

Honeycut

Who says you can't break out your dance moves and enjoy a craft drink at the same time? The nightlife heavy hitters behind Seven Grand and The Varnish, together with NYC's Death + Co. booze pioneers, have accomplished the near-impossible—a premium cocktail discobar. The 3,000-square-foot basement of the O Hotel downtown is split between a cozy pool hall boasting what has to be the most epic drink menu (50 beverages, to be exact) and a very Saturday Night Fever "disco" room, complete with an analog LED dance floor. It's probably the only place in town where you can nurse a true Old Fashioned while grinding up on a stranger beneath a ceiling made of reflective balls. Groovy baby.VitalsGood for: Either getting down and boogying or geeking out over artisanal libations. If you're digging the drinks, then you probably won't be intimidated by a 50-cocktail-deep menu divided into seven sections like "Classy as F**k," then further grouped into either shaken or stirred. Yeah, it's a lot to take in, but you'll be drinking like a pro. Did we mention the cocktails are $13 a pop? The scene: There's something inherently hip about entering a bar through a back door in a downtown alleyway. Inside, a pool table, cushy booths, and black walls all bathed in a cool blue glow personify the downtown speakeasy. You'll find young professionals mingling and edgy downtown dwellers in search of the next big drink.The playlist: If creative cocktails are the venue's bread, eclectic music is its butter. Cr

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Downtown

Eveleigh

Most restaurants on the Sunset Strip don't try very hard. They don't have to—they have a built-in tourist/booze market that doesn't know good food from bad. So, it's refreshing when a place comes along that doesn't know how the system works and opens a restaurant on the Strip that's actually really good. The Eveleigh is that restaurant. Duck confit with lentils, pappardelle with pork ragú, hanger steak with romesco sauce—the kitchen keeps it simple and gets it right. Brunch is a relaxed affair frequented by people who probably never visit the Strip at night. Most of the seating is outside, either on the front patio, which is covered in shaggy Astroturf, or the enclosed back terrace, offering views of the city.

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West Hollywood

Goldie's

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 w

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

Bäco Mercat

What started as a happy-hour snack has grown into one of the hottest, most relevant restaurants in town. Chef Josef Centeno's first solo venture captures not only the zeitgeist of Downtown's white-hot dining but also the incredible multiculti spirit of Los Angeles at large. Located in the Old Banking District, just around the corner from Skid Row and some of Downtown’s brightest emerging art galleries, the always-bustling restaurant is particularly jammed on Art Walk Thursday nights. But that’s also one of the best times to go. Housed in a historic building with vintage-looking tables and chairs, the quasi-industrial restaurant manages to look and feel as if it’s been around forever; when in reality, it opened in 2011. That original snack is the "bäco," an unlikely hybrid that is equal parts Mediterranean flatbread, Mexican taco and sheer, mad genius. If that sounds even remotely like some weird fusion cuisine, think again. Fusion is what happens when cuisines collide. For Centeno, this is just a reflection of the way he interacts with the world around him. Reading the menu, one gets the sense that Centeno has a hard time shutting off his creativity. This is clearly not a guy who meditates. The ever-changing menu offers more than 65 items at any given time. The bäco is now available in seven or eight iterations, including the original: a soft, pillowy flatbread stuffed with Centeno's unique take on carnitas (normally just pork, his includes beef) along with fresh herbs, baby

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Downtown

Semi Sweet Bakery

Owner and chef Sharlena Fong's Downtown newbie offers homey desserts like pop tarts, 7-Up pound cake and maple-bacon sticky bun. Donuts shine with the best being the show-stopping strawberry shortcake donut. If Proust had his madeleine, then any good American had the strawberry shortcake Good Humor bar, which is just what the crumb-coated cake round tastes like.

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Downtown

The Church Key

The best people are often those who don’t take themselves too seriously, and the same applies to restaurants. With its prime location on the Sunset Strip, The Church Key has every opportunity to be as banal as the next place; socialites and tourists will walk through these doors regardless of what’s on the menu. But what makes West Hollywood’s new addition special is its delicious food and delightful quirks. The décor is so Restoration Hardware, it feels like you’ve just entered the loft of an E! TV personality; however, stick with it and you’ll find yourself snacking on pig ear “Cheetos” dim sum, sucking on alcoholic ice pops frozen right at your table by a Pan Am flight attendant, and having a ton of fun. The printed menu offers a number of shareable plates that are substantially sized, and run anywhere between $6 and $30. It’s easy to get caught up in the delectable-sounding selections, but don’t forget the dim sum carts floating around, which serve a spectrum of small bites—from sashimi to falafel—that cost between $5 and $9 each. As for drinks, the house specialties cover the gamut with gin, vodka and whiskey. Try The Shot in the Dark, a frothy, slightly sweet cocktail that’s almost too easy to drink with the amount of bourbon it contains. For a party of two, the best strategy is to order two to three dishes off the menu, which can be enjoyed during your 30-minute wait for the dim sum carts. The service is slow, better for a leisurely two-hour dinner than a quick bite.

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West Hollywood

Bar Amá

Puffy tacos, light, deep-fried versions of this town’s staple, may be the claim to fame at Bar Amá', but the essence of chef Josef Centeno’s second Downtown venture lies in its Queso ($9). The molten orange substance with both the color and viscosity of melted Velveeta cheese tastes shockingly similar to the low-brow, store-bought stuff. It may be confusing at a restaurant where $12 gets you two tacos, but we’re happy to dive right in to flavors this good.   Centeno, the top-notch toque of the popular Bäco Mercat, upgrades down-home dishes including Frito pie, taquitos, fajitas and enchiladas. That melted bowl of queso is topped with avocado, diced red onions, a dusting of cotija and served alongside a mound of piping hot, glossy tortilla chips, fresh from the fryer. Go for haute dishes such as banana leaf-wrapped rabbit ($24)—the menu proudly declares, "All meat is from Niman, Heritage, Paso Prime & Pitmas Farms"—cooked on the wood grill. Lighter items on the generally heavy menu include hearts of palm salad ($12), a stringy bed of cactus, palm hearts, citrus and quesillo cheese, and a small bowl of cauliflower florets ($9) dressed with a cilantro pesto and a heavy shower of lime. Neither would be out of place on Bäco Mercat’s pan-cuisine menu. Much like its sister restaurant, Bar Amá is one of those new-old places, built to look like it has been around for much longer than its three-months. Planks of chevron-pattered, reclaimed wood against an unfinished ceiling and patte

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Downtown

Las Perlas

This den of mescal comes from the city's craft-cocktail innovator Cedd Moses (Seven Grand, The Varnish, Caña Rum Bar) and were we in Wonderland, Alice would be one of his regulars. At the Downtown den, Mexican kitsch meets psychedelic rabbit murals with an impressive list of tequilas (a mix of Highlands and Lowlands) and mescals (there's Illegal and a bang-up selection of Del Maguey) in-between. Seating is limited inside with an outdoor area that's accessible through the poolroom. Watch out for unruly cue-sticks. Vitals Good for: The psychedelic wall art and hip scene lends themselves to a great Downtown stop for pre-dinner cocktails or weekend drinks with a group, especially if someone in your party is an amateur pool-playing enthusiast with a penchant for Oaxacan libations. The scene: DJ's and dancing give way to lines at the bar and a bit of a wait for your drinks, with a rowdy Downtown crowd mingling with curious Silver Lake and Echo Park Oaxacan-spirits seekers. The playlist: With drink in-hand, make a go for the old-school jukebox. Anything from the 90's will do, then let yourself sink into that proverbial rabbit hole. The bartender says: The well-dressed bartender can talk you through the intricacies of mescal and tequila or, if you name a flavor preference and price point, take care of a selection for you. Drink this: Try the signature cocktail, The Spiced Daisy ($13), which, though a touch sweet, is perfectly accented with zippy jalapeño, refreshing cilantro, s

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Downtown

Orsa & Winston

Chef Josef Centeno has had quite the last few years: His Bäco Mercat opened in 2011, a wonderfully casual place where you can spend your lunch hour eating a fantastic bäco sandwich. Then came Bar Amá in 2012, a festive spot near Bäco Mercat that focuses on puffy tacos and other hallmarks of Tex-Mex cuisine. So you may have reasonably expected that for his third act, Centeno would open another spot that's as casual, as boisterous, as those two. Sort of. Centeno’s newest restaurant, Orsa & Winston, certainly feels casual: The ambiance is low-key enough that you can walk in wearing exactly what you would wear to Bäco Mercat or Bar Amá. But unlike those two, Orsa & Winston is dimmer and comfortably sparse, a decidedly more adult space with excellent service and music playing at sensible decibel levels. And unlike those two, dinner revolves around a Japanese-Italian-ish “omakase” tasting menu: based on your stomach and your ambition, choose between four-, five-, nine- and twenty-plus (!) courses. Whatever you choose, you will not choose wrong. The meal starts with an amuse—a small jar of creamy fennel panna cotta, say—then moves on to one memorable dish after another. An absolutely lovely, perfectly wintery chestnut soup with Maine lobster and a dollop of crème fraîche. Fluffy milk bread focaccia with rich homemade butter. A wonderful combination of geoduck and Koshihikari rice topped with sweet uni. While the menu as a whole could use a touch more balance—maybe a few more acids

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Downtown

Seven Grand

Antler horns on the walls, plaid wallpaper, multiple pool tables, an impressive variety of Scotch, bourbon, rye, single malt and other whiskeys from around the world (and an extremely knowledgeable bar staff who pour them)—Downtown's popular Seven Grand is a whiskey lover's man cave.

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KazuNori by Sugarfish

With locations all over town, Kazunori Nozawa's mini-empire favors straightforward, no-nonsense fresh fish dishes over the usual 'Dragon' and 'Rainbow' rolls—as exemplified by Noawa's trademark "Trust Me" menu, which decides diners' sushi dishes for them.

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Caña Rum Bar

Downtown nightlife entrpreneur Cedd Moses' experiment wth a private bar charing $2,200 in annual dues didn't exactly come at the right time, and so the precious cocktail museum that was the Doheny soon morphed into something more Latin and vibrant. Caña Rum Bar features 140 gourmet rums for cocktails that include mojitos, Tiki drinks and margaritas. The sense of exclusivity isn't gone, but the $2,200 membership is. It's now only $20.

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Downtown

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