The term "chain restaurant" doesn't always bring quality grub to mind, but we found a few exceptions. The nominees on our list have won over Angelenos since their first store opened, dishing out vegan comfort food, some of the best chocolate in town, and more. You've helped them succeed and grow, and now you can help them win even more by voting in our best new local chain expansion category.
See the other contenders for the Food & Drink Awards and cast your ballot for the best new local chain expansion of the year.
*Voting ends April 21 and the winners will be announced on May 12.
Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne's the Larder opens its third location (other locations span the Westside in Brentwood and Beverly Hills) in the swanky new 8500 Burton Way complex. With an extensive menu—there's breakfast, lunch and dinner—and a full selection of baked goods, retail food stuff, to-go items and full-service items, this Cal-Med bakery/café is the perfect stop in between meals and your Westside-Eastside commute.
Macrobiotic food runs the risk of having muted flavors, so it's to M Café's immense credit that the kitchen has managed to popularize it. The Brentwood location remains popular with vegetarians and vegans, who can enjoy exceptional sushi and a mild but tasty version of bibimbap, a Korean rice dish. It's not unusual to see diners taking pictures of the beautifully prepared food. For those hopping on the juice crazy, M Café aksi boasts an extensive beverage menu complete with fresh pressed juices, teas, tonics and specials.
On the heels of her Grand Central Market outpost in DTLA, Valerie Gordon sets her sights on Echo Park, opening a bakery/cafe focused on teas. An American Tea Room–curated selection of 15 teas is on offer for Eastside's darjeelings, along with herbal teasan infusions featuring fennel blossom, tarragon, lemongrass, mint, lemon verbena and lavender. Try an orange, bay leaf and black pepper infusion paired with a curried chicken sandwich ($4, tea size; $10, full size) or onion marmalade galette ($9).
With locations all over town, Kazunori Nozawa's mini-empire favors straightforward, no-nonsense sushi over the usual 'Dragon' and 'Rainbow' rolls—as exemplified by Noawa's trademark "Trust Me" menu, which decides diners' sushi dishes for them. The confidence of the kitchen goes even further, in that servers will respectfully decline requests for extra soy sauce or bowls of rice. Don't worry—you won't need either. The sushi is outstanding enough on its own.