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Lamb Neck Shawarma dish at Bavel restaurant in Los Angeles
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

The best dishes and drinks in Los Angeles in 2018

Gourmet chili dogs, honey peanut pie, the city's best vegan Mexican food and more: Here are the best dishes we ate in L.A. this year

By Stephanie Breijo and Time Out contributors

It’s been a big year for restaurant openings and amazing new bars in Los Angeles, which means it’s been a huge year for new dishes and cocktails. Cheeseburger dumplings? Large-format steaks? The best burrata salad of your life? Twenty new kinds of pizza? Before you get so overwhelmed that you stay home and order takeout from the same place you’ve been eating three times a week for the last six years, read our guide to the absolute best of the latest, then use it as a checklist and try something new—whether it's new-new, or just new to you. No matter your neighborhood or budget—and regardless of traffic—you need to try these buzzy dishes and drinks right now. Here are the best things we ate this year.

See Also: the Best New Restaurants of 2018the Best New Bars of 2018the Best L.A. Cookbooks of 2018Restaurant Revamps We Loved This YearOur Top 10 Food and Drink Stories of 2018 and the Best of 2018.


Japanese bento box at Hayato in ROW DTLA
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

1. Bento box at Hayato

Restaurants Japanese Downtown Arts District

Sure, it’s a bit of a production just for lunch. Bento orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance, only 16 of them are made each day, and chef Brandon Go toils for hours on end, but when you finally lift the lid off of this traditional Japanese meal, you’ll see what all the fuss is about. The chef, who trained in Michelin-starred kitchens, painstakingly, artfully rolls, folds or delicately tweezers each of your 15 to 19 items into one of his high-end bento boxes, where nothing is an afterthought. Cubes of fried, house-made crab tofu sit snugly against tender agedashi eggplant, while the caramelized, two-day-marinated saikyo yaki black cod outshines Nobu’s famed version. Even the rice, which could easily be mundane, gains flavor from vegetable stock, mitsuba and burdock root—lest you think this bento is filler, not killer. Talk about a power lunch. $46. —Stephanie Breijo

Lamb neck shawarma at Bavel restaurant in Los Angeles Arts District
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

2. Lamb-neck shawarma at Bavel

Restaurants Israeli Downtown Arts District

It’s all hands on deck when this for-the-table dish arrives. At their new Middle Eastern restaurant, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis have created one of L.A.’s most interactive plates. When the fragrant, perfectly charred mountain of slow-roasted lamb neck appears, you and your crew will be tearing off pieces of fresh laffa flatbread, sopping up the spiced drippings, adding falling-off-the-bone lamb morsels and topping off the whole shebang with the house-made tahini, herb sauce and pickled turnips. Farewell, flatware. $45. —SB

Langer's pastrami Pad Kee Mao Thai Food noodles at Night Market
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Aidan R.

3. Pastrami pad kee mao at Night + Market

Restaurants Thai Venice

What’s searingly hot, totally unique and L.A. all over? We’ll give you a hint: It started as a special you could snag only by chance or if you were glued to Instagram. But this year, it permanently hit the menus of all three of Kris Yenbamroong’s vibrant Thai restaurants. Night + Market’s regular pad kee mao is a pan-fried party of rice noodles, fish sauce, peppers and basil—but when you add thick-cut pastrami from the iconic Langer’s Deli to the mix? A salty, spicy star is born. $18. —SB

Mariscos paella at Spanish restaurant Otono in Highland Park
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

4. Mariscos paella at Otoño

Restaurants Spanish Highland Park

When Teresa Montaño sets out to make paella, she doesn’t focus on the rice or the fideo (though you can order either). For her, it’s all about the broth. Before adding the starches, she’s already whipped up layers of flavor by way of lobster fumet—built like a bouillabaisse—so that the dish wafts shellfish as much as it does saffron, orange peel and star anise. Each grain or noodle absorbs the blend before the whole dish gets finished off with prawns, mussels, squid and small dabs of sherry aioli, making for one flavorful (and picturesque) meal. $32. —SB

The roast chicken for two at NoMad
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

5. Whole-roasted chicken at the NoMad

Restaurants French Downtown Financial District

Those up for dinner and a show know to hit the NoMad hotel, where the dishes almost look like modern art. (Don’t believe us? Just check out those perfectly composed desserts.) But nothing here is more theatrical than the roasted chicken: After the whole bird gets trotted out—golden brown and tressed with a bouquet of sage and flowers—it goes back to the kitchen for plating, where the breast, stuffed with foie gras, truffles and brioche crumbs, cozies up to seasonal veggies, and the dark meat gets folded into a savory mushroom rice. We’re checking in forever. $98. —SB

Roman style pizza at Triple Beam Pizza in Highland Park
Photograph: Courtesy Triple Beam Pizza/Amanda Proudfit

6. Roman-style pizza at Triple Beam

Restaurants Pizza Highland Park

Yes, 2018 was a big year for L.A. pizza, but as the radius of delicious pies grows across the city, we’ve got our eyes on the rectangles. Matt Molina draws upon his years of Mozza experience but now opts for scissors-cut, Roman-style squares and rectangles sold by the ounce. For each, the bottom is satisfyingly crunchy, the toppings seasonal and divine. We love the version with Italian sausage, onion and fennel pollen—but due to the by-the-weight format, it’s easy to try a little of everything. Around $1 per ounce. —SB

Oxtail at Alta West Adams by Keith Corbin and Daniel Patterson
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. Oxtails and rice at Alta Adams

Restaurants Soul and southern American West Adams

Alta Adams may be a Daniel Patterson restaurant, but it’s Keith Corbin’s kitchen. The L.A. native and former LocoL chef is reimagining Southern food and West African cuisine in a city that startlingly lacks either, rendering classic dishes—pimento cheese, collard greens, black-eyed peas—into new shapes and textures and flavors. His best trick? The meaty hunks of oxtail that fall from the bone, all braised in miso, coated in a velvety gravy and served over rice. $23. —SB

Beef rib at Adam Perry Lang APL Restaurant in Hollywood
Photograph: Courtesy APL/Josh Telles

8. Short rib at APL Restaurant

Restaurants Steakhouse Hollywood

It’s Adam Perry Lang’s signature dish for a reason or, as the case may be, for many reasons: The remarkable product of nearly 10 hours of cooking, the sliced, Flintstones-sized beef rib oozes smoky, unctuous flavor under that thin outer crust of spices. Not only that, it’s accompanied by a briny, herbaceous pickle salad. It’s a showstopping large-format dish that will wow your table. Hooray for Hollywood, indeed. $162. —SB

Not up for the splurge? APL’s walk-up window offers meaty sandwiches, gourmet chili dogs, and the occasional beef rib at around $2 per ounce during weekday lunch (11:30am–3pm).

Bee Sting at Roberta's Pizza in Culver City
Photograph: Courtesy Roberta's

9. Bee Sting at Roberta’s

Restaurants Italian Culver City

Brooklyn’s cool-kid pizzeria made a spicy-sweet pie so legendary, word traveled all the way to L.A. years ago. Now that we have our own location, Angelenos can finally bite into Roberta’s fluffy, blistered crust that’s painted with tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, crisped soppressata, chili flakes, basil and a thin sheen of drizzled honey. It’s creamy, it has some heat, it’s charred, and it’s floral. If this is a bee sting, how do we upset the hive? $19. —SB

Moo's Craft Barbecue smoked meat plate Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy Moo's Craft Barbecue/John Troxell

10. Sausage plate at Moo’s Craft Barbecue

Andrew and Michelle Muñoz’s roving operation is worth Instagram-stalking, which is the best way to find their Texas-style, Mexican-inspired BBQ. Moo’s has become a citywide phenomenon since its early 2017 launch as an East L.A. backyard pop-up, but the finest bite of all might be the newest: Team Muñoz has been boldly experimenting with smoked sausage, stuffing one with brisket trimmings, jalapeño and cheddar cheese and another with fire-roasted poblanos and Monterey Jack. If you want a bite that oozes flavor, smoke, beef and pork grease—basically, all the good stuff—this is a can't miss. Various locations. Per link $5. —SB

Potatoes at Triniti in Echo Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

11. Potatoes at Triniti

Restaurants Cafés Echo Park

The dish looks more like a terrarium than a pile of potatoes and soft egg, but looks are deceiving at Echo Park’s most ambitious coffee shop. Dig through the olive-oil foam and the tangle of herbs—sometimes ice plants and purple basil, sometimes microgreens—and you’ll discover the smashed-and-fried potatoes with mustard seed, the runny egg and the garlicky romesco skordalia sauce. Every forkful is different and so is every visit, as the ingredients change seasonally. $16. —SB

Mister O's hanger steak in Studio City
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

12. Hanger steak at Mister O’s

Restaurants American creative Studio City

Mister O’s is making magic in Studio City: It doesn’t matter how immobilizingly stuffed you might be—you will make that hanger steak disappear. The Creekstone Farms beef is perfectly seared and pink in the center and somewhat of a treasure hunt: You’ll have to dig through a blanket of blistered shishitos, truffle nori, thinly sliced radish, roasted pee wee potatoes, long strands of green onion and charred citrus to find it, but the hunt is half the fun. These components make for one of the most surprising steaks of the year, and it’s one we think about often. $30. —SB

Fresh pasta at Jame Enoteca in El Segundo
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

13. Arugula pappardelle at Jame Enoteca

Restaurants Italian El Segundo

It’s hard to go wrong with any pasta at Jame Enoteca—they’re all fresh, and all coated with or buried under succulent, long-simmered sauces—but perhaps the most unique of them all is the arugula pappardelle. The wide ribbons of verdant, eggy sheet pasta soak in a lemony stock that’s impossible not to slurp up. It’s topped with a little hill of fall-apart braised pork, which is in turn topped by a mountain of arugula. This is tortellini en brodo’s heftier cousin, and all it wants to do is comfort you on a cold night. And who are we to say no to that? $18.50. —SB

Beef curry at RiceBox Cantonese BBQ in Spring Street Arcade Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy Rice Box

14. Grandma's Curry Beef Stew at RiceBox

Restaurants Chinese Downtown Historic Core

This fall, Lydia and Leo Lee launched one of 2018’s best dining gems: a modern, fast-casual Cantonese BBQ joint that’s small in size but bursting with flavor. The husband-and-wife team slow-roasts tiny batches of char siu, packs gooey cheese into bao, and modernizes their family recipes with locally- and humanely-raised meats. While everything here is worth ordering—seriously, everything—the most recent addition is one that always pops into our heads when we’re looking for some serious comfort food. Leo Lee calls upon his grandmother’s beef curry recipe, braising brisket for six hours until it practically falls apart in its curry of lemongrass, ginger, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, curry powder, coconut milk and more. $11.50. —SB

Vegan Mexican food burrito in Los Angeles by Cena Vegan
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Marissa R.

15. Plant-based burritos at Cena Vegan

For a city that runs on Mexican food, it can be hard to find a taco or a burrito that hasn’t been touched by meat or animal fat—even if it’s vegetarian, there’s a chance your dish has just been cooked on the plancha with the rest of the pollo. But Cena Vegan makes soulful and craveable Mexican food using generational family recipes and zero meat product. You can often spot their stand due to the lines down the block, and you should believe the hype: Cena’s meatless carne asada, carnitas, al pastor and pollo asado are flavorful due to authentic marinades, and they fill out one of the city’s best burritos: refried beans, rice, pico and a cashew chipotle crema. Find their schedule here. $8-$10. —SB

Gringo picadillo tacos at Punta Cabras in Santa Monica
Photograph: Courtesy Punta Cabras

16. Gringo Picadillo Tacos at Punta Cabras

Restaurants Mexican Santa Monica

Many native Angelenos didn’t grow up with preformed hard-shell tacos filled with ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese and sour cream—you know, the kind of meal that came out of a box and sat at the center of a lazy Susan. But all Angelenos, including homesick transplants, can and should make up for lost time with this take on the grocery-store staple. The hearty picadillo filling features clove-scented ground chuck and the dairy topping is gourmet crema, but the rest keeps it classic, making a taco so fun and flavorful that it rivals the menu’s Baja-leaning options. Per plate $18. —SB

Mid East Taco kabob burrito at Smorgasburg
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

17. Kabob burritos at Mid East Tacos

It started as an Instagram lark, but this kabob burrito took on a life of its own—which came as no surprise, considering it’s made by the Martirosyan family. The kin behind Mini Kabob make some of the best grilled meats in all of L.A.—don’t even try to dispute this—and once they crafted the kabob plate in burrito form for Grubfiend, they couldn’t keep up with demand in their Glendale restaurant. Thankfully, Mid East Tacos launched at the end of 2017, and in early 2018, the Middle Eastern-inspired taco and burrito stand became one of Smorgasburg’s regular vendors. Now you can find these heaving, hefty rolled meals stuffed with cilantro rice, spicy sauce and your choice of falafel, grilled chicken thigh or beef. They’re messy, they’re massive and after one taste, you’ll want one every Sunday. Around $13. —SB

Arts District Pizza Window Superfine from Steve Samson of Rossoblu
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

18. ES-CA-ROLE pizza at Superfine

Restaurants Pizza Downtown Fashion District

Anyone following the year’s trends could tell you that, while tacos and In-N-Out will always be at the top, pizza is climbing the ranks as an L.A. food. Chef Steve Samson already knew a thing or two about pizza—what with Sotto and all—but when he opened Superfine, his walkup window right next to his other Italian restaurant, Rossoblu, he gave us a style that feels unique to our city. Sold by the slice or whole pie, Superfine’s pizza features a dough that’s fluffy but sturdy, foldable but still a little crispy, and always comes piled with seasonal ingredients—especially when it comes to California produce. The ES-CA-ROLE is a perfect vehicle for them, including escarole leaves, slivers of red onion, briny chunks of salt-cured olives, a sprinkling of chilies, and a nice sheen of mozzarella and smoked provolone. It’s salty and bitter and smoky and completely craveable, and it feels all our own. $4 per slice, $25 per whole pizza. —SB

Pablo Kim Argentinian grilled meat at Smorgasburg
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

19. Pablo Kim’s Argentinian asado at Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg knows how to draft a roster, so when the event’s team announced that Pablo Kim would be bringing his Argentinian asador meats for a few weekends, we knew it was going to be good. And what the MasterChef Latino finalist showed L.A. was that we need more pop-ups from the promising chef: delightfully charred, red-centered slices of grilled beef ribs that peeled right off the bone; garlicky house-made chimichurri we want to pour over everything; flavorful handmade chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage). When’s the next time you can catch Kim’s cooking? TBA, but you can (and should) keep your eyes on his Instagram for updates. —Stephanie Breijo

Appetizers and small plates

Uni Lumpia at Ma'am Sir Filipino restaurant in Silver Lake
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

1. Uni Lumpia at Ma’am Sir

Restaurants Filipino Silver Lake

Take one part tradition and another part California seafood, and you have Ma’am Sir’s spin on lumpia. Charles Olalia shakes up Filipino classics at his first full-service spot, but none are as fun as the spring rolls he fills with lardo and shrimp mousse, then finishes with an entire piece of uni and a sprinkling of chives. Try not to guzzle the accompanying garlic vinegar. $14. —SB

Roy Ner smoked hummus at Akko Port in the Fields LA food hall
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

2. Smoked hummus at Akko Port

Restaurants Food court USC/Exposition Park

Australia’s Roy Ner brings years of experience in Israeli kitchens to his first California concept, one of the highlights of the new Fields LA food hall. At Akko Port, the menu is limited and looks predictable (mostly wraps and hummus bowls), but the smoked hummus is silken and earthy in a way we’ve never tasted before. When paired with its topping of bright Turkish salsa and creamy baba ghanoush, it forms a healthful, hearty dish we can’t get enough of. $8. —SB

Truffled tomato and burrata at Chateau Hanare Japanese restaurant at Chateau Marmont
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

3. Tomato and truffled burrata at Chateau Hanare

Restaurants Japanese West Hollywood

Imagine the best burrata-and-tomato salad of your life, then cover it with wisps of grated truffle, chilled plum wedges and a house-made Japanese dashi gelée. It’s sweet, salty, creamy, earthy and a definite always food. You’re in Reika Alexander’s house now or, more specifically, her low-lit bungalow at the edge of the Chateau Marmont. The restaurateur behind this classy new stunner brings Japanese staples to the table, done with California flair. (We’ll take an order of that uni ice cream, too.) $28. —SB

French onion soup at Oriel Wine Bar in Chinatown
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

4. French onion soup at Oriel

Bars Wine bars Chinatown

Oriel’s ceramic cauldron of decadent beef-and-onion soup rivals even the most established takes around town (and, trust us, it’s hard to compete with Petit Trois’). Settle in at the bar or at a table under the neon-pink lighting and tuck into this classic done right. Are you in Paris? Are you in a rose-hued scene from Drive? Who even cares? What matters is that you’re witnessing the cheese pull of your dreams, starring the broiled, 15-month-aged Comté that’s draped over the soup. $11. —SB


5. Bing at Majordomo

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Chinatown

At his first West Coast restaurant, David Chang has given L.A. a little bit of everything, and that is exactly how you should order. Every meal here ought to begin with the mix-and-match bing—Chinese wheat discs somewhere between pancakes and flatbread—which allows you to pick and choose from a rotating cast of accoutrements. Go simple with the hozon (fermented chickpea spread), go classy with the box of uni or the cave-aged butter and sturgeon caviar. Or go baller and spring for it all. $6–$52. —SB

Italian clam fried rice at Viale dei Romani in West Hollywood
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. Saffron fried rice at Viale dei Romani

Restaurants Mediterranean West Hollywood

There’s a lot to love at chef Casey Lane’s new Italian spot, and while a number of the dishes lean traditional, it’s one of Viale’s innovations that keeps us craving a visit to the ground floor of the La Peer Hotel. Fried rice makes a rustic appearance in Italian street food (take the fried balls of suppli or arancini, for instance), but it’s rare to see a refined Italian dish of fried, just-crispy grains of rice. Enter this heaping bowl, which includes rice or fideos with pepper, saffron, clams, ample garlic and a dab of aioli for a wholly unique dish that’s worth an order on every trip. (There are also mushroom and calabrese versions, also delicious, but the clam is the winner.) $34. —SB

Good Ass Salad from All Time in Los Feliz
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Thom N.

7. Good-Ass Salad at All Time

Restaurants Cafés Los Feliz

A giant bowl of “whatever’s fresh” (verbatim from the menu) that somehow tastes a million times better than anything we’ve ever made at home. Local greens, raw veggies, maybe some spicy herbs or seasonal fruit if you’re lucky, all tossed in a lemon vinaigrette and portioned to share. Our new favorite “simple” salad in the city. $14. —Kate Wertheimer

Korean Southern food mac and cheese and pork ribs at Makani in Venice
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. Buttermilk fried pork ribs at Makani

Restaurants American creative Venice

Southern comfort, meet bold Korean flavor. Practically everything at Kevin Lee’s electric and eclectic restaurant slams you in the face with spice (and that’s a good thing), and one of our favorites of the bunch is the little skillet of fried, tender pork ribs, which arrive sticky with a caramelized gochujang BBQ sauce. Lee’s dip into the South doesn’t end there; the ribs are gently stacked atop a spicy kimchi mac and cheese, which alone is so good that it’s worth inclusion on this list. Top it off with crushed peanuts, chilies and ribbons of green onions and you’ve got yourself a hot take on a few classics. $23. —SB

Lumpia sausage roll at Paramount Coffee Project ROW DTLA by Ria Barbosa
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

9. Lumpia sausage roll at Paramount Coffee Project DTLA

Restaurants Cafés Downtown Arts District

Chef Ria Barbosa blends her Filipino heritage with Paramount Coffee Project’s Aussie ethos, resulting in the kind of culture-crossing cuisine that makes L.A. food so exciting. Case in point: Barbosa’s take on the sausage roll, a Down Under classic, here made with her family recipe for lumpia filling, served with a sweet fish-sauce chili dip. The whole dish is hearty and funky and bright, and a perfect snapshot of our dining scene's surge in flavor innovation. $10. —SB

To learn more about Barbosa's family recipes, where she eats Filipino food in L.A. and just what's in this sausage roll, click your way right over here.

Shirley Chung's Culver City restaurant Ms Chi Cafe with cheeseburger potstickers
Photograph: Courtesy Ms Chi Cafe

10. Jumbo cheeseburger potstickers at Ms Chi Cafe

Restaurants Chinese Culver City

Shirley Chung’s cheeseburger potstickers first made an appearance on Top Chef, but now that she’s opened her first L.A. restaurant and slid them onto the menu, you can bet they’re making an appearance at our table during every visit. These massive handmade dumplings, served three to an order, are juicy and meaty and ooze cheese—like any great burger—and come adorned with crispy cheddar and bacon jam. Of all Chung’s Chinese-American food mash-ups, this is the hands-down winner. $10. —SB

Oyster Sliders at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

11. Oyster sliders at the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire

We know you’ll get to next year’s Renaissance Pleasure Faire and go straight for the turkey legs and meade, but divert thine quest for a stop at Raw Kine’s stand, where there’s fish and chips aplenty. There are oysters on the half shell, too, but keep your eyes on the oyster sliders, a plate of five plump Willapa Bay Washington oysters that’ve been sautéed in butter, garlic and parsley, and sit atop slices of baguette absolutely soaked in the sauce. It’s one of the pricier items at the faire, but they’re worth the splurge—and the mess. Grab a few extra napkins to catch all that butter from running down your arm and onto your linens. $14. —SB

Hummus at Hasiba
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Anne A.

12. Hummus at Hasiba

Restaurants Israeli Westside

Of course the Lodge Bread Co. team’s hummusiya would serve some of the best pita in the city, but, truth is, we’ll scoop up their creamy, tahini-heavy hummus with anything we can find. The Israeli- and Moroccan-leaning restaurant sports an all-kosher menu of pita sandwiches, shakshuka, and roasted and pickled vegetables, all worth an order. Our pick? One gargantuan bowl of hummus decorated with either wild mushrooms, stewed chickpeas, smoked paprika or seasonal veggies. No matter your choice of topping, a hearty squeeze of the restaurant’s own hot sauce is always the pro move. $10–$13. —SB

Dim sum dumplings at Mason's Dumpling Shop in Highland Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

13. Snow crab and pork soup dumplings at Mason’s Dumpling Shop

Restaurants Chinese Highland Park

Production starts at 6am, and only a few hours later, the dumplings might already be gone. Ker Zhu’s fast-casual restaurant, Mason’s, made waves in Highland Park earlier this year with its sold-out pan-fried potstickers and steamed, pleated dough purses full of meat and seafood and leeks. But because Mason’s shares an offsite prep kitchen with Zhu’s Monrovia spot, Luscious Dumplings, once HLP’s items are out, there’s no way to make more until the following morning. Fortunately, production is running more smoothly now, and now that Mason’s is a few months in, you’ll most likely get whatever you hope to order. Our advice? Go for the steamed snow crab and pork soup dumplings, which are lighter and even slightly floral in comparison to traditionally pork-centric xiao long bao. $9.50. —SB

Burgers and Sandwiches

Cheeseburger at the new Burgers Never Say Die restaurant in Silver Lake Glendale Boulevard
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Double cheeseburger at Burgers Never Say Die

Restaurants Hamburgers Silver Lake

Forget the half-pound burgers and artisanal condiments you’ll find at a steakhouse: Burgers Never Say Die makes pure, unadulterated patties smashed so thin with crisp edges so fine, they practically disintegrate on your tongue. They’re your childhood summers incarnate. American cheese runs down the freshly ground beef, which is topped with plain old yellow mustard, ketchup, pickles and white onion—that’s all she wrote, and that’s all we need. No wonder fans wait up to four hours during BNSD’s popular pop-ups. Thankfully, the hot spot is expanding to its very own brick-and-mortar shop, which will open any day now—a godsend for burger purists everywhere. $7.25. —SB

Chicken Park at Lupetti Pizzeria in Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Chicken parm sandwich at Lupetti Pizzeria

Restaurants Pizza Downtown Arts District

Most chicken parmesan sandwiches suck, skewing towards an overstuffed mess that squirts sauce with every bite or a measly chicken nugget with a slice of cheese. But this Arts District pizzeria has struck the perfect balance: a tender breaded cutlet topped with a gob of cheese and sauce with just a touch of spice, sandwiched between two crackly pieces of bread. You can order it as a plate with a side of greens, too, but carb-craving gourmands should opt for the sandwich. Sandwich $15, plate $16.50 (pictured here). —Michael Juliano

Grilled cheese at Mozza on the late-night menu
Photograph: Courtesy Pizzeria Mozza/Robert Johnson

3. Late-night grilled cheese at Pizzeria Mozza

Restaurants Pizza Hancock Park

We’re partial to the Nancy’s Grilled Cheese—which oozes cave-aged gruyère, tart pickled onion and a tangy mustard—but you can’t go wrong with the Ruth Reichl, packed with bacon, Tillamook cheddar and onion. Either way, we’re smitten with the triumphant return of Nancy Silverton’s decadent grilled cheese sandwiches, which had nearly disappeared since the 2012 closure of Campanile and are easily some of the best in the city. Thankfully you can find them again, but note the hours: These ooey, gooey delights can only be found during late-night service at Pizzeria Mozza, from 10pm to midnight, Sunday to Thursday. $8-$9. —SB

Bolo Bolognese Burger brunch at Rossoblu by Steve Samson
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

4. Bolo Burger at Rossoblu

Restaurants Italian Downtown Fashion District

True, it’s not an eggy brunch item, but you can only get this baby on the brunch menu. It’s hard to believe it took this long for a chef in L.A.—the alleged birthplace of the cheeseburger—to invent a bolognese-dripping patty. But who are we to look a sauced-up sando gift in the mouth? Rossoblu’s brunch has a few stars, but none shine brighter than the prime beef with pork-and-beef bolognese, gooey fontina and a slaw salad, all on a fluffy, house-baked milk bun. Insert Italian chef’s kiss here. $17. —SB

Vegan Carrot Tartine at Yarrow Cafe on Fairfax by Royce Burke
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Shelley Z.

5. Carrot tartine at Yarrow Cafe

Restaurants Vegetarian Fairfax District

At this all-day café, eating your vegetables is something that the picky child in all of us can look forward to. The dish starts with a hearty plank of Bub and Grandma’s sourdough bread, which gets a smear of locally sourced, roasted-then-puréed carrots. From there, chef-owner Royce Burke adds a rainbow of herbs and seasonal accoutrements, including organic roasted beets, mushrooms, leeks—you name it—for a slab so stunning, it’ll excite even the most toast-unfazed Angeleno. $9. —SB

Konbi katsu Japanese sandwich shop in Echo Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. Katsu at Konbi

Restaurants Japanese Echo Park

Even if your world doesn’t revolve around the L.A. food scene, there’s a good chance that one—or all—of Konbi’s katsu sandwiches found their way into your Instagram feed or your social circles this year. Some of the city’s most talked-about and aesthetically-pleasing stacks, Akira Akuto and Nick Montgomery’s creations have become the stuff of Echo Park legend: Lines outside the Japanese-inspired coffee shop sometimes stretch down the block and items can sell out like crazy. And while the croissants and the Japanese take on horchata are well worth an order, it’s the katsu sandwiches—made with custom Bub and Grandma’s milk bread—that you need. The pork katsu is crispy and salty and features a smear of tangy Bulldog sauce. The omelet is made with a flavorful, light dashi. The egg salad includes not only a creamy mash, but a whole, jammy egg at the center.Grab some friends and order them all. $10–$14. —SB

The Stepmother Italian deli sandwich at Cosa Buona in Echo Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. The Stepmother at Cosa Buona

Restaurants Italian Echo Park

Santa Monica may get Bay Cities, but at least for those of us who live eastward, we’ve got an Italian deli sandwich that comes close to the Godmother. At Zach Pollack’s hearty, no-frills Italian joint in Echo Park, you can snag the Stepmother during lunch and brunch, and if you can believe it, it’s stacked even higher than the O.G. inspiration. The bread is softer, ciabatta and house-made, and the pile of fennel salami, spicy salami, capocollo, prosciutto, mortadella, provolone, giardiniera, lettuce, shaved red onion, mustard, aioli and tomato makes for a messy meal that you can’t put down. No, really, once you pick it up it’s too messy to let go of—you’re in it until it’s completely gone. $14. —SB

Chili dogs at Adam Perry Lang APL Restaurant walk-up window Hole in the Wall in Hollywood
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. Double Beef Chili Dog at APL Hole in the Wall

Restaurants Sandwich shops Hollywood

Is a hot dog a sandwich? For the sake of this list, it absolutely is. And as of this August, no one in L.A. slings a better chili-topped hot dog than Adam Perry Lang. The Double Beef Chili Dog is one of the city’s best newcomers, and it ain’t your canned-chili variety: There are roasted Mexican hatch chilies involved, not to mention hand-cut prime-beef chuck and sweet onions, which all simmer away for hours to make a thick, textured chili with depth. Topped with pickled jalapeño and copious cheddar, this is an indulgent weekday lunch we can always get behind, and a cheaper way to sample Perry Lang’s expert, meaty cuisine. $6. —SB

Guerrilla Tacos cemitas special in Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

9. Cemitas at Guerrilla Tacos

Restaurants Mexican Downtown Arts District

Wes Avila may be known for his genre-bending tacos, but when the chef traded his food truck for a brick-and-mortar shop, he expanded the menu—and our waistlines. Avila’s new specials sometimes take the form of cemitas, the piled-high Mexican sandwiches, here served on freshly baked buns (though they’re more like pan de elote). They come stuffed with thick wedges of pork belly, fried egg, juicy carnitas and more, but whatever the protein, there’s always a rush of flavor from the pickled onions, chile de arbol purée and other fixins. Around $12. —SB

Be warned: This might just be the messiest item on our list. Grab a more private seat in the corner and face the wall to hide your shame.

Breakfast and brunch

Secret Menu cinnamon roll at Little Prince in Santa Monica by Ari Taymor
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Oven-roasted cinnamon bun at Little Prince

Restaurants American Santa Monica

This weekend special is worth rolling out of bed and coping with Santa Monica’s mayhem—and early, at that. The wood-fired oven at the heart of the restaurant makes only 16 of these massive cinnamon rolls during brunch. What’s more, they are an off-menu item, which means they’re only available to those in the know. First, the treats are baked, then smothered with a tart frosting of cream cheese, buttermilk and crème fraîche; when you order one, it hits the oven again, so it’s served hot and perfectly caramelized. At around six inches wide and three inches tall, these beauties are big enough to share with the table, unless you dare to tackle it all by yourself. $6. —SB

Brunch at Orsa and Winston Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Green barley porridge at Orsa & Winston

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Downtown Historic Core

Josef Centeno has more than cornered the great-food market on a few corners in DTLA, and this year, the tasting-menu hub of his small restaurant empire launched a brunch that rivals even the most established in the city. Duck into Orsa & Winston for yuzu-cream croissants, an omakase Japanese breakfast plate and a donabe for two, but it’s this porridge that lingers in our minds. Sure, you can find the green barley porridge on the weekday lunch menu, but this silky, miso-touched bowl topped with a poached egg is exactly what we want to wake up to every weekend. $12. (Add smoked fish for $4.) —SB

Savory danish at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Gorgonzola and shiitake danish at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

Restaurants Bakeries Highland Park

If you’ve wandered into this cheeky pastry shop— sporting neon that reads “I got baked in Los Angeles”—you might know that Mr. Holmes Bakehouse always carries a seasonal danish, tucked in alongside its usual mix of whimisical cookies and croissants. But what you might not know is that if you see a savory danish and you don’t order it, you’ll be cursed for 40 years. Just kidding. But you will around carry something even worse: You’ll have missed out on the consistently best item there. Toward the start of the year, Mr. Holmes launched a danish with a savory, rich center of sautéed shiitakes, spring onions and garlic, all made creamy thanks to some sour cream and gorgonzola (and probably a lot of butter). Sadly, this variety is out of season, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop by to see what else they’ve got in that pastry case. Around $5. —SB

Aussie brekkie granola parfait at Little Ruby in Santa Monica
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Coffee granola parfait at Little Ruby

Restaurants Cafés Santa Monica

There’s something about a beachy breakfast that makes lighter and breezier dishes all the more appealing. While we’re not saying you should skip Little Ruby’s Big Breakfast (their take on the Aussie/Brit full English breakfast), we definitely argue that your table’s going to need a bowl of the coffee granola parfait—just go ahead and get both. This creamy, crunchy dish combines finely ground coffee with Greek yogurt and house-made granola, then tops it all with seasonal fruit such as poached pears (pictured). It’s been a year or two of Aussie-café takeovers, and with dishes like these, that’s just fine by us. $8.50. —SB


Bone marrow with white chocolate dessert at Scratch Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Scratch Bar/Jakob N. Layman

1. Bone Marrow Dessert at Scratch Bar + Kitchen

Restaurants Contemporary American Encino

We’d bet dollars to dry-roasted cuttlefish that Scratch Bar’s tasting menu would impress you, but our money’s better spent on another dinner for ourselves. The highlight of the 15-course meal? The whimsical, eccentric desserts from pastry chef extraordinaire Margarita Kallas-Lee. Her most arresting dish is the hollowed-out bone marrow piped with a white-chocolate–and–bone-marrow custard that’s been dotted with pine-needle meringue and candied parsley. If you’re squeamish about bones, we’ll gladly take this one off your hands. Tasting menu $145. —SB

Nicole Rucker honey peanut pie at Fiona Bakery on Fairfax in Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Honey Peanut Pie at Fiona

Restaurants Cafés Fairfax District

Even the most ardent cake-over-pie enthusiasts can agree that a slice of Nicole Rucker’s honey-and-peanut pie is what dessert dreams are made of. The center? A golden, mellow, custardy base that’s smooth and sweet and slides over the tongue. The top? An almost toffee-like, crunchy sheen of whole roasted peanuts and sugar. The blend of crunch and cream, of sweet and savory, makes this an unforgettable slice (though come on, you know you want to buy the whole pie). $7 per slice, $42 per pie. —SB

Grilled Basque cake at Hail Mary Pizza in Atwater Village
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jessica N.

3. Basque Cake at Hail Mary Pizza

Restaurants Pizza Atwater Village

Sure, this new spot serves some of the best pizza Atwater has ever seen, but don’t even think about leaving without a slice of the grilled Basque Cake, a holdover from predecessor Journeymen. Instead of filling the Spanish dessert with a layer of fruit preserves—per tradition—Hail Mary serves house-made seasonal curd with a dab of tart yogurt on the side, balancing the dense almond-cake slices. $8. —SB

Tofu flavor soft serve at Big Softee in Monterey Park
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Allison Y.

4. Tofu Flower soft serve at Big Softee

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Monterey Park

You could opt for more typical flavors like mango jasmine tea or pandan soy milk—“typical” being a relative term at this Monterey Park spot—but why not try tofu in soft-serve form? It’s equal parts savory and sweet, with an extra-silky texture that pairs perfectly with the potato chip topping option. $3.75–$4.50. —KW

Brown Butter Mochi at Porridge and Puffs
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

5. Brown butter mochi at Porridge & Puffs

Restaurants Historic Filipinotown

You cannot share this dessert. Sure, you can try, but you’ll be stabbing your friend’s hand with a fork the second they go in for a bite. No one wants bloodshed at their dinner table, so it’s probably best to order a few plates of Minh Phan’s lightly chewy mochi cakes that come slightly caramelized on the edges and drizzled with a salty miso caramel sauce. And hey, at $5 a plate, you can afford to. Who knew avoiding all-out war was so inexpensive? —SB

Christina Tosi Dole Whip Pineapple Fo Sho at Milk Bar Los Angeles
Photograph: Courtesy Milk Bar

6. Pineapple Fo’Sho Whip at Milk Bar

Restaurants Bakeries Fairfax District

If you stop by Christina Tosi’s new bakery at peak hours, the long line may make you feel like you’re at Disneyland, but the treats inside are far more delicious. In her move to L.A. from NYC, the two-time James Beard Award–winning pastry queen has crafted a few L.A.-only items, including her spin on the Adventureland classic, Dole Whip. The Fo’Sho Whip is a dairy-free soft serve that whirs together pineapple and lime juice for a slightly tarter and creamier take on the Tiki Room’s iconic treat (with no squawking birds in sight). $5.50. —SB


Banana Cream with Some Herbs cocktail at The Wolves Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Banana Cream with Some Herbs at the Wolves

Bars Cocktail bars Downtown Historic Core

The everything–in-house ambition of Downtown’s knockout of a new bar is a marvel: All the drinks include small-batch, made–on-site liqueurs, vermouths or bitters, and some of the cocktails contain up to 60 ingredients. The Banana Cream is a rich, funky blend of bourbon, fermented bananas, dill-and-caraway liqueur, lavender-and-rose vermouth, orange crème fraîche, grapefruit, lemon and vanilla bitters. $16. —SB

Sakura Maru cocktail at the NoMad Hotel in Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Sakura Maru at the NoMad

Restaurants French Downtown Financial District

It starts with a base of house-made sheep’s milk yogurt, because of course it does. This is the bar at the NoMad, after all. Inarguably one of the strongest beverage programs now on either coast, the NoMad’s bevy of 40-or-so cocktails never skimps on effort or creativity. In the Sakura Maru, their house-made yogurt mixes with aged cachaça, genever, Macchu Pisco, lemon and green tea for a bright, refreshing but still creamy and dessert-leaning drink. Topped with lime zest, it’s tart and fresh—and a definite go-to when we can’t pick from the bar’s dozens of cocktails. $17. —SB

Benjamin Franklin milk punch cocktail tasting menu at Bar Centro and the Bazaar by Jose Andres
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

3. Ben Franklin’s Milk Punch at the Bazaar by José Andrés

Restaurants Patisseries Beverly Grove

Is it strange that one of the city’s most modern restaurants is giving us an 18th-century throwback? Not at all, considering that Benjamin Franklin’s crystal-clear, sherry-based milk punch, served here in a sleek milk carton made of glass, looks about as contemporary as it gets. In mid-2018, Bar Centro launched a six-drink cocktail tasting menu, complete with Franklin’s 1763 recipe. Unusual for the Bazaar, there’s no molecular gastronomy at play: The tart, creamy concoction becomes opaque thanks to the natural mingling (okay, curdling) of milk and fresh lemons, resulting in a soft, citrus-forward punch. Tasting menu $55. —SB

Streamliner Cocktail bar in Union Station Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Mint daiquiri at the Streamliner

Bars Cocktail bars Downtown

Whether you’re catching a plane, a train or an automobile, Union Station’s new arrival will get a drink in your hand without delay to get you on your way. Helmed by vets from the Varnish, the Streamliner’s program is classics-oriented, with efficiency in mind: Take the mint mojito, which combines rum with premade “bricks” of lime, sugar and water, then whips it all together with an immersion blender for a quick-and-easy drink that takes seconds to make. Who says travel has to be stressful? $8. —SB

Want more? Here are past years’ best dishes and drinks in L.A.


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