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Sibling Rival Sunday in Brooklyn LA restaurant Hoxton Hotel DTLA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

The 55 best dishes and drinks in Los Angeles in 2019

Between the lobster rolls, the churros, the tasting menus, the pop-ups and the best new pancakes in town, you’re going to need a game plan

By Stephanie Breijo and Time Out contributors
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In addition to Michelin’s return and a sleek new bar popping up every other week, this was a year of great dining at every level: Some of L.A.’s best new dishes could be found for as little as $5, while others were worth the hundred-and-up–dollar splurge. We ate—and ate, and ate—our way through the best of them to close out the year with our guide to the best dishes we tasted this year. Whether they’re new or just new to you, here’s where to find some of L.A.’s best new dishes and drinks—at any price point.

See Also: The Best New Restaurants of 2019, The Best New Bars of 2019The Best L.A. Cookbooks of 2019Our Top 10 Food and Drink Stories of 2019

Entrées

Hayato Los Angeles Kaiseki LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Kaiseki menu at Hayato

Restaurants Japanese Downtown Arts District

Is this cheating? Probably. But Brandon Go’s masterful 10-course kaiseki menu is so flawless from start to finish, with each dish a seamless transition into the next, that it would be a crime to single out one bite in the three-hour procession. Last year we waxed on about the Hayato lunchtime bento box, but this year, we’re all in on its dinner: Less is more in this dive into Japanese fine dining, where Go coaxes out delicate flavors with traditional and technically stellar preparations. You’ll wind your way through the likes of an aromatic owan (bowl) soup course punctuated with a large and tender crab meatball; tender pieces of steamed abalone with a funky, unctuous abalone liver sauce; and a sushi course so fresh and bright you’ll spend the rest of the year hoping that Go might one day launch his own sushi restaurant. $240. —Stephanie Breijo

Parm Boyz la pop-up chicken parmesan italian food
Photograph: Courtesy Ronan/Genevieve Adams

2. Chicken and eggplant parm at Parm Boyz

Restaurants Italian Fairfax District

The parm is the star at this monthly pop-up, but let’s be real, it’s here because this prix-fixe menu has the whole package: Every ticket includes salad, antipasti, both chicken and eggplant parm, and some of the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted, not to mention total party vibes while the team takes over Ronan with a hip-hop playlist and some of the most fun you can have on a Sunday night. The parms themselves are fast becoming legendary, absolutely smothered in red sauce and what feels like half an inch of gooey mozzerella, then littered with whole fresh basil leaves. If you’re heading to a Parm Boyz pop-up make your res for an early time slot so you can snag one of the bone-in veal chop parm add-ons to do it up right. $35. —SB

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Orsa and Winston seafood porridge
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Seafood porridge at Orsa & Winston

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Downtown Historic Core

Haters will tell you not to mix seafood and dairy, but those people have clearly never tried Josef Centeno’s satsuki rice porridge. Creamy with parmesan, the thick, comforting bowl of rice feels almost risotto-adjacent and comes topped with sizeable planks of uni, mounds of Hokkaido scallop and dots of briny ikura for a salty and lush dish that proves these all belong together. Find it as part of Centeno’s five-course tasting menu. $85. —SB

Majordomo LA duck crispy rice
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Duck with crispy rice at Majordōmo

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Chinatown

This large-format dish manages to ping all of the right parts of my brain: There’s texture from the crispy rice, which arrives just barely sticking to the bottom and edges of the cast-iron pan it’s served in; there are waves of flavor, thanks to a salty and robust smoked-duck broth; and there’s an almost primal instinct that kicks in when you bite into the slightly rare, perfectly roasted duck that seethes with juices and flavor. Mixed tableside, so the turnips and leeks mingle with the duck and the rice, it’s fun to order and even more of a pleasure to eat. $94. —SB

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Bon Temps roast chicken DTLA Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

5. Roast chicken with mashed potato salad at Bon Temps

Restaurants Contemporary American Downtown Arts District

The truth is, I couldn’t stop laughing. Lincoln Carson manages to serve an artful whole roast chicken in his Arts District brasserie—with legs stuffed and the breast shockingly tender—but it also comes served with the most humorous salad in the city: Subverting all expectations for health and greenery, Carson’s side is all market lettuces perfectly dressed, but sprinkled with crackly chicken skins and served over a hefty layer of mashed potatoes for a bite that surprises and delights and proves that salads don’t need to be stodgy (or lettuce-forward at all). $80. —SB

Inda pop up Los Angeles LA indonesian
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. Kanpachi rendang curry at Inda

One of the best new pop-ups of 2019 can be found slinging the bright and curry-happy flavors of Indonesian cuisine around town thanks to Zen Ong, a former E.P./L.P. chef. He’s delighting with Inda, his modern-Indonesian dinner pop-up, and while the dishes of his tasting menu usually change, one particular, exemplary dish feels indicative of everything he’s about: Ong somehow created a meaty Indonesian rendang—a stalwart curry usually made with beef—entirely from a tuna, utilizing the lungs and heart and meat for a flavorful and wholly unique dish you can’t find anywhere else. It was a perfect, no-waste exploration of Ong’s creativity in bringing his take on Indonesian flavor to L.A. Have you dined at Inda yet? No? Ong’s got plenty of pop-ups planned for 2020, so this is your year. $88, but events vary. –SB

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Sonoratown Restaurant Los Angeles DTLA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. Costilla Poblano Caramelo at Sonoratown

Restaurants Mexican Downtown Fashion District

There’s no bad order at Sonoratown, but this is the year I finally figured out my must: I can no longer visit the colorful Sonoran-style Mexican restaurant without a poblano-packed caramelo, which lies somewhere between an oversized taco and a quesadilla, jam-packed with melty monterey jack, plump pinto beans, crisp shredded cabbage and salsa bright enough to light up Downtown on a smoggy  day. Now I opt for the costilla filling—for charred-to-perfection steak—and I always add the blistered poblano peppers for depth, extra char and a little heat. (This is key: Always add the poblanos.) I’ll always love the chivichangas, but a poblano caramelo is the move. $7. —SB

Park's Finest Historic Filipinotown Los Angeles HiFi
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. Beef coconut curry at the Park’s Finest

Restaurants American creative Echo Park

Of all the Concordia family’s straight-from-the-backyard recipes at its HiFi BBQ spot, Mama Leah’s Coconut Beef is the one that best captures that communal spirit. Pile as many people around the table as you possibly can for this savory Flilipino adobo, with tender, sixteen-hour–smoked cubes of top round simmered in a stew of vinegar, chili and fish sauce, with just the perfect amount of sweetness from coconut cream. The sizable bowl will empty pretty quickly as you pour it over any and every starch sitting on your table. $16.50 –Michael Juliano

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Versailles LA roast pork Lechon Asado
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

9. Lechon Asado at Versailles

Restaurants French Westside

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest restaurants—especially when it’s your job to—but one of my best meals of the year was revisiting one of my childhood favorites, a long-time Los Angeles classic that’s less about flash and more about flavor. The gold standard of Cuban food in L.A., Versailles has been a fixture for garlic chicken and plantains since 1981. My favorite has always been the roast pork, though, so tender it falls of the bone in strings and morsels and swims in a tangy citrus broth. Garnished with slices of raw onions and a side of rice and beans and plantains, it’s easily one of the most comforting and consistent plates that gives even the best newbies a run for their money. $15.99. —SB

Tony Khachapuri Banh Oui Los Angeles LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

10. Khachapuri at Tony Khachapuri

Restaurants Vietnamese Hollywood

If you’d told me that Casey Felton and Armen Piskoulian’s Banh Oui could somehow become even better, I might not have believed you. But tasting is believing at Tony Khachapuri, the restaurant-within-a-restaurant that offers cheesy, garlicky, egg-topped Georgian flatbreads from inside both the Hollywood and Melrose Banh Oui locations. Tear off the crusts (I always opt for the za’atar option) and dip them in the cheesy, yolky center that can come topped with truffles, sausage, shallots, pastrami and whatever else the chefs feel like tossing on there. It’s hearty and decadent and makes for a perfect picnic, night in or, really, any other sort of meal, which is excellent because we’re always down for some Tony Khachapuri. $10. —SB

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Iki Ramen Koreatown LA Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

11. Yuzu shio ramen at Iki Ramen

Restaurants Japanese Koreatown

Americans love a rich, knock-you-out-for-hours tonkotsu broth, but there’s more to ramen than the multi-hour pork-bone base. At Iki Ramen, a masterful shop tucked into a K-town strip mall, the team has mastered the art and nuance of it all, especially when it comes to shio, or salt broth. Understated and thinner, it’s easily overlooked, but at Iki, you shouldn’t: Theirs accomplishes depth from a house dashi and hours of simmered chicken bones, and it’s gussied up with perfectly chewy noodles, a jammy egg and a few slices of tender pork belly, but the real kick is that it’s all brightened by slivers of yuzu peel for a citrusy, tart finish. $12. —SB

Woon Kitchen Chinese Food Los Angeles Historic Filipinotown HiFi
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

12. Beef noodles at Woon

Restaurants Chinese Historic Filipinotown

One bite of the beef noodles at this HiFi mother-and-son operation and you’ll be overcome with a Ratatouille-like fit of emotions. How can it taste this good? Am I actually just eating in someone’s home kitchen right now? And has a portion of stir fry ever made me this content before? Thick, chewy noodles accompany perfectly marinated slices of flank steak that get even better with a few dashes of the tableside hot sauce. $11. –MJ

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Saturday paella and Spanish food at La Espanola Meats deli in Harbor City
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

13. Paella at La Española Meats

Restaurants Spanish The Harbor

One of my best surprises of the year arrived in a styrofoam container at the edge of town. When researching our “best Spanish restaurants” feature, I headed to a tiny but expertly stocked deli in a warehouse cul-de-sac in Harbor City. On Saturdays, you can find La Española Meats doling out a variety of sizeable, bang-for-your-buck paellas dotted with mussels, chicken, squid, vegetables, pork loin and jumbo shrimp. Unless you’re angling for the house paella, you’ll need to reserve your type online ahead of time; then show up, grab a seat on the patio and just try not to blow all your money on the imported Iberico ham and tinned goods. $10. —SB

Cento Pasta Bar Beet Spaghetti DTLA Downtown LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

14. Beet spaghetti at Cento Pasta Bar

Restaurants Italian Downtown Historic Core

The menu changes weekly at Cento, the chef’s counter lunch residency housed within Downtown wine bar Mignon, but you’ll always find this deep red-purple pasta on offer. So for my first visit I opted for an of-the-moment dish, which was great, I’m sure, but immediately wiped from memory once I tried my dining partner’s plate of the beet spaghetti. The cold dollop of goat cheese, the little surprises of poppy seeds, the buttery, slightly sweet noodles—order it all for yourself so you’re not stealing it off of your neighbor’s plate. And even then, maybe steal a little extra from them. $18. –MJ

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Madre Restaurant Oaxacan Tlayuda
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

15. Tlayuda at Madre

Restaurants Mexican Torrance

Tlayudas are a serious sight to behold, especially at Madre. The Oaxacan restaurant and mezcaleria serves some of the best in town, slathering the crispy tortilla with silken, flavorful beans, stringy, salty cheese and a rainbow of sliced tomato, radish, avocado and cabbage. It comes served atop a wooden cutting board and handily with a large knife, because this is absolutely a dish you’re going to want to share (or at least cut into portions before tackling it yourself). When it comes to toppings we’re all about the house chorizo and the slabs of marinated pork, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything here. $20. —SB

Jitlada turmeric chicken wings
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

16. Chicken wings with turmeric rice at Jitlada

Restaurants Thai East Hollywood

You could eat at Jitlada every day for a couple months and never wind up with the same order twice, which is part of the beauty of our favorite Hollywood restaurant. (The other part is somewhere between owner Jazz Singsanong’s hospitality and biting wit; the warmth and legacy of her brother, chef Tui; and the absolute insanity and energy in that bric-a-brac dining room.) This year I branched out and tried a new-to-me dish, item number 162: crispy-crunchy chicken wings on a veritable mountain of turmeric fried rice. The components are so simple and comforting it’s impossible to stop from faceplanting right into the plate, and serves as a good reminder that it’s smart to go menu offroading every once in awhile. $19.95. —SB

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Burmese Please pop up Los Angeles LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

17. Tray lunch at Burmese Please

You can usually find Burmese Please popping up once a month at Chinatown After Dark, but if chef-founder Jessie Nicely also happens to be serving her Burmese curries in lunch-tray form, that’s rarer still. Usually she spoons her potato curries and catfish stews into paper bowls or big leaves of paratha (thousand-layer bread), but my favorite form in 2019 arrived in an old-school lunch tray for maximum sampling: a total boon, given how good Nicely’s sides and salads are. $12. —SB

Fresh ramen and tsukemen noodles at Okiboru in Chinatown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

18. Tonkotsu ramen at Okiboru

Restaurants Japanese Chinatown

You’ll probably opt for the tsukemen at this Chinatown spot, which has quickly become known for its outstanding dip ramen. But if you don’t feel like dunking your noodles yourself, the more traditional, rich but not-too-heavy tonkotsu it just as satisfying. Its broth doesn’t detract from the centerpiece, either: The small-batch, hand-cut noodles are perfectly chewy (always opt for the thicker ones). $12. –MJ

Appetizers and Small Plates

<p>Angler reserve caviar spooned tableside onto a banana pancake</p>
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

1. Caviar pancake at Angler

Restaurants Seafood Beverly

By all logic, it shouldn’t work. There’s a banana pancake, which evokes both a comy, lazy breakfast at home and the best banana bread you’ve ever had, but in Joshua Skenes’s world—specifically his first Los Angeles restaurant—it serves as more of a blini. That’s because it’s a bready bed for reserve caviar, and lots of it, bumping that pancake into oil-baron status and slathering it with house cultured banana butter, making for a sweet, familiar bite that pops with salinity and the sea. (Leave it to one of the country’s top seafood chefs to make caviar work with banana.) There’s been some dispute as to how you eat this one: fold it like a taco, or use a knife and fork? Whatever the mode of transportation, you’ll probably find that Skenes’s take on caviar service is one of the most original of 2019. $88 per ounce of caviar. —SB

Nightshade Los Angeles shrimp toast Mei Lin
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

2. Prawn toast at Nightshade

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Downtown Arts District

This was a year of shrimp toast, but none shone so bright as Mei Lin’s in every sense. Floating in a near-neon pool of green, perfectly-spiced Cantonese curry, Nightshade’s take on the comforting Chinese dish stood apart from the rest, visually, and that small mountain of fried curry leaves didn’t hurt, either. But Lin’s shrimp toast—plump with plenty of prawn meat in the paste—matches high quality with its haute sensibility, giving us a creamy-crunchy must-order dish that practically begs to be licked from the stylish ceramic bowl and obliterated on every visit (almost a shame, considering how flawless and composed those diagonal rectangles always look before we get to them). $25. —SB

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Dandi beef tongue jjim tostada
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Beef tongue jjim tostada at Dandi

I’d say chefs Jihee Kim and Joshua Pressman are making magic in the kitchen, but it’s really their hours of work and care and expertise that’ve been putting some of 2019’s most exciting food in L.A. on the table. At Dandi, their modern Korean tasting-menu pop-up, days and sometimes weeks of prep lead to creative, ambitious small plates punctuated by kimchi, mellowed by silken tofu, electrified by hot peanut mustard. Everything on the menu appeals, but I’ve found it hard to stray from the beef-tongue jjim, meaty and marinated until tender, then spooned over a tostada shell with kimchi, and finally, draped by melty cheese and delicate chive blossoms. Find it on their tasting menu, and find them in a monthly residency at Hotel Normandie (January ticket cost TBA). —SB

Ronan long bean carbonara
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Chinese long bean carbonara at Ronan

Restaurants Italian Fairfax District

The pizza is a must at Ronan, but don’t let all that blistered-crust dough and gooey, melty cheese stop you from ordering a little bit of, oh, everything else. If the Chinese long beans are on the menu, it’s imperative you order them, but whether or not you share is up to you. The world went hard for zucchini noodles, but apparently we all missed the boat with long beans, who serve as spaghetti in Ronan’s genius adaptation of the rich, pork-laden pasta dish. Here, the veggies come twirled in guanciale gravy and peppered with cured egg yolk just to further stunt on all the other noodle-less noodle dishes, past and present. $17. —SB

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spring rolls Rice Box DTLA
Photograph: Courtesy Rice Box

5. RBX cheesy egg roll at Rice Box

Restaurants Chinese Downtown Historic Core

Like some sort of stoner food of the gods, Rice Box’s egg rolls ooze volcanic-hot monterey jack cheese that’s studded with mounds of the restaurant’s tender, long-roasted, sweet-savory char siu. It’s all rolled up in a wonton wrapper and fried to a perfect golden brown, a salty and creamy and crunchy and gooey snack so brilliant we can’t believe it hasn’t popped up in kitchens much sooner. Thankfully Leo and Lydia Lee are making them in their fast-casual Cantonese shop, and three to an order, which is probably for the best (any more in a box and we’d demolish those, too). $8.50. —SB

Yours Truly mille crepe chicken liver venice
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. Chicken liver mille crepe at Yours Truly

Restaurants American creative Venice

Sometimes I wonder what I could accomplish if I had the patience of Vartan Abgaryan, who not only spends a good chunk of his days carefully flipping what must be dozens upon dozens of rye crepes, but then spends even more time carefully spreading the most silken chicken-liver filling between each layer. What results is a labor of love devoured in seconds, and understandably so; the mille crepe at Yours Truly is as pretty as the restaurant’s  Abbot Kinney clientele, and one of the most delectable chicken-liver vehicles I’ve seen in years. Each sliver arrives with a trio of accoutrements—apricot mostarda, tomato jam and artichoke persillade—all fantastic enough to almost inspire me to start making jams and persillades at home. (Again, if I only had the patience of Vartan Abgaryan.) $15. —SB

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Il Pesce Cucina Michael Cimarusti
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. Frito misto at Il Pesce Cucina

Restaurants Italian Century City

Los Angeles serves up plenty of fresh seafood and some of the West Coast’s best Italian restaurants, but when it comes to a meeting of the two, it’s hard to beat Michael Cimarusti. The Michelin-starred Providence chef is better known for his immaculate seafood tasting menu, but this Italian-American knows a thing or two about a no-holds-barred frito misto, too, and at his gem of a seafood counter inside Eataly, you can find some of the best fried fish in town. With a perfectly light and crisp coating—but not too much—Cimarusti’s take coats unbelievably fresh shrimp, scallops and calamari, not to mention a side of charred lemon for a pop of acidity. $17. —SB

Photograph: Courtesy Delicatessen By Osawa

8. Oyako soba with miso soup at Delicatessen by Osawa

Restaurants Japanese Pasadena

My local deli doesn’t serve sandwiches or bagels—instead it cooks up grab-and-go Japanese street food and warm bowls of noodles and rice. If comfort food is your objective, the dinner-only oyako soba is the go-to: juicy, diced chicken thigh, egg and soy-sauce–simmered onions sit atop a bed of soba noodles and chopped seaweed, with a side of miso soup to up the that-hits-the-spot factor. $12.95. –MJ

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Freedman's Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

9. Oxtail pierogi at Freedman’s

Restaurants Delis Silver Lake

Freedman’s was always a choice restaurant from the jump, but this year chef Ryan Costanza joined the team and began fleshing out the already enticing Jewish-American menu. In addition to the greats (don’t worry, those fish cigars aren’t going anywhere), you can find some phenomenal specials (hello, chicken-heart yakitori with golden raisins) and a dish I’m still mulling over months later, Costanza’s skillful pierogi. Toeing the line between pierogi and agnolotti, the thin, house-made dough came flush with braised oxtail, all folded up into tidy parcels and seared on each side. Served with blackberries, oxtail jus and lemon, it was bright, meaty and just a taste of what Costanza has up his sleeves. $23. —SB

Formosa Cafe Los Angeles food
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

10. Fish dumplings at Formosa Cafe

Restaurants Pan-Asian West Hollywood

There’s a lot to keep you lingering at the reimaged Formosa Cafe: the cozy old red car dining room, a dramatically-lit bar top rescued from Chinatown and some seriously dangerous mai tais. But above all, it was the fish dumplings that kept me put at my table. Filled with just white fish, ginger and garlic, the venue must’ve slipped some of its Old Hollywood magic into these salty, one-bite bits of bliss because I quickly lost count of how many I’d downed or even ordered (alright, I’ll chalk that up to the mai tais). $13. –MJ

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Pork Belly Nigiri Spoon & Pork
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

11. Adobo belly nigiri at Spoon & Pork

Restaurants Filipino Silver Lake

There are perfect bites, and then there’s the pork nigiri at Spoon & Pork. It’s hard to imagine a more succulent and tender slab of marinated pork belly than what Raymond Yaptinchay and Jay Tugas roast and serve over rice, a nigiri set that serves traditional Filipino comfort-food flavor in a new way. Each piece is two bites, max, which is a shame because you’re going to want it to last, all crunchy from the crispy garlic and nori, and bright from the chives and that single dot of chili sauce. Good thing these come two to an order. (We’re telling you now, you won’t want to share this plate.) $7. —SB

Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey Palm Springs
Photograph: Michael Juliano

12. Sandfish roll at Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey

Restaurants Japanese Palm Springs

A string of disappointing dinners in Palm Springs pushed me toward sticking mostly to supermarket snacks poolside instead—until I first visited Sandfish. Whiskey and raw fish may seem like an odd close to a scorching day, but it’s all I crave now on trips to the desert, particularly the restaurant’s namesake dish: a spicy tuna roll topped with a tangle of fried potato threads that’ll have you mopping up every bit of spicy aioli and teriyaki sauce. Make sure to wash it down with a Japanese old-fashioned. $19.75 –MJ

Burgers and Sandwiches

Thai tea fried chicken sandwich at Long Beach tiki bar Bamboo Club
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Thai tea fried chicken sandwich at Bamboo Club

Bars Cocktail bars Long Beach

I was already jealous of Long Beach’s killer new tiki bar, but when I finally bit into its Thai-tea–brined fried chicken sandwich, I was practically sobbing. This is a sandwich I want near me at all times. There’s a slight creaminess from the brine, and an unmistakable black-tea flavor that doesn’t overpower the bird—though it does color it a fun ceylon-tinted orange around the edges. Brightened by a green papaya slaw, it’s a fun, funky, tropical and wholly original sandwich I haven’t stopped thinking about for months. $12. —SB

Broad Street Oyster Co lobster roll in Malibu Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Lobster roll at Broad Street Oyster Company

Restaurants Seafood Malibu

What makes a perfect lobster roll? Is it the meat-to-brioche ratio? Nailing the ideal claw-to-tail mixture? Maybe the seasoning? Is it the warm butter or mayo? Your mileage may vary, but wherever you land, Broad Street Oyster Co. is surely the winner, turning out the best lobster roll in town, whether you like ‘em warm, buttery and toasty, or chilled and New England-style. But the pop-up—now with a permanent outpost in Malibu—will do you one better, and give your roll plenty of add-on options such as uni, caviar and shaved truffle—or, if you really want to go big, all three. $22. —SB

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Love Hour smashburger cheeseburger pop-up restaurant in Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Cheeseburger at Love Hour

In a year of smashburger newcomers, one managed to rise above the crispy-edged rest. Beer Belly’s Jimmy Han teamed up with chef Aaron Lopez, influencer Michael Pak, and—of all things—an athletic group (the ultra popular Koreatown Run Club) to bring us an assembly-line operation that sets up shop in front of the LINE Hotel by night, and Smorgasburg by (Sun)day. The team cranks out unbelievable tender beef patties seared to a lacy rim, then stacks them and smothers them in cheese and throws them on a potato bun. The special sauce and seasoned fries are what really make the Love Hour burgers sing, but even without, they’ve quickly become a go-to at all hours. $6. —SB

All Day Baby beef and cheese sandwich
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Beef and Cheese at All Day Baby

Restaurants American Silver Lake

All Day Baby is proof that every diner should come equipped with a meat smoker, and if you’re looking for even more incentive, we’d like to point your attention to the Beef and Cheese. Thin, perfectly smoked slices of seasoned beef stack in medium-rare waves on a brioche roll and get absolutely doused in a creamy, gooey, rich tie-dye of cheese sauce and horseradish mayo for a comforting, eyes-roll-back-in-your-head bite. $15. —SB

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Garth Trinidad Wax Paper Chinatown sandwich
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

5. Garth Trinidad at Wax Paper Chinatown

Restaurants Sandwich shops Chinatown

When the Frogtown sandwich spot expanded to its second location, it brought along a Chinatown-only entry that’s among the best of its NPR personality-named menu items. This loaded turkey sandwich is messy, for sure, but you’ll be scavenging for every last bit of the sweet-and-spicy cabbage-citrus-solano slaw—not to mention the miso-sesame–smeared fluffy focaccia it’s all piled on top of. $14. —MJ

Ototo katsu sando los angeles echo park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. Chicken katsu sando at OTOTO

Restaurants Japanese Echo Park

It’s easy to get lost in Ototo’s thorough, down-the-rabbit-hole sake list of rare and fun and whimsical imports; thankfully, this new bar also has some fantastic bites to pad your stomach when you do. The katsu sando might be the favorite, and it’s also the messiest: How the crisp coating around those plump chicken thighs manages to maintain its crunch under all of that tonkatsu sauce and cabbage slaw is beyond us, but we can’t spend too much time thinking about it. We’re too busy sopping up the excess juices with the milk bread. $12. —SB

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Thousand Layer Pancake sandwich at Joy on York in Highland Park Los Angeles
Photograph: Jesse Hsu

7. Thousand layer pancake sandwich at Joy on York

Restaurants Thai Highland Park

To know Joy is to love it, and to also understand that there is no bad order here. Vivian Ku’s fast-casual Taiwanese follow-up to Pine & Crane nails the small plates, the mochi, the cold salads and the noodle bowls, but we’ve found it impossible to skip the thousand-layer pancake all wrapped up and bundling melty cheddar, fried egg, chili sauce and plenty of fresh Thai basil. It’s flaky and hearty and just the right level of greasy, all lightened and spiced by the chili and fresh herbage. It’s a meal on its own, but trust us: If you’re dining with a group, just get one or two for the whole table—everyone’s going to want a bite. $8. —SB

E Stretto deli sandwich shop with wine in Bar Clacson Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. The Ill Papa at E Stretto

Restaurants Sandwich shops Downtown Historic Core

L.A.’s most irreverent deli hit the scene this year with E Stretto, the tightest, most Simpsons-lovingest sandwich shop in town. You can catch the show on TV at almost all hours, while a “666: HELL, admit one” sticker and a cheeky sandwich board remind you it’s all fun here (like you could ever forget). The handful of Italian-inspired sandwiches are all pretty clutch, but the signature is the Ill Papa, a heaping stack of mortadella, capicolla, Spanish chorizo, manchego, tomato, lettuce, a perfect house-made giardiniera, a splash of red wine vinaigrette and some house dijonaise. Like the name suggests, it’s ill as hell. $14. —SB

Breakfast and Brunch

Sibling Rival Sunday in Brooklyn LA restaurant Hoxton Hotel DTLA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. Pancakes at Sibling Rival

Restaurants American Downtown Fashion District

With pancakes this rich and decadent, it almost feels like you’re eating dessert for breakfast—almost. The savory edge of that nutty, earthy praline maple sauce eases every stack back toward savory territory, while the thick, fluffy and almost cake-like disks taste perfectly, only lightly sugared. We crave them when we’re hungover, we crave them in the late afternoon, we crave them on weekdays. Fortunately, Sibling Rival serves ’em ’round the clock and as singles, doubles or triples. There’s a reason these pancakes made our list of the best in NYC, and why we couldn’t contain ourselves when we learned they were coming here. $9. —SB

Belle's Bagel's Highland Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Pastrami breakfast sandwich at Belle’s Bagels

Restaurants Bakeries Highland Park

L.A. is home to plenty of killer bagels, but when it comes to bagel sandwiches, it’s hard to beat Belle’s. The cause of lines down York starting as early as 7am, this bagel baker sets up shop in the walk-up window of music venue the Hi Hat, slinging some of the best and most perfectly chewy rounds in town. The sandwich options come stacked high and dripping with unique and totally house-made spreads, including—and this is important—the sweet-salty tomato jam. If you’re opting for a Belle’s breakfast sandwich, always add the tomato jam to your egg and cheese. If you’re anything like us, you’re also going to want to add the pastrami, which makes for an ideal way to wake up. $12.50. —SB

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Zoe Food Party pita Highland Park Collage Coffee pop up
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Breakfast pita at Zoe Food Party

One of the year’s best newcomers crops up one day a week, and with one dish only, and no matter what it is, we can almost guarantee you’re going to like it. That’s because chef-founder Zoe Komarin’s Wednesday morning Highland Park pita party is half about the fantastic food, and half about the communal backyard hang of it all. Fluffy, pliant pita gets stuffed with whatever vegetables and garden-fresh spreads and seeds Komarin might be feeling that week, usually piling scrambled eggs (or vegan “eggs”) in among the likes of sweet potatoes, persimmon sauce, tahini, rosemary jam, beets, marinated feta, dill, pickled onions, watermelon radish, flower petals—you name it. Find Komarin keeping fans of all ages fed, talking and making new pita friends behind Collage Coffee starting at 8:30am on Wednesdays. (Note: Zoe Food Party doesn’t return from the holidays until January 15). $10. —SB

Foxy's Restaurant Glendale brunch
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Barbacoa plate at Foxy’s Restaurant

Restaurants Diners Glendale

Credit where credit’s due: Foxy’s isn’t the newest or shiniest restaurant in town, but it is still without a doubt one of the best breakfast spots in all of Los Angeles—and the weekend lines out the door mean business. The classic A-frame diner packs crowds for a lengthy list of brunch and breakfast staples (Benedicts, pancakes, baked eggs) but our move is always the Mexican food, and specifically the barbacoa plate: The tri-tip simmers with three varieties of chili pepper for hours, imparting rich, deep flavor to the gravy that seeps its way into the meat. Served with silky beans and rice, plus tortillas and salsa, it’s a complete breakfast that’s big enough to share (or a meal for one that keeps especially well until the next day). $14. —SB

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Hippo Highland Park hotcakes
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

5. Griddled hotcakes at Hippo

Restaurants American creative Highland Park

Chef Matt Molina garnered his reputation with expert Italian cuisine, but on weekends at his Highland Park spot, it’s more about classic American comforts done right. His griddled buttermilk hotcakes are an ode to simplicity, upgraded: These stacks come gluten-free, and thanks to the tapioca flour, they’re light and perfectly chewy inside—but seared to a point of near caramelization on the top and bottom, providing just a tiny bit of crunch to complement the fluffy interior. $9. —SB

Desserts

Antico Italian ice cream Los Angeles
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

1. Freshly spun ice cream at Antico

Restaurants Italian Koreatown

In L.A. frozen treats, there exist two eras: that before Antico’s freshly spun ice cream, and after. Chad Colby’s rustic Italian den is a cozy and welcoming hub for pastas, artful antipasti and hearth-fired steaks, but the gem of the menu might just be the dessert, specifically the ice cream whirled and whipped by a machine that came straight from Italy and turns out some of the silkiest, most mouth-pleasing ice cream we’ve ever tasted. Available in three or four flavors at a time—chocolate, honeycomb, strawberry and a seasonal offering—each cup comes spun so fast that the center dips below the edges, creating a cup within a cup that gets filled by the likes of cookies, toasted marshmallow fluff, olive oil, fruit and mint. $9. —SB

Bon Temps LA chocolate souffle
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Chocolate soufflé at Bon Temps

Restaurants Contemporary American Downtown Arts District

It’s safe to say that I’ve thought about this dessert more than any other this year, and given its pedigree, I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Before Lincoln Carson opened his stellar Arts District brasserie, he served as the pastry chef for Michael Mina’s influential and cross-country restaurant group. And so, as it happens, his pastries at Bon Temps are superb, whether they’re croissants in the morning bakery case, gallettes at lunch or indulgent dishes for the end of a dinner. His soufflé is worth pining over all by its lonesome, a textbook-perfect, light-as-air cylinder of egg and flour and chocolate, encrusted with showy flakes of sugar around the rim. Of course, it doesn’t end there; he spoons ice cream atop the center, which falls to the soufflé’s core, and it’s this house-made green chartreuse ice cream—whose flavor mingles with the chocolate—that adds an herbal, light-liquored note to the more classic dessert. Will I ever stop thinking about it? Probably not. $18. —SB

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Nightshade LA dessert
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Guava at Nightshade

Restaurants Contemporary Asian Downtown Arts District

Max Boonthanakit built the pastry menu at Nightshade, and though he’s since left, it’s impossible not to thank him one hundred times over for the dessert program he founded. Each dish reads like art—patterned marble that’s actually white chocolate; a sphere dusted in green passion fruit chocolate—but involves an element of play and plenty of discovery, which goes hand in hand with chef Mei Lin’s colorful and globe-trotting modern Chinese savories. My personal favorite (though I advise you to order them all) is the guava, which lies hidden under that faux marble and tastes something like the best cheesecake you’ve ever had. $16. —SB

Eat Metztli churros
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

4. Churros at Eat Metztli

I don’t say this lightly: These might be the best churros I’ve ever tasted. With a fluffy, near-gooey interior guarded by a hot-from-the-fryer crust that rains sugar, Eat Metzli’s churros deliver a kind of textural quality found in something more akin to canelé than the traditional churro. Alejandro and Vanessa Silva, the husband-and-wife team behind this market-fresh taco pop-up, don’t always offer their churros but if you happen to catch Eat Metztli—usually at Melody both at night and during weekend brunch—and the sweets are available, you’d be a fool to skip ‘em. (I almost was, and I won’t ever be again.) $7. —SB

Drinks

Thunderbolt HiFi Historic Filipinotown LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

1. P-Town Boxing Club at Thunderbolt

Bars Cocktail bars Echo Park

Historic Filipinotown is brimming with creativity and culture, making it our top neighborhood of the year for good reason. Among our favorite restaurants, bars and shops cropping up and keeping its heritage strong is new cocktail destination Thunderbolt, a casual, cool and comfortable neighborhood spot that blends Southern flavor with a whole world of influence. In the P-Town Boxing Club, the bar tips its hat to HiFi’s roots with a complex, tropical take on an old-fashioned that’s built on coconut-washed rye, pandan and bitters, for a refreshing tipple that feels nostalgic and new at the same time. $12. —SB

Ghengis Cohen Hebrew School Mai Tai cocktail LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

2. Hebrew School mai tai at Genghis Cohen

Restaurants Chinese Fairfax District

Yael Vengroff is doing some of her wildest work over at Genghis Cohen—and that’s saying something, considering the bar lead’s usual colorful and sparkly (but always thoughtful) concoctions over at Spare Room. This year she finished her overhaul of the Fairfax institution’s beverage program, giving us the “Foo Foo Drinks” of our dreams, and a rundown of cocktails weird and wonderful enough to complement the Jewish-American Chinese restaurant with a long and storied history. While there’s plenty to love on the new drinks menu, we can’t get over the Hebrew School, a new-age mai tai made with blended scotch, aged rum, spiced pineapple cordial, salted-macadamia, lime and a float of Manischewitz—garnished with a Star of David flag, naturally. $14. —SB

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Bar Flores Echo Park cocktail bar
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

3. Tiki Cocktail at Bar Flores

Bars Cocktail bars Echo Park

When a bar opens in ever-changing Echo Park, it’s bound to draw a good amount of skepticism. But we dare you to ascend the stairs into this handsome elevated drinkery and not immediately be taken by it. Karla Flores-Mercado’s airy, tasteful space (with a lovely back patio) slings a lot of great tipples, but we’re partial to this tall, flower-topped tart stunner, a delightful mix of rum, absinthe, pomegranate and pineapple. $16. —Tim Lowery

Disneyland bar Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Oga's Cantina
Photograph: Michael Juliano

4. Dagobah Slug Slinger at Oga’s Cantina at Disneyland

Things to do Event spaces Anaheim

There’s a Star Wars-inspired cantina at Disneyland where you can get buzzed and then jump in line to pilot the Millennium Falcon next door. That alone would be enough to sell sci-fi fans on the spot, so it’s a galactic miracle that the pre-batched cocktails are actually good. You’ll find fun entries like the Jet Juice, a sweet, straight-to-business bourbon shooter perfect for a first round, or the Fuzzy Tauntaun, a peachy vodka and schnapps concoction with foam floating on top that’ll leave your lips tingling. But the Dagobah Slug Slinger is easily the bar’s most balanced libation, a citrusy tequila and blue curaçao mix that stays grounded with a bit of ginger and an aromatic sprig of rosemary. $16. –MJ

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Lawry's meat and potatoes martini
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

5. Meat & Potato martini at Lawry’s the Prime Rib

Restaurants Steakhouse Beverly Hills

Lawry’s recently launched a whole slew of modernized offerings‚ including a few vegan options, but let’s face it: When you’re here, you’re probably going old-school. And no drink on the menu, or just about anywhere else in L.A., screams “vintage steakhouse opulence” like the Meat & Potato martini, a bracingly cold glass of vodka and vermouth that comes garnished not just with green olives, but green olives stuffed with horseradish and little flecks of the restaurant’s iconic prime rib. $17. —SB

Verve Coffee Roasters mocktail negroni cascara LA
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

6. No-booze cascara negroni at Verve Coffee Roasters

Restaurants Coffee shops Downtown Arts District

With a stellar bar scene like ours, it’s easy to forget the great strides the city’s making in zero-alcohol concoctions, too. At Verve’s shiny new Arts District cafe and roastery—which serves as the L.A. flagship—and only at this location, the team is crafting boozeless “cocktails” and using their coffee to do it. They make a particularly mean negroni, bitter with house-made vermouth that utilizes coffee beans’ cascara, or shells, along with a house juniper tonic and some orange bitters. The flavor is on-point, and the hangover is nowhere to be found. $8. —SB

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Freedman's Jewish deli cocktail Los Angeles
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

7. Deli Calling at Freedman’s

Restaurants Delis Silver Lake

As with most of the deli-leaning items at Freedman’s, this modern-Jewish restaurant manages to both subvert and exceed expectations: Here, the bar team throws classic deli flavor into a glass with a drink that’s as fun as it is savory. Utilizing yellow mustard and Cel-Ray soda, the Deli Calling turns sandwiches and the all-around deli experience into a cocktail with orange liqueur, gin and plenty of dill. $12. —SB

Permanent Records Roadhouse bar Los Angeles LA Cypress Park
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

8. PBR tallboy at Permanent Records Roadhouse

Bars Cypress Park

Wait, so why exactly does a standard ol’ PBR make it onto our list of the best things we drank this year? Because it’s served at this new gem in Cypress Park. A triple threat for music-minded drinkers, Permanent Records Roadhouse is an excellently curated vinyl shop, no-frills bar and a venue that has hosted cheap, sweat-inducing live shows by the likes of garage-rock outfit Hooveriii and frenetic trio Flat Worms. $3. —TL

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