Hollywood's best restaurants
With endless celebrity photos and numerous "Best of" lists on the walls, chef Jazz Singsanong’s Thai town restaurant is one of the city’s cult favorites. The Crispy Morning Glory Salad is an obligatory dish—a flavorful mix of crunchy, deep-fried Chinese watercress, plump shrimp, red onions, cilantro, red cabbage and bell peppers marinated in the spicy house dressing. If perusing the lengthy menu leaves you feeling dazed and confused, the green mussel curry—succulent New Zealand mussels piled high and bathed in an aromatic Southern curry flavored with lemongrass, sweet pineapples and chiles—is a good place to start on the extensive list of fiery Northern and Southern Thai specialties.
Karabagh is a market, deli and butcher shop that serves East Hollywood's Armenian community and in-the-know food (and bargain) hunters. Trays of lule, ground beef or chicken kebabs, are crafted in-house and on display. Order a kebab sandwich—juicy lule, parsley, red onion in between lavash—at the counter and take to-go or dine in at the next door bakery with coffee and pastries. With each sandwich at $2 apiece, two sandwiches easily make an under $5 lunch.
When Lotería opened in the center of the Original Farmers Market in 2002, tacos were the basis of the freestanding stall. Since then, chef and owner Jimmy Shaw's burgeoning empire has grown to Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, Hollywood, Studio City and Westlake Village. At each location, tacos continue to star: Tinga de pollo gets a dose of housemade chorizo, while carnitas showcase a spicy and smoky chile Morita sauce. Probaditas are a great way to sample Lotería's variety with 12 different tacos on mini corn tortillas.
Open since 1919, Musso & Frank Grill is Hollywood's oldest restaurant, a steak-and-cocktails joint formerly favored by Charlie Chaplin and Raymond Chandler. With its many classic dishes and individually priced sides (and salad dressings!), the menu can be daunting. However, some dishes are fail-safes. At breakfast, grab an order of crêpe-thin flannel cakes; later in the day, a giant slab of steak will do the trick. And every table gets a half-loaf of house-made sourdough bread, the perfect accompaniment to Musso & Frank's legendary martini.
This darling Hollywood bistro, daintily named after the French word for "tastebuds," serves up elegant edibles in a relaxed atmosphere. Papilles's seasonal menu, which changes weekly, is sourced entirely from local farmers. The dining experience itself is charming and uncomplicated: each night, Papilles offers a prix-fixe, three-course dinner and pared-down wine selection, which is not in print, but instead displayed directly on shelves in the dining room—grab whichever bottle you'd like to drink. Quaint and authentic, a meal at Papilles serves as a rare escape from the seemingly inescapable urban excess.
Ring the doorbell on the heavy metal gate and you’ll be buzzed into a wholly unexpected patio full of twinkly lights—an oasis in the middle of a nondescript stretch of Sunset—and diners in many variations of yoga pants. Paru’s serves South Indian food, redolent with spices and herbs that permeate the restaurant’s interior in a warm, piquant cloud that hits you as soon as you enter. The full dinners are the best way to try everything: Indian Thali gives you a selection of puri, two curries, sambar (a lentil gravy), rasam (a yogurt-based soup), papad (lentil crackers), pickles and dessert; while the Queen Paru is a creamier choice, with coconut chutney, raitha and ghee to accompany your paper-thin dosa (rice flour crepe) and idli (a savory rice and lentil cake).
To watch an omelette being made at Petit Trois is a thing of beauty. First there is the butter, a massive pad that swirls around the pan before being flooded with whipped eggs over low heat. The mixture sits, briefly, then is taken off the stove and gently poked and prodded for minutes until it is finally folded into one uniform, buttercup-hued omelette. Oh, and did we mention that Boursin cheese is piped through the middle? Perceived simplicity is what Chef Lefebvre aims to perfect at Petit Trois, which sits right next to his first brick-and-mortar success, Trois Mec. The menu is a sparse list of classic French dishes—steak frites, mussels marinières, chicken leg—and the playlist is '90s hip hop and classic rock, an unusual mix but one that furthers Lefebvre’s ethos of this being a casual French spot, a place to indulge in simple, good food without pretense. If the Hollywood strip mall exterior doesn’t sell you on this idea, the fantastic food certainly will.
Pleasant yet unassuming in appearance, one might not predict upon first glace the delicious and extensive menu of Thai goodies offered at Prael on Melrose. From the juicy tofu pad thai to the flavorful Panang curries, this Wilshire Center joint satisfies in both taste and portion size. With their affordable prices and speedy delivery, Prael serves as a Thai staple in Hollywood.
Angelenos rhapsodize about Thai Town’s Ruen Pair with a fervor that borders on obsession. At this round-the-clock, cash-only favorite, the enticing Southeast Asian menu is full of beer-friendly, shareable plates like fish cake pad ka prow, spongy, light rounds sautéed in basil leaves and vibrant chilies, that justify a visit on their own. Stir-fry with Chinese olive and ground pork is served with crispy bits of flavorful meat and fresh garlic paired alongside a bowl of steaming rice. Another must order: the sautéed morning glory. Ask for it with crispy pork belly for the ultimate late-night Thai combo.
The no-frills, home-style cooking of this Thai Town joint attracts traditionalists citywide. You won't find fusion or overly sweet noodles at Sanamluang Cafe—only some of the best Asian comfort foods (and slightly intimidating waitresses). Start with the classic tom kha kai, a spicy coconut soup with plump chicken, mushrooms, lemongrass, lime juice and fresh chile for a refreshing starter. Then take a menu detour with the khao pad krapaow gai, a satisfying and fiery chicken-basil-rice stir-fry topped with an optional egg, and khana moo grob—crispy and juicy chunks of pork paired with broth-wilted Chinese broccoli is a must. Be prepared: Wear relaxed clothing and prepare to dig in.
There's a reason why weekend crowds continually congregate here for breakfast and brunch: a bright, cozy interior sets the tone for delicious AM feasts like eggs Benedict, brioche French toast with seasonal warm fruit and house-cured salmon with potato pancakes—all accompanied by Intelligentsia coffee. Meanwhile, a front patio, though rarely empty, offers a laid-back, leisurely vibe.
Steps from the Arclight, Stella Barra is the perfect pre- and post–movie nosh stop. There's plenty of seating in the lofty space with a full bar serving local craft beers, Italian and Californian wines by the glass and bottle, and creative cocktails. To eat, there are farmers' market salads and small plates to share and, of course, chef Jeff Mahin's top-notch pizzas, boasting a chewy, sourdough crust and California-grown toppings. Try the fennel-flavored, housemade sausage topped with organic tomato and mozzarella and, while you can get it, the seasonal spring onion and bacon. We also love the signature burrata, plated with housemade bread and tomato jam, and take-away baked goods.
David Lentz’s contemporary culinary outpost in Hollywood is where date night and brunch crowds pile in cushioned banquettes against stainless steel countertops. There’s no shortage of seafood options with a raw bar of goodies on the half shell and in the shell, lobster and clam rolls, several grades of caviar, plus plenty of composed plates of land and sea. Depending on the season, kabocha squash soup might join Nantucket bay scallops and sage brown butter, or whole, grilled striped bass is dressed in carrot purée, spigarello, hazelnuts, blood orange and chermoula. Of course, another way to enjoy the fruits of the sea is an oyster with an Old Bay–rimmed, vodka chaser, as in the Maryland Mary, a tasty (and eye-opening) weekend cocktail.
Get here early morning, and you’ll catch the last wave of Thai club kids in their party gear; later, the crowd shifts to their parents stopping in before work, and their grandparents lingering with friends over coffee. No matter who’s eating, at least half the tables will have a little dish of Chinese doughnuts, square pillows of lightly fried dough, to be dipped in creamy condensed milk. Follow yours with a big bowl of jok, a rich, satisfying rice porridge sprinkled with white pepper, fresh slivered ginger and scallions, all of which elevates the earthy catfish buried at the bottom of the bowl. Take note: Cash only.