There isn’t a more exciting place to eat right now than Los Angeles. While we’ve built our gastronomic reputation on incredible food trucks and off-the-beaten-path tacos, chefs are flocking to our fair city to take some serious risks, turning L.A. into even more of a culinary mecca. Our expert local critics and editors narrowed down the best of the city’s food scene—the freshest, most inventive and most memorable spots—right here in the Time Out EAT List.
At its core, the Los Angeles dining scene thrives on its diverse and welcome blend of internationally inspired and genre-bending cuisines, which creates some of the world’s best omakase restaurants, fine-dining institutions and French-bistro gems tucked into strip malls.
Our experts scour the city for great eats, great value and insider info—like $10 bar bites from a James Beard Award-winning chef at his Highland Park happy hour. We value fun, flavor, freshness—and value at every price point. We update the EAT List regularly, plus whenever there’s a truly spectacular new opening. It could be a mega-hyped destination restaurant or a pop-up-turned-permanent in a Chinatown plaza: If it’s on the list, we think it’s awesome—and we bet you will, too.
March 2020: Josiah Citrin’s lauded tasting menu concept, Mélisse, reopened with a whole new look and menu and has found its way back onto our EAT List, while the all-day–dining icon République moves into the number-one slot for its stellar and uncompromising execution, whether we’re talking breakfast, light bites, a romantic dinner or some of the best pastries in the city. Cracking the top 15 is Maude, Curtis Stone’s wine-region–focused fine dining den, which continues to prove its innovation with an inspired new menu every quarter (and, with its current South Australia fundraising menu, more than a dose of charity and do-gooding). Meanwhile, entirely new to the list is Sushi Note, a key Valley player that manages to bring something refreshing to the stalwart sushi region: incredible wine (plus a new sibling spot in Los Feliz).
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L.A.’s 32 best restaurants, ranked
A restaurant shouldn’t be defined by its previous tenants, but it’s hard to ignore the significance that comes with following Campanile—and Charlie Chaplin’s film company. One step into the gothic-style space and you can feel the history in every brick, and especially at night, what with all of the candlelight, you can really feel the romance. Of course, Walter and Margarita Manzke have more than added their own history to La Brea’s lineage: They launched one of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries, a French- and California-inspired bistro so delicious and consistent, there’s a wait at nearly any time of day or night. The pastas and baked goods are of course perfection, dotted with the freshest and finest produce from the farmers’ market, as are ambitious dry-aged steaks and seafood—but even the basics here are worth an order: We dare you to find a better roast chicken in the entire city. Beloved by locals and an international destination (especially for fans of the Manzkes’ Wildflour + Bakery chain in the Philippines), République is a gem for all diners and hours of the day.
Nearly a decade after opening and Bestia continues to turn tables—and require weeks-out reservations. It shouldn’t be surprising, given chef-owner Ori Menashe’s penchant for nailing straightforward but innovative Italian food, which arrives hot from the restaurant’s centerpiece of a wood-burning oven. Some of Bestia’s menu highlights have become modern icons of L.A.’s dining scene: the Spaghetti Rustichella—a small pyramid of noodles under dungeness crab, citrus, Calabrian chili, Thai basil and onion seed—is synonymous with this hard-to-land reservation, as is the currant-and-pistachio–laden dish of Agnolotti alla Vaccinara, filled with rich braised oxtail. The desserts by pastry chef and co-owner Genevieve Gergis are equally iconic, and god help anyone who tries to get in between us and a forkful of chocolate budino tart. The eclectic and oft-rotated wine list is Italian-inspired but interntionally and broadly sourced, providing new and surprising twists to your meal with every visit—though the food menu may (blessedly) remain the same.
File under: More Than Worth the Wait. Josiah Citrin renovated and reimagined his Santa Monica stalwart—a long-time high watermark in L.A. tasting menus—and we’re pleased to report that it feels just as special as the original Mélisse, but with entirely new flavor. There’s also a new setting, a more private vibe and that entirely new menu (don’t worry, you can still find some of the chef’s trademarks next door at the adjoining spot, Citrin), giving us a familiar fine dining experience with a little freshening up. Now cordoned off in a near-hidden alcove within the greater Citrin space, Mélisse seats only 14 and delivers exquisite and detail-oriented dishes: caviar in chawanamushi with Hokkaido uni; spiny lobster whose sauce has been pressed via antique contraption; delicate wagyu strip loin with anchovy and shallots; a rich chestnut soup with even richer truffle foam. It’s good to have you back, Mélisse.
For serving a city next to the Pacific, Michael Cimarusti’s Providence somehow still manages to surprise and reinterpret seafood. His mostly aquatic and Michelin-starred menu deftly showcases the bounty of the West Coast, as well as the globe: Big Island abalone, Santa Barbara spot prawns and steelhead trout from the Quinault River in Washington can appear among the varied choices, though the menus change seasonally. Cimarusti might not always earn locavore points, but his knack for finding the best product will make you focus only on the perfect bite hanging from your fork, and nothing else. Multicourse options run the gamut, including a lunch-only à la carte menu, but for the truly adventurous—and deep-pocketed—there’s the 10-plus–course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($265) where luxury fare including caviar, truffles and A5 wagyu beef are the catch of the day.
It’s a rare talent to make your childhood flavors feel nostalgic for everyone, but Mei Lin is full of all kinds of talent and surprises. The Top Chef winner’s first solo restaurant is sleek and almost disarming in its modernity, but Nightshade’s signature dishes—carefully laid shrimp toast; truffled crab congee; a mapo-tofu take on lasagna—have very homey, very comforting, very traditional roots in Chinese cuisine. Lin bends the rules and flavor profiles by crisscrossing the globe for some of the most inventive and craveable dishes in all of Los Angeles, paying homage to her roots while always innovating, always keeping us begging for more. We have a few favorite dishes on offer here, but our biggest advice is to order every dessert available (no, we don't care if you're dining solo).
You could say that the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table helped shine a spotlight on n/naka, but the Palms restaurant was already on the map, front and center. Chef-owner Niki Nakayama is a protégé of the legendary Morihiro Onodera (formerly of Mori Sushi and Inn Ann), though Nakayama focuses her talent on kaiseki: a classical style of Japanese cooking that dictates a specific progression of textures, temperatures, tastes and seasonal ingredients. À la carte is not an option, and when every dish is this good, that’s OK by us. n/naka offers either a 13-course modern kaiseki ($275) or a 13-course vegetarian tasting menu ($225), and both can be paired with wine for $125. The menus change daily and seasonally, but there is always something to delight in: a glass filled with sea urchin and lobster in a bath of chilled dashi, maybe, or a seared diver-harvested scallop cuddled next to a warm okra pod. It can take two or three hours to get through a meal here, but it’s well worth it; Nakayama is one of L.A.’s best talents, and scoring a meal at her restaurant is money and time well spent.
French technique paired with intricate dishes can tend to feel stuffy, but at Lincoln Carson’s stellar all-day spot, the kitchen’s classic training somehow feels fresh. The modern brasserie turns out some of the best pastries, bacon and French toast in L.A. during brunch, while salads, tartines and sandwiches brim with ingredients like short rib, beets, and local figs during weekday afternoons. In the evening, Bon Temps shines with exquisite canapés (those uni-and-caviar tartelettes!) and the likes of abalone risotto, a teetering stack of dungeness crab salad with pan de mie, and one of the best large-format dishes of 2019: Jidori roast chicken with stuffed leg and a side of mashed-potato salad (yes, you heard that correctly). Do not leave without ordering dessert, especially the chocolate soufflé with green chartreuse ice cream.
Name a more iconic L.A. fine-dining institution—we’ll wait. Fortunately, after nearly 40 years, Spago is both the old standby and the new kid on the block thanks to an ever-changing menu that makes the restaurant seem altogether fresh. Don’t worry, you can still ask for the smoked salmon pizza if you crave it, and Spago purists will be pleased to hear that Wolfgang Puck’s flagship is still refreshingly old-school when it comes to presentation. The Beverly Hills menu features contemporary additions such as chirashi boxes of sashimi with a yuzu-jalapeño gel; hand-dived scallops with ice plants and kombu; and rye-crusted loup de mer with sea grass, to name a few. The handmade agnolotti is still outstanding after all these years (and don’t forget to opt for the truffle version, when it’s in season). Spago’s been serving stellar cuisine since the Reagan era, proving that age ain’t nothing but a number.
Even down-the-block lines can’t keep us away—and down-the-block lines there are, thanks to Sonoratown’s recent appearance in Netflix’s Taco Chronicles. This humble taqueria is worth the wait though, and locals already know that it’s so much of a welcoming cornerstone of our dining scene, it feels like home the second you walk through the door. Well, that, or a party. The staff are lively, open and fun-loving, and their mood is infectious. Patrons from all walks smile, laugh and even dance, all to the scent of chargrilled meats that get slid into handmade award-winning flour tortillas. Dishes get brightened by cabbage and a rainbow of house salsas, and topped by entire strands of grilled green onions. Sonoratown specializes in—you guessed it—Sonoran-style fare, which means tacos, quesadillas and chivis (think: soft chimichangas oozing cheese) all packed with fresh and straightforward ingredients that will have you planning a Northern Mexico vacation with every bite.
Remember when we told you that the husband-and-wife team of Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis redefined modern-Italian food with Bestia? Well they’re doing it down the block, too, and at Bavel, it’s even more personal. They’re drawing on their familial and cultural heritage, as well as their modern-kitchen savvy, to bring us some of the best hummus and pita in the city, not to mention a fantastic large-format lamb neck shawarma, spiced Persian ice cream and must-order harissa prawns. There’s a comfort in the cuisine at Bavel, which winds its way through Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. The space livens up the already exciting menu: You can sit on the patio, but inside, near the open kitchen and under the waterfall of hanging vines, is where the action always is.