L.A.’s 26 best restaurants
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 from managing partner and executive chef Lee Hefter, and chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi, features contemporary additions such as chirashi boxes of sashimi with a yuzu-jalapeño gel; Spanish octopus in young coconut with charred habanero; and Hong Kong-style striped bass with sweet soy, 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.
For serving a city next to the Pacific, Michael Cimarusti’s Providence somehow still manages to surprise and reinterpret seafood. His mostly-aquatic 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 are among the varied choices, though the menus change seasonally. Cimarusti may 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 $95 lunch-only tasting menu, but for the truly adventurous—and deep-pocketed—there’s the 10-plus–course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($240) where luxury fare including caviar, truffles and A5 wagyu beef are the catch 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 that 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.
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 former protégé of the legendary Morihiro Onodera (formerly of Mori Sushi, currently of 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 ($225) or a 13-course vegetarian tasting menu ($200), and both can be paired with wine for $95. 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.
Few restaurants can accomplish what the shoebox setting of chi SPACCA can. With one of the best charcuterie programs in the city and a stunning open kitchen, Nancy Silverton’s temple to meat flame-grills tomahawk porkchops, cures fennel salami and dry-ages massive Flannery Beef steaks so big they almost feel like they rock the table when they land. This is a rustic Italian steakhouse that’s worth the meat sweats, and it’s worth the splurge; you may be spending around $100 on steak, but don’t think about skipping the sides of roasted sustainable veggies—nor that Focaccia di Recco, which oozes stracchino cheese.
Chef Josef Centeno’s built quite the DTLA restaurant empire, strategically planting restaurants near in location but not in theme. There’s sandwich shop Bäco Mercat and Tex-Mex haven Bar Amá, but the shining gem is his Italian-meets-Japanese den, Orsa & Winston. At first, the cozy restaurant began as a tasting-menu concept—since then, it’s evolved to include à la carte weekday katsu sandos and grain bowls at lunch, and on weekends, one of the city’s most innovative brunches. Where else can you find house-smoked fish plates, masterful matcha and yuzu croissants, donabe pots brimming with nuanced soups, and Centeno’s hyper-creative, genre-bending tasting menu?
Many of chef David Schlosser’s dishes require the kind of time, care, delicacy and extreme effort that define kappo cuisine, which is why we’re convinced that the chef must’ve lost his mind to open a kappo-style restaurant—but we all benefit from it. This style of Japanese tasting menu or omakase fine-dining might serve bites of prawn ripened and fermented—for months—in their own juices, or slow-smoked salmon that cooks over cherry bark. In an almost hidden dining room in DTLA, Schlosser grinds nubs of fresh wasabi, and steams pork jowl with California-grown rice in a heavy iron pot, and experiments and waits, patiently, to create some of the most intricate flavors that can take weeks to develop. Order à la carte, or, more recommended, go for the omakase, which starts at $75 per guest—you’ll be in excellent hands. Be sure to sit at the bar to see the master at work.
If Ludo Lefebvre’s Trois Mec is the French chef’s ode to ingenuity, Petit Trois is his homage to simplicity. To watch him build an omelet—or anything, really—is is a thing of beauty, whether at his stripped-down strip-mall bistro or the larger sibling restaurant in Sherman Oaks. 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. Lines of repeat customers and those aching for Lefebvre’s bubbling French onion soup form at the door of either location just before opening, even on weekdays. Not to be missed is the Big Mec, an absolute tank of a burger that may knock you out for the rest of the day—but come on, are you really going to skip that foie gras bordelaise?
One of L.A.’s most old-school players is known for its deep-fried shrimp tacos—“TACOS DE CAMARON” is painted on the truck in giant letters, for good reason—but Mariscos Jalisco also serves fresh-to-death ceviches, toastadas and oysters on the half shell. Their signature tacos dorado de camaron live up to the hype, with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that is then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. You’ll also want to save room for their legendary tostadas such as the Poseidon, which comes topped with shrimp ceviche, octopus and a fiery red aguachile of shrimp.
We can all thank Evan Funke for finally ridding Angelenos of their reputation as being nothing but a bunch of carb-afraid juice cleansers. Not only did our city rush to embrace the chef’s handmade pastas, bubbly focaccia and blistered-crust pizzas—the country did, too, earning Felix awards hand over fork-clenching fist. Venice’s newbie-turned-mainstay became an L.A. staple almost overnight, and it’s clear to see why: The Bologna-trained Funke keeps Old World technique alive and more delicious as ever with dishes like his now-classic sfincione and the mezze maniche carbonara. A few years in and it’s still hard to land a table—it’s a cozy repurposed bungalow, after all—so we recommend heading in early or late, or sitting at the pint-size, marble-topped bar. We’ll skip the green juice and opt for the impressive amari collection, thanks.
A restaurant shouldn’t be defined by its previous tenants, but it’s hard to ignore the significance that comes with following Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel’s 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, 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.
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 all over again with Bavel, and this time, it’s 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.
No one was sure what to expect when Momofuku legend David Chang confirmed he’d open a restaurant in Los Angeles, and with an entirely new concept, at that. Fortunately for all of us, it was Majordomo. Impossible to pin down, the menu might turn Chinese tradition on its head (see: the bing, a savory wheat pancake, but here served with roe, lamb, caviar and anything else the kitchen might be into lately) or gussy up shaved-ice desserts into towering behemoths equally delicious and Instagrammable. A love letter to both seasonality and L.A.’s vast cultural and culinary diversity, Chang’s first flag planted here is a welcome one.
L.A.’s seen its fair share of haute Japanese cuisine, but there’s something special happening in the ROW DTLA. Tucked behind traditional noren that hang over the door, chef-owner Brandon Go artfully tweezers boutique bento boxes by day, and a multicourse, traditional kaiseki dinner by night. The space is intimate, the ceramics are handcrafted and imported from Japan, and Go’s precision and technique come by way of training under Michelin-starred Japanese chefs. There is something almost criminally understated here; Hayato’s delicate flavors and Go’s humble nature could lead Angelenos to overlook some of the most beautiful cooking happening in the city. We hope they don’t. They’d be missing out on phenomenal dishes such as steamed abalone with an unctuous liver sauce; an owan course of delicate crab meatball soup; and fresh fruit coated in a salted sake jelly. Orders for bento require at least 24 hours’ notice, awhile the stunningly artful kaiseki dinners often fill up a month in advance. Plan ahead.
Chef Ray Garcia's Broken Spanish is bright and colorful—and we don't just mean the setting. Sure, the tables boast hand-woven doilies and Mexican pottery, but the modern-Mexican food is vibrant, spicy and lively every forkful of the way. Garcia may be cooking more familiar ingredients like chicken, lamb, steak and oxtail, and they may come wrapped simply in tamales and quesadillas—but don't be fooled. The chef works magic in the kitchen, transforming everyday meats and vegetables into hearty, elevated and entirely unique dishes that will leave you wondering just how he squeezed so much flavor out of each component. He perfectly marries tradition with innovation, helping to define what modern-Mexican cuisine is and everything it should be.
Beverly Hills is full of high-profile restaurants perfect for an expense-account or date-night splurge, but one of the finest and most memorable is Curtis Stone’s ambitious temple to the tasting menu. Maude first gained buzz for its ingredient-driven concept—swapping menus out every month—but the restaurant flipped to a new and even more enticing format. Now, the Aussie celebrity chef and his team serve delicate, thoughtful and intricate courses inspired by a different wine region every quarter. Stone’s dishes range from reverent to cheeky: You might be sampling traditional house-made boudin on one menu, and potato chips with Aussie beer at another. Meander through Rioja, Burgundy, Western Australia and even the Central Coast—menu depending—with a range of wine-pairing options to take your meal from singular to one of the best dining experiences you’ll have all year.
Guelaguetza’s served as a culinary institution since the Lopez family opened the restaurant in 1994. Named for a Oaxacan dance, the James Beard Award-winning spot is known for its unparalleled moles, which are paired with plates of hearty tacos, rice, meat and vegetables. Family recipes and imported Oaxacan ingredients make this one of the city’s strongest and most authentic regional Mexican restaurants in not only Los Angeles but the country, and the fact that it’s family-run will extend to you, too: Service is so congenial and warm here, you’ll never feel like a stranger. Live music usually accompanies your meal (and breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available), and it’s not unusual to see diners get up and dance. Want to try and replicate your dish at home? An attached store sells Guelaguetza’s mole—red, black and coloradito—along with ingredients to make their fantastic micheladas.
This isn’t your average Korean BBQ joint. Park’s takes meat more seriously than most, serving prime and kobe-style beef in a setting that feels a bit more modern than nearly anywhere else in K-town. Grab a large crew to try a bit of everything: There’s boneless wagyu short rib, seasoned pork belly, succulent house galbi, beef tripe and nearly anything else you can imagine throwing onto the grill, plus an array of banchan—and a full menu of entrées such as spicy black cod, stone-pot octopus, soup with rice cakes, and requisites like expert kimchi pancake. Expect to dish out a few more dollars for the meat, but you can also expect great service. Angelenos may be divided on their favorite Korean barbecue spot in this city, but Park’s seems to be the one unifying constant. (And for novices, K-town parking is never dreaded here—there’s convenient, onsite valet.)
How do we love Sonoratown? Let us count the ways. This humble taqueria has become so much of a welcoming cornerstone of our dining scene that 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.
When chef Phillip Frankland Lee moved his popular Scratch Bar from Beverly Hills, he began laying the groundwork for his current restaurant empire in an Encino strip mall—and a growing empire that’s now expanded into Montecito. The gem of his concepts, though, is still the open-kitchen tasting menu of Scratch Bar, a whimsical yet exacting procession of 15 or so seasonal courses, each dish more inspired than the last. Thanks to a semi-recent revamp, you now begin your experience with a trio of welcome cocktails and snacks at a bar exclusive to Scratch guests—an easing-in before you experience one of the city’s most ambitious meals. From there you’ll move into the intimate dining room where you can see Frankland Lee and his team building each dish. There might be wagyu rib eye with wagyu lardo, or perhaps a bowl of Moroccan-spiced spot prawns with caramelized fish sauce. Whatever the menu has in store, you’re in for a treat. Be sure to stick around for the additional trio of desserts made by pastry chef, co-owner and Frankland Lee’s wife, Margarita Kallas-Lee, whose skill is worth a trip to the restaurant alone.
New York may have Katz’s, but we’ve got our own legend-status pastrami shop and it could very well be the best in the country. (Did we stutter?) Operating out of the same storefront since 1947, this James Beard Award-winning deli always hits the spot thanks to hot, hand-cut pastrami from recipes that’ve been passed down for generations. You’ll find all the trappings of a traditional Jewish deli in this throwback—we’re talking matzo ball soup, bagels with schmear, chopped liver, cheese blintzes—but the move is the pastrami, and specifically the #19: hot pastrami with swiss, slaw and Russian-style dressing on rye. You can even order curbside pickup, but come on—you’re going to want to sit in those old-school brown leather booths for full effect.
What started as a preserves company is now one of L.A.’s most coveted eateries, and a quintessential stop for locals and tourists alike: Sqirl, the small nook of a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch made from farm-fresh ingredients. Jessica Koslow is still churning out jams, but now you find them spread on thick cuts of brioche with Sqirl’s house-made ricotta, in addition to jars you can bring home. If you’re not ordering toast, you’re probably ordering one of the rice bowls, filled to the brim with the best ingredients L.A. has to offer: sorrel pesto and radish, sheep feta and a poached egg, scallions and cilantro and house sausage. The only downside? Everyone loves it here, so Sqirl can accumulate a monstrous line—especially on weekends. Our tip? Show up early and on a weekday, and always keep your eye on the daily specials.
With endless celebrity photos and numerous “best of” lists displayed around the space, chef Jazz Singsanong’s beloved Thaitown restaurant is one of the city’s clear cult favorites, but the reason isn’t hanging on the walls (though there is a lot of bric-a-brac to look at). No, the reason is always what’s on the plate. The crispy morning glory salad is a must, 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; from there, peruse the lengthy menu for options like green mussel curry, Northern and Southern Thai specialties and even more American-familiar options such as the turmeric chicken wings. You could visit Jitlada every week for a year and still find gems and surprises on that menu.
You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger food-history nerd in Los Angeles, but chef-owner Brian Dunsmoor’s book smarts are only a fraction of what makes Hatchet Hall great. There’s the vibe that he and owner-operator Jonathan Strader have fostered—a humming, sexy, low-lit vibe where regulars feel comfortable enough to mingle and perch on bar stools for hours on end—not to mention the phenomenal, rustic Southern-leaning food. But the cuisine Hatchet Hall serves isn’t just Southern; it’s American, or more specifically, early American, and the fish, steaks, spoonbreads and skillets of cornbread all come out of a wood-burning hearth. There’s a charm here and an excitement in every dish—practically all of Culver City knows this, by the way. Plan ahead and get a reservation.
One of the city’s best date-night destinations since 2014, Alimento holds its own against the city’s onslaught of impressive, newer Italian restaurants. The reasons for this are many, but at the core, it’s all due to Zach Pollack’s creativity. The Italy-trained chef pulls inspiration from various regions without being a stickler for form, resulting in near-iconic dishes such as the Pigs in a Blanket, a fork-and-knife quasi-sandwich pile of mortadella, stracchino cheese and brovada between spelt pastry. The handmade and delicate pastas are the real stars, though—especially the tortellini in broth, and the radiatori with a rich braised-pork sugo in kale and fennel pollen. Split a few of these dishes in candlelight and it’s hard not to fall in love—with your tablemates, with the food, with anything, really.
It’s going to be busy, it’s going to be loud and you’re going to want one of everything—these are all necessary perils when dining at Travis Lett’s phenomenal bakery and casual deli-cum-restaurant. Gjusta operates out of a nondescript warehouse, but step inside and you’ll find a narrow corridor with glass cases of sweet and savory treats to the left, and jars upon jars of house-made jams and pickled vegetables to the right. On the pastry side, slices of fruit are folded into sugar-glazed dough for a morning indulgence; on the savory side, a rainbow of sandwiches and salads packed with local produce make for an ideal lunch and the definition of California cooking. You can even pick up cuts of meat and fish to-go, then take your haul for a picnic on the beach.