Other nominees: Trois Mec, Girasol, Orsa & Winston
A restaurant should not be defined by the previous inhabitants that haunt its kitchens, but it's hard to ignore the cultural significance that comes with La Brea Avenue's latest crowning achievement, République. Built in 1929, the building first served as Charlie Chaplin's office, then the birthplace of LA's beloved Campanile and, after Campanile shuttered, La Brea Bakery. Yet while history certainly plays a part—the importance of a quality bakery has been carried forward—République, which opened in November of last year and is headed by Walter and Margarita Manzke, is a refreshing addition to LA's French bistro scene. Margarita's freshly baked breads and pastries are a large part of République's success, but no trip here would be complete without the addictive duck liver mousse (I believe the phrase "This is like crack" was uttered). In truth, most everything here is something we feel like we couldn't live without after one bite.
Other nominees: Honeycut, Vaucluse, Warwick
Leave it to Mark and Jonnie Houston to conjure up another uniquely-LA affair involving craft cocktails, performances (burlesque acts, tightrope walkers) and live music. Once past the smartly-dressed chaps holding court over the door, prepare to be enamored as you descend into old Hollywood, where a curated cocktail list awaits. In one night, you can experience a range of professional mixology styles from a “Dirty Dozen” of the bartending and mixology elite including Dave Fernie, Francois Vera, Marcos Tello, Adrian Biggs, Jim Meehan, et al. As for the actual drinks, start off with Fernie’s Gin and Jameson, then try Vera’s The Professor. There is draft beer and wine, as well— all West Coast typical varietals, but there’s a perfect glass of Chandon bubbly for kicking off celebrations.
Other nominees: Ari Taymor (Alma), Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec), Antonio Lofaso (Scopa Italian Roots)
Chef Roy Choi's influence on LA can still be seen in the throngs of taco enthusiasts that flock to his Kogi BBQ truck; the continuing popularity of Chego and its ultra-creative rice bowls; the fascination behind his upbringing detailed in the down-to-earth memoir, L.A. Son. Now, Choi is returning to his Korean roots through his latest project: POT, a hot pot restaurant at The Line Hotel in Koreatown where diners can open up the newspaper menu to find dishes both traditional and modern. The white kimchi is a refreshing take on the classic variety, this time served as pickled chunks of cucumber and cabbage in a bowl of water and ice, while the Kush salad is so packed with flavor that it could almost be a meal on its own. Of course, you've come for the hot pot. Try the Boot Knocker, which takes an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, or the Jamaal Wilkes, featuring tofu, shrimp, clams, mussels, kimchi and pork belly, among other ingredients. One sip of the broth and it's pretty clear: Chef Choi has done it again.
Other nominees: The Bun Shop, Amara Kitchen, Top Round
As you probably can infer from its name, Eggslut's choice ingredient is the (organic) egg, a conceit that, yes, we’ve seen almost too many times now, when no dish (Tacos! Pizza! French fries!) is complete without a fried egg on top. Thankfully, Eggslut succeeds even if you've grown weary of the trope. The menu here is short but smartly focused on a few breakfast and lunch items made with quality ingredients, like the Bacon, Egg and Cheese breakfast sandwich, stacked with hardwood-smoked bacon, just-melted cheddar cheese, a perfectly medium-cooked egg, and a housemade brioche bun. Or, if you can order it with a straight face, try the Slut, a jar of smooth pureed potatoes topped with a coddled egg and served with toasted crostini. You’ll break the lovely yolk, mix it with the puree, and slather it on the bread. You may even let out a sigh as you do.
Other nominees: South End, Pellicola Pizzeria, DeSano Pizza Bakery
The Westside's best Neopolitan-style pies made its debut in Hollywood this past year, just steps from the Arclight. Here, a full bar serves local craft beers, Italian and Californian wines by the glass and bottle and creative cocktails; 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, as well as the baked goods on display at the front, from oversized Rice Krispy treats to bacon chocolate chip cookies.
Other nominees: The Larder at Burton Way, M Café de Chaya, Valerie Confections
With locations all over town (the latest popped up on La Brea Avenue this past year) Kazunori Nozawa's mini-empire favors straightforward, no-nonsense sushi over the usual 'Dragon' and 'Rainbow' rolls—as exemplified by Noawa's trademark "Trust Me" menu, which decides diners' sushi dishes for them. The confidence of the kitchen goes even further, in that servers will respectfully decline requests for extra soy sauce or bowls of rice. Don't worry—you won't need either. The sushi is outstanding enough on its own.
Other nominees: Hollywood Pies, Tom Bergin's Tavern, The Albright
Nancy Silverton (a recent James Beard Award winner, we might add) is credited with single-handedly introducing Angelenos to the joys of the fresh, flavorsome loaf. In the two-plus decades since her store opened, she's become a household name and her store has grown into an international operation. The bakery's newest home on the corner of La Brea and 6th Street—which opened during its 25-year anniversary—is larger than ever, accommodating space for lone diners to sit at the counter top while sipping on coffee and a pastry, or groups of friends to camp out in the café's dining area, where they can munch on turkey avocado sandwiches followed by arguably one of LA's best chocolate chip cookies. It's an institution we hope will last for another 25 years—and then some.
Other nominees: Crème Caramel LA, Peddler's Creamery, Chaumont Bakery & Café
Their slogan—"Donuts for Grownups"—says it all. Glazed Donut Bistro isn't interested in run-of-the-mill pastries, and their ambition is matched by thoughtful, artisanal creations. A nod to Italy here (Mambo Italiano Cream), an ode to bacon there (Brown Butter Maple Bacon), and it's safe to say that these donuts are complex in flavor and construction. The Tres Tres Leches comes adorned with a trio of berries atop a mound of Chantilly cream, blurring the lines between fruit tart, cake and donut. They also pair beer and wine with their savory donuts, and their partnership with Stumptown Coffee is sure to satisfy many a coffee fanatic.
Other nominees: Gracias Madre, Tinga Santa Monica, Mercado LA
Before entering PettyCash Taquería, you may note "RIP Playa" tagged right outside the door; this would be a nod to the Beverly Boulevard space's previous occupant, John Sedler’s Playa. Save for that reminder, though, you may fail to recognize its old self: now, the bright, open space is filled with graffiti dancing on the walls, communal tables and, as is fashionable for painfully cool places these days, very loud music. This is PettyCash—Mexican street food as reinterpreted by Los Angeles chef Walter Manzke. Crispy Brussels sprouts are nicely amped-up by Morita-cauliflower crema; a beautiful ceviche negro made with mahi mahi, squid ink, mango and peanuts, and, of course, tacos, at about $4 each, are filled with ingredients such as Berkshire pork, grilled octopus and nicely marinated al pastor. Overall, what you have is truly an upscale taqueria, and quite a good one at that.
Other nominees: Wolf & Crane, Wendell, Pearl's Liquor Bar
There’s something wildly refreshing about The Know Where Bar, a no-frills establishment that bills itself plainly as a place for "beer, wine, sparkling, & small bites." Many of the bars that have opened for business in and around Tinseltown by some of LA's elite bar collectives offer up themed experiences designed to look like bordellos and lived-in mansions. But none of that is present at this wholly minimalist watering hole. There’s a concise menu of global wines, beers and housemade sangria. Try the bright, light-bodied, fruit-forward 2011 Rickshaw Pinot Noir from California or go beer-centric with the Heller Moritz ($7)—Hefeweizen, topped with sparkling wine, garnished with a slice of lemon.