OK, Jackson Kalb, you win. It’s not that we’ve avoided El Segundo, per se, but you’ve given us a reason other than your restaurant’s traffic-mongering neighbor of an airport (we won’t speak its name) to not only visit, but seek out a trip. At Jame Enoteca, pasta is king, and is found in a nondescript strip mall along an El Segundo main street that looks like it was plucked from somewhere in Middle America circa 1988. But Jame modernizes this stretch and carves out its own little California-meets-Italy corner by way of squid ink bavette in a rock shrimp ragu with bite; braised beef cheek tucked into scarpinocc; and a remarkably simple spaghettini in a maddenning, labor-of-love tomato sauce that takes around 36 hours to make. Kalb, incredibly, deseeds his tomatoes by hand, one by one, for hours, and it’s this kind of care coupled with an unstuffy atmosphere that not only makes Jame Enoteca an ideal neighborhood restaurant, but a destination for those of us on the other end of L.A.
To the delight of restaurant-obsessed Angelenos and the erratic sleep schedules of the food writers trying to cover it all, 2018 was an unparalleled year for restaurant openings and new dishes to try. Between fresh concepts, rooftop destinations, karaage shops, bars or pizza spots, every week left of us clutching our too-full stomachs while scrolling through Instagram to figure out our next meal.
And while 2018 was the year New York invaded Los Angeles—see? we told you L.A. was better—it was also the year of the neighborhood restaurant and of pop-ups gone permanent. It was a year of culinary exploration and collaboration, of longtime L.A. chefs hitting their stride and of newer voices entering the scene with a splash. And there’s no sign of slowing down in 2019.
It would be impossible to share the best newcomers without considering your soon-to-be weeknight go-to just as much as it would the latest from some of the world’s biggest chefs, and so we present the year’s top 15 new restaurants across the board—the latest pushing L.A.’s already-great food scene ever forward.
See Also: The Best New Bars of 2018, the Best Dishes and Drinks of 2018, the Best L.A. Cookbooks of 2018, Restaurant Revamps We Loved This Year, Our Top 10 Food and Drink Stories of 2018 and the Best of 2018.