The hype for Onda was real. In L.A.’s year of nationally notable restaurant openings, the first collab between Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow and Contramar’s Gabriela Cámara stole the limelight when word spread around the globe that one of Mexico’s top chefs would be landing in Los Angeles soon. After all, what would the marriage of ricotta toast and tuna tostadas be? They’re still figuring out exactly what it means, but as it turns out, it’s certainly a new direction for both chefs. And now, sitting at the base of the Proper Hotel, the long-awaited project from two of the most influential contemporary chefs is finally here, a modern-Mexican concept that marries L.A. and Mexico City with some of the most creative dishes we’ve seen all year—turkey quesadillas, masa-battered kelp—and a strong mezcal program, to boot. The tables are packed during dinner, but keep in mind that Onda hasn’t reached its final form: Sometime, most likely in January, the restaurant will launch all-day service, leaving us wondering what to possibly expect once more.
Sure, 2019 was the year Michelin returned to Los Angeles, but we already knew that L.A.’s dining scene is worthy of global praise, stars or none. The creativity bubbling underneath our collective chef toques spills out into genre-bending, global-embracing dishes and trends that pay homage to cultures and flavors and cuisines from all over the world, while still managing to feel representative of our spectacular city.
This year’s new restaurants embodied imagination and globe-trotting more than ever, serving up oolong agua frescas, sweetbread Texas toasts and tom yum bloomin’ onions. It was also a year of hot chicken (and hot not-chicken), of cool food merch and of smashburgers (truly, so many smashburgers it’s hard to keep them all straight).
Dive into the year’s best with our guide to the city’s top 15 new restaurants of 2019, already establishing themselves as L.A. dining icons.