My Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles {By Category}

My Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles {By Category}

I’m constantly on the hunt for ‘the best of LA’ …but I’ve quite exasperated the internet with my quest.  My searches for “best steakhouse” “most romantic”  “bottomless mimosas” etc. elicit a ‘top 10’ list from websites like Eater, Yelp, Gayot and Urbanspoon.  And while I don’t necessarily think their lists would lead you astray from enjoying a delectable meal in the city of Angels… I also don’t trust the motives behind their rankings.  I mean, let’s get real.  If someone wanted to throw me some cash – or heck a few free meals – I would have nothing but nice things to say regardless of my dining experience.

So, without further adieu, here are my very favorite LA spots, by category:

All-Over, Never-Fail Favorites: In a world of exceptional food, these 5 are my stand outs.  And that’s why they have posts of their own. 

Little Next Door {Weho}- Almond Croissant & Croque Madam. Atmosphere is sophisticated and perfectly French.

Pace {Laurel Canyon} – Cedar Plank Salmon. Cozy, cramped & romantic interior.

Bottega Louie {Downtown}- Pizza & Macarons. So NYC in all the right ways, great for groups or a date.

Mastros – {Bev Hills, Malibu} Steak & Buttercake.  Make sure to sit on the second floor where there’s live music.  Impress an out of town guest with the best steak of their life in this upscale gem.

Gwen {Hollywood} – New and noteworthy to say the least.  This is the best prix fix tasting I have ever indulged in.  Located in a butcher shop atmosphere, this hip restaurant gives off a relaxed vibe despite the elevated and creative menu.  Very meat heavy, but oh so satisfyingly delicious.

American: Craigs is one of the top restaurants in LA for celebrity sitings… and for good reason, the food is incredible.  Lawrys is a staple that everyone has to try once. 

Craigs {Weho} -Chicken Parm or Honey Truffle Chicken.  Sceney, yet comfortable. Good for groups or a date.

Lawrys {Beverly Hills} –You might be the youngest person in here by a decade, but you go for the prime rib experience. Be prepared to be wooed by the creamed spinach, chilled forks and $40,000 silver serving cart. Fun special experience dinner when your parents are visiting from out of town.

Breakfast: Okay, I love Toast, the Ivy & Kings Road Cafe just as much as the next Angeleno, but here are my breakfast all-stars:

Little Next Door {Weho} – Croque Madam, Chocolate Croissant, Lychee Mimosa.

Cecconis {Weho} – Breakfast Pizza. My interior design dream – I love this trendy corner spot. Great for groups, meetings, dates.. breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Beverly Hills Hotel, Polo Lounge {Bev Hills} –Lobster Benedict in a serene garden setting or nestled into an oversized dark green booth. A good reason to put on your Sunday’s best.

Odys & Penelopes {Hollywood} – Fried Rice Bowl. Casual hipster atmosphere that reminds me of Bend, Oregon more than the middle of LA.

Le Pain Quitoden – {Weho, Bev Hills} Avocado Toast. Quaint and so very French but with communal tables, which is so very NOT French.

Burger: There are some new heavy hitters on the block like Umami, Plan Check & the Counter… but to get a real, juicy, greasy burger the way it was meant to be enjoyed you’ve got to head to Apple Pan.  Umami is a different type of burger… we’ll call it the trendy evolution, but for what it lacks in nostalgia, it makes up in full flavor. 

Apple Pan {West LA} – Burger and a soda, just because it’s served in an adorable paper cone.  Atmosphere screams nostalgic dream; I enjoy every inch of this dingy hole in the wall.

Umami Burger {The Grove} – Truffle burger and Cheesy Tater Tots from the secret menu (shh!). Just a casual burger place – fast and easy.

Deli: You just can’t properly visit LA without hitting up a deli that has been serving up pickles and pastrami sandwiches since before you were born.  It’s a tradition… and a tasty one if that. Skip Mels Diner & head to Canters for a real bite of LA history.

Canters {Weho -ish} – Pastrami on Rye. Exactly what you’d expect from your typical jewish deli in atmosphere and quality.

Experience: This is the place you bring your first date to be entertained, but by the grace of God the food actually tastes pretty damn good as well.

The Bazaar {Bev Hills} – Steak and Cheese croquettes, Freeze dried ice cream.  This atmosphere is sophisticated and trendy.  Great for big groups if you’re not the one picking up the tab.  If you’re on a date, opt for the patio.

Church Key {Weho} – Jidori Chicken, Truffle Popcorn, Pork Belly. Fun bar and cool table arrangements great for groups. Keep your eyes peeled for the bar carts zipping around between tables with creative twists on your traditional favorites.

Stinkin’ Rose {Bev Hills} –  Step into a whimsical curtain lined booth to feast on garlic dish after garlic dish.  The garlic chicken is my favorite, followed by garlic custard.  Perfect for a date or party of 4.

Food Truck: An LA food post would be incomplete without mentioning the food truck scene.  Kogi is the end all be all in serving up out-of-this-world short rib tacos… but a food truck serving freshly shucked Maine lobster dripping in mayo or butter (or both?) well, it’s a close second in my book.

Kogi – Short rib tacos fo’ sho, Calamari tacos.

Lobsta Truck – Lobster roll with butter & mayo (sorry not sorry).

French: It would be hard to find an LA local that hasn’t spent his or her fair share of lazy afternoons dining at Le Petit Four.  Undoubtedly the best exotic car watching outside of standing on Rodeo Drive.

Le Petit Four {Weho} – Chicken Dijonnaise, Napoleon for dessert. Sit outside and count the lambos that go by.  Good for 2-4 people at the communal type seating. Perfect for staying awhile and not feeling rushed.

Little Door {Weho} – Well, technically French Moroccan I suppose.  Get the Mezze Platter at this romantic and dimly lit hideaway.  Probably my favorite atmosphere in LA for a date.

Italian: Beverly Hills is a mecca for some of the world’s (yes world’s) best Italian food.  Madeo under no circumstances has the best atmosphere (for that head to Scarpetta, Il Cielo or Cecconis), but the food, ugh.  Heaven. So much so that I don’t feel comfortable adding any other restaurants to the category.

Madeo {Beverly Hills} –  There is absolutely nothing on this menu you could order that wouldn’t be the best pasta dish you’ve ever eaten. This underground hideaway is upscale and classy and perfect for 2-6 guests.

Runners Up: Angelini Osteria, Il Pastaio, Ago

American Italian:

Jon & Vinnys {Weho-ish} -The Meatballs with extra garlic goodness bread, Little Gem Salad, any Pasta.  Good for 2-4 people.  Atmosphere feels like a sushi hall in Japan, but I kind of love the laid back minamilstic decor.  Reserve a table so you aren’t stuck sitting at the tiny and drafty bar.  This should not be in the same category as Madeo. It is most definitely an American version of Italian food.

Korean. I am utterly addicted to Korean food.  And lucky for me, LA has an entire separate town dedicated to this heavenly cuisine.  It would take a lifetime to explore everything that Koreatown has to offer, but I’ve made a small dent in the scene and my two favorites thus far are Chosen Galbee for the bbq newbie and Hae Jang Shon for a level 2 novice.  If you’re really new to Korean BBQ Genwa is a great place to start. 

Chosen Galbee {Ktown} – Bibimbap & As much meat as you can stomach

Hae Jang Shon {Ktown} – Same as above!

Mediterranean:  I grouped a lot together here.  Like Sunin, which is one step up from a hole in the wall in atmosphere, but is the best Lebanese food you’ll find in LA.  Ulysses Voyage is smack in the middle of the Grove, but is absolutely divine Greek fare. Only rivaled by The Great Greek over the hill.  Fig and Olive, well it is a trendy med staple, but the food is great and atmosphere sophisticated.

Taeverna Tony {Malibu} – THE BEST. Get everything, but especially the caviar dip.  Great for groups in this fun and lively vibe.

Momed: {Bev Hills} – Duck Shwarma.  Minamilstic and cold, but the food is good and they have patio seating right on South Beverly Drive.

Fig and Olive {Weho} – Crostinis all day at this fancy hot spot. Great for a date or a night out with the girls.

Ulysses Voyage {The Grove} – Greek Plate and Baklava. Sit outside and people watch the Grove zombies.

The Great Greek {Studio City} – Greek Plate and tara mousalata – this delicious caviar dip.  Skip the hummus. The atmosphere is a bit dingy, but the live music is fun and inviting.

Sunin {West LA} – Garlic Hummus with Carne Asada, Kabob Plate. Atmosphere is seriously lacking, but they just opened a Venice location that looks to be more promising.

Mexican: It’s wrong to assume that on every corner of LA is amazing Mexican food.  Actually, quite the contrary.  You’ve got to travel quite a bit South to find anything worthy of my highest praises.  But as far as Mexican goes, El Compadre is the best hole in the wall greasy place to get fresh guac & enchiladas.  Toca Madera is trendy upscale Mexican with perfect tequila cocktails and an out-of-this-world churro dessert.

El Compadre – The best Mexican dive for some guacamole & greasy Mexican food done right.  After you peel yourself up from the dimly lit red booths – make sure to re-button your pants.

Toca Madera – This much fancier Mexican restaurant feels more like a sceney nightclub then a restaurant.  But no complaints here, I love getting dressed up… and I’m a sucker for an artisan margarita. Get the seabass ceviche, guacamole with fried plantains, short rib tacos and the churro ice cream sandwich for dessert.

Pizza: If you’ve ever had a slice of NY pie, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the pizza options in LA.  If I really want pizza, I head to one of the Italian spots in Beverly Hills like Cafe Med for a thin crust topped with prosciutto and mozzarella. Or take a trip downtown to the heaven that is Bottega Louie.

Bottega Louie {Downtown} – A grand eatery to indulge in a basic like pizza, but their pies are heavenly.

Prova Pizza {Weho} – Prosciutto pie.  Better for delivery than dining in.

Terroni {Grove – ish} – Maybe I just love that they refuse to slice the pizza just like in Italy, but this pizza is good. Atmosphere is relaxing and not as overpriced or stuffy as the rest of my Italian dining favs.

Runners Up: Mulberrys, Slice Truck

Late Night: It kind of feels like everything in LA is open late… especially when you’ve moved here from Boston, where you’re lucky if you can get a bar snack past 10pm.  I’m not much of a late night eater.. but if I do venture out past my bedtime, you can find me at Bossa Nova or Il Trem.

Bossa Nova {Weho, Hollywood} Plantains

Il Tremezzino {Bev Hills}- Chicken Special, Nutella Croissant Dessert.  Open until 4 AM, it’s more of a grab and go than a sit and eat. 

Lunch:

Tocaya {Weho} – Fajita Bowl is healthy & delicious, spicy margarita. Love the trendy vibe of this new hotspot.

Fred Segel {Weho} – 3 Vegetables with Marinara, Chai Tea Latte. A relaxed lunch with just an air of sophistication.  For those without the burden of a 9-5.

La Scala {Bev Hills} – Chopped Salad. Legendary salad of the Beverly Hills power lunch. Old school Italian restaurant, upscale and classy.

Sweet Greens {Multiple Loca} – Hollywood Bowl, sub the dressing for Rad Thai.  Just your grab and go sandwich shop.

Poke Shop {Weho, Venice} – Whatever combo you get, go with the garlic sauce. Freshest seafood and ingredients.

Seafood:

Catch {Weho} – who cares, you’re there to be seen. Well, if you can get in that is.

Santa Monica Seafood Company {Santa Monica} Candied Salmon, Seaweed Salad, Catch of the Day.  I actually love dining at the bar here, but most people grab their goodies to go.

Crustacean {Bev Hills} – Garlic Noodles & Roasted Crab app followed by any fish entree.  Atmosphere reminds me of the 90’s, but in all the right ways.  Good for a date.

Blue Plate Oyster {Santa Monica/Weho} – Why for the Oysters of course.  Love sitting outside and enjoying a glass of crisp pinot gris and assortment of fresh oysters.  Fun and lively atmosphere, good for groups of 2-4.

Sushi:

Nobu {Weho/Malibu}- do yourself a favor and make the drive to the Malibu location for jaw dropping views. The black cod is my favorite thing on the menu, but nothing is going to disappoint.  Atmosphere in the Weho location is cold and stark, but great for groups.

WA {Weho} – I really didn’t want to write down my favorite hidden gem, but this unassuming sushi spot has phenomenal quality.  Atmosphere is seriously lacking and there are such a small number of tables that it’s best to just grab a seat at the equally tiny bar.

Runner Up: Katana (atmosphere), Koi 

Vegan: 

Gracias Madre {Weho} – Plantain Salad & the world’s best Margarita.  The decor in this place is everything.  And the outdoor patio?  I could never leave.  Great for groups.

Cafe Gratitude {Larchmont} – Lasagna and Key Lime pie. Good for 2-4 people, vibe is clean and inviting.

Real Food Daily {Weho} – Jackfruit Tacos and Macrobiotic Bowl.  Atmosphere is nothing special, but the food is.  Good for 2-4 people.

Wine Bar:

A.O.C. {Weho} – Bacon Wrapped Dates.  The atmosphere oozes romance and is a relaxing escape from the business of 3rd street.  Great for a date, great for a group.

Hotel Bar: Personally, I could spend the rest of my existence sipping on rose´ at Chateau Marmont, but I’ll settle for a frozen cocktail at the Tropicana Bar at The Roosevelt (if it’s good enough for Marilyn Monroe..)

Chateau Marmont {Weho}

Roosevelt Hotel {Hollywood}

Dessert: You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the butter cake at Mastros

Mastros {Malibu, Beverly Hills} Butter cake

La Provence {Beverly Hills} – Salted Caramel Macarons

Salt & Straw {Larchmont, Venice, Studio City}- ALL OF THE ICE CREAMS.

Sprinkles – Red Velvet Cupcake

Smoothie/Juice Bar: This is Los Angeles, after all.

       Beaming {Weho} – Rockstar sub avocado for banana all day.  Also love the overnight oats

       Kreation {Weho, Bev Hills, & Venice} – Period b4 Period juice

       Makeout {Culver City} – Mushroom Tea

       LifeFood Organics {Santa Monica} – Jackfruit Coconut Milk Parfait

Coffee: If you’re looking for a moody coffeshop filled with hipsters, you’ll have to head East to Echo Park or Silverlake.  At my favorite coffee shops, you’re more likely to run into fashion bloggers & talent agents.

Alfreds Coffee House {Weho, etc.}

Verve {Dtla, Weho, etc.}

Urth Cafe {Santa Monica, Bev Hills, Weho}

DTLA: because it’s outside of my jurisdiction, but these deserve notable mention

Bottega Louie: Pizza & macarons

Bestia: Bown Marrow

Fourth & Flower: Gouda Smothered Cornbread

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