Nothing “sparks joy” in my life quite like dining at a – really f*cking awesome and downright delicious – *new* restaurant in LA. And then sharing the bounties of my discoveries with my best friends of course! It’s a full-time job trying to keep up with the dining scene in LA, but know that anything that makes it on this list hits most if not all of my pre-requisites, some of which include: A+ ambiance, quality service, an interesting menu, a worthwhile splurge, lives up to the hype, or simply offers damn good food. This post will be ongoing and continuously updated, so everything you find here has opened within the past 6 months or less and is without a doubt worth putting on your radar. Now, let’s eat, shall we?
If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, be sure to check out my TOP 100 RESTAURANTS IN LA list!
THE FIVE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY AS OF SEPTEMBER 2019
I said it in my recent Instagram post and I’ll say it again, Fia is probably my favorite restaurant opening of the year – it’s right up there with Birdie G’s, Da Michele, and Alta Adams. Fia just kinda hits all the necessary points and then somehow still manages to exceed already high expectations. Fia has only been open a few short weeks and already they seem to have it all nailed down. From arguably LA’s most beautiful open-air dining patio (YES.), the overall design, a superstar chef (one of my personal favs, Brendan Collins), an extensive menu, celebrity clientele (had an epic sighting myself), to – most importantly – an unbelievable food and beverage program… job well done team!!! Fia can perfectly be described as simply beautiful in all senses and is a great place to go with a date, the girls, the parents, and judging by how large the space is you could probably throw a pretty big dinner party here as well. Whatever your excuse is, just make sure you find one, because Fia is not to be missed. TRUST!
Bar Amá has been a DTLA institution for the past 7 years, and for very selfish reasons I could not be happier to see the team behind some of my favorite tacos in LA are expanding the brand westward. Chef Jose Centeno is beloved by just about every taco, tequila, and nacho loving LA resident, and it’s pretty clear that Chef Centeno and his team are having a bit of fun with Bar Amá’s new little sister, Amácita. You can expect a full Tex Mex inspired menu, casual seating, fantastic cocktails (hello Frosé), and an epic Happy Hour they’ve dubbed “Nacho Hour”. I highly recommend said nachos – add the picadillo – and watch out for those $6 frosés! They go down reaaallll easy. Also worth noting that this place gets packed, and it gets packed quickly so plan ahead or go early! (Like, really early!)
If you’re a part of the Elephante fan club (I know I am), then let’s just say there’s a real good chance you’re going to be a fan of Wish You Were Here Group’s latest venture, Kassi Club. Despite my lame knee-jerk reaction to roll my eyes a bit over anything that feels uber-trendy in LA, Kassi Club, much like Elephante, is trendy no doubt but puts their money where their mouth is. It’s “vibey” as hell but they nail the decor and ambiance, the menu is Mediterranean inspired, and in true Wish You Were Here Group fashion, the cocktail program is out of control. I have been three times in one month – if that’s not saying something I don’t know what is. Stand out dishes are definitely the spanakopita, zucchini fries, grilled halloumi, and the crab fettuccine. I’ve only had one cocktail but it’s the only cocktail I think I’ll ever need in life, that one being the “Always Summer” that comes with mezcal, nonino, lemon, white peach, and tarragon. And now this is all I can think about, see you at Kassi Club!
I am not one to seek out a plant-based meal on any given day, but if I happen to find myself at a specifically plant-based eatery, I’m not exactly mad about it either! Nic’s on Beverly is the most recent restaurant iteration to open in their ideal Beverly Blvd space (previously The Ponte, and Terrine before that), and having visited them all at one point I have to say Nic’s is by far my favorite. Nic Adler is the man behind the concept, and being that he is a leader in the plant-based food community here in LA and beyond (he runs the F&B programming for Coachella and other epic festivals as well as local hot spot Monty’s Good Burger) it’s great to see this place already experiencing so much success. Not to mention, he partnered with another one of my absolute favorite chefs in LA, Chef Steven Fretz (Church Key golden days), to work as culinary director alongside Chef Ryan Ososky. The bar program is, of course, no joke either; it’s helmed by Jason Eisner, a man very familiar with cocktail programs at vegan eateries (he worked on Gracias Madre’s menu for example) and from brunch to dinner it’s an all-around fun and playful menu. I could not recommend the Falafel Burger and the Chinois Salad any more – I was expecting good, not great, and what I got was better than great. Whether your plant-based or not, Nic’s will most certainly surprise and delight you, and at the very least they have a very beautiful patio and an absurdly stunning bar – very IG worthy as you can see.
Ok, full disclosure: Formosa Cafe is actually one of LA’s OLDEST restaurants, having originally opened back in 1939! The amount of old Hollywood legends that have frequented this establishment would blow your mind, and walking inside this absolutely stunning work of art is like stepping back in time. Let me tell you, Formosa just feels “old Hollywood”. It’s unreal. BUT, a little back story because it’s important to note – as the story goes, a few years ago Formosa was in danger of being forced to close their doors for good. Petitions went out, the community frantically came together to try to come up with a plan to save this legendary piece of LA’s history, and fortunately – for all of us – 1933 Group stepped up to the plate, bought the property, restored it to its original glistening glory, and officially brought new life back into this historic dining establishment. (I’m getting teary just talking about it!! Read the full history behind Formosa and its revamp HERE.) So not only is it just an amazing place to experience as a whole but the new food and beverage programs are simply outstanding – the food (which is Chinese-American inspired) is overseen by David Kuo of Little Fatty, and building memorable cocktail programs is 1933 Group’s bread and butter (Oldfields, Bigfoot Lodge, Highland Park Bowl, Sassafrass, etc.). I walked into Formosa Cafe and felt like a little kid, I had no idea just how incredible and stunning this place was, and what an amazing job this team did bringing it back to life. This place makes me proud to be an Angeleno, and if you ever need a friendly reminder of what makes LA so special, Formosa should do the trick.
Looking forward to also trying…
THE FIVE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY AS OF JULY 2019
Raise your hand if you’re a Chef Jeremy Fox superfan too!!! (Rustic Canyon, Tallula’s, and member of the Rustic Canyon Family) I feel like Birdie G’s was the most excited I’ve been over a restaurant opening all year thus far. I have never met a Jeremy Fox dish I didn’t like, and Birdie G’s in particular just seemed like it was going to be downright fun. Birdie G’s, located in the historic Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, explains themselves as, “the kind of place where you eat too much, drink too much and leave with a really big smile on your face. The menu is delightfully large and comforting, which means there’s truly something for everyone!” And frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Order as many Texas Toasts as you can manage (but definitely don’t skip the “Sloppy Jeremy”), and definitely consider the Gnocchi Sardi with Pesto Di Noce and one of the Steak Frites. (Out.freaking.standing.) I’m already plotting my next dinner here because I have a whole lotta that menu left to cover!
Just a thought… but with its particularly high concentration of cute French-inspired cafes, Los Feliz is starting to feel a bit like it’s becoming a “Little Paris”! Which, let’s be honest, who would be mad about that. The latest restaurant to open in the neighborhood might officially be the most adorable of them all. Loupiotte Kitchen, with its mismatched dishware, cozy seats, and warm pastry scent is the type of local spot where you could easily find yourself accidentally staying hours in just reading the paper or conversing with friends over coffee and pastries. Which is exactly what I did. I love that it was open for breakfast mid-week and should you find yourself visiting around breakfast time, the menu is relatively simple and straightforward – in other words, between the plentiful pastries, fresh bread, eggs, butter, and cheese, you can’t go wrong.
As advertised, the Firehouse Hotel – located in the Arts District Downtown – is an old fire station turned hotel/restaurant concept. As you might imagine in that case, the space is absolutely stunning with its exposed brick, high ceilings, big patio, and “historic meets urban” decor. The restaurant and bar at the Firehouse Hotel are everything you could possibly want from a new restaurant in the Arts District. Stunning food, an outstanding cocktail menu, excellent overall ambiance, and a total local hot spot. I’d highly recommend coming for dinner or their Happy Hour – which FYI is every day from 3-6pm! Favorite menu items include the Wildland cocktail (Mint, Jalapeño, Chartreuse, Tequila – I opted for Mezcal), the burger, and alllll the snacks – the burger is only $8 during happy hour! Just sayin’!
Located RIGHT next door to the Firehouse Hotel is another DTLA newcomer, Bon Temps. They both have a similar feel in that they have that chic yet industrial aesthetic, but of the two Bon Temps is the more upscale dining experience. Their menu is concise and pretty straightforward which is something to be appreciated, and I love that they offer “canapes” – aka super small bites. Everything we tried – from cocktails, wine, to the dishes – was incredible. I honestly cannot give higher regard for the quality and level of craftsmanship that went into every dish. They were all practically little works of art! I personally just wasn’t quite prepared for the price point of the menu. Was it justifiably expensive? Yes, if you know going into it – yes. A casual Monday night dinner at the bar? Maybe not, but for something special, absolutely. I will say though, for my true foodies, this is the latest restaurant you need to visit. You will genuinely appreciate it.
HOLY CANNOLI PEOPLE! Some very serious and very historic Italian food has landed in Los Angeles and I could personally not be happier about it. L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is the most iconic pizzeria to come out of Naples and fortunately for all of us they recently opened an offshoot located in the heart of Hollywood (although it certainly doesn’t feel like it!). The restaurant itself is a relatively large indoor-outdoor space tucked behind an ivy wall and offers a wide-open, clean, and naturally lit space with an absolutely dreamy back patio. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous just the space alone was, but then the food came and nearly brought me to tears. The classic Neapolitan style pizza is definitely the reason for dining at Da Michele, but the pasta (particularly the pappardelle) was worth the visit as well. This is just one of those restaurants that guaranteed everyone will love – it’s a crowd-pleaser all the way around.
Looking forward to also trying…
THE FIVE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY AS OF MAY 2019
I’m just going to come right out and say it… Alta Adams is, so far, my favorite restaurant opening of the year. From design to cocktails and of course dishes, it checks off every single box and then some. The space itself is simple yet beautiful, and they’ve got a great patio out back for a little alfresco dining. The menu is focused on Southern cuisine and it truly is the epitome of comfort food, and it’s done so well to the point that I simply cannot shut up about this place. Menu standouts are the black-eyed pea fritters, the fried chicken, and the oxtails and rice. If you come for brunch – probably my favorite brunch in LA right now – make sure to order the biscuits and gravy (LIFE CHANGING), and the cornmeal pancakes.
From the chic “Hollywood glam” / art deco inspired decor to its polished Japanese influenced menu, Pacifique is an absolute stunner. When I first walked in and saw the space, especially that adorable window seating area in the front room, I thought “you fit right in”. When I heard “Japanese influenced” I didn’t totally know what to expect, but after having tried several dishes I am so beyond impressed by how inventive and fun the menu was – and still approachable. Chef Danielle Sobel is a total freakin’ badass in the kitchen and absolutely blew my mind with her marinated fried chicken, potato agnolotti, and local mushrooms dishes. Order all the things at Pacifique, but whatever you do, do not skip out on their insane cocktail menu or their desserts! I highly recommend the Malay Malee (Mezcal, Nam Phrik, Chipotle, Hibiscus, Lime) and the Yuzu Tart (Lavender Meringue, Tarragon, Lemon Verbena).
For my foodies, this might be old news at this point, but it’s worth reiterating once again that the long-awaited Manufactory project at ROW DTLA is officially open! The Manufactory is helmed by the famed team behind Tartine and James Beard Award-winning chefs Chad Robertson, Elisabeth Prueitt, & Chris Bianco. The concept can be more or less described as a dining “complex” (if you will) where guests can enjoy takeaway items from the bakery/market/coffee shop, or dine at one of the two restaurants, Tartine Bianco or Alameda Supper Club. Tartine Bianco is known to be the slightly more casual of the two restaurants, and what you’re here for is the bread. Anything and everything bread – order it, eat it, never forget it. Alameda Supper Club is the more elevated dining destination of the two and is becoming known for their fresh pasta as well as their grilled dishes. What’s fun about The Manufactory, is that there is something delicious to devour at almost every hour of the day, and you could spend pretty much all day there and be entertained! Start with coffee, maybe some baked goods, have lunch at Tartine Bianco, followed by cocktails at Alameda Cocktail Club, then dinner at Alameda Supper Club, and finish the night off with an ice cream from the walk-up window… and you’ve got yourself a pretty excellent day if I do say so!
If you’re looking for arguably the most difficult restaurant in LA to get into right now… and for good reason… then allow me to introduce you to Nightshade. Chef Mei Lin is one of my personal favorite chefs, and I cannot tell you how long I have been anxiously waiting for her to open a restaurant of her very own in Los Angeles! She is one of the most wonderful and talented chefs I have personally ever met, and to say Nightshade is meeting everyone’s expectations would be an understatement. She and the entire Nightshade team are killing it. The bill won’t be cheap here so I’d consider this particular Arts District hot spot more of an upscale dining situation – as it should be I am telling you! From the restaurant design to the dishes themselves, every single inch of Nightshade is a beautiful work of art, we are lucky to have them call LA home.
If you’re looking for something a bit off the radar, something that could be considered a hidden gem, Simonette is just the ticket. Located inside the brand new Palihotel in Culver City, Simonette occupies the first-floor space that is a gorgeous open-air space that is both indoor and outdoor. Their cozy patio is easily one of my favorites at the moment. Simonette is French-inspired from decor to dining, and in true Parisian fashion, they offer an all-day menu as well as a late night menu. Simonette is a great place to visit for great drinks and girl talk at the bar or on the patio, but the French fare is definitely not to be missed. The menu is full of bistro classics like steak frites, moule frites, oysters, a burger, etc and all are superb. Nothing too fancy, but nothing overrated – it’s honestly just a stunning and solid local spot – and not to mention a great place to take a date or friend from out of town.
Looking forward to also trying…
THE 5 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY: AS OF MARCH 2019
[Cheeseburger Dumplings at My Little Dumpling]
Ma’am Sir kinda had me at “Ma’am Sir”. But this was one of those restaurants all of my foodie friends have been hyping since it first opened, so let’s just say this place has been at the top of my priority list for quite some time. I finally made it in for dinner a few weeks ago and was totally blown away by how fun the whole experience was – from the colorful space (that wallpaper and those hanging plants tho…) to the cocktails, to the actual food, it was all just fun. Ma’am Sir is located within a prime area in Silverlake and really brings something totally new and different to the already bustling neighborhood. You can expect to dine on “modern Filipino” style cuisine here at Ma’am Sir, so have some fun ordering – as previously mentioned, it’s nearly impossible not to. I personally LOVED the Hangover Fried Rice, the Garlic Crab Noodles, and the mushrooms to start. I’ve heard the Chicken Adobo is also to die for – I’ll be coming back for that!
The first thing to note about Simone is… she.is.stunning. A “nouveau art deco” work of art in my opinion. If your heart’s desire is to be surrounded by beauty and glamour as you sip one of the best cocktails in LA… Simone is your spot. Located in a semi-secret part of the Arts District in DTLA, Simone brings a little bit of sass and sophistication to the immediate area where its neighbors include the ever popular Urth Cafe and in true DTLA fashion: warehouses and apartment buildings. I actually went into Simone for brunch a few weeks ago, and while I thought the menu seemed a bit small and limited, what we did order was absolutely fantastic. Sometimes less is more! And the Plantain-Polenta Pancake is not to be messed with! I’ve heard wonderful things about the dinner service, and can’t wait to see for myself soon enough.
Again with a name worth going in for alone?? “My Little Dumpling“?! I love it. And fortunately, the name is just as cute as the restaurant itself and the whole staff as well. Heck, even the food is cute, I’ll go there. My Little Dumpling opened just a few weeks ago on West Third Street and has already created quite the buzz for themselves over their let’s just say “non-traditional” dim sum style dining experience. Have you ever wanted to marry a cheeseburger and a dumpling? Or a Reuben with an egg roll? At My Little Dumpling… many things are possible, and surprisingly delicious! If however, you’re a dumpling purist (trust me, I get it), fear not, My Little Dumpling offers plenty of familiar and beloved dim sum favorites. Did I mention the cozy decor is kind of an Instagram dream?
It’s rooftop season people, and if there’s a hot new roof in town (lol) it’s Margot’s in Culver City. I swear it felt like I’d been waiting years to see what would finally open up as a restaurant at the gorgeous and more often than not, empty space, located a the top of PLATFORM’s highest point. The space was definitely meant to be a place to come and enjoy the views – preferably with a cocktail in hand. I recently went into Margot for drinks and was genuinely impressed by how beautiful and functional they made the entire – and entirely huge – space. Now, things to note: the drinks were good, I have heard mostly good things about the food (I haven’t tried yet so I sadly cannot personally attest!), but the space is definitely Margot’s main selling point. I have a love/loathe relationships with rooftop bars/restaurants as I feel like they attract… some of my not favorite people (sorry!!! I’m getting old!!!) BUT, if you go at a reasonable hour before the rush, I have no doubt you will be able to happily bask in all of its sun-drenched glory, without too many douchebags killing your vibe.
Sooo, Elephante isn’t exactly a “NEW new” opening in LA… but it’s new enough and I loved it too much not to share. Elephante is arguably Santa Monica’s most gorgeous and beloved new restaurant opening – this place is P O P U L A R. And for very obvious reasons as it turns out. Namely because – go figure – it’s a rooftop! Well, kind of sort of, really it’s just a restaurant higher up with big windows that open so we’ll call it “rooftop-ish”. So as you can imagine (please read Margot recap), prior to visiting, I was a little nervous to see what I’d be walking into. But to my incredibly pleasant surprise, I walked into a completely tranquil, total oasis. Seriously, when I stepped out of the elevator I nearly gasped while admiring its beauty. The whole experience felt like a vacation, and isn’t that what we all want some times? And I felt like no matter where you sat you’d be satisfied. I had one of the best cocktails I’ve had in LA that day (I actually had two.) and the food was flat out fantastic. Life changing? No, but in the space and in the moment – perfection. Could not recommend this place more. But get those reservations honey, because as mentioned – we’re entering rooftop and tourist season!
Another fun American Chinese and dumpling centric favorite of mine is Ms. Chi! Ms. Chi, located right in the heart of downtown Culver City, is a casual restaurant helmed by the incredibly cool and insanely talented Top Chef veteran Shirley Chung. I love that Ms. Chi offers top-notch creative and quality eats, but maintains a more easy-going and casual atmosphere – and not to mention they’re open basically all day long: breakfast to dinner and brunch on weekends. I came in for lunch and would argue that it was my favorite meal out of all of my recent restaurant visits. While I wish I’d had the chance to try Shirley’s famous Jumbo Cheeseburger Potstickers (they’re only offered at dinner just FYI!) once again, I have a perfectly good excuse to come back. If you do visit Ms. Chi for lunch, be sure to try one of their scallion pancake sandwiches. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I absolutely loved it. Plus – it comes with tots. Done deal if you ask me.
THE 5 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY: AS OF JANUARY 2019
Two words: sushi. and wine. If you’re anything like me, that’s really all ya had to say to peak any interest, but as luck would have it Sushi Note does both fantastically – yes, even together. The dream team behind some of my favorite wine bars in LA (Covell, Augustine, etc) are the masterminds behind the cozy Sherman Oaks sushi and wine bar, so it’s safe to say they were ahead of the game before they’d even begun. While the wine list may be a given, the sushi was impressively outstanding as well – sometimes you really can just do it all. I highly recommend trying one of the sushi sampler options, and if you’re fine with dining on the early side, their incredible happy hour is every day between 5:30 and 6:30. Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time when I said “it’s cozy”, I meant it!
There is a whole lot of “fun in foodieland” to be had at ROW right now. Between Rappahannock, Paramount Coffee Project, Hayato, Smorgasburg LA on the weekends, Pikunico, and even more in the works… the sky’s the limit! Pikunico is one of the most recent openings and, dare I say. my personal favorite in the compound. The adorable and renown chef Kuniko has crafted a totally delicious and fun menu dedicated to the fine art of fried chicken. But, Pikuniko is not your average fried chicken. Kuniko’s fried chicken is made with Japanese techniques and flavors, the ingredients are all locally sourced, the chicken is free-range, AND gluten-free – prepare to have never had fried chicken quite like it. Pikunico is a super fun and easy casual dining spot, when you go make sure you get the fried chicken (duh) and/or the Golden Chicken Sandwich, plus the sweet potato salad.
Ok. So Dama first opened their doors back in July, BUT it was only just a few weeks ago that I finally got to experience it myself for the first time so, it’s new-ish – but new-new to me. Moving right along. Dama, located in the DTLA fashion district, is an ambiance lover’s – and food lover’s – dream. When I first walked in I thought, “are we sure we’re in Downtown Los Angeles?” We could have easily been on some gorgeous tropical Caribbean island – wicker fans in slow motion, free flowing rum cocktails, linen shirts, cigars, and all. The bar, the lighting, the overall design – it’s a sight for sore eyes. And fortunately, so is the food. Dama offers a Latin-inspired menu, and my “must order” dishes would have to be the whipped beans (just trust me), the empanadas, the corn, the oxtail taco, and the seafood tostada. I didn’t have enough room for their bigger dishes but I have heard they’re outstanding. And be sure to save room for CHURRRRRRRROOOOSSS!
Talk about another looker, Atrium is Los Feliz’s latest “hidden” gem. From the street, it looks no more than a cute little hipster hideaway in a cozy alleyway lit with bistro lights, but keep on going to the actual indoor entrance of Atrium to find literally a massive and stunningly beautiful bow truss ATRIUM! A lot of people, myself included, were very excited over this opening, and thankfully it has held up to the hype in my opinion. It’s got it all going on: location, indoor/outdoor seating, a good crowd, a *daily* happy hour, great chefs, and desserts worth coming for alone. Atrium would be my recommendation for the friends you have coming in from out of town – it’s new and it’s a bit of a show stopper. You’ll see what I mean!
Hippo is a total neighborhood gem I wish I could just let remain a neighborhood gem, but it’s just too good not to tell the whole damn world about. So world – meet Hippo. Even if Highland Park isn’t your ‘hood, you’ll kind of want it to be after a night at Hippo (followed by a slice of Triple Beam Pizza, and then a cocktail down the street at Good Housekeeping… I mean if you’re following in my exact footsteps, that is.) Hippo in particular though is one of those all inclusive spaces; it’s great for a date, it’s great for the whole fam, great for a girls night, great for lunch, a snack, a drink, a whole meal – YOU NAME IT. Same idea kinda goes for their menu; it’s mostly Italian but there will be tons of crowd pleasers – done well of course. Get the gang together, make a reservation ahead of time, and take in all of that Highland Park chill.
CLASSICS WORTH RE-VISITING RIGHT NOW: Crustacean (garlic noodles.) // Gusto (I forgot how INSANE their pasta is.) // Fishing With Dynamite (basically everything on the menu and the key lime pie.)