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. I am not over here trying to compete with the likes of Eater or the Infatuation, but I am an honest “LA foodie” with a genuine desire to stay on the pulse and highlight what’s actually worth your time.
This post will be ongoing and continuously updated so you always have something new to refer to. 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 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN LA: JUNE 2020
I’d hoped by now my update would be something along the lines of “we’re free! We can go out like we used to!” But of course, the reality is we are still in the middle of some very strange times. The option to dine-in has become more available to us in recent weeks (with restrictions of course, which you are aware of). And it never ceases to impress me how the restaurant community of LA is constantly working on ways to evolve, flowing with the day to day changes. And taking on the challenges thrown their way (to the best of their abilities).
As you can probably imagine, being in the restaurant business right now is tough.
Being open, almost forcibly, during such high stress and worrisome times cannot be easy. I have an immense amount of empathy and respect for these people and these businesses. And while it’s great that we now have the privilege to dine-in at most of these places, may I caution you on one thing. If you do decide to venture out and visit these places IRL, show some extra everything: extra love, extra care, extra support, extra courteousness, extra respect, extra tip, etc. (And please, wear your mask and respect their rules.) Now, since you’re a good friend of mine I know I don’t need to tell YOU. But hey, it’s always worth a friendly reminder.
Many of these restaurants have expanded outdoor seating options which, again, is great. And it’s an aspect that certainly makes me feel a bit more comfortable. But I want you to know that if you do not feel comfortable dining out yet, that’s your business and COMPLETELY ok. All of these restaurants have some form of pickup and delivery options as well. So keep that all in mind.
Ok. Longwinded way to get to the real goods here, but alas… may I now present you with a few of my new favorite restaurants! NOW LET’S DOLE OUT THAT EXTRA-EVERYTHING!
“Flavors & traditions From Okinawa drive our menu, and our style & service is all LA.” Moto Ramen in Culver City is just plain fun, it’s cool, and good lord do they make some INCREDIBLE ramen (among other also incredible dishes). I was sold at simply “ramen”, but that one cup sake, their iced matcha latte (arguably one of the best I’ve ever had), the gyoza, the chicken karaage, and the pork buns were all worth ordering alone. BUT, of course, where Moto Ramen truly shines is with their Okinawa style ramen. I ordered the classic Tonkatsu, the ramen I am personally most familiar with, but decided to also venture out by trying the Tan Tan Men – ramen I’d sadly never had before. Both were as previously mentioned, INCREDIBLE, but guys that Tan Tan Men… I have been changed for the better. And Moto might officially be “my” ramen spot.
“Classic, unconventional, and unpretentious smashburgers, fried chicken sandwiches, breakfast comfort foods, hand pies, and milkshakes morning to night.” Sooo all the basic necessities pretty much and man do they do them all so. well. Despite their attempts to be coy, Uncool is actually in fact very cool – sans ‘tude. They opened up shop on Larchmont Ave in Larchmont just last week (late June) and already seem to be totally in the groove of things. Heck, they’d only been open a few days, word spread quickly and people were already lining up just for their vegan milkshakes! (Which are, turns out, worth lining up for.)
Smashburgers are becoming quite the burger trend. What I love about Uncool is that not only do they offer plenty more than just burgers, but they’re burgers are what I call “burgers fit for a condiment queen”, such like myself. They’ve got a lot going on. They’re messy, they’re delicious, and honestly, just a joy to eat. My ideal order for you would be the Classic Burger, the #4 Fried Chicken Sandwich. Onion rings, fries, and a milkshake (I’d go for the matcha rose or the cookies and cream). Plus – $1 from every Feel Good Combo goes towards the Stomp Out Bullying campaign. Uncool is open for dine-in, takeout, and of course delivery!
Lady Byrd has got to be the CUTEST little cafe to open in Echo Park. And they did it right in the middle of a damn pandemic. But fear not because nothing seems to be slowing them down. Not only are they cranking out incredible breakfast/brunch/lunch dishes and beverages, but they’ve turned their patio into the most adorable and ideal social distancing situation I’ve ever seen. They’ve set up what I can only describe as “mini-greenhouses” on their patio for crying out loud. So yes, Lady Byrd is great for venturing out – especially if you’re a bit nervous. But really, what you need Lady Byrd in your life for is that outstanding breakfast/brunch.
I absolutely loved the Soyrizo breakfast burrito (honestly one of the best I’ve had). I loved their juices/smoothies (I ordered the Mountain Gem which is a turmeric plantain smoothie). And they have fantastic coffee. Their menu has expanded a bit since I ordered from them and I can’t wait to try some of their sandwiches.
SOL – “Strings Of Life” – is a bright, happy, and sunny little Aussie cafe that just opened (late June) on Melrose Ave near La Cienega and specializes in casual coffee, breakfast, and lunch. It’s tucked away in a more private area on Melrose and they have some great outdoor seating options – it’s a very ideal spot to snap some photos for the ol’ Instagram if you’re into that sort of thing. But of course, most importantly, the lunch we ordered was excellent! I love that Aussie cafes like this one really strive for fresh, colorful, simple dishes and in hindsight, I wish I’d ordered a salad (they looked amazing) but instead, in my natural hangry state, we ordered the heaviest dishes on the menu: the burger and the sweet and sour chicken sandwich.
Both of which were fortunately really very good, as were the shoestring fries (excellent touch with the grated cheese on top). They seem to take quite a bit of pride in their coffee program so I am excited to have an excuse to come back because their breakfast menu looks pretty awesome as well – need to come back for that Green Dream Toast and the Fairy Bread!
One of the most exciting openings (just in time for summer!) is Happy Ice. A local Black-owned business who have officially opened their first brick and mortar outside of their wildly popular mobile truck. If you’re not familiar with Happy Ice – “Happy Ice is an ultra-premium Water Ice product, made from a secret recipe from Philadelphia with an artistic LA twist. It has the smooth, rich, creamy texture of an ice cream and the light, fruity refreshment of a sorbet, without egg or dairy products of any kind.”
I’d been DYING to try Water Ice since I don’t think I’d never had it before (I gather it’s not as big on the West Coast as it is on the East Coast) and it was as “happy” of an all-around experience as you’d hope it would be. Everything from the bright and colorful shop itself, the adorable and fun staff, to the delicious treats themselves – EVERYTHING – put a smile on my face. I got the Bomb Pop (I believe) which is cherry, lemon, and blueberry – and cannot wait to come back and try more flavors!
Socalo in Santa Monica was actually one of the last restaurants I visited before the shutdown. But I wanted to make sure they’d opened back up before sharing my wonderful experience! So Socalo is now BACK and open for takeout, delivery, and dining in, with expanded outdoor seating options as well. This place had been high on my hit list at the beginning of the year (I love every single venture award-winning chef/owners Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken embark on), and it fulfilled every expectation I had and then some. Socalo serves conscientiously-sourced, seasonal SoCal Mexican fare and without a doubt, the “must order” dishes are the Vampiro Steak & Shrimp tacos (my favorite dish, that griddled cheese on the tortilla!), the ceviche, and the breakfast burrito if you’re ordering on a Saturday.
THE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN LA: QUARANTIMES EDITION – APRIL 2020
*if there were ever a time to actively try to support new and local restaurants in Los Angeles – now would definitely be it. Our restaurant community is hurting, but dammit if they aren’t rallying and putting their best efforts forward through an undoubtedly awful situation. Between new or special menu offerings, cocktails to-go, charity/community work, and some even doubling as grocery stores and bodegas – I am completely amazed and inspired by this community’s ability to rise up. (ICYMI: “LA Restaurants With New Or Special Delivery Options“)
I am still on a mission to eat everything delicious (and “new”) in LA, regardless of the circumstances. If they’re willing to serve, I am willing to support (and enjoy every damn second of it!). So on that note, please allow me to share with you my favorite new restaurants in LA : Quarantimes Edition.
Of all the meals we’ve had in the past few weeks, I’d say this was my favorite! Could have been influenced by the easy drive down PCH or the “calm through chaos” demeanor Broad St exudes. But if I had to guess it was probably the unbelievable lobster roll and burger that nearly brought tears to my eyes. (If the simple fact that they can perfect a lobster roll AND a burger isn’t the sole selling point, then I don’t know what is.) The menu, the team, the experience – all incredibly outstanding for all things considered.
For the time being, ordering is done via phone and when you’re ready for pick-up you simply drive through their “drive-thru”, and they’ll hand it to you from their window. And then, of course, you promptly enjoy your meal from the parking lot. But hey, at least you’re in Malibu – it’s quiet, and the scenery ain’t too shabby. Order for delivery via Grubhub, or call ahead at 424-644-0131 for pickup. The drive-thru is open daily from 11:30 am – 8 pm!
The incredibly talented and wonderful team behind the brand new Interstellar coffee shop/restaurant in Santa Monica successfully managed the near-impossible – they opened during a pandemic. Interstellar is a Korean American concept that offers casual coffee/breakfast/brunch/lunch items. I’ve been ordering from my local favorites as much as I can during this time but finding a fun brunch option has been somewhat limited. And now that I’ve had brunch from Interstellar – panko chicken n’ waffles and a breakfast grilled cheese to be exact – I honestly won’t be having brunch from anywhere but Interstellar for the foreseeable future. That was one of my top 3 favorite meals I’ve had in the past 2 months and you can quote me! Pro tip: order their signature Orange & Maple iced espresso drink.
I’ve always wanted to have a night where all I ate was gyoza. And with the opening of the Go-Go-Gyoza pop-up, my dumpling fantasy was able to come to fruition. Go-Go-Gyoza is a concept lead by Brandon Kida – the talented chef behind one of my all-time favorites, Hinoki & the Bird – and offers fresh handmade gyoza at an affordable price – $8.50 for a box of 12 dumplings to be exact. The dumplings come frozen so you can cook at your leisure, and options include pork, chicken, veggie (and maybe beef – they had it the night I picked up!).
I ordered a box of each kind and loved them all equally – especially thanks in part to the delicious dipping sauces they each came with. You can pan-fry, steam, or boil your dumplings. Either way, these will be the freshest gyoza you ever did done had. You can pick up at Hinoki or opt for delivery ($10). Be sure to put yourself on their waitlist ASAP! These dumplings are in high demand!
I had the privilege of dining at Burgers99 just before shit went down. It was actually the last restaurant I was able to physically dine in. The thing was they had just opened the week before, they’d been receiving all of the well-deserved buzz. And I was absolutely heartbroken over the thought that such an incredible BRAND NEW spot would have to close their doors just weeks after opening. BUT – they figured it out and they’re back slinging absolutely delicious smash burgers every day 12 – 8 pm. Pickup directly or order for delivery through Caviar or Doordash and show ’em some love. Burgers are the quarantimes food of choice after all, amiright.
Olivetta is the one place on this list I can’t wait to revisit in person because if there were an experience I miss, it’s dining at a place like this. I miss getting dolled up, I miss people watching bellied up at a beautiful bar, I miss being fully emersed in a true dining experience. But at least, for the time being, I am THRILLED we still have access to some of my favorite dishes, made by one of my favorite chefs in LA – Chef Michael Fiorelli. Olivetta’s pasta dishes are some of the best in town. And right now they’re offering all of my menu favorites (the roasted chicken and the casarecce/radiatore pasta dishes are unreal) as well as market essentials, bottles of wine (30% off), and even cocktails to go! (hell, yes.) Call for pickup and delivery 310-307-3932, open Wednesday – Sunday.
I had never actually heard of Tripp Burgers before the shit hit the fan. And they have got to be one of my absolute favorite discoveries through this whole mess. Tripp Burgers specialize in “smash burgers”, they’re a small pop-up operation, they work on weekends. And through this mess, they’re still managing to garner quite the buzz. Check on their Instagram for where they’re popping up and when, and make sure you reserve your burgers in a timely manner (the double cheeseburgers go quick but you can usually find a time slot where they still have them available, don’t give up!). I love that this is such a small and mighty operation, the hype is real and well deserved.
Ok, Dear John’s has been around for ages. But the revamp/popup has only been a thing for about a year or less. I had the pleasure of dining at Dear John’s about 2-3 weeks before the shutdown. I could not believe how AMAZING the evening turned out to be. Before visiting I was actually skeptical of whether or not it would be worth the trouble of just trying to get in the front door period. But holy hell did they prove me wrong. What a meal, and what an experience. While we patiently wait to be able to enjoy that moody ambiance again, in the meantime Dear John’s has partnered with Rockenwagner bakery to offer “TV dinners”.
The level of genius happening here is insane. They’ve got Steak au Poivre, Vegetable Lasagne, Meatloaf, Chicken Parmesan (A MUST), sides, and wines! Follow Dear John’s and/or Rockenwagner on Instagram for updates because these seem to sell out quickly – and rightly so!
American Beauty and their smaller window service operation aptly named The Window have been open for about 6 months now, give or take, and while American Beauty has been extremely well received all in their own right, it’s their burger operation that has people freaking out. The double cheeseburger I had at the Win-Dow was the best burger I’ve had in LA in some time. I love just about every burger I meet, but this one… this one was something special, and I’m not sure I could even tell you why – you’ll just have to see for yourself.
The Win-Dow is open every day 11 am – 9 pm for pickup (you can select a time slot for a future time/date, which I found helpful) as well as delivery via Postmates, Doordash, Grubhub, and UberEats. (I highly recommend picking it up and eating it as soon as you can though so the bun doesn’t get soggy, just a hot tip.)
If your body is finally telling you it’s time to eat something healthy, Skinnyfish should be your next order. This delivery-only company was forced to continue with their launch during these strange circumstances. But the point is they did it and they are kicking quarantimes ass! Skinnyfish is offering a fresh and healthy “cauliflower sushi bowls and rolls concept”. Helmed by renowned chef Ei, formerly of beloved Sasabune Beverly Hills. I am not typically a cauliflower fan, but this took me completely by surprise. It was a wonderful change of pace from burgers let’s just say. And I am so glad something so healthy tasted so damn good! Skinnyfish is now available for delivery via Postmates, UberEats, and Doordash.
NEXT ON MY HIT LIST:
N/NAKA – for their buzzed-about Bento Box (Michelin rated)
VESPERTINE – for their buzzed-about special weekend dinners that start at $59 per person (Michelin rated)
ASANEBO – for their buzzed-about $40 sushi bento boxes (Michelin rated)
SECRET LASAGNA – for the name alone? they opened to help folks out during the pandemic but they offer market goods, prepared foods, and of course lasagna
SUNDAY GRAVY – for their pasta! They have some of the best pasta in LA according to Eater LA. They’ve been open for a few months, and I still want to sample!
THE 5 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY AS OF FEBRUARY 2020
[All Day Baby]
Fact: dinner at Pasjoli was one of the best meals I’ve had. Periodt. When someone asks me what my favorite new restaurant is, without hesitation I say Pasjoli – let me explain. Have you ever experienced a meal so good you become someone you don’t really know? Someone who suddenly has no idea what calories or money are because who cares, they’re busy experiencing euphoria. I left Pasjoli a new person. It isn’t exactly casual or affordable by most standards. But after every bite, I thought to myself ” yeah, but I get it”. Pasjoli is a French-inspired menu with traditional flavors with interesting takes. And every single aspect to every single dish is thought out, and quite literally in my opinion, perfect.
Dishes I died over include the caramelized onion tart, the chicken liver brioche, and the steak (which was a special). But I have it in good faith to know that no matter what you order, your soul will be set free. Reservations here can be tricky but if you go when they open and sit at the bar – as I did – you should be able to snag a spot.
The latest concept to open by the talented crew behind LA fav Here’s Looking At You is a darling Silver Lake diner adorably named All Day Baby. All Day Baby is a modern diner concept with casual seating, a delicious “All Day” menu, incredible baked goods, and a bar made for crafting incredible cocktails. Currently slinging breakfast and lunch Monday – Thursday until 3 pm, ADB is now open until 11 pm Friday and Saturday so you can eat their now practically famous breakfast sandwiches, well… all day… baby. I went twice in one week because there was so much on the menu that was mandatory I sample. Favorites include the biscuit breakfast sandwich with jam and sausage (Lord have mercy), the beef and cheese sandwich (again, lord have mercy), all of their dips, and the banana bread (silent killer, one of the best things you’ll ever eat).
I had no idea quite what would be in store for me at a restaurant that specializes in Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese cuisine). But I to say it was an unforgettable treat would be an understatement. It’s increasingly more difficult these days for me to go out for a meal and think to myself, “I’ve never had anything like this”, but Yapa in DTLA was one of those experiences that was so interesting and so wonderful to the point that I very much so intend on going back for another round with enthusiasm.
There will be familiar flavors and dishes no doubt, but prepare for some fun and interesting preparations as well. “Yapa” translates to “a little something extra” and that’s definitely an aspect they incorporate into the experience with little samples here and there, but “not to miss dishes” include the Korokke, any of their ceviche options (might be on special), the Causa, and the pork belly.
Echo Park is quickly becoming one of my favorite neighborhoods for drinking and dining, and adorable newcomer Adamae is right there at the top of my list. They’re M.O. is described as a “California dinner party served daily” and with their bohemian vibe and eclectic menu, it makes perfect sense – and it’s all done very well. I had the pleasure of joining them for a weekend brunch and found every single dish to be a surprise and a delight. Every dish felt like there was a lot going on and somehow it all worked in perfect harmony.
I just remember being completely impressed by the balance in interesting and unusual flavors, as well as feeling like I wanted to take photos of every single inch of this place. I can’t yet speak on dinner (all though I have heard amazing things) but, brunch dishes I loved included the Medjool Date French Toast, the House Hash (with mushrooms), and the Za’atartine.
As advertised Bar Restaurant in Silver Lake on Sunset Blvd is both an incredible French-inspired bar, and restaurant. The bar is a bit more casual space but offers the same menu as the more sit-down restaurant side, so depending on your plan for the night you have the option of either! Bar Restaurant’s menu was a bit intimidating, funky, and fancy-French yet a bit haphazard sounding, but once again I was pleasantly surprised by how much it all made perfect sense and tantalized my taste buds (I couldn’t type that without laughing).
Bar Restaurant feels like LA’s own unique take on a French-style bistro, it feels like something fun and refreshingly “new”, and as “unfamiliar” as the menu might seem I guarantee you will be surprised by each dishes underlying familiarity. Dishes to order include the chicken liver mousse, moules frites, the radishes with cheese (what a dish), and the mushroom soup (like a french onion).
It’s been open for a while now and may not constitute as totally new but I have to say that Yours Truly is in my top 5 favorite brunch spots at the moment! With their crucial Abbot Kinney location, their gorgeous wine list (and wine cocktails!), their beautiful menu and that cinnamon roll (!!!!) I cannot recommend this spot any more.
Downtown Culver City is booming right now and Piccalilli is one of the hottest new openings! They have a prime location on Culver Blvd, fun and vibrant decor, Cali Asian dishes, and an overall great vibe.
ON MY HIT LIST:
MARCO POLO – Silver Lake / Italian
BROAD ST OYSTER – Malibu / Seafood
BURGERS 99 – La Brea / Well, I guess it’s burgers
SOCALO – Santa Monica / Mexican
OLIVETTA – Melrose / Italian, Greek, Spanish
THE 5 BEST NEW RESTAURANTS TO TRY AS OF DECEMBER 2019
LA finally has a beautiful Hoxton Hotel to call our very own, and within this recently opened stunning space there are two new and noteworthy restaurants: Pilot (which we’ll discuss later) and Sibling Rival. Aptly named Sibling Rival is the sister restaurant to its beloved Brooklyn counterpart, Sunday in Brooklyn. Sibling Rival offers a similar casual-cool menu and boasts plenty of natural light, a long cocktail bar, warm “Art Deco” tones and textures, and comfortable “all day” style seating. If there were an optimal time to visit Sibling Rival it’d be for breakfast/brunch/lunch.
If you get the famous (seriously famous) pancakes and their famous (also seriously famous) burger – at the same time – I won’t judge. I mean, I did it? Sibling Rival is easily in my top 5 favorite restaurants to open this year. From top to bottom it’s just a great “no brainer” and easy to please kind of place.
Onda was arguably might most highly anticipated restaurant opening of 2019. I fell in love with its home – the Santa Monica Proper Hotel – the minute I stepped foot inside, and once I’d heard that the chef from my favorite restaurant in Mexico City, Gabriela Cámara of Contramar, and LA’s very own Jessica Koslow of Sqirl were joining forces for a new concept, I could hardly wait to see what they’d come up with. Onda officially opened in October and has been buzzed about by foodies ever since. I personally paid a visit a few weeks ago, and while I have nothing but good things to say, I think I set my expectations a little too high on this one.
The menu was a bit more “adventurous” than I’d expected, but it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things – which, of course, I loved in the end. I will say, this is definitely an experience geared more towards true foodies as many of the flavors will be unlike anything you’ve probably had before. If you’re up for the adventure though, take it! Make sure to order the inside out quesadilla and definitely do not sleep on the cocktail program! It’s fantastic!
The Cliffdiver might be one of the lesser buzzed-about “best new restaurants” of 2019 but I believe it’s incredibly deserving to be on my list! Located in a prime spot off PCH in Malibu, Cliffdiver is every Angeleno’s and visitors alike “California Dream”. The interior is vibrant with its wonderfully happy color palette, fun wallpaper, beachy and bohemian accents, and sun-drenched seating. Besides Cliffdiver’s undeniable beauty, they offer a great menu geared towards simple Mexican favorites including tacos, ceviche, quesadillas – you name it, they got it. And it was way better food than I’d anticipated for a more casual type spot.
The cocktails are not to go unappreciated either – they’d be worth dropping in for alone. Of all the spots on this list, I’d say Cliffdiver is the easiest to please – it’s casual but still a show stopper. Wear a cute outfit because you’re going to want photos! (It kind of reminds me a bit of Leo’s Oyster Bar in San Francisco, if you’re familiar.)
Rooftop with sweeping DTLA view – check, fresh seafood / Mediterranean inspired menu – check, epic cocktails – check. The Hoxton Hotel once again nails it, but this time with Pilot! I can’t believe both of their signature restaurants ended up on my favorites list. But alas, here we are, and they’re both deserving in their own right. Pilot is open from 11am to 11pm and is a great place to have a rooftop cocktail at happy hour. Or a gorgeous seafood dinner of the patio or inside in their dining room. Pilot is still a bit under the radar (it just opened) so now is the time to enjoy that gorgeous rooftop in a bit of peace before summer rolls around. Everyone catches on to this place’s beauty and perfection!
Menu wise, everything is delicious, but I loved the tableside preparation of certain dishes like their “whole fish” selections that are great for sharing. Plus if you want the best *and prettiest* seafood tower in town, you now know where to find it!
Bianca Bakery took over the old Cannibal space at Platform in Culver City and is the absolute perfect concept for its location. I will always welcome a beautiful bakery to my neighborhood with open arms, but Bianca is truly exceptional. It feels family oriented, warm and welcoming, casual and quaint. And most importantly their French-inspired menu and baked goods – including fresh bread – are out of this world. It’s a wonderful neighborhood addition and a breakfast/lunch not to be missed. Order the ricotta pancakes, smoked salmon toast, the croque madame. And of course some of their bread with jam *or any one of their pastries*, and you’ve got it made. Lunch I can’t speak on yet but I have heard amazing things!
V DTLA – absolutely STUNNING space, hands down a must see but I’d recommend heading in for just cocktails and a snack.
ANGLER – this place is at the top of a lot of “best restaurants of 2019” lists, I went, I loved it, but I could barley afford it. My only complaint is that I wish I had more money.
FIVE LEAVES – opened in April but didn’t make it there until recently, but I have to say this East LA beauty is fantastic. Gorgeous space, incredible food, a total must.
THE ONES I WISH I’D GOTTEN TO 2019
TACOS 1986 – DTLA / tacos
AMERICAN BEAUTY – Venice / steakhouse
PASJOLI – Santa Monica / French
FUKU – Santa Monica / fried chicken sandwiches
COLAPASTA – Santa Monica / fresh pasta dishes
M. GEORGINA – DTLA / Michelin-Star chef / California cuisine
YOURS TRULY – Venice / modern American bistro
ALL DAY BABY – Silverlake / modern diner
YAPA – Little Tokyo / Peruvian-Japanese
Bar Restaurant – Silverlake / contemporary bistro
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE RESTAURANT OPENINGS OF 2019
(scroll through post for descriptions)
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. Wlking 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. 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’!
[UPDATE: CLOSED INDEFINITELY AS OF MAY 2020]
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).
[UPDATE: CLOSED AS OF DECEMBER 2019 – WILL RE-OPEN SOON AS A NEW CONCEPT, PIZZA BIANCO]
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. They had 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 renowned 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.)