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Dinner At Eight 

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Downtown Los Angeles/Highland Park

Ciudad. The design of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s downtown restaurant is bold — those yellow chairs, those retro drinking glasses, those seed-encrusted, vertical-standing crackers! The menu is a Pan-American pastiche, complete with Old World footnotes. Days see lunching office workers; at night, it’s conventioneers and an arty Silver Lake/Echo Park crowd. 445 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 486-5171. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Dinner Sun.–Tues. 5–8:45 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 5–9:45 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $17–$28. Pan-Latino. MH $$ ¨

Nick & Stef’s. Joachim Splichal’s downtown steak house pushes the genre’s envelope. The décor is sedate enough — banquettes wear banker’s gray — but annexed to the dining room is a climate-controlled glass case filled with slabs of darkening, crusting, dry-aging beef — a library of meat. The à la carte menu features 12 kinds of potatoes, 12 sauces and at least as many other side dishes. The outside patio — a sunny clearing in a forest of skyscrapers — may be the best urban dining spot in town. 330 S. Hope St. (Wells Fargo Center), downtown, (213) 680-0330. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri. 5:30–10:30 p.m., Sat. 5–10:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Parking in Wells Fargo Center. Entrées $19–$37. American steak house. MH $$ ¤ Ü

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Water Grill. Created and owned by the King restaurant group, the Water Grill is a big, big-city, downtown restaurant. The vast dining-hall-bar-lounge, with its fat faux pillars and seaside murals, has a slick, corporate gloss — which clearly appeals to the corporate suits who fill the booths. Desserts are erratic. Impersonal professional servers get the job done. Lunch is far less impressive and almost as expensive as dinner. Still, slurping down a dozen shucked Kumamotos at the bar may be as close to New York’s Grand Central Station Oyster Bar as any Angeleno can hope to get. 544 S. Grand Ave., downtown, (213) 891-0900. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Wed.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat. 5–9:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–8:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $25–$50. American. MH $$$ *

Zucca. Named for the humble pumpkin, and brought to us by Joachim Splichal (of Patina and the proliferating Pinots), Zucca is the Helen of Los Angeles restaurants — it has the face to launch a thousand SUVs. The dining room has the shape and majesty of a basilica, the sophistication of downtown New York, and antiques plundered from all over Europe. The staff is smooth and impeccable. The menu is “Italian country,” with an obvious motif: roasted pumpkin pizza, cream of pumpkin soup, pumpkin-filled tortelloni, pumpkin gelato. The food tends to richness and portions to hugeness. House wine is poured to the top of big, heavy here’s-to-you-buddy goblets (for proper stemware, order a bottle). Try the fritto misto with surprise chunks of preserved lemon gnochetti, and the rotisserie pork. 801 S. Figueroa St., downtown, (213) 614-7800. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 5–10 p.m. Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $13.50–$26. Italian. MH $$ ¤ Ü *

 

Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park

Edendale Grill. Housed in an old firehouse and named for Los Angeles’ first movie studio, Silver Lake’s Edendale Grill is a bit of set-dressed history. Craftsman-era lighting fixtures with mica shades cast a warm, golden glow in the dining room. The Mixville bar has an original hammered-tin ceiling and firehouse doors. The kitchen serves up its own brand of culinary nostalgia for midcentury Midwestern American cooking: oysters Rockefeller, caesar salads made tableside, Green Goddess salad dressing, sand dabs, steaks and chops, even a beet-red velvet cake from the Waldorf. Despite somewhat harried service and slapdash cooking, the Edendale Grill can be a tough reservation, which indicates just how much Atwater–Echo Park–Los Feliz–Silver Lake citizens have hungered for such a fine-looking, versatile neighborhood dinner house. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. Entrées $13.75–$27. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$ ¤ Ü H *

Vermont. Anchoring the ever-new hip commercial corridor of Vermont Avenue north of Sunset, Vermont (always lowercase) is like a stalwart, reliable friend. The owners often wander through the dining room, with its palmettos and pillars and gentle lighting, and they always like to chat. You may not be bowled over by anything you eat, but you’ll be back. Plus, the stylish new bar is one of the neighborhood’s few upscale spots for cocktails. 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-6163. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. (until 11:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat.). Full bar. Parking in rear. AE, MC, V. Entrées $13–$18. California. MH $

 

Hollywood/Melrose/La Brea/Fairfax

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