Downtown Los Angeles/Highland Park
LA99 Ciudad Cuchifritos at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana. Ciudad, the downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. 445 S. Figueroa St., dwntwn., (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Pan-Latino. JG $$Â
La Luz del Dia. The last place you’d expect to find a real Mexican joint is among the maraca vendors and befuddled German tourists of Olvera Street, but there it is (and has been for decades), La Luz del Dia, serving cactus salad to the hordes. La Luz is a simple place, and most of what it serves are basic permutations of the two or three things it does best. So whatever you think you ordered — soft tacos, tostadas, whatever — you’ll probably get at least one helping of carnitas or picadillo, the chunky Mexican beef stew that, with its carrots and potatoes, looks like a stew somebody’s mother might have made . . . provided that somebody’s mother has an industrial-size garlic press and a Thai tolerance for chile heat. 1 W. Olvera St., dwntwn., (213) 628-7495. Mon. 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 8:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer only. Lot parking. Cash only. $10–$15. Mexican. JG ¢
LA99 Mama’s Hot Tamales Café On weekends, a line of wooden tamale carts runs along the eastern edge of MacArthur Park, each run by a vendor from a different part of Latin America selling his or her particular kind of tamale. The driving force behind the vending district is Mama’s Hot Tamales Café, a sprawling, brightly painted complex across the street from the park that provides the kinds of curatorial services and logistical support to the district’s tamale masters that in a better world MOCA would be providing to Los Angeles artists, and also happens to sell a rotating selection of the handmade tamales in the restaurant itself. 2124 W. Seventh St., L.A., (213) 487-7474. Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m. & 5:30–10 p.m., Sun. 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. No alcohol. Coffee bar. Takeout. Validated parking around the corner on Lake Street in the Unified parking lot. AE, MC, V. Breakfast or lunch for two, food only, $7–$14. Mexican. JG ¢b[
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
Blair’s Blair’s is an adult restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grown-ups even into their late 40s, a civilized refuge of caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with oodles of farmers-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $16–$32. New American. JG $$bÂ?
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. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. Entrées $13.75–$27. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$b?
Gingergrass. Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is probably the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silver Lake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. $6–$18. Vietnamese. JG $b[
Brasserie Vert. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland complex may not have much in common with a brasserie, is as restrained-looking as a corporate canteen, and isn’t even green. But Vert is a useful restaurant, a Hollywood bastion of mussels and fries, the Provençal pizza called pissaladiere, steak frites with vivid-yellow béarnaise sauce, and a delicious sole grenobloise with tiny croutons and bits of lemon pulp. Drop in for a Green Bellini, a platter of fritto misto and a shot at the best desserts in Hollywood — the apple tart is formidable. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 411, Hlywd., (323) 491-1300. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m., Sun. noon–9 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16–$24. French/Italian. JG $$