Best of L.A.

Best Of 2016

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Old Deli Turned Beer Bar
Uncle Henry's Deli
Facebook/Uncle Henry's Deli

The first thing you notice when you open the door to tiny Uncle Henry's Deli in Downey is the hypnotizing wall of taps along the back wall. With three rows of more than 30 handles each closely stacked on top of one another, it's hard for beer lovers not to be drawn to the absurdly dense selection of local and rare brews from some of the industry's most hyped names. That the taps — as well as shelves and refrigerators stocked with equally rare bottles — were all installed over the last six years inside a fully functioning 1950s-era deli is just a nostalgic bonus. Before George Gaul Jr. (the 20-something grandnephew of the real Uncle Henry) got his hands on it, this local institution was a liverwurst and Budweiser kind of place, a sandwich-slinging holdover from the days when European immigrants brought their penchant for salty animal parts straight into the American suburbs. But just as craft beer landed in L.A., Gaul decided to add his own touch to the deli's offerings, converting the family legacy (which still served stacked-high sammies) into a craft beer destination in the spirit of San Gabriel's longtime import-focused Stuffed Sandwich, with a youthful twist.

7400 Florence Ave., Downey, 90240-3609
MAP
562-927-0114
Best New Restaurant
Gwen
Heather Platt
Burnt cucumber pickles with summer squash, hearts of palm, blossoms and buttermilk at Gwen.

After the success of Maude (which last year earned our Best Restaurant in L.A. award), the world has been watching to see what Aussie mega-star chef Curtis Stone would come up with next. It turns out, Gwen does not disappoint. For the project, Stone brought his brother Luke over from Australia, and became the importer for some serious quality Australian beef that was hitherto unavailable in the States. Fronted by an old-fashioned butcher counter, the restaurant is like a gleaming art deco shrine to meat. On one side of the room, a glass case holds hanging carcasses and charcuterie; in the back of the restaurant, you can watch as animal parts cook over and around various kinds of flame in the open kitchen. The format is a five-course tasting menu, starting with charcuterie and salad, moving on to handmade pasta, and then comes the meat. You might get lamb cooked a variety of ways, or you can supplement the meal with a hunk of dry-aged Waygu. A flurry of vegetables complements the meat course, and the bright rusticism on display in these dishes might be the highlight of the evening. Gwen is not a cheap thrill, and tickets must be bought ahead of time. But, similarly to Maude, Stone has proven again that sometimes spending a silly amount of money on dinner is well worth it.

6600 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, 90028
MAP
323-946-7512
Best Restaurant Design
Otium
Anne Fishbein
The dining room at Otium

When a restaurant is built as part of the Broad, one of the most highly anticipated modern art museums in the West, it comes as no surprise that it, too, is a work of art. Otium is an eye-catching masterpiece that pleases your visual palate even before you've tasted chef Timothy Hollingsworth's playful edible creations. The building, designed by architect Osvaldo Maiozzi, is a cubic, modernist shell, and a designer consortium collaborated to outfit it both inside and out. The Studio Unltd firm teamed up with House of Honey to create a modern rustic space. Handmade glass light fixtures by Neptune Glassworks dangle from above, shedding a glow on the yellow wall tiles from Heath Ceramics. The bright colors juxtapose with reclaimed wood from District Millworks, while custom pieces by chef/furniture maker Chris Earl make for comfortable seats in which to watch chefs in the stunning open kitchen. There, they use herbs and flowers from the rooftop garden. And it wouldn't be an art-museum restaurant without an enormous Damien Hirst fish mural on the outside wall, so there's that, too.

222 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-935-8500
Best Chef
Michael Cimarusti
Anne Fishbein
Spot prawn jewels

The exceptional food served at Providence would be enough to earn Michael Cimarusti the title of best chef in the city. The fact that he brought us L.A.’s best New England–style seafood house with Connie & Ted’s only ups the stakes. But Cimarusti’s dedication to sustainable seafood, his efforts to educate the public about the problems facing our oceans, and his new seafood shop, Cape Seafood, give us even more reason to sing the dude’s praises. Now, whether you’re in the mood for an amazing lobster roll or looking for a beautiful piece of fish to take home and cook yourself, Cimarusti’s got you covered. The best evidence for his talent, though, remains the elegant, measured, gorgeously presented food at Providence, L.A.’s most special of special-occasion restaurants.

5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, 90038
MAP
323-460-4170
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8171 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046
MAP
323-848-2722
Best Outdoor Patio
Salazar
Anne Fishbein
Salazar's outdoor dining area

Salazar, the wonderfully smoky-smelling new taqueria from chef Esdras Ochoa, has officially put Frogtown (aka Elysian Valley) on the map as one of L.A.'s favorite new dining destinations, thanks to mesquite-grilled meats, homemade tortillas, tequila-heavy bebidas and lots of outdoor seating. But what makes Salazar's patio stand out in a city of many patios is that the entire restaurant is, essentially, a patio — so much so that while sipping a margarita, one might wonder what exactly the owners would do should it rain. The indoor portion of Salazar consists of the bar and only a handful of tables, a small part of the large, unique space. Even the entrance and host area is located outdoors on a gravel lot. Built on the grounds of a former auto body repair shop, the sprawling 100-plus-seat outdoor dining area is replete with trees, succulent landscaping and enough umbrellas to keep the sun-averse shaded. And after the sun sets behind the L.A. River, as the sky turns from blue to pink and stars begin to sparkle overhead, stay for one more cerveza because Salazar stays open late.

2490 Fletcher Dr., Elysian Valley, 90039
MAP
Best Restaurant
Trois Mec
Anne Fishbein
White asparagus, oyster, bone marrow, sauce gribiche at Trois Mec

Every year, when considering this award, I sit back and think through the last 12 months of meals. Which was the most memorable? Delivered the most pleasure? Made me giddy with joy? And once again, I have to admit — that meal happened at Trois Mec. I’m still dreaming about a bowl containing tender chunks of bay scallop and foie gras swimming in a matsutake mushroom and miso broth, which was flecked with pickled sunchoke and hazelnut oil. Over the summer, the restaurant’s vegetable dishes seemed to draw inspiration from some of the most exciting cooking happening in Paris, with elegant, playful takes on asparagus and citrus, and a chanterelle crudite that was at once foresty and fresh. As the restaurant’s chef/owners Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo march on to ever more crowd-pleasing projects, it’s nice to know that their most personal little fine-dining spot retains all of its weird magic.

716 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, 90038
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Best Old Deli Turned Beer Bar: Uncle Henry's Deli

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