It is practically impossible to keep up with all the goings-on in Silver Lake's food scene these days. It seems as if a new restaurant opens up every five minutes, each one more fabulous than the last.
And yet, when we pause to consider the very best places to eat in Silver Lake, we find that many of our favorites haven't changed. That's not to say there isn't a ton of newness on this list — you'll find a couple of restaurants that have opened just this year — but we also still love some spots that have been around for a long time, serving the neighborhood as it changes around them.
Here are the old-school, the brand-new and the tried-and-true places that make up the 10 best restaurants in Silver Lake right this minute.
10. Silverlake Ramen
When driving past Silver Lake Ramen, you may be shocked to see a line out the door more in keeping with ramen joints on Sawtelle. But no, this is Sunset Boulevard, and yes, folks line up for ramen here, too. When the place opened, many of us said, "It's pretty good ramen ... for Silver Lake." Now we say, "Damn, this is some of the best ramen around." The bowls are exceptional, with thick slabs of chashu in a glossy, rich tonkotsu broth, spicy chili paste that packs a very nice kick and beautifully chewy noodles. Is it worth lining up for? Absolutely. 2927 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 660-8100, silverlakeramen.com.
All neighborhoods deserve a Barbrix: a casual neighborhood spot with fantastic wine, a pretty patio and fun food for grazing. Barbrix is the spot you go to when you just want some cheese and charcuterie for dinner, along with a great bottle of nebbiolo and a waitress who can discuss that nebbiolo intelligently. It's the spot you take out-of-town guests for a hungover brunch — not the impress-the-New-Yorkers-with-our-L.A.-glam brunch (we enjoy the low-key brunches far more than the glam ones anyway). Creative vegetable sides, Mediterranean nibbles and fresh, delicious pastas are available if you want a more substantial meal. The food here is good. The hospitality, atmosphere and wine are even better. 2442 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; (323) 662-2442, barbrix.com.
8. El Cochinito
A meal at El Cochinito, the Cuban cafe that's been operating in a strip mall since 1988, is an antidote to the hipster explosion that's hit the rest of Sunset Boulevard. Chef-owner Gladys Gutierrez grew up in her father's cafe in Havana, and the cooking here has all the love of a multigenerational family business. The Cuban sandwiches are great, and the specials board often has tempting offerings, but the must-have dish here is the lechon asado, a pile of grilled pig that's juicy but also gloriously crisped at the edges. Along with fluffy white rice and hearty black beans, it's one of the most comforting meals the neighborhood has to offer. 3508 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 668-0737, cochinitola.com.
7. Daw Yee Myanmar Corner
When Delyn Chow decided to expand his Monterey Park restaurant to Silver Lake, he did the neighborhood a great favor, bringing some of the best Burmese food in town to this tiny Sunset Boulevard strip mall. The kima platha, a roti-like layered bread stuffed with lamb or chicken, is fried to a slight crunch and served alongside a tangy, spicy sauce. It's delicious. Chow's curries tend to be milder than what you might sample in Mandalay — they're rich, herbal and mostly tomato-based. An aromatic goat and lentil stew, related to the familiar Indian dal, is served alongside naan. And there are noodles: the mohinga, of course, with a peppery broth and savory flavor that tastes distinctly Burmese, and Shan noodles served in a light chicken curry. Kyae oh noodles come in a mild, Vietnamese-style broth, while tophu nwe noodles, layered with a custardy chickpea flour mixture, are drizzled with enough chili oil to remind you of Sichuan. The restaurant's salads could be its greatest attraction, arranged with the meticulous detail you'd recognize from Monterey Park. —James Gordon
2831 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (213) 413-0568, dawyeesilverlake.com.
You could go to Botanica simply to be the type of person who goes there, who eats gorgeous plates of food that look as though they were lifted from the pages of a fabulous food magazine, in a room that might be featured in the pages of a fabulous design magazine. Botanica is a restaurant, but it is also a lifestyle. The all-day restaurant is located on Silver Lake's prettiest retail corridor, in what was formerly a dimly lit, halfway decent liquor store. The building has been gutted and opened up and transformed completely: The storefront space is now a market selling wine and coffee and a few beautifully chosen baskets of seasonal produce; behind that lies a long bar and banquette seating, and there's a garden patio out back with more seating and vases spilling unruly arrangements of flowers. Most of the food comes in wide, heavy bowls, herbs and lettuces and pops of brightly colored garnish draped around the inner curve of the tableware, messy but somehow composed and perfect. Owners Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer are welcoming at every turn, chatting with customers, pouring tastes of wine, exuding a warmth that brims with genuine emotion. They love this neighborhood, and they love this food. So do we. 1620 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 522-6106, botanicarestaurant.com.
5. Mh Zh
This tiny corner building, which used to house Madame Matisse (and then, for a short while, Purgatory Pizza), is taken up almost entirely by an open kitchen, where Mh Zh's chef-owner Conor Shemtov and his band of cooks work behind a counter. The menu is scrawled in marker on greasy brown paper bags. Most of the food is served in bowls, accompanied by rustic bread. It's BYOB. Your server might not remember that he's already taken your order, but he will confer "blessings" upon you multiple times. The seating is almost entirely outdoors on the sidewalk in a jumble of colorfully painted but rickety tables and chairs. (Who knows what they'll do if it ever rains.) Of all the many new restaurants that use Israel as inspiration, Mh Zh captures the feel of a casual Israeli cafe the most honestly, in both its lackadaisical hipster vibe and its food. Every single part of the beet is put to use here: the root in a starring role along with hazelnut and labneh; the greens as a side or as an accompaniment to short ribs that have been marinated in soy and finished in the coal-fired oven; the stalks as pickled punctuation for a dish of ground lamb in a pool of tahini. The lamb is unapologetically funky, and the tahini base gives it a savory tang that — along with sumac and preserved lemon — creates a level of crave-ability rarely encountered. Best of all? Mh Zh is cheap, cheap enough to warrant the wait and the grease-stained menus and the impossible trendiness of it all. 3536 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 636-7598.
4. Pine & Crane
Since opening in April 2014, Pine & Crane has become the go-to for affordable, delicious, casual food in Silver Lake, as well as the purveyor of some of the best Taiwanese food in town. Chef-owner Vivian Ku sources veggies from her family's farm, and the seasonal salads in the glass cold case beside the counter where you order provide some of the restaurant's best bets. On the menu there's sanbeiji (three-cup chicken), twice-cooked pork (tender, salty), beef noodle soup (with springy noodles), potstickers, minced pork and a crisp and doughy scallion pancake. While Pine & Crane's dan dan noodles are delectable, they won't taste like many of the standout versions available in the San Gabriel Valley; the Taiwanese version is milder, with more peanuts, more sesame, less spice and less sauce. Still, a splash of house-made chili oil will have you coming back for more. 1521 Griffith Park Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 668-1128, pineandcrane.com.
3. L&E Oyster Bar
Even with the exploding dining scene in Silver Lake, L&E Oyster Bar is the mainstay for a nice (but not too expensive) dinner in the neighborhood or a spot to grab a glass of wine; at the upstairs bar, you can look out over Silver Lake Boulevard’s leafy retail stretch. That it still serves the coldest, freshest, best-cleaned oysters in town (as well as the most affordable for this quality) is just a bonus. Admittedly, that’s a pretty big bonus — but even without the oysters we’d love L&E for its fun wine list and cute Parisian feel, and for the simple but inventive menu. Items such as chorizo on toast with a side of smoked mussels have stood the test of time. Chef Spencer Bezaire has recently decamped for Seattle, but he's left his longtime sous chef, Dominique Crisp, in charge, and we have great faith that Crisp will carry on the tradition of quality that has been L&E's greatest strength. 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 660-2255, leoysterbar.com.
2. Night + Market Song
Night + Market Song, which opened in 2014, brought Kris Yenbamroong’s funky, deeply personal Northern Thai cooking to Silver Lake. The neighborhood rejoiced in the colorful room with its plastic beads and topless Cindy Crawford poster. Here, along with the spicy larb and khao soi and pad kee mao he was known for, Yenbamroong debuted a fantastic fried chicken sandwich topped with papaya and jalapeño and “Bangkok mall pasta,” showcasing the direction he’s traveling as a cook — Thai-based but increasingly borderless. You’ll hear this food is blisteringly spicy; you’ll hear all about the (currently unavailable) blood and MSG soup and the (currently delicious) smashed water bugs. Don’t be fooled into believing this is gimmickry — what makes the food here so exceptional is the extreme care taken: the roasting of chilies, the layering of flavors. If you are primarily concerned with flavor, a unique point of view and perhaps outrageously spicy, intensely flavored food paired with weird, cool wines, then this is the place for you. 3322 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 665-5899, nightmarketsong.com.
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The competition for the distinction of best restaurant in Silver Lake gets tougher all the time, but Alimento still holds the crown. Zach Pollack’s Cali-Italian storefront spot is both a perfect neighborhood restaurant and a worthy destination spot. It feels casual and fun and like a place you’d want to stop by on a random Wednesday, but once the food arrives it’s clear you’re dealing with something above and beyond a modest trattoria. Dishes that were favorites back when Alimento opened in 2014 — such as the cheeky mortadella pig in a blanket and the silky escolar crudo — have lost none of their shine, and newer menu additions live up to those early successes' precedent of greatness. There's a bracing, Italian-leaning Caesar salad that makes glorious use of white radicchio's natural bitterness and its compatibility with sharp cheese. Pastas remain flawless. The braised-lettuce bruschetta utilizes the creamy smoosh of burrata in a way you've never experienced, and that's saying something in a town overrun with burrata-on-toast variations. This is a restaurant you can take for granted, in the best possible way. 1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 928-2888, alimentola.com.