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Five L.A. Restaurant Websites From Which We Hope Other Restaurants Will Learn a Thing or Two

Rustic Canyon: an example of a great restaurant website.

Rustic Canyon: an example of a great restaurant website.

A few months ago, we highlighted a few truisms from our new favorite Tumblr page, "Never Said About Restaurant Websites." "Wow, how did you even create a 9MB PDF of a menu. That is impressive. Congrats" pretty much captures exactly how we feel when a site forces us to clutter our hard drive with PDFs of its menu(s). The only thing that irks us more is when the restaurant clearly hasn't bothered to update all its pages ("The lorem ipsum looks good"), or when basic information about the eatery - location, hours of operation, contact information - inexplicably is not found anywhere on the site.

To us, a great restaurant website includes its basic information, displays its menu (with prices) online, and is updated regularly. Ideally, the site's aesthetic captures its personality and atmosphere, though we'd gladly trade a gorgeous site with no useful information for a simple site with just the basics. LA Weekly bestowed "Best Restaurant Site" Best of the Web awards to Chego and Starry Kitchen earlier this year and, because you never can have too many good examples, we give you five more local eateries with websites that are shining examples of form and function.

5. Square One Dining

Often, minimalist websites, like postmodern furniture, are cool to look at but uncomfortable to actually use. Square One Dining, though, makes ample use of negative (white) space and keeps its aesthetic exceedingly simple. This works for a restaurant that focuses on serving classic breakfast and lunch dishes with an emphasis on local and organic ingredients. The online menu pretty much is a mirror image of the menu waiting for you at restaurant.

Screenshot of Square One Dining's homepage

Screenshot of Square One Dining's homepage

4. Tony's Darts Away

Tony's Darts Away takes craft beer seriously, and no where is that more immediately clear than on its website. The glossary of Beer Styles, for example, is quite helpful and, even if you only remember a tenth of the information, is enough to arm you with the knowledge you need the next time you find yourself staring at a beer menu. The bar's food menu is easily accessible, though possibly the best menu on the site is the beer list. The quality of the beers on tap is stellar, natch, but the fact that it is updated almost daily is impressive.

Screenshot of Tony's Darts Away's homepage

Screenshot of Tony's Darts Away's homepage

3. Primo's Donuts

Primo's is an excellent example of how you really don't need expensive website themes and fancy, Flash-y pages to make your virtual mark. The donut shop's adorable owners greet you on the homepage. A brief history of Primo's and its neighborhood ("Where corn fields once grew you now have the 405 freeway. Across the street where celery was once harvested, you now have a Super Market and a shopping center") establishes its roots, and the shop's address, phone number, and operating hours are listed on the homepage. The low-fi site also has a charmingly low-fi press page, which indiscriminately includes quotes from everyone from formal press (The Los Angeles Times) to "randomly posted comments" found on Chowhound. And, to top it all off, photos of each of the shop's donuts are displayed alongside the online menu.

Screenshot of the tasty menu on Primo's website.

Screenshot of the tasty menu on Primo's website.

2. Rustic Canyon

Rustic Canyon's beautifully simple website conveys the casual elegance of the market-driven, sustainable restaurant. There's a lot of information here, but because it's so well-designed, the site never feels cluttered. The gem hidden under the Newsletter link tells you what the kitchen is cooking up for the upcoming season. A few choice videos featuring the restaurant are stored unobtrusively on the Press page. All the pertinent contact information is easily found on its About page. Our favorite part though, are the menus: a JPG of each menu is embedded within the site and pops up in a window that floats above the page. Without having to download a thing, you can read the menus and, when you're done, easily return to uninterrupted browsing. For eateries that insist upon offering a virtual carbon copy of their menus, using a Lightbox or other similar feature is one of the most user-friendly ways to do it.

1. Philippe's

The inventor - or one of them, anyway - of the French dip sandwich was established in 1908, and its website reflects its amazing history. Everything you want to know about the storied restaurant is on the site, from the basics (location, directions, parking, hours) to its enormous menu, available online and as a PDF (fancy!). Sprinkled throughout the site are hints of the traditions that have held fast and firm for more than a century. A primer on how to order ("Philippe's Etiquette"), for example, is a useful page for newbies. The FAQ is full of answers to questions you always wanted to ask, or didn't know to ask: why ketchup is not served with lunch ("We are serving 'French Dipped' sandwiches, not hamburgers"). Why sawdust is sprinkled on the ground like confetti after a parade ("It is a tradition to Philippe's and is used to help absorb spills to avoid slipping on the concrete floors."). Overall, we love the site not only because it has all the basic elements, but also because it does justice to Philippe's rich place in this city's history.

Philippe's website

Philippe's website