Cha Cha Chicken. Although Cha Cha Chicken seems to operate mostly as a takeout stand, the patio off to the side is a pleasant place on a hot night. The cuisine is Caribbean poultry with attitude: a luscious, crisp-skinned bird gritty with spices and painted with dense, black sauce, slightly sweet and intricately spiced. Mulato Cubano is everything you could want in a pressed sandwich: violently spicy chicken, melted cheese, a pickle chip or two, and a French roll that has been folded, spindled and mutilated in the jaws of a sandwich press. 1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 581-1684. Open Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. BYOB. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15–$20. MC, V. Caribbean. JG ¢
Chez Mimi. Chez Mimi’s is surely the loveliest patio dining spot around, where the vine-entwined gateway alone makes it hard to remember you’re in California and not some gentrified country table yard in southern France. Try the excellent bouillabaisse and the rich, soothing cassoulet. 246 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-0558. Lunch Tues.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Tues.-Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. $9–$29. French. MH $$
Gallo’s Grill. With its tiled patio furnished with oversize wooden tables, shaded from the sky by a canopy, and decorated with citrus trees and “peeling” brick, this sweet Mexican steak house serves everybody’s idea of a great Eastside meal: warm, thick corn tortillas (or paper-thin flour tortillas) patted to order, fresh salsas brought to the table perched on intricate wrought-iron stands, garlicky steaks served still sizzling, flanked by bushels of charred scallions on superheated platters. 4533 Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 980-8669. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20–$25. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG $
Il Moro. Nestled in a hidden crook of corporate office buildings, this spinoff of the esteemed Locanda Veneta has good fresh fish, pastas in unusual shapes (try “the pope’s hat”) and an artichoke-and-arugula salad bright with lemon juice. The patio creates an unexpected urban refuge; it’s filled with palms, has its own small lake, and a tall gushing waterfall of a fountain literally drowns out the roar of traffic on Olympic. 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 575-3530. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sun. 4:30–9:30 p.m. Wine and beer. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $10–$20. Italian. MH $
The Ivy. The patio here is a New Yorker’s perfect dream of Los Angeles, splashed with sunlight, decorated with amusing American kitsch, populated with lunching actresses, agents, and New York magazine editors in town to take the pulse of the city. 113 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 274-8303. Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$39. American. JG $$
Julienne. Beethoven scherzos skitter through the plant-strewn patio, and regulars park their dogs just outside it. You would expect a place like Julienne to serve genteel luncheon salads, and it does: The Chinese chicken salad sprinkled with crunchy noodles is renowned. 2649 Mission St., San Marino, (626) 441-2299. Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8.95–$15.95. California. JG $
Lucques. Named for a nutty, brine-cured French green olive, and rarely pronounced correctly, Lucques (leuk) has quietly and surely joined the small pantheon of great Los Angeles restaurants. Lucques has a quasi-historic setting (it was once Harold Lloyd’s brick, wood-beamed carriage house), a patio, adept service and, best of all, Suzanne Goin’s earthy, intelligent, somewhat indefinable cooking. Call it Cal-French-Med with welcome guests from North Africa, Spain and Berkeley, California. 8474 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 655-6277. Lunch Tues.–Sat. noon–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Limited bar menu available Fri.–Sat. 10 p.m.–mid., Mon.– Thurs. 9:30–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $21–$30. California/Mediterranean. MH $$
Michael’s. California nouvelle cuisine may have been born in this art-infested restaurant where the Diebenkorns are real, the patio swarms with Robert Grahams, and media barons sup on pretty little salads of quail with pansy blossoms and sherry vinegar. Beyond the piles of arugula that reach halfway to the moon, the steak is the real thing, a prime New York strip dry-aged halfway to infinity. 1147 Third St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-0843. Lunch Mon.–Fri. noon–2:30 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. Entrées $28–$36. California. JG $$$
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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 $$
Raffi’s Place. You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of PersianArmenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to Glendale’s best movie theaters. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Daily 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8–$14. Persian/Armenian. MH ¢
Spago. The flagship restaurant of the Wolfgang Puck empire, Spago in Beverly Hills replaced the original Hollywood Spago — and then some. Barbara Lazaroff’s dining-room design is lavish yet, for her, restrained: large-scale ceramics and bright paintings, warm wood, comfy seating, a general homage to California sunshine. A large courtyard patio is the place to sit, at least until the cigar smokers light up. 176 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m., Sat. noon–2:15 p.m. Dinner seven days, from 5:30 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $19–$36. California. MH. $$$
Toad House. This Korean pork-specialty restaurant — no beef, no fish, no oysters — has a pleasant bamboo-screened patio where the locals put out more smoke than the barbecue pits, and the walls are decorated with adorable photographs of tiny black pigs. 4503 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 460-7037. Dinner seven nights 6–11 p.m. Beer and rice wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Combination meals for two or three, $25–$50. Korean. JG $