Where To Eat Now
Downtown Los Angeles/?Highland Park
Angélique Café. Down in the garment district, where Spring and Main streets converge, there’s a two-story café with a mansard roof and a patio that would be at home in any French town. Owner Bruno Herve Commereuc and his wife, Florence, make their own charcuterie — excellent rillettes, jambon persillade, pâté, andouilette à l’ancienne. Angélique is open for traditional French breakfasts (bread and pastries from Commereuc’s brother’s bakery, Pain du Jour) and for lunch, featuring a great selection of salads (try the cured salmon), hot entrées (try the roasted chicken) and vegetarian dishes (try the summery eggplant-and-tomato casserole). A homesick Frenchman I know swears that Angélique is the only place that eases his malady. 840 S. Spring St., downtown, (213) 623-8698. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–3:30 p.m., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $6.45–$8.95. French. MH ¢b
Langer’s. The best drive-thru food in Los Angeles? If you remember to call a couple of minutes in advance, somebody at Langer’s Delicatessen will be standing outside for you with the finest pastrami sandwich in the nation, steaming hot, hand-carved to order if you specify it that way, and odiferous enough to fog up your windows in a flash. Why settle for a hamburger when you can have Langer’s pastrami? 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, (213) 483-8050. Lunch and dinner, Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Wine and beer. Lot parking. MC, V. Pastrami, $9. Deli. JG ¢b
LA99 Water Grill. The Water Grill is a big-city fish restaurant, a redoubt of oysters and fresh scallops, sparkling fish and sea creatures we can’t even pronounce, in one of the busiest commercial corridors of downtown. It was widely assumed that the restaurant would wither into irrelevancy when former chef Michael Cimarusti left to open his own place last year (the brand-new Providence), but it is possible that the kitchen is even sharper under David LeFevre, who has added a certain global-Gallic sensibility to the seafood cuisine — which includes a beautiful peeky toe crab salad and perhaps the only local tuna tartare we would dream of ordering a second time. Extremely expensive and quite formal by Los Angeles standards, but you knew that. 544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 891-0900. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Sat. 5–9 p.m., Sun. 4:30–9 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $25–$50. Progressive American. JG $$$b
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
India Sweets & Spices. The basic unit of consumption at IS&S is probably the $3.99 dinner special, a segmented foam tray laden with basmati rice, dahl, tart raita, pickles and a vegetable dish of some kind, ladled out cafeteria style from tubs in a long steam table and crowned with a whole-wheat chapati that hangs limply as yesterday’s tortilla. For an extra buck, you get a leaden, potato-stuffed samosa and a crunchy papadum; for an extra two, an Indian dessert and a mango lassi. The dinners are cheap, filling and tasty. But while the steam-table food (unless you catch it just right) is basically steam-table food, not especially different from what you’d find on any local Indian buffet, the made-to-order dishes are delicious: freshly fried bhaturas, balloon-shaped breads, served with curried chickpeas; the thin pancakes called parathas, stuffed with highly spiced cauliflower or homemade cheese; the South Indian lentil doughnuts called vada, served with a thin curried vegetable broth. 3126 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 345-0360. Lunch and dinner seven days, 9:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two, $8–$12. Also at 1810 Parthenia, Northridge, (818) 407-1498; 9409 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-5286; 2201 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, (818) 887-0868. Indian. JG ¢b[
The Kitchen. Here is the quintessential Silver Lake canteen. Its former subtitle — “Lunch to Late Night” — reflects the circadian rhythms of its neighborhood clientele. The interior is Early East Village — deep colors, battered tables, crumbling cement, loud music. The service tends toward the casual and offhand, which belies the big-hearted, darn good food — try a bowl of quite viable cioppino. 4348 Fountain Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 664-3663. Open Mon.–Thurs. 5 p.m.–mid., Fri. 5 p.m.–1 a.m., Sat. noon–2:30 a.m., Sun. noon–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $10–$18. American. MH ¢?
LA99 Chameau. Chameau, which is more midcentury modern than a garden of earthly delights, may describe itself as French-Moroccan, but the food is quite different from both the plain cooking you’ll find at the fashionable couscous slingers in Paris’ Marais and the new-style cuisine you’ll find in restaurants that happen to feature a tagine or two on their menus. Chef Adel Chagar’s flavors may be modern, lightened and fresh, but his techniques, many of them, come from the traditional Moroccan kitchen, whose methods tend to be fairly languid: chicken-stuffed b’stilla made with incredibly time-consuming warka, couscous made by hand, and lamb shoulder tagines cooked until the meat almost dissolves into a lamb-scented cloud. 339 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 951-0039. Dinner Tues.–Sun. 6–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $42–$66. Moroccan.JG $$
Los Balcones del Peru. The ceviches at Los Balcones are very good, not just the camarones a la piedra but also the tart assemblages of marinated raw fish and shellfish and purple squid tentacles garnished with puréed sweet potatoes, onions and marble-size kernels of the imported Peruvian corn called choclo, which are alarmingly large the first time you run into them. And then there are those warm marinated shrimp. I have never seen camarones a la piedra outside the pages of a Peruvian cookbook — Los Balcones’ owner swears that the dish is unavailable anywhere else in the United States — and I wonder where it has been hiding all my life. 1360 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 871-9600. Open Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Dinner for two, food only, $18–$28. Beer and wine. AE, MC, V. Validated parking at ArcLight Cinema parking. Peruvian. JG $b
Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/?Central Los Angeles
Bu San. Korean-style raw sea cucumber is like nothing you’ve ever tasted before, and Korean-style sashimi, which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with raw garlic, sliced chiles and bean paste, is a revelation. The chefs are fond of converting live fish from the tanks into a meal’s worth of demonstrably fresh sashimi. Raw squid, luxuriously creamy, with a small bit of crunch at the center, only tastes alive. Although almost alarmingly so. 201 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 871-0703. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Entrées $25–$30. Korean. JG $$
Sky’s Tacos. Sky’s are not the tacos your mother used to make. Or rather, they probably are the tacos your mother used to make, unless you happened to grow up in a Mexican household: two thick corn tortillas molded into the bottom of a red plastic carhop basket, mounded with turkey or chicken, shrimp or beef, gilded with orange cheese, buried under lettuce and doused with a sweet-hot house salsa. Soul food pops up in the oddest places. 5408 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6253. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $3.60–$10. Mexican-American Soul. JG ¢b
West Hollywood/La Cienega
LA99 A.O.C. A wine bar, simply put, is a place you drop into for a glass of vino and maybe a bit of octopus, then a glass of Sancerre and a few grilled sardines, then a glass of Friulian Tocai and a plate of sliced prosciutto, then a glass of Corbières and the tiniest plate of skewered grilled lamb with mint. Until you spot the bacon-wrapped dates with Parmesan on the bar menu, which would go so nicely with one of those big southern Italian reds, or fixate on the idea of ripe Crozier blue with a late-bottled port. You could drink and eat like this all night if A.O.C. didn’t unreasonably stop serving at 11. 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-6359. Mon.–Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5:30–11 p.m., Sun. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. À la carte $6–$14. Mediterranean. $$bÂ?
LA99 Koi. Koi kind of is what it is: a warren of intimate patios and bonsai-thick nooks, a hookup nirvana, a dining room whose seating chart seems ripped straight from the pages of Us Weekly. Many of the customers are impossibly beautiful, the kind of toned, tanned, possibly surgically enhanced beauty for which Los Angeles is envied by the world, but the lighting, a grid of dim spotlights more intricate than anything Robert Wilson ever devised for an opera production, makes even modestly attractive people look like extras on The O.C. Everybody loves Koi: Its matrix of sushi, celebrity and sex bumped the Roku paradigm up a few levels, and at the moment, it may be one of the most imitated restaurants in the world. 730 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-9449. Dinner Mon.–Wed. 6–11 p.m., Thurs. 6–11:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–mid., Sun. 6–10 p.m Full bar. No takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. $45–$60. Sushi/Japanese.JG $$$Â
Westwood/West L.A./Century City
LA99 Nook. Sometimes you get the feeling that the owners of Nook are running less an American bistro than a joke about an American bistro. As faithfully as they reproduce the fundamentals of the kind of fancily unfancy restaurants that pepper every urban neighborhood from San Diego to Augusta, Maine, they are also poking fun at it with every dried-cranberry garnish and each day-boat scallop, each crusty roast chicken and dish of iconic macaroni and cheese. Almost every aspect of the restaurant, from its double-height communal table to the admonition on the menu that cell-phone use interferes with the controls on the deep fryer, is as ironically pitch-perfect as the Neil Diamond songs on a Silver Lake DJ’s iPod. 11628 Santa Monica Blvd., No. 9, West Los Angeles, (310) 207-5160; www.nookbistro.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Mon.–Sat. 5–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $30–$60. JG $$b[Â
Tanino. The high, decorated ceilings, marble floors, impressive woodwork and sparkling chandeliers all conspire to form one of L.A.’s loveliest restaurants — an unlikely, urbane, sophisticated European refuge in a trafficky neck of Westwood. The service is charmingly warm and professional, and the earthy-yet-refined Italian cooking is most often excellent — we’re thinking of the lemon-drenched raw-artichoke salad, Tanino Drago’s fine hand with fresh fish, and a delicate panna cotta that trembles rather than bounces. 1043 Westwood Blvd., Westwood, (310) 208-0444. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner Mon.–Sat. 5 p.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 4–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $12–$25. Italian. MH $$
Beverly Hills and vicinity
Il Pastaio. This was Celestino Drago’s first café spinoff, and its original concept — carpaccio, salad, pasta and risotto (no meat-centered entrées) — remains sound. The window-walled room on the corner of Cañon and Brighton fills with sun and Beverly Hills types; don’t expect a lot of elbow room or romance, but the food is reliably delicious. Try the chewy garganelli with broccoli and sausage, and spelt spaghetti dressed simply in butter, ricotta and lemon zest. The remarkable black squid ink risotto looks like asphalt and tastes like heaven. 400 N. Cañon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 205-5444. Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16.50–$24.50. Italian. MH $$[
LA99 Border Grill. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger don’t re-define Mexican food; they just prepare it well, transforming the taco, the tostada, the homely chile relleno — here a freshly roasted poblano crammed with Mexican cheese and fried in an egg batter crisp and lacy as the coating on tempura shrimp — into creatures almost unrecognizable if you’re used to their Cal-Mex equivalents. The long, black dining room, delineated by a crazily skewed ceiling painted with rocket ships and wrestling-masked batmen, looks even better now than it did when the place first opened. Border Grill is the rare mainstream restaurant whose tacos don’t make you yearn for a truck parked by an auto-parts junkyard somewhere in East L.A. 1445 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655. Open Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. till 11 p.m. Full bar open till mid. Takeout. Street and valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. $12–$26. Mexican. JG $Â?
Culver City/Venice/Marina Del Rey/Westchester and vicinity
El Abajeno. The cornerstone of the menu at El Abajeno is its specialty burrito, a monstrous construction the size and shape of a shoebox: two huge tortillas wrapped around truly heroic portions of lettuce, rice, beans and meat. An El Abajeno burrito, the Westside’s answer to the mammoth beasts served at El Tepeyac in East L.A., could probably feed a family of six with leftovers for lunch the next day, though I have never seen one attacked by more than one hungry guy. 4515 Inglewood Blvd., Culver City, (310) 390-0755. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 8 a.m.–8:30 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $11–$18. AE, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢b
Stroh’s Gourmet. Since its inception, Stroh’s (a small corner shop on Abbot Kinney) has had a following. In addition to the cheese case, a cold case of drinks (including large glass bottles of Badoit water, which are rare here and price-controlled in France) and a small selection of high-priced, premium groceries (chestnut honey, organic coffee, rustic pasta, anchovy paste, that sort of thing), there’s a third refrigerated case, displaying a large array of big, shaggy sandwiches, all freshly made and wantonly stacked in preparation for the hungry hordes — who do indeed come. 1239 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 450-5119. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. 7:30 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sandwiches $6.44 each. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Sandwiches. MH $b
San Fernando Valley
Carnival. The whole human comedy — or carnival, as it were — flocks to this relentlessly popular Middle Eastern restaurant in a Sherman Oaks mini-mall for big portions of mezze and kebabs. (A buck seventy-five adds soup or salad and rice or fries to any entrée.) Never mind the harassed, overworked waiters racing around on their last nerves. Try the daily specials — lamb shanks, lamb and okra stew. Hummus meat — chopped, deeply seasoned lamb and pine nuts in a nest of good hummus — is the dish to order. 4356 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks, (818) 784-3469. Seven days 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8.25–$12.95. Middle Eastern. MH ¢b
Señor Fred’s. The food at this stateside Mexican restaurant with American sensibilities is pretty good, and sometimes even surprises with an occasional spike in quality and deftness. Taquitos have a delicate chewiness and related textural pleasures — the crumble of fresh cotija cheese, the soaking avocado sauce, the threadlike shredded chicken. An ensalada pico de gallois especially spirited and quenching. For dessert, it’s hard to beat the Mexican hot chocolate with cookies. 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 789-3200. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–mid., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Entrées $8.50–$18.50. AE, D, MC, V. Mexican. MH$$b[Â?
South Bay/LAX/Long Beach and vicinity
Tombo. Okonomiyaki, especially the kind that you cook yourself at a hot griddle set into a dining table, is one of those odd dishes whose whole really does transcend the sum of its rather grisly parts: Japanese mayonnaise. Tonkatsu sauce. Bubbling oceans of gooey batter scorched black around the edges. Crunchy, superheated bean sprouts that emit little puffs of steam when you bite into them. Carrots charred into carrot pudding. It’s a stinking, queasy-making mess that you could probably eat every day of the week. If you’re really in a festive mood, you could throw some Spam in, too. At Tombo, a sticky-table okonomiyaki parlor in Torrance, not far from Gardena, you can try the monjayaki, beef broth you reduce yourself until it reaches the rubbery consistency of a cat’s chew toy, which is every bit as good — and bad — as it sounds. 2106 Artesia Blvd., Torrance, (310) 324-5190. Lunch Tues.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., Sun. noon–2:30 p.m. Dinner Tues.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m., Sun. 5–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. JG $b
East Los Angeles
Mike’s Hockeyburger. Mike may be the most prominent restaurateur in this part of town, an industrial area that seems more like an enormous, truck-choked loading dock, and his sign, which depicts a giant hockey player, was “borrowed” for the doughnut shop in Wayne’s World. But Mike sure is proudest of his Hockeyburger, which is essentially a cheeseburger garnished with a sliced, grilled all-beef hot dog. Though the Hockeyburger may be fearsome to behold, it is actually almost as delicious as it is indigestible. 1717 S. Soto St., Los Angeles, (323) 264-0444. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Wed. 6 a.m.–7 p.m., Thurs.–Fri. 24 hours, Sat. 6 a.m.–3:30 p.m., closed Sun. Lot parking. Lunch for two $8–$12. Beer. Cash only. American. JG ¢b?
LA99 Chili John’s. From a series of stainless-steel vats in the center of the room, the counterman at Chili John’s scoops out pinkish beans, mounding them high in a yellow plastic bowl, then he carefully spoons thick, brick-red chili over the beans until the bowl nearly brims over onto the counter. With a flourish, he tops off the chili with a splash of bean water. He cocks an eyebrow, which means: “Would you like an extra little drizzle of orange grease with that?” Of course you do. 2018 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-3611. Lunch and dinner Tues.–Fri. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat. till 4 p.m. Closed July and August. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $9–$12. Chili. JG ¢b
Pasadena and vicinity
Doña Rosa. Behind one counter at Doña Rosa are racks and racks of freshly baked pan dulce, the pink-frosted conchas, the gingery puercitos and the crunchy, sugar-glazed orejas. Near another is a sort of superheated turntable on which lumps of dough bubble and bake into fresh tortillas. Taquitos fry. Shrimp steam. Thick chocolate burbles happily in a heated vat. The air outside is perfumed with the smoke from grilling carne asada, which is chopped and folded into tacos, stuffed into gorditas, or layered onto huaraches with great rivulets of Mexican crema and cheese. The Doña Rosa burrito is a majestic creature, a stretchy tortilla stuffed with rice, black beans, avocado and an oozing, orange mass of beef fried in chorizo grease, the sort of burrito that will coat your teeth for a week and live in your insides like a frisky pet. 577 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, (626) 449-2999. Open Mon.–Sat. 8 a.m.–mid., Sun. 6 a.m.–11 p.m. Wine, beer and margaritas. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $10–$15. Mexican. JG ¢b?
Pie ’N Burger. This is the best neighborhood hamburger joint in a neighborhood that includes Caltech, which means the guy next to you may be reading a physics proof over his chili size as if it were the morning paper. When compressed by the act of eating, a Pie N’ Burger hamburger leaks thick, pink dressing, and the slice of American cheese, if you have ordered a cheeseburger, does not melt into the patty, but stands glossily aloof. When the fruit is in season, don’t miss a cut of the fresh-strawberry pie. 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 795-1123. Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. Cash only. Entrées $5–$10. American. JG ¢b
Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity
Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle. The most popular of the Taiwanese noodle shops is probably Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle in San Gabriel Square. The cold appetizers are nice: slivers of pressed tofu or sliced pig’s ears drizzled with thick soy sauce. I like the rice plates, which include a fried chop or luscious stewed belly pork with two different kinds of Chinese pickles, half a tea-steeped egg and a bowl of soup. But Ay-Chung is all about the mien hsien, skeins of superfine vermicelli tossed into a glutinous broth flavored with soy sauce, bonito flakes, vinegar, chile and plenty of garlic, a big bowl of pungent goo that hits your palate like a slap. 140 W. San Gabriel Blvd., No. 208, San Gabriel, (626) 280-7099. Open daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two: $4–$12. Chinese. JG ¢b
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