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A few years back when I first compiled a list of the best restaurants in Silver Lake, it was not an easy task. There simply weren't that many great restaurants to choose from. These days it's a different story. The neighborhood's dining options seem to be catching up to its hungry, moneyed residents, and new options are popping up monthly. In the past year, two of the city's best chefs have set up shop in Silver Lake. This new list was hard to put together, not for lack of options but because there is now too much to choose from.
We managed to whittle it down, though. Here's a look at the new, improved restaurant scene in Silver Lake through its 10 best restaurants.
10. Knuckle & Claw
Knuckle & Claw is the work of Chloe Dahl and Nikki Booth, who previously sold their rolls at the Brentwood and Beverly Glen farmers markets and now aim to bring the feel of a New England seafood shack to the heart of Silver Lake. To that end, they've done a swell job of making this little slot of a space next to a car lot feel very much like a sunny beach eatery. The walls are a pleasing dark blue, and the nautical prints on them and the wood-benched patio create a distinctly oceanside vibe. The lobster roll itself is a purist's dream. As the restaurant's name implies, it serves only knuckle and claw meat — no tail — dressed incredibly simply. There is a light smear of mayo on the bread itself, and the meat is drizzled with butter. There's a sprinkle of spice mix, the contents of which the owners won't reveal, but it's subtle enough that my guess is the main spices are salt and pepper. You get a couple of lemon wedges for squeezing, and that's it. No celery, no filler. Just lobster and bread. It's a sweet, bouncy experience to eat one of these things, and it makes you realize how much obfuscation is taking place with so many other lobster rolls. This generosity and purity will cost you: A lobster roll here is $19. You can get a mini version for half the price, but it's barely a few bites' worth. There's a shrimp roll for $9 if you're slumming, and a Dungeness crab roll for $22 if you're feeling flush. 3112 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 407-6142; knuckleandclaw.com.
9. El Cochinito
As an antidote to the hipster explosion that's happened along the rest of Sunset Boulevard, you could do worse than stop by for a meal at El Cochinito, the Cuban cafe that's been operating in a strip mall since 1988. Chef and 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.
Blair's, the pretty storefront bistro across the street from the neighborhood elementary school, never seems to change much, though it did get a new flashing arrow sign this past year. But the menu, of classic New American and Italian dishes, keeps delivering on its promise of high-quality, upscale neighborhood dining, night after night. The pastas are delicate, the fish is cooked perfectly, and the creamed greens under the roast chicken is as good as ever. It's also a great, laid-back place to stop in at the bar and drink a glass of wine and eat a few deviled eggs topped with fried capers and paprika, or a classic chicken liver crostini. How it survives in such a low-key manner is a bit of a mystery, but we're glad it does. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake; (323) 660-1882; blairsrestaurant.com.
7. Silver Lake 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.
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.
5. Cliff's Edge
Cliff's Edge is in transition: In the late fall, chef Vartan Abgaryan will be leaving for a new gig at downtown's 71 Above, and a new chef will take his place. But even though Abgaryan has been instrumental in elevating Cliff's Edge to its current, better-than-it-needs-to-be heights, we have no doubt whoever he ushers in as a replacement will continue to pursue interesting, high-quality cooking. Regardless, this will remain one of the most beautiful patios in Los Angeles, with one of the most convivial bars in the (almost baroque) indoor space. For now, you can still get Abgaryan's creative, modern, French-influenced cooking, and take part in the constantly improving wine list. 3626 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 666-6116; cliffsedgecafe.com.
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 and 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 because 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 remains 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, where 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 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 chef Spencer Bezaire’s simple but inventive menu. Items such as chorizo on toast with a side of smoked mussels have stood the test of time. The entree list, which changes more often, is where you’ll find Bezaire flexing his creativity and cooking chops, with elegant seafood dishes and the occasional meaty wonder. 1637 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 660-2255; leoysterbar.com.
Silver Lake has pretty much been dying for a restaurant like Alimento for years, a neighborhood joint with true ambition, a place that residents can feel smug to call their own. Chef/owner Zach Pollack has taken his years of experience with Italian food, focused on Italy's northern border and then added a hefty dose of Los Angeles sensibility. Pollack veers from highly traditional dishes, such as a gorgeously decadent maccheroncini pasta with chicken livers and Marsala, to playful takes on Americana, such as his “pig in a blanket” — a fat hunk of mortadella sandwiched between two layers of flaky spelt pastry, then brightened up with three kinds of tang: pickled mustard seeds, Italian sauerkraut and a melty cow’s milk cheese called stracchinata. The escolar crudo with eggplant and fennel pollen isn't just one of our favorite dishes in Silver Lake, it's one of our favorite dishes in Los Angeles. 1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 928-2888; alimentola.com.
1. Night + Market Song
If your idea of best involves a modicum of fanciness, a focus on service, artistic plating or any of the other things that are more traditionally lauded in restaurant rankings, it's possible you'll disagree with us that Night + Market Song is the best restaurant in Silver Lake. Certainly, some of the restaurants above have more thoughtful service, or are perhaps better suited to a special occasion. But if you are primarily concerned with flavor, a unique point of view and perhaps outrageously spicy, intensely flavored food paired with weird, cool wines, this is the place for you. The second location of chef Kris Yenbamroong's exuberant Thai restaurant has its own Silver Lake personality. In the curries, the larbs and the delicate catfish stemmed in banana leaf, this is food cooked with extreme thought and care, the flavors built deliberately and slowly. Almost every dish you get here will have one long, low bright note: the gift of slow-roasted ginger, or chiles seared before mashing, or the addition of pork fat to a catfish “tamale,” giving it depth and savor. This food is not nonchalant in any way. It's the place we'd be most likely to send folks from out of town, the place we'd most miss from the neighborhood were it to disappear, the place we most love to eat. The best. 3322 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 665-5899; nightmarketla.com.