Alejo's Presto Trattoria
8343 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester
4002 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey
You can almost hear gondolas gliding through canals here. Alejo's serves homemade Italian dishes that are sure to bring out the romantic in you. Gaze into your beloved's eyes, fork-feed a morsel of tender veal parmigiana or spicy shrimp al diablo (both $10.95) and watch him/her melt with delight. Continue the sensuous feast with homemade cheesecake ($1.95) and a steaming cappuccino. At the Westchester location, paella ($10.95) is featured on Friday and Saturday nights. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine (Westchester only); takeout. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
22821 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu
Allegria is an Italian café that has brought all the flavors of the motherland to Malibu, with wide selections of sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and salads. On the lunch menu, try a delicious panini like the focaccina con verdure porto (grilled mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, caramelized onions, arugula and garlic goat cheese on homemade focaccia, $8.50) or something lighter like the insalata Allegria (salad of watercress, arugula, pine nuts, hearts of palm, endive and avocado in a Parmesan dressing, $7.75). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
1028 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Unwind with a late-night breakfast burrito, wake up to a vegetarian Sunday brunch ($7.95), or sip a delicious coffee drink while enjoying live folk music. With its antique European chandeliers and attractive velvet couches, Anastasia's is an inviting place for relaxed dining. The full breakfast menu is available all day, and features fluffy scrambles filled with cheeses and fresh vegetables ($6-$7). Don't pass on the vegetarian lasagna ($7.25) or the spinach-feta pot pie ($6.50). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days, brunch on weekends. No alcohol; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
7013 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
Stately columns and arches line the interior of this fine Indian restaurant, which has been on Melrose since 1983 and prides itself on a mastery of age-old food-preparation techniques. There is nothing better than the Bombay lobster soaked in Anarkali's delicious “secret sauce” ($19.95, $23.95). If you haven't got a taste for seafood, try the eggplant bharta sautéed with onions and spices ($5.95, $8.95) or the mixed tandoori grill ($12.95, $15.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
Arirang Korea Restaurant
114 W. Union St., Pasadena
With its palace décor, showcase antiques and inset barbecues at every table, Arirang offers a royal dining experience. Everyone raves about the boolgogi gooi ($13.50), thinly sliced beef marinated in a sweet sauce and served with six side dishes that change daily but always include the essential kimchee, a pickled Chinese cabbage. Vegetarian entrées are also available. The menu is hefty — 50 selections — and the portions are generous. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; delivery; catering; valet parking; weekend reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.
Baja Bud' s
11205 National Blvd., West L.A.
1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica
10850 Pico Blvd., West L.A.
20044 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills
8575 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
21801 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills
In an increasingly crowded market, Baja Bud's stays true to its original vision: good food, good service, and fresh California/traditional Mexican fare. Grilled chicken, beef and red snapper are the basis for food that is healthy and delicious. Fresh daily: handmade corn tortillas and no-lard flour tortillas (lower in fat than the other guys’), served on real plates with real silverware (think of all the plastic you won't be adding to the landfills!). The catering menu will economically feed eight to 80. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer; takeout; catering; parking. DIS, MC, V.
10835 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles
Bamboo Restaurant is a picturesque, casually inviting Caribbean restaurant with the minimalist's feel of simplicity. The menu here is anything but simple, though, as it features exquisite dishes from various cultural influences, all brought to Bamboo from seasoned culinary veteran Jose Mendoza. Highlights from the lunch menu include the Cancun Steak ($11.75), the seafood paella ($14.75) and the mango curry chicken (10.75), while the extensive dinner menu has a churrasco steak ($13.75) and a mouth-watering barbecue pasta ($11.75). There are no duds on this menu. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; delivery (10 or more meals in the order only); takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
606 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
The owners refer to it as a “Thai temple with a French twist.” And under the placid gaze of a 6-foot golden Buddha, you can feast on a Bangkok roll, mixed greens with tofu and a special sauce ($4.95 small, $7.25 large). Such specialties as the filet mignon with red wine and ginger Thai sauce and the halibut with macadamia nuts (both $18) are truly fulfilling. Stop in on weekends and enjoy exotic traditional Thai music or jazz along with your meal (spring and summer only). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; street parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
Barbara's at the Brewery
620 Moulton Ave., #110, Los Angeles
Located downtown in the Old Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery (now the nation's largest artist complex), this former loft has been transformed into a chic restaurant with a full bar and a display of contemporary art. Start with a Maryland tidewater crab cake, served with cilantro butter sauce and creamy chipotle ($7). We also recommend the exquisite pan-fried tilapia with Vera Cruz sauce ($12) and the grilled premium rib-eye steak with fries and grilled onions ($19), or the tri-tip sandwich on Armenian stone bread (lunch menu only, $8). Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering. AE, DC, MC, V.
26025 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu
For 20 years under the same ownership, Beau Rivage has been a romantic Mediterranean-style restaurant resplendent with an ocean view, a fireplace and wine cellar (with a four-star list). Many authentic specialties from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as the pappardelle pollo (smoked chicken, shallots, mushrooms, white wine and herbes de Provence, $16) and branzino alla griglia (grilled striped Italian bass with herbs and virgin olive oil, $24.50), are favorites. Beau Rivage also has the best facilities in Malibu for weddings (on premises) and/or receptions. Dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; parking available; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
73 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach
There's lots more here than just carefully crafted beers and ales. Brewski's also serves delicious food, like its famous Memphis-style barbecue, fresh seafood and scrumptious tossed salads. Just a stone's throw from the sand, Brewski's offers a casual beach atmosphere for you to enjoy with a tasty barbecue-pork sandwich ($7.95) or Shanghai chicken salad ($6.95 lunch, $9.95 dinner). They also have a great barbecue ribs meal (half-rack $11.95, full $17.95). The on-site brewery's vats are almost as impressive as the premium beer they produce; credit California's Napa vineyards for the fine wines. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
Café des Artistes
1534 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood
A mysterious haven tucked away down a dark alley, reminiscent of Paris — that is Café des Artistes! Here you will find an upscale and trendy crowd, as this café is much about the ambiance — but it is also about the magnificent entrées. Heavenly recipes and enticing blends along with the aromas captured by chef Jean-Peirre Bosc are apt to tempt all of your senses at once. Come out for live jazz on Monday nights, and DJs on Thursdays, while enjoying one of the vintage wines. Café des Artistes has the “French concoction of mystery, intrigue and sensual life force.” Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; valet parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
4356 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks
It is a fact that the Middle East is thousands of miles away, but the traditional recipes of Lebanon can be found right in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, at Carnival Restaurant. Start with some delectable grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onions and parsley, cooked in lemon juice ($2.50 small, $4.25 large). Try one of an assortment of kebabs next (chicken, lamb or beef; $9.25-$12.95), or the house specialty, lamb shank served with fresh vegetables and rice ($8.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
3900 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake
This chic 4-year-old café serves a variety of palatable dishes, and is a perfect setting for anything from philosophical discussions to reading in quietude. Favorites among the regulars are the French cheese plate ($7.95) and the smoked salmon ($7.50). Exotic teas, like the Argentinian maté are served by the gourd ($3.50), and the couscous served with a Moroccan pangine ($7.95) is incredible. Relax and take advantage of the pleasant outdoor seating, or pick up your food to go. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. BYOB; takeout. MC, V.
Casita del Campo
1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
The folks here have been in business for over 39 years, so they have the know-how when it comes to creating fresh, homemade flavors. Relax on the outdoor patio and enjoy “The Best Margarita in Town,” a variety of fruit-flavored margaritas (peach, banana, cranberry and melon) all made with fresh lime juice, triple sec and your choice of tequila. And when your stomach starts to growl, try the pollo Mexica, chicken marinated and grilled in fresh fruit juices and spices and topped with a hot chili sauce, served with Mexican rice and a green enchilada ($10.95). Come see the “magician” every Friday. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
Cat & Fiddle
6530 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
The courtyard may look Spanish, but once inside the atmosphere is decidedly English. Quaff one of many fine imported beers while playing a game of darts with your mates, or grab a seat near the cozy fireplace. Do fortify yourself with their homemade bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes, dinner $11) or, when available, fish and chips (cod $11.50, sole $13). Don't miss happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., seven days a week and free live jazz (no cover) on Sundays from 7 to 11 p.m. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted (parties over six only). AE, MC, V.
8384 W. Third St., Los Angeles
Cava dishes out as much Spanish culture and cuisine as you can handle in its visually appealing, split-level confines, where a cozy neighborhood setting downstairs and a Latin supper club up top create an enticing atmosphere for dining. In the afternoon, try its grilled chicken (topped with spinach, goat cheese and black pepper sauce, $14.95), and at night, splurge on the authentic Spanish-style paella langostino (fresh lobster, shiitake mushrooms, and asparagus over saffron rice, $24.95). Don't forget about Cava's happy hour! Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
Cha Cha Cha Encino
17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino
Since 1991, Cha Cha Cha Encino has presented its patrons with a variety of experiences — from tarot card readings, Latin Jazz, salsa and reggae on weekends and to, of course, enticing contemporary California and Caribbean cuisine food. There is also a tableside magician. The jerk chicken (marinated and grilled, $11) and the Caribbean paella (clams, mussels, andouille sausage, shrimp, chicken, scallops, swordfish and ahi tuna over saffron rice, serves two for $23) are winning selections. Come by, grab a drink, and enjoy. Don't forget the weekend brunch menu! Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
2520 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
If you enjoy the exotic flavors of the French-Moroccan cuisine, then do stop in here. We highly recommend the appetizing Moroccan chicken bestilla pie ($7.50) or the equally delicious lemon-glazed roast chicken ($17.50) with green olives and savory couscous. A yen for something sweet can be fully satisfied by a banana cinnamon crème brûlée ($6.50), along with some authentic Turkish coffee. Dinner Thurs.-Sat. BYOB; takeout; catering (private parties); parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
111 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
One wall of Chao Krung features a tribute to Vietnam-era journalists, an unaffected concern and warmth that the restaurant also extends to its customers. Waitresses in traditional costume lead guests past Buddhist murals to richly hued wooden tables, where diners can enjoy pad Thai ($6.75), chicken larb salad ($6.95) or Thai spring rolls ($4.95 for five). Highly recommended are the seasonal sticky rice with sweet mango ($5) and the homemade coconut ice cream ($2.75). Available for private parties. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, DIS., MC, V.
2112 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles
With a menu listing some 80 selections, this is a tempting place to satisfy that itch for good Chinese food. What about steamed fish fillet in ginger scallion sauce ($11.75) or mushroom delight ($9.25)? Or try one of Mr. Chi's many specialties, which include shrimp à la Chi ($12.75), a vegetarian Beijing duck ($9.25), sesame chicken ($10.25) and the best Chinese chicken salad in town ($6.25). Fear not, there's something for everyone here! Open for lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
239 N. Harbor Dr., Redondo Beach
Here is the kind of place that people in Wisconsin dream about when the winters grow cold! A beach bar and grill with a festive atmosphere and all the friendliness of a regular neighborhood hangout. The menu includes American favorites like burgers, chicken sandwiches and Philly cheese-steaks, but it is the bar itself that keeps them coming. Try a “Suicide” (five liquors and five fruit juices) or a Cool Colada with some of Chillers' famous wings. There is also a $3 happy hour menu with half-price daiquiris and $2 drafts. Check out the heated outdoor patio! Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
4326 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
There's always a crowd on hand at this Cal-Mex restaurant, popular for its festive atmosphere and cuisine. Feast on delights like Cobalt chimichanga or the soft tacos with grilled vegetables, chicken or steak. How about the “special request pasta,” with grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, garlic, kalamata olives and basil on your choice of pasta ($12.95)? Don't forget about the Cobalt Triangle: Monday night (fajita fiesta), Tapas Tuesdays (two-for-one tapas) and the “Lazy Daze” Sunday brunch. Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
616 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood
Re-defined with a mix of new menu items and old favorites, Cobalt's Westside location has had a slight name change to boot. Among the savory new dishes are osso buco Buenos Aires, a braised veal shank cooked with mushrooms, sherry and chiles ($18.95), and Nuevo Mundo paella, with clams, chicken, pork sausage and black-bean garnish ($15.95). Don't forget the fajitas fiesta on Monday (with $2 Coronas!), two-for-one tapas Tuesdays and the “Lazy Daze” Sunday brunch. Fri. and Sat. late-night happy hour from 11 p.m.–2 a.m. Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
Coconut Club (at the Beverly Hilton)
9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
Come to the famous Coconut Club at the Beverly Hilton, where a brand-new menu featuring New World cuisine by renowned chef Tony Baran has been introduced. The funkiest party in town can be found right here on Fridays with disco band Boogie Nights, and Saturdays with a step back into the glamorous era of old Hollywood supper clubs, all under the silver and gold palm trees, all part of the elegant Coconut Club décor. Dinner Fri.–Sat. nights only. Full bar; takeout; self-parking and valet available; reservations essential. AE, MC, V.
Cole's P.E. Buffet
118 E. Sixth St., Los Angeles
Three words: French dip sandwich. Famous worldwide as the oldest bar and restaurant in Los Angeles and as the original inventors of this hearty sandwich, Cole's P.E. Buffet has been keeping customers happy since 1908. It's the best — the only — entrée they serve. Line up cafeteria-style for a monster helping of freshly baked French bread piled high with your choice of roast beef, turkey, pastrami, corned beef, ham or roast ham ($4.99). All your favorite sides are here: mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, corn, carrot salad and potato salad. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., happy hour Mon.-Thurs. Full bar; takeout; delivery; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
9646 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
Travel back in time to the elegance of French colonial Vietnam at Crustacean, where executive chef Helene An guards her secret recipes so zealously six “sacred” dishes are prepared in a private, steel-encased kitchen. Highly recommended are the two versions of Dungeness crab: an entire crab simmered in sake, Chardonnay and cognac ($33.95) or in garlic sauce and secret spices ($33.95). Also unforgettable are the colossal royal tiger prawns, charbroiled and served over garlic noodles ($33.95). And to complement the meal, there is live music nightly. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat. Full bar; valet parking; reservations required. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
Dr. J's Health and Tasty Restaurant
1303 Westwood Blvd., Westwood
This organic, vegetarian restaurant serves you the healthiest food on earth! Based on a 12-year track record of success in providing frozen food to her clients, Dr. Juliet Tien (Dr. J), a leading expert in Anti-Yeast Therapy, added a hot-food restaurant for promoting your health and satisfying your taste buds. They use no sugar, dairy, wheat, yeast, alcohol, caffeine, chemicals, eggs or meat in preparing their entrées, snacks, soups, drinks or sandwiches. Meat eaters enjoyed their veggie meat and seafood dishes so much that they described them as “Love at first bite!” Lunch buffet and dinner ($9.99), Mon.-Sat. Takeout; delivery; catering. AE, MC, V.
134 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills
Descriptions of Ed Debevic's have run the gamut from “zany” to a “cross between a bowling alley and a neon-lit drive-in.” People magazine proclaims, “The '50s reign once again in all their Naugahydian glory!” Sassy servers and impromptu performers add to the fun. There's plenty to eat here; if you like burgers, you'll feel like you're in heaven, and nothing on the menu is over $8.95. Available for parties (from 15 to 400 people). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
316 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
Drop in at this Oaxacan-style restaurant where color is everywhere, starting with the dazzling collection of straw hats adorning the walls. The breakfast menu offers everything from blueberry pancakes to omelets, but early risers rave about the chilaquiles — strips of tortilla dipped in red guajillo sauce, with a choice of eggs or beef ($6.50). And for lunch or dinner, try the chicken mescal ($8.99–$11.99) as you relax on the outdoor patio. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
209 World Way, LAX
Stop by the Encounter Restaurant and you'll be reminded of just how lovely and unique L.A. is – purple cascading lights and Jetsons-like “retro-futuristic chic” evoke television landscapes (the restaurant was designed by Disney). But the mod interior is just a complement to a SoCal/Pacific Rim menu that includes caramelized salmon with vanilla-honey sweet potatoes ($25) and Chilean sea bass with mango salsa ($26). Don't miss out on the Odyssey dessert ($24), a sampler of tiramisù, cheesecake with candied pine nuts, and Mocha-java Stratosphere — a hazelnut flourless cake. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
Erewhon Natural Foods Market
7660 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
This is not your regular market; it's a “Super-Natural” food market and the home of the “Healthy-catessen,” where you'll find a variety of hot and cold dishes, including vegetarian goodies, free-range chicken, homemade soups and a hearty protein salad bar. If you've got a cavity-free sweet tooth, then go for something from the sugar-free bakery, or a delicious energizing smoothie. The hot table offers 20 different dishes that change daily. Fax orders accepted. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Takeout; catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
6282 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Ex Incendo has brought in Chef Deidra A. Henry from New York to bolster the commitment they have made to serving exquisite food. Along with remodeling and expansion of the dining room itself, the menu has grown as well, with many new entrées to suit everybody. Start with the tuna tartare (chopped chives, crisp poppy seed cracker and daikon sprouts, $9.50) and then move onto a portobello salad with peppers, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette, $9. The rib-eye steak sandwich (with roasted tomatoes, grilled zucchini and melted onions on tuscan bread, served with red potato salad, $9) is a as good as it gets. Even if your full, don't miss the chance to try an apple strawberry crisp. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout and delivery for lunch only; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, MC, V.
6270 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
5255 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
One of the hidden gems in Hollywood, Fabiolus Café brings all the lively tastes of Italy into our own backyard. Start with either the calamaretti fritti (fried calamari with spicy tomato sauce, $7.95) or a tocco ai funghi e arrugola (sautéed mushrooms and fresh arugula over ciabatta bread with goat cheese, $6.25). Then give the house specialty a try — the penne alla Vodka (in a blend of cream and tomato sauce with a splash of vodka, $8.45) is to die for! There is also a fabulous selection of panini and risotto to choose from. Lunch and dinner seven days on Sunset. Lunch Mon.–Sat., dinner Mon.–Fri. on Melrose. Beer and wine; delivery; takeout; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, MC, V.
439 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
The New England farmhouse setting of this restaurant is as pleasing as the hearty Continental-American food it serves. Start off your meal with grilled artichokes ($10.75), before indulging in the lobster club ($19.50). Or try the ahi three ways ($13.75) — raw ahi tuna served pepper-crusted, tuna tartare and rolled in a crepe with ponzu sauce. If you're taking in a concert, stop here: They have four Hollywood Bowl picnic menus ($16.50–$27.50), and the Farm does extensive catering for events (such as Valentine's Day). Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri., brunch and dinner weekends. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking; reservations recommended. AE, MC, V.
1802 & 1804 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
Designed to emulate the old Parisian brasseries, Figaro's dining area is as majestic as it gets, with beautiful French fixtures and custom-designed furniture throughout the restaurant and outdoor patio. Order a bottle of Fleur-du-Cap Merlot ($35) to take in the splendor, and then treat yourself to the tapas bar. There are tantalizing sandwiches to choose from: tuna croissant ($7.50), paté ($7) and the Brie baguette ($6.50). Figaro also has an elegant brunch open on weekends which features croissants, eggs Benedict and eggs florentine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
Flavor of India
9045 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
With a newly decorated interior to go along with a spectacular outside covered patio and garden, this restaurant is a sure pick for enjoyable dining (Dolly Parton is a regular). The food on the menu is as pleasing as the atmosphere, with tasty dishes like Madrasi duck curry (duck, covered in onions, garlic and coconut, served with rice, $19.95), and a curry lunch, served with either chicken or lamb à la carte ($6.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations suggested (four or more). AE, DIS, MC, V.
Floor 50 Restaurant
555 S. Flower St., Los Angeles (Bank of America Tower)
What better way to enjoy lunch than by sitting nearest the heavens, checking out the view of greater Los Angeles from the 50th floor? While gazing out over the city, start with some won-ton-wrapped lemongrass tiger prawns with sweet Thai-chili sauce and sesame-daikon dressing ($9.95). In a hurry? Go for the 50-minute lunch menu, which features an achiote-spiced chicken sandwich ($9.95) or the penne marsala ($10.95). Exotic tastes should try the lobster ravioli (steamed lobster ravioli in a smoked sun-dried tomato sauce, $16.95). Available for private parties at night. Open Mon.–Fri. for lunch. Beer and wine; catering; parking ($5.50 flat-rate with validation, per car). AE, DC, MC, V.
Flying Leap Café
2538 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
This intimate yet casual establishment gives diners a chance to feast on fresh homemade cooking while enjoying some music. Among many outstanding choices on the menu, there is the Silver Lake salad ($9.50) with apples, baby greens, corn, onion and sausage all topped with lemon-herb dressing. Or try the hearty half-pound burger ($6.95), served with coleslaw and fries or fruit. Dinner entrées range from $10.50 to $15.95 and include the enticing bow-tie pasta with garlic, tomatoes and basil drenched in a French Brie sauce. Dinner Tues.-Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
1017 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach
Fonz's is renowned primarily for its San Franciscan cuisine and casual setting — but mostly for its home-cooking. Owned by silver-medalist of the 1996 Summer Olympics Mike Dodd, this steakhouse/seafood joint features some of the tastiest dishes in the South Bay. Start with seared ahi tuna ($10), with Asian slaw and miso vinaigrette dressing with a nice glass of MezzaCorona Pinot Grigio. Then go for a grilled New York steak ($22), seared Australian rack of lamb ($20) or the delicious wild-mushroom risotto with cremini, shiitake and portabello mushrooms ($19). Find the perfect wine to accompany your meal from Fonz's extensive list. Dinner seven nights, brunch on Sunday from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
643 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
With the great, dimly lit shelves of books in the study and polished wooden furniture, dining here is an optimum experience. The two bars and dance floor, along with spacious surroundings and outdoor patio, make the Gate also a prime location for hosting private parties. Meanwhile, the regular menu features an array of highly decorated, fulfilling dishes like the sesame coated seared ahi tuna served with a spinach salad and topped with Asian spices, $23. Also recommended is the roasted lamb chops on a bed of white beans, pearl onions, cabbage and red-wine sauce, $26. Open Fri.–Sat. for dinner. Full bar; catering (on premises); valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
Gate of India
7300 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
The folds of black and burgundy cloth billowing from the ceiling are more reminiscent of a work of art by Christo than a restaurant, but once the food arrives, there's no question you're here to chow. The menu features a wonderfully tangy chicken tikka masala ($5.95 lunch, $9.95 à la carte) and lamb pasanda cooked with almonds and cashews in a creamy meat sauce ($5.95, $9.95). Drop in for lunch for a 10-course buffet ($6.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, DC, MC, V.
Gourmet Coffee Warehouse
671 Rose Ave., Venice
10780 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City
The motto here is “We're L.A.'s local coffee restaurant,” and if the rock-bottom prices don't lure you, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee will. Everyday folk get the same deal as the business buyers: 5-pound bags of high-end coffee at an average price of $6 per pound (available from half a pound to 5 pounds). Also available are bulk teas, chocolate and mugs. Check out the scrumptious baked goods, or the 35 different coffee selections from 22 countries, or the assortment of over 100 teas. Gourmet Coffee provides beans for many Westside restaurants (over 200). Open seven days. Parking. AE, MC, V.
9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
There's nothing quite like Merv Griffin's signature poolside restaurant, which features daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, right in the center of all the action. On Wednesdays, join Griff's for a taste of Italy, featuring entrées such as osso buco and sautéed pastas made to order, or on Fridays with the seafood buffet (with ice crab claws, shrimp and oysters) complete with a sushi chef preparing sushi rolls and sashimi, also made to order. Don't forget Sunday champagne brunch! Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; valet and self parking available; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
8385 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
Although the sushi, noodles and Kappo cuisine are mouth-watering, Hirozen's real thrills are in its ever-changing specialty dishes. Traditional Japanese appetizers like the ground shrimp with zucchini flower ($8.50) complement inspired creations such as the vegetable hako sushi ($5.95), sashimi with three kinds of fish or the custom-made “Hirozen course” ($55–$120 a person gets you an appetizer, soup, sashimi, main entrée and dessert). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat. Beer, wine and sake; takeout; catering; reservations accepted weekdays only. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
1757 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
Begin a fabulous night out on the town at this welcoming neighborhood Italian restaurant. The appetizers are to die for, especially the calamari fritti, served with a delicious marinara sauce ($6.50). A favorite pasta is the green fettuccine with tre funghi, made with shiitake, porcini and champignon mushrooms and served in a light cream sauce ($10.50). If in the mood for meat, the chicken Vesuvio, oven-roasted with wine, garlic and rosemary, would be an excellent choice ($10.95). Dinner seven nights. BYOB; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
The Improvisation (at the Improv)
8152 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
Hey, now you can knock out two birds with one stone by seeing live comedy and eating a wholesome meal, all at the Improvisation. The California cuisine with a Cajun feel is a perfect accompaniment to the comedy club. For starters, indulge with some Improv nachos or fried calamari (both $7.25). Then try Drew Carey's favorite, the chicken tequila pasta ($11.25), or Jerry Seinfeld's choice, the sautéed chicken breast with artichokes ($13.95). The pasta jambalaya is equal to the task, and also awaiting its celebrity ($10.95). Open for dinner seven nights. Full bar; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DIS, MC, V.
Inn of the Seventh Ray
128 Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon
Perhaps one of the loveliest places to dine in greater Los Angeles, Inn of the Seventh Ray is a naturalist's dream, set idyllically in the heart of the Topanga Canyon wilderness. If ever a menu complimented the peacefulness of its surrounds, this one does. The Sunday brunch is renowned for its wide selection of vegetarian dishes and desserts, as well as traditional favorites (with meat). This year's Valentine's menu is full of delights, from the auric glow of ponzu-roasted sea bass (served on a bed of udon rice noodles with baby bok choy in a roasted garlic coconut nage) to the Cupid's hoisin-glazed vegan duck (with ginger-orange reduction, mirin sweet potato purée and hijiki, carrot, daikon salad). Valentine's special is $70 for vegetarian, $75 for traditional. Open for lunch and dinner seven days. Wine; valet parking; reservations essential (dinner). AE, MC, V.
10916 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
Named after the famous Indian city, Jaipur entices with its authentic northern Indian specialties, serving bountiful selections of traditional curry, vegetarian dishes and tandoori dishes, as well as delicious samosa appetizers, lentil patties and salads. Try the “best” Chilean sea bass, a lamb chop (each $14) or the mainstay chicken tikka marsala ($12). The exotic chicken chat salad is also quite delicious. All tandoori entrées are marinated at length in a mixture of seven to eight spices and are cooked in a hot clay oven. While you wait, try not to fill up on the tear-shaped wedges of naan bread that flow freely and quickly to your table. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
Karl Strauss Brewery Garden
1000 Universal Center Dr., Universal City
(818) 753-2739 (BREW)
Perfectly situated for people-watching above the vibrant center of CityWalk, this brewery, bearing the name of famed brewer Karl Strauss, is perfect for informal gatherings. Enjoy premium handcrafted brews such as the Red Trolley Ale or the Gaslamp Gold Ale while feasting on some chicken-lettuce wraps, or the appetizing Argentine-style beef skewers ($3.95-$7.50). For an entrée, indulge in the Lobster Tacos Vera Cruz, lobster sautéed with diced tomatoes, corn, jalapeños and spices, served with black beans, avocado salsa and fresh tortillas ($12.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering (private parties); parking. AE, MC, V.
Kass Bah Brasserie
9010 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
Everything on the menu is popular at Kass Bah, which serves California/French cuisine in an upscale but casual setting. But if you had to choose, the deliciously fresh tuna tartare appetizer with sliced avocado, baked won-ton skins and soy-ginger vinaigrette ($12) might win every time. Follow that with sesame-crusted Chilean sea bass with sautéed fava beans in a velvety lobster tomato sauce ($22). Heaven on earth, anyone? Dinner Mon.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, MC, V.
246 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles
Since opening just two months ago, Kiku Sushi has already flexed its culinary muscles for the dining public with the best of Japanese cuisine. Start your meal with a delicious shrimp and crab salad ($6.95), or perhaps the Hawaiian poki salad, a tuna salad with house dressing ($7.95). Afterwards, go wild with the crazy roll, brimming with spicy, flavorful yellowtail ($8.50), and then be sure to try the Larchmont roll, the restaurant's own fried version of the California roll ($9.50 for eight pieces). Your taste buds will not be disappointed. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Sat. Beer, wine sake; takeout; delivery; catering; street parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
260 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills
This swanky Japanese restaurant has it all, from classic dishes like the teriyaki and tempura combo, served with salad, miso soup, rice and fruit ($13.80), to the ornate tekkadonna meal, featuring slices of fresh tuna in a lacquered bowl of sticky white rice, garnished with sea urchin, crab, salmon eggs or mentaiko (spicy cold eggs), pickled vegetables and miso soup ($15.80). Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; street parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
4348 Fountain Blvd., Silver Lake
Hey, it's just like home cooking! Everything is made from scratch, in a very small kitchen, hence the name. And the attention given to each dish at the Kitchen is what makes it memorably delicious. The menu has traditional American cuisine as well as vegetarian dishes like the Silver Lake spinach salad (tossed nuts, goat cheese, grapes and red wine vinaigrette, $3.50–$6.50) and the grilled tofu plate (with autumn vegetables, cous cous ad curry oil, $7.25). Of course there are burgers, chili, stew and chicken dishes available as well, and the Kitchen’s open late (until 3 a.m. on Fri. and Sat.). Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch on weekends. BYOB; delivery (for lunch); parking, reservations accepted for parties of six or more. MC, V.
738 Rose Ave., Venice
Outside you can enjoy the eye-catching fountain and garden, inside you can see tortillas being made before your eyes. Anywhere you sit, it's as if you're on vacation. The fish tacos are a popular staple ($8.60), as are the chile rellenos ($3.50), great for munching on while you indulge one of the many margaritas, in over —count them — 18 flavors, ($4.25 and up). Open nightly until 3 a.m. Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking; reservations suggested for large parties. DIS, MC, V.
Locanda Del Lago
231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica
Perfect for a pre-cinema date or that special romantic outing, this stylish, open-air trattoria features an inviting freshwater menu that includes the delectable trotella al burro e salvia (fillet of trout sautéed in sage and butter, $16.50) and the alborelle fritte — freshwater smelt lightly battered and fried crisp ($6.95). Select from the Wine Spectator award-winning wine list, or share sips from a Friendship Cup — a flaming Italian Grolla ($9 per person), concocted with espresso, grappa, brandy, sambuca, lemon peel and sugar. Lunch and dinner seven days, Sat.–Sun. brunch. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
1640 Sawtelle Ave., West Los Angeles
A great coffeehouse/café to read a book, meet with friends, or simply enjoy the tasty java and fine foods. Lulu's Alibi offers a wide selection of sandwiches, soups, salads and appetizers, such as the caprese and avocado ($4.65). Try the warm spinach salad (toasted almonds, sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese and warm house balsamic vinaigrette dressing, $7.95) or a salad niçoise (tuna, green leaf lettuce, mandarin oranges, bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, roma tomatoes, olives and anchovies, with dressing, $8.75). Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; delivery; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
10351 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City
L.A.'s finest blend of French-Italian Provençal cuisine and entertainment can be found at restaurant/jazz lounge Lunaria. Groove to modal melodies while your taste buds swing to the braised Chilean sea bass with potato-fennel purée, tomato, green onion, capers, black olives and basil ($21.50). If you would like to be informed of Lunaria specials and promotional offers on a weekly basis, get on its e-mail list at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; delivery (within two miles); catering; valet parking (and complimentary self-parking); reservations suggested. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
615 Brand Ave., Glendale
The grand opening of Lush in Glendale is slated for Valentine's Day, which is most likely by design since the venue's romantic setting features roses, vines and garden splendors under seductive blue lighting. Staying in tune with its parent location in Santa Monica, the bar/restaurant will feature exquisite Mexican cuisine, including soups, salads, quesadillas, fajitas, chile rellenos, tostadas and much, much more ($7.95–$11.95). The new Lush will also have the same delectable dessert dishes, such as platanos asados (griddle-roasted plantains) and almond pound (each $4.50). Open for dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, MC, V.
2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
With all the verdurous vines growing around the back cantina, the term “lush” is adequately chosen for the bar/restaurant's name (rather than the term “lush” for one who is fond of the drink — but one shouldn't get hung up on meanings). Lush is more than a live venue for bands of all genres to showcase their talents; it is also an eclectic restaurant serving up fine Mexican cuisine. As an appetizer for the whole table, try the nachos à la Mexicana (choice of chicken or beef, $9.95). Then dig on those tasty Lush enchiladas (chicken, cheese or vegetables, $9.95). Open for dinner Tues.–Sat. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DIS, MC, V.
11723 Barrington Court, Brentwood
10761 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
There is nothing skimpy about the portions served at Maria's Cucina! Come with an appetite, because the hearty meals will have you leaving feeling oh-so-fulfilled. Try one of the gourmet pizzas: traditional cheese ($7.25), three-cheese and basil (smoked gouda, mozzarella and Parmesan, $7.65) or the classic BBQ chicken ($9.45 individual, $16.95 medium). The calzones are the best in town, with choices like the regular cheese ($7.45) and the Black Forest ham or spinach ($7.75). There is also great antipasti and insalatas to choose from. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations suggested (for six or more). AE, DC, MC, V.
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant
2101 Rosecrans Ave. #1250, El Segundo
111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
633 W. Fifth th St., Los Angeles
206 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
2000 Main St., Irvine
McCormick & Schmick's offers its patrons a choice of 30 to 40 different seafood dishes from around the world, but the daily printed menu also includes chicken, pasta and salads. Among the house specialties are Dungeness crab cakes in spicy hollandaise sauce and New Zealand blue-nose bass stuffed with bay shrimp and Brie cheese (dinners range from $12 to $19). Join in for early and late evening happy hours with a cold brew and Cajun fish tacos. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
The Mediterranean Restaurant and Café
10445 Venice Blvd., Los Angles
Can't make it to the rim of the Mediterranean Sea for lunch? Don't sweat it. Come on over to this fine Lebanese establishment and save yourself the jet lag! With the argile water pipes and the majestic outdoor patio, one can feel quite taken away here. Go for some moussaka (eggplant, garbanzo beans and onions cooked with olive oil and tomato, $4.50) for starters, and then give the chicken kebab a try ($8). There is also a grand selection of sandwiches like soujouk ($5) and kafta kebab ($5) available. Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; delivery; takeout; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, MC, V.
8393 Beverly Blvd., Los Angelels
With 24 different noodle dishes and 13 rice dishes to choose from, stop here and enjoy the best of Asian delights! Begin your journey in Japan, with the soba crepe appetizer ($4.50). Next, let your taste buds travel to Vietnam with pho tai nam (Vietnamese rice noodles in clear soup with beef, bean sprouts and green chile, $5.50). China is just an order away with four to five different types of mein served, including zha-zha mein ($5.50). Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. No alcohol; takeout; delivery (lunch only); parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
12223 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
If it is Mexican Vera Cruz–style cuisine you are after, then Mi Ranchito is your hot spot. Specializing in creative seafood entrées and authentic Mexican food delights, the menu is as extensive as they come. While enjoying the “best margaritas in town,” start with the coctel de abulon (abalone cocktail, $7.95). Then go for the camarones endiablados (deviled shrimp, $8.95) or langosta a la Veracruzana (half a lobster, Vera Cruz style, market price). Breakfast Sat. and Sun. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
655 W. Cahuenga Blvd., Universal City
1646 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood
The classic Hollywood location is the city's oldest Italian restaurant, while the sister location in the Valley is legendary in itself! They both offer 11 types of delicious pizzas that simply can't be missed! Try the shrimp and garlic pizza or the veggie house (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and black olives). But the pies aren't the only goodies offered here. Try the sausage scaloppine, the spaghetti and meatballs, or keep things light with the excellent caesar salad and, of course, a glass of your favorite vino. Don't miss the live entertainment at the Hollywood location (comedy, pianists, live singers, etc.). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
11819 Wilshire Blvd., #106A, Los Angeles
This little Japanese noodle restaurant is bustling with goodness. Most notably, the noodle dishes themselves are quite delicious. Whether it is soba (thin buckwheat noodles) or udon (thick white flour noodles) —served hot or cold, Mishima's touch is guaranteed to raise a smile. Give the kitsune with fried soybean curd a try ($5.95), or the tori nanban with chicken ($6.25). All the rice dishes are equally tasty, in particular the tanin don with beaten egg ($6.25) is a crowd-pleaser. Cap it all off with a zenzai, toasted rice cake in a hot red-bean sauce ($3.50). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
2000 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A.
Shabu shabu translates as “swish swish,” the sound made when a diner dips paper-thin pieces of beef, chicken or veggies in a pot of boiling water. Japanese goma (sweet sesame) or ponzu (citrus soy) sauces and a heaping bowl of steamed rice accompany the main course. The lunch menu offers a choice of beef or chicken ($9.95) or vegetarian shabu shabu ($7.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and sake; free parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
11927 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.
If it is tasty Oaxacan food that you crave, look no further than Monte Alban, with its authentic cuisine from southeast Mexico! Known for its exotic flavors and wholesome portions, this hot spot is considered one of West L.A.'s best. For breakfast, try huevos a la Oaxaqueña (scrambled eggs with green beans, chopped tomato, onions and jalapeño pepper, $4). For lunch or dinner, you can't go wrong with estofado de pollo (chicken breast covered with tomato mole made with raisins, olives, sesame seeds and served with rice, $6.75). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; parking availablet. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
7166 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
After pounding the pavement on trendy Melrose, rest your tired feet and revive your dulled senses with Mumtaz's complex Indian spices. Start off with curried mussels in garlic sauce ($5.50) or, for the more adventurous, there's tandoori quail ($4.95). All tandoori dishes (dinners of lamb tikka or fish tikka include soup, rice, naan and rice pudding for $10.95–$12.95) are marinated in yogurt and spices for a full day before being cooked to tender perfection in the traditional clay over. Specialties for two, like the King Prawn Masala dinner, start with samosas and onion pakoras, then finish up with dessert and coffee — all for $28.95. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
1110½ Gayley Ave., Westwood
Native Foods prepares vegetarian food the way it should be, and tofu is not the be-all-to-end-all anymore. Now there are ingredients like tempeh (an Indonesian main staple made with soybeans, grains and rice cultures) as well as seiten (100 percent wheat protein) that are used as delicious meat substitutes. So try the spicy “save the chicken” burger ($5.95) or the Philly pepper steak (sliced and peppered seiten, sautéed in mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and Native cheese, $7.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; catering; street parking. MC, V ($5 minimum).
1621 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
For 13 years this northern Indian restaurant has offered service fit for a king, although you don't need a royal budget to enjoy their dishes. Nawab has also undergone some renovations like adding décor such as silver lighting to enhance the dining experience. Feast on one of a variety of delicious samosas and pakoras, then try the aachari chicken or aachari gosht, a spicy assortment of marinated chicken and lamb. The lunch buffet is the best in town and is available daily ($9 weekdays, $12 weekends). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; free delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations required weekends only. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
1700 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake
Netty's is a cozy, inviting nook specializing in “California comfort food.” On the menu are tasty vittles like drunken shrimp with spicy beer butter, served with rice, salad and a corn-jalapeño muffin ($13.95), or a juicy pork-tenderloin sandwich with paprika onions, feta cheese and a side salad ($8.50). Vegetarians can tuck into a warm goat cheese salad with mixed baby greens served with balsamic vinaigrette and pesto bread ($9.95). Want to pick it up to go? Check out the convenient menu line at (323) 665-DISH; listing changes twice daily. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. Beer and wine; takeout; parking. DC, MC, V.
1076 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
Wot's for dinner!? Yep, you got the idea. Soak up some wot (stew) with a piece of injera at this comfy establishment. Carnivores and herbivores alike can chow down on exotic combo plates (lamb, chicken and beef in a battery of sauces for the former, or lentils, split peas, carrots, potatoes and collard greens for the latter). Some dishes are spicy, so quench the fire with African beer ($4) or Ethiopian honey wine ($3.75). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
10800 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
1111 E. Wilson Ave., Glendale
3488 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
Panda Inn's executive chef Huang and his team of chefs (one at each restaurant) emphasize the four famous Chinese tenets of food preparation: color, fragrance, taste and completeness. With this in mind, his restaurants are appealing to all the senses, simultaneously, not just focused on the taste buds. The jade chicken (marinated white meat sautéed and smothered in seasonal greens) is a delightful entrée, as is the honey walnut shrimp. Also excellent are the rice and noodle dishes. Lunch and dinner seven days (brunch on Sunday). Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, MC, V.
281 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
625 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
The specialty here is unbaked gourmet pizza, custom-made and loaded with savory toppings — ready to go. Owner Patty Phillips serves tasty edibles on-site as well, including pizza by the slice, salads, sandwiches and calzones. The Nature's Feast Pizza — including mushrooms, olives and artichoke hearts — is a winner, and all pizzas are available in healthy variations (cheeseless, with soy cheese, etc.). Must-tries are the Asian Delight and the barbecue-chicken pizzas, winners of the 1999 American Taste Award of Excellence. Lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; delivery; parking. MC, V.
Pink Pepper Thai Restaurant
1638 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood
With its authentic décor, tropical outdoor patio and large menu selection, this restaurant offers alluring atmosphere and good food. The pad Thai ($6.95) — a dish of shrimp, chicken and rice noodles (tofu optional for veggies) — is a real crowd-pleaser. Other popular dishes include the garlic lover's chicken ($6.95) and Pink Pepper roll ($4.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
Pit Fire Pizza Co.
5211 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Your quest for the perfect pizza may be over when you enter this gourmet pizza restaurant, with its variety of individual fire-grilled barbecued pizzas (six slices for $4.95–$7.95). Everything is fresh, from the pastas and salads to the grated Parmesan cheese. Try the popular Tuscan Pie pizza with barbecue chicken, roasted potatoes, Gorgonzola cheese and pesto ($6.95). Enjoy outside dining on a spacious patio, where you can enjoy a glass of wine or cool off with a glass of ale. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery (for parties over 25); catering; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
The Porch Restaurant at House of Blues
8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
House of Blues is known as one of the most revered live-music venues in the city, and a pre- or post-party visit to the Porch is the right way to start or end the evening. Enjoy robust Southern “down-home” cooking served in a comfortable setting, with select porch-style furniture on the front porch, complete with bright flickering lights that evoke the feeling of a cool night on the Delta. Replenish your soul on Sundays at the Gospel Brunch! Available for special events and parties. Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; valet parking. AE, CB, DC, DIS, MC, V.
5923 Franklin Blvd., Los Angeles
At last: an Italian bistro with all the bravado of old Sicily. Enjoy live jazz (Fri.-Sat.) at this trendy little spot, while enjoying a Chardonnay from the award-winning wine list. Begin with some calamari fritti (fresh calamari dipped in Prizzi's special batter, fried in olive oil and served with lemon wedges and marinara sauce, $7.50) and then go for Scarpariello d'Avanzo (chicken-breast fillet and Italian sausage in a rich tomato sauce, with assorted bell peppers, mushrooms, black olives, onions and pepperoncini on a bed of linguini, $18.75). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; parking available. AE, DC, DIS, MC, V.
1866 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
This is a great place to meet with friends and catch up on old times over a cup of gourmet coffee. But there are also plenty of eats, like the always-popular two-layer, extra-gooey carrot cake ($3.50). The roasted-pepper vegetarian and oven-roasted turkey sandwiches ($6.95), both served with salad, are to die for, and while dining, you can enjoy the jazz/folk/poetry/vocalist performances that take place on various nights of the week. Spoken-word readings every Sunday, and also every third Thursday of the month. Light breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; parking. AE, DIS, MC, V.
Quality Food & Beverage
8030 W. Third St., Los Angeles
Health-conscious folks can't seem to get enough of the goodies offered here. For the crowd that loves breakfast served all day long, there's the unique Asian-style tofu scramble packed with portobello mushrooms ($7.25) or the hearty corned-beef hash ($8.75). For lunch, the zesty sautéed ahi tuna salad with capers topped with cucumber salsa ($9.95) is a definite crowd-pleaser. Good? You bet! Breakfast and lunch seven days. No alcohol; takeout; catering. AE, MC, V.
Real Food Daily
514 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
414 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood
Even die-hard meat eaters could easily convert to a tofu-filled lifestyle after just one taste of proprietress Ann Gentry's organic vegetarian cuisine. Enjoy a variety of culinary delights (all vegetable- and grain-based), such as the seitan (wheat gluten) fajitas ($9.95) or the mock Reuben sandwich made with marinated tempeh ($8.50). Gentry's use of grains, legumes, abundant seasoning and organic produce makes this strictly no-meat-dairy-products-eggs-white-sugar-or-honey place an experience in healthy, delicious dining. Lunch and dinner seven days (there are plans to open weekend brunch at the West Hollywood location in the spring). Beer and wine (West Hollywood); takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking (West Hollywood), street parking. AE, MC, V.
Restaurant Connection (97.1 FM Talk)
6733 Sepulveda Blvd., #240, Los Angeles
Eating in is sounding tastier than ever these days as Southern California's first-ever 1-800 food line is facilitating the restaurant selection process with a systematic, step-by-step-walk-through of connecting restaurant with customer. With Restaurant Connection, you can make reservations, order from restaurants that offer takeout or delivery, arrange for catering and/or look up restaurants with entertainment, all by following the easy instructions. You can also receive a menu or entertainment calendar by fax. Choose from a database of over 500 restaurants. If you have an appetite for convenience, call when your stomach growls. 24 hours daily. For subscription info, call (310) 410-2070, Ext. 101.
150 S. Barrington Ave., Brentwood
Drop in for a taste of healthy Brazilian food and a big splash of exotic freshly squeezed juices. On the menu are fruit and vegetable juices and refreshing smoothies including the “Assai,” an Amazonian Indian fighter drink packed with a wallop of vitamins, protein and Assai berries. And to go along with your drink, try one of many sandwiches on the menu, like the Rio dream ($5.25), tropical tuna ($5.25), or a veggie dog ($2.50). Also available are numerous grilled chicken, fish, veggie or steak plates ($8.95-$10.75). Open seven days. Takeout; delivery; parking. MC, V.
Robeks is only 5 years old, but already is serving greater Los Angeles with over 30 locations. The very name Robeks derives from “aerobics,” which reflects the company's commitment to aiding healthy and active lifestyles. Choose from a selection of blended-to-order fruit smoothies and fresh juices, all of which are full of essential vitamins and minerals. Try a vitality or power smoothie to fit your area of enh