Edited by Lovell Estell III
Written by: Siran Babayan, Greg Brouwer, Nicole Campos, Bryce Coleman, Sara Dunn, Kristin Fiore, Aaron Fontana, John Horton, Millay Hyatt, Chuck Mindenhall IV, Rita Neyter, Matthew Pevic, Deborah Picker, Lou Rutigliano, Lauren Shaftel, Jennifer Smith.
ALEJO'S PRESTO TRATTORIA
8343 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester
4002 Lincoln Blvd., Marina del Rey
You can almost hear the waters guiding the gondolas through the canals here. Alejo's serves homemade dishes guaranteed to bring out the romantic in you. As you gaze into your beloved's eyes, fork feed a morsel of tender veal parmigiana ($10.95) or spicy shrimp al diablo ($10.95) and watch him/her melt with delight. Continue the sensuous feast with chocolate mousse ($1.95) and a breath of cappuccino. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner seven nights; beer and wine (Westchester only); takeout; AE, Disc., 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 which prides itself on its 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.
ANNA'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
10929 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.
Heart-warming Italian cuisine and friendly service have made Anna's a favorite for nearly three decades. The menu is big, with something for everyone. How about a fiorentina salad (spinach, fresh mushrooms with hot bacon, apple cider vinegar, oil and spices, $7.50) or tagliarini verdi con pollo, (spinach noodles in a cream and cheese sauce, with chicken, mushrooms, onions and peas, $13.95)? The Monday-Thursday specials, although not pricey, are generous enough to feed the Vatican. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations recommended. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V
8925 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills
If looking around for tasty Japanese fare on the Westside, do stop here. Try the Hibachi Ishiyaki steak dinner, cooked at your table on a flaming seto stone, and served with soup, salad, rice and assorted fresh vegetables ($14.50). Bring a friend and enjoy the boat dinner: sashimi, sushi, beef and chicken teriyaki, veggie and shrimp dumplings, tempura, deep-fried chicken cutlets, beef and veggie skewers — all neatly arranged on a carved wooden boat and served with soup, salad and rice ($39.50 for two). Lunch five days, dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking; reservations recommended. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
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, or “fire meat” ($13.50), thinly sliced beef marinated in a sweet sauce and served with bahn-chahn (six side dishes that change daily, but always include the essential kimchee, pickled Chinese cabbage), and the combination platter that delights with a little of everything. Vegetarian entrées are also available. The menu is hefty — 50 selections. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; sushi bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, MC, V.
ATLAS SUPPER CLUB
3760 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.
Located inside the Wiltern building, Atlas offers global cuisine and swingin' entertainment in a glamorous '40s-style atmosphere. Among the culinary splendors are chicken curry served over saffron rice in a pineapple shell, and charbroiled ahi tuna served with wild rice and vegetables in a cilantro wasabi pesto (both $15). Lots of veggie dishes too, like the vegetable Wellington, with wild rice, black beans, tomato, carrots, zucchini and rich portobello mushrooms in a puff-pastry shell ($11). Lunch and dinner Mon.Fri.; dinner Tues.Sat. Full bar; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
A VOTRE SANTÉ
345 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.
13016 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood
242 S. Beverly Blvd., Beverly Hills
1025 Abbott Kinney Blvd., Venice
French for “to your health” (or “cheers” when clinking glasses), A Votre Santé serves natural, gourmet food in a relaxed environment. Everything is prepared without salt or dairy products, and the menu lists delicacies like eggplant penne (roasted eggplant with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and soy cheese in a basil sauce, $9.95) and chicken mushroom risotto with toasted walnuts and brown rice cooked in a tomato sauce ($9.95). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine (except Brentwood); takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
THE BAKED POTATO
6266 Sunset Blvd., L.A.
Don't scowl when the waiter tells you to “stuff it.” He's only touting the house specialty — over 30 varieties of “football-sized” spuds, packed with everything from Moroccan beef to dog 'n' sauerkraut. If that's not enough to fill your plate, the B.P. also books the best jazz acts around (see for yourself at www.bakedpotato.com). Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
THE BIGG CHILL
10850 W. Olympic Blvd., West L.A.
You'll know it by the 5-foot yogurt cone perched on the roof. Westsiders have long enjoyed the revolving smorgasbord of flavors, mixed on-site and served up in larger-than-life portions. Recharge with a chai or an ice-blended mocha (both $3), while pondering what combination of flavors to choose for that delicious frozen yogurt pie with homemade graham-cracker crust ($12.95$17.95). Cookies, nonfat muffins, shakes and smoothies are also available. Open seven days. Takeout; parking. Cash only.
7661 Melrose Ave.,
The capital of French gastronomy is Lyon, where the creation of perfect food has been elevated to an art form. But you don't have to fly to France as there's a little bit of Lyon in our very back yard. Take a trip to Bouchon for peerless Gallic dishes, like bavette á echalotte — a tender flank steak sautéed with white wine and shalotts ($12.25), or pike dumplings in lobster sauce ($9.50). Lunch Sat.Sun., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations required. AE, MC, V.
BOURBON STREET SHRIMP AND GRILLE
8454 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood
10928 Pico Blvd., West L.A.
New Orleansstyle Cajun cookin' made with or without the heat. Bourbon Street Shrimp and Grille takes you into the heart of the Mississippi River Delta with jambalaya (spicy rice, smoked sausage, $6.95), a steaming shrimp gumbo ($9.95) and deliciously spiced Bourbon Street shrimp in Cajun sauce ($12.95). There's plenty of chicken, fish, steak and vegetarian dishes too, and lots of French bread. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; valet parking. AE, MC, V.
3838 Centinela Ave., West L.A.
If you're struck with a feeling of déjà vu when you walk in here, it's because a lot of TV and movie crews have taken advantage of the place's stunning interior. The menu lists an array of regional Italian dishes including ravioli di mare (handmade, filled with crab and tiger shrimp, served in vodka-clam sauce, $15.95) and pollo picatta (chicken breast, white wine, lemon, butter and Spanish capers, $12.95). Dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
BUCA DI BEPPO
80 W. Green St., Pasadena
1670 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach
17500 Ventura Blvd., Encino
The hearty smell of southern Italian cooking fills the cozy, photo-lined dining rooms of Buca di Beppo, evoking the impression of 1950s Little Italy. Ample servings of chicken cacciatore over garlic mashed potatoes ($19.95) and the signature spaghetti and meatballs (3Þ pounds of meatballs, 2 pounds of pasta and marinara, $17.95) will fill you to bursting. Open seven days for dinner. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
10831 Venice Blvd., L.A.
If you love intense exotic flavors in a down-home atmosphere, then visit a restaurant that offers its patrons “The Real Homemade Meal.” There are tasty treats for all vegans and carnivores. Try the tropical shrimp plate ($11.95) or the vegetarian plate ($7.95), both accompanied by fried plantains, black beans, white rice, and soup or salad, as well the “home salsa.” Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. No alcohol; takeout; catering; parking. MC, V.
11623 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A.
Flipping through the jukebox selections at Cafe 50's is fun, but deciding what to choose from the menu is even more fun. Sandwich devotees are especially fond of the Philly cheesesteak ($6.25), packed with jack cheese and tender grilled onions. Those with heartier appetites can fill up on the daily fresh fish selection ($6.95) or a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings ($7.25). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. 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. Fortify yourself with some homemade bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes, $10.50), or, when available, the fresh fish and chips. Happy hour every day and free live jazz on Sun. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; delivery; catering; valet parking; reservations accepted. AE, MC, V.
8384 W. Third St., L.A.
Located in the Beverly Plaza Hotel, this restaurant is big on zesty Latin dishes. Favorite tapas include crispy shrimp cakes with creamy tarragon tartar sauce ($7.25). For the main course, the choices range from a tender, boneless breast of chicken with mango chutney and Brazilian spices, served with black beans, saffron rice and plantains ($13.95), to filet mignon with shallots, cognac and diablo sauce ($24, Wed.Sat. only). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; delivery; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
CHA CHA CHA ENCINO
17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino
If you're not staring at the live salsa players or the wandering tarot readers, you'll be voodoo-stricken by the Mardi Gras atmosphere that is thick as soup here. Cha Cha Cha Encino serves the taste of the Caribbean with savories like the crispy jerk pork ($6), or the camarones negros (jumbo shrimp sautéed with spicy sauce for $16). Nowhere else can you get a spicy Mambo Gumbo and enjoy live Latin music for under five bucks. Lunch and dinner seven days, brunch weekends. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, DIS, DC, MC, V.
CHA CHA CHICKEN
1906 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
Who has the best thighs and breasts in L.A.? Ah, gotcha! With everything from jerk-chicken enchiladas to coconut-fried chicken, Cha Cha is the place to go when your appetite is for the birds. The menu is literally all over the map: Caribbean flavors add a kick to everything from gumbo soup ($5.95) to Chinese chicken salad ($4.50, $6.75). Lunch and dinner seven days, weekend brunch. No alcohol; takeout; parking. Cash only.
110 Navy St., Venice
In the heart of Venice is a chic neighborhood restaurant with a high-tech sushi bar and free-floating starfish-shaped lamps. The menu is as varied as Madonna's hairstyles: There's plenty of seafood, pasta, steak, chicken and salads. Go for some angel hair with tomato and fresh basil ($9) or reel in miso-marinated Chilean seabass with Yuzu butter sauce and wasabi pesto ($20). Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner seven nights. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
616 N. Robertson Blvd.,
4326 Sunset Blvd.,
The Cobalt Cantina serves up California cuisine with a Latin flair to hungry hipsters in east and west Hollywood. Arrive famished so you won't spoil your appetite on the appetizers — the shrimp empanadas (pastries with spicy shrimp and vegetables served with a chunky avocado sauce, $6.95) are a must. The tamale plate with black beans and sautéed squash and peppers ($9.95) will have you wishing for a bovine belly. Afterwards enjoy a margarita. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking. Reservations suggested for parties of eight or more. AE, DC, MC, V.
COCONUT CLUB, GRIFF'S, TRADER VIC'S
9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
You can take your pick of three fantastic restaurants at Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton: The Coconut Club is a glamorous dance/supper club, open Friday and Saturday nights, where you can dine on lobster salad and beluga caviar. Party poolside at Griff's and enjoy the great buffet, or savor award-winning Polynesian food (dinner nightly) and exotic cocktails at one of the city's hottest spots, Trader Vic's. Full bar; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., 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 family recipes so zealously, six “sacred dishes” are prepared in a private steel-encased kitchen. Try the drunken Dungeness crab, simmered in sake, chardonnay and cognac ($32.95), or enjoy the unforgettable colossal royal tiger prawns, charbroiled with secret spices and served over garlic noodles ($32.95). There's also live jazz nightly. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner Mon.Sat. Full bar; valet parking; reservations recommended. AE, DC, MC, V.
22252 Palos Verdes Blvd., Torrance
The best ribs around are only as far away as Torrance, where you can enjoy hearty Western fare along with the classic sounds of a Wurlitzer jukebox. This place is as American as burger and fries, and here you can count on USDA choice beef ($5.49$6.99). Sides of sautéed mushrooms and veggies go great with a steak cooked over an open flame ($7.99$14.99). Don't miss out on the cobbler ($2.99). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
8840 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood
Sacre bleu! A restaurant that combines the cuisine of the French Mediterranean with Hollywood Hills scenery and Southern California chic, where you can savor a cocktail on a burgundy velvet couch in the lounge before feasting on crab cakes ($9), ahi steak au poivre in cognac peppercorn sauce ($21), or Alaskan rock shrimp risotto ($15). It's called Cyrano, and whether you're on the balcony or inside the luxurious confines, you'll salute this new gem in your very best French accent. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner Tues.Sat. Full bar; takeout; valet parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.
615 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.
1303 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
443 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills
12616 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
Turn your kitchen into a trattoria with ä Divine Pasta's healthy, gourmet Italian delights, select kitchen items, imported oils and ceramic ware. Buy pasta by the pound ($3), which you can mix and match with 15 different homemade sauces ($4$6), or settle down at the pasta bar and fill up on the pumpkin ravioli. Don't feel like cooking? Take out some tofu-filled ravioli with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in whole-wheat pasta, ready to go from fridge to table in six minutes flat. Lunch and dinner Mon.Sat., Santa Monica location open Sun. (retail only). Takeout; catering; parking. AE, MC, V.
DOUBLE DUTCH DINETTE
9806 Washington Blvd., Culver City
This family-owned restaurant has won a big local following with its innovative home-style fare. Hearty entrées like grilled rosemary chicken ($7.95) and grilled salmon with raspberry glaze ($10.95) come with fresh grilled vegetables and a choice of sides. Get your homemade pecan pie ($3) or jumbo cookies ($1.50) to go. Lunch Mon. Sat., dinner Tues.Sat., brunch weekends. Beer and wine; takeout; catering; parking. MC, V.
THE ECLECTIC CAFE
5156 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
The Eclectic Café specializes in California cuisine served in a romantic candlelit atmosphere. For lunch or dinner, try the Cajun chicken angel hair pasta ($9.95) or Greek salad pizza ($9.95). Or inquire about the fresh grilled fish also served daily. The microbrew beer bar has the latest in local microbrews and a vast selection of fine wines. Lunch Sun.Fri., dinner seven nights. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
EL POLLO INKA
11701 Wilshire Blvd., No. 11, West L.A.
More authentic and less prolific than those other pollo guys, El Pollo Inka has over 40 entrées on the menu to choose from. For lunch or dinner, order a papa rellena ($5.95) or try the delicious tomato-laden lamb stew ($8.25). The salty saltado dishes, of which the camarones (shrimp) is best ($9.25), are hugely popular. On weekends drop in and enjoy live Peruvian music. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.
316 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
Drop in at this Oaxacan-style restaurant where color is everywhere, starting with a dazzling collection of straw hats adorning the walls. Then there's the irresistible mole sauce in fiery red, yellow or green, and the wildly popular, chocolate-based mole negro sauce. Choose one and savor it served over white rice with chicken or pork ($8.99), or try the barbecued goat, cooked with avocado-tree leaves, tomatoes and red peppers ($8.99). Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V.
EL TORITO GRILL
21321 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance
Take a cab to this joint, because after sampling a few tequilas and plowing through an avalanche of warm chips or Firedancer Popcorn Shrimp ($7.95) you won't want to take off — let alone take the wheel. Blow your New Year's diet with a hand-shaken margarita and the jalapeño spinach-artichoke dip ($6.95), a perfect topping for the homemade tortillas. Continue the fiesta with a platter of sizzling steak, shrimp or chicken fajitas ($10.95$13.95). Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; delivery; parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
4656 Franklin Ave., L.A.
Attention, all insomniacs: The E.L. is open till 3 in the a.m., so if you have a late-night craving for naan, choose olive, onion, plain or garlic ($1.49 $2.49) to complement the daal (tasty lentils in a mild curry sauce, $6.99). If you want something more shocking, go for the Electric Chicken ($14.99) chock-full of mouth-watering herbs and spices. Open seven days for lunch and dinner; takeout; delivery; catering; parking. AE, DC, MC, V.
209 World Way, LAX
So your flight's delayed for two hours and you didn't have time to eat before you left for the airport. Don't fret. Beam up to Encounter, the space-age-themed restaurant with faux floating barstools, and dine on Latin-spiced pork loin with wild-mushroom bread pudding ($22) or pepper-crusted seared ahi tuna ($26). And before you board, grab a martini at the moon-crater bar and relax. Lunch and dinner seven days. Full bar; takeout; catering; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, CB, DC, Disc., MC, V.
2538 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
Take a flying leap with hearty American cuisine in a cozy, candlelit setting. Chow down a half-pound burger, or the popular Silverlake Salad, with baby greens, sausage, corn, onion, apples and lemon-herb dressing ($7.95). Bigger appetites will be satisfied by the N.Y. steak ($11.95) or mixed grilled kebob ($10.75). Great place for an intimate date or a meal with long-lost friends. Dinner Tues.Sun. Full bar; takeout; parking. MC, V.
643 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.
Where else can you enjoy a variety of caviars or a burger with fries and “damn hot olives” and a cozy couch by a fire? Whether you're into filet mignon ($26) or a night of high-energy dancing, this sumptuous supper club delivers the goods. Sample the lobster quesadilla with peppered jack cheese, sour cream and homemade guacamole ($12) or the sesame-coated seared tuna ($23), then work it off on the dance floor. Dinner and dancing Wed.Sat. Two full bars; valet parking; reservations suggested. AE, Disc., 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 of 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), lamb pasanda cooked with almonds and cashews in a creamy meat sauce ($5.95, $9.95) chicken tandoori ($5.95, $7.95), malai kofta ($4.95, $5.95) and a selection of naan that will warm your heart. Lunch and dinner seven days. Beer and wine; takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations recommended. AE, DC, MC, V.
GIBSON & COOKE
10407 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City
This gourmet grocery store is the kind of place you come back to time and again. At the sushi counter you can have an eight-piece spicy tuna roll made to order ($5.49), or try a free sampling of gourmet pizza straight from the oven. Fresh baked breads and pastries, seafood, a massive selection of wines are all here. Oh yeah, you can get your milk and eggs here too. Open seven days. Delivery; takeout; catering. AE, Disc., MC, V.
10026 Venice Blvd., Culver City
If that magical Jersey-shore Italian joint featured in the movie Big Night had a real-life West Coast counterpart, it would have to be Giovanni's, a family restaurant run by two brothers — Angelo cooks, Giovanni serves. Try the fagottini di melenzane (grilled eggplant with ricotta cheese, pine nuts and fresh tomato sauce, $5.95) and penne alla vodka. Lunch Mon.Fri., dinner Mon.Sat. Takeout; delivery; catering; parking; reservations accepted. AE, DC, Disc., MC, V.
GOURMET COFFEE WAREHOUSE
671 Rose Ave., Venice
The motto here is “Wholesale to the people,” 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. Also available are bulk teas, chocolates and mugs. Feeling peckish? Dunk some house-baked biscotti in a fresh brew of potent, dark-roasted black gold, then tuck a roasted red pepper sandwich ($2.50) in a bag for later. Open seven days. No alcohol; takeout; parking. AE, MC, V.