If Julia Child and John Muir were to meet for lunch, and Julia wanted good, simple, butter-confident food made from scratch, and John asked only that they eat outside, in the shade of a few sequoia with dirt beneath their feet and the company of birds, they would agree on Trails Café in Griffith Park. Set a few blocks north of Los Feliz Boulevard adjacent to the well-worn hiking paths and grassy picnic plots where readers settle down with their books, and lovers practice tangling their bodies on blankets in the sun, the walk-up café is a water mirage in the desert for hungry hikers. It is also a destination for those eager to sit down with a good book, a homemade sandwich and a cup of iced tea, as though they were breaking for lunch at a campsite in the country, where time slows, appetites peak, and the food tastes better because the elements have a tendency to intensify flavor. A quaint kitchen in a cabin at the base of the park, with recipes orchestrated by aptly named pastry chef Jenny Park, Trails serves coffee and homemade tomato goat cheese tarts, vegan mushroom cashew pie, avocado sandwiches on dark bread, and egg salad so perfect you might stop to wonder which came first, the park or Trails. You can't have a forest without forage, the gastronomer might argue. The naturalist would likely disagree. One thing's for sure: They both will concur that lavender belongs with sugar, butter, flour, and salt in Park's coveted lavender shortbread. It's natural selection. 2333 Fern Dell Drive, L.A. (323) 871-2102, thetrailslosfeliz.com.
—Erica Zora Wrightson