Read about this year's Best of L.A. Food & Drink issue here.
Best Monster Dumpling: Long Xing Ji
Eating Long Xing Ji's famous juicy dumpling is messy work. Almost 5 inches in diameter, the steamed dumpling, called “juicy pork & crab bun” on the menu, comes to the table quivering from the soup sloshing inside. You pierce it with a straw and sip up what you can. Then the straw clogs with bits of crab and pork, and you have to tear the wrapper apart to get at the rest of the filling. The china spoon provided is too thick to cut anything, so you have to use chopsticks and probably fingers, too. While you do this, the filling runs into the perforated steamer tray and through the holes onto the plate below. To retrieve it, you have to lift up the tray and pour the filling back onto the dumpling, which looks clumsy. And there's another hurdle — finding the restaurant. The sign over the door says “juicy dumplings.” The Chinese name, Long Xing Ji, appears sporadically on the electronic sign that scrolls underneath. But if you like the dumpling, you'll be back, and maybe the next try will be easier. —Barbara Hansen
140 W. Valley Blvd., #211, San Gabriel (upstairs in San Gabriel Square); (626) 307-1188.
Best Mariachi Dinner: Gloria's Restaurant & Bar
If you are looking for a place to celebrate Dia de los Muertes next month, Gloria's Restaurant & Bar offers a wonderful night of entertainment, with mariachi singers, authentic Mexican food, friendly waitstaff and specialty drinks. Gloria's has been in the industry for more than 36 years and there have been mariachis at the restaurant for over 32 years. A fantastic dish is the parrillada, made on a charcoal grill, offering seared steak, adobo chicken, tripe, fish, shrimp and scallops. Don't leave without trying the tasty tamales — better yet, take some home! Owner Juan J. Sanjuan III is working on opening a second restaurant, called Gloria's Pueblito. —Susan Hornik
7823 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park; (323) 581-4781, gloriashp.com.
Best Tostada de Ceviche: El Coraloense
El Coraloense is a quaint, family-run restaurant in a small Bell Gardens shopping center. When you drive up to the door, you almost don't realize how close you are to food nirvana. It has an impressive array of authentic Mexican seafood dishes. One of the amazing highlights on the menu is the tasty variety of tostada de ceviche — the camaron (shrimp), mango and halibut are delicious. With so much to choose from, you might as well get a sampler with three mini tostadas, all prepared with love and passion. Lobster fans definitely should order the lobster nachos and lobster tacos. The lobster tacos are made with garlic in a bed of cabbage, sour cream and green cilantro sauce. Order the homemade horchata to complete your fantastic meal. —Susan Hornik
6600 Florence Ave., Bell Gardens; (562) 776-8800, elcoraloense.com.
Best Seafood: Mariscos El Bigoton
It's hard to miss the Mariscos El Bigoton food truck emblazoned with Yosemite Sam — a nod to the bigoton (big mustache) in its name. But some of the seafood dishes coming out of the truck are bigger than Sam's 'stache. And, dare we say, much more Instagram-worthy. Pull up a truckside stool and feast on one of the pastelasos, a hefty tower of seafood that's (almost) too pretty to eat. The regular pastelaso has layers of fish ceviche, cooked shrimp, octopus, spicy marinated red aguachile and plenty of avocado with chiltepin black sauce. Equally eye-catching is the marispina, a hollowed half pineapple filled with cooked shrimp, shrimp ceviche, chopped pineapple, aguachile, avocado and a special botanera sauce. Or try the mariscos estilo maleficio, a coconut filled with shrimp ceviche, cooked seafood and chopped coconut. —Jessica Hamlin
5458 Whittier Blvd., Commerce; (323) 357-4269, facebook.com/pages/category/Food-Stand/Lonchera-Mariscos-El-Bigoton-707536672723387/.
Best Revolving Sushi: A'Float Sushi
There is something mesmerizing about watching sushi rolls tantalize your eyes and your stomach on adorable boats that float by you. A'Float Sushi will delight you endlessly but in a subtle, nuanced way. Reasonably priced Japanese food? Check! Free parking for more than an hour across the street? Check! A sushi chef cutting thin, fresh sashimi in front of you? Check! Order with the waitress if you want something that's not on the conveyor belt. We love the Dynamite roll, made from baked scallop, mushroom and onion. The delicious signature A'Float special — which mixes eel, crab and avocado — is lovely. For those who like spicy, check out the Mexican roll, which is crab with spicy salmon and jalapeño on top. For dessert, try the banana tempura. —Susan Hornik
87 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 792-9779, afloatsushi.com.