Read about this year's Best of L.A. Food & Drink issue here.
Best Mushroom Pizza: Sotto
When you walk into the romantic underground Sotto, you get a slice of something other than Los Angeles. Inspired by the regions of Italy, Sotto's mushroom pizza will transport you. A mélange of fresh wild mushrooms, including oysters, is nestled amid roasted onions, garlic and chives on a tissue-thin crust. A sprinkling of melted scamorza cow's milk cheese finishes the rich pie. Uncomplicated, yet unforgettable. It's enough for two, along with a blistered Little Gem salad or the coastal organic heirloom tomatoes with Blue Lake beans, celery, white anchovies, Castelvetrano olives and shallots. —Michele Stueven
9575 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 277-0210, sottorestaurant.com.
Best Bento Box: Bar Hayama
Bar Hayama, located in a converted original Japantown bungalow at the end of the Sawtelle strip near Santa Monica Boulevard, is a family-run operation offering indulgent service. Whether in the traditional Japanese dining room for lunch, at the sushi bar or well-stocked sake bar, or outside around the firepit at sunset, this unsung gem boasts some of the best sushi in town and an ever-changing bento box that can't be beat. Blending east and west, you might get beef-wrapped asparagus on one visit or black cod on another occasion, but it's never the same twice. Think Japanese advent calendar. Although the base will always include sushi and sashimi, the rest is up to what the market dictates. Don't be surprised if you find some lobster with your wild mushrooms in this creamy Japanese dynamite. —Michele Stueven
1803 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle; (310) 235-2000, bar-hayama.com.
Best Caesar Salad: The Golden Bull
A revitalized Santa Monica institution, the Golden Bull has a warm, friendly and intimate atmosphere with old-school decor, preserving the history and character of the original restaurant in a refined and contemporary setting. It's dimly lit with dark leather booths complemented by dark red walls and wood paneling. Chef Greg A. Daniels has rejuvenated the chophouse menu, and the Caesar salad, with Little Gem lettuce, delicate shaved croutons, freshly grated Parmesan and pecorino with chili flakes, really stands out. It's tossed with just the right amount of dressing and garnished with mild slivers of anchovy. —Michele Stueven
170 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica; (310) 230-0402, goldenbullsantamonica.com.
Most Romantic Chef-Driven Patio: Michael's Santa Monica
The longtime Santa Monica classic Michael's is still setting trends with chef Miles Thompson at the helm, breathing new life into the place and bringing the Santa Monica Farmers Market to the tables of the restaurant's candlelit garden oasis. You'll see Thompson every Wednesday morning at the market, selecting all the produce himself and carting it up the Promenade to Michael's, and he's never too busy to share a few cooking tips with civilian shoppers. Changing seasons dictate the best menu items, such as octopus with candied chestnut puree, gochujang and fried kelp, or figs with smoked trout roe, lemon verbena and popped sorghum. —Michele Stueven
1147 Third St., Santa Monica; (310) 451-0843, michaelssantamonica.com.
Best French Bakery: Pitchoun
There are too many sweet and savory pastries to count at the Beverly Center location of Pitchoun. It offers traditional baguettes, country loaves, sourdough loaves, focaccia (olive, tomato/egg, bacon/egg.) The WeHo Lemon turnover is a neighborhood favorite, as is the Paris Beverly, a twist on the traditional Paris-Brest choux dessert, with praline-flavored cream inside, or a Nutella filling. It has seasonal favorites too, such as pumpkin spice macarons and pumpkin charcoal cubes for the month of October. From Oct. 15 through Oct. 31, the master bakers have conjured up a casket full of Halloween specials, like Woodoo cookies, brain and pumpkin eclairs, a chocolate mice tart and a poisoned apple, made up of apple mousse, pain de Gênes and a caramel heart. —Michele Stueven
8500 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove; (323) 381-5328, pitchounbakery.com.
Best Mediterranean Food: Jaffa
Named after the ancient neighborhood in the city of Tel Aviv, Jaffa is a favorite indoor/outdoor hot spot for the WeHo crowd. Chef Anne Conness blends new world and old world flavors with her largely plant-forward Israeli cuisine, including hamshuka (hummus, spicy shakshuka sauce, poached eggs and pita) and market couscous with avocado hummus, roasted root vegetables and harissa. Fish options include an organic roasted Chinook salmon with spinach, figs, saffron labneh and pumpernickel croutons. And fear not, carnivores, there's chicken, rib-eye and lamb with Moroccan spices. Try the Jidori chicken and matzoh ball soup with Hawaii spice and Yemenite green hot sauce. Plenty of traditional favorites with a modern twist including kofte, labneh with figs and kubaneh bread. —Michele Stueven
8048 W. Third St., West Hollywood; (323) 433-4978, jaffa.la..