The Kimbap's avocado rollEXPAND
The Kimbap's avocado roll
Barbara Hansen

At the Center of L.A.'s Food & Drink Scene: Cheese Tea and Plant-Based Food

Read about this year's Best of L.A. Food & Drink issue here.

Best Avocado Roll: The Kimbap

Avocado kimbap looks like sushi but isn't, because it's Korean, not Japanese. Kim means dried seaweed sheets, and bap is rice. To form this avocado roll, a layer of seaweed spread with cooked rice is topped with avocado, fish cake, carrots, egg, pickled radish and rape flowers. Yes, rape flowers, beautiful yellow blossoms of an edible plant with an unfortunate name. Rolled up and sliced into a dozen pieces, the roll is one tasty snack to share, or not. The place to get it is the Kimbap in Koreatown, a cafe that specializes in these rolls. Other fillings besides avocado are Spam, spicy stir-fried pork or squid, mayo deep-fried shrimp, cheese, tuna, sausage, beef, mushrooms, sesame leaf and kimchi. The rolls come with pickles and a bowl of soy sauce for dipping. If you don't have time to sit down and eat, the Kimbap has grab-and-go boxes stacked on the counter by the cash register. —Barbara Hansen

400 S. Western Ave., #102, Koreatown; (213) 365-1040.

Best Plant-Based Food: Jewel

Jewel, Jasmine Shimoda and Sharky McGee's cafe on the hill, is a colorful delight, both inside and outside. Try the L.G.B.T. toast, a colorful mix of lettuce, guacamole, Shimoda's house-made tempeh bacon and heirloom tomatoes on gluten-free seed bread. For non-vegans, a Chino Valley Ranchers farm-fresh egg can be added to any toast. Another favorite is the signature L.A. Phil wrap — which, by the way, has nothing to do with the Philharmonic but is a vegan take on a Philly cheesesteak with braised yuba sheets, shiitake, caramelized onions, jalapeño and cashew fondue. Sweets include Shimoda's famous fluffy vegan donuts: matcha, red velvet, cinnamon, strawberry and maple coconut bacon. —Michele Stueven

654 N. Hoover St., Virgil Village; (323) 522-6927, jewel-la.com.

Gazpacho at Good Measure
Gazpacho at Good Measure
Courtesy Good Measure

Best Wine Bar: Good Measure

Good Measure is a wine-centric restaurant in Atwater Village, helmed by sommelier Matthew Kaner, recently named among the top "Sommelier Stars of Los Angeles" by Wine Enthusiast. Together with owner Sophie O'Malley and executive chef Mike Garber, the restaurant serves Wine Country cuisine inspired by their destination travels to the likes of Australia, Spain, France, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Italy, Morocco and South Africa, plus American winemaking capitals Oregon, New York state and the California coast. Good Measure serves 30 wines by the glass and a wine list that references 15 wine-producing regions, plus a food menu that reflects their globetrotting. Best seat in the house: Ask for table 00 in the semi-private wine cellar — perfect for groups of six to eight; it's available upon request and comes with hands-on service from Kaner. —Michele Stueven

3224 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 426-9461, goodmeasurela.com.

Best Tea: Little Fluffy Head Cafe

Little Fluffy Head Cafe owner Jenny Zheng has opened one of the first cheese tea boba shops in Los Angeles, serving "fluffy tea," cold dessert teas topped with frothy cream cheese and whipped cream in a variety of flavors. The bioengineering graduate from UCLA discovered the cheese tea during visits to Asia and invented her own over-the-top versions using various oolong, black, green and matcha teas and crowning them with her personalized fluff. Seasonal favorites include the Strawberry Dream, jasmine green tea blended with fresh strawberries and with an option of cheesecake cream or white chocolate cream. The Lilac Galaxy blends Earl Grey rose tea with mixed berries and white chocolate cream. —Michele Stueven

203 W. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 266-8495, littlefluffyhead.com.

Best Deli: Freedman's

Jews in L.A. want a deli that's gonna make them feel like their grandparents are with them. Freedman's has that old-world vibe but adds a local, stylish twist. The delicious pastrami crunch-wrap has house-made pastrami, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and nacho cheese on a crispy tostada, all folded into a griddled flour tortilla (it's now available only at late-night Thursday's "Friends & Freedman's). Ever spend $23 on a bagel?! Owner Jonah Freedman gives you that opportunity, with the Baller Bagel, which has smoked whitefish salad, caviar, sturgeon and cucumber. Serious yum! Try the unique guava cheesecake for dessert. Got plans for Hanukkah? You might want to consider Freedman's glazed brisket, which is perfect to share with three or more family members/friends. The impressive smoked bone marrow is served with tasty potatoes, pickles and rye toast for $105. —Susan Hornik

2619 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (213) 568-3754, freedmansla.com.

Apotheke L.A. head mixologist Nick O'ConnorEXPAND
Apotheke L.A. head mixologist Nick O'Connor
Art Gray

Best Bar for Healing Your Head: Apotheke L.A.

Alcohol is medicinal for a lot of us, so why not theme a bar around prescriptions, healing and cocktail cures for what ails you? Apotheke L.A., sister to the popular Manhattan location, is anything but sterile or doctor's office–like, however. It provides a warm and sumptuous, golden-hued atmosphere, a nice complement to the herb-, botanical- and fruit-driven drinks available here. The white lab coat–wearing bartenders are friendly and they're out to make you feel good, which makes ordering an experience in itself. Have fun with it and with the various flavor combos, which forgo the pretentiousness of similarly mixology-minded bars and boast spirits that actually sound good alone: eucalyptus and cilantro–infused tequila, rosemary vodka, thyme rum and sage matcha gin, to name a few (available in decanters). Adding to the healing vibes here: DJs spinning soothing sounds, live jazz and sultry burlesque shows. —Lina Lecaro

1746 N. Spring St., Chinatown; (323) 844-0717, apothekela.com.

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