Harissa burgerEXPAND
Harissa burger
Barbara Hansen

Spicy Burgers and Black Bao: The Best of L.A. Food & Drink 2018: West

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

Best Spicy Burger: Harissa

What makes this burger spicy is harissa, the zesty red chili paste native to North Africa. In this case it's Tunisian, because that's the birthplace of Alain Cohen, chef-owner of Harissa, the place to go for this burger. Cohen mixes harissa into grass-fed beef and brushes the bun with harissa mayo for extra pop. Still more flavor comes from preserved lemon, balsamic-flavored onions and roasted tomatoes. The bun is also Cohen's creation. It's a sandwich-sized version of his famous pretzel challah, both available next door at the bakery Got Kosher? Yes, both the bakery and the restaurant are kosher. Cohen makes the harissa Tunisian style, using mostly pure red chili, with some garlic and salt. One version is mild, the other hotter. If you like the sandwich, you can buy two of the components to take home — the harissa and harissa mayo. You can buy the buns too, but you're on your own for the beef and garnishes. —Barbara Hansen

8914 W. Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson; (310) 858-1920, harissala.com.

Squid ink xiao long bao
Squid ink xiao long bao
Courtesy Little Fatty

Best Squid Ink Dumplings: Little Fatty

David Kuo's Little Fatty is a Mar Vista neighborhood favorite hangout serving Taiwanese favorites, but Kuo's squid ink xiao long bao is the best on the Westside, if not the city. Served in the steamer and available only at dinner, the pitch-black soft pillows are filled with pork and shrimp surrounded by Kuo's rich broth. No trip here is complete without orders of General Tso's cauliflower and orange chicken. —Michele Stueven

3809 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista; (310) 574-7610, littlefattyla.com.

Campos Famous Burritos
Campos Famous Burritos
Michele Stueven

Best Avocado Burrito: Campos Famous Burritos

It's nothing fancy or over the top, but Campos Famous Burritos has been bringing in Santa Monicans for generations. Whether it's students from Santa Monica College across the street, Santa Monica High students after a football game or local hospital workers, Campos is a comfort zone to those who have been ordering at the counter since 1971. The avocado burrito is great for lunch; to eat it like a local, dive in and use your burrito as a vessel to dip the homemade tortilla chips and jalapeño salsa into. Campos also has menudo breakfast on weekends and about 20 different breakfast burritos, plus dinner or the perfect hangover cure alongside a bottle of Mexican Coke or Jarritos soda. —Michele Stueven

2008 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 450-4477, camposfamousburritos.com.

Best BBQ: Baby Blues

I don't know how the neighborhood handles it, but the aroma of slowly smoked meats starts wafting through the air early in the morning at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice. The down-home smokehouse joint with its rustic interior specializes in Southern-style pulled pork and baby back ribs. Get a platter, such as the Porker, which comes with a third of a rack of baby back ribs and Memphis-style ribs, one side dish (beans, coleslaw, potato salad) and the most insane butter-drenched cornbread. There's also catfish and grilled shrimp as well as smokin' wings, which are dry-rubbed, smoked and then grilled with your choice of house-made sauces (BBQ, Buffalo-style, XXX or sweet style). If you have room, try the key lime or buttermilk pie for dessert. —Michele Stueven

Baby Blues BBQ, 444 Lincoln Blvd., Venice; (310) 396-7675, babybluesbbq.com.

Best Destination Bar: Bibo Ergo Sum

The stylish Bibo Ergo Sum, in an unassuming plaza, provides the Westside with a civilized and very grown-up cocktail destination. The drinks are on point, with a menu designed by the team behind Death & Co, the Normandie Club and Walker Inn. The decor takes its cues from the art deco era but, rather than a pastiche theme bar, it's a thoughtful place to while away a couple of hours as you sample everything from simple well-made classics such as the Brooklyn or Singapore Sling to more ambitious, avant-garde libations —my favorites are the Cold Hollow, with apple and rum, or the complex High Note with mezcal, coconut and Thai chili. —Janelle Bennet

Bibo Ergo Sum, 116 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Grove; (424) 343-0066, biboergosumla.com.

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