Los Feliz was so hip in the early 2000s that it was almost impossible to breathe there. You'd spend a half-hour at Skylight Books, full of magazines you'd never heard of, where you'd mingle with TV stars and (slightly) indie rockers with unnatural hair colors. Then you could wander up Vermont and inevitably end up at Fred 62, the all-night diner that sort of went for a Twin Peaks/Pulp Fiction vibe but was too full of rubberneckers to actually count as weird. (The shakes and that turkey burger were good. Might still be.) Since then, the neighborhood has settled into itself, a yupster haven full of old favorites and some newer places that succeed by offering hearty and accessible food with just the tiniest frisson of something "different." Here are the 10 best restaurants in Los Feliz.
The proprietor of Yuca's won a James Beard Award when the restaurant was just a tiny former shoeshine stall that she'd been working in for 29 years. The new attention is what allowed her to open a new location on Hollywood, but the heart remains at the hut. Sure, the other one has actual tables and chairs, but why get fancy? The Mexican food here is very personal: it's what Socorro Herrera likes, not necessarily constrained by region. Go for a burrito, a smaller-than-average, "square" creation that may well come with American cheese. Try it, you'll like it.
2056 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-1214, yucasla.com.
Sometimes a restaurant can be so transporting, you don't even notice the food. Figaro is one such place. It is perfectly French, the mirrored walls covered in gold lettering, the chairs all slightly uncomfortable. There's a pastry case near the entrance featuring all manner of frippery, from profiteroles and eclairs to colorful fruit tarts to every type of viennoiserie. Outside, bistro tables and wicker chairs line the cracked sidewalk, and at least three customers have brought their dogs. Figaro has succeeded at capturing a spirit. And the food, like onion soup topped with a ridiculous layer of Gruyère, or the entrecote with green pepper sauce, completes the scene nicely.
1802 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-1587, figarobistrot.com.
This Italian-American joint has been bustling since day one. It's all candles and dark wood, and though it's loud, if you snag a booth it can be pretty romantic. Little Dom's is a good choice if you're in the mood for a big slab of meat and a strong cocktail; the kitchen has some fun with the appetizers, offering things like a spicy crab and burrata bruschetta. Mondays are especially packed, with the three-course prix fixe dinner, and the weekend brunch menu is a restaurant highlight.
2128 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 661-0055, littledoms.com.
This is indeed another Italian restaurant, but it is worlds apart from Little Dom's. Speranza only serves beer and wine; perhaps accordingly, tables tend to linger. It's family-friendly, and kids are in the restaurant late, as though it were actually in Southern Europe. The menu focuses on pastas, some of which are homemade, and all of which are worth trying, especially those paired with seafood. And, before anyone becomes outraged, yes, this is Los Feliz. The neighborhood dividing line runs right down Hyperion.
2547 Hyperion Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 644-1918, facebook.com/speranza.
O Bánh Mì
This little shop is quite difficult to find, which seems to be by design. There's a neon O in the window, but that's the only signage — and the restaurant's only open from noon to 4 p.m., anyway. The small menu fits the small storefront, with only a few bánh mì to choose from: sardine, tofu, squid, chicken and cold cuts. But those in the know show up promptly at noon on Friday, when a whole roasted pig is brought in and made into the day's sandwich star. It sells out quickly, and remember to bring cash.
1997 Hyperion Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 665-1941.
Does an ice cream parlor count as a restaurant? It does when the product is this good. The Santa Barbara–based mini chain caused a commotion when it arrived at Grand Central Market; this branch just opened this week and it's safe to say that weekends at this location, full of post-HomeState sweets seekers, are going to be packed. Some flavors are swapped out seasonally, but the chocolate almond brittle and peppermint stick are always excellent choices. And if Eureka lemon and marionberries is on the menu, it's practically against the law not to get it.
4630 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; mcconnells.com.
Ricky's Fish Tacos
Ricky's is a truck that occasionally has to change its location, though lately it's been parking on the south side of the Von's on Virgil. Ricky himself mans the truck, frying up shrimp and fish and topping the tacos with pico de gallo, crema and cabbage. In true truck fashion, there are a bunch of squeeze bottles full of sauces on the sideboard, ready for your experimentation. This truck was one of the champions of San Diego–style fish tacos a few years ago, and is still holding it deliciously down.
1400 N. Virgil Ave., East Hollywood; @RickysFishTacos.
When this crowd-pleaser opened, it had a whole "grown-up Boy Scout" vibe, with cutesy campground names on the menu items and the servers decked out in the tight, unbuttoned version of outdoor wear. Messhall has moved away from that a little, now favoring a less theme-driven approachability. The menu tends toward Americana, with burgers and meat-heavy sandwiches dominating the menu. There is an homage to the Cobb salad, too — after all, this is the old Brown Derby location. The cocktails are good; between that and an abundance of oysters, this is a nice happy hour spot, too.
4500 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Feliz; (323) 660-6377, messhallkitchen.com.
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SHOW ME HOW
Usually Los Angeles is at the forefront of any American food trend — and yet it took us decades to get around to breakfast tacos. HomeState arrived straight from Texas and quickly became the home of one of L.A.'s most popular brunches. It doesn't hurt that you can take your food over to Bar Covell (HomeState is counter service) and pair it with a glass of bubbly, but the food is worth the wait even if you're not day drinking. Try the potato tacos and the migas with brisket.
4624 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; (323) 906-1122, myhomestate.com.
Go Get Em Tiger
This branch of the G&B Coffee family tree is the most food-focused, offering a full menu of morning and daytime dishes. The coffee drinks — including that famous almond-macadamia latte — are of course available, but the elegant sandwiches and delectable homemade baked goods are the stars. The L.A. Baby is a baked pancake with creme fraiche and preserves; the pan de sel breakfast sandwich comes with bacon, egg, onion jam and arugula. The chicken salad sandwich on a baguette is a great choice, but the menu changes so frequently that you'll probably have to make a seat-of-your-pants decision. Just be sure to get a cookie, and savor it out on that perfect patio.
4630 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz; (323) 543-4438, gandb.coffee/gget.