LA

Happening Right Now: New LA Restaurant Intel

PHOTO: Jakob Layman

You already have the Hit List, our regularly updated guide to the best new spots in LA. But based off Team Infatuation’s recent restaurant experiences, here’s our newest intel. Scroll down to get all the info on the places we’re adding to our Hit Lists, the spots where we’ve been eating recently, and the next round of restaurants that we’ll be checking out.

8/7/2017 update

NEW TO THE HIT LIST

  • Isaan Classic is a new Thai spot on the ground floor of a Comfort Inn in Silverlake. We checked in on the bare bones space and found Thai food as good as we’ve had all year. This is Isaan-style Thai food (from the northeastern region of the country), and while they serve some familiar classics like Pad Thai, you should focus your attention on the more unique stuff like fermented Isaan sausage and green curry with vermicelli noodles. Also: they deliver.

  • You’re not going to get a lot of choice at Hiho Cheeseburger in Santa Monica - there are exactly three burgers on the menu, and one of them is a vegetarian version. But the lack of choice is just fine when the burgers are this good. They’re simple, and kind of like In-N-Out, but in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. The office workers of the area are already all over this place, so it’s best to get here outside of peak lunch time. And also to leave room for the key lime pie.

Jakob Layman
  • Mtn is the new izakaya from the people behind Gjelina and Gjusta, but before you start rolling your eyes at that vowel-less name (it’s pronounced “Mountain”) and the general Gjelina-ness of it all, hear us out. This walk-in only spot has zero pretentiousness, and is great for a casual dinner (that might involve too many glasses of sake). The food is simple and super high quality, and you should get here now before the crowds descend.

OTHER SPOTS WE’VE RECENTLY CHECKED OUT

  • A tiny storefront in a quiet part of San Pedro is selling giant, delicious breakfast burritos stuffed with the best chorizo in LA. You’re going to want to make the drive to get one. The menu at Chori-Man is small (you basically choose from three different kinds of sausage), but you really can’t go wrong. Get your burrito to go (there are no tables in the store), head to the waterfront for a picnic, and start planning your next trip here. Which, by the way, can only be on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, because Chori-Man isn’t open Monday through Thursday.

  • For those keeping track at home, there are a lot of izakayas opening in LA right now. And Izakaya Osen in Silver Lake is another one you should know about. Unlike the more modern izakayas around town (Tsubaki, Mtn), Osen is as traditional as it gets. Between the interior covered in wood paneling and the smoke from the yakitori grills permeating your clothes as the night wears on, Osen feels like a real Japanese tavern. The food is both good and affordable, and though the place is already quite crowded, it never takes too long to get a seat.

  • Since opening in 2012, Gusto has been one of Beverly Grove’s best neighborhood Italian joints. And after a recent move last week to the old (and much bigger) Pistola space down the street, we can confirm it’s now even better. The place is packed, their new pizzas are solid, and all the old favorites (like bucatini carbonara) are as good as ever.

  • Remember The Cat and Fiddle? Everyone’s favorite Hollywood restaurant/bar with an excellent courtyard that closed down two years ago because of rent hikes? It’s back. Located at Melrose and Highland (in the old Mud Hen Tavern space), the new spot doesn’t have quite the outdoor space as it did on Sunset, but it’s a still great place to grab a low-key beer and some bar food in Hollywood. Tip: Their Pimm’s Cup-heavy brunch currently has no wait time.

  • If you work anywhere near Platform in Culver City, you’ve probably had enough Sweetgreen and Loqui to last you a lifetime. Hayden is a new spot in the same development that should help you mix up your lunch routine. There are salads, sandwiches, and oysters, as well as sweet and savory buckwheat waffles if you skipped breakfast this morning (they don’t open until 11am). There’s a wall full of wine bottles too, ready for you and your co-workers to come for after-work drinks.

Stan Lee
  • This week our Old Hollywood Guide research led us to the Ktown classic The Prince. Even if you’ve never visited, you’ve definitely seen it before - it’s been on every TV show and movie ever. The whole place feels like the rich people floor on The Titanic, with a menu full of Korean staples that are pretty delicious. The cocktails aren’t great, but if you keep it simple or just stick to beer, you’ll be fine. If you’re looking for a first date spot that’s fun and different, consider this place.

OPENINGS:

  • TINTOREA: A Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake with what looks like one of the most beautiful patios in LA will be specializing in fresh seafood dishes on the fancier side. You had us at patio.
  • BLACKSMITHS: With a name that sounds like the new hit Britpop band, Blacksmiths opens this week in DTLA, continuing the refurbished warehouse trend that downtown loves, and serving the New American cuisine that downtown loves.
  • MET HER AT A BAR: We have some questions about this place. Why put “bar” in the name of a coffee shop? Who is “her”? Is this place trying to be the go-to for an awkward breakfast post-one night stand? Whatever the case, the waffles here are supposed to be good, so we might be checking it out.
  • SOUL: Soul was supposed to open in Hollywood back in 2008, but it’s been teasing us for almost a decade. It finally actually opened this month. It better be good.
  • JANE Q + EVERBAR: Shocker, another hotel restaurant just opened, serving, shocker, fresh California cuisine. It’ll probably be great for hotel guests, but we’ll see if it’s worth it for locals.

7/24/2017 update

NEW TO THE HIT LIST:

  • Republique is one of our favorite restaurants in all of LA, so we were excited about their next move: a Filipino rice bowl stand in Grand Central Market. Sari Sari Store has barely been open a week, but is already one of the more impressive openings of the year. Everything we’ve eaten here, from the rotisserie chicken rice bowl to the Filipino breakfast sandwich to the coconut pie, has been truly excellent. This place goes straight to the Hit List.
Jakob Layman

OTHER SPOTS WE’VE RECENTLY CHECKED OUT:

  • It’s not too often we eat at a place where after one dish we already know we’ll never come back, but that’s exactly what happened at Sora. Located on the 69th floor of the new Wilshire Grand building downtown, there’s no doubt Sora’s space and views are impressive. But when it comes to the food, this conveyor belt sushi spot is terrible. The sushi riding past is grocery-store quality, but at four times the price. The scene is your typical finance crowd, full of people too worried about themselves to realize there are bones in their mackerel. Hard pass.

  • Rbta is a new robata joint (Japanese skewers and bar food) in Highland Park and while they have a lot of potential (there’s nothing else remotely like it in the area), it needs some time to work out its service and get things running smoothly. We’ll be back.

RBTA - Jakob Layman
  • We recently stopped in at Parsnip, a little Romanian order-at-the-counter place in Highland Park that opened a few months back. The food, which includes doughy dumplings, dips, excellent cheese-stuffed flatbread, and giant bowls of stew, is all solid, and it’s a good spot to grab a lunch that isn’t the usual salad or sandwich.

  • Located in the old Mare patio space on Melrose, Barbara Jean is bringing “elevated soul food” to one of the best back patios you forgot existed. And while there’s definitely some good stuff on the menu (the Mary’s Chicken and chicken liver butter are both excellent), the rest is pretty hit-or-miss. With hip hop blasting over the loudspeakers and couches lining the back wall, it feels like deep down this place just wants to be a sceney lounge instead of a restaurant.

  • Mama Lion in Koreatown and Jean-Georges Beverly Hills inside the Waldorf Astoria hotel are two other new-ish openings we visited recently, but neither of them are really worth your time unless you’re looking for a Hollywood-style lounge/restaurant in Koreatown, or are a Beverly Hills lady who lunches (on fairly boring food).

  • As part of our research for an upcoming guide to the best Old Hollywood joints in LA, we checked back in on The Dresden and found the Los Feliz staple still firing on all cylinders. The menu has your requisite wedge salads and prime ribs and it’s all pretty good. But the move is to head to the bar, grab a Blood & Sand cocktail, and let the iconic cabaret duo, Marty and Elayne, carry you off into the night.

OPENINGS:

HAYDEN: The newest addition to the aren’t-they-out-of-empty-storefronts-yet Platform development in Culver City. Expect casual breakfast/lunch options, some oysters, and plenty of people who want to talk about their start-up.

Hayden

GUSTO: The great Italian restaurant on 3rd St. that everybody went to in 2012 just moved into the (bigger) old Pistola space down the street, with an expanded menu.

THE CHORI-MAN: The man who supplies chorizo to some of the best Mexican restaurants in LA (Salazar, Sonoratown) just opened a taco and burrito take-out window in San Pedro. Consider us interested.

CREMERIE: Just in time for August’s permanent heatwave, Republique is now serving housemade ice cream out of their to-go coffee window. See you there.

VESPERTINE: Everything about this ticketed, 20-course, $250 tasting menu in a “place of shadows and whispers” (those are their words) from the guy behind Destroyer sounds completely ludicrous. We’ll let you know if any of that translates into actually good tasting food after we visit soon.


6/14/2017 update

  • Cosa Buona is a new spot brought to us by the Alimento crew. But unlike their very date night-y original space, Cosa Buona is a neighborhood pizzeria. The corner space at Sunset and Alvarado is casual, affordable, and very accessible. While the pizza is definitely good, the real standouts are elsewhere on the menu: the meatballs and the best mozzarella sticks we’ve had since Kevin Carlson’s 7th grade sleepover are both must-orders, and whatever you do, stick around for the dessert. The minty cookies and cream semifreddo pie is like the Dairy Queen oreo ice cream cake of our dreams, and that’s one of the highest compliments we can give.
Cosa Buona / Jakob Layman
  • Taking over the extremely short-lived Gardner Junction space, Electric Owl is the coolest restaurant on Sunset you’ve probably never been to. The mostly outdoor space looks and feels like an actual vintage train station where drinking is heavily encouraged. The cocktails are definitely the reason to come here (their spicy mezcal is a real standout), but the food is pretty solid as well. The sweet pea salad and white pizza are both ideal for washing down all those $6 happy hour cocktails after work.

  • If you were a pretty well-known Hollywood actor with a taco spot on La Brea, clearly your next logical move would be to open a tiny donut shop in Hollywood. Maybe not, but that’s what Danny Trejo has done with his new spot Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts. Apart from the consistent line and very pink paint job (for when the crowd at the Paul Smith wall gets to be too much), this is a pretty basic place for coffee and donuts - and we mean that as a compliment. The coffee is hot (and not in any way artisan), and the OG and Coco Loco donuts are very good.

  • Hot, Hot Food is an all-day spot in Silver Lake with a fun, bright space that fits in with the neighborhood. But their menu is all over the place, and not in a good way. They specialize in something they call “LA fried rice,” which is essentially regular fried rice with things like pork carnitas, jidori chicken, or chili and brisket. They have some heavier breakfast items, a few random salads, and some sides that are clearly catering to the friendly local stoner crowd (tortillas and butter anyone?). Nothing tastes bad, but outside of being intoxicated at 3am, we’re not sure anyone will want to eat chili-topped fried rice and mac and cheese with goldfish crackers. Related: they close at 10pm.

  • We have pretty specific requirements for our post-beach eating spots: casual, full of cold beer, acceptable to wear a bathing suit under our clothes, and most of the time, a great burger. Tower 12 in Hermosa Beach hits all of these things, making it a pretty great weekend hangout, even if you have an irrational fear of sand. Up a flight of stairs on the second floor of a prime spot on Hermosa Pier, this new-ish bar and restaurant gets pretty busy with the drinking crowd on weekends, and is an ideal place to post up most of the day for beers and the Tower 12 burger - a fancy version of a Big Mac that’s much better than your last drunken drive-through trip.

  • The second floor of a strip mall in Encino is the last place you’d expect to find a crab shack, but welcome to Frankland’s Crab & Co. The relatively new, casual lunch and dinner option is wedged in between sister spots Woodley Proper and Scratch Bar, and has a short menu of seafood-filled rolls and bigger entrees. Most of the dishes are surprisingly good, given that you’re very far away from the ocean - the slightly curry-flavored crab roll is excellent and the beer battered branzino is delicious, but getting served fish and chips with potato chips rather than fries is hard to accept. To be clear: the “chips” ALWAYS refers to fries. No exceptions. Hopefully Frankland’s will come to their senses, because it’s an otherwise solid lunch option, and is weirdly open until 12am for your late-night Valley lobster roll needs.

  • Delicatessen by Osawa is a new spot to add to your Pasadena lunch rotation. This modern Japanese deli is doing local office workers right with its selection of salads, hot things like pork katsu skewers, donburi rice bowls, and a grab-and-go section for when you have ten minutes to get back to your desk. Nothing here is going to blow you away, but it’s a nice change from fast casual chains and giant mediocre Italian restaurants.


5/8/2017 update

  • If you were to tell us that we would be into a pizza place in Brentwood run by the owner of Sprinkles, we’d probably ask you what drugs you were on. Well, hand us that Adderall, because Pizzana has won us over. While San Vicente definitely didn’t need another Italian restaurant, this one has a cooler, more casual vibe and seems to have people pretty excited - so excited they’re willing to wait an hour for a table. In Brentwood. There are a handful of starters (get the chicken liver paté) and salads, but everyone is here for the pizza. Get the Carnivoro and don’t look back.
Jakob Layman
  • On paper, an all-day restaurant in Beverly Hills that specializes in flatbreads isn’t likely to be the most exciting dining experience of your life. That said, The Flats will surprise you. Despite its tough location on Wilshire (amid the aggressive subway construction), The Flats is a calm and cool space with a menu that’s more wild than you’d think. They cure all their meats in-house (get the sriracha spiced ham), there’s something called the “bagel and lox cannoli” that actually tastes good, and their ricotta and prosciutto-topped fig flatbread is excellent. Oh, and it’s open till 2am on the weekends.

  • Chicken and waffles NYC-import Sweet Chick certainly doesn’t lack any hype. But unfortunately, we were left pretty underwhelmed on our visit to its new Fairfax location. The mac and cheese didn’t really taste like much, and the Nashville hot chicken can’t hold a candle to a certain other Nashville hot chicken joint in town. Here’s the good news - the space is great and far more of a bar than a restaurant anyways. Use it to grab a few midweek cocktails with friends or a nightcap after a great date at Jon & Vinny’s.

  • In our latest Hit List update two weeks ago, we included new modern Mexican joint Verlaine. But after hitting the sceney restaurant again, we’ve decided to remove it. On our last visit, the cocktails were subpar, the service was still shakey, and the food (while pretty) was frankly boring. We’ll certainly be back in hopes to find it all figured out, because the back patio is still one of our favorites in West Hollywood.

  • The IHOP space on 20th and Santa Monica has turned into another pancake spot, Rudy & Hudson Diner, a spiffed-up neighborhood diner. Beyond pancakes, they’ve also branched out to things like a reuben and fried chicken. It’s a perfectly fine place to grab a quick meal, especially if you need to drown your sorrows in fried things, but there’s also nothing super special going on here.

  • Astro Doughnuts is a DC mainstay that’s become best known for serving fried chicken sandwiched between a donut. Sounds like a heart attack, probably is a heart attack. But they’ve just opened a new location on 6th Street downtown, so now seems as good as time as any to throw caution to the wind. The thing is, there’s a lot of competition on the fried chicken and donut fronts in LA, and Astro really only comes out ahead on one of the two. The chicken is fine, but the donuts (especially the creme brulee) are pretty great. Stop in for a dozen and the entire office will probably start doing your work for you.


4/5/2017 update

  • While you were busy opening gifts you didn’t want over the holidays, Terrine (the French restaurant on Beverly) closed suddenly. Now, after a quick turnaround, the place has been morphed into The Ponte - an Italian spot by the Scarpetta people. The space is just as beautiful, if not more so, than Terrine - but unfortunately, the food is not. In fact, it’s actually pretty bad. The yellowtail tartare came out a strange shade of brown, the squash blossom pizza was sour, and while the spaghetti pomodoro wasn’t terrible, it was also fairly undercooked. Feel free to skip this place.

  • Sticky Rice in Grand Central Market is one of our favorite Thai places around, so we were pretty excited to hear they were opening a standalone spot close by on 7th and Grand. And So Long, Hi does not disappoint. Firstly, the space is enormous - with a big dining room and a sunny, astroturfed patio out back. Secondly, the food is great. The Crying Tiger (rare steak served with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce) is addictive and the Khao Soi is fantastic. They’ve only just opened, but are slammed at lunch, and we suspect that dinner here is the same. Another notch on the belt for great Thai in LA.

So Long, Hi / Holly Liss
  • You could probably assume that a sandwich counter inside a shipping container next to the LA river would be pretty cool, but we’ll confirm: Wax Paper is cool. And very tasty. Located on a residential side street in Frogtown, Wax Paper isn’t the easiest place to get to, but if you have a few extra minutes for lunch, it’s worth the effort. The menu is small, but the sandwiches are excellent. The place closes at 4pm, but don’t wait too long - once they’re out of something, they’re out.

  • Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica can be kind of a weird place, but Lunetta All Day has arrived to try and class up the joint. This (you guessed it) all-day spot feels sleek and definitely primed for a social media feed, and does everything from eggs and salads and burgers to carnitas and half a chicken. They’re clearly still figuring things out (service was a little all over the place), and the food is solid, though not life-changing. But if you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out, and stay tuned for their more formal spot next door opening soon.

  • So you know Pace, that excellent old-school Italian place in Laurel Canyon? They just opened up a far more casual second location right at Sunset and Fairfax, Pace Joint, and you should be taking note. The menu is exactly the same as the original location, there’s an awesome little back patio, and it’s open all-day if you’re in the area looking for a quick lunch situation (you order at the front counter). Oh, and they deliver as well.

  • Montana Avenue is home to many mediocre Italian restaurants, and we suspected the new-ish Osteria Bigoli would be yet another. Turns out, Bigoli is kind of wonderful. There’s nothing on the menu you won’t have seen before (probably at a much lower price), but dishes like the handkerchief pasta with pesto, seafood risotto, and veal scallopine are better than most. While it’s not worth driving across town for, Bigoli is an ideal spot for a low-key, authentic Italian meal - even if it is at Montana prices.

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