It’s already been a tough year for restaurants and bars, and then on Sunday, LA County announced they were shutting down outdoor dining. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that LA establishments are resilient and resourceful - they’ve been pivoting, popping up, collaborating, and banding together to support their communities since the shutdown first hit back in March.
Supporting these spots is more important than ever, which is why we’ve brought back The Hit List - our guide to the best new food and drink experiences in LA. We track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. While the Hit List is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have genuinely checked out.
Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself - inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’re interested in The Best Things We Ate This Week, well, we’ve got that, too.
Ospi is the new Venice spot from the duo behind El Segundo’s Jame Enoteca, a restaurant so good even their kale salad is incredible. Like Jame, the menu at Ospi features plenty of pasta - my favorites were the malloreddus (tiny, pillowy Sardinian gnocchi) with a rich beef-cheek ragu, and a fantastic cannelloni stuffed with tender lamb neck - but there’s a lot more, too. I loved the thick slices of toasted fettunta topped with chilled lobster, stracciatella, watermelon radish, and Calabrian chili, the Hapa Pizza with roasted pineapple, pickled jalapeño, and spicy ground pepperoni (a play on the pies at Long Beach’s iconic Domenico’s, which co-owner Melissa Saka grew up eating), oh, and the crab cake, which was very full of plump crab and came atop a tangy gremolata with spicy giardiniera on the side.
- James Montgomery, LA Editor
Open for in-person takeout.
Whenever I drive to Ensenada - which, before the pandemic hit, was approximately once every four months - my first stop is always Tacos Fenix, an incredible fish and shrimp taco stand that popularized the now-ubiquitous Baja-style taco. And L Fish, a new-ish (they recently reopened after a two-year absence) taco stand in East LA, uses the exact recipe as Tacos Fenix. Like the original, there are two options - fish and shrimp. I slightly prefer the latter over the former, but in both I was deeply impressed with the remarkably herb-y batter, which gives the taco a deep, bread-y crunch. They’re served undressed on a corn tortilla, with plenty of topping options - I go for finely chopped cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro crema, and habañero salsa, with a heavy hit of lime.
- Brett Keating, Staff Writer
Open for in-person takeout.
Gather ’round, boys and girls, because Courage Bagels is teaching a MasterClass® in opening a restaurant in Los Angeles. First off, the menu: As you approach their storefront in Virgil Village, you’ll immediately notice that their menus are translated in both English and Spanish - which is especially important, considering their location in a historically Central American neighborhood with a large Latinx population. Second, the bagels: They’re Montreal-style - slightly smaller, thinner, and sweeter than the New York-style bagels found at places like Maury’s, Brooklyn Bagels, and Hank’s. Toppings include thick, hand-sliced smoked salmon paired with cream cheese, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, dill, pepper, and drizzles of olive oil - which makes for a thoroughly well-seasoned bagel you might not be used to. The pan dulce on the menu is quite good as well, including pastries like the traditional and sweet concha, or slightly tart empanadas de pina. Oh, and they also carry some of the best merch in town. Like I said earlier, MasterClass®.
-Kat Hong, Staff Writer
Open for takeout - order through Instagram.
To echo what our Editorial Ops Coordinator, Anikah Shaokat, wrote in Favorite Meals Of Week, the Bangkok-style street food coming out of Yum is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten in LA. Popping up inside Holy Basil (another very good new Thai spot Downtown), Yum doesn’t have a set schedule or menu, so just do what most of our LA staff does: Stalk their Instagram, and prepare yourself for a truly extraordinary meal. From raw blue crab soaked in fish sauce to fermented branzino to white mushrooms in a pickled bean curd, Yum’s food is spicy, pungent, and unabashedly original.
-Brant Cox, Editorial Lead
The sandwiches being sold out of the window at Angry Egret in Chinatown are some of the most interesting tortas in LA. The Torta Au Pied De Cochon involves pork shoulder rolled in a deboned pig’s foot, served with habañero mustard - the ground pork patty is salty and tender, with just a bit of gaminess. There’s also a (slightly) more traditional brisket sandwich, with avocado, queso fresco, and horseradish cream. No matter which torta you pick, be sure to add in a machaca flauta, a heavily spiced beef flauta topped with very spicy red and green salsas. The operation was started by Wes Avila, who founded Guerrilla Tacos, the food-car-turned-truck-turned-big-deal Arts District restaurant. In some ways, Angry Egret reminds me of the early(ish) days of Guerrilla, when they were a truck outside of Silverlake Wines - innovative, fun, and sort of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. And when you’re a chef as talented as Avila, the answer is: a lot.
Plain and simple, Detroit-style pizza is all over town right now. And that’s a good thing - Detroit-style pizza is f*cking delicious, a fact I learned during my four years at school in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!). Here’s another fact: Dtown Pizzeria might just be the best of the bunch. Operating inside Phorage in West Hollywood, this pop-up is run by Detroit native Ryan Ososky, who is cranking out the kind of real-deal, Detroit-style pizza I haven’t eaten since college. Think Buddy’s or Jet’s, for Detroit natives reading this. The crust is perfectly golden and crispy with a light, airy center that makes taking down a whole pie by yourself a very doable option. The 1946, which comes topped with a red stripe (not the beer, in Detroit that means a thick ribbon of marinara) and oregano, and The Goomba (pepperoni and fennel pollen) are standouts.
I’ve had a lot of standout sushi this year - and Piven-esque levels of mercury toxicity as a result - but no one sushi spot surprised me more than Sushi Tama. On paper, this neighborhood spot sounds a bit intimidating (who’s jumping to eat at a “high-end sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills” during a pandemic, anyway?), but make no mistake, their ten-piece omakase nigiri set is secretly one of the best deals in town. For just $45, you’ll receive a stunning box filled with scallops hand-selected by the chef, ikura that bursts in your mouth, and extra-thick cuts of speckled toro - you know, the kind of rich, indulgent meal you need after being locked in your apartment for [REDACTED, TIME ISN’T REAL].
Open for takeout - order through Instagram.
I’m a huge fan of Adda, The Hangout, a new-ish Indian pop-up operating out of the Crafted Kitchen space in the Arts District. They only cook once or twice a month, and the menu changes often, but just know that no matter what, you’re going to be eating fantastic Indian food. Standouts from their last meal drop include kadai chicken (cooked in tangy gravy with onions and bell peppers) and gobi matar - cauliflower and peas cooked together with turmeric, cumin, and other spices. But perhaps the best part about Adda, The Hangout is that a portion of all proceeds go to the LA Food Bank kids’ meals program. In other words, a big meal here is a no-brainer. Give them a follow on Instagram for all the latest ordering details.
Much like Al Pacino performances, great BBQ isn’t exactly subtle. But every once in a while, there’s a Godfather II -level of nuance amongst all the smoke and salt, and that’s what I found at Neighborhood. This pop-up, started by Erik Piedrahita - a former chef at the now-closed Bon Temps - brings a bunch of incredible, chef-y touches to traditional BBQ, like smoked tomato BBQ sauce on a massive beef rib, or mac & cheese with Velveeta and truffles. You order ahead through their Instagram for Saturday afternoon pickup in Griffith Park, so bring a friend, a blanket, and some napkins for a remarkable weekend picnic.
Open for takeout - order through Instagram.
If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you already have your quesotaco go-to - Tacos Y Birria La Unica, Birrieria Gonzalez, or perhaps Papi Tacos & Churros? But if you’re looking to add a new spot to your rotation, check out Villas Tacos. Starting with a thick, Dodger-blue corn tortilla (owner Victor Villa’s tribute to the World Series champs) and crispy cheese, each taco is a stupendous, seven-layer affair - featuring creamy refried beans, diced onions, cilantro, crema, cotija, fresh guacamole, plus the mesquite-grilled protein of your choice. The house speciality (and we do mean house, since Villa grills in his grandmother’s Highland Park backyard) is chorizo and potato, and it’s spicy, smoky, and satisfying, especially when topped with Villa’s chunky tomato salsa with radish and cilantro, and some of their slightly acidic, pickled hibiscus onions. Interested? Give Villas Tacos a follow on Instagram and DM them to place an order for curbside pick-up.
Open for takeout - order via text message (323) 306-4968.
The first time I looked at Brandoni Pepperoni’s menu, it was clear that this was no ordinary pizza spot. The pies feature toppings like Spanish octopus, housemade spicy lamb sausage, and local heirloom tomatoes straight from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The chef behind the operation is Brandon Gray, who worked the kitchens of ultra-high end spots Providence and Trois Mec. The toppings might be fancy, but these pizzas are still super-hearty and totally unpretentious. To order, send him a text, and pick up in Carthay Square, where Gray is cooking out of his home kitchen until he opens a brick-and-mortar space in 2021. Be sure to get your orders in ahead of time - slots fill up quickly.
It’s been a long time since I went out for a big, special occasion-type meal. And while there wasn’t really a special occasion (unless you count installing a new window perch for my cat), my dinner at Mírame still felt like a celebration. This new Mexican spot in Beverly Hills is a fancy, fun, and absolutely tremendous place for a meal. The food is inventive and impressive - there’s crispy salmon skin chicharrónes, a gamey, tender short rib quesadilla covered in fresh herbs, and some really incredible costilla tacos with Bordelaise sauce. So even if you can’t go out to celebrate, order takeout and do it at home - it’s 2020, after all.
From perfectly seasoned jerk chicken to an oxtail stew so tender, the meat literally falls off the bones, this Caribbean pop-up once again makes the case that the best meals of 2020 aren’t found at restaurants, but rather, in places like the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market. Once a week, Guyanese chef Yonette Alleyne drops a menu of home-cooked Caribbean fare on her Instagram, like vegan curry made with channa masala or crab and callaloo soup with coconut milk, okra, and pimento peppers. Served in microwave-safe takeout containers and labeled with precise reheating instructions, cooking at home has never been so convenient, easy, or delicious. Well, not in my home, at least.
Between Little Coyote in Long Beach, Prince Street in West Hollywood, and this city’s newfound obsession with Detroit-style square pizza, 2020 has been a very good year for pizza in LA. And now there’s Cento Pizzeria. If that name sounds familiar, it’s the same people behind Downtown’s Cento Pasta - only now they’re serving bubbly Neapolitan pizza perfection inside Tartine Sycamore. I haven’t tried a pizza yet that I wouldn’t recommend, but the Green Goddess (hot pizza, cold salad, green goddess dressing, herbs, red onion, and feta) and Beef Birria are early standouts. They’re open Thursday-Saturday from 5-10pm for takeout, delivery, and patio dining.