Much like the closet of your roommate with an online shopping addiction, Los Angeles saw no shortage of aggressive restaurant trends this year. There was a massive invasion of big-name chefs from other cities who finally caught onto the fact that you can eat fresh vegetables year-round here. There are decorative green vines hanging from every ceiling in the city. And also, Los Angeles is apparently a pizza town now.
All that said, what stands out most is the sheer number of excellent restaurants that opened in the past year. From a family-run pasta spot near LAX to a giant Latin restaurant that looks like a Cuban mansion in the Fashion District, here are our 13 favorite new restaurants.
In a year full of out-of-town chefs and second locations of already-famous restaurants from other cities, All Time is a true LA original. During the day, it’s just a coffee shop (albeit one with great food) - but at night it turns into a restaurant that feels more like a well-attended neighborhood potluck in someone’s extremely pleasant backyard. On our first few visits, we fell in love with the mostly-outdoor space, extensive wine list, and a burrata-topped focaccia we’d take a bullet for. Since then, we’ve added to that list the mushroom ragu with polenta and a ribeye that gives the best steakhouses in town a run for their money. With its combination of incredibly laid-back space and incredibly good food, All Time is the kind of restaurant you only find in Los Angeles. And it’s one of the very best restaurants we’ve got.
The second restaurant from the people behind Bestia, Bavel has been operating on a higher plane from day one. Everything, from the beautiful, bright room to the truly-friendly service is spot on. But it’s the incredible menu of pumped-up Middle Eastern classics like duck ’nduja hummus, mushroom kebabs, and an enormous lamb neck shawarma that will end up blowing you away. Really, the only things you have to worry about in this restaurant are not going too hard on the bread too fast, and getting a reservation. Actually, who are we kidding. If you’re anything like us, you’ll order every type of bread and not look back.
There are a lot of reasons Sushi Note stands out from LA’s other great sushi spots. Such as the fact that it’s not in a strip mall, there’s designer lighting, and it’s just as much a wine bar as it is a sushi restaurant. But the thing that makes Sushi Note truly great is simple - it’s the sushi. We haven’t had many better cuts of fish than the very-traditional red snapper or the not-at-all traditional gravlax. If you like wine, sushi, and consuming too much of both those things, then there’s a good chance Sushi Note is your spirit restaurant.
Majordomo is a showstopper of a restaurant, which - in this town - means it has a beautiful warehouse space, servers who will pour melted cheese over short rib next to your table, and a handful of celebrities in the corner. Before you start rolling your eyes and thinking we don’t need any more of those restaurants in LA, know that this Korean-ish restaurant in Chinatown is the best possible kind of showstopper. This is a place to come with a big group of friends and order giant $190 pieces of meat as you look around the room and realize that’s exactly what everyone else is doing here too.
Triple Beam is unlike any other pizza place in the city. That’s partly because they serve Roman-style rectangular pizzas cut to whatever size slice you want, and also partly because of the excellent toppings and incredible, crunchy dough. But it’s mostly because you can spend a whole afternoon drinking fantastic Italian wine out of plastic cups on the back patio, getting up every 40 minutes for another slice of pizza, and making plans to do the exact same thing next weekend.
If you ever went out to a fancy dinner as a kid dressed in the nicest clothes you owned and then proceeded to have the best night of your seven-year-old life, that’s pretty much what dinner at The NoMad is like, except you’re an adult. This hotel restaurant in DTLA might be an NYC import, but it’s the absolute highest expression of a thing LA does well: the casual fancy restaurant. You can order four-figure bottles of wine and $100 truffle-stuffed roasted chickens here, but they also won’t forget your existence if you stick to $40 wines and a couple of servings of fava bean hummus. Put on your best outfit and get ready for a truly fun night, starting with a large format cocktail served in a bronze rooster, placed at your table as the waiter whispers “cock-a-doodle-do.”
If you eat out at restaurants mostly to pretend you’re on vacation (even if your last vacation was three years ago), drop what you’re doing and go to Dama in the Fashion District. A meal at this massive Latin American restaurant isn’t just a way to escape your daily stress hurricanes - it’s like driving to LAX, getting on a plane, and ending up in a remote beach town in Cuba. There’s a giant wrap-around patio, tile in every direction, and a wicker ceiling fan above your table that doubles as an ocean breeze after a few cocktails. It’s imperative the whipped beans, oxtail tacos, and banana split soft serve all make it on to table. Your vacation deserves them.
Many of the restaurants on this list are impressive from the moment you step inside - Ronan is not one of them. But whatever you need tonight, Ronan can likely do for you. And that, in its own right, is extremely impressive. Ronan is a neighborhood pizzeria, but one with a full menu that’s so across-the-board delicious, you can take anyone here, for any occasion, and know that it will be great. We’ve brought childhood friends from the East Coast who couldn’t believe casual places with great pizza actually existed in LA. We’ve had date nights filled with big plates of pork chop and too much wine. We’ve also come alone and eaten the best burrata in town at the bar. And we will continue to do so. Probably too often.
Freedman’s is really, really, really weird. And that’s exactly what makes this comfort food spot in a Silver Lake strip mall so f*cking awesome. It feels like it’s owned by your Jewish aunt who loves Miami and has a chopped liver recipe she guards with her life, and even if you don’t have one of those aunts, we bet you want to go eat at Freedman’s now. As for food, the popovers come with trout roe, potato latkes come in waffle form, and the large-format brisket is carved tableside with an electric knife salvaged from the ’80s. Order a martini to wash it all down, and feel safe in the knowledge that there’s no other place like this in Los Angeles.
The first time we walked into Bar Caló, we thought we had wandered into a satirical urban lifestyle exhibit. There were gaunt 23-year-olds sprawled across the giant wrap-around couch drinking tequila Old Fashioneds, misunderstood drummers chain smoking in the parking lot, and a guy in paper overalls named Bozeman who kept asking us if we wanted some of his Oaxacan hot chicken. No other restaurant that opened this year encapsulates the insanity that is Los Angeles quite like Bar Caló. Most people are here to drink, but if you don’t order several things off the food menu, you’re doing it wrong. This is a place where you’ll plan to stop by for a few drinks, and end up staying the whole night. Probably talking to Bozeman.
There are a few things that every LA resident needs to acquire at some point: an alternate route to the Valley, a full-body disdain for the Beverly Center, and a go-to meal after landing at LAX. We’ve always had several back-pocket options for that last one, but then we ate at Jame Enoteca, and all of them ceased to matter. This casual Italian spot in a strip mall in El Segundo makes the kind of handmade pasta dishes - like the beef cheek scarpinocc and the pesto mandilli - typically reserved for the most upscale restaurants in this town. As soon as the pilot tells us we’re beginning our initial descent, we start calculating how quickly we can get from baggage claim to eating the squid ink bavette and housemade key lime pie Jame Enoteca. All that said - we’d drive here any day of the week, plane ticket or not.
Triniti was the first place on this list we visited, and also the last place we added to the list. That’s not to say we didn’t really like this Echo Park coffee shop with fantastic food back in January - it was just easy to get distracted by everything that came after it. But after a recent re-visit that involved pole bean salad, chickpea stew, and a plate of incredible pastries, we remembered that Triniti was there the entire year, doing its own quiet thing, and we should all be paying attention.