Welcome to Los Angeles’s “Greatest Hits” List.
You’re obviously very familiar with the concept of a greatest hits album, but unlike Mambo Mambo: Best of Lou Bega, this is one you actually need in your life. To be clear, our Greatest Hits isn't Now That’s What I Call A Restaurant: 2016 either. This is a short and carefully-selected collection of places in Los Angeles that you should hit first if you’re new to town - restaurants that are essential to Los Angeles dining, from world-class sushi on the beach to late night Korean BBQ.
Just how you wouldn’t introduce your nephew to Michael Jackson by throwing on History: Vol 1 and skipping right to “Heal The World," we wouldn’t send someone unfamiliar with Los Angeles to a new Weho hotspot without telling them to go to these restaurants first. And you shouldn’t either.
Added on 12/22/16: Sushi Park, MozzaPlex, Parks BBQ, Jon and Vinny's, Angelini Osteria, and Guelaguetza.
Plain and simple, Sushi Park is life changing. Because after eating here once, you’re never going to want any other sushi. Located on the second floor of a random strip mall on Sunset, Sushi Park is small, no frills, and expensive. It’s not every day you’re going to spend $200 on omakase, but when you do, your first choice should be Sushi Park. You will absolutely see a major celebrity by themselves here in flip flops.
Bestia is the restaurant that in 10 years (or maybe now?) we'll all look back on and say “Yeah, that’s when it all changed." LA’s been home to incredible restaurants for decades, but the opening of Bestia brought our city into the modern restaurant era and signaled to the rest of the world we aren’t f*cking around this time either. Located in an industrial warehouse in the Arts District, this the kind of fresh, modern Italian food that drives New Yorkers absolutely insane and makes Californians beam with pride. The charcuterie, that Alla’nduja pizza, the uni-topped spaghetti rustichella. It’s all magic. And an LA experience you can’t miss.
Republique is exciting because if you’ve ever wanted to eat lunch at a church in France, but don’t have the funds, now you can do it on La Brea. The space clearly speaks for itself, but it’s the food that puts this more-casual-than-you-think French spot among our (and everyone else's) favorite LA places. Republique’s dinner situation remains one of the best date nights in LA, but their daily order-at-the-counter lunch/brunch extravaganza has become the real bread and butter. We could make a stupid French restaurant pun here, but we’re better than that. And so is Republique.
This is the completely made up term for the building housing three of the greatest Italian restaurants in the city – Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Chi’Spacca. From the casual but still fantastic eats at the Pizzeria (which you can get until 12am), to the traditional pasta at Osteria, to the meat parade from god over at Chi-Spacca, if you want Italian, Melrose and Highland is simply where you go.
Welcome to Los Angeles’ lovechild: a local LA kid opens up his own Thai restaurant attached to his parents' old place on Sunset and launches an empire. In a city with the best Thai food scene in the country, Night + Market is top of the class. This is classic Thai street food with a modern twist, and we want all of it. Aside from the food itself, both the Weho and Silver Lake locations are straight-up parties with some of the most fun vibes in town. Beer towers or bust.
One thing that never fits into other cities’ stereotypes of what living in LA must be like is just how good our deli scene is. We have a handful of delicatessens we confidently know could go toe-to-toe with the best in America, but Langer’s is our undoubted leader. Their #19 pastrami sandwich is the stuff of legend at this point, but everything at this 70-year-old deli is worthy of an order. The best part of Langer’s though? Its Westlake location leaves it utterly devoid of the brochure tourists and Instagramming lifestyle bloggers that ruin places like this. Go enjoy an unadulterated classic.
LA’s kale salad and green juice love affair plotline is wholeheartedly deserved. But it’s also not the only plotline. Exhibit A: Animal. This dime-sized restaurant in Fairfax Village is the true holy grail for everything meat and one of the finest meals you can have not only in LA, but probably the country. No, Animal is not your once-a-week neighborhood drop-in spot. Animal is your roll-up-your-sleeves, put-on-your-big-boy-pants, and ball-out-hard destination experience. You’re going to eat pork belly and pig ears and oxtail and rabbit lard and an entire leg of turkey simply because you can. And your green juice will simply have to deal with it.
At three square miles, Koreatown is an integral part of LA’s food (and karaoke) culture. And while you could go to a different Korean BBQ spot once a day for three months and not hit them all, our go-to is Park's. Plain and simple, this is the highest-quality meat in Koreatown, and though that means higher prices, you get what you pay for. It’s also surprisingly easy to get a table, and you won’t have to deal with drunk teenagers bonging sake while you eat either.
Jon & Vinny’s is one of those rare restaurants that felt like a classic from the second it opened. And now with a few years under its belt, we’re happy to put this modern Italian restaurant in its rightful spot. Owned and operated by the Animal guys (which it sits across from on Fairfax), Jon and Vinny’s is casual, affordable, and despite still being crowded, very accessible. You’re going to want the meatballs and the bucatini and burrata-doused LA Woman pizza, but don’t sleep on breakfast either.
Every single person who arrives in LA has the exact same goal in mind: find the best Mexican food in town. And while we will always condone such a plan, the reality is there is no such thing. Our Mexican food scene is too large, too varied, and frankly too good to ever crown an official king. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a favorite. El Compadre in Hollywood is the kind of raucous, old-school Mexican joint you could go to once a week for the rest of your life and not even realize it. The food is sloppy and excellent, the vibe is always right, and two of those flaming margaritas will put you under the table before you can even reach for more unlimited chips and salsa.
LA’s best burger is easily our most polarizing. Some people will tell you Father’s Office isn’t all that great, and those are the same people who hated Titanic because they thought it made them look cool. Don’t trust them. Father’s Office is exceptional and the kind of first-rate, gourmet burger this city needed. The tiny order-at-the counter Santa Monica location can certainly get a bit hectic, but the classic spot remains the best place in town to grab a burger and a beer and enjoy not being one of those people who hates Titanic.
Mozzaplex (deservedly) gets all the hype, but not far away on Beverly, Angelini Osteria has quietly become one of the best places to eat a plate of pasta in the city. The relatively small space is modern, and admittedly doesn’t have the usual vibe attached to old-school Italian restaurants, but don’t be fooled - this place is as old school as it gets. The waitstaff is fantastic (with very thick Italian accents), and all we can think about is when we’re eating the lasagna again next.
Everybody knows that LA has the best Mexican food, but not everybody fully realizes that it reaches way beyond just tacos and burritos. Enter Guelaguetza, the Ktown institution and the place largely credited for bringing Oaxacan food into the American mainstream. If you’re unfamiliar with what Oaxacan food even means, think mole, mole, and even more mole. Guelguetza’s huge space, with live mariachi music and a never-ending mezcal menu, is always the kind of party you’re in the mood for.
Let’s lay out some facts here. Bay Cities is not a restaurant. Bay Cities is a 90- year-old Italian grocer. And inside said grocer is a deli with one of the greatest sandwiches in existence - The Godmother. Prosciutto, mortadella, genoa salami, provolone cheese all on the freshest Italian bread this side of the Jersey turnpike. The lines at this Santa Monica staple are extreme, so call it in ahead of time and bypass the plebeians. Also, if you don’t get “the works” put on top, you can’t actually say you’ve eaten it. Rules are rules.
Jones Hollywood is what we call an ace restaurant. Pull this casual Italian Weho spot out for any occasion or group of people that presents itself to you and Jones will get the job done and more. The menu is full of Italian staples, so expect your margherita pizzas and spaghetti and meatballs. And expect them to be excellent. The vibe inside is sexy and cool, but not in the way that makes your bones hurt - in the way that makes you glad you’re at this old Hollywood classic and nowhere else. Choose to skip that apple pie at the end and choose to live a lesser life.
This city has no shortage of sushi empires. But anytime we’re asked where someone should go for their first bite of sushi in LA, we undoubtedly answer Sugarfish. The casual, prix-fixe menu spot from the legendary Chef Nozawa has completely taken over this city (both literally and figuratively), and if you think it's done growing, you’re sorely mistaken. But what’s most impressive about Sugarfish is that despite the rapid expansion, the product on the table hasn’t slipped a notch.
If Night + Market is the hot prince that everybody wants to f*ck, Jitlada is the old Queen who knows exactly what it takes to rule a city. This Thai Town strip-mall legend serves the kind of Southern Thai food that separates the men from the boys. And from those who think Thai food only means Pad Thai. How? Spice. And more of it than anywhere else in town. Oh, but just ask them to make it less spicy, right? DON’T TELL A QUEEN WHAT TO DO. Dining-in at their kitschy Sunset location is a must, but their take-out operation is serious and our midweek go-to move.
You learn quickly in LA that Mexican food and tacos are almost two entirely different things, with entirely different scenes. And while there are no shortage of elite taco spots throughout LA, Guisados is our first move. With about 14 different kinds of tacos on the menu, there isn’t one you shouldn’t order. And that’s why you get the sampler platter. Six tacos of your choosing, $6.99 out of your wallet. Life is good. The taco behemoth is expanding rapidly, with locations stretching all the way from Boyle Heights to West Hollywood. Even better news for you and your uncontrollable taco urges.
Another day, another sandwich spot finds its way onto the Greatest Hits list. But as opposed to other sandwich entries on the list, Larchmont Wine + Cheese is a lesson in simplicity. Each sandwich at the back counter of this upscale wine shop can’t have more than five different ingredients a piece and yet, each ingredient is of the highest quality. There’s nothing flashy about this tiny shop on the charming and uncomfortably suburban Larchmont corridor and that’s exactly what makes it so essential. Simple food, quality ingredients, and the most well-executed sandwiches in the city. Our move is the #5, but this is a menu stacked with classics. Beware: Closed on Sundays.
Located on a horrible side street off the 405 in Lawndale, Al-Noor is the best Indian food in LA by a mile and the only proof you need to believe that LA's best food is always in strip-malls. But let’s slow our roll for a second. What did we just say to you? Lawndale? Did we lose a bet? No, we didn’t. In fact, we feel like we won the lottery. Because six minutes from LAX is this no-frills restaurant that's worth the drive whether you're catching a flight or not. All other garlic naan from here on out is ruined.
If you haven’t heard the name Nobu by now, we’re not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under, but our apologies, that thing must’ve been big. Because plain and simple, there are few names in the food world as recognizable as Nobu, and LA claims him as their own. And while his landmark Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills was a game-changer for the entire sushi industry back in the day, it’s his jaw-dropping space out in Malibu that takes the cake these days. With views of the ocean and some of the highest quality sushi in the world, it doesn’t get more SoCal than this.
Great. Another overpriced, health-oriented sidewalk cafe full of bland grain bowls that only make us hungrier. Think again. Sqirl opened a few years back on a forgotten section of Virgil and actually changed how people thought about consuming healthy food. No, we’re not running any calorie counts on that brioche toast anytime soon, but for the most part Sqirl is dishing out locally-sourced, sustainable, and whatever-other-buzzword-you-choose healthy food. And it’s great. REALLY great. Eating at Sqirl is like eating from the arms of Mother Nature herself (who, btw, really knows her sh*t). It's worth the unavoidable line.
Proving once and for all that French = sex, A.O.C. is one of the most romantic restaurants we have in this city. But also one with a French/California menu that will never leave you disappointed. If you spend an entire date night in that back courtyard with those ivy-laced Juliet balconies and a bottle of Cabernet and don't get lucky, it’s time to start asking yourself the tough questions. A.O.C. is beautiful and fancy and your go-to meal when it’s time to seal the deal. Don’t miss the brunch either.
Fishing With Dynamite is basically a neighborhood oyster shack, but happens to be one of the best restaurants in LA. The place is truly miniature, with maybe 12 tables to go around, so come during peak dinner hours and you’re definitely looking at a hefty wait. But sneak in early or swing by for lunch or just bite the bullet and wait it out like an adult, and you’re in for one of the greatest seafood meals in LA. After dinner, feel free to walk the two blocks down to the water and thank the ocean for what you just experienced.
Sushi Gen is an LA sushi classic. But while this no-frills, strip-mall spot in Little Tokyo has great raw fish across the board, you’re here for one thing - the sashimi platter. At $15 for lunch and $26 for dinner, there isn’t a more legendary sushi order in town and Sushi Gen knows it. Lines start forming well before they even open and there's a designated part of the restaurant for people only there to order the thing. And that’s a brand of discrimination we can get behind.