Let me start by stating the obvious: Things are really messed up right now. For restaurants, for the world, for everyone’s personal Netflix algorithm. (Tip: Don’t house an entire bottle of wine and stream Pup Star: World Tour if you don’t want them to permanently assume you’re an 8-year-old animal enthusiast). But I digress.
My point is, despite all the craziness and terrifying unknowns this year has brought, I’ve been equally amazed by the sheer ingenuity of our city’s restaurants. I’m not lying when I say that the amount of mind-blowing meals I’ve eaten in 2020 rivals that of any year I’ve written for The Infatuation. Sure, meals might now involve at-home sushi kits or stuffing my face with Philly soft pretzels inside my Ford Focus as a singular, joyful tear rolls down my face (email for details), but that’s simply the name of the game right now.
So without further ado, here are five spots I’m completely obsessed with right now.
I’ve said this to just about everyone I know, so I might as well tell you guys - Kuya Lord is the best meal I’ve eaten all year. This Filipino pop-up is run by Lord Maynard Llera, a former sous chef at Bestia, and operates entirely out of his house in La Canada-Flintridge. I understand that DMing someone you’ve never met on Instagram and showing up at their private residence might be... outside some peoples’ comfort zones, but get comfortable, because pop-ups are here to stay, and Kuya Lord is simply too incredible to miss. Everything on the constantly changing menu is inspired by what Llera grew up eating in his hometown of Lucena, Philippines, and I’ve frankly yet to try something that doesn’t send me into a place of unadulterated bliss. What I’m trying to say is order everything that’s available that week. There will be leftovers… a lot of leftovers, but if someone in your household complains about that fact, at least you know where to make some relationship cuts.
I’m going to be really transparent right now - I kind of hate picnics. No matter what park or stretch of dead grass you end up in, there’s always a million bugs, chaotic sitting positions, and the same grocery store dip that you didn’t like from the last picnic. That said, I realized that if I wanted to see any of my friends this year, I needed to get over it. With the help of Chainsaw, I have. This Historic Filipinotown pop-up is run by the former pastry chef at Here’s Looking At You (RIP) and a sous chef at Providence and has wholeheartedly made me appreciate eating on the ground again. They do this fantastic $30 lunchbox on weekends that comes with a salad, a dessert, and an insanely delicious pork shoulder sandwich, but don’t get upset if you can’t get one (they sell out fast). Instead, focus on the homemade pies. I understand it’s hyperbolic to say a place makes the best pie I’ve ever eaten in my life, but Chainsaw does just that. And that’s a sentiment that’ll almost certainly be shared at whatever picnic you show up at.
FOR GETTING THE F*CK OUT OF LA:
I don’t think I need to over-explain why getting out of the city is paramount for mental health right now. While we have no shortage of great day trips around LA, I’m here to add another one to your list - Little Dom’s Seafood. Located in the tiny beach town of Carpinteria (about 70 miles north of LA), LDS is the kind of place you can either plan an entire weekend around or simply drive up for dinner and be back home in bed by 11pm. While many of the iconic dishes from their Los Feliz location appear on the menu (the meatballs, rice balls), you should definitely concentrate mostly on their excellent raw bar. Whether it’s raw oysters, live uni, or smoked albacore toast, lean into the fact that the ocean is only two blocks away and revel in the joy that you aren’t currently sitting home mumbling “There’s nothing to watch” until you fall asleep.
Honestly, shout out to wine in general this year, but also specifically Vinovore for helping me get through 2020’s roughest patches. My boyfriend and I have become pretty obsessed with this Silver Lake wine shop as of late, which focuses on female winemakers, but also has excellent snacks like hard-to-find cheeses to tinned sardines. We usually do their 12-bottle “Who Runs The World? Girls!” box (because why not?), which you can order online or by calling them directly and just letting them know what you’re in the mood for (tip: do that). Either way, they’ll have your order packaged up and ready for consumption in under a half hour.
FOR A PATIO THAT DOESN'T STRESS ME OUT:
I’ve been a massive fan of Kensho since they opened last year on the grounds of Yamashiro in Hollywood. And now, I’ve grown to appreciate this outdoor Japanese wine bar even more. With only a handful of tables, Kensho’s patio overlooking the hills of Hollywood can be full and you’ll still feel like you have the place to yourself. You’ll drink too much wine, snack on delicious yakitori and perilla bowls, listen to music, and watch the sun slowly set over the city. If you’re not eating on patios right now, that’s certainly understandable, but if you’re thinking of trying one out, I can’t think of a more inviting option than Kensho.