You’re in your car, maybe (probably) stuck in traffic, staring out the window as you wonder whether to actually risk your life and just buy a traffic-immune motorcycle, when you catch a glimpse of that place. The restaurant you always forget is there.
Maybe it’s the place you always make a mental note to remember to go to, but don’t. Or maybe it’s a restaurant around the corner from another, more popular spot. Some restaurants we all forget about are very much worth remembering. Obviously, they’re easier to get into, but they also make you feel like you’re in on a secret the rest of the city doesn’t know about. One with no three-month waiting lists, and some pretty excellent food.
There’s no good reason why Osteria La Buca tends to be forgotten. It’s home to a carbonara that will make your day better and a guanciale pizza that’s just as great. But it’s also on a stretch of Melrose near Paramount Studios with no signage and very little parking. All of that means you can walk in here almost any time of day, eavesdrop on studio heads workshopping Transformers 17, and eat enough pasta to ensure you’ll never forget about this place again.
There’s one Arts District restaurant that overshadows all the rest. So running an Italian place in a warehouse in this part of town whose name doesn’t rhyme with Nestia can be tough. Except if you’re Factory Kitchen. Because what this place lacks in 45 minute waits for your 9pm reservation, it makes up for with fried dough topped with prosciutto and pesto-slathered pasta handkerchiefs we’d wear as a scarf.
Brunch on the Eastside is an olympic sport that involves standing in a lot of lines and eating lots of things that sound good for you, but probably aren’t. So it’s good to know that Edendale isn’t about any of that. This is the neighborhood spot where you can come in your pajamas, get a patio table without a fight, and order a bacon grilled cheese that comes out quickly. Edendale doesn’t have bowls filled with obscure ingredients, but it does have all the classics you want.
Son Of A Gun is the forgotten stepchild of the Jon & Vinny’s empire. It wasn’t their first restaurant (that would be Animal), it isn’t impossible to get into (like Jon & Vinny’s), and there won’t be a crowd of social media professionals taking photos while their food gets cold (Kismet). We don’t know why people don’t talk about Son Of A Gun more - maybe because they generally want to avoid West 3rd Street at all costs. Which would be a mistake, because there’s hardly a miss on the menu, and the atmosphere is fun - both in a “I can have a big night with friends” kind of way, as well as a “I can bring my parents here and they won’t hate it” one.
There’s no shortage of lunch options in DTLA, so it can be tempting to just keep going to the same places within walking distance of your office. Which makes Rice Bar, a tiny Filipino rice bowl place on 7th Street, easy to miss. The Pork Longgansia bowl is a perfect (and inexpensive) lunch of sweet and spicy sausage and pickled vegetables on top of rice, plus a fried egg that’s optional (but shouldn’t be).
There are plenty of places in LA that do interesting things with beets. And even more that do uninteresting things with them. But Kali is the place where you’ll encounter a beet you’ll wish you could eat every day. With a menu that sounds like every other farm-to-table, modern Californian, seasonal restaurant in the city, Kali doesn’t exactly stand out. But as pretentious-sounding as black barley “risotto” with fermented black garlic tea sounds, everything coming out of the kitchen here tastes like the home-cooked food you wish you could actually cook at home.
Before the Italian restaurants in giant warehouses in obscure parts of DTLA, before the climate-controlled pasta making rooms, there was Sotto. On an uncool strip of Pico in a not-very-Beverly Hills part of Beverly Hills, this basement spot was one of the first of the new-school Italian spots around, but has since been overshadowed. It’s worth knowing that Sotto is still putting out excellent southern Italian food, in a room that works just as well for date night as it does for a big group dinner. As long as you can convince people that eating in a basement on Pico is actually a good idea.
A little further west on Pico is John O’Groats - the Midwestern diner that exists in the middle of Los Angeles. It looks kind of barebones, much like the other six restaurants in Cheviot Hills. But it’s a place with servers who’ve worked here for 35 years and a signature dish called Biscuits From Heaven, which are in fact what we imagine biscuits in heaven would taste like. They’re not being ironic here either - just serving up pancakes, biscuits, and a crowd of people who’ve lived in Cheviot Hills since 1973.
There are a lot of restaurants in downtown Culver City, just not a lot of particularly memorable ones. Or ones that can stay open longer than a year. The Wallace has managed to avoid both these fates. Sure, it’s another seasonal restaurant where the servers will explain that “everything is meant to be shared,” as though you’ve never seen a small plate in your life. But with a menu that runs from chicken liver mousse to lamb neck that comes with oat risotto, The Wallace is both approachable and doing things a little differently. It’s perfect for a low-key weeknight date that seems like you put a little thought into it.
Mtn has a two-hour wait, Felix isn’t taking walk-ins tonight, and someone at Gjelina who you don’t think actually works there just laughed in your face. There is another option on Abbot Kinney that the locals would prefer you didn’t know about - Salt Air. This seafood spot is one of the more low-key choices on this very not-low-key street, and that’s just the way we like it. Both the mostly-seafood menu and the renovated beach house space will remind you that the ocean is right down the street. Order a bottle of white, a bunch of the very good appetizers, and multiple rounds of monkey bread.
Why did we as a city forget about Bar Ama? Because we tend to leave eating Tex-Mex to our annual SXSW trip? Or because the same chef has opened approximately 27 restaurants since Bar Ama? Bar Ama doesn’t deserve this, considering it has the best queso you’ll find in the city, and off-menu puffy tacos everyone should know about.
If you’re in West Hollywood and looking for sushi, there’s a good chance you’ll end up at Sushi Fumi. Which is definitely a choice we endorse, but if you want omakase, you should also know that Fumi has gotten so busy that they only serve it at lunch now. Good thing there’s Jinpachi, which does a wonderful omakase. It’s around $150, which is definitely a lot, but a little easier to stomach in comparison to Sushi Park up the street.
Picking a place to eat on the Little Ethiopia stretch of Fairfax can be overwhelming. And while a lot of the city would direct you to Meals by Genet, we prefer a less-famous option - Messob. It’s more casual, and is home to the Super Messob Exclusive: a combo platter of 10 dishes served on a huge piece of injera bread. They’ll encourage you to hand feed whoever you came with, so maybe don’t come here on a first date. Or, maybe do?
There are a lot of restaurants in downtown Manhattan Beach that attract a bunch of hype. Fish Bar isn’t one of them. It’s a sort of fancy sports bar (because of course the sports bars in MB are semi-fancy), with better-than-average bar food. Which here means excellent fish tacos and shrimp skewers with bacon.
When Cafe Birdie opened, it quickly became the Eastside go-to for comfort food to cheer you up after a very bad week at work. And just as quickly, it kind of fell off the radar. But Cafe Birdie is still good at making food you want to eat, and also making you forget that you’ve been calling your boss the completely wrong name for the past six months. Also of note: the excellent cocktail bar out the back.