Kat’s Favorite LA Restaurants (Right Now)
photo credit: Holly Liss
Happy New Years, everyone! Well, I guess. What a wild first month. I obviously don’t need to rehash all the discourse, so I’ll stick to what I do best: Recommending restaurants and playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. From brand-new African spots to the best chocolate croissants in town, here are the five places I can’t stop ordering from. Also, add me on Animal Crossing: SW-1750-7627-0704. I need more iron nuggets.
I honestly don’t know how I haven’t written about this place yet - midday lunches, consolation meals for when I only get, like, two likes on a subpar tweet, you name it - if I need a quick, inexpensive(ish) lunch, Sushi Gen is always my first destination. Because their sashimi platter is St. Peter’s Basilica/Bellagio fountain show/Hunter Schafer’s impeccable face levels of perfection. For just $19.50, you get a fantastic selection of super-fresh fish, like tuna sashimi served three ways (normal, spicy, and slicked in sesame oil), thick cuts of tako (octopus) and hamachi, as well generous servings of rice, miso soup, and seaweed salad. Again - all of this just for $19.50. Not sold yet? Maybe I should look into making a Billy Mays-style infomercial then… Infatuation video production department, hit me up. The sashimi platter is available for lunch only, call (213) 617-0552 for takeout.
For My (And Everyone Else's, Apparently) Favorite Bagel in Town:
I don’t know what bat signal or viral TikTok went out about this place, but head to Courage Bagels any time of the week, and you’ll see approximately 20 twentysomethings in line for what is apparently the hottest breakfast in town. And for good reason. The slightly thin, super-crunchy Montreal-style bagels (which are smaller and denser than traditional New York-style ones) are fantastic, and they offer a diverse array of toppings, including hand-sliced smoked salmon, Jersey cow butter, and olive oil. Or you could opt for my personal favorite, the “run it through the garden” bagel sandwich, a heavenly mix of cream cheese, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, sea salt, capers, and dill which makes you feel like you’re inhaling the most delicious farmers market known to man. Believe the hype.
For a Simply Beautiful Lunch:
The newest place on this list by far, Mama D’s is a recently opened African restaurant in Boyle Heights. The menu is filled with excellent Cameroonian dishes by the eponymous Mama’s daughter, Claudia (the original outpost is located outside Washington D.C.), and after just one look at their menu, I knew that this was going to a place where I’d need multiple trips to try everything. But you have to start somewhere, and my first visit was a chefs kiss home run. I got the Classic African Lunch - a rich, bright-red tomato stew paired with fragrant white rice, a.k.a. the ideal meal for when you’ve been staring at a screen for way too long and need something to nurse your weak, caffeine-addled, Twitter-addicted body back to health.
For New Year's Resolutions:
One of my New Year’s goals was to up my vegetable intake. But as someone who avoids raw produce like the plague (is it still OK to say this during COVID times?) I had to get creative. Which, in this case, included me secretly stealing a juicer from my parents’ house and flying it over five hours of open ocean. And whenever I need a cornucopia of apples, greens, Meyer lemons, and a few stalks of celery (they randomly juice really well), I head to Rick’s Produce. Conveniently located a block away from Courage Bagels on Virgil Ave., this tiny produce market has everything you need for any juicing adventures you might be embarking on. Erewhon, eat your heart out.
Previously On, Kat’s Favorite La Restaurants (Right Now)
Hey all, Kat here. I hope you’re doing well/sleeping enough/not letting Twitter melt your brain, etc. A quick update on me - I’m still in quarantine (duh), I still don’t know how to cook, and I’m still eating far too much takeout food. Although I did make butter noodles for breakfast this morning… that’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, here are the five LA restaurants I can’t stop ordering from at the moment.
Twelve words: The Shrimp Mac And Cheese From Stevie’s Creole Cafe Cured My Depression. Seriously - this mix of thick-ass noodles, Cajun spice seasoning, giant globs of cheddar, peeled shrimp, and (what tastes like) approximately two sticks of butter per serving is far more effective in battling my early-onset SADs (an acronym that’s far too on the nose for me, personally) than any SSRI known to man. The gumbo’s pretty great too, and so is the red beans and rice.
I recently moved near one of Teddy’s Red Tacos’ trucks (which one, I’ll never say) - and that experience has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because I now live a mere five minutes away from some of the best birria tacos, quesadillas, mulitas, and vampiros in town. A curse, because it’s located at the bottom of a super-steep hill and I don’t always have the strength to walk back up it. Yes, I drive there sometimes. Don’t judge me. I’m very fragile.
For Jade Noodles:
Choosing a favorite Thai restaurant in LA can be as polarizing as anything in the news right now. Remember our March Madness-style LA Thai Showdown at the beginning of quarantine? While everyone else wrung their hands in indecision, trying to choose between legendary spots like Jitlada, Luv2Eat Thai Bistro, and Northern Thai Food Club, there was only one clear winner for me - Sapp Coffee Shop. Maybe it’s because it’s not really a coffee shop, or that when I was unemployed, I used to eat lunch here, like, once a week and they would let me stay as long as I need to. Maybe it’s the fact that their username was available on Twitter until two months ago, or, maybe it’s because they’re the only Thai restaurant in town that actually complies with my sad, pathetic requests for mild spice. Who knows? It’s probably a mix of all of it.
In addition to not being blessed with an incredible singing voice, one of my greatest regrets in life is not dining at Fiona, chef Nicole Rucker’s previous restaurant, before it closed. But unlike my persistent inability to hit a note correctly, the pies from Fiona live on - and can now be found at Rucker’s Grand Central Market pop-up, Fat & Flour. Whatever your measurement of worth is - time/money/stress accumulated while looking for street parking in DTLA - I can guarantee almost every baked good here more than exceeds it. The menu rotates constantly, but some of my past favorites include strawberry rhubarb pie, raw chocolate chip cookie dough, and an apple pie made with brown butter. They’re available by the slice, but why would you?
For When I Need to Have a Gorgeous California Moment (That Will Live on in My Mind, Forever Untouched):
Everyone needs at least one of these. First, you’ll pick up one of your very best friends - whom you haven’t seen in a long time (important) - from the airport. With another best friend in tow, the three of you will then make your way up the PCH, driving recklessly with the windows down and Little Mix’s “Black Magic” blaring through the car’s speakers. When you finally arrive at Neptune’s Net, you’re breathless from the singing and slightly cold from the briny sea air. The sun is setting. You head to the cash register and order the New England clam chowder - thick, creamy, and served in a sourdough bread bowl. As you take your seats at a socially distanced table, the three of you begin to munch in silence, looking out across the vast Pacific Ocean. You contemplate life’s equally endless horizon of possibilities. You’re probably holding hands and saying something corny. You’re definitely crying. Yes, this gorgeous California moment will live on in your mind, forever untouched. And maybe you should grab some popcorn shrimp for the road?
ORIGINALLY POSTED: 9/30
I’ve been getting a lot of takeout in quarantine. Like, a lot a lot. While everyone else was busy learning how to bake, showing up on KTLA, or adopting cute, one-eyed puppies, I made the brave decision to stop growing spiritually and intellectually, by refusing to acquire even a single real-life skill. (Example: Cooking.)
And while my mom would probably cry at the sight of all the takeout containers I’ve amassed over the past few months, there is one silver lining: The food. From Postmates drop-offs and in-store pick-ups to random Venmo transactions and embarrassing moments at curbside drive-thrus, if you name a pandemic-food situation, there’s a good chance I’ve been in it. Plus, I now have enough takeout containers to start an underground Tupperware store (text me for details).
So after much deliberation, I hereby present to you: An incontestable list of my five favorite LA restaurants right now. Will all of this change by next week? Probably. Like I said, I order a lot of takeout.
For a Nice Night Out (If You're Into Patios):
So… I’m still on the fence on whether or not I’m into patios. What was once a fun, simple activity has morphed into a steaming hotbed of ethical implications. Am I putting the servers at risk? Is it morally bankrupt to want to eat outdoors? And while I’m not the least bit close to answering these questions, if you, like me, are beginning to explore the world of outdoor dining, there’s no better place to start that journey than at Republique. Much like a Penn & Teller magic show, a meal at this literal cathedral of French food still feels like a well-oiled machine. The tables on the sidewalk and patio are properly spaced out, servers leave a carafe of water with you instead of stopping by to refill your glasses, and I had one of the best corn agnolottis of my life here.
While I was doing some research in Boyle Heights for my Hawaiian Shave Ice guide (you’ve read it, haven’t you?), either by divine intervention, fate, or some holy mixture of the two, I found myself a block away from Los Cinco Puntos. We’ve written about the East LA market/deli in every Best Tacos guide imaginable (which you’ve also read, right?), but it really can’t be overstated - these tacos are so f*cking good. Specifically, the ones with crackling, crispy chicharrónes placed onto homemade tortillas so thick and fluffy, it feels like you’re eating one of those weighted blankets people buy for anxiety or TikTok videos.
When I Need a Vegetable, Stat:
I don’t eat a lot of vegetables. I hate broccoli, have an adverse reaction to peas. So whenever I find myself in a particularly nutrient-destitute state, I head to Lalibela. This Little Ethiopia restaurant is one of my favorites in the area, in no small part due to their Veggie Utopia. As far as I’m concerned, The Garden of Eden’s got nothing on this heavenly, paradisiacal Erewhon (the science fiction novel, not the dystopian capitalist market). A huge spread of 14 plant-based dishes, it comes with red lentils, collard greens, sunflower seeds, and a massive amount of their spongy, slightly-sour injera flatbread. Plus, their website plays music, which is just fun.
Easily my favorite place on Earth. Seriously, I come here like, five times a week. They have an entire wall stocked with 30+ flavors of Oaxacan-style paletas, in flavors like fresa/strawberry, sandia/watermelon, and creamy leche quemada, a.k.a. smoked milk, which tastes exactly like someone took a gallon of dairy, then kippered it over an open flame. Which is all good and fine, but the ultimate popsicle here, the paleta of the palace (and my personal go-to) is their mango flavor. Made with nothing more than fresh, blended fruit (and no artificial flavoring), this sweet, tropical popsicle is simultaneously every purist’s dream and my dentist’s worst nightmare.