Becoming a regular at a restaurant isn’t as easy as walking in, saying “Hey Charlene” to the host, and being whisked away to your favorite corner table to have The Usual. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, either. Especially with this guide. Here are 14 neighborhood spots where the servers will learn your name, the bartenders will give you an extra-heavy pour of pinot, and, eventually, you won’t even need to look at a menu. Those are the perks of being a regular, after all.
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The entirety of Mignon consists of 16 seats around a square bar. Inside that bar is a single chef, who does everything from assembling cheese boards to pan frying your fantastic steak, and a bartender, who will be able to tell you what obscure Austrian pet-nat pairs best with the escargots. This underground spot in DTLA is the kind of best-kept-secret place we only share with people we really, really like, because after one visit, it’s going to become a part of their restaurant rotation, too - and we don’t like to share.
The first time we went to Jame, we felt like we had stumbled onto a secret that no one else knew about. And we still feel that way, even though the wait on Friday night tells us otherwise. This spot in an El Segundo strip mall serves up some of our favorite pasta in the city, and all of it is handmade in their tiny kitchen. Our favorites are the subtle, fantastic mushroom lasagna in bechamel and the spicy rigatoni alla vodka, but you truly can’t go wrong with any of them. There’s also some great non-pasta dishes - especially the kale salad (really) with fresh herbs and almonds, and the braised pork shank glazed with a Lambrusco-mustard sauce.
When half the restaurants in Weho feel like they’re owned - and run - by private equity firms, it can be hard to find a place that views you as anything other than a dollar sign. Unless you go to Ronan. This spot on Melrose has got Big Pizza Party Energy, except instead of screaming children, the dining room is filled with adults calmly drinking cocktails to go along with killer Neapolitan-style pies (and, sure, occasionally screaming after a few too many martinis). But pizza’s not the only thing to focus on here - the burrata with almond pesto spagnolo is an ideal way to start a meal, and the steak tartare involves fried egg and house-made potato chips.
Freedman’s is the answer to the question, “What would happen if your coolest friend opened a Jewish deli?” This comfortable Silver Lake spot somehow involves both wallpaper we suspect was designed by Gucci and electric carving knives we haven’t seen since 1995. The food, though, makes a lot more sense. If you’re here with a group, you have to order the truly remarkable glazed brisket, carved tableside, that’s big enough to split four ways. But most often, you’ll find us alone at the bar, drinking vespers, and housing a pastrami Reuben (and maybe a latke covered in cured trout, if we’re feeling really ambitious).
It’s good to have a long-term plan. And even though we’re not sure what fortune we’re going to stumble upon to achieve it, our long-term plan involves becoming a regular at Shin Sushi. Because even though this Encino strip mall omakase spot is expensive, they’re also one of the best, most soul-curing meals around. The omakase here is around $100, and will involve 12-14 pieces of simple, perfect nigiri. Chef Take-san will chat with you from behind the bar, tell you about his favorite football team, and make you want to come back this weekend for dinner. And even if two omakases in a week is a bit unrealistic, you’ll still feel like a regular here when you’re back for your next special-occasion meal.
Found Oyster combines two things we like very much: French wine bars and New England clam shacks. This tiny spot in East Hollywood feels like the kind of place where you’d get dirty looks for mispronouncing “Chablis,” but really, it’s a laid-back oyster bar where you’ll eat big plates of (off-menu, but often-available) steamers and fries, tiny plates of oysters broiled in Espelette butter, and medium-sized plates of cheesy artichoke dip. They’ve got a small menu, but when the food’s this good, you won’t mind eating the same things over and over again.
If you live in LA, it’s hard to imagine becoming a regular at a place in Santa Barbara wine country. Bell’s is a big exception. This French bistro is one of our favorite restaurants in Los Alamos - a tiny town about an hour north of Santa Barbara - and a place where you’ll feel right at home after a single visit. It’s not just that the couple who run the place will come over to your table and chat about your meal and Immanuel Kant, but because the food is truly incredible - start with the uni and caviar crepe and the steak tartare, and this will be a meal you won’t forget for a long time. And when you’re in Los Alamos again next year, chances are, they’ll remember you.
If you’re not already a regular at Hail Mary Pizza, you’ll feel like one before you even order. Because within a few seconds of walking in, the chef will greet you, tell you what special pie he’s making, and probably launch into a story about his recent motorcycle trip to the coast. This place feels like the quintessential neighborhood pizza spot: The friendly chef, the massive chalkboard menu, the possibility that they’ll send you home with a loaf of sourdough at the end of the night. You can’t go wrong with any of the pies, but our favorites are the Lord Cheesus, with six kinds of cheese, and the chorizo, honey, and pepperoncini-covered Pep Pep.
There are plenty of great Taiwanese spots in the San Gabriel Valley, but the one we find ourselves at most often is Yang’s Kitchen in Alhambra. It won’t be long into your meal before you decide you’re going to become a regular here. Because if you’re anything like us, and you order the beef scallion wrap and pork strozzapreti on your first visit, you’re still going to see a beef noodle soup come by your table and think, “Sh*t. I need to eat that, like, as soon as possible.” And so you’ll be back tomorrow, and next week, and then all of a sudden, you’re not just an imaginary regular - you’re an actual one.
Bar Restaurant looks like a typical Silver Lake spot - ironic name, big sign on Sunset, dimly lit interior - but this place is anything but. They’re a bistro where we recommend sitting at the bar, getting involved with the killer cocktails (particularly the house gin martini), and eating some truly unique French food. If it’s your first time here, you really can’t go wrong - just make sure you get the Brussels sprouts with crispy Japanese pumpkin strips. On subsequent visits, though, you’ll want to pay attention to the prix fixe. It’s three courses, and involves a rotating cast of dishes that sometimes end up on the main menu, from a mustardy lamb tartare to a crispy-skinned duck confit with blackberry vinegar - but no matter what’s on there, you’ll be happy.
A restaurant in the Hollywood Hills with one of the best views in town doesn’t exactly sound like a place where you’d become a regular (unless you’re Al Pacino). But that’s just one of the many reasons Kensho is special. It’s a natural wine and small-batch sake bar on the grounds of Yamashiro with friendly servers who are more than willing to let you taste whatever off-menu sake they just got in, and excel at making you feel like you’re hanging out at your friend’s house. Especially if your friend is extremely good at making caviar and crème fraîche toast. There are rarely more than six or seven things on the menu, so just come with a date and order everything.
We’re probably lucky that there’s usually a wait at Torihei, because if there wasn’t, we’d be here every week. And even though there’s usually a bit of a line, we still find ourselves driving down to this Torrance izakaya all the time. Because this is one of the best (and most fun) places to eat in the South Bay. They specialize in yakitori, and make their own sweet plum sauce that goes perfectly with pretty much anything: Chicken meatballs, chicken thighs, chicken heart, and non-poultry things, too. The beef tongue is also a favorite of ours - it’s perfectly crisp on the outside, but tender and pink inside. And don’t be afraid to get involved in their massive sake selection. It’s one of the best in town, and extremely affordable.
If becoming a regular at Shin Sushi is a long-term life goal, then doing so at Brent’s is a near-term one. Like, by next week, preferably. This Northridge deli somehow has a 500+ item menu, but you’ll really only need to order one thing before you decide you’re going to come back - the black pastrami Reuben. The peppery meat and tart sauerkraut blend together to create a truly ideal sandwich, and one that will make you decide to build your weekly routine around coming here every Tuesday. Or maybe that’s just us.
We’re not sure where the people who run Dudley Market find all their time. You’ll wonder, too, because by the end of the meal, one of the owners will have come over to tell you he caught the sand dab you’re eating on his boat that morning, another will come over to pour you a glass of wine from her vineyard outside Ensenada, and, somehow, they also run one of the coolest spots in Venice. Regardless, this seafood and wine restaurant right by the beach is a place where you’ll go once, and not only want to come back immediately, but also figure out how to make friends with the people who run the place.