The Celebrity-Owned Restaurant Power Rankings
Because star power can't save all of these spots.
Whether we like it or not, celebrity sells. It doesn't matter if it's lip gloss, fragrances, or overpriced tequila––if your favorite star has their name attached to it, you might have an irrational urge to reach for your wallet. And as with any of these products, it's best to do some research before booking a splashy dinner at that one actor's new restaurant. The harsh reality: it might not be very good.
LA has plenty of famous people looking to capitalize on their face-name recognition, which means celebrity-backed spots are especially thick on the ground. So before you hand over $20 for a bowl of guacamole, we wanted to see which of these famous-by-association restaurants are worth your time. Here are our celebrity-owned restaurant power rankings.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Celebrity: Robert De Niro
With over 50 restaurants and 13 hotels worldwide, the Nobu name basically prints money at this point. Consider it the "All I Want For Christmas" of celebrity-owned hospitality groups––a smash hit that never gets old. Among the many branches of the upscale Japanese concept—co-founded by Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa—is the gorgeous location in Malibu, which remains one of the city's most recognizable restaurants a decade after opening. You're also going to spend a lot of money at this beautiful beachfront spot, but several things make it worth the pretty penny: the ornate sashimi platters, the sweet, buttery black cod entree, the sound of waves crashing beneath your feet, and the likely chance you'll brush shoulders with an A-lister who leaves you starstruck. So whether you see Nobu as a special occasion spot, tourist trap, or just an overhyped sushi option, there's no denying eating here is a pleasant experience.
Celebrity: Ryan Gosling
Apparently, some people were once upset that Ryan Gosling is nowhere to be found at Tagine, the Moroccan restaurant he invested in over a decade ago. We're sure Ryan is probably busy being an international movie star to come in for his daily cup of mint tea, but luckily enough, this Beverly Hills spot can hold its own without the celebrity hype. In many ways, Tagine is an ideal date spot: it has dark, moody lighting, plush cushions to sink into, and delicious shareable plates, like the sweet-savory chicken bastilla and the honey lamb couscous that hits you with a waft of spices and roasted shank the moment it hits the table.
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Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen
Celebrity: Issa Rae
With three locations across LA, Hilltop Coffee is a great spot to procrastinate on a laptop while sipping an iced latte. Issa Rae is a fan, too, which is why she helped open a location in her hometown right next to Inglewood City Hall. The massive split-level cafe is bright and airy, complete with lots of comfy booths, large communal tables, and motivational quotes on the wall. Hilltop is open from 8am-3pm, serving espresso drinks, hearty bowls, and an especially good breakfast sandwich filled with bacon, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and a nice drizzle of hot sauce all on a brioche bun. So you should probably come up with an excuse to do some work here soon, if not just to camp out and eat your way through their menu.
photo credit: Fat Sal's
Celebrity: Jerry Ferrara
You can't sugarcoat anything about Fat Sal's: you come to this Westwood sandwich stand to eat something so gut-bomb heavy, you'll ask to be wheelbarrowed home and dumped onto your living room couch. Inspired by overstuffed Jersey-style "fat sandwiches," the concept is co-owned by Entourage star Jerry Ferrara and has since grown into a SoCal mini-chain that's open until 3am. You're not going to find the best sandwich in LA here, but you'll find one filled with every late-night craving imaginable, including chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, fried eggs, and shaved steak. And, yes, there are salads and wraps on the menu, but those aren't going to soak up whatever you probably drank before coming to this establishment.
photo credit: Jessica Meisels
Leona's Sushi House
Celebrity: Evan Ross
Leona's Sushi House is a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant in Studio City backed by Evan Ross that feels like multiple restaurants crammed into one. There are three distinct dining areas inside–a chic, white-marbled indoor-outdoor space that feels like a bar, a barebones sushi counter, and a dark dining room with gaudy bird nest-shaped chandeliers that belong in a Vegas casino—that make choosing where to sit confusing, and things don't get easier once you open the menu. With sushi and small plates and robata skewers and lukewarm Peruvian entrees that come out way too fast from the kitchen, Leona falls victim to trying to do too much. The decent sushi rolls and sashimi were the only things that managed to grab our attention at this pricey restaurant.
photo credit: Crossroads Kitchen
Celebrity: Travis Barker
Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood is a vegan restaurant that ironically feels like a fancy steakhouse. It's also a place that swears it will change how you feel about plant-based food with its ability to create "beef short rib" out of eggplant, but it mostly falls short on that front. Crossroads (which is backed by Blink-182 drummer and Kardashian spouse Travis Barker) is just OK, with some dishes being tastier than others. The baby beet salad with salty vegan feta and artichoke oysters with kelp caviar are fairly tasty, but the campanelle pasta with Italian "sausage" is flavorless, sloshing in a watery sauce that fails to stick to the noodles. It also doesn't help that this Weho spot is quite pricey.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Celebrity: Danny Trejo
Like the first installation of his classic B movie franchise Machete, Danny Trejo's fast-casual restaurant has proven to be a massive success, and we understand why. Now with four locations across town, Trejo’s Tacos is a solid lunchtime option when you need something quick, tasty enough, and/or vegan-friendly in under 30 minutes. You can choose between tacos with charred mushroom "asada," shredded jackfruit, or some pretty underwhelming chicken tinga, but we much prefer the juicy barbacoa topped with fried tortilla strips for extra crunch. The asada taco is also a little too salty for our liking but comes with a tangy pepita pesto that sets it off like an explosion in a Robert Rodriquez film.
photo credit: Casita
Celebrity: Anderson Paak
Anderson Paak is co-owner of this Tulum-inspired Mexican spot in Sherman Oaks, and much like his high-octane live shows, Casita is a packed party place where you'll have to scream to be heard. Getting a table inside the dimly lit dining room on Ventura might be a hassle, but it's all worth it for a celebratory plate of flaming queso under a bamboo pendant light. Prices trend a bit steep (like $42 for two wagyu steak tacos or $120 for a tomahawk bathed in jalapeño butter), but there are other affordable options under $20 here. Just steer clear of the raw bar— the ceviches, crudos, and oysters we sampled were borderline inedible. If you're looking for a baller birthday dinner, Casita also offers a multi-course omakase experience for the table.
photo credit: Rock & Brews
Rock & Brews
Celebrity: Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons
Founded by two members of the face-painting '70s rock band KISS, Rock & Brews is a burger restaurant and sports bar chain that runs on extreme amounts of classic rock nostalgia. It's not exactly a groundbreaking formula—Hard Rock Cafe walked so Rock & Brews could run—but since opening its first location in 2012, the concept has expanded to 22 locations across the country. Their El Segundo flagship is home to an outdoor beer garden decorated with faux stage rigging, walls plastered in vintage album covers, waitresses who wear backstage passes as name tags, and a blaring Guitar Hero soundtrack. As a place to simply watch a game and eat standard bar food, Rock & Brews is a serviceable option, as long as you don't mind hanging with dudes in leather who look like (and might actually be) the lead singer from Creed.
photo credit: Hart House
Celebrity: Kevin Hart
It feels like Kevin Hart always has a new project coming out, which now includes ten additional locations of his vegan fast-casual restaurant Hart House in the next year. And if you're wondering why the actor-comedian has piled a plant-based chain onto his crowded plate, his flexitarian diet and previous investments in Beyond Meat might offer up some clues. Hart House's first location is a few blocks away from LAX, making it a vegan alternative to the perpetually chaotic In-N-Out down the street. And similar to a Double-Double, Hart House's Double Burg'r comes with two thin patties, caramelized onions, sweet Thousand Island sauce, and a slice of chalky vegan cheese that overpowers everything else. The plant-based chicken options are much better, including the nuggets that are shockingly similar to the McD's ones and a spicy Deluxe Crispy Chick'n sandwich with sweet, tangy slaw that we're into.
Celebrity: Cristiano Ronaldo
Tatel is a fancy chain restaurant from Spain backed by several recognizable athletes, including perennial Most Beautiful Person To Walk The Planet candidate Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, you'll never actually see him at the Beverly Hills location, instead, you'll have to focus your attention on the mediocre parade of tapas coming from the kitchen. That might include dishes like burrata in lavender vinaigrette, tuna tartare topped with fried onions, and a watery risotto. It's basically food you'd find at a clubstaurant, except Tatel isn't a clubstaurant. It's just a big regular restaurant that, save for a few hours on Saturday night, has a lot of empty tables.
photo credit: Sweet Chick
This NYC-born chicken and waffles spot landed on Fairfax a few years ago, and not even Nas could help the restaurant pique the internet of local sneakerheads. And that's probably because while the fried chicken isn't horrible, it pales in comparison to homegrown spots like Dulan's, The Serving Spoon, and Roscoe's. None of the other Southern-leaning dishes, like cheddar hush puppies or mac and cheese, stand out much, either. There is some good news, though: the big Fairfax space is more of a bar than a restaurant anyway and a decent option for last-minute drinks with a group.
photo credit: Wahlburgers
Celebrity: Mark Wahlberg
Given its name and the long-running reality show following the family behind it, you probably already know who owns this burger chain. Wahlberg brothers Mark and Donnie opened the first location with their brother Paul back in 2011, and over a decade later, it's grown into a global franchise. They have a location right at the heart of Hollywood Blvd where you can pair greasy burgers with boozy shakes, beer, and wine. It's a solid fast-food spot to take your cousins after playing tour guide at the Walk of Fame or a couple of hours at Madame Tussauds. But the most notable thing about this place is definitely its famous owners.
Celebrity: Ryan Phillippe and Evan Ross
Don't be fooled by the secretive name, this Ryan Phillippe and Evan Ross-backed restaurant in Beverly Hills is 90% tourist cheese. A meal on its giant, pink patio is like eating at a gaudy cantina in Downtown Disney—there are children running everywhere, $20 guacamole that should be $5, tables with a gimmicky "push for tequila" button, and waitstaff that deadpans, "Welcome to beautiful Rodeo Drive!" as you sit down. As for the food, there are some highlights—the savory tableside brisket birria is a solid dish to share if you're on a date—but nothing is good enough to distract you from the fact that you're in a shopping plaza surrounded by people who just got back from the Santa Monica Pier.