Los Angeles is all about the Next Big Thing - whether it’s one of the Fanning sisters, a crazy new workout class, or - and this is where we come in - restaurants.
We get asked a lot about the best, newest places to eat around town - and for that, we can direct you over to the Hit List. But what happens to a lot of these super-hyped places once we collectively move onto the newest fusion/small plates/burger joint?
In the spirit of championing the Dakota Fannings of the world, here is The Cool List, featuring once-buzzy restaurants that are still excellent, and definitely worth your time. They may no longer be “hot”, but they definitely are cool.
We’ve always loved Connie & Ted’s, but when it opened in 2013, the hype was Marvel Universe-level. Gwyneth was there, Young Hollywood was there, your parents wanted to go too. But now that we’re not reading about it every five minutes, Connie & Ted’s has been allowed to become what it always should have been - the neighborhood seafood shack we’d cross town for.
When word got out that a former French Laundry chef was coming to the Valley to open up a BBQ joint, lines were down the block. Thankfully, that mess is all gone now. And in its wake is the same excellent BBQ spot, with a great vibe, and a new cool bar (The Fiscal Agent) upstairs.
Five years ago, a night at Milo & Olive meant incorporating a good hour of waiting on a very weird stretch of Wilshire (their closest neighbor is a tobacco shop called The Tinder Box) for a seat in a tiny room. A new restaurant from the people behind Rustic Canyon and Huckleberry was definitely something to get excited about, and the garlic knots and pizzas sealed the deal. Since then the room has gotten bigger, meaning less waiting, more pizza. People who live in Santa Monica still know this place is great, and the rest of us should too.
It probably has something to do with being on the no man’s land part of Pico in Beverly Hills, but Sotto can feel like it’s not always getting its due. It’s not flashy and downtown (cough, Bestia), it’s not an old stalwart, but it is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. Best of all, you can probably get a table tonight if you’re in the mood - not at 5:30pm on a Tuesday three months from now.
We kind of feel a bit sorry for Bäco Mercat. Basically the OG new wave DTLA restaurant, it's since been overshadowed by all the late adopters that followed it. Bäco Mercat is still our go-to casual choice in the area, and always worth your time. You're here for the Bäcos, a sandwich-taco-flatbread hybrid, and in particular The Toron: a mess of oxtail, cheddar tater tot goodness.
The opening of Ink was a publicist’s wet dream. A tattooed, good looking Top Chef winner, adventurous small plates, in the heart of the nice part of Melrose, that all lowercase-with-a-period name. The twist? Ink is actually great. The food is inventive but never too fussy and always manages to surprise. There are still plenty of beautiful people (this is West Hollywood after all), but they’re beautiful people who like food. Add this into your date rotation stat.
This Santa Monica golden child has (literally) risen from the ashes. After being hit with a very bad kitchen fire last year, many (including us) wondered if one of the most consistent restaurants on the Westside was ever going to see the light of day again. Cut to January 2016, and the American comfort food spot is back and better than it ever was before.
Another DTLA pioneer, Church & State clued us all in to the fact that the Arts District could be a food destination. Mostly by serving up the kind of French bistro food Parisians could respect. Eight years later, things haven't really changed, but half the city seems to have forgotten. Which means an easy reservation and more charcuterie, perfectly flipped omelettes, and steak frites for us.
Back when everyone was pretending they understood the final season of Lost, Culver City was celebrating the arrival of A-Frame and the unofficial beginnings of the area's legitimate restaurant scene. Except one thing: A-Frame kind of sucked. Fast forward to present day (and several iterations later) and the once Hawaiian fusion spot is all-in Hawaiian, and we love it. The vibe has always been fun and ideal for a big group dinner, but now it has the food to back it up.
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