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 about the places that get blown up for six months, until everyone collectively moves onto the newest small plate/burger/Israeli-Mexican-Japanese fusion spot? A lot of those places are still excellent.
In the spirit of championing the Dakota Fannings of the world, here is our updated Cool List, featuring once-buzzy restaurants that are still worth your time. They may no longer be “hot,” but they are definitely still cool.
A seafood restaurant on Abbot Kinney with a photogenic nautical theme was always going to be talked about. And it was, for a while, until Westsiders desperate for a new thing descended on Cassia. But we’re here to tell you that Salt Air is better than ever. It’s become a total neighborhood hangout, and everything from the steelhead trout tartare to the big bowl of mussels will keep the table happy. Just don’t forget to leave room for the monkey bread.
Back in 2015 (aka peak arcade bar zeitgeist), Button Mash opened in an Echo Park strip mall and brought with them all the retro arcade games you could ever want. But they also brought something else - excellent Chinese food. Cue the crowds. Now, the hour-long waits have subsided but your reasons to go eat dan dan noodles and play pinball till 2am has not. Button Mash is still a great place to spend a Saturday night.
There was a time when Alimento was one of the hardest tables to get in Los Angeles. And for good reason - the chicken liver crostone alone was enough to get us to willingly drive from Venice to Silver Lake. On a Thursday. And while the food is as good as it’s ever been, Alimento has relaxed into its status as a seriously excellent neighborhood restaurant. You can probably even get in tonight.
Not all that long ago, Playa Del Rey was just a sleepy beach town you passed through on your way to LAX. Then The Tripel arrived, everybody freaked out, and PDR was officially a destination. And though the crowds have died down some these days, this tiny burger and beer shack by the beach is still phenomenal. Not only is the burger one of the best you’ll find in LA, the beer list is also strong, and the low-key but fun vibe is everything you need after another torturous full day at the beach with friends.
If you’ve ever eaten a crispy brussels sprout in Los Angeles, you have Superba to thank. The original Superba Snack Bar on Rose might have closed a while back, but their Food + Bread spin-off is busier than ever (and still serves those sprouts). Daytime here continues to be insane, but at night it turns into a low-key local’s hangout where kids run around while Mom and Dad decompress over pinot gris and pasta.
If you’re one of those people who can’t handle the notion of $6 tacos, we have bad news for you - Petty Cash’s tacos are still $6. But they’re also pretty damn delicious, and Petty Cash as a whole continues to be one of the more reliable weeknight dinner spots in Beverly Grove. The colorful, graffiti-covered walls keep the upscale-ish space fun and that means you can use it for everything from a first date to a coworkers outing where somebody has to come back in the morning for their car. Also, those cauliflower nachos. Get them.
The opening of Maple Block was greeted by Culver City residents like it was the most important thing to have happened since Trader Joe’s arrived. Great barbecue, in a cool setting, and brisket of biblical proportions. All of these things still apply, except that you can now probably get a table there tonight. Just like Culver itself, there’s nothing pretentious about Maple Block, so head here for a date, dinner with the gang, or even a casual lunch.
We’ve always loved Connie & Ted’s, but when it opened in 2013, the hype was Marvel Universe-level. Gwyneth was there, Hollywood was there, and your parents wanted to go too. But now that we’re not seeing it in our Instagram feeds every five minutes, Connie & Ted’s has evolved into what it always should have been - the neighborhood seafood shack we’d cross town for.
Five years ago, 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. But 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. Since then, the room has gotten bigger, meaning less waiting, and more pizza. People who live in Santa Monica still know this place is great, and everyone else should too.
We kind of feel 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, AKA their sandwich-taco-flatbread hybrid that’s so good it now has its own fast casual spin-off in Culver City. Don’t leave without ordering 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, and that all lowercase-with-a-period name. The twist? Ink is actually great. It has since morphed into more of a steakhouse, and the food remains different but unfussy. There are still plenty of beautiful people (this is West Hollywood after all), but they’re here for the food, not the scene. Add this into your date rotation stat.
This Santa Monica golden child has (literally) risen from the ashes. A little thing like a kitchen fire and a months-long closure hasn’t stopped Tar & Roses from being the most consistent restaurant on the Westside. The menu has everything from crispy pig tails and venison loin to grilled asparagus and hangar steak, but somehow it all comes together. Get here with a group, share everything, and just try to not order the entire menu. Or maybe do.
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 that we’re pretty sure Parisians could get down with. Eight years later, things haven’t changed at this place, but half the city seems to have forgotten about it. Which means an easy reservation and more charcuterie, perfectly flipped omelettes, and steak frites for us.