The Ride-Along Report: First Takes From Last Night’s DinnerOur first thoughts on LA’s newest restaurants.
As you might imagine, we at The Infatuation go out to eat almost every night. To answer your FAQs about that: No, we don’t usually go as a group, because we try to divide and conquer. No, the restaurants don’t know we’re coming. Yes, we use fake names. Suggestions for those are welcome. No, we don’t have rules about ordering a specific percentage of the menu - we just order a little more than seems responsible. Yes, we pay for it all ourselves. Does that cover it? Good.
Once we’ve successfully slept off the previous day’s meat sweats, we’ll be putting our first impressions on the places we’ve been in this post. It’ll be updated as often as we eat in new places. And the best new places will end up on the Hit List as we go.
If you like following along here, you’ll probably also enjoy following our live Restaurant Review Ride-Alongs on Instagram on @infatuation_la and @infatuation. They’re like the write-ups below, but with more (possibly poorly-lit) pictures of everything we ate and amateur artistic scribblings.
What It Is: A Latin restaurant in the Fashion District
Perfect For: Date Night, Eating At The Bar, Outdoor/Patio Situation
Walking into Dama is like walking into an old colonial mansion in Cuba - there are tiled floors, wicker ceiling fans, and hanging plants everywhere you look. The menu is filled with exciting Latin, Caribbean, and Spanish dishes, like a whole soft shell crab taco, a clam & chorizo stew, and a bocadillo that’s essentially a calamari po’boy. And by “exciting” we mean the food here is really, really good. Also, two of their rum cocktails had us exactly where we wanted to be.
The Verdict: Come here for after-work drinks, stay for the food. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: An order-at-the-window pizza place in the Fashion District
Perfect For: Dining Solo, Lunch, Quick Eats
Located directly behind Dama in the Fashion District, Superfine is a walk-up pizza window from the Rossoblu/Sotto crew. This is the kind of thin, crunchy Neapolitan-style pizza that you can eat several slices of and won’t feel weighed down. You can order by the slice or by the pie here, and there’s a five-seat outdoor counter if you want to eat on the spot. On our last visit, the standouts were the escarole and red onion pizza and the spicy salami with honey. Open weekdays from 11am-3pm, with all-day hours coming soon.
The Verdict: This is fantastic Neapolitan pizza that everyone who works downtown should be eating on their lunch hour. It’s going on our Hit List.
Perfect For: Date Night, Dining Solo, Literally Everyone
In the same building as sibling-restaurant Triple Beam Pizza, Hippo is Highland Park’s newest hangout and also the newest reason why we’ve set up a 90042 Zillow alert. We visited a week after it opened and the restaurant was already buzzing with people who live in the neighborhood. The menu is full of things you want to eat right now, like crudos, interesting vegetables, and pastas - so use the friendly staff to help you figure out what dishes you’ll inevitably have to cut from your order. Having said that, you should focus on the pastas - the sweet corn cappelacci was fantastic and we’re already planning a second visit for the lasagne verde.
The Verdict: This kind-of-fancy but laid-back neighborhood spot is a winner. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A rooftop bar/restaurant in Santa Monica
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, See And Be Seen
If this place looks familiar, it’s because we wrote about it on the last Ride-Along Report. At that point, we had only gone for drinks and weren’t particularly impressed. But after a return visit that included a full dinner, we left pleasantly surprised. Bypass the forgettable small plates, and go all in on the sweet and spicy soppressata pizza and gemelli crab pasta.
The Verdict: This place is a total Santa Monica scene, but if you come here just to watch the sunset and eat a pizza, you’ll walk out unscathed.
What It Is: A hummus restaurant in Pico-Robertson from the people behind Lodge Bread Co.
Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner
This hummusiya (yes, a restaurant that specializes in hummus) run by the same people as Lodge Bread Co. combines many of our interests, like eating fantastic food and eating hummus. We stopped in a couple of weeks ago and weren’t disappointed. It’s a small space, with an even smaller front patio that serves four different types of pureed chickpeas (the wild mushroom is the best), a couple of shakshukas, and some pita sandwiches.
The Verdict: Get here for a fun lunch, casual dinner, or whenever you can - you shouldn’t need an excuse for this hummus. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: An all-day Mexican spot in Echo Park
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Drink & A Light Bite, First Dates
When we first walked into Bar Calo, it looked like it was just a bar full of people drinking and snacking. We had to fight to get a seat on the big red couch that is essentially the only place to sit in the restaurant. But we’re glad we made the effort, because all of the food was really good - like the peanut chipotle salsa, hibiscus flower quesadilla, and Oaxacan hot chicken.
What It Is: A casual Italian restaurant in an El Segundo strip mall
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Lunch
Workshop Enoteca is a tiny spot in an El Segundo strip mall that feels more like a Panera Bread than a legitimate Italian restaurant. But this is the best pasta we’ve discovered since we first ate at Felix. When we stopped in for lunch recently, we tried everything from the squid ink bavette to the beef cheek scarpinocc, and we haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
The Verdict: This is the kind of pasta you drive across the city for. It’s going straight on to the Hit List.
What It Is: A French restaurant on the Sunset Strip
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, People Watching
There are a lot of terrible restaurants on the Sunset Strip, and while Tesse isn’t one of them, it also isn’t one of the best. This is a sleek operation in the same building as the new Fred Segal flagship, with a nicely-designed interior, good service, and mostly forgettable food. Nothing we ate here was bad, but apart from the desserts, nothing was outstanding either.
The Verdict: If you need somewhere to eat with your agent that won’t put you to sleep, this is a good option.
What It Is: A craft brewery on the 3rd Street Promenade
Perfect For: Outdoor/Patio Situation
This is a craft brewery on the top floor of the Santa Monica Place shopping center. The space is big and modern, and the beer is decent enough, but there came a point when we were sitting on the patio that we asked ourselves, “Why are we drinking craft beer in a mall food court in Santa Monica?” Unless you’re with your out-of-town cousins and need a break from the off-key performers on The Promenade, there aren’t many good answers to that question.
The Verdict: Come here only if you’re in downtown Santa Monica and need to get away from the hoards of screaming tourists. Otherwise, you can skip it.
What It Is: The second location of one of our favorite Australian cafes in LA
Perfect For: Breakfast, Keeping It Kind Of Healthy, Lunch
The first Paramount Coffee Project on Fairfax is an Australian cafe that feels just like a daytime spot in Sydney or Melbourne - without any people going out of their way to call you mate. When we checked out their new location in DTLA’s Row development, we found a spot with a pretty similar feel, even if it is four times the size of the original, with completely different food. The menu has a mix of breakfast stuff (like coconut oats) and lunch options (like an excellent tea leaf salad), but the best thing we ate was the curried egg salad and ham breakfast sandwich that you should order no matter the time of day.
The Verdict: A fantastic daytime cafe with an interesting menu. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A casual Southeast Asian spot in Palms
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Cheap Eats
We stopped into this small restaurant in a Palms strip mall barely a week after they opened and the place was already slammed. And for good reason - it’s a nice little neighborhood spot in a neighborhood without a whole lot of those. The food is Southeast Asian-inspired fusion: garlic egg noodles come topped with parmesean, Lao beef luc lac comes out looking more like Peruvian lomo saltado, and there’s also a burger on the menu.
The Verdict: This is a great spot for a quick and tasty meal in Palms.
What It Is: A meat-heavy restaurant in DTLA with a bunch of offal on the menu
Perfect For: Adventurous Eating
This Spring St. spot is an interesting new DTLA dinner option. The food - including a truly enormous $120 tomahawk steak - is pretty good. But the service is overbearing, the metal stools and white tiled walls feel pretty generic, and the meat-heavy menu is a bit all over the place. There’s everything from fantastic chicken liver mousse to beef heart tartare to a pretty straightforward burger.
The Verdict: This place is a bit confusing. The space is casual, but the menu is full of stuff you’d expect to eat on a big night out. If your priority is trying a new spot downtown, maybe bring an adventurous eater or get there for their weeknight Happy Hour.
What It Is: A new restaurant from the people behind one of our all-time favorite Thai restaurants
Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner, Lunch, Serious To-Go Situation
Noree Thai is the latest restaurant from the Luv2Eat people, which was enough of a reason to get us in the door. Noree’s menu is similar to the original Hollywood spot, with a few new items like the massaman lamb chops and no-lae chicken (herb-rubbed in a sweet and sour sauce) that need to be on your table. The casual space is small, but can still handle big groups, and there’s a front patio where we enjoyed watching people spend $300 on groceries at Erewhon across the street.
The Verdict: The best new Thai restaurant in the area - and probably the city. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: An all-day cafe in West Adams
Perfect For: Lunch, Coffee & A Light Bite
Highly Likely is a new cafe on a quiet part of Jefferson in West Adams. One of the owners is also behind Cafe Gratitude, but this isn’t a place with kelp noodles and mantras - it’s just a great neighborhood spot that’s only a few weeks old and already very busy. The menu has things like salads, grain bowls, and burritos, but the best thing we ate was the enormous crispy fish sandwich. Actually, the hot sauce they make in-house - which should be generously poured on everything and everyone - might be the best part.
The Verdict: A great addition to the neighborhood, and a place worth visiting even if you’re nowhere near the neighborhood. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: The second location of a modern Indian restaurant
Perfect For: First/Early In The Game Dates, Casual Midweek Dinner
Badmaash has been cooking some of our favorite modern Indian food for several years now, and they just opened a second location on Fairfax Ave. At the moment, their menu is identical to their original spot, and that means we ordered the chicken tikka poutine, butter chicken samosas, and spicy lamb burger. They were just as good. The space is bright and crowded and already feels like a party.
The Verdict: A great new casual dinner option for Mid-City.
What It Is: A new izakaya in Little Tokyo
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Guys Night
The people from Far Bar, our staple dive bar in Little Tokyo, opened up a new izakaya that specializes in sake and Japanese craft beer. When we stopped by recently, most people here were drinking with friends at the very long bar. If you’re hungry, we liked the simple karaage and raw bar stuff.
The Verdict: A Little Tokyo izakaya that’s ideal if you want to drink hard-to-find sake.
What It Is: An upscale Italian restaurant on W 3rd St.
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, See And Be Seen
N. 10 is a very W 3rd St. restaurant. The dining room is nicely designed, but you don’t really get a sense that a human designed it. The menu is very familiar, and there are a bunch of people here who have auditioned for The Bachelor multiple times. It’s also owned by a former soccer player (his number was 10), and the all-Italian staff are so nice that you won’t be surprised if they pull up a chair halfway through the meal. We liked that part about it, but the food is ultimately pretty forgettable.
The Verdict: Not offensive, but not a place worth seeking out.
What It Is: A new steakhouse in Hollywood
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, Dinner With The Parents, Guys Night
Unless you’re seeing a musical at Pantages or got tricked into a dinner at Katsuya with your friend who still likes clubbing, there are few good reasons to be at Hollywood and Vine. Add APL to the good reason list. This is a fancy steakhouse that doesn’t feel like a typical fancy steakhouse: Jimi Hendrix is playing on the loudspeaker, the waitstaff is energetic and not taking things too seriously, and there’s something called Fuck Dat Fries on the menu that surprisingly doesn’t make you hate the place.
The Verdict: A tremendous upscale steakhouse in a part of Hollywood where you wouldn’t expect one. We’re putting it on our Hit List.
What It Is: An all-day restaurant in Los Feliz
Perfect For: Breakfast, Date Night, Outdoor/Patio Situation
All Time opened up on Hillhurst in Los Feliz as a daytime-only spot in a neighborhood that never gets tired of daytime-only spots. And while we liked All Time when it first opened, their recently-added dinner menu (Thursday-Sunday only) has taken this casual cafe and turned it into a place where we’ll be eating once a week. There’s an extensive wine list, a focaccia and pork shoulder that will change you, and the kind of outdoor patio you’ll only want to tell people that you like about.
The Verdict: All Time is the best restaurant to open in Los Feliz in a long time. We’re putting it on the Hit List.
What It Is: The rooftop bar/pool at The Nomad downtown
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Day Drinking
When Nomad’s rooftop first opened, it was only available to guests staying in the hotel. But now with a few months under their belt, they’ve opened the place up to everyone. The big space has great downtown views, excellent service, tremendous cocktails, and when we were there, a low-key crowd of people pretending to be more sober than they really are.
The Verdict: A hotel pool bar with a great crowd and even better cocktails. It’s going on our Bar Hit List.
What It Is: A coffee shop with good food in Historic Filipinotown
Perfect For: Breakfast, Coffee & A Light Bite
Doubting Thomas is another well-designed coffee shop with plants in every corner, lots of natural light, and fancy granola on the menu. But the rest of the food isn’t the kind-of-healthy stuff you’d expect - they serve a good pork shoulder breakfast burrito and a truly excellent sausage breakfast sandwich on a biscuit. When we stopped in the place was busy with people working, having a late breakfast, or escaping the office for lunch.
The Verdict: A great new place for a chilled-out breakfast. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: The pool bar at Hotel Figueroa Downtown
Perfect For: Day Drinking
The Hotel Figueroa downtown recently completed a massive renovation, and its new Spanish colonial/Medieval chic aesthetic is pretty great. That said, we recently checked out their newest pool bar, Rick’s, and it’s much less impressive. Due to its ground floor location, your only real view is of the neighboring Residence Inn, the drinks are pretty pricey, and the crowd is mostly scattered out-of-towners who are looking to get as drunk as possible before walking over to LA Live next door.
The Verdict: Unless you’re staying at the hotel, you don’t need to come here.
What It Is: A vegetable-heavy brunch and dinner spot on Main St. in Santa Monica
Perfect For: Brunch, Date Night, Girls Night Out
Main St. has plenty of bars full of recent USC grads, but not so many cool, neighborhoody places to eat. Little Prince, in the old Fork in the Road space, is changing that. We had a good, though inconsistent dinner - starters like salmon rillette and brussels sprouts were fantastic, and while the seasoning on the wood-fired lamb ribs was excellent, they were also way too chewy to eat. But with excellent cocktails, relaxed service, and the ability to walk in and hang out at the bar, we’ll be back to see how things progress. And to try brunch.
The Verdict: An interesting neighborhood spot in a part of town that needs more of them.
What It Is: A second, bigger, all-day Valley location of the tiny Hollywood French spot
Perfect For: Breakfast, People Watching
You’ll probably end up living in the Valley one day (if you already haven’t), in a house twice the size and half the price of your current apartment. Petit Trois has done some similar math and opened a second location in Sherman Oaks that’s open all day. One visit here and we were already looking at realtor listings nearby. Unlike the strip mall original, this place has a big dining room and actual tables, but still feels like you’ve been airlifted to Paris. And the new breakfast menu is fantastic. The Mec Muffin was the best thing we’ve eaten before noon all year, and the croissants were perfect (which is good because they are also $6 each). We’ll be back to try the expanded dinner menu soon. And to move into our new house down the street.
The Verdict: Sherman Oaks residents, this is your new local. Everyone else, get familiar with Laurel Canyon. This is going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A second location of the Highland Park craft brewery
Perfect For: Drinks & A Light Bite, Day Drinking
Highland Park Brewery has always been one of our favorite places to drink craft beer in LA. So when they announced the opening of a new space in Chinatown, we were excited. Good news, it’s great. Located in a converted warehouse across the street from LA State Historic Park, the place is twice the size as their original HP space, with plenty of tables for big groups, a dog-friendly front patio facing the park, and their first dedicated tasting room inside. We also some delicious cheese curds. This is where you need to be drinking before a Dodgers Game.
The Verdict: Fantastic beer in a big space that we could (and will) spend all day drinking in. We’re putting it on our Bar Hit List.
What It Is: An East Coast-inspired oyster bar in DTLA
Perfect For: Lunch, Dining Solo
Row DTLA, a.k.a. the old American Apparel factories, a.k.a. that big cluster of empty buildings where Smorgasburg happens, is starting to fill up with new tenants. And their newest tenant, Rappahannock Oyster Co., is where we want to be eating every day this summer. The industrial space has a huge patio and fresh oysters that are flown in daily from the Chesapeake Bay, but it’s the rest of the menu that really impressed us on a recent visit: lobster rolls, beet salads, trout dip, and an oyster po’boy you’ll want two of.
The Verdict: Fantastic seafood in a bright space that’s perfect for lunch. We’re putting it on the Hit List.
What It Is: A Middle Eastern restaurant in the Arts District from the same team as Bestia
Perfect For: Date Night, Impressing Out Of Towners, People Watching
An update that probably won’t shock you: the new restaurant from the people behind Arts District OG Bestia is incredible. They’d been open just over a week when we visited, but the dining room was packed and the whole operation was already running very smoothly. Like Bestia, Bavel is in a converted warehouse, but this one feels less like a dark abandoned factory - it’s bright, and filled with greenery and booths. All of which will blur quickly into the background once the food starts arriving. Everything we tried, from the hummus to the flatbread to the grilled prawns to the enormous lamb neck shawarma was fantastic. Reservations are already pretty impossible to come by, so be prepared to eat at 10pm on a weeknight, or be waiting to get in until July.
The Verdict: It’s already going to be tough to get into Bavel, but definitely find a way to do so. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A modern Spanish restaurant in Redondo Beach
Perfect For: Date Night
Gabi James is a new Spanish restaurant in Redondo Beach that we’re excited about. Located just a few blocks from the beach, this bright space has a lively atmosphere, fantastic cocktails, and a menu that feels different. The oxtail ragu comes on a bed of fried penne that might remind you of eating a bowl of French fries (this is a good thing), and the tortilla Espanola is a giant piece of potato cake that we can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re looking for a new date spot in the South Bay, Gabi James is a great option.
The Verdict: Excellent Spanish food in a modern space by the beach. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A fancy cocktail bar/restaurant in West Hollywood
Perfect For: Girls Night Out, People Watching
In the West Hollywood space that used to be Baby Blue’s BBQ, Employees Only is a fancy cocktail bar/restaurant originally from New York. When we stopped in recently, we found a dimly-lit space that feels like a luxury airport lounge from the 1970s - but one that’s predominantly filled with CW actors. Skip the generic food menu as it’s overpriced and not very good, and concentrate solely on the cocktails. Because those are fantastic.
The Verdict: An excellent cocktail bar for actors and those who enjoy looking at actors. We’re putting it on our Bar Hit List.
What It Is: An upscale Southern restaurant in The Beverly Center
Perfect For: Big Groups, After-Work Drinks
For this week’s edition of Which New Restaurant Opened Inside The Beverly Center, we checked in on Yardbird. Located on the ground floor of the forever-being-renovated mall, this upscale Southern restaurant originally from Miami has a nice-enough space, but unfortunately, the food just isn’t very good. The restaurant, which also has locations in Vegas and Singapore, is best known for its chicken and waffles. Here, it’s not a terrible dish, but it’s also one you aren’t going to remember in a half hour. And the same goes for everything else on the menu.
The Verdict: If you work at Cedars and need a corporate environment for after-work drinks with coworkers, Yardbird will do the trick. Otherwise, you can skip it.
What It Is: A second location of the Melrose Place staple Croft Alley, inside The Standard Hollywood
Perfect For: Breakfast, Casual Weeknight Dinner, People Watching
The original Croft Alley on Melrose Place is one of the best daytime eating spots in West Hollywood, so it’s not surprising that The Standard Hollywood has brought them in-house to take over the restaurant at the Sunset Strip hotel. The space looks the same as it did when this was Alma - like a very cool Scandinavian diner - but now the menu is Croft Alley classics like the lettuce wraps, yoghurt with chlorophyll, and triple chocolate cookies we’ll go out of our way to eat. Because they’re open all day, they’ve also added bigger dishes like chicken pho, a cheeseburger, and prime rib. Breakfast is the best time to check this place out - there aren’t many places on this part of Strip where you can get an excellent breakfast for under $20.
The Verdict: A great place for good, not-too-expensive food on the Sunset Strip.
What It Is: A brewery and casual restaurant in Sherman Oaks
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Drinks & A Light Bite
The newest beer-focused spot from the people behind Mohawk Bend is in Sherman Oaks, and it’s already packed - when we went, we saw parents with babies in high chairs, couples on dates, people grabbing a quick solo meal, and lots of friends catching up. This place is clearly a crowd pleaser, which we suspect has a lot to do with the beer - they brew a bunch of Belgian-style beers in-house and have an interesting selection of outside beers on tap. There’s also a lot of Belgian food, and while they’ll probably tell you to get the moules frites, we’d go for the fantastic roast chicken - the rest of the menu isn’t super interesting.
The Verdict: Worth checking out for a beer and a snack, but don’t travel just for the food.
What It Is: An izakaya and takeout spot in DTLA
Perfect For: Lunch
In a not-quite-finished, but also kind of pleasant mixed-use development at 7th and Flower, Hatch is a jumble of concepts. Up front, they have a build-your-own bento box counter, where you can get three yakitori sticks on top of rice or salad, add some vegetables, and end up with a pretty solid meal for $11. At the back of the space is a full-service restaurant, with the same yakitori options, plus sashimi dishes and larger entrees, and drinks. After visiting this place, we’d recommend you go the bento box route - the restaurant is expensive, and you have to order a lot to end up full.
Verdict: If you stick to the bento boxes, this a great spot for lunch in DTLA.
What It Is: A modern Indonesian restaurant in Little Tokyo
Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner, First/Early In The Game Dates
We checked out Kasih for dinner, and though its bright space at the bottom of a giant mixed-user in Little Tokyo feels a bit corporate, the food is anything but. From the sambal platter (Indonesian chips and dips) to the vegetable curry to the spicy slaw, everything we tried on Kasih’s menu was both interesting and delicious. It’s a casual place, with a huge front patio, making it an excellent choice for a big group dinner before a night out downtown.
Verdict: Fantastic modern Indonesian food. We’re putting Kasih on our Hit List.
What It Is: A piano bar in Hollywood
Perfect For: Girls Night Out, Drunk Hookups
Sometimes you walk into a place and immediately know it got everything right. Tramp Stamp Granny’s is that place. The piano bar on Cahuenga has fantastic cocktails, a 1920s art deco interior, and a crowd looking get rowdy. But that’s not what makes this place truly special. That award goes to the guy at the piano, singing everything from ABBA to Frank Sinatra to Mary J. Blige, and encouraging everyone inside the bar to sing along with him. Tramp Stamp Granny’s doesn’t even feel like a bar - it feels like the best cast party of all time. And if you don’t know what that means, you should go to TSG and find out.
Verdict: One of the best bars to open LA in a long time. It’s going on our Bar Hit List.
What It Is: A new plant-based cafe in Silver Lake
Perfect For: Lunch, Vegetarians
Jewel is a plant-based cafe in Silver Lake with an interesting menu ranging from kelp pad thai to something called charcoal pizza. But our recent visit to this all-day spot resulted in a meal that wasn’t very interesting - the yuba sheet wraps and that charcoal pizza were pretty bland. That said, the bright space is nice and casual, so if you’re a vegetarian or vegan or you just want some avocado toast, you’ll be happy enough here for a quick lunch.
Verdict: We won’t be rushing back, but it’s a decent lunch option for vegetarians and vegans.
What It Is: An all-day American spot on Robertson Blvd
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, People Watching
Robertson Blvd. is a street where looks matter, even if the street is long past its Spot The Hilton In A Kitson heyday. While most of the storefronts are now empty, The Henry seems like it’s trying to bring things back to the glory days of 2006, and certainly has attracted every person with an entertainment-adjacent job in a one-mile radius. We dropped in for lunch and found a beautiful dining room and a boring place to eat. The menu is a hodgepodge of everything from salads to dumplings to pasta to poke - and everything we tried was forgettable. Plus, the service was pretty overbearing (with way too many check-ins), which only increased our need to get out as quickly as possible.
Verdict: Come here if being seen is very important to you. Otherwise, skip it.
What It Is: A farm-to-table restaurant inside the Beverly Center
Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents
Throw a stone in this city and you’ll hit a restaurant calling itself farm-to-table, but Farmhouse, a huge new place inside the Beverly Center, is taking the concept a step further - instead of an Executive Chef, they have an Executive Farmer. In practice, this seems to mean a guy who tells the kitchen what’s in season. Despite being at the bottom of LA’s least-interesting mall, the space is beautiful, and will immediately make you forget about said mall altogether. But apart from a fantastic chicken liver toast, the food we tried (like a whole-roasted cauliflower and mushroom pizza) wasn’t worth going out the way for.
Verdict: You won’t have a bad meal here, but you also won’t have a memorable one.
What It Is: An order-at-the-counter Taiwanese spot in Highland Park
Perfect For: Lunch, Dining Solo, Quick Eats
Located right on York Blvd. in Highland Park, Joy is a fast-casual Taiwanese spot from the people behind another excellent fast-casual Taiwanese spot, Pine & Crane. While we noticed some menu crossover between the two when we visited, there are plenty of new and fantastic things on Joy’s menu - namely, the chiayi chicken, a.k.a. chicken rice, which was easily the best thing we tried.
Verdict: Excellent Taiwanese food in a casual setup that’ll get you back to work on time. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A modern Indian restaurant in Santa Monica
Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner, First/Early In The Game Dates
Tumbi recently opened right off the 3rd Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. This isn’t an area of town typically known for thrilling food options, but after stopping into this modern Indian spot, we can say this is the most exciting new Indian restaurant we’ve tried since Badmaash. The menu is fantastic and inventive, with everything from prawn masala to a pani puri that ends with you pouring tamarind-mint water into a puff pastry.
Verdict: A 3rd Street Promenade-adjacent restaurant we’re actually excited about. It’s on the Hit List.
La Morra Pizzeria
Perfect For: Date Night, Literally Everyone
La Morra Pizzeria isn’t really a restaurant - it’s a portable pizza oven, built on the back of a trailer, that shows up on Tuesdays at Hayden in Culver City, and Thursdays at Tabula Rasa in Hollywood. We stopped into Hayden on a Tuesday, when the place was busy with people on dates or catching up with friends, and every table had at least one of La Morra’s fantastic Neapolitan pizzas. There are only five or so pizzas a night, with fairly simple toppings (Margherita, Funghi, Carbonara), but they’re close to perfect - chewy and charred dough, and just the right size to save a couple of pieces for lunch tomorrow.
Verdict: Really fantastic Neapolitan pizza that’s worth seeking out. This is going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A second location of Sticky Rice, the fantastic Thai spot in Grand Central Market
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Lunch
We’d go through a lot for Sticky Rice’s panang curry, including dealing with the crowds at Grand Central Market. Luckily, now we can skip the busloads of tourists and head to this Thai spot’s second location in Echo Park. They’ve taken over a corner spot on Sunset, with tables spread over two rooms and a front patio that was even habitable during last week’s rain. And while the original location only serves a few things, this new spot’s menu has pages of Thai classics. Any visit here should absolutely include the deep fried roti with green curry. Also known as our favorite new way to eat roti.
Verdict: A great new spot to add into your Echo Park lunch rotation.
What It Is: An order-at-the-counter dumplings spot in Highland Park
Perfect For: Lunch, Dining Solo, Quick Eats
Mason’s Dumpling Shop has only been open for a month or so, but come any day for lunch, and expect to wait a half hour on the sidewalk. Everybody’s lining up because this order-at-the-counter strip mall spot is serving some incredible dumplings - as well as an excellent hanger steak bao sandwich and a spicy seaweed salad we’re still thinking about. Service is quick once you’re inside, prices are affordable, and there’s a serious to-go operation as well. We predict the lines at Mason’s are only going to get longer.
Verdict: These are dumplings that are worth the wait. Mason’s is going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A second, much bigger location of the Pico-Arlington pasta spot Pasta Sisters
Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Outdoor/Patio Situation
We’d eat at Pasta Sisters in Pico-Arlington a lot, except it’s basically impossible to get a seat (or a parking spot) at their tiny strip mall location. The new location in the Helms Bakery complex fixes both problems. But despite what feels like 10 times more space (including two really nice patios) at this order-at-the-counter spot, they’ve kept all the charm of the original. Alongside the pasta, they’re serving sandwiches, plus a few new dishes just for this location, like a fantastic beef stew with polenta, and in a couple of weeks will have their beer and wine license.
Verdict: Come here for excellent pasta in a casual setting. It’s going on the Hit List.
What It Is: A new French restaurant in Studio City
Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents, Date Night
We recently checked out Montresor, the new French restaurant on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. The design scheme falls somewhere between a Versailles parlor room and your grandmother’s attic, and they serve an edible bag of chocolate-covered pop rocks with your bread and butter. But the rest of the menu reads very traditional: bib lettuce salad, coq au vin, and profiteroles. Everything we tried was solid, though not particularly impressive. If you do come, get the crab cakes - they’re the best thing here.
Verdict: A solid option if you’re looking for a left-of-center date night spot in the Valley.
What It Is: A fancy tasting menu restaurant in Beverly Hills
Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents, Fine Dining, Special Occasions
Maude used to serve an expensive tasting menu based off a single ingredient (usually a fruit or vegetable or nut) that changed every month. But as of January, things have changed. The menu is now based off a specific wine region, and on our visit, it was the Rioja region of Spain. We loved the novelty of the old Maude, but this new menu feels more practical - it allows for a greater variety of food, and the menu only changes four times a year. As for the rest of the restaurant, the casual French sidewalk cafe feel remains, as does the overall meal structure - save for the very beginning, which now has you starting inside their wine cellar. Speaking of, the wine pairing isn’t cheap (it starts at $125, on top of the $125 meal price), but you get seven pairings, and it’s well worth the money if you’re ready to throw down for a special experience.
What It Is: A cafe inside a fashion store on Melrose Place
Perfect For: Keeping It Kind Of Healthy, People Watching
We stopped into Cafe Flora last week to see what a cafe inside a high-end accessory store on Melrose Place would be like. Mansur Gavriel makes very fancy handbags, so we weren’t really sure what to expect, other than a place that looks beautiful. Which it was. There are white cafe tables and waitstaff dressed in flowing beige linen. But the food is pretty boring and expensive. Also, there were at least two photo shoots happening while we ate lunch.
Verdict: Skip it, unless you need an avocado toast break in between buying expensive bags.
What It Is: A divey neighborhood bar in Eagle Rock
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Late Night Eats
Despite all the bar action that’s been happening in Highland Park these days, its next door neighbor Eagle Rock has been a bit slow on the uptake. But after a recent visit to Walt’s Bar, it’s clear that’s changing. The new neighborhood spot calls itself an arcade bar, but good news - it’s not an arcade bar. It’s a retro dive with a row of pinball machines in the back. There’s also a great crowd that’s down to get rowdy, a popcorn machine that takes quarters, and a late-night food menu that reads like the concessions at a middle school basketball game.
Verdict: This retro bar is a fantastic place to grab a drink in Eagle Rock. We’ve added it to the Bar Hit List.
What It Is: An all-day cafe attached to Sawyer in Silver Lake
Perfect For: Lunch, Dining Solo
We checked out Scout, the new all-day spot attached to Sawyer in Sunset Junction, and found a bright space about the size of a deluxe janitorial closet. There are a few tables outside on the sidewalk, and if you want to sit inside Sawyer and eat, you can do that too. But Scout is very much a to-go operation. The menu is full of things people like to eat at lunch like grain bowls and kale salads, but their sandwiches and toasts are where you should put your focus. Also, their breakfast burrito is very good.
Verdict: A solid lunch spot with affordable prices that’s ideal if you’re short on time.
What It Is: A casual Mexican spot on the edge of Chinatown
Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner
Tirsa’s is a good new lunch option on the southern edge of Chinatown, in the same complex as a Subway and across the street from a Burger King. So it’s not surprising that there was a stream of local office people stopping in to this Mexican place when we visited - picking up tacos to-go, sharing some loaded steak fries, or having quiet time over a cilantro-lime chicken plate in the corner.
Verdict: Good, casual Mexican to know about if you’re in the area.
What It Is: A new pizza-by-the-slice spot in Highland Park
Perfect For: Dining Solo, Cheap Eats
After a recent stop into Triple Beam, we can tell you this order-at-the-counter spot in Highland Park (opened by Nancy Silverton and the Everson Royce Bar people) is serving some of the best new pizza LA has seen in a while. It’s Roman-style, meaning the pieces are rectangular and cut by scissors, everything is priced per ounce, and you dictate the size of your piece simply by holding up your hands. And since there are only five different pizzas, you can order the whole menu for under $30. There’s also a great back patio and plenty of wine, making this a great, low-key spot to grab dinner with friends.
Verdict: This is some of the best new pizza to hit LA in quite some time. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
Perfect For: People Watching, Casual Weeknight Dinner
Venice isn’t exactly a hotbed of quality Thai restaurants, so it’s a big deal that one of LA’s best Thai spots, Night + Market, just opened their third location down near the beach. We visited on a Saturday night a week after opening, and abandoned our plans when faced with an hour and a half wait. We walked right in on Monday night at 6pm, although 30 minutes later they were already full. So plan ahead. Menu-wise, much is the same as at the original - fantastic Thai food with a modern twist (the personal-sized peking duck pizza did not disappoint, and yes they do have the fried chicken sandwich), and the atmosphere is both a party and family-friendly.
Verdict: An excellent, much-needed place for quality Thai on the Westside. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A modern Japanese restaurant in the Arts District
Perfect For: Big Groups, Birthdays
Inko Nito is a new Japanese restaurant in the Arts District, and while the massive space is very pretty to look at, the food is very mediocre. The menu is robata-style, meaning everything is slow-cooked in a giant charcoal grill in the middle of the restaurant, which, again, is very pretty to look at. There were highlights like the beef short rib and coconut soft serve at the end, but ultimately, we didn’t eat anything we would drive back to the Arts District for. This place seems more geared towards big groups of club-goers looking for familiar food before a night out than anything else.
Verdict: You probably don’t need to try this place. Unless you’re here for the after party.
What It Is: A new modern Korean-ish restaurant in Chinatown
Perfect For: Big Group Dinners, Impressing Out-Of-Towners
Majordomo is a new restaurant in Chinatown from the team behind Momofuku, the group of Korean-inspired restaurants born in NYC. Getting a table here is harder than getting tickets to Beyonce’s Coachella right now, but know that it’s worth the wait. The drinks are excellent, the service is already a well-oiled machine, and the menu, while a bit all over the place, is soul-curingly fantastic. Focus on the bing section (grilled bread and dips), the vegetables, and the section where everything is just massive cuts of meat that feed four to six people. Definitely come to Majordomo with a group.
Verdict: A tremendous new restaurant that feels different than anything else in LA right now. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: The main restaurant at the new NoMad Hotel in DTLA
Perfect For: Date Night, People Watching, Special Occasions
The NoMad is a fancy hotel from New York, and its LA location just opened downtown. It includes two restaurants, three bars, and a whole lot of velvet. It’s very over-the-top, and also entirely fun. The upstairs restaurant, The Mezzanine, is the main event, and serves a bunch of famous dishes from the NYC original, including a roast chicken for two with truffle stuffed under the skin. We checked this place out barely two weeks after opening, but the whole operation already feels like a well-oiled machine, with fantastic food, excellent service, and a crowd that ranges from people doing after-work business drinks to dates sharing one of the cocktails for two that comes served in a giant rooster.
Verdict: A fantastic, very not-boring spot for a special occasion dinner. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A new brewery/restaurant/coffee shop in DTLA from Modern Times (the beer company)
Perfect For: Craft Beer, Day Drinking
If we could eliminate the word dankness from the English vocabulary, we would. But we can’t, so here we are with The Dankness Dojo, and at least this new downtown brewery/restaurant/all-day coffee shop from Modern Times (the beer company) is still great. The colorful space is big and open, filled with a low-key crowd all there to do one thing - drink really good beer. The plant-based/vegan food menu is, unfortunately, not very good, so we’d recommend eating elsewhere.
Verdict: A cool space serving excellent craft beer. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.
What It Is: The Marina Del Rey location of one of our favorite places for seafood
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner
If you’ve read our review of the original Coni’Seafood, then you know that we’re big fans of this seafood-heavy Mexican restaurant. We went to check out their new Marina Del Rey location and found an industrial space, and the same great menu. That said, we also experienced very slow service (our dinner lasted about an hour longer than it needed to) that we’ll chalk up to there being two servers and an almost-full house. In terms of food, go straight for the marlin tacos, the fried fish, and any of the shrimp dishes. This will most likely end up as a place that’s perfect for a casual midweek dinner with a few friends, as soon as it has time to work out some operating kinks.
Verdict: Great food, but still needs some time before it makes the Hit List.
What It Is: An Australian cafe on Melrose
Perfect For: Breakfast, Coffee & A Light Bite
When yet another Australian cafe opens, we generally get there pretty quickly - and not just because one of us is Australian and misses good coffee more than you could ever know. Point Five is the newest place that wants to show you the wonder that is Aussie breakfast. Mostly that means fat slabs of bacon, a fried egg sandwich that fills you up but won’t make you feel like you need to run it off immediately after eating it, and a better-than-the-weird-version-they-make-at-Starbucks flat white. On our visit, it was quiet, even with most tables filled (half of them with fellow Australians looking for something familiar), making this an ideal spot for a low-key meal or coffee.
Verdict: A nice place for a quiet and delicious breakfast, especially if you live nearby.
What It Is: An Echo Park coffee shop that serves good food
Perfect For: Lunch, Keeping It Kind Of Healthy
When we dropped into this little coffee shop recently, we immediately thought of Destroyer. Similar minimalist menu, similar bowls containing hidden things, same coffee machine that looks like a spaceship. Which all makes sense, considering that the chef used to work at Destroyer. This place has more of a neighborhood hangout feel, with the added bonus of serving great food. The menu changes regularly, and is heavy on the fancy salads. We particularly liked the little gems with avocado and an XO dressing we’d happily eat on its own.
Verdict: This is a great spot when you’re in the mood for a not-boring salad. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A rum distillery in the Arts District
Perfect For: Left-Of-Center Date Night
Lost Spirits is a new rum distillery in the Arts District and before you say you gave up rum in college or have little interest in understanding how it’s made, let us stop you. Lost Spirits is not just a distillery. It’s an art installation/jungle cruise/science experiment, with plenty of drinking, and it’s one of the coolest experiences you’ll find in LA right now. In an effort to let you be as awestruck as we were, we’ll withhold any specific details, but just know the $35 admission price is beyond worth it. Each tour lasts around 90 minutes, and you should book tickets well in advance on their website.
Verdict: A must-experience whether you’re into rum or not. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.
What It Is: A new Highland Park cocktail bar
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Big Groups
Over the weekend, we checked out Checker Hall and found exactly where you need to be planning your next big group bar outing. Located on the second floor of a former Masonic Lodge, the space is really just one giant room with big booths and a triangular bar in the middle. But the crowd is low-key, the cocktails are fantastic, and if you get hungry, there’s a solid food menu. It also has a great balcony overlooking Figueroa, and a separate live music venue in the back.
Verdict: A great bar with a cool crowd, good music, and even better drinks. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.
What It Is: A new cafe in Los Feliz
Perfect for: Breakfast, Coffee And A Light Bite
All-Time looks more like a cool coffee shop than an actual restaurant, but this new spot on Hillhurst serves great breakfast food you should keep in mind when you don’t want to wait for any of the nearby brunch spots. Order your breakfast burrito at the counter, then head out to their shady patio. It’s the kind of place you could read the paper (or your phone) while drinking coffee for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.
Verdict: Ideal for a quick breakfast followed by a couple of hours of hanging on the patio.
What It Is: A new cocktail bar in Chinatown
Perfect For: Impressing Out-Of-Towners, See And Be Seen
If the name Apotheke sounds familiar, you might know it as the speakeasy/jazz bar your friends took you to in NYC. Update: There’s one in LA now. Much like the NYC original, all the cocktails at this Chinatown bar are apothecary/medicinal-themed, and fantastic enough to soften the blow of the $16 price point. The interior is fairly small, but there’s a big patio in the back with its own bar that we predict everyone will be drinking at by summer. Or next weekend. Go now before the line’s down the block.
Verdict: One of the coolest cocktail bars to open in LA in a while. It’s going on the Bar Hit List.
What it is: A big new Chinese restaurant in Chinatown
Perfect for: Lunch
East Garden is a pretty big new Chinese restaurant in a strip mall off Hill St. in Chinatown. The menu is full of standards like cashew chicken and beef with broccoli - plus a page of Hawaiian-influenced food like chicken in lotus leaf (our favorite thing here) - and it’s decent for a quick (but heavier) lunch. But it’s not somewhere we’d go out of our way to eat again.
Verdict: Decent Chinese and Hawaiian-influenced food, with portions big enough to be eaten again at dinner.
What It Is: Modern Italian (but you already know that)
Perfect For: Date Night, Eating A Full Meal At 11:15pm
You know what Bestia is. Even if you’ve never been, you’ve listened to your friends brag about finally getting a table and taking photos of their cavatelli for the last six years. This modern Italian restaurant in the Arts District is a complete scene every night of the week, and one of the more expensive meals you’ll eat downtown. But guess what? It’s all still worth it. We went back to check on it recently, and found an expanded space (two new patios), excellent service, and best-in-city food. Important: we were able to get a prime time reservation same-day, so keep your eye on Opentable. Last-minute tables are definitely possible.
Verdict: Still one of the best special occasion restaurants in LA.
What It Is: A tiny Peruvian spot on the border of Koreatown and East Hollywood
Perfect For: Lunch, Cheap Eats
We’ve been wanting to check out this new spot for a while, and we finally stopped in last week for lunch. Turns out this tiny place is serving incredible Peruvian food. We tried a bowl of leche de tigre we had to keep ourselves from picking up and drinking from, and lomo saltado that was super tender and flavorful. There’s not much to the space itself, but the food more than makes up for the simple atmosphere.
Verdict: Come here for excellent, affordable Peruvian food. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A casual pizza spot on Melrose
Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner
Whether you think deep dish pizza is god’s gift to humanity or a heinous pile of Italian treasony, one thing is certain - LA needs more great versions of it. Blackbird Pizza Shop opened late last year along Melrose and unfortunately, this version is not great. However, it is decent and their craft beer list is great, so if you’re in the area, this casual spot is good to have in your back pocket.
Verdict: A solid spot for beer and pizza while you shop. Not making it onto the Hit List.
What It Is: A Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake
Perfect For: Big Groups, Girls’ Night Out, Drinks And A Light Bite
The new Silver Lake location of a Glendale Mexican restaurant seems to be very popular with people who enjoy getting up midway through their meal to dance. This is a thing that happened multiple times during our meal here. Occasional tango aside, the place has a cool atmosphere, with lots of Dia De Los Muertos-themed decorations and dark wood. It’s a little pricey for what you get, which isn’t the best Mexican food you’ve had in LA (or Silver Lake), but you’ll still enjoy yourself if you come here with a big group of friends, stick to drinks and some shared appetizers, and wait to see if the mood for dancing strikes.
Verdict: Best for drinks and a few shared plates (and dancing) with friends. Not making it onto the Hit List.
What It Is: A new-school Jewish deli in Echo Park
Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Midweek Dinner, Brunch
By our calculations, there can never be enough Jewish delis in LA. So when Freedman’s opened in Echo Park, we were excited. Update: It exceeded expectations. Also, it’s definitely not just a deli. It’s a full sit-down restaurant that serves excellent Jewish deli-style dishes you’d just as happily eat hungover by yourself on a Saturday morning as you would on a Tuesday night date. The place is in a random stripmall along Sunset, but the interior makes it feel like a classic spot that’s been around for decades. Get the reuben and smoked fish plate.
Verdict: An excellent modern deli that works for pretty much any occasion. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A Mediterranean/Mexican fusion spot in Boyle Heights
Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Midweek Dinner
One of the better fusion/mashup restaurants we’ve tried recently, X’tiosu Kitchen is a Mediterranean/Mexican order-at-the-window spot that just opened in Boyle Heights. This is fantastic food perfect for lunch or a weekday dinner when you need something good and quick. Your first order of business should be the chicken shawarma tacos, but the chorizo kebab plate (with some really excellent hummus) also needs to hit the table. Just make sure you put their garlicky Toum sauce on everything.
The Verdict: Really good fusion food. We’ve added it to the Hit List.
What It Is: A wine bar with French food in Silver Lake
Perfect For: Date Night, Girls’ Night Out, Group Dinner, Drinks And A Light Bite
If you live in Silver Lake, you should know about a very useful new place: Melody. This just-opened spot on Virgil is in a converted bungalow opposite Sqirl, and is good for many situations. We could see you coming here for date night, sitting in the dimly-lit main room, and having wine and French-ish food (like a chicken cordon bleu sandwich) to share, and there’s also big side patio with heaters that would be great for a group dinner. And a “wine down” happy hour from 5-7pm you could use for after-work drinks with coworkers. The food we tried was good, although not particularly special - but it’s the kind of place Silver Lake people will end up at regularly for drinks and snacks.
Verdict: Good for a lot of situations if you’re in the area, but you don’t need to cross town for the food.
What It Is: An all-day Australian spot in Santa Monica
Perfect For: Casual Midweek Dinner, Coffee And A Light Bite, Breakfast
Little Ruby is yet another Australian cafe, and this new Santa Monica spot serves mostly stuff you’d expect: avocado and vegemite toasts, healthy sounding bowls, and of course, excellent coffee. On our visit, we didn’t see a whole lot that differentiates Little Ruby from the rest of the Aussie cafes in LA, except the fact that it’s open at night, when they serve burgers and pastas. Overall, this is a good option for breakfast in Santa Monica, but if you’re specifically looking for an Australian cafe, there are better options around.
Verdict: A fine spot for daytime food, but not the best Australian cafe around.