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The Ride-Along Report: First Takes From Last Night’s Dinner

PHOTO: Jakob Layman

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.

4/11/18 Update

Kasih

Downtown LA / Little Tokyo
200 S Los Angeles St

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.

Tramp Stamp Granny’s

Hollywood
1638 N Cahuenga Blvd
MAP

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.

Jewel

Silver Lake
654 N Hoover St

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.

The Henry

Beverly Hills
120 N Robertson Blvd

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.

MAP

What It Is: A gin cocktail bar in Historic Filipinotown

Perfect For: Quiet Drinks

Genever is exciting because it’s a cocktail bar in Historic Filipinotown, a neighborhood that doesn’t yet have an abundance of drinking options. But when we stopped in, we found a place that doesn’t yet know what it wants to be. The well-priced gin cocktails were good and the crowd was low-key, but its over-designed, all-pink aesthetic felt out of line with all of that. We hope this place settles into being a neighborhood hang - right now it seems to be channeling more of a lounge in West Hollywood.

Verdict: A fine place for a cocktail if you live around Historic Filipinotown.

Farmhouse

Beverly Grove
8100 Beverly Blvd. Ste. 113

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.

3/26/2018 Update

Joy

Highland Park
5100 York Blvd

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.

Tumbi Indian

Santa Monica
115 Santa Monica Blvd

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

What It Is: A pizza oven in a trailer, popping up regularly at Hayden and Tabula Rasa

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.

Nagoya Sushi

Hollywood
5820 Melrose Ave

What It Is: A modern sushi spot at Melrose and Vine

Perfect For: Lunch, Dining Solo

We recently checked out Nagoya, a sushi restaurant that just appeared at the corner of Melrose And Vine. The modern space is quite big, with flat screens everywhere, making it an ideal spot for you and your Paramount coworkers to peel away at lunch and stare at sports for 45 minutes. Their sushi and sashimi are solid, and their lunch menu is comprised mostly of chirashi bowls and sushi combo platters in the $20 range.

Verdict: A solid enough neighborhood sushi spot that anyone who works in Hollywood should know about.

3/12/2018 update

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Montresor

Studio City
11266 Ventura Blvd

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.

Maude

Beverly Hills
212 S Beverly Dr
8.0
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Breva Restaurant

Downtown LA
939 S Figueroa St #300

What It Is: A Basque restaurant inside the Hotel Figueroa in DTLA

Perfect For: Date Night, Drinks & A Light Bite

For a city that didn’t previously care much about hotel restaurants, we suddenly have a whole lot of them, including new spot Breva, inside the just-renovated Hotel Figueroa. When we visited last week, it was already full of people pre-gaming the actual game - the hotel is just down the street from the Staples Center. We tried a bunch of stuff from the Basque-inspired menu and most everything was good, if pretty predictable. The ham and cheese croquettes are a nice snack, the fried chicken is great, and the not-very-Basque-at-all cheeseburger is a highlight. The vegetable plates we had were less impressive, but you should probably just skip them for the better desserts.

Verdict: A solid new downtown spot for after-work or pre-game drinks, or a casual date.

Cafe Flora

West Hollywood
8475 Melrose Pl.

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.

2/28/2018 UPdate

Hayden

Culver City
8820 Washington Blvd #101

What It Is: A lunch spot and wine bar in Culver City

Perfect For: Drinks & A Light Bite, Corporate Cards, Lunch

Hayden opened last year, bringing a slightly more upscale lunch option to Platform in Culver City, which is otherwise full of fast-casual spots. The original setup was order-at-the-counter, and it felt a little too casual for the menu. But after a short closing and mini-renovation, there’s more seating, full table service, and a bigger menu that now includes sandwiches, entrees, waffles (yes, waffles), and oysters. When we stopped in last week it was full of people having workday lunches, and there were more waiting for tables as we left. The menu is the same throughout the day - all simple stuff you’d expect at a wine bar - and we liked the smoked trout dip and ’nduja tartine.

Verdict: A great place for a fancier lunch meeting, or after-work drinks and a snack.

Photo: White Oak Communications

Walt’s Bar

Eagle Rock
4680 Eagle Rock Blvd
MAP

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: A rooftop tapas restaurant in West Hollywood

Perfect For: First/Early In The Game Dates, Outdoor/Patio Situation

Chef’s Not Here is a new tapas restaurant on a rooftop in West Hollywood, and after a recent visit, our biggest takeaway is that the space is beautiful. If you want to sit on a rooftop and drink sangria and stare at the Hollywood Hills, go there right now. But as far as the food goes, Chef’s Not Here is inconsistent - we wouldn’t recommend you go to this place for a full meal, at least not yet. Most of the smaller tapas plates and the desserts are good, but the bigger plates (pasta, lamb) are bland and forgettable.

Verdict: An absolutely beautiful rooftop restaurant, but the food isn’t good enough for this place to make the Hit List yet.

Scout

Silver Lake
3707 West Sunset Blvd

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.

Tirsa’s

Chinatown
701 W Cesar E Chavez Ave

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.

2/13/2018 update

Jaffa

Beverly Grove
8048 W 3rd St

What It Is: A modern Israeli restaurant on 3rd Street

Perfect For: Literally Everyone, Date Night

Jaffa just opened in Beverly Grove, and is already our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant to open in LA since Mh Zh. Located in the middle of 3rd Street, Jaffa serves modern Israeli food that’s definitely on the healthier side - but doesn’t taste healthy. From their housemade kubaneh bread to the North African chickpea stew to the lamb couscous, this food is exactly what you want in the middle of a tough week. The very pretty space feels sort of like a fancy ocean-adjacent cafe, and would be great for anything from date night to after-work snacks to drinking wine on the front patio.

Verdict: A restaurant we can confidently say is perfect for just about everyone. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

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.

Photo: Amanda Proudfit

Night + Market Sahm

Venice
2533 Lincoln Blvd

What It Is: A new casual Thai spot in Venice from the people behind Night + Market and Night + Market Song

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.

Photo: Kimberlyn Gonzalez

Inko Nito

Arts District
225-227 S Garey St

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.

Photo: Inko Nito / Facebook

2/7/2018 update

Majordomo

Chinatown
1725 Naud St.
8.8
MAP

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.

Photo: Molly Matalon

1/26/2018 update

8.7
MAP

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.

Photo: NoMad Los Angeles

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.

Rinjani

Glendale
107 E Broadway

What It Is: A casual Indonesian restaurant in Glendale

Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner

We headed to Glendale for lunch to see what was happening at Rinjani. Turns out, good things are happening at Rinjani. It’s a modern space, just off Brand, doing pretty classic takes on Indonesian staples. Which means excellent satays, solid nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), and a beef rendang we’re still thinking about. It’s a friendly spot - the owner/chef will probably wave at you from the kitchen - and a great new option for lunch if you work in the area or for dinner when you’re looking for something different.

Verdict: Excellent Indonesian food in a casual setting. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Coni'seafood

Marina Del Rey
4532 S. Centinela Ave.

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

What It Is: An all-day restaurant inside the new La Peer Hotel

Perfect For: Lunch, Impressing A Client

We headed over to the new and very pretty La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood to try their all-day Italian-ish restaurant called Viale Dei Romani (from the same people behind The Tasting Kitchen). While we’ll always take our lunch sitting next to a pool, it’s clear this place is still a work in progress. The service was slow, and nothing on the menu really stood out, save for a chickpea crepe with falafel. That said, we’ll be back to try their pasta-heavy dinner menu.

Verdict: A decent hotel restaurant, and an ideal setting for a client lunch.

Point Five

Fairfax
7965 1/2 Melrose Ave

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.

1/22/2018 update

Triniti

Echo Park
1814 W Sunset Blvd
8.2
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman
MAP

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.

Pollen

Echo Park
2100 Echo Park Ave
8.1
MAP

What It Is: An(other) all-day Australian cafe in Echo Park

Perfect for: Brunch, Lunch

Pollen in Echo Park is a mostly-outdoor cafe that serves a killer breakfast. Killer is an Australian word, which is appropriate because this is an Australian cafe. This means they serve a lot of avocado (like the one crusted with sesame seeds that comes with the bacon and egg), excellent coffee, and some ricotta pancakes that are fluffy and not-too-sweet. This place is full-service, with a small patio that will probably fill up on weekends. Come here with a friend or two for a laid-back brunch or weekday breakfast.

Verdict: An excellent addition to Echo Park’s breakfast/brunch scene, and also to LA’s Australian cafe takeover. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

Photo: Jakob Layman
MAP

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.

Photo: Rachel Ayotte

All Time

Los Feliz
2040 Hillhurst Ave

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.

Apotheke

Chinatown
1746 N Spring St
MAP

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.

Taco Window

2622 W Jefferson Blvd

What It Is: An actual taco window in Jefferson Park

Perfect For: Quick Eats, Dining Solo

When we went to check out Taco Window, we found both a real taco window, and also two French guys cooking some of the better tacos we’ve tried in a while. The menu is small, with only five or so different tacos, some chips and salsa, and churros, but there isn’t a weak spot on it. And at $2.50 a piece, you can pretty much order the whole menu for $15. The fish taco, the carne asada taco, and the short rib taco are our favorites.

Verdict: Excellent, affordable tacos worth the trip to Jefferson Park. We’ve added it to the Hit List.

What It Is: An upscale French restaurant in Highland Park

Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With The Parents

Though Côté Est is in a restaurant space that sees more turnover than a seasonal Halloween store, we feel like it’s going to stick. On our recent visit, the very pretty restaurant was absolutely packed with people drinking wine and having a good time. Most of the food hovers right around pretty good, but it’s all crowd-pleasing. Their back patio is made for date night.

Verdict: A solid place for an upscale date night in Highland Park, but not quite impressive enough to make it onto the Hit List.

East Garden

Chinatown
750 N Hill St

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.

9.1
MAP

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.

1/8/2018 UPDATE

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Cal Mare

Beverly Grove / West Hollywood
8500 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

What It Is: An upscale Italian place inside the Beverly Center

Perfect For: Dinner With The Parents, Corporate Cards

Yes, Cal Mare is in the Beverly Center, but it doesn’t really feel like a mall restaurant. First off, it’s actually good. The seafood-heavy menu has house-made pastas, a carbonara pizza that you should absolutely be ordering, and fresh, flavorful fish. That being said, the large space goes heavy on the coastal theme, with lots of turquoise and pictures of fish - and there’s no scene to be found. They’re still working out some kinks (it took us a long time to get seated with a reservation and there was a sitcom-length lull between the pasta and pizza), but once they’ve been in action for a little longer, we could see this becoming a good place for dinner with parents, or for your boss who wants something other than a steakhouse.

Verdict: The Italian seafood is good, but we’re not ready to add it to the Hit List yet. We’ll be back to check in on it again soon.

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.

Mi Corazon

Silver Lake
2609 Hyperion Ave

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.

12/11/2017 update

Freedman’s

Silver Lake
2619 Sunset Blvd
8.4
MAP

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.

Melody

Silver Lake
751 N Virgil Ave

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.

XO

Beverly Grove / Fairfax
7475 Beverly Blvd

What It Is: An Asian fusion market in Beverly Grove

Perfect For: Lunch, Take-Out

XO is a new all-day Asian/American spot (in the space that was formerly Stir Market on Beverly) with a menu full of healthy things that taste good in the middle of the week - like chilled sesame noodles, edamame hummus, and a tuna poke salad, all of which we liked. You order at the register and take a number to your table, but there’s also a grab-and-go section if you’re in a hurry. And a wine and beer bar if you’re not.

Verdict: Healthy-enough food that works for a quick lunch.

Little Ruby

Santa Monica
109 Santa Monica Blvd

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.

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