photo credit: Jakob Layman
If you’ve lived in Los Angeles at any point over the past 30 years, you’ve probably seen Angelyne. Maybe you only noticed a lady dressed all in pink, but for your sake, we hope you screamed “It’s Angelyne!” and knew that you were in the presence of a living legend. She’s been an icon in this town forever - kind of like A.O.C. Both have figured out their thing and stuck to it - although in A.O.C’s case, that thing is being a wine bar with great food, not driving around in a hot pink corvette.
This West 3rd Street staple first opened in 2002, serving tapas-style dishes at a time when “the menu is all designed to share” were not the most common words spoken in restaurants. Over the years, they’ve moved locations (to a building with the best patio in the city), added cocktails to what was once a wine-only spot, and padded out the truly excellent wine list, but other than that, things haven’t changed much here. And how much you enjoy your experience at A.O.C. is going to depend on whether that matters to you.
One thing is certain, though: A.O.C. continues to be one of the best-looking, most enjoyable spaces in Los Angeles. It’s in a Spanish-style building with a big bar, a wood-covered dining room ripped from the set of a Nancy Meyers movie, and a truly incredible patio where it’s nearly impossible to have a bad night. When your in-laws are in town and you just need to make sure they have a good time - and therefore forget to ask why you haven’t had a kid yet - take them to A.O.C.
The menu will look pretty familiar to anyone who’s eaten here before. The bacon-wrapped dates, platters of cheese and charcuterie, Spanish fried chicken, and very large slab of brioche topped with prosciutto, gruyere, and an egg haven’t left the menu. But they also haven’t improved over the years. Their signature fried chicken isn’t as crispy as it should be, the bacon-wrapped dates feel like a ’90s throwback, and the lamb chops are just expensive lamb chops. Everything tastes good, but there’s nothing particularly special or exciting on the menu. It’s comforting to see all your old friends, but realizing they’re a little stuck in the past can be disappointing.
If you’re looking for a life-altering dinner experience, A.O.C. isn’t it. What it is, however, is still a restaurant you can depend on for an important date, impressing out-of-towners on the patio, or just sitting alone at the bar drinking pinot noir and eating steak. It’s those moments when you’ll be glad that A.O.C. hasn’t changed a bit.
These are an A.O.C. classic. They’re sweet and salty and exactly what you want to snack on with your first drink.
The Vintner’s Plate
It’s against the rules to go to A.O.C. and not get one of the wooden boards with cheese and charcuterie. This one is our favorite.
A lot of the food here is pretty hearty, so mix things up with something lighter like this crudo (which is inexplicably listed in the salad section).
Are these pretty similar to all the other clams steamed in alcohol that you’ve had before? Yes. Are they extremely delicious? Also yes.
Spanish Fried Chicken
Probably the most famous dish here, but also one that’s not as good as it used to be. It’s a little soggy, and overall feels like something you’d eat in a bar rather than a restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Za’atar Lamb Chops
These are good, vaguely Middle Eastern lamb chops. But $25 for two chops is just too much money for too few bites.
Roasted Chicken “Ode To Zuni”
We used to love this chicken covered in lettuce and croutons, but on recent visits it’s been less impressive. While we’ll take enormous, crispy croutons any day of the week, the chicken itself is bland.