We asked some of L.A.’s top toques where they send their friends to eat and stay, what grocery aisles they browse on their free afternoons, what local artists they love and where they go after long shifts in the kitchen for late-night revelry.
While many chefs raved about Matsuhisa (“The original Nobu, which should be on the cover of every food magazine, every month, forever,” according to Jon Shook), Majordōmo, Bestia, Gjusta and Gjelina, among others, there are also some lesser-known gems on their lists.
Below are suggestions from Nyesha Arrington (Native), Dave Beran (Dialogue), Shook (Animal, et al), Amanda Chantal Bacon (Moon Juice), Caroline Styne (Lucques) and the legendary Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill).
Here’s what they had to say.
Dave Beran loves the NoMad Los Angeles downtown. The West Coast installment from Daniel Humm and Will Guidara features an “amazing rooftop and bar,” says Beran, who also likes the nearby Uncle John’s, a Los Angeles institution founded in 1968 and one of Beran’s favorites for a casual dinner.
Hotel Bel-Air is another of Beran’s go-to hotels for friends, which he describes as simply “the best.” The historic 1950s hotel is a 12-acre paradise surrounded by the wooded hills of Bel-Air.
For other hotel options, Shook recommends the Beverly Hills Hotel, where you can have breakfast at its Fountain Coffee Room, an iconic diner that’s served the Hollywood likes of Marilyn Monroe and Guns N’ Roses since 1949. “There’s nothing like these older L.A. places,” says Shook, also mentioning Philippe the Original as a must-visit. “L.A. is full of so many amazing new restaurants and hotels. But for the history, the experience and the vibe, you’ve got to hit up some of these older spots.”
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Susan Feniger favors Heirloom Bakery & Café, a great place for early risers, given it opens every weekday at 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on weekends. For coffee, she loves Verve Coffee Roasters.
“I love grabbing coffee and breakfast at the Larder at Burton Way or the Larder at Tavern,” says Caroline Styne, who also likes Go Get ‘Em Tiger on Larchmont. “The coffee is outstanding and their breakfast items are simple and super delicious. I also love the way you sidle up to the coffee counter and order, rather than getting in a line. It feels like a modern take on a European coffee bar.”
Two of Beran’s favorite spots for breakfast are chef Jordan Kahn’s Scandinavian-minimalist Destroyer and Malibu Farm (“for the view”).
Mary Sue Milliken loves Lodge Bread Company for their breads, buns and cookies. Not a coffee drinker, she heads to Chado Tea Room for tea on their patio on the regular.
For donuts, Shook recommends the lightweight, buttery croissant-style glazed donuts at SK Donuts & Croissant (“They’re dirty good, super sweet, make your teeth grind kind of donuts,” he says), Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts (an iconic counter shop since 1947), and Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood.
For Lunch and Snacks
Styne recommends Friday lunch on the patio at Spago in Beverly Hills. “The food is always incredible, the atmosphere festive and the service top-notch,” she says.
“When Vinny [Dotolo] and I first got [to Los Angeles], we used to eat at The Apple Pan and Papa Cristo’s Greek Grill,” he says. “We were infatuated with ethnic food, because in Florida we got a lot of Cuban but not too much else. We also loved and still love Mario’s Peruvian. It’s $20 all-in, and you’ll have more food than you’ll ever imagine. And I’ve got to give a shout out to Beverly Hills Juice, [which opened in 1975].”
If you’re planning to visit any of Shook and Dotolo’s restaurants while in town, here’s what Shook recommends ordering: at Animal (only open for dinner and weekend brunch), the foie gras loco moco or the rabbit braised with mushroom and vin jaune; at Son of a Gun, raw hamachi of tuna with leche di tigre; at Jon & Vinny’s, “Definitely the meatballs, spicy fusilli and the ‘Sonny’s Favorite’ pizza with bacon and onion.” And at Petit Trois, “The Dover sole, if they have it, or otherwise the rice pilaf;” at Trois Familia, the chicken Milanesa or the crispy hashbrown chilaquiles; and finally, at Kismet, “Rabbit for two [at dinner] or the flaky bread with tomato and crispy rice.”
Both of Arrington’s parents grew up in Los Angeles, so her childhood memories include a lot of their favorite spots. “Ramona’s is super bomb,” she says. “No frills, and in foil containers. We used to go as a family and I remember picking food off my parents’ foil.”
Koreatown is a standby for most Angelinos. “My typical visits start with heading straight to Koreatown for dumplings at Myung in Dumplings,” says Beran. “Then to the K-Town Galleria for cold noodles and fried chicken.”
Arrington’s favorite is Park’s Barbecue. Her friend owns it, and you can even find a photo of her on the wall. “They’re known for their banchan, done both as traditional banchan and progressive style,” she says. Arrington recommends ordering the kimchi jjigae and “Korean barbecue, of course.” Arrington also suggests opting in for the kimchi pancakes. “My grandma used to make them for me and they taste just like hers.”
Some of Milliken’s K-Town favorites include Sun Nong Dan, Kobawoo House (“for the pork belly bosam”), Yuchun (“for cold noodles”) and one of L.A.’s oldest soondae parlors, Eighth Street Soondae (“for blood sausage”). “Korean in L.A. is so fantastic,” she says. “I always tell my friends to try at least one of these.”
For Dinner and Drinks
For cocktails, Beran likes Old Lightning and Cinema Bar. “On Monday nights [at Cinema], there’s a Django Reinhardt cover band that’s incredible.” For dinner, he likes Evan Funke’s Felix Trattoria best, or Maxwell’s Cafe in Culver City for something more casual.
Bacon sends friends to Talulla’s. “It’s right across the street from the ocean, and good for a dinner after a beach day,” she says. “It’s farmers’ market[-driven], California-Mexican food, and also great for large parties and families.”
Milliken likes K-ZO for great sushi, where she orders the octopus carpaccio, all the special sushi on the daily menu, and the salmon skin salad. “It’s the best I’ve ever had.”
The L.A. restaurant scene is always changing, so the chefs we spoke with were also quick to say what they anticipated and who they admired. “I’m looking forward to going to APL in Hollywood, the new restaurant opened by Adam Perry Lang—probably my all-time favorite barbecue guy,” says Styne. Feniger loves chef Nery Godoy at Freshwater Noodle and Dumpling House.
“I like to steer visitors to quintessential L.A. restaurants so that they get to experience the gamut of what we have to offer in this city,” says Styne. “Michael’s is a California cuisine institution that has been around for decades and recently had resurgence with its new chef, Miles Thompson.”
Shook insists that no one should visit L.A. without visiting a local farmers’ market. “There are a ton of them all over, and they’re all great.” he says, “The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market is the originator on Wednesdays, I also like the Hollywood one on Sundays. Then there are small little ones like the one in Larchmont on Sundays.”
Shook also sends friends to the LACMA. “I think it’s the most Instagrammed place ever,” he says, referring to Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” installation out front, which requires no entrance fee to visit.
Bacon loves to browse Jeff Cerciello’s Marin- and Santa Monica-based Farmshop, which opens at 7:00 a.m. every day except Sunday. “There’s a market attached to the dining room complete with a deli counter of delicious pre-made food,” she tells us. “My favorite selection of chocolate and daily farmers’ market fruits and veggies.”
Bacon also likes to browse Helen’s Wines, a shop located in the back of Jon and Vinny’s. “It has some of the best wines in the world,” she says, and recommends stopping by Erewhon Market, a great place to stock up on plane snacks or gifts to bring home. “It’s a health nut paradise.”
For inspiration, “I love this artist Devin Troy, so I’d go check him out,” says Arrington (who herself is an artist, founder of the “Food is Art” exhibit and preparing another exhibit for the fall).
For ice cream and an evening stroll, check out McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream on South Broadway. “L.A. is having a major ice cream [moment],” Shook shares. “Most of them are transplants. McConnell’s is a transplant too, but it’s from Santa Barbara, and probably my favorite.” (Note to ice cream lovers: Shook also loves Salt & Straw, and his favorite order there is the Lucky Charms-filled “Pot of Gold.”)