When food-obsessed New Yorkers touchdown at LAX airport, most of their culinary itinerary is already set: sandwich at Egg Slut, toast at Sqirl, baklava croissant at Gjusta, and finally, an omelette at Petit Trois.
It makes sense—those are the (well-deserved) places that top the rankings of national food publications, and flood the IG feeds of your favorite ‘culinary influencers.’
While any Angeleno would co-sign that aforementioned restaurant crawl, locals tend to recoil at the idea of a New York publication ‘discovering’ something they’ve known all along, and then trumpeting their ‘findings’ to the rest of New York, where the inevitable feedback loop ensues.
But look at it this way: even the most trained palates visiting L.A. can only cram so much on a seven-day trip. They’re here, after all, to report on what we already know.
We thought the time was ripe for Angelenos to put out a new kind of restaurant list for their friends back east—one that goes beyond the hype-machine. There are an abundance of spots in L.A. that we know are just as accomplished and worthy of your eating budget, but don’t necessarily have the PR clout behind their sails.
Here is a list of the best L.A. restaurant that New Yorkers have (most likely) never heard of, as chosen by a group of individuals who know L.A.’s food scene inside and out.
Address and phone: 3219 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles (323-666-7133)
Suter says: “You may think you know L.A., but if you’ve never crossed the L.A. River you’re missing half of the city. Just over the Hyperion bridge from Silver Lake is a stretch known as Atwater Village. Long before juice joints began opening here, chef Corina Weibel (she comes from Lucques—you know that one right?) was salt-roasting whole branzino and ladling boeuf bourguignon over egg noodles for elated locals. Two alums of Sqirl (which you probably think is in Silver Lake but is really East Hollywood, OK?) recently took over lunch service under the name Wild at Canélé, and are putting out Filipino-style adobo-braised duck and—because it’s fun to say—falafel waffles. At brunch it’s two-inch thick french toast with poached prunes and mascarpone. Canélé is the effortlessly great, everyday neighborhood bistro that New Yorkers always bemoan L.A.’s lack of. But just try to hold onto that idea as you’re handed a glistening (and gratis!) example of the titular pastry on the way out.” (Photo: Instagram/Canele)
Voltaggio says: “Yes, it’s on the famous Sunset Strip, and you may see a few famous faces that you recognize—but all for the right reasons. Chef Peter and his team deliver one of the best omakase experiences in a city that has no shortage of sushi. No spicy tuna here; the abalone however will be the one that you never forget…” (Photo: thedeliciouslife.com)
Bolois says: “For most out-of-towners, their foray into L.A.’s Koreatown begins with Roy Choi, the Kogi truck entrepreneur who brought national attention to the area with restaurants POT and Commissary. It’s no surprise that New Yorkers want to get in on the action, but let me leave you with this tidbit: Koreatown has the highest concentration of restaurants per square mile than anywhere else in the country. So while there’s something to be said about eating Korean army stew next to a millennial swagged out in Pharrell’s hat, it’s only one tiny slice of the pie. POT is a place that looks forward by paying tribute to the past, and there are few restaurants that better typify that older generation than Kobawoo. Open since 1983, Keum-Rin Bak’s restaurant may not have the pizazz of the Line Hotel, but it certainly has soul. That starts with signature dishes like their bossam (don’t expect to see any Chang-like pork buns) that comes with thinly-sliced daikon, cabbage, and pungent shrimp paste. Always order the haemul pajun (seafood pancake), a greasy, octopus-studded Korean latke that is best washed down with fermented rice wine makkoli. Oh, and don’t worry about going overboard with the makkoli—Uber in L.A. is cheap cheap cheap.” (Photo: Andy Hur)
Tire Shop Taqueria
Elliott says: “New Yorkers love to talk about the Mexican food in Los Angeles, but rarely do they make time during visits to see beyond Guisados and Tacos Leo. Both are wonderful, but for some of the most authentic Tijuana-style carne asada you’ll find outside of Mexico, you’ve got to be willing to drive to South L.A. That’s what makes the so-called Tire Shop Taqueria such a gem for East Coasters: find it, and you’ll be rewarded with smoky beef tacos dripping with guacamole and absolutely power-packed with flavor. Order up, then get in line and order more. Pay when you’re done, and drive home happy under the waning skyscraper lights of Downtown. Or don’t, and continue to miss out on the truly spectacular regional Mexican cuisine that Angelenos already knows so well.” (Photo: Yelp/Cindy L.)
Mosbaugh says: “When you can’t make it south of the U.S.-Mexico border in time for dinner, Coni’Seafood is the next best option. Owner Coni Cosio gets an assortment of marine delicacies—including shrimp, scallops, clams, and a mild white coastal fish called snook—shipped straight from the Pacific Ocean into her chef’s hands in under 48 hours. For his shrimp aguachile, chef Sergio Penuelas bathes the crustaceans in an intoxicating marinade of jalapeño and lemon, letting the natural ocean flavor and sweetness of the raw shrimp shine. But it’s the gigantic pescado zarandeado at Coni’ that is the real pièce de résistance. The snook (or rabalo) is butterflied, rubbed with a secret sauce, and grilled over coal in a specially-designed basket. It comes to your table on an enormous metal tray along with warm tortillas, sweet caramelized onions, and bright-green salsa so you can make DIY fish tacos. Needless to say, a meal at Coni’Seafood will blow the mind of any Le Bernardin or Sushi Nakazawa-worshipping New Yorker.”
Address and phone: 37 E Union St, Pasadena, 626-795-5841
Cimarusti says: “Union is located just a block from Colorado Blvd, Pasadena’s main drag. Pasadena has long been the domain of chain restaurants—there were always a few decent places to eat—but up until this point, there’s been nothing like Union. Chef and owner Bruce Kalman is turning out some of L.A.’s best Italian-inspired food, and the residents of Pasadena, myself among them, could not be happier. Bruce has pasta fetish, he clearly knows his way around a pig, and he sources his produce, meat, and fish from the finest farms and fishermen. Union feels like a local joint, as it should, but its reach and draw are growing. I feel some reluctance as I write this for fear of making the crowds clambering for a seat at the tiny restaurant even bigger. Thankfully I’ve got Bruce’s cell on speed dial—maybe I’ll see you there.” (Photo: Facebook/Union)
Address and phone: 1142 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach, 310-545-5405
Phan says: “While this is an endorsement of a place, it’s also really about a chef, namely David LeFevre. His pedigree is stellar—Charlie Trotter, Michelin-starred Water Grill; his personality winning—midwest meets Manhattan Beach; and most importantly, the dude can cook. LeFevre is the culinary mayor of Manhattan Beach. He’s got a few bustling restaurants in this beach town, but the place I always return to is Manhattan Beach Post. The menu is globally eclectic, but free of precious, un-pronounceable, obscure nonsense. There are biscuits though, bacon cheddar ones, and you’re gonna want to order those. A plate of cured meats? Sure. One of the best selections anywhere. When it comes to dessert, save room for “The Elvis,” a heaping of chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse, caramelized bananas, and bacon brittle. Who knows, maybe if LeFevre was more like his signature dessert’s namesake—all strut and sequins and shimmy and shake—you’d notice him more. Instead, at MB Post, he’s not the spectacle. What he puts on his plates is the show. And while I don’t know the man especially well, I’m guessing he wouldn’t want it any other way.” (Photo: Facebook/Manhattan Beach Post)
Wei says: “It’s been established that Los Angeles has the best Chinese food in the country. But New Yorkers looking to sample those goods aren’t going to have any luck if they refuse to stray too far from the Ace Hotel in DTLA (We know you’re all there). Find a friend to drive you along the 710 to Alhambra, where you’ll find Tony Xu’s Chengdu Taste. It is without a doubt the most important Sichuan restaurant in America. Xu’s spot opened in 2013 and immediately drew in the spice fanatics who were attracted to his classic Sichuanese dishes bathed in the bright oils of green and red peppercorns. He does white fish on top of napa cabbage and crunchy bean sprouts, dressed in a viscous liquid of chili oil and water. There are noodles with dried chilis, noodles made out of mung bean, and a plethora of meats like tea-smoked duck and cumin-laced beef that will challenge the way you think about barbecue.” (Photo: Yelp/Mi H.)
Address and phone: 3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, 213-741-1075
Esparza says: “Chichen Itza is a regional Yucatan-style restaurant in Los Angeles that has achieved what every chef in the U.S. has tried to do with regional Mexican cuisine—elevate the food while preserving tradition. Chef Gilberto Cetina and Gilberto Cetina Jr. have drawn from their family recipes, applying a modern kitchen set-up, and make all their own recaudos, which is the flavor base of the cuisine.
Classics like cochinita pibil (roasted pork), papadzules (tortillas filled with hard boiled eggs in a pumpkin seed sauce) and huevos motuleños (eggs, Motul-style) are worthy of your attention. On the weekends I go for the mondongo ala andaluza, a regional menudo loaded with sausages, potatoes and garbanzos simmering in a spicy stew of tomato and Seville orange, or a torta stuffed with suckling pig.
Restaurants like Chichen Itza get thrown in Mexican food round-ups, but are even overlooked by much of the local food media as being one of the best restaurants in town, and one of the best traditional Mexican spots in the country. The Cetinas operate a professional kitchen, solving complex problems of cooking pre-Hipanic dishes in a conventional kitchen with their own innovations. In theory, not much different than from a place like Petit Trois.” (Photos by Bill Esparza)