For the longest time, the dining scene in Los Angeles was all about picking at salads and craning your neck to see which celebrity had just walked through the door. There really wasn’t much to brag about. But then, out of nowhere, exciting new restaurants started popping up all over the city, and now LA’s restaurant scene is one of the most talked about in America.
Chefs are winning James Beard awards, restaurants are making headline news, and dining out is the new place to be seen (sorry, nightclubs). While some LA restaurants have been around for decades (like Spago and Dan Tana’s), plenty of pioneering restaurants like the one’s below have redefined exceptional dining. You won’t have any regrets booking a table at these quintessentially LA restaurants, because they’re all quickly becoming institutions.
ProvidenceProvidence, Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, United States
In in LA’s dining scene, Michael Cimarusti is a household name (no matter how much you’ll butcher its pronunciation). His restaurant, Providence, in a random spot off Melrose, has several James Beard nominations, two Michelin stars and was number one on LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s 100 Best Restaurants. With all this in mind, you’re obviously going to have an unforgettable dining experience here, with innovative spins on seafood in a fine-dining, yet very relaxed atmosphere (remember, you’re in LA). Obviously you should order fish, but also go for the Ugly Bunch, the claim-to-fame dish that transforms some truly revolting-looking shellfish into a stunningly delicious meal.
AnimalAnimal Restaurant, North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are stars in LA. The celebrity chef team has been nominated 3 times in a row as Best Chef for James Beard (the holy grail of dining awards), and they finally won in 2016 for their hit restaurant Animal on Fairfax. Sorry vegetarians, this is carnivore central. They reimagine meat dishes here, like pig ear with market egg and red chili or quail fry with grits, kale, and maple jus. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can order exotic stuff like veal brains. Whatever you get, though, you will never eat meat the same way again. It’s high-end meat dining in a hip atmosphere, but you’ll wait forever for a table if you don’t make a reservation in advance.
GeorgieGeorgie, North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, United States
Georgie is celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s first West Coast restaurant, and man, he nailed it. Opened last year at celebrity-magnet Montage Beverly Hills, this restaurant is perfection, from its colorful, garden-inspired interiors to the hella sharp waitstaff uniforms. Sit outside like most people and you’re totally immersed in the Beverly Hills lifestyle, where it’s not uncommon to see women wearing $4,000 scarves or dudes decked out in Prada suits casually walking by. Grilled Spanish octopus with charred pepper and olive vinaigrette. Hamachi crudo. Black cod with Manila clams and smoked bacon. Even gemelli carbonara with foraged mushrooms and slow cooked egg yolk is a beautiful dish. But put your camera phone down: It’s time to eat.
GuelaguetzaGuelaguetza, West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Due to the strong Mexican community here, LA’s Mexican food is beyond top notch. You know it’s a big deal when a Mexican restaurant wins the James Beard for American Classic. Guelaguetza is that restaurant, and it’s a fun, exciting place with live music and delicious Mexican fare, known particularly for its mole. It’s a traditional sauce from Oaxaca that the restaurant basically perfected, so order any dish that has it (like tamale oaxaqueño de mole negro con pollo, which is essentially chicken tamales). People are so obsessed with the mole they buy it by itself (they package and sell it here). You’ll be going to Koreatown for this one, and it’s the hottest neighborhood in the city right now, so two birds, one stone it at this instant-classic restaurant.
Trois MecTrois Mec, Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, United States
This is not a dinner. This is a whole night out. It’s possibly the only restaurant where you have to buy actual tickets in advance, but we guarantee it’s worth it. Trois Mec is in a random strip mall in a random intersection and it still rocks the sign for the old pizza place it took over, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Among the dozens of accolades it’s received, it was voted Best New Restaurant by Los Angeles Magazine when it debuted in June 2013, number one restaurant by LA Weekly and so on. It’s fine dining in a casual atmosphere, so feel free to wear shorts. It’s run by Ludo Lefebvre, who’s a celebrity in LA (he also regularly appears on cooking shows and has a huge cult following). French-inspired fare is served, and the menu changes every night, but expect the likes of grilled beef belly with abalone mushroom and herb jus and grilled eggplant caviar with jamon Iberico, honey, and melon.
AOCA.O.C., West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Maybe, at this point, you’re noticing a pattern. Tons of these restaurants are recognized for James Beard awards. To keep you up to speed, James Beard is the holy grail for chefs, one of the most recognized and coveted awards you can achieve. They’re voted on by a panel of experts and Suzanne Goin, executive chef of AOC, is a multiple James Beard winner (Best Cookbook from a Professional Viewpoint and Best Chef: West, both in 2006; Outstanding Chef of the Year 2016). You are going to see celebrities, power agents, influencers, food critics, and rich Beverly Hills types dining here like it’s the only thing to do. It’s a brilliant, gorgeous, open-air space with a Mediterranean/Californian menu. Obviously all the dishes are made with tons of love but we’re going to nudge you toward the Spanish fried chicken with romesco aioli and chili-cumin butter (one of the most popular dishes) or the excellent, grilled whole fish with coconut rice, bok choy and a dash of lemongrass sambal.