Feeling like a baller but your wallet isn't playing along? Or are you just tired of waiting for a reservation at one of LA's current hot spots? Allow us to recommend a few less expensive, more accessible alternatives to five of the hottest places in town.
1) Osteria Mozza/Gusto: It still feels like you have to know someone to get a reservation at Mozza. Unless you're on a first name basis with Nancy, you'll need to call two months in advance and prepare to wait at the bar, even if you have a confirmed reservation. The dinner table debate will involve comparisons between Babbo and Mozza. The $22 plate of pasta will be too al dente for you. Unless you have some serious business to discuss, and require ample elbow room, opt for Italian at Gusto instead. As the newest kid on West Third, Vic Casanova doesn't have the licensing deals that the Mozza group has, but he's regularly sending out delicious, inventive and comforting Italian at a cost that's a bit easier to digest. Unfortunately, the smaller dining room at Gusto might mean that you'll still have to fight for a table on a Saturday night.
2) Hatfield's/Canele: We're not saying Hatfield's isn't doing great things at their Melrose enclave, mere feet away from the Mozza stronghold. It's a beautiful space and they're turning out beautiful, if not always perfect, food. The chief problem here are the crowds who seem to care a whole lot more about being seen than actually dining. Put the bling (and contracts) away and head to Canelé in Atwater Village instead. The servers won't make you feel famous, they'll make you feel like family. And the food speaks for itself: unfussy California cuisine that's not too rich--for the palate or the pocketbook.
3) WP24/Yujean Kang's: With all due respect to Wolfgang Puck, WP24 is serving home-style Chinese cuisine at fine dining, Michelin star, French prices. A plate of dumplings shouldn't cost more than a Porterhouse. And though the views are priceless, it's time to compare food. Hop on the 110 and head towards Old Pasadena for a taste of fine (and more authentic) Chinese cuisine at Yujean Kang's. The Peking Ducks are served similarly, but the skin on Kang's is Earth-shatteringly crisp.
4) Mezze/Momed: Micah Wexler is enjoying a few moments of fame right now. It's true that his food has improved since Mezze first opened, but that only means more of a bump and grind at the valet stand outside. Mediterranean cuisine isn't meant to be fluffy or intricate--it's relaxed and full of brightness. Unless you're trying to show off, Momed on South Beverly is a solid bet every time. The dining room is far more casual, but the glass cases full of mezze are appetizing and the dessert selection is impressive. Bonus: the check at Momed will be about a third of what it would be at Mezze.
5) Bazaar/Red Medicine: José Andrés' is a force in the food world, no doubt. Unfortunately, The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel is still a circus scene. Valet alone is $20. The food is excellent, but getting an actual table is still nearly impossible. The host will most likely direct you to a casual spot in the bar area, but since the bar menu doesn't include Andrés' brilliant Philly Cheesesteaks, what's the point? Just a few blocks away you'll find Red Medicine, Jordan Kahn's little experiment with the Umami guys. Andrés has a full two decades of experience on Kahn, but that's not stopping Kahn from regularly turning out inventive dishes that are full of flavor. The price point at Red Medicine is also a lot easier to swallow.