Even though some of your favorite LA restaurants aren’t open to dine-in at the moment, with many not even opting for takeout and delivery, there’s still a way to taste their food: through cookbooks. It’s probably not going to taste as good as the restaurant version, but we can all dream of a time when those dishes were something we could order whenever we wanted at a favorite local establishment. Here now, Eater staffers recommend their favorite LA-based restaurant cookbooks.
As it turns out, everything that’s great about a neighborhood restaurant is also great about that neighborhood restaurant’s cookbook. At least that’s true for Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen, the 2014 Zoe Nathan book from the Santa Monica restaurant of same name. I’ve had the ample hardcover for years, and while I’m no master home cook, it’s proven useful, simple, and delicious time and time again. The blueberry cornmeal cake is one of the few dishes I can reliably make over and over again, the simple fried egg sandwich pops off the page, and of course there’s a whole section devoted to pancakes. What more could one want out of some weekend quarantine cooking? —Farley Elliott, Eater LA senior editor
If you’ve ever walked around a farmers market (or these days, opened a CSA box) full of ingredients you have no idea what to do with, this is your book. In addition to a bunch of California-effortless “oh I just threw this together” recipes, there are basic beginner tips on everything from plant terms to ripeness guides, as well as general cooking guidelines for all kinds of produce, organized by season. It’s the ideal “I don’t really know how to cook” cookbook — so good I gifted a copy to each of my bridesmaids when I got married. —Lesley Suter, Eater travel editor
Sqirl is such an essential LA restaurant, and for me, its book is more souvenir than cooking guide. I’ve actually never cooked from the book before — the Sqirl menu is full seemingly simple dishes that are actually comprised of nested recipes — but I love to look through it and soak in the Sqirl vibes. —Hillary Dixler Canavan, Eater restaurant editor
My friend (and fellow Eater LA contributor) Bill Esparza wrote an unsung cookbook discussing both the ambitious Alta California cuisine happening across Los Angeles and also its beloved street food. Recipes here are an easy way to remake favorite dishes from across the city’s best Mexican restaurants, including fideos from Ricardo Diaz’s Colonia Publica in Whittier to Thomas Ortega’s Puerto Nuevo lobster from Playa Amor. Street food selections include tamales de pollo from Maria Elena Lorenzo’s famed truck in Watts to a classic tlayuda from Guelaguetza founder Soledad Lopez. If you’re not going to be cooking these recipes, the stories of how so many of these amazing dishes came together is worth the effort of riffling through this cookbook. —Matthew Kang, Eater LA editor