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A beef rib over rice with kimchi.
A beef rib served over rice with kimchi at Zef BBQ in Simi Valley.
Wonho Frank Lee

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49 Restaurants That Remind Us How Lucky We Are to Be Eating in LA

Now that the city is open again, these are the places Eater LA editors and reporters can’t wait to get back to

It can be odd to float along the sidewalks of Los Angeles these days, stepping past city-built street-dining landscapes and peering into maskless, fully open restaurants where diners sit shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar, sipping wine and sharing plates. For some the reemergence seems fast, for others it’s long overdue, but one thing feels certain for Angelenos: The city we love hasn’t pulsed with this much energy in 15 months.

Loosened pandemic restrictions, shockingly low coronavirus case numbers, and busy nights at neighborhood restaurants these days don’t discount the loss, economic uncertainty, and fear felt by so many in the COVID-19 era, but they do offer continued hope for brighter days ahead. In pondering Los Angeles’s dining future, Eater LA’s editors and reporters have compiled a collection of places we can’t stop thinking about right now. Some spots have existed for years but were forced to retool during the pandemic, while others stand tall as a kind of new restaurant guard, born from the endless pivots and ingenuity that came out of 2020.

From a big Beverly Hills transformation led by a quick-thinking celebrity chef to a hopeful Indian dining destination in Whittier and the rise of vegan soul food across the city, here are 49 places that remind us how lucky we are to be eating in LA, ordered alphabetically.


Afuri - Arts District

Yuzu ratan ramen from Afuri in Los Angeles in a blue and white bowl over birch table.
Yuzu ratan ramen from Afuri in Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

LA’s ramen scene doesn’t need more restaurants, but Afuri knew it had something new up its sleeve with a very different approach to broth. Angelenos have taken a liking to the rich, unctuous tonkotsu and kotteri, but the excellence of clear-broth shio and shoyu are less pervasive. And no ramen shop is as famous for sprinkling the gently sweet, wonderfully nuanced acidity of yuzu into ramen like Afuri. The chain’s new Arts District location is fantastic from the get-go, with an open kitchen revealing everything from the broth-making to the noodle-cutting. And the restaurant is a near-complete experience, with full cocktails, liquor, sake, and beer to go along with ramen, dumplings, and crispy soft-shell crab buns. 688 Mateo Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Agnes - Pasadena

A pink tablecloth and an array of dishes from a new restaurant, including charcuterie.
A Midwestern-inspired spread at Agnes in Pasadena
Wonho Frank Lee

LA’s reopening moment has been brightened by the many shiny new mom-and-pop shops and former pop-ups turned legit, plus big celebrity arrivals, ongoing takeout cocktails, and so much more. Among the many openings of late, a theme of sorts has emerged: People are flocking to Pasadena, and Pasadena is ready to join the larger conversation. Long considered a low-key home for chain restaurants and easygoing family-friendly stops, the scene has grown to include fine French dining, stellar new pizza, and Agnes, a hard-to-pin-down Green Street arrival that is part market and cheesery, part bar, part dinnertime hangout with Midwestern heart and a fiery hearth. This is the place for Pasadena neighbors to congregate this summer, and not just because it’s close. It’s colorful, informal, friendly, and delicious, all qualities that should make for a long-lasting local impact well beyond the Pasadena borders. 40 W. Green Street, Pasadena. —Farley Elliott

A&J Seafood Shack - Long Beach

A&J Seafood Shack, Long Beach
A&J Seafood Shack, Long Beach
Cathy Chaplin

On the corner of Anaheim and Obispo, on the edge of Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, Vannak Tan is wokking up spectacular Cambodian-inflected dishes. The 280-square-foot stall most recently hawked hot dogs and french fries, and prior to that, it sold tortas to go. Now, the sea-kissed breezes surrounding A&J Seafood Shack are laced with the scent of garlic. Loads of it. Drawing on family recipes and street food traditions spanning from Phnom Penh to Oahu’s North Shore, the diverse menu transports diners to far-flung destinations with its pitch-perfect flavors. The house-special lobster, wok-tossed with aromatics, is hacked into manageable bits for easier eating. The Hawaiian garlic shrimp channels the food trucks dotting Oahu’s coastline. It’s served with fresh pineapple slices and is one of the shack’s best-sellers. The turf side of the menu features grilled beef baguette sandwiches, deeply redolent of lemongrass, along with sour and smoky Khmer sausages served over steamed white rice. 3201 E Anaheim St, Long Beach. —Cathy Chaplin

A.O.C. - Brentwood

A.O.C. restaurant interior in Brentwood, California
A.O.C. Brentwood
Wonho Frank Lee

It’s impossible to miss owners Caroline Styne and Suzanne Goin’s imprint on Los Angeles. They’re longtime innovators who have seen it all, and previously worked at some of LA’s most influential spots before opening Lucques, Tavern, and A.O.C. in West Hollywood. They closed Tavern early in the pandemic, but they had plans for the building. Styne and Goin completely reinvented the space by eliminating the nonfunctional elements, and spent a good part of 2020 and 2021 converting it into the cozier bistro-inspired Brentwood arm of A.O.C. This is a bright and imaginative use of the shuttered Tavern with a new patio, efficient restyling that presents ease for front- and back-of-house, and colors that regulars will find inviting, along with the return of longtime staff. 1648 San Vicente Boulevard, Brentwood. —Mona Holmes

Ardor - West Hollywood

Milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood.
Milk bread at Ardor in West Hollywood
Matthew Kang

After a quiet opening in November 2019, then closing for most of the pandemic, West Hollywood’s high-style Ardor comes with a lush, plant-laden interior, sleek wood-lined ceiling, and thumping bass tunes from the sound system. As if the striking Ian Schrager hotel’s lobby wasn’t enough of an attraction, chef John Fraser’s vegetable-heavy menu is a bona fide destination for influencer types looking for polished food. While Ardor has certainly nailed the look and feel of an impressive restaurant in 2021, Fraser and his all-women team of line cooks keep the dishes fairly simple, leaning on stellar ingredients and slight tweaks to let things pop on the plate. Plump shrimp lie aside a pool of tangy broth and neutral grits, contrasted with paper-thin zucchini slices to give a Southern classic an LA spin. Pickled chile provides a punch to the lobster tagliatelle, while roasted eggplant melts in the mouth alongside blackened tandoor carrots. There hasn’t been a West Hollywood restaurant that’s nailed the entire dining experience like this in a long time. 9040 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. —Matthew Kang

Bakers Bench - Chinatown

A close up of the interior of a vegan croissant made by Bakers Bench chef Jennifer Yee.
A vegan croissant from Bakers Bench
Wonho Frank Lee

Chef Jennifer Yee opened Bakers Bench at Far East Plaza in Chinatown after a decade of honing her pastry skills in some of the most rigorous kitchens on both coasts. The bakery operates from a 5-by-10-foot kiosk located in the breezeway of one of Chinatown’s busiest plazas on Friday and Saturday mornings. The display cases are filled with golden, flaky vegan croissants, a line of vegan cookies (classic chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, and lemon ginger), and seasonal specials like panna cotta, danishes, and jam bars. Not everything served at Bakers Bench is vegan, though, as Yee eats omnivorously but acknowledges the environmental and ethical boon of consuming less animal-based food. 727 North Broadway, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Beignet Box - Studio City

Beignet Box owners Christina Milian and Elizabeth Morris in Studio City, California.
Beignet Box owners Christina Milian and Elizabeth Morris in Studio City
Nils Erik

Living in Los Angeles, it’s always a toss-up when a celebrity opens a restaurant. You never know if the hype will overwhelm the central message of the business, which should always be about the food. And it’s all about the beignets at Beignet Box in Studio City, which opened in April. Actress and pop singer Christina Milian launched the cafe with friend Elizabeth Morris, a Louisiana native who missed home, so the partners amped up bits of Southern glam in the former Comoncy space, creating a unique experience in the San Fernando Valley. Take in the bright windows and New Orleans-themed interior along with indoor seating for 22 people, and a patio that holds 15. This is LA’s only cafe entirely dedicated to coffee and puffy, deep-fried, sugar-dusted beignets. Go with friends, take a book, or just sit and enjoy. 12265 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City. —Mona Holmes

Bé Ù - East Hollywood

It’s all about the triple bottom line at chef Uyên Lê’s Bé Ù: social justice, economic justice, and environmental sustainability. The menu of Vietnamese fare, which includes caramelized pork and eggs, bo la lot (grilled beef-stuffed wild betel leaves), popcorn chicken with a garlicky aioli, and summer rolls, is affordably priced for neighborhood locals. Additionally, Lê is committed to paying the restaurant’s workers above market wages, prioritizing their health and safety, and fostering a respectful and equitable culture. From superb cooking to progressive ideals, it’s hard to go wrong at Bé Ù. 557 North Hoover Street, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Brooklyn Ave Pizza Co. - Boyle Heights

Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co.’s la bianca pie in Boyle Heights, California
Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co.’s la bianca pie in Boyle Heights, California
Jakob Layman

Boyle Heights is one of LA’s most storied neighborhoods, but its vibrancy stems from its immigrant population, relegated to the area due to redlining. The next chapter starts with opening an excellent, approachable pizzeria with gently blistered pies topped with familiar Mexican ingredients, leading to an eventual expansion into a music venue and more sit-down restaurants. Opening chef Mario Christerna has since moved on despite being a passionate promoter of the project that opened in the neighborhood of his youth, but now Jorge Sandoval has taken over the kitchen. Still, the approach is thoughtful and mindful of recent development in the area, something that hasn’t always been the narrative for Boyle Heights. 2706 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Chef C’s Smhokin Pot - Carson

Jambalaya and other Cajun delights from Chef C’s Smhokin Pot in Carson.
Jambalaya and other Cajun delights from Chef C’s Smhokin Pot in Carson
Matthew Kang

Chef Calvin Alexander had been tearing up the streets with his flavorful blend of Cajun fare and South LA vibes in a popular food truck. But Alexander has settled into a permanent strip mall location across from Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park. The draw here is a full menu of classics, from gumbo and lobster bisque to a mean jambalaya. Everything feels purposeful and packed with flavor, making Chef C’s Smhokin Pot part of the resurgence of Southern food in the South Bay and Long Beach area over the past year or so. Close-up photos will be guaranteed draws on your social media feed, especially of the herb-flecked garlic lobster served over fries. 17944 South Avalon Boulevard, Carson. —Matthew Kang

Chifa - Eagle Rock

A spread of Chinese and Peruvian dishes.
Dishes from Chifa, Eagle Rock
Wonho Frank Lee

Chifa is a deeply personal project that celebrates the Leon family’s rich culinary history, which spans from Peru to China and Taiwan. The folks behind the restaurant include Humberto Leon, the co-founder of cult fashion brand Opening Ceremony and the former creative director of Kenzo, his mother, Wendy Leon, sister Ricardina Leon, and brother-in-law John Liu. The 1,400-square-foot, 1950s-era building has been thoroughly transformed into a dining destination inspired by the original Chifa restaurant that Wendy, the family’s matriarch, owned in Lima, Peru, nearly a half-century ago. The menu reflects the way the Leon family ate while growing up. The si yao chicken is a carryover from the original restaurant; its sauce comes from Wendy’s hometown. The char siu is another dish from the Lima menu. Liu updated the preparation to eliminate artificial colors, and finishes the pork ribs on a woodfire grill. 4374 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Crudo e Nudo - Santa Monica

Two people shown from overhead with plates of seafood and grilled fish.
Diners at Crudo e Nudo
Ashley Randall

Santa Monica’s Main Street is experiencing a revival of sorts as restaurants open, reopen, and re-envision what it means to service the communities that border this stretch between Venice and Downtown Santa Monica. Crudo e Nudo, a small wedge of a seafood spot that opened in April 2021, provides a twofold service: a fresh fish market for locals in the area who want to shop high-quality, sustainably sourced seafood; and a restaurant whose small, colorful patio provides the backdrop for dishes like caviar nachos, tuna toast (tartare, that is, served on thick-cut, seeded Gjusta bread and topped with onion confit), prawns a la plancha, steamed clams, and a vegan Caesar salad (its dressing is also sold from the market side). A neighborhood-minded lunch-break menu priced at $15 includes a full-size salad or grain bowl served with half a tuna toast, shrimp cocktail, or four oysters. 2724 Main Street, Santa Monica. —Nicole Adlman

Damian - Arts District

Hibiscus Meringue at Damian.
Hibiscus meringue at Damian
[Official Photo]

Enrique Olvera has plotted this restaurant opening for years, and it quietly happened in the thick of the pandemic in 2020. Though the Arts District restaurant has to compete with the energy of Bestia across the alley, the contrast of a tucked-away dining room and lovely open-air patio gives Damian its own character. Olvera’s food resembles the formula at his smash-hit Cosme in New York City, though dishes tend to feature things Angelenos are well-acquainted with, like fish tacos, pescado a la brasa, and jamaica agua fresca-inspired hibiscus meringue. 2132 East 7th Place, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Daybird - Westlake

Daybird’s fried chicken sandwich in Los Angeles
Daybird’s fried chicken sandwich
Matthew Kang

Mei Lin still hasn’t reopened her celebrated restaurant Nightshade in the Arts District, and it might not at this point. But Lin has kept busy with her fried chicken sandwich restaurant Daybird, which took over a strip mall location on the crossroads of Virgil Village, Silver Lake, and Rampart. The idea here is Sichuan spice dusted onto an ultra-crisp thigh fried Taiwanese-style. Diners will likely notice how excellently seasoned the slaw is here. With a menu rounded out with tenders, fries, pickles, and drinks, it’s a place destined to be replicated in multiple locations around town. 240 N. Virgil Avenue, #5, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Dulan’s - Inglewood

Steam table counter at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in Inglewood, California.
Steam table counter at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen
Dulan’s [Official photo]

The Dulan family has been feeding Los Angeles for decades. During the pandemic co-owner Terry Dulan noticed a change in behavior after sheltering in place became the norm. Regulars were tired of being at home and came out to buy two and three dinners at once. And because Dulan’s is notorious for their massive portions, a few of these could easily feed people for a week. Dulan’s Manchester and Century Boulevard locations are now packed again, with customers ordering the incredible smothered pork chops, baked fish, and peach cobbler. There’s also an expanded dining area at the Manchester location. It is safe to say that Terry and Gregory Dulan are continuing to do what they’ve done since taking over the family business from their father. The brothers feed the city. And they’ll continue to do so no matter how challenging the circumstances. 202 East Manchester Boulevard, Inglewood. —Mona Holmes

E.P. & L.P. - West Hollywood

Anchovy toast with egg butter at EP
Anchovy toast with egg butter at E.P.
Jakob Layman

It was a shame to see E.P. & L.P.’s Southeast Asian menu fall by the wayside for a less ambitious but potentially more focused modern American menu installed by chef Monty Koludrovic and wife/pastry chef Jaci Koludrovic, and head chef Nicholas Russo (previously of Nightshade). Former Majordomo wine director Richard Hargreave has some choice glasses like a nuanced orange wine that goes well with the umami-bomb grilled tiger prawns. The vegetables are fresh and reflective of perfect seasonality, like asparagus with fava beans topped with bottarga. Plush gnocchi comes with tender bites of lobster and a simmer of heat from Calabrian chile, while the pan-roasted branzino has a shatteringly crisp skin over celery root puree and spinach. The strawberries and cream with coconut sorbet could be the most phenomenal strawberry dessert in LA right now. It turns out change could be welcome, especially coming out of 2020. 603 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood. —Matthew Kang

Gasolina - Woodland Hills

Plates from Gasolina Cafe’s new dinner menu Gasolina Cafe

Chef Sandra Cordero has always owned the daytime game at her popular Woodland Hills Spanish restaurant Gasolina. With a wide patio and friendly service, Cordero has finally taken the opportunity to do a full tapas-style dinner menu, with jamon croquetas, gambas al ajillo, albondigas in spicy tomato sauce, and two kinds of paella big enough to share. So far the progress is good, with solid flavors and stellar ingredients, though one wishes for amped up execution that would take this to the next level as a dinner destination. But given the general lack of Spanish food in LA, and especially in this part of the San Fernando Valley, most locals are more than happy to sip on cidra and dine on mussels escabeche with amazing charred bread. Don’t miss the desserts, especially the strawberry-topped flan. 21150 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills. —Matthew Kang

Hatchet Hall - Culver City

Hatchet hall private dining room fuss and feathers
Private dining room at Hatchet Hall in Culver City
Hatchet Hall

Just about everyone, personally and professionally, has been given a new perspective these days. That’s good in many ways, and has the potential to reshape the way we talk about worker equity, diversity, pay, and even passion. At Hatchet Hall, this era has meant its own kind of change, as chef Wes Whitsell steps in to take the reins from Brian Dunsmoor. For the casual diner that might not mean much, considering both have extensive pedigrees cooking Southern-inspired food with a wood-fired soul, but it’s remarkable when considering the timing of it all. Instead of closing, instead of having to revamp entirely to stay alive, this staple Los Angeles restaurant is continuing to heed its own personal vision while finding room to grow. If Hatchet Hall can do it, so can (and have) many other places around the city. Los Angeles is changing, in ways large and small, and that’s reason alone to celebrate. 12517 W. Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Heritage and Heritage Sandwich Shop - Long Beach

Heritage Long Beach Courtesy of Heritage

When an experienced chef takes over a Long Beach Craftsman home to convert it into a daytime sandwich shop and upscale nighttime restaurant with the same name, it’s bound to be good. Heritage is not to be confused with the popular San Juan Capistrano barbecue spot; this one resides on Seventh Street near Cherry Avenue in a mostly residential neighborhood. Siblings Philip and Lauren Pretty bought the property in a move that’s clearly a long-haul strategy from Long Beach locals who keep the vibe strictly local with seafood sourced from LBC Seafood Market, and cheese from Oh La Vache. Heritage Sandwich Shop started with a pick-up window in mid-2020, while the fine dining arm debuted in May with fresh herbs and produce from its on-site garden, along with chef Pretty’s selections from regional farmers markets. 2032 E. 7th Street, Long Beach. —Mona Holmes

Imli - Whittier

Dishes from Imli
Stan Lee

Imli is a restaurant success story, even though it hasn’t formally opened yet — at least not in its most robust form. Owner Ashwini Jhaveri and chef Nikhil Merchant consider their upcoming Whittier space and current scaled-back weekend pop-up to be a win simply because they’re still cooking the food they want, the way they want, despite a torrent of setbacks. Originally Imli was going to be a lunch-focused Downtown LA restaurant that stuck to much of the Indian restaurant playbook that casual Angelenos have come to expect, but when the space fell through they decided to transition to the suburbs, and to new ways of thinking about who they serve and what they want to sell. Imli is now set to be a powerhouse of pan-Indian flavors, pulling from across the massive region with specific chef’s special dishes from Merchant, a chai bar, and street food nods. There has been endless perseverance during the past 16 months, and still more is needed every day. Jhaveri and Merchant’s rocky path started years ago, and is now being rewarded with views of a post-pandemic landscape that feels much closer to the vision they’ve always had for the restaurant they love. 13002 Philadelphia Street, Whittier. —Farley Elliott

In the Kitchen - Long Beach

A portrait of Nora Tatum, the chef and owner of In The Kitchen on Long Beach Boulevard.
Nora Tatum opened In The Kitchen on Long Beach Boulevard during the pandemic.

For a taste of excellent Texas-style Southern cooking, go to Long Beach’s In The Kitchen. Chef and owner Nora Tatum prepares stewed oxtails, fried catfish, chicken noodle casseroles, and more using recipes that she learned from her Dallas-native mother Eva Tatum and her aunt Ruby Rowlett. The restaurant’s sun-washed dining room is fully open following a pandemic dormancy, and a steady stream of locals are coming in for lunches of fried catfish and fried chicken, while the dinnertime crowd digs into Southern classics like slow-cooked oxtails, smothered chicken or pork chops, and a slew of sides. Chef Stephanie Johnson of local dessert purveyor Sweet Blessings makes the banana pudding and peach cobbler that are available all day. 900 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach. —Cathy Chaplin

Jerusalem Chicken - Windsor Hills

Chicken stuffed with rice, mushroom, and beef at Jerusalem Chicken.
Chicken stuffed with rice, mushroom, and beef at Jerusalem Chicken
Jerusalem Chicken

Los Angeles is never short on Middle Eastern options, but Windsor Hills has one that’s a rare find within the city limits. Jerusalem Chicken opened in February and long-standing residents rave about the fare. There isn’t a kebab to be found here, but the chicken platters are beautifully seasoned with four different styles including sumac, lemon and garlic, onions and potatoes, or the chicken stuffed with rice, mushrooms, and beef. The sides are familiar, but it’s always good to see a vegan option that goes beyond falafel; here it’s ful medames, or fava beans with garlic, lemon, olive oil, and cumin between a house-made pita. The Jerusalem rib-eye sandwich can only be topped by the rib-eye hummus. There’s seating indoors and out, and the reasonable price is why many keep returning. Nothing is over $13. It’s no wonder Jerusalem Chicken fits into the neighborhood so well, as the Othman family also owns the four Orleans & York Deli locations in South LA. 4448 West Slauson, Windsor Hills. —Mona Holmes

La Burrita Marina - Jurupa Valley

A heavily-sauced seafood burrito sits inside of a takeout container.
La Burrita Marina
Matthew Kang

A trip out to Palm Springs or the desert requires a pit stop at this truly incredible food truck serving Puerto Vallarta-style seafood burritos called burritas. Chock full of griddled octopus, shrimp, fish, and marlin, the burritos gain a level from avocado, tomato, and melted cheese, before getting a final hit from the requisite creamy salsas. Owners Raúl and Socorro Diaz partnered with a Puerto Vallarta restaurant from their connection sin charrería, or Mexican rodeo, with plans to open numerous locations in the U.S. But for now, this rather isolated parking spot in Jurupa Valley has instantly become one of the best places to eat in the Inland Empire. 4747 Felspar Street in the Jurupa Valley, or by calling (626) 712-4422. —Matthew Kang

Little Coyote - Long Beach

A stack of white boxes of pizza with olives on the topmost pie.
Pizza at Little Coyote
Matthew Kang

One of the best parts about eating in Los Angeles, for those who really embrace the dining culture here, is the drive to the restaurant itself. It sounds counterintuitive, but the embrace of different neighborhoods and disparate communities is all-important to the Angeleno eating experience. There’s simply too much good stuff, in too many places, to stick to one part of town, so those who crave the variety and depth that this city offers must also embrace the trip itself. Little Coyote, Long Beach’s hottest new restaurant, would be doing just fine serving pizzas to locals only, but the restaurant isn’t striving for fine. Instead, owners Jonathan Strader and Jack Leahy are pushing the pizza conversation forward for the entire Southland, turning out what may well be the best non-Neapolitan pies around. There are slices of pepperoni at lunch, whole margherita and vegan options at dinner, plus natural wine, sub sandwiches, salads, and more along the way. This isn’t just fine for Long Beach or good for LA; this is the kind of place that makes the drive worthwhile. 2118 E. 4th Street, Long Beach. —Farley Elliott

Louella’s Cali Soul Kitchen - Culver City

Chef Keith Corbin is exactly what Los Angeles needs — and, ironically, someone LA has always had. Corbin was born here, has always cooked here, and has focused in recent years on using that lens to identify himself, and his cooking, to the world at large. First Corbin found recognition at Alta Adams, the Daniel Patterson joint project in West Adams that plays on modern soul food staples and California produce. Now Corbin has just opened Louella’s Cali Soul Kitchen, a pared-down takeaway inside the Citizen Public Market in the heart of Culver City. The opening is, again, really just a harkening back to LA’s heart: Corbin cooks brisket, fried fish, fried chicken, and red beans and rice using decades-old recipes from his family, served inside of a gorgeous historic building that’s been turned into a food hall. It’s these types of moments, where LA people and LA places work together to excavate their past and build something bigger and better, that offer so much hope for the near future of this city. 9355 Culver Boulevard, Culver City. —Farley Elliott

Lucky Bird - Eagle Rock

A bucket of chicken from Lucky Bird Jakob Layman

The new pale-blue exterior on what used to be Eagle Rock Public House now belongs to a familiar fried chicken-maker. Lucky Bird is bound to be an essential presence on an active strip of Colorado Boulevard, with longtime businesses Malbec Argentinean Cuisine and the Fable directly across the street. The timing is sort of perfect, as owners Chris and Christine Dane expanded from their Grand Central Market stand at a time when locals are eager to go somewhere to hang out. Lucky Bird Eagle Rock has everything that residents have wanted for nearly a year and a half: outdoor seating, a giant pull-up door, craft beer and wine, and fried chicken. Chef Chris Dane has additional room to expand his craft, so he’s got far more offerings than at the original location. It’s now a welcoming spot to sit and order some citrusy and crunchy legs and thighs, the broccoli salad, or the fluffy — and gluten-free — cornbread, while watching the kitchen work its magic. 627 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock. —Mona Holmes

Mayfield - San Juan Capistrano

Octopus with pomegranate molasses glaze at Mayfield, San Juan Capistrano.
Octopus with pomegranate molasses glaze at Mayfield, San Juan Capistrano
Farley Elliott

Orange County’s hottest dining destination is ... San Juan Capistrano? It seems that way, with the arrival of Heritage Barbecue and the new-ish Mayfield, a colorful market and restaurant rich with daytime simplicity and dinnertime flair. There are Japanese sweet potatoes with smoked date labneh, octopus washed in a pomegranate molasses glaze, fried chicken dusted with za’atar, and lamb shanks in table-thudding proportions. It’s beautiful to have so many options for dining out in Orange County, and even more beautiful to see all of Southern California continue to explode with fantastic eating options at all price points and experience levels. Mayfield is just one of a new crop of destination spots for the greater OC scene, and a reminder that some fantastic eating exists just beyond LA County’s southern border. What better time to make the drive than now? 1761 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. —Farley Elliott

Medan Kitchen - Rosemead

Rice noodles with shrimp and vegetables being prepared in a wok.
Medan Kitchen’s owner and chef Siu Chen cooking noodles in a wok

While some hospitality professionals launched side hustles to survive the pandemic, 75-year-old Siu Chen made the bold leap from entrepreneurial home cook to restaurant owner with Medan Kitchen. Together with her family, Chen transformed the bifurcated space formerly occupied by New Century Lobster in Rosemead into a hub for Indonesian cooking. One side features a takeout-only operation where upward of 50 dishes are prepared in advance, prepacked to go, and stacked to sell on a series of two-tops running through the center of the room. On the other side sits a small grocery store selling imported condiments, snacks, and instant noodles — a doorway just beyond the cash register connects the two areas. The menu — which changes often, its latest additions shared on Instagram — always includes the restaurant’s two bestsellers: lontong sayur medan (rice cakes with vegetables) and nasi kuning komplit (Indonesian yellow rice set meal). 8518 Valley Boulevard, Ste. 102, Rosemead. —Cathy Chaplin

Menya Tigre - West Los Angeles

Menya Tigre’s curry ramen with customary noodle pull.
Menya Tigre’s curry ramen
Matthew Kang

LA’s seen a lot of familiar approaches to ramen recently, but this ambitious new shop on Sawtelle throws a bit of a curve ball: taking the aggressive but comforting taste of Japanese curry and making it into a brothy noodle soup. It’s not that different from the curry udon served across the street at Marugame, except the broth is denser and headier, with substance coming from the firm alkaline noodles and slivers of chashu pork. On a block that already boasts plenty in the way of ramen, it’s great to see a new contender. 2012 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Mírame - Beverly Hills

Pulling off the crisp-skinned, tender flesh of fried Baja snapper at Mírame.
Pulling off the crisp-skinned, tender flesh of fried Baja snapper at Mírame
Matthew Kang

Joshua Gil has been a journeyman chef in the truest sense, gaining acclaim at Tacos Punta Cabras and then traveling around in search of his own style before landing in the center of the Golden Triangle. Mírame has managed to appeal to ritzy Beverly Hills diners while sticking to the robust, rugged flavors of Baja California. Gil’s menu and the refreshing cocktails make for one of the biggest restaurant surprises of the past year. The crispy Baja snapper could be a top new LA dish. 419 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills. —Matthew Kang

No. 1 Express - Arcadia

Shanghainese red braised pork at No. 1 Express in Arcadia in a plastic takeout container.
Shanghainese red braised pork at No. 1 Express in Arcadia
Cathy Chaplin

From crispy duck to spicy chicken, the menu at No. 1 Express boasts quite a few signature dishes. But don’t overlook the iconic Shanghainese red braises that consist of pork or lamb simmered in an umami-rich broth of soy, sugar, and aromatics. Order the braised meat over steamed white rice with a tea egg and vegetables. Or purchase the pork or lamb in bulk to feed a family. Also fantastic is the crispy duck leg. The cooking is beyond solid at No. 1 Express, so definitely order anything on the menu that sounds remotely intriguing. 713 West Duarte Road #F, Arcadia. —Cathy Chaplin

Orsa & Winston - Downtown

Orsa
Orsa & Winston
Orsa & Winston

If there’s anyone that can find beauty in the sad spaces that everyone has had to inhabit over the past year-plus, it’s chef Josef Centeno. His once-thriving Downtown LA dining empire was battered by the pandemic — particularly nine-year-old Baco Mercat, which closed in August 2020 — but he and his staff remain, turning out reliable Tex-Mex fare at Bar Amá and gorgeous Japanese-Italian fine dining dishes at next-door Orsa & Winston. It is the latter that offers the most promise for a better future, one where stars like Centeno can continue to manipulate California ingredients and just-ripe vegetables into menus worthy of a Michelin star. Not that Centeno has spent much time thinking about rankings and lists; he’s been busy doing the beautiful work of feeding front-line nurses and staffers while keeping his restaurants afloat. 122 W. 4th Street, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Ospero - West Hollywood

Prosciutto pizza with red peppers and mushrooms.
Fantastic wood-fired pizza at Ospero in West Hollywood

Wolfgang Puck knows how to please people. He’s not really in the business of trying to change the game anymore, which is totally fine because Ospero is not only refreshingly simple, it leans on time-worn Puck dishes, like pizza, pasta, and seasonal produce. Ospero does a good job of shielding itself from feeling like a hotel restaurant, with a very nice-looking coffee bar that opens directly onto Sunset, and a thin but long patio balcony that offers some solid views of LA. The wood-fired pizza is fantastic, especially the lamb sausage, roasted onion, and mushroom. Order the oxtail pappardelle and a glass of sangiovese to complete the unfussy weeknight dinner in West Hollywood. 8430 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. —Matthew Kang

Ospi - Venice

A thin, crispy pizza and sides like toast from above at a restaurant.
Dishes from Ospi in Venice
Wonho Frank Lee

Jackson Kalb and partner Melissa Saka only recently unveiled their dining room, after maneuvering to sidewalk dining at their Venice Italian restaurant. The fare isn’t too complicated, with upscale pasta and pizza that takes things up a notch from their popular El Segundo restaurant. Astute diners might be quick to compare the place to celebrated nearby spot Felix, but Ospi stands on its own with a more Italian-American approach to dishes and less strict adherence to specific regions in Italy. Lobster lemon tagliolini, pork spare rib raschiatelli, and ‘nduja scallion pizza are just a few examples of the extremely good cooking here. 2025 Pacific Avenue, Venice. —Matthew Kang

Petite Peso - Downtown

The exterior of Petite Peso, the small Downtown LA restaurant.
Petite Peso in Downtown LA
Wonho Frank Lee

Petite Peso debuted during the early days of lockdown and has been humming along ever since in the former Rice Bar space. Chef Ria Barbosa and her team are sustaining Downtown denizens (and beyond) with all manner of Pinoy comforts — from flavor-forward salads dressed with fermented shrimp paste to hearty rice bowls topped with chicken adobo. Order the sisig salad, a powerhouse of chicken livers, chicken skin, and Thai chiles, along with the impressively crisp lumpia made with Impossible meat and served with a sticky-sweet dipping sauce. For dessert, polvorones — delicately crumbly shortbread cookies made from firmly pressed flour, sugar, and milk powder — dissolve on one’s tongue in the most pleasant of fashions. 419 West 7th Street, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Pie Room - Beverly Hills

Sausage rolls and savory pies from Pie Room in Beverly Hills.
Sausage rolls and savory pies from Pie Room in Beverly Hills
Matthew Kang

Curtis Stone and pastry chef Amy Taylor helped transform the celebrated Beverly Hills restaurant Maude into an everyday destination for flaky, buttery, Australian-style pies, both savory and sweet. The results are as spectacular as one could expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant looking to be nimble coming out of a pandemic. Right now, the oxtail and meat pie is one of the most fulfilling dishes in the city, while the slightly tangy sausage rolls are hard to eat just one of. As for sweets, there are numerous fresh pies daily that come in heaping slices or as standalone feasts. 212 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. —Matthew Kang

The Rose Venice - Venice

Crudo at Rose Venice
Crudo at Rose Venice
Matthew Kang

Jason Neroni had a bona fide hit on his hands before the pandemic, with upward of 12,000 people coming through his all-day Venice restaurant every week. COVID-19 forced Neroni to rethink the massive operation, and while most of it seems to be back on track, longtime patrons might notice a lot that’s different under the surface, especially at dinnertime: The mostly pasta and pizza menu now includes grilled meat and more formal entrees. Neroni dry-ages meat in a commissary kitchen and makes his own charcuterie. The menu is less California-Italian and more a Westside chef’s fever dream of pristine ingredients drawn from LA’s numerous cuisines. 20 Rose Avenue, Venice. —Matthew Kang

Sant’olina - Beverly Hills

A summery rooftop restaurant setup with light blonde chairs and blue touches.
Sant’olina on top of the Beverly Hilton Hotel offers sweeping views and broad flavors.

Burt Bakman has been an ever-present part of the greater LA food scene for close to a decade now. The onetime underground cook gained notoriety for his Studio City brisket under the name Trudy’s Underground Barbecue, but it’s his charm and his personal connections that have kept him cooking (and eating) across the city since then. He turned his love of smoked meat into Slab on West Third Street with help from the H.Wood Group, and now has Sant’olina, a rooftop hideaway on top of the Beverly Hilton Hotel that offers sweeping views and broad flavors. There are nods to Bakman’s Israeli heritage, but the place is not exclusively anything. It’s fun, colorful, and one heck of a summertime hang, perfect for a year like 2021, when everything suddenly feels possible, and dining out is once again on almost everyone’s to-do list. 9876 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills. —Farley Elliott

Say It Ain’t So - North Hollywood

Spicy fried mushroom sandwich from Say It Ain’t So in Historic Filipinotown.
Spicy fried mushroom sandwich from Say It Ain’t So in Historic Filipinotown
Farley Elliott

What’s to become of the pop-up food scene that emerged so fruitfully during the pandemic? It’s hard to offer broad strokes for the underground, often at-home ecosystem at large moving forward, precisely because the movement has been so personal for so many, from laid-off line cooks to at-home bakers who simply wanted to use the pandemic as a moment to fuel their passion projects. Say It Ain’t So made it further than most over the past year-plus, opening an all-vegan burger-and-sides shop inside of a physical location, sharing space with Tamales Alberto in Historic Filipinotown. Now, like everyone else, they’re focusing on what’s next, with plans to reemerge with a new setup inside the Renegade in North Hollywood. It’s another moment of change for Say It Ain’t So, but that’s okay; it’s still an uncertain time for many. The good news is there’s also hope and possibility — and some really great vegan food. 1136 W Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood. —Farley Elliott

Shiku - Downtown

LA galbi from Shiku in Downtown Los Angeles.
LA galbi from Shiku
Cathy Chaplin

Grand Central Market is back — not that it ever really left. The century-old food hall and marketplace has been an anchor for the Downtown LA dining and tourism scene since it first opened, but faced significant challenges during the pandemic as crowds were quelled, travel was nixed, and at-home dining was the rule of the land. Thankfully the market’s return has mirrored closely the reopening of LA as a whole, with crowds once again jostling for sandwiches, beers, and snacks from Shiku, the Korean follow-up restaurant from the Baroo crew. There are pantry staples and to-go containers of banchan at the ready, plus lunch boxes and occasional takes on fish and chips, fried chicken, and more. The whole Kwang Uh and Mina Park experience is on display at Shiku, from thoughtfully sourced ingredients to well-executed dishes. There’s nothing quite like snacking around at Grand Central Market, the food hall jewel of Los Angeles, with a snack in hand and a smile on your face. Welcome back. 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Sunday Gravy - Inglewood

Dishes from Sunday Gravy in Ingelwood, California
Italian-American comforts at Sunday Gravy in Inglewood

Sol and Ghazi Bashirian are the kind of owners you want for a restaurant. They know the names of their neighbors, send food to those who need it, double down on the old-school Italian vibes, and sport a solid wine list in a bright dining room that oozes coziness. And then there’s the food. The short rib ragu has been a customer favorite since the siblings opened the restaurant in late 2019, but chef Sol also introduced a weekly special during the pandemic: lasagna. Every Friday, the phone rings with people asking whether it’s alfredo, garlic chicken, or mushroom with a shiitake ragu. 1122 Centinela Avenue, Inglewood. —Mona Holmes

Swift Cafe - Leimert Park

Customers at Swift Cafe in Leimert Park
Swift Cafe in Leimert Park
Sheldon Botler

If driving south on Crenshaw Boulevard and you hit 43rd Street, you’ve already gone too far. Double back and look for the bright oasis that is Swift Cafe. Chef Kyndra McCrary opened her Leimert Park restaurant in 2019, and she has an eye for what works. Nab a window seat if you can and take in her flavor. McCrary worked with a nutritionist to make sure her flavors didn’t borrow from ingredients with high fat or sodium, and that’s part of what sets her apart in South LA. While there are incredible restaurants all around, many are fast food, or the deep-fried variety. McCrary tested out different dishes throughout the pandemic, so she’s very clear on what her customers want. She also makes subtle substitutions that don’t compromise on flavor, like a gumbo that uses vegan butter. Instead of beef chili, she’s using ground turkey. But then there’s her grilled shrimp, jerk chicken, or her incredible smoothies. Don’t mistake this place for a health food restaurant; McCary will still throw down with a special bananas Foster crepe or red velvet waffle with fried chicken. Swift Cafe just focuses on flavor. And delivers. 4279 1/2 Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

Tam’s Noodle - San Gabriel

Cantonese egg noodles with beef and pigs feet at Tam’s Noodle House in San Gabriel.
Cantonese egg noodles with beef and pigs feet at Tam’s Noodle House
Cathy Chaplin

Operating in the former Nha Trang space, Tam’s Noodle serves up Cantonese classics — from congee to curry with fried fish balls and chicken wings with salted egg yolk. Best of all, the restaurant makes its egg noodles in house. Grab a seat on the full-service shaded patio and order the congee with pork and preserved eggs, crackly pineapple buns, and the aforementioned egg noodles topped with stewed beef and pigs’ feet. The noodles are toothsome and bouncy, while the proteins seem to collapse with tenderness. Swing by for a taste before temperatures rise even higher and Tam’s stick-to-your-bones fare loses its appeal all together. 120 North San Gabriel Boulevard, Ste. J, San Gabriel. —Cathy Chaplin

Vegan A.F. Truck

Philly egg roll from Vegan A.F. food truck
Philly egg roll from Vegan A.F. food truck
Kristal Douglas

Chanel Goodson is convinced no one is doing vegan food in a really fun, street food way in Los Angeles. While that’s not entirely accurate, with Cena in Highland Park drawing massive lines for its Mexican-inspired fare, Goodson has a point that vegan often fare follows the formula of being a plant-based version of a typical dish, like pizza or a burger. At Goodson’s colorful pink truck, the menu has loaded fries, stuffed giant egg rolls, and a vegan banana pudding. The idea is to make vegan food that’s approachable and likeable for omnivores and those who eschew meat, that packs flavor into every bite. The deep-fried giant Philly eggroll has melty mozzarella and seasoned Beyond meat that works great when dipped into a sweet-spicy sauce. —Matthew Kang

VTree - Silver Lake

Soul food platter from V Tree in Silver Lake, California.
Soul food platter from VTree
Courtesy of VTree

When a restaurant hits a different note in a competitive neighborhood, it hits a nerve. Chef Velvet opened that very restaurant on Sunset near Maltman, and made it seem like VTree has been there all along with unique soul food that’s all plant-based. The menu changes regularly, but there’s something very homey and comforting about Velvet’s food. The interior has colorful tones with a minimal touch, and that works because the food is at the center with dishes like a chickpea tuna wrap, vegan cinnamon rolls, and West African peanut butter stew. It’s a wonderful step up from her temporary set up at Yamashiro during the pandemic. 3515 Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake. —Mona Holmes

Wife and the Somm - Glassell Park

Back in 2019, Chris Lucchese and Christine Lindgren announced their plans to open their restaurant and wine bar in 2020, and it’s been a long road since. The couple only recently stepped into their cozy space with a stunning interior, stellar wine list, and rotating menu that includes a five-year-old gouda, choice of sausages, plates with grilled asparagus with black aioli, or ahi tartare with black garlic. Lucchese and Lindgren evolved from their wine club beginnings and into full function this April, with an ease that can be experienced after one sip from their stellar wine lists and a bite of the food. Wife and The Somm — located on a cozy corner in Glassell Park near Verdugo Bar and Lemon Poppy Kitchen — is simply a chill-out spot that’s sorely needed after the least chill-out year ever. 3416 Verdugo Road, Glassell Park. —Mona Holmes

Yang’s Kitchen - Alhambra

Chef Chris Yang and general manager Maggie Ho of Yang’s Kitchen in Alhambra
Chef Chris Yang and general manager Maggie Ho of Yang’s Kitchen in Alhambra

Yang’s Kitchen, which opened in August 2019 and quickly rose to local and national prominence for its meticulously sourced Chinese cooking, served as a neighborhood grocery store throughout the pandemic, only occasionally preparing family-style meals and one-off specials. But with Los Angeles’s lowered COVID infection rates and increase in vaccinations, the restaurant reopened with updated lunchtime offerings, a reimagined brunch menu, and a new 18-seat patio. Highlights from the lunch menu include salt-and-pepper fried chicken wings, cold sesame noodles (a carryover from the original menu), and a set meal that offers a choice of protein served alongside seasonal vegetables. Mochi pancakes and a traditional Japanese breakfast are the early hits from the brunch menu. 112 West Main Street, Alhambra. —Cathy Chaplin

Yess Aquatic - Arts District

Junya Yamasaki brings a long pedigree of excellent cooking to Los Angeles from London, with grand plans to open a massive restaurant called Yess in a historic Arts District building. But until that construction is done, Yamasaki is cooking out of a bright-orange Life Aquatic-inspired truck just outside the space, preparing super-fresh sashimi using locally caught seafood (some of it he even caught himself), and other Japanese-inspired fare like a deeply seasoned fish katsu curry. The stuff seems too fancy to eat out of a truck, but thankfully Yamasaki has some cafe tables set up on the sidewalk to enjoy under the summer sun. 2001 E. 7th Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Zef BBQ - Simi Valley

Two hands hold a large tray of smoked meat including brisket, photographed from above.
Zef BBQ
Wonho Frank Lee

One bite of the so-called dino bone at Zef BBQ and a lot of things become clear. Depending on the moment, the massive and slow-smoked beef rib could be served a la carte with little more than salt, pepper, and a heck of a smoke ring; it could also come slathered in curry sauce, seeded, and set atop a bowl of rice and kimchi. That’s just the way that Anna Lindsey and Logan Sandoval work — they do it all, run it all, and don’t stop for nuthin’. The food has made underground pop-up Zef a huge hit in Simi Valley and beyond, but the owners are the real driving force, bringing creativity, talent, and passion to the table. And, together, they’re helping to lead a new stable of pop-ups that began during the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down. That’s very good news for fans of LA food, from barbecue to bakeries and beyond. —Farley Elliott

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