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4 Restaurants to Try This Weekend in Los Angeles

Your handy guide on where to eat from the editors at Eater LA

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A heavy bowl of macaroni past.
For a weekend filled with color and fun: Olivetta.
Wonho Frank Lee

Every Friday our editors compile a trusty list of recommendations to answer the most pressing of questions: “Where should I eat?“ Here now are four places to check out this weekend in Los Angeles. And if you need some ideas on where to drink, check out our al fresco cocktails map for the latest.


May 20, 2022

For a wonderful Portuguese-inspired meal in Downtown: Caldo Verde

For a wonderful Portuguese-inspired meal in Downtown: Caldo Verde.
For a wonderful Portuguese-inspired meal in Downtown: Caldo Verde.
Matthew Kang

Suzanne Goin’s foray into Downtown LA was certainly stunted by the closure-reopening confusion of last year, but the wonderful ground floor space designed by Kelly Wearstler looks like it’s been there for a decade, in the best way. Large windows looking out to the street give it a big city feel, while Goin’s mostly Portuguese and somewhat Spanish menu will appeal to her myriad of fans. A bright blood orange and cara cara salad is a masterclass in great starters, with a punchy honey vinegar balanced by the crunch of pine nuts and arugula. Three Portuguese cheeses on a platter works better as a dessert than an appetizer. On the night we went, Goin and her kitchen were cooking more traditional dishes from the new Portugal: the Cookbook, published by Phaidon, with Portuguese researcher and food writer Miguel Andrade on hand to discuss some of the book’s recipes. One hopes the grilled sardines with pepper and cucumber salad, feijoada bean stew, or orange flan with madeira will stay on the menu permanently. 1100 South Broadway, Downtown. —Matthew Kang

For a weekend filled with color and fun: Olivetta

The ‘bougie’ (spelled Boujis, like the restaurant group) bread at Olivetta is the first thing that should hit most tables. It tells, in a way, the story of the whole colorful West Hollywood hotspot. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s flavorful, and it’s expensive — for bread at least — but it’s also delicious and made with care. A restaurant with wallpaper this busy, with its own permanent DJ booth, with its celebrity clientele and hip-kid location, should not care about serving sourdough bread and cultured butter that’s this decadent and tasty, but they just do things differently over there at the Boujis Group. Those differences have made Olivetta a must-dine for a certain type of Westside-ish, socially mobile eater, and it makes the restaurant a hell of a night out for everyone else. Stop by for housemade rigatoni, a 14-ounce pork chop, and a bunch of cocktails on a Saturday night; ‘bougie’ or not, you won’t regret it. Oh, and be sure to save room for the $15 cookies for dessert, too. 9010 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood. —Farley Elliott

For sky-high sandwiches that hit the spot: Perry’s Joint Cafe

The moderate temps forecasted this weekend are a welcomed change from last weekend’s total scorcher. If heading to the beach, the mountains, or just the park, bring a picnic from Perry’s Joint Cafe. Tucked away in northwest Pasadena, and with a new location in Sierra Madre, the sandwich shop does a brilliant job constructing sky-high sandwiches that stay impressively intact through transport. Sandwiches range from decadent, like the Hey Joe with hot roast beef, pastrami, toasted hot link, and cheese, to more modest constructions like the Hip Bird with turkey, mustard, avocado, and cheese. Be sure to call in your order to avoid a wait. 2051 Lincoln Avenue, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

For a comforting, affordable feast of Chinese-Korean flavors in South Bay: Little China

For a comforting, affordable feast of Chinese-Korean flavors in South Bay: Little China.
For a comforting, affordable feast of Chinese-Korean flavors in South Bay: Little China.
Matthew Kang

Step into the worn-out strip mall confines of Little China, and expect to hear only Korean being spoken at the tables. That’s because Gardena and the South Bay in general, happens to hide one of LA’s larger Korean American populations. As a result, Little China serves some of the best Korean-Chinese fusion dishes in town, like a super-spicy jjampong noodle soup, as well as a terrific gan jajangmyeon, basically a less soupy, less goopy version of the classic black bean paste noodle dish. We also ordered a slightly smoky beef chow fun, blistered by the wok and served piping hot. This is old-school Chinese food at its finest in the South Bay. 18026 South Western Avenue, Gardena. —Matthew Kang


May 13, 2022

For a patio casual lunch with broad flavors: World Cafe

Glendale’s World Cafe may not be at the top of everyone’s list for best restaurants in the neighborhood, but it’s certainly not at the bottom. The tiny takeaway and patio restaurant hides just outside the action on Verdugo Road, serving roast beef sandwiches, unique burgers, falafel, and more. It’s the kind of spot that grows on you with subsequent visits, because every aspect of the broad menu feels at once familiar and just left of center. First-timers should opt for the griddled chicken burger with pickles and sautéed mushrooms, or the shaved roast beef that has inspired the t-shirt slogan “House of Roast Beef”. There’s really no going wrong at World Cafe, because half the fun is simply in the trying. 301 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale. —Farley Elliott

For a throwback, 90s-style Japanese meal in Gardena: Akane Chaya

For a throwback, 90s-style Japanese meal in Gardena: Akane Chaya.
For a throwback, 90s-style Japanese meal in Gardena: Akane Chaya.
Matthew Kang

It pains me to say that I had overlooked this gem of a neighborhood spot in Gardena with its weathered marquee signs and unassuming look. Servers here wear black ties, crisp dress shirts, and black aprons, lending a classy feel to an otherwise casual restaurant. The menus, placed into grade school folders, reveal page after page of Yoshoku dishes — Japanese comfort fare melded with Western flavors and sensibility. A fantastic, deeply rich curry comes alongside crisp pork katsu while the meat sauce spaghetti with hamburg steak and demi-glace feel straight out of a chain restaurant. Beyond initial impressions the cooking is subtle and well-balanced, evidence of chef Tadashi Kimura’s skills, who wears a tall hat and looks over every plate. 1610 West Redondo Beach Boulevard, Gardena. —Matthew Kang

For sustainable seafood on a sun-soaked sidewalk: Crudo e Nudo

This weekend’s shaping up to be a warm one after a few days of cooler temperatures, so head west to soak it all in by the water. Santa Monica’s Crudo e Nudo, which recently opened a second location in New York City, is the place to be for lunch or dinner. Grab a table on the sun-soaked sidewalk and prepare to nibble on sustainable seafood, while sipping interesting glasses of biodynamic and low-intervention wines. Fully lean into the weekend’s chill vibes by ordering the “crudo trio,” which lets the chef choose what’s served. All you’ll have to do is sit back, relax, and eat what lands on the table. 2724 Main Street, Santa Monica. —Cathy Chaplin

For polished, composed Thai fare with a great wine list: Anajak Thai

For polished, composed Thai fare with a great wine list: Anajak Thai.
For polished, composed Thai fare with a great wine list: Anajak Thai.
Matthew Kang

Much has been made of the overall excellence of Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, a father-and-son effort by Rick and Justin Pichetrungsi that’s endured for over 40 years. The younger Pichetrungsi has brought a verve and excitement to the classic Valley restaurant by installing an impressive wine selection and tightening the menu to just three dozen or so dishes. The Thai Taco Tuesday dinners and weekend tasting menus grab a lot of the attention, but the standard weekday dinners at Anajak are no less impressive. Softshell TransparentSea shrimp, farm-raised indoors in Downey, come with a complex pong gari underneath. The resulting luscious tender bites sport an edge of crunch with the earthy, dense curry. The blistered skin on the dry-aged sea bream contrasts with the umami-rich flesh swimming in a mesmerizing nam jim sauce resembling a Thai aguachile. Sashimi-level kampachi comes laced over a nest of green papaya and sauced with tangy Hainanese ponzu. Virtually every dish hit hard with flavor, and came with a Michelin-level execution. In fact, it’s really strange why this place hasn’t gotten a Michelin star already, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did later this year. 14704 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks. —Matthew Kang


May 6, 2022

For flavorful Taiwanese breakfast: Huge Tree Pastry

No-frills restaurants sometimes reveal a secret: the owners focus on the food. That applies to Huge Tree Pastry, where the formica tables and old floors could use some help, but after trying one of its specialties, you won’t care. The hot sweet soybean milk is so savory and satisfying, but so is the Taiwanese doughnut or classic pan-fried green onion pancake. Ask questions about the ingredients or just trust and try something unfamiliar — from the pork and Napa cabbage dumplings to the curry pork pastry, Taiwanese burger, or oyster omelette. And if a picnic is in your near future, just grab everything and lay it out on a blanket and impress everyone involved. Also a bonus, Huge Tree Pastry’s most expensive item is the fried pork and fish cake roll, which is only $13.95. 423 North Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park. —Mona Holmes

For a Sawtelle Japantown noodle star with all the right flavors: Menya Tigre

Menya Tigre’s curry ramen with customary noodle pull.
For a Sawtelle Japantown noodle star with all the right flavors: Menya Tigre.
Matthew Kang

Great restaurants abound on Sawtelle, one of the city’s best (and most dense) restaurant stretches. Each spot is formidable in its own way, but there is little quite like Menya Tigre. The year-old restaurant focuses on Japanese flavors across a broad spectrum, from snacky openers like takoyaki and karaage fried chicken to pork cutlet rice plates and different ramen varieties. The focus for the mains is on Japanese curry (with a separate emphasis on pork), meaning diners can try a curry tsukemen ramen, a keema dry noodle with curry, or those cutlets and fried shrimp plates that also have the curry flavor turned all the way up. Stop by for lunch or dinner, and feel free to peruse the other nearby blocks for a second snack. 2012 Sawtelle Boulevard, Sawtelle Japantown. —Farley Elliott

For a pick-me-up and a day of wandering: Boxx Coffee Roasters

The Aliso development in the Arts District has certainly hit its stride of late. There are a few ground-floor retail and food tenants still to come, but lately the place — comprised of dozens of apartments along 3rd Street, in the heart of the neighborhood — feels positively buzzing. Maybe that’s because of all the caffeine that’s coming out of Boxx Coffee Roasters right now. The breezy marble and wood space offers roll-up doors and lots of sidewalk seating for classics like espressos, cortados, cappuccinos, and lattes, while also diving deeper into Turkish coffee expressions and teas. There’s food too, like a ham, egg, and cheese morning biscuit, ideal for snagging and snacking before a jaunt around the neighborhood. On a strolling sort of day it’s possible to peek into Hauser & Wirth, to catch some local graffiti art, to jump over to Little Tokyo and the Japanese American National Museum, and beyond. Shopping, lunch, an afternoon beer; it’s all possible in the Arts District, and it starts with Boxx Coffee Roasters. 950 E. 3rd Street, Arts District. —Farley Elliott

For plentiful platters of Peruvian fare: Rosty

For plentiful platters of Peruvian fare: Rosty.
For plentiful platters of Peruvian fare: Rosty.
Cathy Chaplin

Come into Rosty in Highland Park for well-prepared Peruvian fare served in seriously plentiful portions. If you’re the kind of eater that likes to taste a bit of this and that, dine here with several friends and be sure to share everything. The restaurant’s signature ceviche, the copa nostra, makes for a tremendous starter. The move here according to Rosty’s regulars is to remove the fried shrimp and squid as soon as the copa hits the table to preserve their texture. Plus, nibbling on fried bites throughout the meal is always nice. Moving onto mains, the tallarin verde con lomito, with its saucy pesto pasta and stir-fried steak, hits all the hearty and savory notes. 5511 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin


April 29, 2022

For a bustling South American-inspired cocktail and dinner spot in Long Beach: Selva

A cut side of fish on a banana leaf atop a table.
Grilled fish from Selva.
Wonho Frank Lee

Much has been made of Long Beach’s dining scene lately. New players like Gusto and Little Coyote have added some great quality to the daytime fare, but good dinner spots have often eluded me. Thankfully now there’s the new Selva, which I think is a fine addition to the city with its pan-South American fare and a specific focus on Colombian dishes. Cali (Colombia) born chef Carlos Jurado has a polished array of dishes like mushroom croquettes, arroz chaufa, and blistered seasonal fish with a salsa of hogao sofrito. The menu construction seems to be certainly unconventional, with sides and appetizers served out of order and a steakhouse-style setup in the entree section. I longed for more traditional Colombian fare like ajiaco and arepas, but Jurado seems more inspired by the flavors of Peru. Overall, the cooking is pretty solid, and the addition of well-crafted cocktails makes this the most exciting place to eat in Long Beach right now. 4137 Anaheim Street, Long Beach. —Matthew Kang

For flavorful sandwiches next to a bike path: Wax Paper

A close up photo of a wrapped sandwich inside of a cardboard takeout box.
The Terry Gross from Wax Paper.
Mona Holmes

If venturing to the Wax Paper location in Frogtown, don’t let the compact space fool you. There’s a high amount of sandwich production coming out of that shipping container. During peak hours, parking can be an issue in this mostly residential neighborhood, so plan an afternoon by hopping on a bike, steering through the Frogtown paths, and make a stop at Wax Paper Sandwiches. Ordering online is easiest, but it’s fun to say — whether you hate or love them — the NPR-themed goods out loud, “I’ll try the Larry Mantle sandwich,” or the “tell me about the Ira Glass” which is a simple and effective combination of avocado, cheddar cheese, sprouts, and cucumber on Bub & Grandma’s seeded sourdough wheat. After ordering a Proof Bakery chocolate chip cookie and something to drink, there’s a grassy area less than a block away. Or get situated on the slanted side of the LA River while taking a bite. If Frogtown inconvenient, head to the second location in Chinatown. 2902 Knox Avenue, Suite 100, Frogtown. —Mona Holmes

For the return of a Sawtelle Japantown legend, this time in Santa Monica: Hurry Curry

Hurry Curry fans were devastated last year when word got out that the three-decade-old Japanese cutlet and curry restaurant would be closing down. The place had been a comfort for so many, a stalwart as the Sawtelle Japantown stretch expanded into the robust, dense dining scene it is today. Now, after many months away, Hurry Curry is back in action with a new location on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, offering takeout and delivery only through this weekend. Expect a full return on Monday, May 2 for on-site dining; for now, grab a plate and head to the beach. 2901 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica. —Farley Elliott

For a taste of Indonesia and Singapore in Pasadena: QQ Kopitiam

A hand holds out a black container filled with dark cooked rice.
A plate of Indonesian fried rice from QQ Kopitiam.
Farley Elliott

As is often the case with some of LA’s best restaurants, big flavors come in small (in this case takeout) packages at Pasadena’s QQ Kopitiam. The small storefront restaurant directly across the street from Pasadena City College turns out a variety of Southeast Asian flavors, pulling big bites from places like Singapore and Indonesia specifically. The Indonesian fried rice is heaped into containers for those eating on the go — a picnic on the school’s lawn is always an option — and almost impossible to put down. It may look like a shareable portion, but the blistery, wok’d rice is something approaching addicting. Add in some laksa, a mango smoothie or a coffee to finish, and it makes for a powerful, simple meal that’s just enough off the beaten Old Pasadena path to feel particularly special. 1491 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. —Farley Elliott


April 22, 2022

For a classic Thai Town cafe lunch: Sapp Coffee Shop

For a classic Thai Town cafe lunch: Sapp Coffee Shop.
For a classic Thai Town cafe lunch: Sapp Coffee Shop.
Matthew Kang

When was the last time you checked out Sapp Coffee Shop? The enduring Thai Town restaurant has been getting a little interior revamp lately, with darker, moodier paint and a fresher look. The renovation seems to be a months-long project but in the meantime, tuck into a plate of beef fried rice, Thai boat noodles, or dry jade noodles for another taste of one of LA’s best Thai restaurants. Word on the street is that Jin, the original owner, will retire this year and hand the business off to a relative. It’s unlikely anything else will change, but given the difficulty of the pandemic for Thai Town, it’s always a great reminder that places like Sapp need patronage to continue to thrive. 5183 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

For pates and pastas in the heart of West Hollywood: Tesse

Tesse, West Hollywood
For pates and pastas in the heart of West Hollywood: Tesse.

For those who find themselves in and around West Hollywood this weekend, drop into Tesse on Sunset Boulevard for dinner and drinks. It’s been three years since chef Raphael Francois opened this French-inflected restaurant and the chill but refined vibes are as good as ever — same goes with the cooking. The scratch-made pates and imported cured meats make for a fine starter, while the two pastas on the menu — bacatini with bone marrow and short rib paccheri — are as well prepared as any in the city. There’s a good chance that your server will recommend a bone luge after polishing off the bacatini, so go ahead and plan for a shot of GlenDronach Scotch whisky to finish. It’s the weekend after all. 8500 Sunset Boulevard, Ste. B, West Hollywood. —Cathy Chaplin

For beautiful Brazilian bites made by a DTLA restaurant veteran: Wood Spoon

Various Brazilian dishes at Wood Spoon on decorated plates, sangria, and wine bottles.
For beautiful Brazilian bites made by a DTLA restaurant veteran: Wood Spoon.
Wonho Frank Lee

When seated at Wood Spoon’s cozy dining room, glance over to the kitchen and get a glance of chef/owner Natalia Pereira. Her lean frame with updo braids maneuver throughout the small space preparing consistent and delicious bites for almost 16 years. Those dishes include a potato croquette, whole prawns seasoned with lime and salt, or a simple and wonderfully prepared polenta with vegetables and baked egg. Get a single order of plantains for the table. Pereira’s moqueca — a coconut-creamy seafood stew — fully satisfies with prawns, mussels, clams, and fluffy rice. It’s salty, savory, and deeply comforting while drinking the red or white sangria. The red blends cabernet, berries, and cinnamon, while the white includes chardonnay, passionfruit, and fresh orange juice. And for a unique touch from her childhood, Pereira’s servers always bring a bottle of water to the table seasoned with fresh herbs like rosemary or with fresh slices of fruit. 107 W. 9th Street, Downtown. —Mona Holmes

For an elegant throwback dinner inside a brand new LA museum: Fanny’s

A side angle of a thick cut pork chop in a black container on wooden board.
For an elegant throwback dinner inside a brand new LA museum: Fanny’s
Wonho Frank Lee

Located inside the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Fanny’s has a lot of promise as an elegant, upscale place for dinner. The service is attentive and knowledgeable, while the fare is familiar and unchallenging. Chef Raphael Francois dials a lot of the food here to LA levels of umami, like a near-electric spaghetti alla chitarra with ragu all’abruzzese or a whole roasted orata coated with macha hollandaise. Tableside service seems ever appropriate with the midcentury-inspired environs, with a massive slab of dry-aged prime rib or even a simple server-tossed caesar salad making meals here feel festive. The only thing that might detract from dinner, in my opinion, are the somewhat cold finishes of the space, from the hard concrete floors to the achingly loud DJ-curated music. I wish the space had some softer, more rounded features to give it a more refined feel, while I definitely think the thumping tunes would be better replaced with jazz standards or something more low-key. 6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang


April 15, 2022

For old-school daytime bites in Baldwin Hills or Mid-Wilshire: CJ’s Cafe

Sitting in CJ’s Cafe on La Brea (or the location on Pico near Hauser) is a step back in time. Open for nearly 35 years, CJ’s is where to go for an unfussy meal from efficient staff who breeze around the room refilling coffee cups or preparing fresh squeezed juices. They’re not rushing you, they just have plenty of tables to service with a smile. The menu hasn’t changed much over the decades, and whether a burrito, torta, club sandwich, patty melt, the incredible fried red snapper, smothered pork chops, and oxtails, it’s impossible to make a bad choice. It’s peaceful during the earlier or weekday hours, which has its own vibe, with retired respected older Black men starting their day while reading the actual newspaper. They know everyone’s name and take their time while enjoying their meal. Which sounds like a power move for Los Angeles. 3655 South La Brea Avenue, Baldwin Hills. —Mona Holmes

For a taste of the sea in Belmont Shore: Liv’s

For a taste of the sea in Belmont Shore: Liv’s.
For a taste of the sea in Belmont Shore: Liv’s.
Farley Elliott

The seafood shimmers at Liv’s, the newish Second Street option in Long Beach’s crowded Belmont Shore neighborhood, and not just because of the sun that shines in on the front patio. Owner Rob White (who also owns the Chicken Bodega in Whittier, and used to run a second location out of this same address in Long Beach) is crafting what could be Long Beach’s best oyster bar, relying on locally-sourced product from up and down the coast to make crudos, chowders, poke, and hot options like a spicy battered seabass sandwich, steamed clams, and an extra-craggy soft shell crab sandwich. With a beer and wine license on the way, this is sure to be the summertime spot for many of Second Street’s regulars, with oysters and wine hitting tables as the sun goes down. 5327 E. 2nd Street, Long Beach. —Farley Elliott

For a little bit of the SGV in Santa Monica: 626 Night Market Mini

626 Night Market — the rollicking food fair that operates its flagship event at Santa Anita park in Arcadia — partnered with Downtown Santa Monica to bring a more modular version to the westside in February, March, and April. The event is free (although a VIP ticket gets you priority entry and a drink) with signup through Eventbrite, making little barrier to entry other than clearing your Saturday and Sunday schedule. The assortment of stands hits every impulse imaginable: crunch-seekers can go to Chick N’ Skin for its puffy, shattery namesake tossed in salt and pepper; skewer lovers will find a variety, from yakitori at Yakitori Yado to grilled whole squid skewers at Lucky Ball Korean BBQ; All Dat Dim Sum offers plump har gow and shimmering wontons in chile sauce to those in need of dumpling comfort. Standouts for me were the charred whole lobster from Cafe 949, which torches lobsters to order atop a smoking grill, and the unicorn dog — glazed in sugar and pocked with rainbow sprinkles — at Ghostix, a Korean corn dog pop-up, which satisfied the childlike impulse to eat primary colors with rainbow ropes of mozzarella cheese. The last weekend (so far) for the mini market is April 23 and 24, so book your tickets now, while you can. 1324 5th Street, Santa Monica. —Nicole Adlman

For grilled meats and cold noodles: the Corner Place

The Corner Place might look like a Korean barbecue restaurant (and smell like one too), but the specialty here is hardly meaty at all. The dong chi mi gook soo is an ice-cold noodle soup that refreshes at first slurp. The soul of the bowl lies in its masterfully constructed broth — a light brine with fermented green chiles, ginger, and Korean pear — that packs a bright and acidic punch. The thin and bouncy noodles soak up the broth’s subtleties, while julienned cucumber, sliced tomatoes, and chopped scallions provide the finishing touches. Grilled meat paired with cold noodle soup — that’s what weekend’s are for. 2819 James M. Wood Boulevard, Los Angeles


April 8, 2022

For a waterside view where the drinks flow: the Bungalow Kitchen

A dimly lit dining room with plush blue chairs around tight tables.
Dining room of the Bungalow Kitchen in Long Beach.
AVABLU.com

Brent Bolthouse certainly knows how to throw a party. The hospitality veteran made big Westside waves when he opened the Bungalow in Santa Monica a decade ago, and now he’s at it again with what must be Long Beach’s buzziest new opening in a while. Bolthouse partnered with famed Bay Area chef Michael Mina for this restaurant at the 2nd & PCH development along the water, turning out cocktails, approachable wines, ocean views, and lots of fun California snacks. Diners can scale up an evening with caviar bites and rich steak, and big pours from star sommelier Ryan Kraemer (formerly of 71Above and Wally’s). Or keep it cool with raw seafood preparations, mixed drinks, and a burger.

Funnily enough, this space was originally slated to be just a lounge-y bar, but the pandemic made food (and the easier path to reopening that restaurants were afforded in 2021, versus bars) a larger priority when opening last year. So now it’s plates, snacks, and an evening with the music still turned up with the wine glasses at the ready. Bar, restaurant, lounge, destination restaurant, or local hangout? At the Bungalow Kitchen in Belmont Shore, it’s best to just call the place a party. 6400 Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. —Farley Elliott

For a quintessential LA start to the day: B.C. Donuts (or your neighborhood doughnut shop)

For a quintessential LA start to the day: B.C. Donuts.
For a quintessential LA start to the day: B.C. Donuts.
Cathy Chaplin

The best way to kick off any weekend is with doughnuts and coffee. I usually arrive too late at my local mom-and-pop shop (B.C. Donuts in Pasadena) for the prime selection, but truth be told, maple-iced anything — long bars, raised rings, or even buttermilk bars — works for me. For those more inclined toward a specific shape and flavor, coming in before 10 a.m. would be prudent. And while you’re reveling in a sugar- and caffeine-induced stupor, head over to Self-Help Graphics & Art in East Los Angeles to take in some doughnut-inspired art. 2525 East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena. —Cathy Chaplin

For precious and thoughtful modern French fare in Arts District: Camphor

Scallop dumplings at Camphor.
Scallop dumplings at Camphor.
Matthew Kang

Certainly one of the most talked about restaurant openings of the year, Camphor comes into the former Nightshade space looking basically the same, but feeling quite different on the plate. While Nightshade played off of American and Chinese influences, bringing heft, substance, and comfort in dishes like congee, fried blooming onion, and roast duck, Camphor goes in the opposite culinary direction. Max Boonthanakit, Nightshade’s former pastry chef, partners with Lijo George, for their version of upscale French bistro fare, something of an oddity in Los Angeles, weird as that sounds. Leaning on their experience at Blue by Alain Ducasse in Bangkok, there’s a levity, and a subtlety, to the cooking that appeals to well-traveled gastronomes.

Crisp gunpowder shrimp feels like an elegant bar snack with the monstrous $30 herb-laced martini. Roasted mushrooms top a metal tray of browned rice, easily our favorite dish, is portioned like a side instead of an entree, while the chicken roulade, while arresting in its presentation, could use another notch of flavor. Scallop dumplings, truffled and chived, and sporting delicate wrappers, worked well to quell the remainder of our appetites. Desserts are also less compelling than Nightshade’s overall, though the chocolate meringue cup is marvelous and satisfying, balanced in its sweetness. Camphor, in spite of its occasional preciousness, seems to be immensely popular, even with the Monday night crowd in Arts District. Might Camphor earn a Michelin star next year? It seems very, very possible. 923 E. 3rd Street, Arts District. —Matthew Kang

For tacos with handmade tortillas: Tacos Y Birria La Unica

Tacos y Birria La Unica
Birria tacos from La Unica.
Farley Elliott

When one of LA’s best taco trucks sets up shop on opposite sides of town, they are doing the entire Southland a favor. Tacos Y Birria La Unica made it possible for all to have better access to its incredible birria with chivo or beef either at the Boyle Heights stop or the Mid-City truck on Venice near Fairfax. La Unica specializes in many things, but they’re also one of the few in the region that makes handmade tortillas. Plus, the consomme is deeply flavorful for dipping or sipping. There’s always something that’s sure to wow with tortas, tacos, queso tacos, or even a rich birria ramen. The Mid-City location has a setup of chairs, tables, and ample parking. Prepare wisely, and be sure to arrive with cash — preferably smaller bills — for payment. 5871 Venice Boulevard, Mid-City. —Mona Holmes


April 1, 2022

For plantain pancakes on a semi-hidden patio: Real Coconut Kitchen

For plantain pancakes on a semi-hidden patio: Real Coconut Kitchen.
For plantain pancakes on a semi-hidden patio: Real Coconut Kitchen.
Nicole Adlman

Real Coconut Kitchen, an all-grain-free, vegan-friendly cafe with locations in Tulum (of course), Malibu, and West Los Angeles, may focus on accommodating dietary needs, but none of its food feels timid or less flavorful for it. The Malibu restaurant, tucked behind tony Malibu Country Mart and adjacent to a massive Whole Foods, has a sunny back patio that is more unassuming than you might expect for an area that hosts luxury vintage car shows every other Sunday. The move here is to get the macho pancakes, supple hotcakes made from mashed plantains and whipped eggs that arrive with a deeply caramelized exterior, a thimble of maple syrup, a bright berry coulis, and thickly sliced bananas. The pancake is airier than should be possible for the denser plantain batter, which gives a more subtle flavor than typical banana pancakes. The cafe offers coffees and juices that you can linger over long after your brunch dishes have been eaten — quickly. 23401 Civic Center Way, Malibu. —Nicole Adlman

For a weekend skewer feast in Silver Lake: Needle

Last year, dynamic Cantonese restaurant Needle aspired for greatness with a full tasting menu situation replete with gingery, garlicky whole lobster and amazing char siu pork belly. But that model wasn’t sustainable in the tiny space, which could only accommodate one large table a night. Now chef Ryan Wong is aspiring for another kind of take on a traditional Chinese street food: barbecue skewers. Right now the menu is fairly tight, with Wong himself grilling wood skewers of chicken thigh, ground pork meatball, shrimp with curry and lime, and lemony sugar snap peas. There’s also other fare from the kitchen, like a whole char siu pork chop, crispy chicken wings, and his signature almond “jello” with seasonal citrus and other fruit. Needle is a lot more approachable every day with the casual a la carte menu, so grab one of the counter seats on the tiny patio and enjoy the ride. 3827 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

For Peruvian delights out of West LA: Qusqo Bistro and Gallery

When approaching Qusqo Bistro and Gallery at night, it’s a gorgeous sight. The colorful murals, walls, and lights are inviting and right around the corner from Sawtelle Japantown. Owner Lucy Haro opened the shop in 2007 and developed a loyal customer base by skipping the traditional rotisserie chicken and instead focusing on other favorites like papa la huancaina, lomo saltado, ceviches, paella, plus Peruvian tacos, and a spicy shrimp rice bowl. There’s also an entirely plant-based menu. Don’t skip Qusqo’s elixirs menu where Haro prepares chicha juice with purple corn as the base with pineapple, apple, cinnamon, and cloves, or her avocado hemp smoothie. Cusqueña beer or sangria will also hit the spot while looking at the curated art, listening to live music, or taking in a comedy show. 11633 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

For a wine and snacks kind of night: the Wife & the Somm

The shape of Glassell Park’s cozy restaurant the Wife & the Somm is what strikes most people first. The frontage is angled away from the street, with an archway leading to a shifty front patio that’s all corners and greenery. Inside, a run of single seats look out onto the street beyond, while an in-the-round bar offers drinks to all diners. Another square patio hides towards the back, making the place feel cozy, intimate, and very focused on drinking. That should be apparent based on the sommelier nod in the name, but here owners Chris Lucchese and Christy Lindgren Lucchese really do take their wine to a new level. Pages (well, digital pages) of wines by the bottle and glass are available to all who pass under that arch, weaving from rare pours to chilled reds, funky orange stuff, sparkling starters, and on to big, bold finishes and dessert wines. It all makes for a fun, meandering evening over a few plates of food with friends, be it lule balls with eggplant puree and tzatziki, some simple salads or a grilled octopus, or even just charcuterie and cheese. Much like the physical restaurant itself, the menu is designed to duck in with little destination in mind, and enjoy. 3416 Verdugo Road, Glassell Park. — Farley Elliott

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