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14 Restaurants to Take Out-of-Towners in Los Angeles

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2008_10_hasmapsl%3Bkj%3Blkj.jpgLos Angeles is fast becoming a major tourist destination for more than its involvement in TV and film. Among the main draws now is L.A.'s unique food culture, especially the strengths that the city plays up, such as ethnic cuisine and the overall focus on seasonal ingredients. Ruth Reichl even declared L.A. the "most important place to eat in America right now," a credit to the ever-increasing quality and diversity of local dining. This list is an easy guide to refer to when contemplating the question, "Where should out-of-town guests dine tonight?" Even though there are plenty of more-than-eligible places, Eater has compiled a short list of the best in seasonal and ethnic restaurants in Los Angeles geared to out-of-towners.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Son of a Gun Restaurant

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8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9033
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Melding the best of LA's seasonality with a refined approach to seafood, chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo prepare dishes that will both surprise and dazzle guests from out of town. The uber-hip space, smaller than it seems, always does a good job of capturing the raw energy of the city's dining scene. Dishes to order: the lobster roll, shrimp toast, uni pasta, any crudo, and fried chicken sandwich. Don't miss the cocktails, which seem simple but are as good as the best drinking dens around town.

2. Gjelina

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1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429
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There may not be a better place that captures the point when dining in Venice changed forever. When Travis Lett took over a spacious, dark dining room on Abbot Kinney and prepared simple, market-driven cooking in small plate form, the locals jumped in. Today, the dishes seem almost passe since every other spot sports farm-fresh ingredients and polished cooking, but Gjelina still has that swagger and buzz that other Venice restaurants crave.

3. Bäco Mercat

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408 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-8808
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Chef Josef Centeno hit gold with this meat-centric eatery in Historic Core, essentially a smarter rehash of what he had already doing at nearby Lazy Ox Canteen. The menu is based on Centeno's flatbread-sandwich mishmash called a baco, stuffed with everything from oxtail to beef tongue. But don't miss out on the rather heavy-handed vegetables and mains, all of which get blasted with flavor from every angle. The industrial nook the place sits in certainly boosts the experience.

4. Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

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1119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-7050
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Already a solid Santa Monica restaurant under the helm of now-departed chef Evan Funke, this mainstay has taken a more refined, inventive approach under the tutelage of Jeremy Fox, who has really developed the menu into one of the most compelling in the city. Throw in a minimalist room that manages to feel quite grown up, and you're in for a top notch dinner.

5. Soban

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4001 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-9106
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Korean restaurants generally tend to focus on one specialty dish, or center around table-top barbecue. However, Soban favors seafood, and the offerings here are about as good as one could expect for the cuisine. The banchan is also fantastic, which is always a good sign. The spicy braised beef short ribs is a must order, along with the soy sauce-laded raw crab.

6. Chengdu Taste

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828 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 588-2284

The current hotspot in SGV, it's hard to imagine a better place to get Sichuanese cuisine in the United States. The flavors abound on every plate, whether they're based on wontons, noodles, or stir-fried dishes. The waits are tremendous, so get there early or prepare to join the crowds queuing outside.

7. Sapp Coffee Shop

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5183 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-1035

Thai food is in abundance in Los Angeles, and this humble lunch spot in Thai Town is a great place to enjoy a pure, authentic take on the cuisine. The boat noodles are pure funk in a bowl while the more refined jade noodles, either dry or swimming in pork broth might be one of the best dishes in the city, period. Cash only, and closed on Wednesdays.

8. Republique

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624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(310) 361-6115
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Walter Manzke reinvigorated this city's love of French cuisine at the Arts District's Church & State. The aesthetic is even better at his new Republique, which pairs his wife Margarita's desserts and pastries with the polished French bistro fare that get a slight California twist. The anticipated is pulpable for the back room, which will launch soon touting a more ambitious tasting menu.

9. Colonia Taco Lounge

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13030 Valley Blvd
La Puente, CA 91746
(626) 363-4691

Los Angeles has plenty of tacos, and this newer entrant by chef Ricardo Diaz stands out. The founder of Guisados and Cook's Tortas, Diaz both pushes boundaries and pursues perfection with everything from the mushroom taco to the beef tongue taco. There are plenty of other taco shacks around town that do a great job, from Ricky's Fish Tacos, Guisados, Loteria, and the mobile-oriented Guerilla Tacos, but Colonia currently rules the roost. Lauded by Jonathan Gold, the critic notes the location is only a few minutes past SGV.

10. The Hart + The Hunter

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7950 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 424-3055
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Southern cooking isn't in abundance in Los Angeles, but the flavorful creations at this Melrose boutique hotel captures quite the zeitgeist of the L.A. dining scene. A small dining room that seem to absorb zero sound, the food comes out in mismatched plates and without too much care for plating. But the preparations are utterly unique, surprising, and comforting, like fried shrimp heads, crackling chicken skin, fried liver salad, steak with polenta.

11. ink.

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8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 651-5866
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Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's first and only restaurant (well, not including the sandwich shack ink.sack) in Los Angeles is as good as it's ever been. Voltaggio incorporates the latest avant techniques without all the fuss or theatrics that often taint the medium. Instead, more approachable dishes that are still incredibly creative, bending the mind's expectations of flavor combinations. Cocktails are no slouch either, a cut above the average restaurant's drinks.

12. Dean Sin World

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306 N Garfield Ave, #2
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 571-0636

The simple dumpling and noodle format has so many various renditions that it's really hard to push for one great example. While Din Tai Fung is an easy pick, the lengthy waits can make it a difficult place to enjoy. Meanwhile, Dean Sin World has a humbler approach with consistent soup dumplings (yes, even though proprietor Mama Lu is temporarily in China), delectable noodle soups, and those addictive "crab shell" pastries. Cash only, closed Thursdays.

13. SUGARFISH

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1345 2nd St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-3338
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Alright, among sushi restaurants there are a myriad number of excellent places. But Sugarfish is a great place for a number of reasons. First there, are locations spread across town, with quality being relatively consistent among all of them. Second, the prices are reasonable, something that won't shock someone who isn't used to getting that $150 omakase (though that experience can be had at Beverly Hills' Nozawa Bar). Finally, the unique presentation and style, that is, simple, unadorned, nigiri sushi (no crazy rolls here) and lack of sushi chefs up front makes Sugarfish a great place to take folks coming from out of town.

14. Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong

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3465 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 384-9678

Korean barbecue is often the gateway to the greater areas of Korean cuisine, and Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong is the current standard-bearer, a credit to excellent quality meat, just the right mix of banchan, and an almost too-authentic space that retains a conviviality and energy that's hard to beat. Order the pork neck or the marinaded short rib chunks, and expect a smokey, unctuous result, all washed down with soju or makgeoli, an unfiltered rice wine.

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1. Son of a Gun Restaurant

8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Melding the best of LA's seasonality with a refined approach to seafood, chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo prepare dishes that will both surprise and dazzle guests from out of town. The uber-hip space, smaller than it seems, always does a good job of capturing the raw energy of the city's dining scene. Dishes to order: the lobster roll, shrimp toast, uni pasta, any crudo, and fried chicken sandwich. Don't miss the cocktails, which seem simple but are as good as the best drinking dens around town.

8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

2. Gjelina

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

There may not be a better place that captures the point when dining in Venice changed forever. When Travis Lett took over a spacious, dark dining room on Abbot Kinney and prepared simple, market-driven cooking in small plate form, the locals jumped in. Today, the dishes seem almost passe since every other spot sports farm-fresh ingredients and polished cooking, but Gjelina still has that swagger and buzz that other Venice restaurants crave.

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291

3. Bäco Mercat

408 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Chef Josef Centeno hit gold with this meat-centric eatery in Historic Core, essentially a smarter rehash of what he had already doing at nearby Lazy Ox Canteen. The menu is based on Centeno's flatbread-sandwich mishmash called a baco, stuffed with everything from oxtail to beef tongue. But don't miss out on the rather heavy-handed vegetables and mains, all of which get blasted with flavor from every angle. The industrial nook the place sits in certainly boosts the experience.

408 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

4. Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

Already a solid Santa Monica restaurant under the helm of now-departed chef Evan Funke, this mainstay has taken a more refined, inventive approach under the tutelage of Jeremy Fox, who has really developed the menu into one of the most compelling in the city. Throw in a minimalist room that manages to feel quite grown up, and you're in for a top notch dinner.

1119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

5. Soban

4001 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

Korean restaurants generally tend to focus on one specialty dish, or center around table-top barbecue. However, Soban favors seafood, and the offerings here are about as good as one could expect for the cuisine. The banchan is also fantastic, which is always a good sign. The spicy braised beef short ribs is a must order, along with the soy sauce-laded raw crab.

4001 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019

6. Chengdu Taste

828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803

The current hotspot in SGV, it's hard to imagine a better place to get Sichuanese cuisine in the United States. The flavors abound on every plate, whether they're based on wontons, noodles, or stir-fried dishes. The waits are tremendous, so get there early or prepare to join the crowds queuing outside.

828 W Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91803

7. Sapp Coffee Shop

5183 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Thai food is in abundance in Los Angeles, and this humble lunch spot in Thai Town is a great place to enjoy a pure, authentic take on the cuisine. The boat noodles are pure funk in a bowl while the more refined jade noodles, either dry or swimming in pork broth might be one of the best dishes in the city, period. Cash only, and closed on Wednesdays.

5183 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

8. Republique

624 South La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Walter Manzke reinvigorated this city's love of French cuisine at the Arts District's Church & State. The aesthetic is even better at his new Republique, which pairs his wife Margarita's desserts and pastries with the polished French bistro fare that get a slight California twist. The anticipated is pulpable for the back room, which will launch soon touting a more ambitious tasting menu.

624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

9. Colonia Taco Lounge

13030 Valley Blvd, La Puente, CA 91746

Los Angeles has plenty of tacos, and this newer entrant by chef Ricardo Diaz stands out. The founder of Guisados and Cook's Tortas, Diaz both pushes boundaries and pursues perfection with everything from the mushroom taco to the beef tongue taco. There are plenty of other taco shacks around town that do a great job, from Ricky's Fish Tacos, Guisados, Loteria, and the mobile-oriented Guerilla Tacos, but Colonia currently rules the roost. Lauded by Jonathan Gold, the critic notes the location is only a few minutes past SGV.

13030 Valley Blvd
La Puente, CA 91746

10. The Hart + The Hunter

7950 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Southern cooking isn't in abundance in Los Angeles, but the flavorful creations at this Melrose boutique hotel captures quite the zeitgeist of the L.A. dining scene. A small dining room that seem to absorb zero sound, the food comes out in mismatched plates and without too much care for plating. But the preparations are utterly unique, surprising, and comforting, like fried shrimp heads, crackling chicken skin, fried liver salad, steak with polenta.

7950 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046

11. ink.

8360 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's first and only restaurant (well, not including the sandwich shack ink.sack) in Los Angeles is as good as it's ever been. Voltaggio incorporates the latest avant techniques without all the fuss or theatrics that often taint the medium. Instead, more approachable dishes that are still incredibly creative, bending the mind's expectations of flavor combinations. Cocktails are no slouch either, a cut above the average restaurant's drinks.

8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069

12. Dean Sin World

306 N Garfield Ave, #2, Monterey Park, CA 91754

The simple dumpling and noodle format has so many various renditions that it's really hard to push for one great example. While Din Tai Fung is an easy pick, the lengthy waits can make it a difficult place to enjoy. Meanwhile, Dean Sin World has a humbler approach with consistent soup dumplings (yes, even though proprietor Mama Lu is temporarily in China), delectable noodle soups, and those addictive "crab shell" pastries. Cash only, closed Thursdays.

306 N Garfield Ave, #2
Monterey Park, CA 91754

13. SUGARFISH

1345 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Alright, among sushi restaurants there are a myriad number of excellent places. But Sugarfish is a great place for a number of reasons. First there, are locations spread across town, with quality being relatively consistent among all of them. Second, the prices are reasonable, something that won't shock someone who isn't used to getting that $150 omakase (though that experience can be had at Beverly Hills' Nozawa Bar). Finally, the unique presentation and style, that is, simple, unadorned, nigiri sushi (no crazy rolls here) and lack of sushi chefs up front makes Sugarfish a great place to take folks coming from out of town.

1345 2nd St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

14. Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong

3465 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Korean barbecue is often the gateway to the greater areas of Korean cuisine, and Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong is the current standard-bearer, a credit to excellent quality meat, just the right mix of banchan, and an almost too-authentic space that retains a conviviality and energy that's hard to beat. Order the pork neck or the marinaded short rib chunks, and expect a smokey, unctuous result, all washed down with soju or makgeoli, an unfiltered rice wine.

3465 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020

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