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Full platter from Heritage Barbecue
Brian Feinzimer

The 22 Best Dishes Eater LA Editors Ate in 2020, Mapped

Mining LA’s dining gems to uncover the best bites of 2020

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Full platter from Heritage Barbecue
| Brian Feinzimer

The editors at Eater LA shared our best dishes each week, so it’s only appropriate with 2020 drawing to a rapid close to bring forth the very best dishes of the year. From barbecue to braised sardines and Khmer sausages, here now are the 22 best dishes Eater editors ate this year. Dishes are presented from geographically, starting with places in Los Angeles and the latter few placed outside of the city limits but within driving distance.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Polish boy from Barbie-Q

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You know what just about everyone could use right now? A gigantic, delicious, satisfying meal from a local restaurant — which is precisely the point of the Polish boy at Barbie-Q, a takeout spot in Encino. Formerly a food truck run by owner Fortune Southern, the spot on Ventura Boulevard now traffics in Midwestern comfort dishes and a touch of barbecue, with the star of the show undoubtedly the massive Polish grilled sandwich. The whole thing is topped with sauce, laced with coleslaw, and finished with French fries for the kind of sink-into-yourself meal that might put anyone into an afternoon nap. —Farley Elliott

Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles

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For a hot minute in Highland Park, Bang Bang Noodles was the most popular street food sensation, with former fine dining chef Robert Lee slapping long strands of biang biang noodles to the delight of eager patrons. Lee has transitioned to a more permanent, contactless pickup spot during the pandemic, but the well-coated flat noodles are the best example of “do one thing really well” in LA’s dining scene. With a pliant, satisfying bite and layered spices, the plate of noodles will be empty before you realize just how quickly you’ve been wolfing them down. —Matthew Kang

Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles in Highland Park on a wood table being pulled with chopsticks.
Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles
Matthew Kang

Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue

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One of LA’s best underground meat masters is now in the Hollywood spotlight. Avi Cue, the Sherman Oaks backyard maestro known for his unique riffs on decadent chops and Middle Eastern dishes like arayes, has burst onto the wider food scene with a series of wagyu shawarma pop-ups around Hollywood. The shawarma is always worth the price of admission, and makes for a far easier ticket to score than an invite to Avi Cue’s back yard. —Farley Elliott

Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue.
Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue
Farley Elliott

Chicken from Kismet Rotisserie

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This platter at Kismet Rotisserie comes with hummus, house-made pita, pickles, and half a head of lettuce dressed as a salad. The chicken’s skin could be a tad crisper, but the moist meat from Petaluma Poultry makes up for it. The garlic sauce is a killer flavor to dab on while the house chili oil gives the chicken a gentle nuttiness that adds another dimension. There’s a lot of really good rotisserie chicken in LA, but Kismet’s overall presentation is at the top for me.  —Matthew Kang

Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Matthew Kang

Gaeng hang lae from Northern Thai Food Club

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Though all four dishes — khao soi, pork curry, house-made sausages, and smokey jackfruit salad — gracing the table were truly fantastic, the gaeng hang lae was absolutely tops. The Thai-Burmese pork curry with tamarind paste and ginger root was unrivaled in its balance and flavor, and every last bit of the gravy was sopped up with sticky rice for good measure. —Cathy Chaplin

Gaeng hang lae in a black plastic bowl on a shiny metal table, at Northern Thai Food Club in LA’s Thai Town
Gaeng hang lae from Northern Thai Food Club
Cathy Chaplin

Mapo tofu from Xiang La Hui

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This classic Sichuan dish has all the simplicity of a home cooked dish but can go in so many directions depending on the spices and the addition of meat. Xiang La Hui makes one of the most compelling mapo tofu dishes in the city. Gentle tofu cubes swim in a dense sauce imbued with multi-dimensional peppercorn heat. The balanced heat simmers and dances on the palate, with not quite the piquant hit of black pepper, nor the overly numbing spice of peppercorn. —Matthew Kang

A bright red bowl of mapo tofu loaded with spices.
Mapo tofu at Xiang La Hui
Wonho Frank Lee

Meat “pancake” from Tianjin Feng Wei

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Alhambra’s Tianjin Feng Wei was built for the new normal with its takeout-only footprint, Chinese comfort food menu, and travel-friendly wares. The best dish from a Tianjinese feast that included pork knuckles, beef tripe, and scallion pancakes were the crisp-golden beef “pancakes” filled with ground beef, teeny tiny onions, and warm spices. For those who adore the meat pies at Beijing Pie House, these beefier takes are just as great. And please be careful of scalding spurts of meat juices. —Cathy Chaplin

Meat “pancake” at Tianjin Feng Wei in Alhambra.
Meat “pancake” from Tianjin Feng Wei
Cathy Chaplin

Spicy beef noodle soup from Spoon By H

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Spoon by H is quietly cooking some of the best Korean food in LA despite having to shut down indoor seating and only rely on takeout and delivery. What’s available depends on what owner and chef Yoonjin Hwang prepares by the week, but earlier this year she made a spicy beef noodle soup featuring whole beef ribs and a hefty broth that very much resembled khao soi. Though this soup didn’t have any of the curry or coconut undertones of khao soi, the marrow-infused broth did its job of capturing the same rich essence of the northern Thai dish. Instead of Thai spice, the bowl featured the gentle heat of gochujang and a hint of sweetness that the thick hand-cut noodles easily mopped up. My personal all-time favorite Korean dish is yookgaejang, and this hand-cut spicy beef soup is probably the finest modern version I’ve ever had. —Matthew Kang

Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove
Spicy beef noodle soup
Matthew Kang

Braised sardines from Gamboge

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Canned sardines in tomato sauce was a lunchtime staple growing up. Mom emptied the sauce-soaked fishes onto a plate, topped it with paper-thin slices of onions and ground black pepper, and served it with a toasted baguette. Gamboge, a Cambodian spot in Lincoln Heights, serves a scratch-made version that’s truly irresistible. Gently braised in tomatoes, onions, and garlic, the meaty sardines meld into the sauce. It’s served with a sturdy baguette that makes for a trusty vehicle to deliver simmered sardines and sops up all that’s left with aplomb. —Cathy Chaplin

A bowl of braised sardines with a baguette on the side.
Braised sardines from Gamboge
[Official Photo]

Fried Baja snapper from Mírame

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My breakout restaurant of the year was Joshua Gil’s Mírame, a modern Mexican restaurant in Beverly Hills serving sneaky-good Baja cuisine in the ritzy neighborhood. Their brief outdoor dining session during the summer yielded this surprising fried snapper, served with sturdy purple tortillas. With a light, crisp skin dusted with marron chintestle (a Oaxacan paste), swimming in a pool of tomatillo salsa and masa jus, it’s a memorable main dish that would’ve captured more attention had the restaurant continued to serve. Gil has transitioned to a takeout taco package for anyone looking to try the food until on-premise dining returns. —Matthew Kang

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

DH Burger from Amboy Quality Meats

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Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan moved to New York City for a few years to open a bar there called the Usual, but now has come home to offer a variety of burgers and a meat case for take-home cooking, all out of the former Chego space at Far East Plaza in Chinatown. The DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers is, like the restaurant’s name, a mouthful, meant to replicate the steakhouse burgers of East Coast fame like JG Melon. Thick, rich, and with a touch of dry-aged funk, this is maybe the non-smashed burger to beat in LA right now. —Farley Elliott

DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Chinatown.
DH Burger from Amboy Quality Meats
Farley Elliott

Pan-fried mackerel from Surawon Tofu House

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Surawon might be one of the most unassuming Koreatown restaurants with its lack of windows and hard-to-see signage. But inside resides one of the best places for soondubu in town. The silken tofu stew is excellent here for its complex flavoring and house-made tofu (a rarity in LA). If available, Surawon makes its soondubu with black soybeans, which offer a hint of nuttiness versus the completely bland standard-issue tofu. The star of this $20 combo, however, is the fried mackerel, a generous portion made just right with a squeeze of lemon. At a pricier restaurant, this mackerel might cost two to three times as much, but instead budget diners get to indulge in this fatty fish blessed with intense flavor with a hint of sweetness in the tender flesh. Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown.
Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon
Matthew Kang

Kitfo from Awash Restaurant

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After months of ordering only takeout from restaurants, I finally broke my streak for the love of kitfo — an Ethiopian dish of raw chopped beef with clarified butter and mitmita (chile powder). The fine folks at Awash don’t serve this specialty to-go, which makes sense given its delicate composition, so my husband and I decided on-the-spot to dine on one of the restaurant’s two tables on Pico Blvd. Laced with warm cardamom and a rush of heat, the buttery beef was a total flavor powerhouse. The injera’s inherent tang kept the meat’s richness in check, while striking a beautiful balance of textures. —Cathy Chaplin

A bowl of Ethiopian kitfo / raw beef with a spoon on the side.
Kitfo from Awash
Cathy Chaplin

Chocolate chip cookies from Largwa

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The underground Instagram food scene is awash in baked goods right now, but that does not mean that everyone is created equal. There are chocolate chip cookies and then there is Largwa, the upstart online bakery run by Laura Hoang out of her small apartment in City Terrace, east of Downtown LA. Expect a rotating collection of baked goods from the longtime pastry professional (who was running the sweets side of Buddy’s in Downtown and Kensho in Hollywood, at least before things went south), including a melty chocolate chip cookie that may restore your faith in the world. Not for weeks on end mind you — there’s still a pandemic on after all — but at least for a few glorious bites. Sign up if you can, because Largwa sells out fast. —Farley Elliott

Family dinner from Bavel

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I prepared for Bavel’s family dinner ($49 per person) carefully. I brought out the nice wine glasses for the Sancerre along with folded cloth napkins and a tablecloth. When sitting down, waiting for chef Ori Menashe’s food to reheat, it felt like I was dining out again. In late September, he prepared hummus with burnt harissa and puffy housemade pita, a lemony endive and pecan salad, smashed cucumber yogurt to cover the serrano and turmeric marinated prawns, plus a duck confit. The serving sizes appeared so small in the to-go containers, but this was perfectly portioned. This is plenty for dinner, and I was barely able to finish the sheet pan chocolate cake with buttermilk frosting. —Mona Holmes

Rolex chapati from Goodboybob coffee

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Goodboybob is a bit of a find in Santa Monica, hiding amid film production offices and buildings, but everything from the stellar coffee and wine menu to the food is worth the effort. The well-named Rolex chapati wrap takes warm Indian flatbread and rolls in scallions and eggs for an alternate take on the popular breakfast burrito. A spicy sauce adds heat and an acidic punch. Coffee nerds might be keen on tasting one of the shop’s Cup of Excellence brews for a special morning drink pairing. —Matthew Kang

Rolex Chapati from Goodboybob in Santa Monica
Rolex chapati
Matthew Kang

Jubako bento from n/naka

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N/Naka’s end-of-year jubako, or stacked bento, featured an array of incredible kaiseki bites from cherry wood-smoked salmon to yamagoyaki. The lower bento featured a gorgeous sashimi and nigiri set with pristine seafood. An indulgent chocolate Basque cheesecake from chef Hansuk Cho provides a rich, sweet finish. N/Naka offers a champagne pairing with Dom Perignon, just one more way to cap off a truly remarkable restaurant meal at home. —Matthew Kang

N/Naka’s bento
N/Naka’s bento
Matthew Kang

Gumbo from Swift Cafe

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When the weather turned chilly in the late fall, Swift Cafe owner/chef Kyndra McCrary experimented with her gumbo recipe and threw out a modest call on Instagram to pick it up. Those of us who know McCrary’s style, know that she’s a skilled chef who tries to substitute healthier ingredients in place of ones that are high in fat and salt. But her technique brings such wonderful flavor to her dishes, that you hardly miss it or care that her gumbo doesn’t use bacon and that she substituted vegan butter for actual butter. Her incredible, slightly spicy gumbo got the one thing that makes all the difference in any gumbo: the roux. It’s deeply dark, soulful, and thick with andouille sausage, chicken and did well with a bubbly Meinklang’s Foam Vulcan from Silverlake Wine. —Mona Holmes

Gumbo from Swift Cafe in Leimert Park. [Official Photo]

Carbonara pizza from Bettina

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During a fall RV road trip where most meals were prepared on a camping stove top, we grew tired of this challenge and made a stop two hours north of home at Bettina. It took minutes to place a phone order, a quick hop off the 101, and Bettina’s carbonara pizza was in my possession. Cocktails also come in a cup (my husband was designated driver), so the Venetian spritz keeps enough acidity to pair with the rich, overwhelming, wonderful topping with ricotta, mozzarella, spicy provolone, pancetta, egg, pecorino, and so much black pepper. We ditched the RV for a bit and sat on the beach while I loudly wished this shop were closer to Los Angeles. —Mona Holmes

For beautiful Neapolitan-style pizza up the coast: Bettina’s Pizza
Bettina
Mona Holmes

Mixta burrita from La Burrita Marina

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Puerto Vallarta-style food truck La Burrita Marina in Jurupa Valley was my destination dish of the year. The mixta burrita comes with chopped octopus, shrimp, and marinated marlin, creating a trio of deep seafood flavors encased in cheese, vegetables, avocado and tortilla. It’s a specialty worth seeking out from LA, or for anyone skipping between the city and Palm Springs. Or for anyone lucky enough to live in the Inland Empire. This is the best burrita I had this year, and I hope they’ll make further inroads into LA as they gain in popularity. —Matthew Kang

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

Grilled Khmer sausage from A&J Seafood Shack

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There’s much to love on the menu at A&J Seafood Shack in Long Beach, which is located on the corner of Anaheim and Obispo on the edge of Cambodia Town. The surf side of the menu is spectacular with fresh lobsters hacked and stir-fried with aromatics, along with garlic shrimp that rivals the trucks on Oahu’s North Shore. Still, it’s best not to overlook the turf side of the menu. The grilled beef baguette sandwiches are seriously fantastic, while the Khmer sausages served over steamed white rice is worthy of obsession. Every taut and caramelized link delivers an avalanche of smoke and funk. Don’t let this year get away without partaking in Cambodia’s wonderful tradition of charcoal grilled proteins. —Cathy Chaplin

A plastic container full of steamed rice and sausage.
Grilled Khmer sausage from A&J Seafood Shack
Cathy Chaplin

Full platter from Heritage Barbecue

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On its face, barbecue is about community and celebration and time. The slow-cooked meat method has its Texas roots in weekend parties and neighborhood get-togethers; all things that are hard to safely pull off right now. Thankfully there’s still the flavor of community found at Heritage Barbecue in Orange County, complete with the wafting scents of smoke and fat. The all-outdoor setup is currently open for pickup but closed for on-site dining and line-waiting, so order ahead for rainbow platters stacked high with proteins of all sorts. Make an afternoon out of the whole experience soon, if only to have a sense that celebration isn’t dead, it just looks a little different right now. —Farley Elliott

A tray of barbecue and sides held in two hands from above.
Full platter from Heritage Barbecue
John Troxell

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Polish boy from Barbie-Q

You know what just about everyone could use right now? A gigantic, delicious, satisfying meal from a local restaurant — which is precisely the point of the Polish boy at Barbie-Q, a takeout spot in Encino. Formerly a food truck run by owner Fortune Southern, the spot on Ventura Boulevard now traffics in Midwestern comfort dishes and a touch of barbecue, with the star of the show undoubtedly the massive Polish grilled sandwich. The whole thing is topped with sauce, laced with coleslaw, and finished with French fries for the kind of sink-into-yourself meal that might put anyone into an afternoon nap. —Farley Elliott

Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles

Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles in Highland Park on a wood table being pulled with chopsticks.
Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles
Matthew Kang

For a hot minute in Highland Park, Bang Bang Noodles was the most popular street food sensation, with former fine dining chef Robert Lee slapping long strands of biang biang noodles to the delight of eager patrons. Lee has transitioned to a more permanent, contactless pickup spot during the pandemic, but the well-coated flat noodles are the best example of “do one thing really well” in LA’s dining scene. With a pliant, satisfying bite and layered spices, the plate of noodles will be empty before you realize just how quickly you’ve been wolfing them down. —Matthew Kang

Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles in Highland Park on a wood table being pulled with chopsticks.
Biang biang mian from Bang Bang Noodles
Matthew Kang

Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue

Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue.
Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue
Farley Elliott

One of LA’s best underground meat masters is now in the Hollywood spotlight. Avi Cue, the Sherman Oaks backyard maestro known for his unique riffs on decadent chops and Middle Eastern dishes like arayes, has burst onto the wider food scene with a series of wagyu shawarma pop-ups around Hollywood. The shawarma is always worth the price of admission, and makes for a far easier ticket to score than an invite to Avi Cue’s back yard. —Farley Elliott

Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue.
Wagyu shawarma from Avi Cue
Farley Elliott

Chicken from Kismet Rotisserie

Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Matthew Kang

This platter at Kismet Rotisserie comes with hummus, house-made pita, pickles, and half a head of lettuce dressed as a salad. The chicken’s skin could be a tad crisper, but the moist meat from Petaluma Poultry makes up for it. The garlic sauce is a killer flavor to dab on while the house chili oil gives the chicken a gentle nuttiness that adds another dimension. There’s a lot of really good rotisserie chicken in LA, but Kismet’s overall presentation is at the top for me.  —Matthew Kang

Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Chicken at Kismet Rotisserie
Matthew Kang

Gaeng hang lae from Northern Thai Food Club

Gaeng hang lae in a black plastic bowl on a shiny metal table, at Northern Thai Food Club in LA’s Thai Town
Gaeng hang lae from Northern Thai Food Club
Cathy Chaplin

Though all four dishes — khao soi, pork curry, house-made sausages, and smokey jackfruit salad — gracing the table were truly fantastic, the gaeng hang lae was absolutely tops. The Thai-Burmese pork curry with tamarind paste and ginger root was unrivaled in its balance and flavor, and every last bit of the gravy was sopped up with sticky rice for good measure. —Cathy Chaplin

Gaeng hang lae in a black plastic bowl on a shiny metal table, at Northern Thai Food Club in LA’s Thai Town
Gaeng hang lae from Northern Thai Food Club
Cathy Chaplin

Mapo tofu from Xiang La Hui

A bright red bowl of mapo tofu loaded with spices.
Mapo tofu at Xiang La Hui
Wonho Frank Lee

This classic Sichuan dish has all the simplicity of a home cooked dish but can go in so many directions depending on the spices and the addition of meat. Xiang La Hui makes one of the most compelling mapo tofu dishes in the city. Gentle tofu cubes swim in a dense sauce imbued with multi-dimensional peppercorn heat. The balanced heat simmers and dances on the palate, with not quite the piquant hit of black pepper, nor the overly numbing spice of peppercorn. —Matthew Kang

A bright red bowl of mapo tofu loaded with spices.
Mapo tofu at Xiang La Hui
Wonho Frank Lee

Meat “pancake” from Tianjin Feng Wei

Meat “pancake” at Tianjin Feng Wei in Alhambra.
Meat “pancake” from Tianjin Feng Wei
Cathy Chaplin

Alhambra’s Tianjin Feng Wei was built for the new normal with its takeout-only footprint, Chinese comfort food menu, and travel-friendly wares. The best dish from a Tianjinese feast that included pork knuckles, beef tripe, and scallion pancakes were the crisp-golden beef “pancakes” filled with ground beef, teeny tiny onions, and warm spices. For those who adore the meat pies at Beijing Pie House, these beefier takes are just as great. And please be careful of scalding spurts of meat juices. —Cathy Chaplin

Meat “pancake” at Tianjin Feng Wei in Alhambra.
Meat “pancake” from Tianjin Feng Wei
Cathy Chaplin

Spicy beef noodle soup from Spoon By H

Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove
Spicy beef noodle soup
Matthew Kang

Spoon by H is quietly cooking some of the best Korean food in LA despite having to shut down indoor seating and only rely on takeout and delivery. What’s available depends on what owner and chef Yoonjin Hwang prepares by the week, but earlier this year she made a spicy beef noodle soup featuring whole beef ribs and a hefty broth that very much resembled khao soi. Though this soup didn’t have any of the curry or coconut undertones of khao soi, the marrow-infused broth did its job of capturing the same rich essence of the northern Thai dish. Instead of Thai spice, the bowl featured the gentle heat of gochujang and a hint of sweetness that the thick hand-cut noodles easily mopped up. My personal all-time favorite Korean dish is yookgaejang, and this hand-cut spicy beef soup is probably the finest modern version I’ve ever had. —Matthew Kang

Spicy beef noodle soup at Spoon by H in Beverly Grove
Spicy beef noodle soup
Matthew Kang

Braised sardines from Gamboge

A bowl of braised sardines with a baguette on the side.
Braised sardines from Gamboge
[Official Photo]

Canned sardines in tomato sauce was a lunchtime staple growing up. Mom emptied the sauce-soaked fishes onto a plate, topped it with paper-thin slices of onions and ground black pepper, and served it with a toasted baguette. Gamboge, a Cambodian spot in Lincoln Heights, serves a scratch-made version that’s truly irresistible. Gently braised in tomatoes, onions, and garlic, the meaty sardines meld into the sauce. It’s served with a sturdy baguette that makes for a trusty vehicle to deliver simmered sardines and sops up all that’s left with aplomb. —Cathy Chaplin

A bowl of braised sardines with a baguette on the side.
Braised sardines from Gamboge
[Official Photo]

Fried Baja snapper from Mírame

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

My breakout restaurant of the year was Joshua Gil’s Mírame, a modern Mexican restaurant in Beverly Hills serving sneaky-good Baja cuisine in the ritzy neighborhood. Their brief outdoor dining session during the summer yielded this surprising fried snapper, served with sturdy purple tortillas. With a light, crisp skin dusted with marron chintestle (a Oaxacan paste), swimming in a pool of tomatillo salsa and masa jus, it’s a memorable main dish that would’ve captured more attention had the restaurant continued to serve. Gil has transitioned to a takeout taco package for anyone looking to try the food until on-premise dining returns. —Matthew Kang

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

DH Burger from Amboy Quality Meats

DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Chinatown.
DH Burger from Amboy Quality Meats
Farley Elliott

Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan moved to New York City for a few years to open a bar there called the Usual, but now has come home to offer a variety of burgers and a meat case for take-home cooking, all out of the former Chego space at Far East Plaza in Chinatown. The DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers is, like the restaurant’s name, a mouthful, meant to replicate the steakhouse burgers of East Coast fame like JG Melon. Thick, rich, and with a touch of dry-aged funk, this is maybe the non-smashed burger to beat in LA right now. —Farley Elliott