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The 38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants, July 2014

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Inside Spago, Beverly Hills. Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

The Eater 38 needs an overhaul every once in a while, and this time around, the highly elite group of restaurants that represents of variety of cuisines and culinary styles has gotten a complete refresh. Spanning Westside to Eastside, with eateries clustered around the best dining neighborhoods, this collection aims to answer the question, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" Eater will continue to update restaurants every few months, adding in eligible places that have been open for at least six months. Remember, each establishment is listed alphabetically, not in order of preference or quality.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite restaurant isn't on the list, it's probably easier to just state your case in the comments or to the tipline.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Alma

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952 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 444-0984
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Ari Taymor's first venture might be the one of the most notable places in L.A. to have taken a meteoric rise, thanks mostly to a Best New Restaurant from Bon Appetit. But beyond the hype, which is immense, lies a dedication to impeccably sourced hyper-local ingredients presented in a rather unique and innovative manner. Love it or hate it, it's now on the forefront of anyone who visits Los Angeles, and deserves a spot on the must-try list for locals as well.

2. Animal

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435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9225
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Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo captured a certain idea that's remained at the prime spot of restaurant culture in L.A. Minimal, pure, on-point yet adventurous, controversial yet comforting. Shook and Dotolo's Fairfax restaurant doesn't feel bad about serving offal meat or unusual animals. Many have attempted to copy their approach, but few have succeeded.

8700 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-6359
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Suzanne Goin's newly relocated but enduring Mediterranean restaurant on West Third continues to churn out some of the most reliable, and seasonally driven cooking in the city. With the new digs and one of the most charming patios in town, it's hard to find much fault with AOC. The produce-driven cocktails, which weren't available at the previous location, also bump up the experience.

4. Bäco Mercat

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408 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-8808
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Josef Centeno took the best parts of his days at Lazy Ox Canteen and refined it into Baco Mercat, a casual dining spot in Downtown that's good for an office lunch or refined enough for a second date. Rustic, soulful, and decently priced, Baco is the ideal gateway to the Centeno mini-empire.

5. The Bazaar by José Andrés

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465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5555
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Jose Andres explores a different kind of dining inside the SLS Hotel, the kind of sexy, stylish, and sophisticated dining room that still pushes out a varied and delectable collection of Spanish-inspired tapas through the lens of avant garde cuisine.

6. Bestia

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2121 E 7th Pl
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(213) 514-5724
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Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis knew something about finding the perfect spot and offering the area the perfect concept. Seasonal, meat-driven rustic Italian in an industrial space in the heart of the Arts District. Who knew it was going to be one of the most talked about and constantly books restaurants in the city despite having a nearly hidden location? The pizzas, pastas, appetizers and mains all shine, with cocktails and wine as impressive as any restaurant in town.

7. Bucato

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3280 Helms Ave
Culver City, CA 90034
(310) 876-0286
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Evan Funke's oddly laid out restaurant some notable quirks, namely a no-cellphone and camera policy, stove-less kitchen, and completely handcut and rolled pasta menu. The compromises are worth it when the dishes are served, as flavors and textures collide to create one of the most compelling new Italian restaurants to hit LA.

8. Canele Restaurant

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3219 Glendale Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 666-7133
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L.A. doesn't have as many great neighborhood restaurants as say, New York or San Francisco. You know, the kind of places where you could slip into a two top, order a bottle of rose, and order up a parade of seasonal American/French bites. But Canele fits the billing nicely in a tiny space in Atwater Village. Brunch is no slouch, either, though come early to beat the crow.d

9. Chengdu Taste

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

Tony Xu has essentially created a brand new destination restaurant in San Gabriel Valley, a part of town that's shock full of great places to eat. This ode to Sichuan doesn't hold back with flavors, so expect to endure massive lines to enjoy near-perfect renditions of spicy classics.

10. Chi Spacca

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6610 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-1133
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There's steak, and then there's Chad Colby's absolute obsession with all things meat, including a mighty Bistecca alla Fiorentina that would make grown carnivores cry. The house charcuterie is appropriately fantastic while other dishes like the bone marrow pie defy any person's sense of moderation.

11. Din Tai Fung Dumpling House #3

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171 Caruso Ave
Glendale, CA 91210
(818) 551-5561
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This international dumpling and noodle purveyor still makes some of the most solid Chinese food in the city, though with three locations to pick from (two essentially next to each other in Arcadia), it's hard not to opt for this spot in Glendale. It's right in the Americana, making longer waits easier to deal with, plus the ambiance is much nicer than the other spots. Get those famous xiao long bao dumplings and don't look back.

12. Father's Office

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3229 Helms Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 736-2224
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The gourmet burger didn't really exist until Sang Yoon decided to offer one at his Santa Monica gastropub. Since then, a larger, more comfy outlet has opened to crowds in Culver City, offering a massive tap list, decently priced cocktails, and a slew of pub fare that only a top flight fine dining chef could compile. Going beyond the burger, everything from the duck salad to steak frites and even mushrooms go fantastic with all the beverages on deck. Just don't ask for ketchup, or any modifications, actually.

13. Gjelina

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1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429
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Travis Lett's enduring Abbot Kinney restaurant still attracts a steady clientele with a compelling mix of vegetable-driven small plates and well executed fare. Other than Axe, perhaps the most "Venice" restaurant in Venice.

14. The Hart + The Hunter

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7950 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 424-3055
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Southern cooking had a brief moment in Los Angeles, but the production at this Melrose hotel defies trends, with everything from crispy fried chicken skin and steak with polenta in a tiny dining room toward the back. But it's all even more impressive when one realizes how strapped and simple this kitchen is, with no hood and basic equipment. Flavors, ingredients, execution are all on point.

15. Hinoki & The Bird

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10 W Century Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 552-1200
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Placed in one of the most unique restaurant spaces in town, Hinoki & the Bird remains a world-class eatery under the helm of Kuniko Yagi, who adds East and Southeast Asian touches to a menu that seems simple to the beginner's eye. But underneath each dish is a compendium of complexity that would stand up to some of the best places in the city.

16. ink.

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8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 651-5866
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Michael Voltaggio's avant garde restaurant on Melrose is one of the spots that will truly impress a diner that's been through the classics and wants more. Prepare for the mind to be warped and even toyed with, as Voltaggio blends traditional technique with unexpected ingredients.

17. Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong

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

There are so many great Korean barbecue restaurants, but this relative newcomer that's sprouting franchises across the U.S. is still the one to beat. The best quality meats, the best marinades, only the most essential banchan, and an ambiance lifted straight out of a street-side spot in Seoul, Kang Ho Dong Baek Jeong might actually be worth the tremendous waits and raucous environment. The pork neck slivers and lightly marinaded brisket, when slow cooked over smoking charcoal, might be the closest thing to Texas barbecue in LA.

18. Kobawoo House

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698 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 389-7300

There are more than a dozen outstanding Korean restaurants in Koreatown, an enclave that might hold the highest density of eateries in LA. Notable picks around Ktown: Soban, Seong Buk Dong, and Kobawoo, the last of which tends to have the most menu options and the most consistent execution. The lunchtime bossam is a great deal while the stews, fish, and pancakes are all top drawer.

19. La Casita Mexicana

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4030 Gage Ave
Bell, CA 90201
(323) 773-1898
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LA is known for great Mexican food, but there aren't a ton of great Mexican restaurants to be found in central L.A. Petty Cash is contender for great tacos while Rocio's Mole de Los Dioses is a bit north for most people. Guelaguetza is another strong choice, but La Casita Mexicana has the whole package, from breakfast to dinner. Try the chiles en nogada or the enchiladas.

20. Langer's Delicatessen

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704 S Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 483-8050
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Yes, the #19 pastrami sandwich is an amazing sandwich, but the pure pastrami on house-based rye is simplicity at its best. There's a reason why people make pilgrimages to try their pastrami and even corned beef: there is no better version anywhere in town, and perhaps even in the country. Pro tip: try the #54, a blend of both the pastrami and corned beef in one sandwich. And don't skip the rest of the classic Jewish deli menu - it's all very well executed in one of the best day-time dining rooms in town.

21. Mélisse

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1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-0881
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Josiah Citrin's nearly ten year old fine dining establishment holds down the high-end side of things on the Westside. With a regal ambiance and world-class service, it's hard to think of a better place to experience Michelin-level food in Los angeles. Opt for a tasting menu and order up a bottle of good wine. You deserve it.

22. Milo And Olive

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2723 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Quietly occupying a rather barren stretch of Wilshire Blvd, Milo & Olive serves what might be the most compelling every day food on the Westside, from fantastic pizzas and pastries to market-driven bites that will turn even the hardest skeptic. Too bad the space is about as small as one could imagine, though it's worth the wait.

23. Night + Market

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9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Kris Yenbamroong struck the right nerve when he opened this Thai street food eatery in the heart of West Hollywood's Sunset Strip, a relative food desert considering its notoreity. Since opening a few years ago, the strong Thai dishes never fail to impress out of towners and locals alike, with addictive dishes and modest prices. If you're on the Eastside, try Night + Market Song, a near carbon copy with a few specialties of its own.

24. Orsa & Winston

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122 W 4th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-0300
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Josef Centeno decided to come back to fine dining with a bang, this time taking over a 40 seat spot right next to his other two restaurants in Downtown. This sort-of Japanese and Italian high end restaurant offering medium and larger tasting menus that appeal to the international diner who's used to counting Michelin stars, to the local foodist who knows his or her salt. Either way, the meals here are immediately gratifying and more than reasonably priced for this level of quality.

25. Osteria Mozza

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6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100
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While Nancy Silverton's adjacent Pizzeria Mozza is no slouch, offering one of the best pizzas in the city, the Osteria sets the standard for elegant Italian cuisine in a convivial atmosphere. A good place to hit during the weekday for an amaro and plate of burrata, or a fine spot to celebrate an anniversary or birthday, the service is always going to be top notch. Don't skip any of the pastas or main dishes, which are prepared to perfection.

26. Providence

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5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170
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Michael Cimarusti's ode to seafood-centric fine dining has gotten a much needed revamp in Hancock Park, with a nautical theme to reinforce the kind of preparations happening on the plate. The tasting menu-focused eatery is an easy choice for a celebration or special occasion.

27. Red Medicine

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8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(323) 651-5500
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Jordan Kahn and partner Noah Ellis have had their share of PR mishaps, but it's mostly been forgotten now that the concept, which is essentially New Nordic through the lens of Asian ingredients. And the winners are anyone who's willing to venture to this stretch of Wilshire. Nothing on the short menu is particularly weak, but the desserts are extremely strong, especially the iconic coconut bavarois.

28. République

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624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(310) 361-6115
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When Walter and Margarita Manzke took over the iconic Campanile space, they knew the stakes were going to be high. And who in LA would have thought they would've succeeded this much, offering a swell breakfast to dinner menu that ranges a French point of view, with pockets of New American and even Asian influences that appeal to nearly everyone. The desserts, breads, and pastries by Margarita are near-perfect while the charcuterie board is sure to stun anyone.

29. Rustic Canyon Wine Bar

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1119 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-7050
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Jeremy Fox revitalized one of the Westside's strongest restaurants, bringing a Northern California elegance and finesse to a market-driven menu that almost didn't need it. The result is wonderful set of dishes that doesn't need fireworks to impress. The ingredients, technique, and chef's touch speak for themselves.

30. Sapp Coffee Shop

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

A humble Thai breakfast and lunch spot, Sapp Coffee Shop has two iconic dishes that are must-trys for visitors and Angelenos. First, the jade noodles, both dry and immersed in soup (for former is better). Second the Thai Boat Noodles, which are dank, intense, spicy, and not for the faint of heart. But beyond that, the fried rice and crab pad thai are more than respectable. Cash only.

31. Shunji Japanese Cuisine

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12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 826-4737
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Yes, Urasawa, Yamakase, Zo, Q, Nozawa Bar, n/naka, and Kiyokawa would all quality for inclusion, but perhaps none balances sushi and hot dishes at an attainable price (as in, less than an arm and a leg) than Shunji, which occupies an old Depression-era chili restaurant (believe it). Though the prices are still quite steep, the sashimi plate, nigiri sushi, and tomato agadashi alone are worth the admission fee.

32. Son of a Gun Restaurant

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8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9033
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Think of this as the seafood of Animal, from the same crew, and in an even smaller dining room. The fried chicken sandwich is consistently rated as the one of the city's best, both the diminutive lobster roll and shrimp toast impress even skeptics, and the rest of the seafood-driven menu generally hits the right spot on any night of the week. Good luck getting a table during prime hours though.

33. Spago Beverly Hills

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176 N Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-0880
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Wolfgang Puck's Beverly Hills flagship still has a compelling tasting menu that would stand up to the city's best. Throw in a star-powered crowd with world-class service, and you have one restaurant that will appeal to high end diners and people watchers alike.

34. SUGARFISH

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11640 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 820-4477
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Sushi isn't just commonplace in LA, it's an absolute right by Angelenos. Everyone has their favorite local spot or strip mall hidden gem, but it's hard to argue with the overall value, price, and consistency of SugarFISH, which has outlets across town, including Marina del Rey, Brentwood, Santa Monica, La Brea, and Downtown. Get the Trust Me, and enjoy the ride.

35. Sqirl Kitchen

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720 N Virgil Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(213) 394-6526
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Jessica Koslow realized that the Eastside was bereft of a great every day breakfast and lunch spot, and SQIRL was the answer everyone was waiting for. Tucked away on a sleepy stretch of Virgil, this seasonal kitchen produces surprising cuisine that balances flavor with superb ingredients. Don't miss desserts either.

36. The Tasting Kitchen

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1633 Abbot Kinney Rd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-6644
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Casey Lane's Italian-inflected restaurant still maintains an excellent level of quality despite a few years of life on Abbot Kinney. The room is one of the most lovely on the block and the cocktails by Justin Pike stand up to the best in town. Try the pastas.

37. Trois Mec

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716 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 468-8915
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Ludo Lefebvre paired up with chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo to create a musical version of Led Zeppelin - a supergroup of uber-talented culinary minds that produces one of the best tasting menus in town. Purchase tickets on select days and watch Lefebvre create some of the most creative, expressive cuisine in Los Angeles.

38. Tsujita LA Annex

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Ramen is currently king in terms of casual food in Los Angeles, and perhaps no place reigns over Tsujita, a duet of eateries in Sawtelle, one of the busiest dining neighborhoods in town. While the original now offers day through evening Hakata-style ramen with thin noodles and superb tsukemen, the ANNEX is the place to try LA's take on the legendary Jiro-style ramen popularized in Tokyo that spawned dozens of imitators. Simply put, this is the most intense ramen LA has ever seen. The tsukemen is a great choice for starters while the regular ramen bowl packs are garlicky punch.

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1. Alma

952 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Ari Taymor's first venture might be the one of the most notable places in L.A. to have taken a meteoric rise, thanks mostly to a Best New Restaurant from Bon Appetit. But beyond the hype, which is immense, lies a dedication to impeccably sourced hyper-local ingredients presented in a rather unique and innovative manner. Love it or hate it, it's now on the forefront of anyone who visits Los Angeles, and deserves a spot on the must-try list for locals as well.

952 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015

2. Animal

435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048