Welcome to The Greats, a series on the restaurants around the country that define their cities. Here now, a guide to the Los Angeles Greats.
It’s been a year like no other for Los Angeles restaurants as the industry endured not one, but two complete shutdowns. But even in the days of takeout-only, the incredible diversity of the city’s cuisine was on full display, powering Angelenos through quarantine with life-changing burritos, indulgent prime rib feasts at home, or carryout breakfast, lunch, and dinner from one of the many stellar all-day cafés.
Now that the city is slowly reopening, it’s time to acknowledge those hard-working restaurants — new and old, from Silver Lake to Manhattan Beach — that have defined the city’s dining scene, nourished residents, and established Los Angeles as a global destination for anyone who loves food. These are The Greats, 22 restaurants that we can’t imagine Los Angeles without.
Osteria Mozza (Hollywood)
When it opened in 2007, Osteria Mozza changed the face of Italian food in Los Angeles. Helmed by James Beard Award winner and Chef’s Table documentary subject Nancy Silverton, the restaurant reminded Angelenos of the pleasures of fresh cheese and homemade pasta, and introduced relatively unknown items that are seen on menus across the city today, such as bitter Italian amaros and chicory salads — all of which nabbed the restaurant a Michelin star. The restaurant, like the food, has a timeless quality to it that’s helped it remain relevant to this day. When regular service is standard again, you might still find Silverton plating up antipasti behind the best seat in the house: the mozzarella bar.
Dining at the restaurant: Mozza is currently open for outdoor dining, where the restaurant is serving a menu of its greatest hits such as the extra large ricotta and egg-filled raviolo doused in a sage and brown butter sauce.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available through the restaurant’s website.
(abeautifullife) Jamaican Kitchen (Little Tokyo)
Since its founding in 2013, (abeautifullife) has been a destination for the restaurant’s distinctly Californian take on Jamaican food, combining the island’s traditions with today’s food trends and a commitment to responsible sourcing and serving it all in airy, tropically decorated spaces. The results are mashups such as jerk bone broth, oxtail ragu, or a range of bowls such as jerked wild-caught salmon with rice and peas, sautéed cabbage, and fried plantains. It’s a combination that’s won (abeautifullife) such a loyal following that the restaurant now has two locations, a food truck, and a line of jerk-themed clothing.
Dining at the restaurant: Both locations are open for both limited indoor and outdoor dining. Reservations are available for the South San Pedro street location.
Takeout: Takeout is available through the restaurant’s website.
Park’s BBQ (Koreatown)
Seoul native chef Jenee Kim made a commitment early on at Park’s BBQ to serve USDA Prime and American wagyu beef, a decision that quickly established it as the city’s finest example of Korean barbecue. Come hungry and order one of the “Taste of Park’s” BBQ platters to try the full range of offerings, such as perfectly marbled ggot sal prime beef, or the boneless short ribs marinated in the restaurant’s beloved garlic, soy, and brown sugar mixture, all served with an assortment of banchan: side dishes of marinated vegetables, tofu, and more. You’ll immediately understand this restaurant’s influence upon walking in, where the walls are plastered with photos of the likes of David Chang and Anthony Bourdain.
Dining at the restaurant: Park’s BBQ is currently offering limited outdoor seating on the restaurant’s tented patio, where the tabletop grills have been relocated to preserve the quintessential Korean barbecue experience.
Takeout: Pre-cooked cuts of meat and other entrées such as kimchi stew with pork are available for takeout and delivery via third-party apps.
Felix Trattoria (Venice)
There is no shortage of fresh pasta in Los Angeles these days, but no restaurant elevates it to an art form quite like Felix, where chef Evan Funke makes a kaleidoscope of shapes in a glass-walled, temperature controlled pasta “lab.” Funke’s single-minded pursuit of pasta perfection landed him a cookbook deal on the subject, a spot on Eater’s best new restaurants list in 2017, and Felix the reputation as one of the city’s definitive restaurants. Diners can travel Italy from the North to the country’s islands via the restaurant’s menu, eating through geographically organized pastas such as linguini with lemon and asparagus, covered in a shower of pecorino.
Dining at the restaurant: Felix is currently open for outdoor dining.
Takeout: The restaurant does not offer takeout at this time.
Rossoblu (Fashion District)
For perfect renditions of regional Italian cooking, head downtown to Rossoblu, where chef Steve Samson draws upon his childhood memories spent at his grandparents’ house in Bologna, recreating dishes at such a high caliber that it has made the Los Angeles Times’s list of 101 Best Restaurants for several years running. Here, diners have the opportunity to try dishes rarely seen outside of Emilia-Romagna, such as erbazzone, a savory pastry filled with swiss chard, bitter greens, and cheese, or the now-infamous minestra nel sacco, a bowl of parmigiano reggiano dumplings in brodo.
Dining at the restaurant: Rossoblu is now open for outdoor dining on the restaurant’s private outdoor piazza.
Takeout: The restaurant offers a seven-course “Rossoblu Experience at Home” as well as bundles of take-and-bake pizza and wine, both available to order online.
République (Hancock Park)
Los Angeles Times food critic Bill Addison admitted that République is the restaurant he recommends to friends and readers more often than any other in the city. This is a place that is essential because it offers something for everyone, at every time of day, and is good at all of it. It’s loosely considered a French restaurant, but husband-and-wife team Walter and Margarita Manzke draw inspiration from many places, including their native California. Stop by in the morning for ricotta toast topped with mandarin oranges, medjool dates, hazelnuts, and wildflower honey, or settle in for a leisurely dinner of Sonoma duck served with brussels sprouts and local blackberries.
Dining at the restaurant: République’s bakery and cafe is open for walk-in service, and reservations are available for a la carte dinner Sunday through Thursday, and tasting menu service on Fridays and Saturdays.
Takeout: The restaurant’s famous breads and pastries are all available for takeout online, along with breakfast sandwiches, lunch dishes such as a dry-aged burger, coffee, tea, wine, and beer.
Los Angeles’s penchant for all-day cafés and avocado toast has risen to the level of stereotype, but Gjelina is the mother of the genre — when the restaurant opened in 2008, there was nothing else like it in the city. And to this day, the restaurant’s wooden communal tables, industrial chic stools, and effortlessly stylish crowds invite anyone who visits to indulge in the fantasy of California cool. But more importantly, Gjelina pioneered the type of eating that Angelenos take for granted today, where a wood-burning oven cranks out creative pizzas alongside a variety of vegetable-forward small plates, such as charred romanesco cauliflower spiked with anchovies, capers, Fresno chiles, and mint.
Dining at the restaurant: Gjelina is currently open for outdoor dining on the restaurant’s rooftop terrace and backyard patio.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery is available a few doors down at Gjelina Takeaway.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib (Beverly Hills)
It doesn’t get more classic than Lawry’s, the Beverly Hills institution that launched a global chain and a ubiquitous seasoning blend. For more than 80 years, impeccably dressed staffers have been moving through the dining room dressing salads in spinning bowls and carving slabs of juicy prime rib tableside from imposing, 700-pound silver carts. The resulting plate of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach has changed very little during the restaurant’s lifespan, because it doesn’t need to. The spectacle and consistently delicious food have made a visit to this restaurant an annual tradition for many Los Angeles residents.
Dining at the restaurant: Lawry’s is open for limited indoor dining, and is also seating diners on the restaurant’s heated outdoor terrace.
Takeout: Pickup and delivery are available through Lawry’s website, or by calling the restaurant directly.
Q Sushi (Downtown)
For the city’s best traditional omakase menu, head downtown to the Michelin-starred Q Sushi. Here, every single piece of fish is prepared by chef Hiroyuki Naruke, who avoids creative flourishes and instead stakes his reputation on perfect cuts of fish and well-executed, simple preparations of rare varieties such as black abalone or Hokkaido scallops. The small, spare dining room only accommodates two seatings per night, both for $300 per person. But compared to the cost of a plane ticket to Tokyo, it’s well worth it to experience some of the city’s most flawless fish. Pro tip: Head for lunch for a $150 version of the meal.
Dining at the restaurant: Q Sushi is open for limited indoor dining.
Takeout: The restaurant is not doing takeout at this time.
Bavel (Arts District)
Bavel, from the renowned team behind Bestia, is a Middle Eastern restaurant that follows the traditional format (spreads, salads, small plates, large plates) but utilizes wholly untraditional ingredients. The cloud-like hummus alone sets it apart as one of the city’s great restaurants, arriving in a bowl slicked with olive oil, and either simply dressed with a slug of green zhoug or, more creatively, with duck ‘nduja. These unexpected additions — always perfectly executed — will make diners want to try every dish on the menu, and are the reason Eater named Bavel LA’s restaurant of the year when it opened in 2018.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for outdoor dining on its covered patio.
Takeout: Bavel’s menu is available for takeout via the restaurant’s website.
A.O.C. (Beverly Grove)
If you’ve had a bacon-wrapped date in the past 10 years, you can thank A.O.C. and chef Suzanne Goin. This venerable wine bar was one of the first to embrace the shareable small plates style of dining, kicking off a trend that would define LA restaurants for years to come. Co-owner Caroline Styne curates the award-winning wine list, while Goin continues to balance menu innovations with greatest hits, such as the Spanish fried chicken, served with romesco aïoli and chile-cumin butter
Dining at the restaurant: A.O.C. is open for outdoor dining on the patio The Infatuation called “the best in the city.”
Takeout: Takeout and delivery is available through the restaurant’s website, including a $45, four-course “winter favorites” prix fixe menu option.
Perch LA (Downtown)
When it comes to rooftop dining in Los Angeles, no one beats Perch. But what makes Perch a must-visit is the fact that the restaurant doesn’t stake its reputation purely on views: It’s also a destination for some of the city’s best French cooking. Grab a table at sunset and enjoy steak frites or bouillabaisse, or make a reservation for the sceney brunch, where you can enjoy benedicts a la carte or through the restaurant’s $40, three-course prix fixe option.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for outdoor dining on the 15th-floor rooftop.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery is available via third-party apps.
All Day Baby (Silver Lake)
One of the owners of All Day Baby, Lien Ta, describes the restaurant as “an all-around hangout,” which projects an overly casual vibe for a restaurant that almost every critic described as “ambitious.” This ambition, combined with a welcoming atmosphere, landed the restaurant a spot on the Los Angeles Times’s 101 Best Restaurants list less than a year after it opened and earned ADB a cult following. In a city usually associated with health food, All Day Baby goes all in on Southern-inflected diner fare, offering sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwiches topped with strawberry jam, or a hot crab sandwich that packs blue crab meat, smoked jalapeño mayo, avocado, green tomatoes, and jack cheese between slices of sourdough.
Dining at the restaurant: All Day Baby is open for first-come, first-serve seating on the restaurant’s patio; orders can be placed and picked up at the restaurant’s takeout menu or ordered in advance to be enjoyed on site.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery are available through the restaurant’s website.
Orsa & Winston (Downtown)
Orsa & Winston had already established itself as one of the city’s most creative restaurants before the pandemic struck, earning a Michelin star and rave reviews for chef Josef Centeno’s mash-up of Japanese and Italian flavors. But it earned the title of 2020 restaurant of the year from the Los Angeles Times due to the grace and creativity with which it weathered the pandemic: Centeno cooked for hospital workers, opened a pick-up window that served an excellent cheeseburger on Japanese milk bread, and even made masks via his clothing line. With dining open once again, Orsa & Winston is back to serving its famed tasting menu, featuring dishes such as hand-torn pasta with porcini bolognese, lovage-dashi butter, and salted shiso.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for patio dining, serving a 5-course tasting menu for $125 per person.
Takeout: Takeout is available through the restaurant’s website for a la carte items and meal kits, such as the O&W hand roll kit that includes supplies to make hand rolls for two; delivery is available via third-party apps.
Birdie G’s (Santa Monica)
After earning a Michelin star and literally writing the book “On Vegetables,” chef Jeremy Fox has moved on to global comfort food at his sprawling Santa Monica spot Birdie G’s. Inspiration comes from all over on this menu: red-sauce joints are honored with a chopped salad laden with hot ham, cornichons, olive, chickpeas, giardiniera, and cheddar, while noodle kugel is a tribute to the Eastern European food Fox’s grandmother used to make — though it’s safe to guess his grandma didn’t weave in ricotta, applesauce, walnuts, and sage brown butter. The mix of nostalgia and fine dining skill have made Birdie G’s an instant hit just two years after opening.
Dining at the restaurant: Birdie G’s is open for for both indoor dining and outdoor on the restaurant’s spacious patio.
Takeout: The majority of the restaurant’s menu is available for takeout online or via third-party apps.
Once one of the city’s most heralded tasting menus, celebrity chef Curtis Stone and his brother Luke Stone have transformed Gwen into one of the city’s most impressive takeout operations. Angelenos can pick up cuts from the lauded in-house butcher shop, which specializes in ethnically raised, hormone-free meats, or head over to the marketplace for fresh produce, pantry items, and entrées such as oxtail and beef cheek stew with cipollini onions. The restaurant also offers picnic kits, so diners can head to a nearby park with housemade charcuterie and pickles, cheese, freshly made cookies, and condiments.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is currently not doing onsite dining.
Angelini Osteria (Beverly Grove)
For more than two decades, Angelini Osteria has been serving up some of the city’s best pasta to those in the know. The restaurant feels both warm and luxurious at once, combining classic Italian cooking with chef and owner Gino Angelini’s old-school hospitality — rarely a night goes by where the chef isn’t roaming the dining room, greeting regulars and first-timers alike. But regulars aren’t just here for a handshake; it’s the perfect renditions of lush dishes they’re after, such as linguini with Santa Barbara sea urchin, luscious veal shank agnolotti, or salt-roasted whole branzino, carved tableside.
Dining at the restaurant: Angelini Osteria is currently open for lunch and dinner, offering both limited indoor dining and outdoor seating.
Takeout: The restaurant offers a limited takeout menu that diners can order by calling the restaurant or online via OpenTable.
Fishing With Dynamite (Manhattan Beach)
For the best seafood in Los Angeles, head to Manhattan Beach, where Fishing With Dynamite serves some of the city’s most expertly shucked bivalves alongside globally inspired fish dishes within a stone’s throw of the Pacific Ocean. Chef and owner David LeFevre offers several raw bar platters that give diners a taste of the restaurant’s intentionally sourced shellfish, such as the “Mothershucker” that places bicoastal oysters on a tray with a whole lobster, Alaskan king crab, and the signature Peruvian scallops that are presented in their own shell with a bit of citrus. The rest of the menu at this tiny spot is basically an encyclopedia of seafood preparations from around the world, drawing inspiration from New England for the bacon-packed “chowda” bowl, or El Salvador for the shrimp pupusas.
Dining at the restaurant: Fishing With Dynamite is open for limited indoor dining.
Takeout: Takeout and delivery is available through the restaurant’s website.
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s deft touch with seafood and partner Donato Poto’s legendary front-of-house presence have made Providence one of Los Angeles’s preeminent fine dining restaurants for more than 15 years, racking up almost every award there is along the way, including two Michelin stars. Looking over the $210 tasting menu, it’s easy to see why: Dishes such as rock crab over creamy soy milk panna cotta with sweet corn and caviar are sustainability sourced and gracefully couriered through the sea-toned dining room by an expert staff, giving the whole experience an overtone of luxury befitting of the price tag.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is open for limited indoor dining, offering tasting menus for both lunch and dinner and optional a la carte add-ons.
Takeout: Providence does not offer takeout.
Sonoratown (Fashion District)
Sonoratown is single-handedly responsible for ushering in a new era of flour tortillas in Los Angeles. The small taqueria makes them in-house from flour driven up from northern Mexico, creating almost translucent wrappers for the restaurant’s burritos and tacos that swept KCRW’s Masa Madness tortilla contest, earned acclaim from The New York Times, a feature on Netflix’s Taco Chronicles, and generally upped the ante for all other tortillerias in the city. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the restaurant also focuses on Sonora’s beloved carne asada — for the complete Sonoratown experience, be sure to get your taco or burrito stuffed with the perfectly charred, mesquite grilled steak.
Dining at the restaurant: The restaurant is only open for carryout at this time.
Takeout: Takeout orders can be placed inside the restaurant, by calling ahead of time, or via third-party apps, which can also deliver within a certain range of the restaurant.
Spago (Beverly Hills)
Before Wolfgang Puck was on TV, opening airport restaurants around the world, or teaching online cooking classes, he was pioneering the brand of casual elegance at Spago that now describes much of Los Angeles. When the restaurant opened in 1982, Puck was one of a handful of chefs pioneering “California cuisine,” making use of the state’s bountiful produce in combination with Asian and European techniques. The results are legendary, such as the famed smoked salmon pizza with crème fraîche, salmon roe, and red onion. Today, you can still order the classics along with more modern dishes such as crispy black sea bass with clams, tatsoi, and miso butter. Spago is iconic LA.
Dining at the restaurant: Spago is now open for outdoor dining on the restaurant’s new covered, vented dining pavilion, Spago L’exterieur.
Takeout: Delivery or takeout is available through the restaurant’s website.
The Rose Venice (Venice)
It’s hard to consider Venice without thinking about The Rose, the sprawling food compound that’s been an integral part of neighborhood life there since it opened in 1979. The restaurant’s ability to reflect its home over the past few decades is key to its longevity, and a reason people return again and again. Today, The Rose maintains some of old Venice’s eccentricity in the modernized digs, serving residents and visitors round the clock items such as avocado toast and a latté via the takeout counter and coffee bar, fresh bread at the bakery, and sit-down dinners with mains such as hearth-roasted Hawaiian prawns swimming in sweet-and-sour crab glaze and butter.
Dining at the restaurant: The takeout counter is open for grab-and-go service during breakfast and lunch, and the restaurant is welcoming diners for lunch, brunch, and dinner either indoors or on the spacious patio.
Takeout: The full menu is available for takeout through the restaurant’s website.