If we lived in Gary, Indiana, restaurant week wouldn’t be that big of a deal -- but we don't. We reside in the culinary powerhouse of Los Angeles, with a food scene that’s been rising at lightning speed and now stands among the best and most diverse in the country. That also means we have more than 400 venues, from longstanding dining destinations to little-known neighborhood joints to newer red-hot restaurants, participating in the semi-annual dineL.A. Restaurant Week with special, usually discounted prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. It’s worth checking the list yourself, but to get you started (or if you have serious trouble with decision-making), we sifted through the massive pool of menus to find some of the most interesting and worthy deals to which to dedicate your dineL.A. dollars. *Note prices do not include tax and gratuity.
Downtown Lauded pastry chef Lincoln Carson rolled out this all-day Arts District eatery hidden along an alley the buzzy Arts District last June, and has been wowing with his French brasserie-inspired cooking and artful desserts ever since. The lunch is only two courses, but the duo of dishes normally adds up to more than the dineL.A. price so you can justify it. The resolution-testing question will be are you going to choose a veggie-heavy starter or a dessert to go with that entree at a restaurant opened by a guy famous for making sweets. You don’t have to answer that. Dinner, meanwhile, comes with all of the above, plus an amuse. Order: Chicken paillard with apple and market greens; roasted delicata squash or(!) apple galette with vanilla cream for lunch. Bucatini cacio e pepe, Creekstone prime flat iron with blue cheese fondue; and Valrhona chocolate delice with salted butterscotch for dinner. Cost: $25 for a two-course lunch, $59 for a three-course dinner with amuse bouche.
Thai Town For a steal of a lunch deal, head to this 50-year-old Thai restaurant (allegedly the second Thai restaurant that ever opened in Los Angeles), which uses third-generation recipes handed down from the owners’ grandmother, who used to cook for the King of Thailand. So, yeah, it’s legit. The uber-affordable lunch deal includes soup, entree, and dessert, while dinner comes with a starter, entree, dessert, and a glass of vino. And if you imbibe, you’re helping support women of the wine world as the place recently rolled out a list entirely made up of female-made wines. Order: Tom Kha coconut milk lemongrass soup with chicken or tofu; and fried egg-topped crispy pork belly pork with Chinese broccoli over rice at lunch. sour sausage, fish cakes, Khao Soi duck with Thai curry noodles; and Pad Thai crab claws at dinner. Sticky rice with coconut custard or ice cream is offered as dessert for both. Cost: $15 for a three-course lunch, $39 for a three-course dinner with a glass of wine included.
Santa Monica Chef Brendan Collins’ has been serving a California and Italy-influenced menu in the former Wilshire space since last August. While it might be a touch cooler than it was over the summer, the venue’s romantic tree-dotted patio (now equipped with heaters and covered with a clear tent) is still going to be the perfect place to order up the special three-course dinner menu that includes several dishes Collins created just for restaurant week. Order: Beef tartare toast or tuna carpaccio; black cod with heirloom tomatoes and tomato dashi or brown-butter-and-parmesan housemade cavatelli topped with shaved black truffles; and chocolate and peanut butter candy bar with caramel ice cream. Cost: $49 for a three-course dinner.
Manhattan Beach Noshing on raw bar and steamed seafood near the beach may seem like an activity best reserved for summer, but if you’re looking for a fish-focused feast right now, you’ll want to head to David LeFevre’s New England-esque eatery where he’s doing many of his signature dishes for dineL.A. that add up to a deal. Order: Raw bar platter of Peruvian scallops and cocktail shrimp and grilled albacore for lunch. Hamachi sashimi, Maryland blue crab cake, and purple savory clam steamers for dinners. Both menus come with key lime parfait for dessert. Cost: $35 for a three-course lunch menu including a non-alcoholic drink. $49 for a four-course dinner.
Santa Monica If you’re all about having clean eating in 2020, the Westside fast casual mainstay from the same group behind True Food Kitchen offers plenty of plant-based options. The main focus is on healthy eating (meaning you won’t find one of those monstrous faux Russian dressing-drenched Reubens on the menu), and its dineL.A. lunch menu is a leaner option on the wallet too, assuming you’ve got a friend in tow. The menu offers a sharable starter, two entrees, two drinks (including wine or beer if you like) and a couple of cookies for dessert. Order: Avocado hummus; Glow Bowl with sweet potato noodles and veggies, sustainable salmon plate, and chocolate-chip cashew cookies. Cost: $35 for two people for lunch.
Various locations This collection of casual modern American restaurants scattered throughout the city offers a sprawling menu, making it a solid spot for beefy burgers, big salads, and shareable bar food, along with bigger meat and seafood entrees and an array of craft cocktails. The nearby office crowds will likely love the three-course dineL.A. lunch offering, which has a ton of options in each category plus a (non-alcoholic) drink for 20 bucks. Order: Thai ginger salad or butternut squash soup; tuna poke bowl or bacon and blue burger; and yuzu lemon mousse for lunch. Vegan smoked chili or chicken mac and cheese; pan-seared branzino or bone-in Cajun-rubbed pork chop; and flourless chocolate cake for dinner. Cost: $20 for a three-course lunch plus non-alcoholic drink, $39 for three-course dinner plus glass of wine or draft beer.
Koreatown Opened by a couple of Animal alums, HLAY has remained a darling of LA’s culinary world with its small art-covered dining room and big flavors running throughout both the global food menu and complex cocktail list. With constant crowds and accolades, the three-course special restaurant week menu will probably make you feel like you’re getting away with something. Order: Hamachi crudo or brisket tartare; beef striploin and smoked fennel or sweet-and-sour-sauced ocean trout; and vanilla bean semifreddo with corn, citrus and elderflower. Cost: $49 for a three-course dinner.
Downtown The traditional trattoria’s Italian comfort food is all about organic handmade pasta complemented by hearty housemade sauces and ragouts -- and the story's much the same on the affordable three-course restaurant week lunch and dinner menus. While the place is a little light on wine-by-the-glass offerings, many of its bottles are sub-$35, which kind of makes the decision a no-brainer. Order: Baby arugula, endive, and roasted grape salad; squid ink spaghetti with fish ragout; blueberry and olive cake at lunch. Crispy shrimp cake; stone-ground white farro radiatori with truffle mushroom sauce or gluten-free penne ala norma with pan-fried eggplant; and a cannoli trio at dinner. Cost: $20 for a three-course lunch. $29 for a three-course dinner.
Silver Lake If you haven’t yet made it to the pretty patio restaurant with the glam glass-enclosed bar at new boutique hotel Silver Lake Pool & Inn, now’s your chance to check it out. The fare focuses on Cal-Coastal Italian dishes with a menu created by chef Casey Lane (Tasting Kitchen, Viale dei Romani), and during dineL.A. showcases both California produce and some of Lane’s signature housemade pastas along with ridiculously good soft-serve ice cream to wrap up his three-course menu. Order: Caprese salad with toy box tomatoes, linguine vongole or saffron rice with a trio of clams, and mint-chocolate soft serve. Cost: $39 for a three-course dinner.
Beverly Hills Yes, we know Mr. Chow is an overpriced see-and-be-seen spot where nearly everyone is dining on an expense account. While we wouldn’t recommend strolling in on a normal night and dropping $43 on sweet and sour pork and $19 dollars on a bowl of frickin steamed rice, if you want to rub elbows with the husband of one of the friends on The Real Housewives, dineL.A. is the time to do it. When you go with a group of four for dinner and each order a different item for your first and second courses, you’ll end up with eight of the eatery’s signature dishes plus sides and dessert served family style and maybe even leave with a doggie bag, something no other Mr. Chow customer has ever considered doing. Order: Everything, including glazed prawns with walnuts, five-spice tofu, and beef with oyster sauce at lunch. Jade water dumplings, squab with lettuce, drunken fish, spicy pork with chili, and Beijing chicken at dinner. Both menus come sautéed rice, and seasonal veggies as sides and sorbet and ice cream options for dessert. Cost: $35 for lunch and $59 for dinner for two courses, two sides, and one dessert per person, served family style. Two-person minimum.
Hollywood LA doesn’t have a ton of fine-dining destinations, which is part of what always makes this seafood stalwart so special; that and the fact executive chef Michael Cimarusti’s innovative, elevated tasting menus have earned him two Michelin stars and a recent James Beard award. His multiple menus, which incorporate only wild-caught, sustainable seafood, are unsurprisingly pricey (but totally worth it!), and his four-course offering usually starts at $150, which is why the dineL.A. deal is a good one, priced at $105 for four courses. Order: Vermillion rockfish with Tahitian squash and chorizo; Coho salmon with sunchokes or Liberty Farms Duck; and “forest floor” dessert with porcini, hazelnut, and coffee. If you’re feeling splurgey, add a fifth course of Rodolphe Le Meunier truffle brie for an extra $25. Cost: $105 per person for a four-course dinner plus optional supplements; $160 with wine pairings.
Encino Chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s speakeasy sushi bar (hidden behind Scratch | Bar on the second level of a shopping center) has room for only eight patrons at a time, who show up to watch the crew slice up a 17-course killer omakase full of both traditional dishes and whimsical takes. It doesn’t run cheap (not that excellent omakases ever do) but you’ll save a bit -- $99 versus the usual $125 -- if you snag a seat during dineL.A. Order: You don’t. They’ll send out everything, including multiple types of toro, giant clam, black snapper, spot prawn, and escolar. Cost: $99 for a $17-course omakase dinner.
Santa Monica At this colorful Mexican joint across from the beach -- part of Jeremy Fox’s Rustic Canyon group of restaurants -- exec chef Saw Naing has been blending Burmese and Indian flavors into classic Mexican dishes to come up with creative fusion dishes like samosa empanadas with mint-tomatillo chutney. The four-course dineL.A. dinner menu is a good one if you’ve got guests with a mix of dietary needs, since there are both vegan and gluten-free options for each course along with meat and seafood offerings for omnivores. We suggest adding the mezcal-based Medicina del Abuelo with firewater bitters to your order, but if you’re doing Dry January you can opt for one of the housemade aguas frescas. Order: Baja kampachi ceviche or samosa empanadas; farmers market salad with persimmons and strawberries; beef-and-pork albondigas over rice noodles or grilled pumpkin with broccolini (order it sans yogurt to make it vegan); and tres leches cake. Cost: $39 for a four-course dinner.
Beverly Hills If you’re a regular at this posh fireplace-flanked restaurant inside the lobby of the SLS, you’ll still end up having a completely different experience than usual if you show up for dineL.A. Chef Andrés has created all new dishes exclusively for the short-lived three-course menu so get ‘em while you can. Order: Scallops and mussels with braised leeks and sous-vide carrots or burrata with beets, fig, and pea sprouts; octopus confit and crispy pork belly or wine-braised beef short rib; and traditional flan with Catalan cream and citrus. Cost: $59 for a three-course dinner.
Venice After undergoing a refresh, the Abbot Kinney space that used to house Salt Air was reborn last year as this comfy neighborhood gem, with Vartan Abgaryan (formerly of DTLA’s 71 Above) heading up the kitchen and focusing heavily on seafood and seasonal produce dishes inspired by international flavors. Silicon Beachers can pop in for the dineL.A. two-course lunch offering or a post-work dinner that comes with three savory courses, the perfect option for those still trying to go sweet-less in 2020. Order: Seasonal crudités with burnt onion ranch; and the cheddar-and-caramelized onion-topped burger or mussels in a poblano-coconut-beer broth with fries at lunch. Parker House rolls or market lettuces with chive crème fraiche; fingerling “cacio e pepe” or cauliflower popcorn; and hot-smoked Ora King salmon or roast chicken with brioche stuffing and black truffles. Cost: $20 for a two-course lunch, $39 for a three-course dinner.
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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer whose 2020 has mainly been filled with eating and drinking thus far. Follow her new decade of excess at @modlizbeth and @lalizbeth.