Rachel Jacobson

Michael's

Santa Monica

Not really a new opening so much as a reinvention, the long-standing SaMo institution -- long known for its beautiful patio and totally-just-fine food -- has reopened after undergoing a renovation (begone, outdated carpet!!) and, more importantly, hiring a fresh-faced chef: Miles Thompson, whose Echo Park restaurant Allumette was one of the great under-appreciated prix-fixes in town before it closed. He's doing Sichuan pork dumplings with cured salmon roe, black vinegar, and tarragon and duck confit with rose geranium, sweet potato, and pomegranate, among other dishes clearly meant to realign the restaurant with the Westside's current tastes.

Katie Gibbs

Catch

West Hollywood

The longtime NY seafood power-spot (it was Open Table's most popular reservation in NY last year, FWIW) is finally open at the corner of Melrose & San Vicente, with an open-air retractable roof for year-long outdoor dining, and a menu that boasts spicy king crab hand rolls, Japanese-influenced wagyu on a rock, and a killer whole crispy fish.

Destroyer

Culver City

When he was at the neo-Vietnamese spot Red Medicine (RIP), Jordan Kahn was sort of known as a critically acclaimed bad-boy chef who could make a mean banh mi; his new weekday-only spot, Destroyer, carries his rep in the name and in breakfast-and-vegetable-centric dishes like organic hen eggs with crispy potatoes and mushrooms, and raw and cooked tomatoes with puffed rice and gooseberries. And, you gotta check out the website, which has an old-school video game using the restaurant's logo at its bottom (seriously).

Sandbox

Sandbox

West Hollywood

Want to do an eating/drinking/playing games three-in-one date (or brunch!!) without heading to the Eastside? Bingo: Sandbox, now open in the old Bugatta space on Melrose, is your fun-spot, with pinball, ping-pong, Skee-Ball, and more, as well as $16 bottomless Champagne on weekends and two happy-hours per day during the week. Basically, bring your party pants.

Courtesy of PYT

PYT

Downtown

Josef Centeno seems like the kind of dude that can't just stand still and enjoy his success: the praised guy behind Bar Amá and Orsa & Winston has just renovated Ledlow for what seems like the third time in as many years, changing half of the restaurant to the newbie PYT, a plant-based (but not all-veggie) addition to his small-but-strong empire. Dishes include spelt mac & cheese with celery root and baby bok choy with grilled lemon cucumber and crispy torpedo onions over faro.

Rob Stark

AR Cucina

Culver City

The newest addition to Culver City's restaurant row comes from one of its most revered tenants: Akasha Richmond, whose eponymous restaurant has been a neighborhood anchor for almost a decade. Her new spot is her ode to Italian food, with the menu including grilled octopus with chickpea puree, crispy chickpeas & escarole, stone-hearth pizzas made from organic flour, and handmade pastas including spinach-pasta lasagna verde with short rib, prosciutto & mushroom ragù, which can be washed down with a drink menu that features six takes on a Negroni.

Pizza Buona

Echo Park

Do you remember when Pizza Buona was hit by a car a few years ago and closed and the entire neighborhood was sad because the near-perfect chewy dough and goopy cheese that was a pre-gentrification neighborhood favorite was gone forever? Well, it's not gone anymore: they've re-opened just down the street from the original location. Phew.

Prime Cutts

Prime Cutts

Mid-Wilshire

It'd be pretty easy to write this airy bowls-and-wraps spot off as a Mediterranean-leaning Chipotle-wannabe: the menu's basic and served at the counter with your choice of rice/sandwich/bowl/salad and chicken/steak/etc. with sides and sauces extra. But then -- BAM! -- you try the perfectly seasoned, crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside spit-roasted steak and realize it's not just a Mediterranean-leaning Chipotle wannabee: it's a really, really, really good Mediterranean-leaning Chipotle wannabee.

Tabula Rasa

Thai Town

Sure, the Harvard & Stone to Jumbo's and back to Harvard & Stone Thai Town barcrawl is fun -- but what if there was another great spot to add to it? Enter Tabula Rasa, a mellowish beer-and-wine bar for a mellower cool-off between the two party spots. They've got rotating brews from breweries like Saint Archer and Smog City, as well as a small food menu including a Cuban sandwich and pretzels with spicy mustard.

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1. Michael's 1147 3rd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

Chef Miles Thompson (formerly of Allumette) is at the helm of this legendary spot in Santa Monica, where your date is bound to be impressed by the refined shareable plates and romantic, tree-lined outdoor garden aglow with twinkle lights. Michael's has a history of top chefs in its kitchen, and the same goes for the bar, where the talented Meredith Hayman (previously of Bestia, Faith and Flower) is slinging expertly crafted cocktails.

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2. Catch 8715 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (West Hollywood)

Catch is a garden oasis in West Hollywood serving eclectic seafood that made it a longtime star in NYC. At the corner of Melrose and San Vincente, it sports an open-air retractable roof for year-long outdoor dining, lit by twinkle lights and enlivened by plants sitting neatly and wrapping around pillars. Rustic wooden tables and half-moon booths give it a cozy, romantic feel, accentuated by the romance that clearly lives within the cooking here. The dishes are loaded with flavor and flare, such as spicy king crab hand rolls, Japanese-influenced Wagyu on a rock, and whole crispy fish.

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3. Destroyer 3578 Hayden Ave, Los Angeles, CA (Culver City)

Chef Jordan Kahn's bad-boy rep lives on in the name of this minimalist, Nordic-inspired cafe in Culver City, where he's cooking up a daily-changing menu of unique breakfast and lunch dishes. The 16-seat space matches the surrounding neighborhood -- an industrial area turned design district -- with its carefully curated furniture, ceramics, and menu that's featured raw oatmeal and fried kale (a first for LA). San Francisco's Coffee Manufactory and Portland's Roseline supply caffeine and bring a sense of familiarity to an otherwise unpredictable menu.

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4. Sandbox 7174 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (West Hollywood)

If you're looking to mix up your weekend plans, head to Sandbox on Melrose, where you can eat, drink, and play skee-ball in an eccentric lounge space. It's a colorful bi-level spot outfitted with banquette chairs and couches, neon lights, gaudy chandeliers, and, most important, plenty of activities to keep things lively, including arcade games, ping-pong, and giant Jenga. There are three full bars slinging classic cocktails, plus all the food you need to fuel your competitive side, like pizza, burgers, and tacos. Not to mention, a killer brunch with comfy plates like homemade chicken & waffles and a breakfast pizza.

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5. PYT 400 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (Downtown)

Joseph Centeno, the acclaimed restaurateur behind Bar Ama and Orsa & Winston, expands his DTLA empire with PYT, an industrial-chic restaurant focused on plant-based dishes that are anything but bland. The menu is always changing, but you'll find dishes like mac & cheese with celery root, baby bok choy with grilled lemon cucumber, and crispy torpedo onions over faro. The bright and stylish space, which is actually one (partitioned) half of Centeno's Ledlow space, follows suit with the plant theme, sporting plenty of greenery inside and outside on the airy patio, as evidenced by the golden leaf design touches on the walls and hand-crafted wooden chairs.

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6. AR Cucina 9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 (Culver City)

From one of Culver City's most beloved tenants, Akasha Richmond, comes her rustic-chic ode to Italian favorites in the form of AR Cucina. The refined menu features classic Italian cooking with a twist, such as grilled octopus with chickpea puree, crispy chickpeas, and escarol, and stone-hearth pizzas made from organic flour. Of course, there are handmade pastas, too, including spinach-pasta lasagna verde with short rib, prosciutto, and mushroom ragú, which can and should be paired with one of the six takes on a negroni that the drink menu showcases.

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7. Pizza Buona 922 N Alvarado St Ste C, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Echo Park)

Pizza Buona calls itself the “Original Pizzeria of Echo Park” and for good reason: it’s been around since 1959. Here, pizza is a thoughtful affair; every pie here is artfully constructed using house-made dough, then hand-tossed and smothered in cheese, sauce, and toppings before it’s baked in the oven. Most tables order the signature Rustica pie topped with green peppers, marinated tomatoes, mushrooms, and mozzarella, and while the Pizza Buona team is very much an advocate of this and other sauce-less pies, you can still find your classic marinara pizza, plus pasta, seafood, and chicken dishes.

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8. Primecutts 8312 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Primecutts, the fast casual Turkish meat haven on West Third Street in Beverly Grove, is a one-stop-shop for spit-roasted meat. Think of it as Chipotle for Mediterranean food, marrying authentic steak, chicken, shrimp, and veggie Döner Kebabs with seemingly endless permutations of sides. The four-step menu allows you to choose your style (bowl, wrap, plate, sandwich), protein, sides, and sauce. Perhaps you’ll fashion a bowl with rice, steak, and green lentil salad; or maybe you’re feeling a bit less conventional and will instead opt for the Italian pasta side salad. Last but not least, the avocado mousse is a must.

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9. Tabula Rasa 5125 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Los Feliz)

Owned by Bestia alums Zach Negin and Daniel Flores, this Thai Town winebar is a destination for locals looking to devote their night to a single watering hole. Wine choices are aplenty, and while the menu does offer wallet-friendly options, there’s a temperature-controlled glass enclosure of the bar’s finest reds and whites for the more discerning drinkers. A small patio in the back allows for the occasional breath of fresh air, but the real place for conversation is at the barstools that stand quietly before an artful mural of plaster and exposed brick inside.