There are many sides to LA's food scene, and 2019 brought growth and development to almost all of them. DTLA's Arts District saw an almost Vegas-level surge of out-of-town money and talent, while other flourishing neighborhoods like Historic Filipinotown and Highland Park thrived by taking a more organic approach. Mainstream publications continue to take notice, as well; arguably the biggest development of the year was Michelin's return to LA after a nine-year absence, fueling global food tourism and further proving the city's restaurant scene has become impossible to ignore.
Resourceful local chefs and restaurateurs are still driving the conversation, though, and truly personal restaurants will always rise to the top here. We've picked out our favorite openings of year, from wood-fired concepts by proven hitmakers to the reemergence of a fermented underdog, all of which prove that there's never been a better time to dine out in LA.
Note: Alta Adams made our national Best New Restaurants list but doesn't appear below because it opened at the end of 2018. You should definitely still go there, though, because Keith Corbin's fried chicken is incredible.
Downtown Cal-Italian restaurant from powerhouse collaborators shines for dinner Expectations were through the roof when The Manufactory arrived in ROW DTLA, thanks to the star-studded team behind it: James Beard award winners Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, along with Phoenix pizza legend Chris Bianco. While Tartine Bianco met a surprisingly quick fate, to be replaced with a Pizzeria Bianco branch, the dinner-only Alameda Supper Club continues to stand out.
Tucked behind the Manufactory's bakery, the restaurant shines with indoor-outdoor bars, communal tables on a plant-lined patio, and a well-appointed dining room. Chef Lee Foden-Clarke leads the Cal-Italian charge on an a la carte menu, which specializes in pasta dishes like the hand-rolled strozzapreti prepared cacio e pepe style, but with more tang thanks to flourishes like preserved Meyer lemon. The delicate, chocolate-dipped rye cannolis are good enough to warrant a cross-town drive by themselves, filled with sour cherry-flecked ricotta and finished with crushed pistachios.
Larchmont Seasoned chef ignites quiet stretch of Beverly Blvd with market-driven Italian food Cords of almond wood stack up in front of Antico's stark white facade, making chef Chad Colby's intentions clear. The Chi Spacca alum's fiery hearth influences a good portion of the menu, benefitting dishes like crispy chicken thighs served on house-made focaccia. Decorated with pickle jars and copper pots, the homey dining room reflects the rustic comfort food being prepared in the kitchen, which, as the weather cools, includes heartier fare like house-made ziti with tripe ragu and Parmesan.
Still, you can add a touch of refinement to select dishes with optional white truffle shavings (when in season), and Colby's partner Kevin Caravelli is readily available to provide vintage wine pairings. No matter what you order, finish with creamy “fresh spun” ice cream, including one standby that incorporates smoky grilled focaccia and fruit flavors like sweet-tart peach & plum.
Hollywood Flame-licked Cal-French menu lights up a legendary Melrose restaurant space In a space that's housed giants like Hatfield's and Citrus over the years, Eric Bost lives up to the pedigree with progressive, choose-your-own-adventure tasting menus. In the sleek, almost Scandinavian dining room, the tables surround a large planter that showcases a purple acacia tree beneath a retractable roof. You can pick any four, six, or nine courses from a daily menu that touts nine savory and three sweet plates -- many of which are accented by the wood flames that burn in the kitchen's hidden hearth and give the restaurant its name. This leads to inspired preparations like Santa Barbara abalone layered with matsutake mushrooms and kabocha squash ribbons, in a bone marrow and roasted chicken broth rich enough to balm your lips. Each meal also includes several complementary tastes, which could be a tiny rye tartlet with corn pudding and torn herbs; crusty country bread with avocado butter; or a “puffed pig ear” with sea salt and vinegar that begs for a beer.
Hollywood The ephemeral fermentation-fueled concept progresses inside a swap meet For proof that a personal concept can survive in LA, look no further than Baroo Canteen. This limited-edition lunch counter is a retooled version of the acclaimed strip mall spot that closed its doors back in 2018, a collaboration between the original co-founder Kwang Uh and his wife/chef Mina Park. The couple draws inspiration from Korea and channels fermentation into unique dishes like their atypical Hong Kong-style shrimp toast, which co-stars kimchi and comes plated with avocado-shiso-yuzu coulis. They also bake a gloriously glutinous “everything” mocha muffin studded with walnuts, pine nuts, fermented yuzu, dried persimmons, white chocolate, and “all the seeds.”
Just like the original Baroo, this lunch counter won't be around forever: the Union Swap Meet it resides in is scheduled to be demolished early next year. Hopefully, Uh and Park will have found a permanent location for their fermentation experimentation station by then.
Santa Monica Gifted, market-driven chef delivers highly personal cooking Ultra-seasonal chef Jeremy Fox blends Midwest, Jewish, and California Central Coast ranch country traditions at this industrial chic restaurant named for his daughter. His nouveau retro relish tray would feel at home in a vintage “Good Housekeeping” issue, and rings five-onion dip with vivid raw, pickled, cured, and marinated vegetables. Fox also serves dishes befitting a Seder feast. His wife’s matzo ball soup features a fluffy orb bobbing in chicken broth alongside carrots, carrot miso, and dill; and sweet & sour beet salad with whipped Chevre, horseradish, and stonefruit-pecan “charoset.”
Birdie G’s wood grill also has plenty to give. Just taste their “Jocko’s Style” sweetbreads, named for a famous Santa Maria-style restaurant and served atop thick-cut toast with radishes and Banyuls. Dinner with a friend at Raffi’s Place inspired Fox’s lamb “a la Saless”: rosy, Persian-spiced slices plated with saffron yogurt & crispy dill rice. Their jiggly “world famous” rose petal pie gets the most press, but we actually prefer Birdie G’s torched crème brûlée pie and matzo bark crusted with chocolate, toffee, and crushed peanuts. Of course, this could all change. Fox constantly tinkers, so no dish is ever truly complete.
Downtown Lauded pastry chef proves he can handle more than just desserts A brick-lined alleyway leads you to this versatile Arts District venue, where Lincoln Carson combines an ambitious Cal-French bakery program with seasonal menus for every meal of the day. The most nuanced meal is definitely the full-service dinner, where the kitchen crew get to flex their seafood muscles: highlights include Shrimp L'Hommedieu (a savory horseradish panna cotta), and Dungeness crab cakes bound by scallop mousse.
If it's turf you're after, your group can partake in the “large format” 45-day dry-aged ribeye served with onion rolls, and Jidori chicken that breaks down as roasted breast and stuffed leg with sauce Perigordine. Save room for desserts like fluffy chocolate soufflé and seasonal gateaux Philadelphia, a brilliant “cheesecake” plated with hibiscus strawberry glass shards, diced strawberries and hibiscus pate de fruit.
Valley Village Israeli chef serves the hummus of his youth in the San Fernando Valley Unsatisfied with LA's existing hummus purveyors, self-described hummus addict Shachar "Tony" Weiner took it upon himself to elevate the city's beloved chickpea dip to creamy new heights with his food truck. Now you'll find him permanently parked at his brick-and-mortar, topping his hummus with fava beans, mushrooms, and sabich (among other things). Weiner also turns chickpeas into soft, herb-flecked falafel, as well as a falafel burger patty served on a soft bun with typical burger accompaniments and, if you’re smart, mushrooms and a sunny-side-up egg. Even the seasoned, skin-on French fries shine here. For dessert, order the malabi: a milk pudding dome featuring floral house-made rosewater syrup, shredded coconut and crushed pistachios.
Downtown Progressive Chinese food from an accomplished chef, in a former loading dock A waving lucky cat overlooks the open kitchen at Nightshade, but executive chef Mei Lin didn’t rely on luck to get here -- she more than proved her mettle while working for high-profile chefs like Michael Voltaggio and Wolfgang Puck, and by winning “Top Chef” Season 12. Lin honors her Chinese-American heritage with modern interpretations of the classics; crispy, luxurious shrimp toast arrives submerged in Cantonese curry that leaves a lingering burn on the tongue, while the Szechuan hot quail provides a California riff on Nashville hot chicken.
Considering Marco Polo and the spice trade linked China and Italy, serving pasta dishes at Nightshade makes total sense, and Lin makes these dishes her own. Tongue tingling mapo tofu lasagna combines thin, crispy pasta layers, pork ragù, tofu cream, prickly ash, grated Parmesan, and coriander flowers.
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