The 26 Most Exciting Restaurants in Los Angeles Right Now
Believe it or not, new restaurants are still opening in LA.
Talking about “the best” restaurants in LA in the midst of a pandemic (which, let’s not forget we’re still in the process of navigating, despite bright horizons and all that) might seem unfair considering the infinite obstacles that the industry has faced over the last year and a half. Since we last updated this list in April, so many iconic restaurants have closed (RIP Barcito, Greenblatt’s, Ma’am Sir, Label’s Table, Spoon By H, and so many more), and the remainder have demonstrated endless creativity and resilience as they’ve contended with fluctuating guidelines that change at the drop of a hat, amid an uncertain future.
Simultaneously, this pandemic has proven how essential our restaurants are: many stepped up to feed their communities through grocery giveaways and discounted meal services, while others launched nonprofits and other campaigns to support the industry’s most vulnerable workers. And as they took on these challenges, LA’s restaurants also built out new patio spaces to better accommodate diners, innovated their menus, and delivered memorable dining experiences—whether in-person or via takeout and delivery—that temporarily distracted us from our COVID-related stresses.
And we think that’s worth celebrating, don’t you?
So while every single restaurant in the city deserves our support right now, we’re here to remind you that new places actually opened in 2020 and 2021, and many of them are worth checking out in some capacity. LA entered the COVID-19 crisis as America’s most exciting food city—with an unparalleled mix of global dining options (both casual and high-end) and buzzier, more eclectic restaurants —and it will hopefully exit the pandemic on the same footing.
As of press time, LA County is fully open, though masks are still required indoors, including when you’re not eating or drinking or if you leave your table. Many restaurants now require proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, so make sure you prepare accordingly. Many restaurants are dealing with a labor shortage, so be understanding, patient, and respectful of protocols when you dine out. Here’s a look at some must-try restaurants in LA that have opened this year and last:
Girl & The Goat
The gist: James Beard-award winning executive chef Stephanie Izard brought her celebrated Chicago flagship out west this summer, hoping to capitalize on warm weather and longer produce seasons. The luminous, 200-seat restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows, plus lush greenery throughout the interior and garden patio. In a nod to her flagship restaurant, Izard commissioned two new pieces by artist Quang Hong—who has two custom works on display at the Chicago outpost—to hang in the dining room.
The food: The new, Arts District location features some of Girl & the Goat Chicago’s most popular dishes, like goat empanadas and chickpea fritters, but the family-style menu also includes new items inspired by California produce and cuisine, like a bright shrimp and crispy greens salad with avocado, strawberry, pickled veggies, pepita crunch, and lime-herb dressing, and pan-roasted scallops served with chili relish and a peanut-pepita crumble. The dessert menu features inventive ice cream scoops like oyster sauce stracciatella, plus riffs on classics like mango sticky rice with mango tamarind ice cream, pickled green mango, and powdered coconut cloud creamer. Mike Zell, from Chicago-based sister restaurant, The Little Goat, helms the bar program, which features craft cocktails and a rotating list of craft beers. Except updates and additions to the menu as Izard settles into her new restaurant home.
Cost: Bread and snacks $10–17, salads $16–18, vegetable dishes $14–16, fish dishes range from $16 for Pacifico oysters to $34 grilled whole branzino, meat dishes range from $22 for lamb sirloin skewer o $32 for goat curry.
The gist: The latest concept from acclaimed restaurateur Philip Camino (Fellow, Hudson) brings washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine to the Westside, in a sleek, intimate space with white oak, gold, and navy accents, a small sushi bar, romantic partitioned booths, and a quaint patio overlooking San Vicente boulevard. A whimsical, floor-to-ceiling hand-painted mural by artist Sheila Darcey and Philip Camino depicts cascading ocean waves and spotlights the ocean as a bridge that connects the restaurant’s Japanese and California inspiration.
The food: Committed to serving only the finest and freshest ingredients imported directly from Japan, Imari is one of the only LA restaurants serving washoku. The restaurant’s culinary program is stacked with talent, including chef Derek Wilcox (Shoji) and chef consultant and Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador David Schlosser (Shibumi). The summer menu includes bright and refreshing items like striped jack sashimi with ponzu jelly and shaved red onion, Wagyu steak with fresh wasabi and sea salt, plus hand rolls and sushi. Save room for desserts that include a vibrant red shiso sorbet with raspberries or velvety milk ice cream with fresh mochi and sweet green pea. Shlosser also spearheads the restaurant’s sake program, which highlights sakes from various regions of Japan, available by the glass or carafe. Sommelier Scott Lester curated an approachable yet imaginative wine list with something for everyone and the drink menu also features a selection of premium Japanese beers.
Cost: Starters $8–12, $18–22 for meat and seafood dishes, hand rolls and sushi $20–24, dessert $10. Sake ranges from $8–11 for three ounces, $16–23 for six ounces, $28–40 for 12 ounces, and is available by the bottle for $68–120. Wine is available by the glass for $15–25 and by the bottle for $60–90.
How to book: via Tock.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
The gist: After creating something of a cult following in the Bay Area, Wise Sons founder and LA native Evan Bloom returns home to open his first SoCal restaurant. Paying homage to LA’s iconic Jewish delis like Langer’s and now-shuttered Greenblatt’s, the restaurant design features a collection of framed family photos, a wall of vintage-style pennants by Scott Richards, and a captivating mural by Berkeley-based illustrator Alexandra Bowman that captures a spirited deli scene, invoking a sense of nostalgia and comfort as soon as you walk through the door.
The food: Wise Sons’ menu features deli classics with well-sourced ingredients, like an OG Reuben sandwich with hardwood-smoked pastrami that’s griddled with Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on rye bread (option to sub pastrami with corned beef or smoked turkey), plus bagels, bialys, and Guittard chocolate-filled babkas that are all baked in-house. Unique to the LA menu is a Diner Tuna Melt that’s packed with wild albacore, lettuce, tomato, horseradish aioli, and griddled with American and Swiss cheeses on rye bread. Other dishes include matzo ball soup made with organic chicken broth, potato latkes, and a classic smoked salmon bagel. Bottomless coffee is available courtesy of Bay Area-based roaster, Proyecto Diaz.
The cost: Signature sandwiches $10–14; potato latkes are $4 for one, $8 for two, $11 for 3, or $13 for a latke supreme; soups, salads, and plates $9–16; toasted bagels are $2 each or $3.50–4.50 with shmear, $11 for a half-dozen, $20 for a dozen; classic smoked salmon bagel is $11 closed or $13.75 open-faced, and the veggie deluxe bagel is $8; breakfast sandwiches are $7.25–8 a la carte or $11.25–12 with hash potatoes or greens; breakfast burrito $13; challah French toast $9 for half or $13.50 for full; coffee and beverages range from $2.50–4.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome. Order pickup and delivery via Caviar.
El Granjero Cantina
The gist: You wouldn’t know it from the vibrantly decorated interior, but this laidback Mexican cantina in the Original Farmer’s Market has a handful of noteworthy names attached, including general manager Grace Whaley (Redbird, Mozza), executive chef Jenni Sklar (Lucques, Son of a Gun), owner John Moshay (Fritzi Coop), and Neal and Amy Knoll Fraser, who are partners in the venture, with Amy even designing the vivid dining room. The restaurant also features a spacious and colorful patio for outdoor dining.
The food: LA is flush with taco trucks, but what sets the city’s best Mexican restaurants apart is a standout selection of sides in addition to the taco, burrito, and nacho dishes you’d expect to see on the menu. El Granjero more than delivers in this regard, especially with Esquites, a bowl of charred corn that’s tossed in a tangy-sweet mix of chipotle aioli, cilantro, scallions, and cotija cheese, though you’ll also want to eat their herbed cilantro-lime rice with everything you order. When it comes to mains, their Oaxaca-inspired quesadillas offer unique fillings like sauteed hibiscus flowers with onions and cheese, or opt for a vegan version with melted vegan cheese, black bean purée, salsa negra, and escabeche relish. The true stars of the show however, are the dorados tacos that are folded and fried till golden with fillings like chili-braised beef and cheese, and potato, cilantro, and sour cream. Stop by for the new weekday happy hour from 3–6 pm and enjoy a discount on what might be the best frozen mojito in town, plus other cocktails and menu items for just $9 each.
Cost: Appetizers $6–16, salads $14.95, quesadillas $15.95–17.95, tacos dorados $14.95–15.95, protein bowls $16–18, burritos $17.95, desserts $9, frozen cocktails $12.50, cocktails on tap $12, specialty cocktails $12-15, wine by the glass $11–12, beer $6.50–7
How to order: Walk-ins welcome if space is available. Pickup via Toast.
The gist: Freedman’s Jewish-American deli went to Greece for the summer and just extended their stay through October, offering a string-lit, plant-strewn outdoor patio decked out in Mediterranean blues with white wood accents, plus a shareable menu focused on Aegean flavors, ouzo, and Greek natural wines.
The food: Go with a group and sample a bit of everything. Souvlaki skewers with chicken, lamb and Wagyu kefta, and oyster mushrooms are charcoal-grilled yet tender with fresh lemon juices bursting through in every bite. The zucchini chips are well-coated and crispy without being too oily; the lamb chops arrive perched on a zesty tzatziki sauce with salted cucumber; and the gigante beans with tomato, honey, and feta balance savory and sweet elements with aplomb. Natural Greek wines are available by the bottle and the glass, plus ouzo service and summer-inspired cocktails like a White Negroni with gin, suze, and Alessio Blanco.
Cost: Souvlaki $13–18, plates: $7 for marinated olives and feta and up to $25 for grilled branzino, sides $1–6, desserts $4–7, cocktails $12–14, wine is $13–16 by the glass and $52–68 by the bottle, beer $7, and soft drinks $5-8.
How to order: Pick-up via Toast.
The gist: LA’s soul food chefs are embracing plant-based lifestyles, evidenced by popular eateries like VTree and Souley Vegan. They’re joined by the new, bubblegum pink Vegan AF food truck that’s steered by Chanel Goodson, who brings innovation to a menu of reinterpreted street food favorites.
The food: New to the restaurant industry, Goodson has been practicing veganism for seven years and sought out to fix some of the issues that plagued her as a diner, namely boring and repetitive menus. The two items that drive her munchie menu are crispy, fried egg rolls stuffed with Philly cheesesteak, cheeseburger, and pizza fillings, and loaded french fries seasoned with a housemade mix and garnished with toppings like fried mushrooms and shrimp that are doused in a Nashville hot buffalo sauce. Finish it off with her signature vegan banana pudding.
Cost: Egg rolls $15.49–17.49, loaded fries $12.49, basic AF fries $3, and banana pudding is $10.
How to order: Follow Vegan AF on Instagram for updates on schedules and locations.
Crudo e Nudo
The gist: Chef Brian Bornemann (Michael's Santa Monica, The Tasting Kitchen) and interdisciplinary artist Leena Culhane turned their pandemic pop-up into a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Main Street, with a focus on sustainable and local purveyors. The dynamic space includes an adjoining market where you can purchase wine and bespoke pantry items to take home, plus a raised outdoor deck for street side dining.
The food: The Italian-inspired seafood restaurant features some of the pair’s most popular pop-up dishes, like seared, head-on prawns a la plancha with sesame, Thai basil, and diavolo sauce—or go with the Daily Crudo, Neptune and Venus’ rotating picks served with housemade sauces, herbs, and citrus. Stop by early for a cup of small-batch fair trade coffee from Lenny’s, Culhane’s vision for a neighborhood breakfast cafe, with treats from Venice’s Gjusta bakery. The dessert menu features Culhane’s Creme Fatale side project of organic, five-ingredient ice creams with herbs and flowers from her garden. And not that you needed another reason to book it to their Main St location ASAP, but Crudo e Nudo also stocks a compelling list of biodynamic wines that pair perfectly with their seafood-driven menu.
Cost: Half-dozen or dozen oysters on the half shell $24–42, prawns a la plancha $28, steamed clams $31, caviar nachos $23, Hook & Line tuna toast $26, vegan items and salads $17–19, Santa Monica Market mezze $22, creme fatale chocolate almond butter cups $4, and daily crudo is at market price.
Angry Egret Dinette
The gist: Guerilla Tacos founder Wes Avila left his beloved Arts District taco spot to start this fast-casual joint in Mandarin Plaza, serving his take on hefty, comfort-laden sandwiches, tortas, and burritos.
The food: First off, make sure you arrive with an appetite, as each colossal creation on Avila’s menu could easily comprise two meals. Here, Avila takes classic specialty sandwiches, tortas, and burritos across different cuisines and supplies his own take. For example, the McTorta, which reinterprets your favorite fast food breakfast sandwich on fluffy Mexican bread with tender gyro beef, fried eggs, and gooey American cheese; or the Baja shrimp po’boy that places crispy fried shrimp betwixt spicy pico de gallo and salsa negra, cabbage, cucumber, and avocado. They’ve also got the Saguaro, with tempura-fried zucchini, sun gold tomato, market greens, ricotta cheese, and salsa macha, along with an Atwater breakfast burrito and veggie machaca flautas for the meat-free crowd. Also: don’t sleep on the waffles!
Cost: Menu items range from $7 for a kid’s breakfast sandwich to $16 for the asada torta and wild-caught fish tacos. A side of housemade chips and salsa is $6 and french fries are $7. Beverages range from $3 bottled sodas to $10 for fresh-squeezed cara cara juice, and coffee drinks range from $3-6.
How to order:Order online for pickup.
U Street Pizza
The gist:Next door to sibling restaurant Union, U Street Pizza opened in April courtesy of Union co-owner Maria Petulla and executive chef Chris Keyser. The nostalgia-inducing pizzeria shares an outdoor deck with Union, with an interior that boasts exposed brick walls, hanging copper light fixtures, and a long white terrazzo bar, plus a colorful hand-painted mural by local artist Eric Junker at the back of the restaurant.
The food: The pizzas pay tribute to the pies chef Keyser grew up with in upstate New York, with dough that’s fermented over two days and made from a blend of artisanal wheat from Washington and Vermont, produce that’s sourced from local farms like Girl & Dug and Wieser Farms, and finished with 18-month aged Fiscalini cheddar in lieu of Parmesan. Cooked in an electric deck oven, the pizzas come out with perfectly puckered crispy, chewy crusts. Seasonal salads and vegetable sides like Japanese eggplant with Calabrian chili agrodolce, Spanish onion, and basil, help round out the menu, along with housemade zeppole, risotto rice pudding, and fresh soft-serve (flavors change daily).
Cost: Pizzas cost $19-26 and custom pizzas start at $17 with toppings $3.50 each; salads are $15-17; vegetable sides are $14 and $16; desserts start at $5 for soft-serve up to $11 for zeppole.
How to order: Reservations for in-person dining via Resy and pickup via Toast.
Brooklyn Ave Pizza Co
The gist: This neighborhood pizza parlor pays homage to local history: the bustling Cesar Chavez Ave, where the restaurant is located, was originally Brooklyn Ave. Chef and pizzaiolo Jorge Sandoval helms a menu of elevated bar foods and craft cocktails, with a raised wood deck and outdoor pub tables offering prime people-watching, while the interior sports several TVs for sports viewing.
The food: Don’t let the simplicity fool you—Brooklyn Ave’s menu of pizza, papas (french fries), and wings is playful and unique, with familiar items that will satisfy choosy eaters, along with unexpected flourishes like chicken wings sprinkled with dehydrated Flamin’ Hot Cheeto dust and drizzled with nacho cheese, plus a decadent mole pizza with Oaxacan cheese, fermented cabbage slaw, and crema. The Chicano gray fries act as the pizzeria's version of poutine, with beef chorizo rounding out the hearty gravy and queso fresco subbed for cheese curds. The cocktail program takes similar inspiration, leaning heavily on tequila and mezcal spirits while adding Mexican flavors to classic cocktails (the Elote Old Fashioned is a pleasant surprise), plus a full menu of Agua Frescas that can be optionally spiked with booze.
Cost: Pizzas are $12-18, papas are $5-8, wings are $5-7 for a three-piece, $9-13 for a six-piece, and $16-24 for a 12-piece.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome. Pickup and delivery via DoorDash and Caviar.
The gist: Co-owners Jocelyn Bulow of France, and Alessandro Iacobelli of Rome left their footprint on the San Francisco restaurant scene (including Chez Maman for Bulow, and Pantarei for Iacobelli) before trekking down the coast to bring pinsa and other authentic Italian staples to Angelenos.
The food: Oste is one of only a few restaurants in the entire state that’s serving pinsa, or Roman-style pizza that utilizes dough with a high water concentration and allows it to rise in a long, cold fermentation process that results in a light and crunchy crust that’s more digestible, with almost 50% less sugar, 85% less fat, and 100% less cholesterol than your typical pie. Other menu highlights include three varieties of mussels (recommended to order with their truffle fries), a burrata bar, and a Casarecce Al Finferli e Sugo D’Arrosto pasta with chanterelle mushrooms, demi-glace, bone marrow, and truffle.
Cost: Antipasti ranges from $8-17, mussels are $17-18, pastas are $16-22, and main meat dishes range from $21 for pollo alla Milanese to $37 for a prime NY steak.
How to order: No reservations required for dine-in; takeout and delivery via Seamless, Chownow, and Grubhub.
The gist:Restaurant industry vets and Sardinia-born brothers Sergio and Mauro (founder of celeb hotspot Mauro’s Cafe inside Fred Segal) Corbia teamed up with second-generation Italian chef Mark Mittleman for this plant-based take on Italian comfort dishes.
The food: As the restaurant’s name suggests, the meatballs—whether ordered in a sandwich on homemade ciabatta bread or on their own with tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and homemade garlic bread—are the stars of the show here. Made in-house, these I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-meat balls will easily fool any dedicated carnivore with their perfectly tender texture and juicy interior. The Melanzana lasagna that layers crispy eggplant on top of tomato sauce, fresh basil, and mozzarella, and the Eggplant Parm sandwich (which features the same crispy gluten-free eggplant) are in a close tie for Best Supporting Actor.
Cost: Sandwiches run $12-15, plates are $9-14, salads $10-11, and $6 desserts.
How to order: No reservations required for dine-in, call 323-672-8011 for takeout orders, and order delivery via DoorDash.
The gist:The family behind the popular LA-based Guisados chain takes over this classic neighborhood Mexican seafood spot and specializes in fish tacos and ceviches.
The food: The De La Torre’s have proven that simplicity can still reign supreme, first with Guisados, which specializes in Mexican homestyle braised-meat tacos, and now with Playita—formerly El Siete Mares—where they honor the stand’s history as a neighborhood favorite for ceviches and Mexican seafood staples. You’ll also find aguachiles, tomato-based campechana seafood cocktails, fried and folded dorado tacos, quesadillas, and standard tacos filled with shrimp or beer battered fish.
Cost: $6 aguachiles, $3.50 for tacos, $2.50–6 for dorados, $5–10 for ceviches, $7-10 for campechanas, $3.50–6 for quesadillas, and all drinks (ranging from traditional soda options to Mexican coke and various Jarritos flavors) are $2.75.
How to order: Walk-ins accepted for takeout or dining on their outdoor patio.
The gist: Drawing diners to Downtown LA’s newest food destination, Santee Passage, is this unassuming takeout window featuring Bangkok street food and Central Thai dishes, owned and operated by partners and chefs Wedchayan “Deau” Arpapornnopparat and Tongkamal “Joy” Yuon.
The food: “Elevated” doesn’t adequately convey just how far Holy Basil ascends above expectations, but in a city teeming with Thai options, their pad thai and tom yuk soup stand out as the best and brightest. The Gra Pow tosses wok-fried eggplant with kalabasa squash, Thai basil, scallions, bird's eye chili, and garlic, served over rice and topped with a farmer market fried egg, to deliver a flavorful, texture-rich dish that hits notes of spicy, savory, and succulent. Joy’s Thai tea is the perfect option for washing it all down, though the pair also started a handcrafted line of beverage starters called The Base, with flavors like thyme orange chrysanthemum tea, plus season specials like a lychee jasmine green tea.
Cost: $6-14 for small bites, $13-14 for soups, $11-15 for rice bowls and fried rice, $13-15 for noodle dishes, and $4 craft beverages.
How to order: Takeout via Toast and delivery via Doordash.
The gist: Owner Alexander Wilmot debuted this French bistro in the up-and-coming Sycamore Avenue corridor of the Hollywood Media District, featuring a menu helmed by chef Matthew Bollinger (Jean Georges, Trois Familia), with quintessential French favorites interpreted for a California audience
The food: Showcasing seasonal California produce that’s approached with classic French techniques, you’ll want to dine here family-style so you can sample a little of everything—and then you’ll want to come back in a few months and do it all over again to see what new dishes they’ve added. Vadouvan-curried mussels served with cilantro and a baguette, and whole-roasted branzino bathed in a rich brown butter with lemon and capers represent compelling options for a main, and it’s hard to choose between appetizers like deviled eggs with fried oysters, and country pate with market pickles and fig mustard—all the more reason to go with a group and try it all. A raw bar and several vegetable sides round out the food menu, while the cocktail list features standard cocktails that shine with fresh herb, fruit, and floral finishes. A lengthy wine list curated by Wine Director Kristin Olszewski favors French and California producers.
Cost: $19-110 for raw bar items, $18-24 for appetizers, entrees range from $23 for a cheeseburger with fries to $54 for steak frites with filet mignon, $8-12 sides, $17 cocktails, and wine by the glass is $13-30.
The gist:This upstart sandwich shop made the successful leap to a brick-and-mortar storefront at the busy corner of Melrose Blvd and Western Ave, hoping to become a neighborhood fixture for community gathering and authentic Italian-style deli sandwiches.
The food: Ggiata owners Noah Holton-Raphael, Max Bahramipour, Jack Biebel, and Jack Welles hail from Montclair, New Jersey, where Italian delicatessens aren’t just favored for their food (although yes, that too), but represent anchors within the community. They brought in LA native and executive chef Olivia Bin, who has already expanded their formidable sandwich list into a menu that also features pastas, sides, and desserts—including what they claim are the best rainbow cookies in the city. You can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches, though the Spicy P with a breaded chicken cutlet, spicy vodka sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, and grated Romano on a charred seeded baguette, and the Classic Italian with ham, salami, hot capicola, smoked Muenster, Calabrian chilies, shredded escarole, heirloom tomato, shredded onion, red wine vinaigrette, and Calabrian aioli, also on charred seeded baguette, represent the most popular choices.
Cost: Sandwiches are $14-16, sides are $6-14, salads are $8-14, desserts are $3.50 for rainbow cookies up to $10 for their limoncello olive oil cake.
How to order: Pickup and delivery via their website.
Bull & Butterfly
The gist:Powerhouse culinary duo and founders of the Lemonade restaurant chain Alan and Heidi Jackson bring a reimagined steakhouse inspired by West Coast ranching to the shores of Playa Vista.
The food: Bull & Butterfly is a distinctly California steakhouse—evidenced by the muted tones, simple wood accents, abundant windows, and plant-filled patio—with plenty of seafood dishes sourced from Baja and Central California coasts, plus seasonal veggie-forward appetizers that appear next to more traditional USDA prime wood-fired steaks, with much of the food cooked with classic ranch techniques. You can’t go wrong with any of the steak selections, the wood-grilled pastrami steak on marble rye bread with Caraway sauerkraut and pickled mustard seeds is particularly noteworthy. Round it out with fire-baked rice cakes and coal-roasted carrots that are bathed in preserved lemon butter and topped with black sesame almond brittle. The restaurant also has a full wine list and selection of craft cocktails, and just recently launched a daily happy hour and weekend brunch service.
Cost: Seafood appetizers range from $15 to $29 for a dozen half-shell oysters, meat and veggie starters from $11-19, $15-17 salads, sides are $10-12, dinners range from $19 for a hickory cheeseburger to $34 for local Baja-striped bass, steaks are $29-59, desserts are $12 each, cocktails are $13-14, and wine by the glass is $9-17.
How to book: via Tock.
LA Cha Cha Cha
The gist: A neon green sign in the shape of a lime beckons diners to an expansive, 11,600-square foot rooftop oasis that acts as a sister restaurant to the popular Mexico City terrazza by the same name. Mexico City-born and longtime LA transplant executive chef Alejandro Guzman (Sqirl, Eggslut) helms a menu of staple Mexican dishes and well-guarded family recipes, with added influence from the California coast.
The food: LA is abundant with authentic Mexican food options, meaning that menus with $5 tacos better pack in loads of flavor and quality ingredients to back up that price. Cha Cha Cha manages to do that and more, with tostadas that boast ingredients like Baja California-sourced bluefin tuna, crispy cilantro, and chile morita aioli, and a colorful shrimp ceviche with beets that offer a refreshing sweetness amidst fresh radish and cucumber. Notable mains include the Pescado Cha Cha Cha, with grilled Huanchinango, a Northern red snapper native to the Gulf of Mexico, and charred lettuce; plus a vegetarian Pipian Rojo con Col with a pureed pumpkin seed sauce, red cabbage, and epazote rice. Cha Cha Cha also has a full bar menu led by Bryan Tetorakis of the Varnish and Coles.
Cost: Tacos are $5-6, tostadas are $9-15, mains range from $31 for Pipian Rojo con Col to $44 for a NY Strip steak, $5-8 beers, wine is $13-25 by the glass, and cocktails range from $14-16.
How to book: via Opentable.
The gist: Humbly billing itself as a “Palestinian Chicken Eatery,” this new fast-casual restaurant off Slauson Ave has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.
The food: Jerusalem Chicken is the sort of place that makes each menu item with the same level of devout care and attention, easily convincing customers to keep returning until they’ve tried everything—and the reasonable price point makes it tempting to complete that task in a matter of weeks. The lemon garlic chicken plate, complete with crispy-skinned, bone-in chicken thighs and wings sopping with sauce that leaks into perfectly fluffy Jerusalem rice, hits all the right notes of zesty, tangy, and juicy. But don’t disregard falafels that are fried to perfection without being greasy, while still giving way to a moist and herbaceous center. Also of note is the tender ribeye that you can order as a plate, folded between fresh pita bread, or on a bed of fries(!); as well as the cauliflower fritters that can be optionally decked out with turnips, tabouleh, and tahini sauce. And for those die-hard Curb Your Enthusiasm fans, this Palestinian chicken is sure to be a hit at any dinner party.
Cost: Salads are $7.99, chicken plates are $14.99–17.99, specialty sandwiches and bowls are $10.99–$15.99, falafel is $7.99 on its own and $12.99 over fries, cauliflower fritters are $6.49, baklava is $7.99, beverages range from $2.50 for a bottle of water to $3.50 for an Ayran yogurt drink to $5.49 for mint lemonade.
How to book: Walk-ins are served on a first-come basis. There are a few tables inside and outside for dine-in service. Takeout and delivery available via Grubhub and Seamless.
Tamales Elena y Antojitos
The gist: Tamales, pozole, and braised beef tongue with plantains from a drive-thru? That dream is a reality thanks to Maria Elena Lorenzo and her family, whose restaurant offers a menu of Afro-Mexican dishes that hail from the shores of Costa Chica in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Their mobile trailer which features a fleet-footed, anthropomorphic tamale wearing a sombrero remains open near Watts Towers, selling tacos, tortas, and of course, tamales.
The food: They steam savory and sweet tamales in hoja de maiz (corn husk) and hoja de platano (banana leaf), filled with everything from pork in red salsa to pineapple and chicken in green salsa amidst masa. Pozole verde—red, white or green—is a hearty stew loaded with pork and hominy, topped with chile flakes, oregano, soft white cheese, lime juice, cabbage, and chopped white onions. Tender beef tongue stewed with plantains in a tomato-based sauce also stands out between soft corn tortillas, as do juicy beef barbacoa tacos.
Cost: Tamales cost either $2 or $3.50. Guisados (stews) run $14 apiece. Pozole costs $12 for 24 ounces and $15 for 32 ounces.
How to order: Drive-thru window or sit on the umbrella-shaded patio.
The gist:Nightshade chef/owner Mei Lin was forced to temporarily close her DTLA hotspot due to COVID-19, but her pandemic-era pivot is equally as exciting. After months of delay, she opened Daybird in a strip mall in Silver Lake in March—a fast-casual and to-go only spot for Szechuan-influenced fried chicken.
The food: Jidori chicken thighs are breaded and fried to crispy perfection, then dusted in a mix of seasonings including Szechuan peppercorns. You can order them unadorned as chicken tenders or sandwiched between a potato bun and topped with crunchy slaw in the Szechuan hot chicken sando. Available in five heat levels (none, mild, medium, hot, extreme), there’s an option for every heat seeker in your pod. Choose from three different dipping sauces to dunk your tenders — hot honey, habanero ranch and Daybird sauce. And wash it all down with a side of fries, pickles and a Hong Kong milk tea.
The cost: $4-13 for a set of tenders (1, 2 or 4) and $13.50 for the fried chicken sando. Sides and drinks are all under $5.
How to order: Via website.
Pearl River Deli
The gist: Accomplished chef Johnny Lee, who’s contributed to an array of local restaurants, finally focuses on his heritage at this spot next to Howlin’ Ray’s in Far East Plaza, cooking Cantonese classics with some fun, modern twists. Order from an ever-evolving pegboard menu with a waving gold lucky cat perched overhead.
The food: Roasted meats are the restaurant’s backbone, with delectable char siu pork neck and soy sauce chicken legs available with a choice of thin egg noodles or rice. Their umami-rich mapo tofu that subs mushroom for beef should please any vegetarian, but it’s Lee’s impressive Macau pork chop bun that steals the show, featuring a soft, buttery bolo bao cradling a thin-crusted, deep-fried bone-in pork chop dressed with savory Portuguese sofrito. Lee also offers special weekend menus, with recent items including a Hainan-style poached chicken served with seasoned rice or broth.
Cost: Rice and noodle plates cost $11-16. Roasted meats are available a la carte for $9-12; remaining dishes and sandwiches cost the same amount.
How to order: Call 626-688-9507 to schedule pickup.
The gist:Chef Daniel Son helped turn his father’s Sunset Strip sushi bar, Kura Fine Japanese Cuisine, into a destination until it closed in November 2019. Thankfully, he had this formidable back-up plan. Katsu Sando started as a popular Smorgasburg LA stall selling their take on the namesake Japanese konbini snack (more about katsu sandos here) before Son partnered with James Lee on this fast casual-sandwich spot on Broadway. Staffers wear T-shirts that read, “Krispy And Thicc Sandos, BrUh.” Happily, they’re better at making sandos than acronyms.
The food: Sandos come on soft, house-baked honey milk bread with chewy crusts. Juicy, fried Berkshire pork loin is accented by a mustard miso ginger cabbage slaw and savory katsu sauce. Honey walnut shrimp makes a spectacular sandwich, with panko-crusted shrimp, crunchy cabbage, and shrimp tartar emulsion. Seasoned waffle fries are fun, and a Grab N’ Go case holds treats like onigiri, creamy fruit sandos, and soft drinks.
Cost: Most sandwiches top out at $12, though their A5 Wagyu sando costs $85. Rice plates and salads range from $11-$15.
CHD (Chang Hwa Dang)
The gist: Your best bet for finding mandu—hand-folded Korean dumplings that are packed with an assortment of fillings before they’re steamed and fried—in LA, CHD launched its first US outpost in Koreatown around March of last year, so don’t feel bad if you missed it. The family-owned chain took Seoul by storm after opening their doors in 2004, and now operates 30 dumpling-only department store locations, plus 10 brick and mortars.
The food: Thin-skinned dumplings are available steamed, grilled, or in soups. The mixed mandu plate is a great introduction to the concept, packaging five kinds of dumplings with different shapes and fillings: classic pork, shrimp, kimchi, galbi, and chili (co-hosting jalapeños in spinach-stained wrappers). Mandu soup may be the biggest star, involving six steamed pork or kimchi dumplings bobbing in a cloudy beef broth with sliced rice cakes, nori flakes, and scallions.
Cost: Dumplings cost $8.99-$10.99, depending on the filling, and the five-variety combo runs $12.99. Everything else on the menu costs either $11.99 or $12.99.
The gist:The family that invented the recipe for Nashville hot chicken—a trend that’s gone international in recent years—partnered with soul food legend Greg Dulan and opened their first West Coast location in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall at the close of 2019, helping to solidify the shopping center as a burgeoning hub for Black-owned bites. Featuring large white windows and twinkling chandeliers in the interior, plus a sloping covered patio and blooming plant life in the outdoor space, Hotville feels like arriving at your favorite aunt’s home and being greeted with a generous Sunday supper, Southern hospitality included.
The food: Spice levels range from "West Coast Plain" to the incendiary "Nashville Hot,” with newbies recommended to start with “Cali Mild.” Options served alongside white bread with speared pickles include wings, white meat breast quarters, juicy leg quarters with bonus backbone attached, a half-chicken with white and dark meat, and a whole chicken. Hotville also serves flaky fried swai fish using the same heat scale, a spicy chicken sandwich dubbed The Shaw, and delicious sides like mac and smokin’ cheese with smoked gouda, a BBQ baked beans trio, kale slaw, and waffles on the weekends, plus banana pudding and lemon sour cream pound cake on the dessert side.
Cost: The Shaw is $12, fried fish is $11, fried chicken runs from $10 for a leg quarter to $32 for a whole bird. Small sides are $3-4 and large sides are $5-6 with desserts just $4 each.
How to order: No reservations required for dine-in, call 323-792-4835 for takeout and delivery via Postmates.
The gist: A formerly drab space is now Found Oyster, a vibrant seafood bar with a light brick façade, L-shaped wood counter, sea tones and shelves lined with oceanic memorabilia ranging from a pelican figurine to a nautilus shell. Last Word Hospitality partnered with chef Ari Kolender on Found, a Charleston native who’s proven to be one of LA’s leading seafood masters.
The food: GM Joe Laraja’s family runs an oyster farm on Cape Cod that supplies plump Little Namskakets that come with “mom’s Mignonette,” a spicy cilantro, chile, and white wine concoction. Kolender fries larger Washington oysters in light buttermilk, flour, and Old Bay coats, and serves them with sake lees mayo atop a soft-buttered Martin’s potato bun. He also makes a seriously unique lobster roll, showcasing sweet Maine lobster folded with Cognac-spiked lobster bisque and Serrano chiles, also served on potato bun. His silky scallop tostada is similarly spectacular, dressed with a zingy yuzu kosho and Gold rush apple slurry and basil.
Cost: The menu changes frequently; at last check, dishes ranged from $7 for a cup of “chowdaa” to $40 for two-dozen, unshucked Little Namskaket oysters.
How to order: via Resy for outdoor dining on their “boat deck.”