Food & Drink

How to Get Into All of LA's Best Restaurants (Without Reservations)

Published On 01/14/2016 Published On 01/14/2016
Rick Poon Photography

Say it’s Friday night and you want to go to one of the best restaurants in town, but it’s 7pm, and you didn’t make a reservation, and, well, shit. Not so fast: there are at least 21 of LA’s best restaurants that have unreserved, walk-in tables or bars with free seats literally every single night. Here’s how to beat the res system:

Courtesy of Sierra Prescott

Bestia

Arts District

This modern Italian restaurant from Ori Menashe and his wife Genevieve Gergis must be a beast for bookkeepers: customers flood Bestia nightly, and there can be a few-week wait, at least. Thankfully, though, the restaurant holds all bar seats for walk-in guests, and two large tables, crafted by District Millworks from reclaimed wood and steel, also hold eight guests apiece. Your best bet to snag a spare seat is to show up right when the restaurant opens, although you may get lucky with a walk-in anytime.

Birch

Birch

Hollywood

Before a show at the Pantages Theatre or prior to hitting Hollywood clubs, drop into Brendan Collins’ restaurant for international food with bold flavors. Birch gets some mad rushes each night, and it's ready and waiting for walk-ins with two large tables that each seats eight people.

Canele

Canelé

Atwater Village

This Mediterranean stalwart from Chef Corina Weibel and Jane Choi helped to pave the way for Atwater Village to become the culinary hub that it is today. The restaurant remains popular for dinner and weekend brunch. Thankfully, the communal table near the window gives you a fighting chance at a seat. The walnut table, which Weibel and Choi designed and stained, holds up to 12 people.

Courtesy of Gaelen Casey

Estrella

West Hollywood

Chef Dakota Weiss is drawing people in droves to this new Sunset Strip hotspot with her eclectic comfort food, particularly at dinner. For some people, the bamboo-framed patio is the place to be. Other diners prefer the lounge-like dining room. A large 12-seat, high-top walnut table strictly for walk-ins resides in the middle of the dining room -- and as an added bonus, that table is equipped with USB and power outlets so people can work on their computers during the day (not recommended at night, during a busy service, unless you want dirty looks/computers).

Jonathan Bookallil (Eveleigh)

Eveleigh

West Hollywood

This rustic, Aussie-owned restaurant on the Sunset Strip used reclaimed barn wood to construct three communal tables in the main dining room, which each seat 8-14 people, depending on how tight you care to squeeze/how big your butt is.

Flickr/Susie Wyshak

Gjelina

Venice

This quintessential SoCal restaurant from Fran Camaj and Chef Travis Lett generally keeps people spilling out the front door onto Abbot Kinney Blvd. Thankfully, the beautiful dining room, which is crafted from reclaimed barn wood, features 26 seats at three long communal wood tables. Better yet, the high-top stools have backs, meaning your back won’t break as you linger over seasonal salads, pizzas, and small plates.

Courtesy of Chapple Design

Hatchet Hall

Culver City

Brian Dunsmoor’s seasonal wood-fired Cal-Southern cooking and Jonathan Strader’s bohemian hospitality both helped ensure that people have embraced Hatchet Hall. Each night, they reserve 40 (!) seats for walk-ins, including 16 seats at the white oak bar, 12 seats at the limestone oyster bar, and 12 seats at a pine communal table.

Flickr/One More Bite Blog

ink.

West Hollywood

In 2011, Michael Voltaggio was still on a high from winning season six of Top Chef. At that point, he partnered with longtime Hollywood heavyweight Michael Ovitz on this modern, seasonal restaurant. Ink. has been a hit and remains a tough reservation -- unless you walk in for a seat at the restaurant’s 12 bar seats and eight counter seats.

JAR Restaurant

Jar

Mid-City

Suzanne Tracht serves modern American comfort food in the modern Mid-City chophouse she opened with longtime chef de cuisine Preech Narkthong in 2001. Jar remains relevant, meaning it can be tough to score a table beneath lanterns that resemble flying saucers. Thankfully, Tracht saves 12 seats at an L-shaped bar that sometimes has bar-only food specials.

Rick Poon Photography

M.B. Post

Manhattan Beach

Chef David LeFevre and the Simms brothers started their partnership with this eclectic, share-friendly restaurant in an old Manhattan Beach post office. If it’s hard to get a reservation, that’s because they save 40% of the restaurant for walk-ins, including 44 seats at communal tables and 10 more seats at the bar.

Courtesy of Emily Hart Roth

Milo & Olive

Santa Monica

Milo & Olive expanded earlier this year, but the Cal-Italian restaurant from Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan still draws a crowd. In the original space, they still have two eight-person tables that Montalba Architects crafted from Carrara marble and steel.

Courtesy of Declan Murphy

Nook Bistro

West LA

Longtime friends Chef James Richardson, Jeffrey Stuppler and Brian Frith-Smith debuted in the back corner of a West LA strip mall in 2014. Even though the trio needed an arrow to steer customers to their front door, they’ve built a loyal following -- but walk-ins are welcome at a communal table that seats up to 14 people and nearly spans the compact dining room.

Flickr/Sharon VanderKaay

Odys + Penelope

Mid-City

This modern restaurant from Quinn and Karen Hatfield employs a multi-grill attack and serves some of the best desserts in the city. You may have a tough time getting a res thanks to its killer on-bone short ribs -- but you can l still grab them at its 10-seat communal table.

Osteria Mozza

Osteria Mozza

Hollywood

This juggernaut from Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich remains very popular, but 27 seats are available nightly to walk-ins at the mozzarella bar and amaro bar, which is also the only seating area where you can score a $35 prix fixe deal every Sunday through Thursday.

Courtesy of Sierra Prescott

Otium

Downtown

This hotly anticipated restaurant from the Sprout Restaurant Group and the French Laundry veteran Timothy Hollingsworth has been an instant hit right next to The Broad Museum. In the front corner by the bar, you’ll find a communal wood table that seats 10 people on nights when reservations just won’t work.

Pizzeria Mozza

Pizzeria Mozza

Hollywood

The pizzeria is another packed outpost in Mozza’s compound, and rezzies are ultra tough, but have no fear: 20 seats are available for walk-ins between the bar by the entrance and bar in front of the wood-fired oven. Bonus: if you’re at the bar on weekdays from noon-5pm or Sunday-Thursday from 10pm-midnight, you’re eligible to order a choice of pizza, dessert, and glass of Bastianich wine for $20. Splitting is not possible in this case, but what a monumental bargain.

Michelle Park

Republique

Mid-City

This multi-faceted restaurant from the Manzkes and Sprout Restaurant Group is particularly popular at dinner. Thankfully, Republique reserves a wealth of communal seats for customers. It has two high-top communal tables by the bar: one that seats 10 people and another that seats 12. It also has 18 bar seats that aren’t reservable either. In total, you’ll find 40 communal seats that are up for grabs nightly.

Flickr/T.Tseng

Son of a Gun

Mid-City

At this modern Florida seafood shack from Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, they have a massive communal reclaimed-wood table that runs from the front door to the bar, where 20 people can enjoy shrimp toast and lobster rolls.

Courtesy of Joshua Lurie

Sotto

Beverlywood

This subterranean southern Italian restaurant in Beverlywood houses two communal tables that rest side by side near the bar. The Croft House tables are made from reclaimed oak and maple from an old Alabama barn, and they seat 14 people total. Yes, people are bound to gawk at your wood-fired pizzas and grilled pork meatballs. Keep close watch on your tablemates (and their forks).

Skandia Shafer

Superba Snack Bar

Venice

The first restaurant from Paul Hibler’s growing American Gonzo Food Corp. continues to chug along on Rose Ave, now with Chef Sydney Hunter III. The restaurant features two wood-crafted, nine-seat communal tables in one of LA’s hottest ‘hoods.

The Tasting Kitchen

The Tasting Kitchen

Venice

This Cal-Italian restaurant is still trending because Casey Lane remains in the kitchen and Justin Pike helms a progressive bar program. It houses two communal tables showcasing heavy, dark-stained wood at the bar area, which seat 10 guests apiece. A seven-seat sidebar runs along the south wall, and the regular bar seats eight people. So, yeah, you’re probably gonna get a seat.

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Joshua Lurie is the LA-based founder of Food GPS, a website that showcases the best food and drink in California. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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1. Bestia 2121 E 7th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90021 (Downtown)

Since opening in 2012, Bestia's become the definitive LA restaurant, offering a menu that appeals to both eat-anything foodies and eat-carefully dieters in an industrial but homey space. The Arts District restaurant serves an Italian menu with next-level pizza, pasta, and small plates, and no matter what you get, be sure to start with the beloved charcuterie board -- all the meats are cured in-house.

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2. Birch 1634 N Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028 (Hollywood)

Birch might be the most adventurous restaurant ever to hit the neighborhood, blending together influences and flavors from all over the world (think scallop sashimi and rabbit baklava). As a bonus, you'll find a collection of inspired, market-forward cocktails with ingredient combinations like black lime and white tea rum, frankincense and irish whiskey, or vodka and pinecone.

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3. Canelé 3219 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, 90039 (Atwater Village)

This cozy Atwater restaurant is a go-to for brunch -- just watch out for the sizable weekend crowds. It's worth the wait, though, for ultra-fresh dishes like chilled gazpacho, sweet and savory favorites like thick-cut French toast and baked pancakes, and some seriously tasty house-cured bacon. The chefs here keep things super-seasonal when it comes to ingredients, but no matter when you stop in, their fried chicken sandwich is a must.

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4. Estrella 8800 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (West Hollywood)

The mastermind behind this spot is Chef Dakota from Top Chef and it lives up to the hype. Be sure to try the Rolling Stone when you go. We think that Estrella is one of the best places to grab a bite in Los Angeles, and you need to stop by and see for yourself.

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5. Eveleigh 8752 W Sunset, Hollywood, CA 90028

This rustic space has a reclaimed, wood-laden indoor/outdoor dining room with a communal table and sofa-like seating. Their outdoor patio is the real draw, where you'll feel as though you've entered a gorgeous garden party, surrounded by homegrown herbs and vegetables. From land (lamb meatballs) to sea (wild Pacific yellowtail), every dish on Eveleigh's delectable menu is market-fresh and crafted with care.

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6. Hatchet Hall 12517 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066 (Culver City)

With amazing dishes like pork chop in a mustard jus, cast-iron roasted trout, and beef fat potatoes with roasted garlic aioli, it's no surprise that getting a reservation at Hatchet Hall is near impossible. But don't worry, they reserve 40 seats for walk-in guests at the various bars around the restaurant and at their community table.

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7. ink. 8360 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069 (Mid Wilshire)

Michael Voltaggio's gotta-eat-here-ery's just upped its drink game, with one tipple specifically designated for each liquor category, i.e., the bourbon (w/ rhubarb, Aperol, lemon & Peychaud's), the gin (vermouth, carrot, ginger & lemon), and the vodka w/ elderflower, lemon lime, honey, hot sauce, and golden ale... Au-some?

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8. Jar Restaurant 8225 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Top Chef Masters contestant Suzanne Tracht is the woman behind this Mid-Wilshire nouveau steakhouse. Jar is known for its beautiful cuts (including a 36oz porterhouse for two and a Wagyu NY prime) and modern comfort food, like the signature pot roast. The upscale dining room is classic mid-century LA with wood paneled walls and white tablecloths. If you didn't know, now you do: Jar has a special rotating bar menu filled with small bites like tacos and sliders.

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9. Manhattan Beach Post 1142 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (South Bay)

Chef David LeFevre kickstarted Manhattan Beach’s restaurant revival by opening MB Post back in 2011, and locals still flock here for the killer brunch menu, which includes the savory (famously flaky bacon cheddar biscuits) as well as the sweet (sticky buns and pumpkin skillet cake). This spot rocks an an upscale-barn vibe with exposed rafters and bleached-wood common tables. The menu's divided under whimsically named sections like "Eat Your Veggies,” "Meat Me Later" and "A Spoon Full Of Sugar…".

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10. Milo & Olive 2723 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Santa Monica)

Milo & Olive specializes in wood-fired pizzas (consider the pork belly sausage and kale), homemade pastries, and hearty breakfast dishes. The bakery counter is what dreams are made of, backed by a wall of huge loaves of bread and lined with a spread of decadent pastries, such as sweet cream brioche, buttery croissants, and maple walnut sticky buns. You'll want to get here early before that selection slims down, particularly for the sought-after and often sold-out bagels. All carbed out? This bright and rustic communal space also a fresh selection of soups and salads, like a sweet corn bisque and an heirloom tomato & peach.

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11. Nook Bistro 11628 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (West La)

Serving up big and small plates plus a killer list of sides, Nook Bistro has us hooked. If you're really hungry, order the half roast chicken, but if you're more of a small plates person, check out the crispy brussels sprouts or mac and cheese.

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12. Odys & Penelope 127 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (Mid Wilshire)

Odys and Penelope, from the married couple behind Hatfield's, is a casual grill named after the protagonists of The Odyssey. The move here: dry-rubbed smoked short ribs and grilled Snake River Wagyu tri-tip.

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13. Osteria Mozza 6602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038 (Mid Wilshire)

Mozza boasts a large, entree-laden menu with delicious grub and zesty libations.

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14. Otium 222 S. Hope St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Post browsing at the Broad Museum, head next door to dine at Otium, a contemporary American resto full of artful fare headed by star chef Timothy Hollingsworth of French Laundry fame. Otium is a favorite brunch and dinner hot spot that locals love to recommend to tourists.

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15. Pizzeria Mozza 641 N. Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (West La)

Owned by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria Mozza put LA pizza on the map when it opened in Hollywood in 2006. It's been a continuous hit since then (and has expanded to Newport Beach and Singapore) because it serves some of the best pizza in the city. The perfectly bubbly, chewy and charred pies are topped with Italian meats and cheeses, like the fontina, mozzarella, and sottocenere white pizza and the eggplant, parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella pizzetta. Pizzeria Mozza has the casual but upscale vibe characteristic of Batali's restaurants. It's a go-to for dinner, but definitely consider brunch, when the morning pastry basket is proof of Silverton's top-knotch pastry skills.

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16. Republique 624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (Hancock Park)

Republique hails from a crazy all-star team that includes the married chef duo Walter and Margarita Manzke -- who were among the most lauded in all of LA during their tenure at Downtown's Church and State -- and one of the restauranteurs behind Bestia and Sotto. Their 'tails and fare are definitely worth a weeks-in-advance res.

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17. Son Of A Gun 8730 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (Mid Wilshire)

The menu at this nautical Melrose spot from chef superstars Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Animal and Jon & Vinny's) is seafood heaven with a fried chicken sandwich thrown in to remind you just how great turf can be, too. It's a hulking masterpiece with a spicy bread & butter pickle slaw and Sriracha aioli. If you're in the mood for surf, go for the trout or the octopus salad.

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18. Sotto 9575 W Pico, Los Angeles, CA 90035 (West La)

This West LA restaurant serves Southern Italian food in an upscale and hip basement space. The menu is always changing but remains consistent for its emphasis on comfort and creativity. Expect small, medium, and large plates of meat and seafood, plus simply refined pasta dishes (like spaghetti with clams) and knock-out Neapolitan pizzas. The dimly-lit interior is outfitted with rustic communal tables and an open kitchen.

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19. Superba Snack Bar 533 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)

This Venice cafe sports a modern interior and a cozy front patio with complimentary poncho blankets (!). Expect to eat (fried duck eggs and chorizo or ricotta meatballs with pickled jalapeño salsa), drink (beer, sangria, and 30+ wines), and seriously brunch (sunny-side-up eggs paired with duck pastrami).

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20. The Tasting Kitchen 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291 (Venice)

Offering New American cuisine that will make your mouth foam, The Tasting Kitchen's eclectic offerings range from tempura-fried green beans to an unbeatable brunch featuring bacon- or sausage-stuffed waffles. Beyond the carbs, you'll also find one of LA's most award-winning-est bartenders, Justin Pike.

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