Taste of Chicago
Best new restaurant
BarooAddress and Info
There were plenty of higher-profile openings this year, and far more approachable-and-great restaurants as well. But no one challenged Angelenos' palates -- and succeeded -- like this tiny mini-mall no-frills grain-and-fermented-vegetables-and-what-the-hell-am-I-eating-oh-my-God-it's-delicious spot. In any other food city, it'd have been overrun minutes after the first review (if not opening day), but in LA, in a bizarre neighborhood, it's been able to maintain its underdog status, not only guaranteeing quality, but that it still seems like a hidden treasure, even after being well-discovered.
Best new late-night restaurant
Aburiya RakuAddress and Info
If you're someone who, say, wants to catch an 8pm movie at the Grove and doesn't want to eat at 6 like a senior citizen, up until this year you'd be sort of SOL, unless you loved matzo ball soup from Canter's or the grilled cheese at Swingers (and, y'know, both of those are pretty good choices). Then Raku opened up, and suddenly the choices seemed far more interesting, since it's got insanely great izakaya-style Japanese food like skewers of pork cheeks and a bubbling, soup-like tofu topped with salmon eggs that's unbelievable, at any time of day.
Little Sister DTLAAddress and Info
Look, say what you will about The Force Awakens, but unlike the second outpost of this Manhattan Beach upscale-Vietnamese favorite, Rey and Finn didn't serve you up spring rolls filled with all the ingredients used for pho, or breakfast-ready congee dishes. And they didn't save you an hour-long drive, either. Set your phasers on stunning*.
*And all nerds, freak out in the comments section.
Best new burger
PistolaAddress and Info
We ate lots (and lots) (and lots) of burgers this year, but the off-menu Gold Label Burger -- a rich meatwich topped with fontina, bacon, arugula, onion, and black truffle ketchup -- had everything: meat-to-veggies-to-bun ratio, umami flavor, unique bite, everything. It ain't cheap, but it's totally worth it.
Best new pizza
Pizza RomanaAddress and Info
It was a sad day for Italian-loving Angelenos when Cube closed, but the owners of that beloved restaurant did one better with their new Neapolitan pizza concept, keeping the beloved fried chicken from Cube and replacing their good-not-great pastas with superlative pizzas -- the best of which is this spicy broccolini and sausage pie, a perfectly balanced carne and veggie extravaganza. Benisimo! Is that a thing?
Best new brewery
Arts District BrewingAddress and Info
Juuuuust barely making the best-of-the-year cutoff, this new DTLA brewery from the guys who brought you classics like Seven Grand and Broadway Bar maintains their reputation for excellence, thanks to killer drafts, a wide-open floor plan, a massive patio... and Skee-Ball. Yep. Skee-Ball.
Best new first-date spot
MaréAddress and Info
It's got all the perfect elements: a secret entrance. A huge patio. Romantic lighting. Seafood. And a price point that that won't bankrupt you. Bingo.
Best new sandwiches (named after NPR hosts)
Wax PaperAddress and Info
OK, these sandwiches -- in a teensy-tiny little Frogtown shack -- would be killer even if they weren't named after public radio hosts. But seriously, don't you think ordering the Kai Ryssdal (pole-caught tuna, celery, green onion vinaigrette, lettuce, black olive aioli) or the Audie Cornish (country ham, sharp cheese, honey butter, sea salt, cornichon vinaigrette) makes 'em just a teensie bit better?
Best new spot to hit before da club
BirchAddress and Info
Previously a soggy-wings-and-soggier-pizza wasteland, Cahuenga's been single-handedly next-leveled by this New American restaurant from the former Waterloo and City guy, who's got a bar bringing you get-the-night-started fresh-ingredient-driven drinks and get-the-night-going dishes like this pork shank. And then you can dance it off and feel all better.
Best new tacos
B.S. TaqueriaAddress and Info
Sure, you've heard the hype behind Ray Garcia's casual-modern Mexican spot, but believe it: it's got the flavors of everything from unusual choices like clams and lardo to classics like carnitas.
Best new brunch
AnimalAddress and Info
Wait. Animal has brunch? Yep, and it's crushing it. The guys behind the restaurant famously have opened Trois Familia for brunch-only on the westside, but at their OG location they're breaking out classic bodega breakfast sandwiches (pictured above), their beloved "Boner Burger," and a pastrami Reuben Benedict. Boom.
Best new fancy bar
The Walker InnAddress and Info
Hidden behind ANOTHER great new bar, The Normandie Club, The Walker Inn proved that its bartenders take their drinks more seriously than anywhere in the city, with an omakase experience that makes each sip a revelation.
Best new party bar
Break Room 86Address and Info
The Houston brothers' latest is this '80s-themed room with karaoke, Michael Jackson impersonators, cover bands, and Cup O' Noodles. Not, like, fancy Cup O' Noodles. The real deal. They pay attention to detail.
Best new cultural activity
The Broad MuseumAddress and Info
The super-hyped new addition to Downtown lived up to all expectations of it being a pop-art mecca. Major art fans may scoff at the iconic prints by Warhol and sculptures by Jeff Koons, but passive fans (and those just looking for something for their Instagram) will (and should) love it. Plus, the exterior? Breathtaking.