Our experts go fork-to-fork over LA’s best dining haunts.
The chef: Wolfgang Puck
The man behind perennial favourite Spago and his eponymous restaurant chain.
The critic: Patricia Escárcega
Restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, who works anonymously.
Restaurant that nails the LA vibe
WP: Housed in a space built by Charlie Chaplin, République (top image) maintains the integrity of the city’s history as well as advancing its culinary scene. Be sure to grab a slice of pie while you’re there.
PE: Sqirl in East Hollywood celebrates West Coast seasonality through unassuming dishes like jam on toast and chef Jessica Koslow’s famous sorrel pesto rice bowl. The queues are long and parking is scarce but it holds onto the LA idea that food ought to be wholesome and delicious.
WP: Toast on West 3rd Street is a fantastic café and bakery in West Hollywood that’s sure to hit the spot for anyone looking for a classic breakfast. From its pastries to protein omelettes, this is one breakfast place that knows how to feed the soul.
Image credit: Republique; Jakob N. Layman.
PE: It’s difficult to have a terrible day when you start at République. The menu ranges from French pastries to globe-spanning dishes, including kimchi fried rice, blue corn pupusas and the vegan Californian breakfast staple, avocado toast.
For a late-night bite
WP: The best late-night eatery in Los Angeles has no seats so be prepared to bring a beach chair. El Chato is a food truck on West Olympic Boulevard behind a gas station – the al pastor tacos and chorizo mulitas are to die for.
PE: Late-night dining in LA is synonymous with Koreatown, which never seems to close. Head to Sun Nong Dan (3470 West 6th Street; +1 213 365 0303) with a group and gather around a sizzling platter of braised short ribs called galbi jjim. It’s the most exquisite way to temper a hangover.
WP: Father’s Office has the most unbelievably delicious burger with caramelised onion, bacon and melted gruyére.
PE: First opened in 1947, the Apple Pan is a rare LA destination that draws people from every corner of the city. While the premises might be tiny, once seated you can revel in the glory of the steakburger, a sturdy hamburger patty topped with lettuce, pickles, mayonnaise and the “secret sauce” on a toasted bun.
Current celebrity hotspot
WP: Personally, I think the number-one hotspot is still my restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills. It’s attracted celebrities like Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart since the 1980s and ’90s, with the appeal carrying on to another generation of stars, including Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Taylor Swift and Ben Affleck.
PE: Many members of LA’s creative class migrate to the leafy, hilly neighbourhoods east of Hollywood. All Time, a cosy café in Los Feliz, is the place to bump into the familiar faces you normally only see on TV or in movies.
Best-kept food secret
WP: Standing’s Butchery on Melrose Avenue is an absolute delight. All the unused meat at the end of the week is blended into a burger patty that they sell right outside their storefront for you to grill at home and the burgers are so delicious.
PE: Los Angeles is home to thousands of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, which means the city is a mole-lovers’ paradise. La Diosa de los Moles, translating as “the goddess of the moles”, is one of the best and is a bit off the beaten track. The chef is Rocio Camacho, whose mole recipes have been handed down through generations.
Best farmers’ market
WP: Santa Monica Farmers Markets have the freshest produce and great small plates to eat while you walk around. All of our chefs, especially those at Cut, head to the Santa Monica markets to get the fresh produce for our kitchens.
PE: Plan to spend some time at Santa Monica Farmers Markets, which draw farmers, chefs, gardeners and food-lovers of all stripes. They’re open every Wednesday and Saturday morning year round and there’s no better place to meet the people who grow the food that fills the city’s dining rooms.
The best Mexican food
WP: La Diosa de los Moles in Paramount might be a bit of a drive for some but it couldn’t be more worth it. Serving up an authentic Mexican brunch, the menu features a number of different Oaxacan moles, all of them more delicious than the last. The chilaquiles is absolutely exceptional.
PE: This is the kind of question that inspires impromptu bar fights in LA. My favourites include Sonoratown in Downtown – the exquisite carne asada is a must-have. But do consider making a pilgrimage to Taco María (above), just outside the LA County line. Chef Carlos Salgado’s inventive and modernist taco tasting menu is the stuff of legend and inspires Angelenos to get in their cars and drive into Orange County.