Puffy tacos, frito pie, queso, and other evolved Tex-Mex dishes are mainstays at chef Josef Centeno's latest operation. Do not miss the perfectly caramelized sweet potatoes, the fried brussels sprouts, and the guacomole, which just might be the best in the city. The '50s hall-like space also offers its fair share of tequila and mescal drinks, along with homemade fruit mashes and Bäco-Pops.
In an industrial-inflected, warehouse-like space in Downtown L.A.'s Arts District, you'll find Bestia, a relative newcomer helmed by husband-and-wife duo, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. While the scope of the menu is ambitious (and innovative, as Ori hates to waste meat, meaning you'll find the occasional beef and lamb heart or chicken gizzard dotting the offerings), you should really go for the pizza: Ori gives his dough a good 24-hours to rise and fall before it heads into the wood-burning oven, and you can tell. A trip here requires Uber, as this place draws huge crowds—the bar is a fun place to wait, and the cocktails are delicious.
Chinois has been around since the '80s (it was one of Wolfgang Puck's first restaurants), but in the intervening years, it's lost none of its appeal. As a pioneer in the Asian-fusion space, Chinois—which marries French and Chinese cuisine—totally revolutionized the L.A. food scene. Now, the food feels wonderfully familiar in a space that looks straight out of Ruthless People. The curried oysters, duck pancakes, and spicy miso black cod are classics. A trip here always brings a real sense of nostalgia, as this was one of the first foodie destinations in California.
Los Angeles has some of the world's best sushi (once you've lived in L.A., it can be hard to find an omakase that makes the cut elsewhere), and in the greatest irony of all, these sublime meals aren't found in the fancy parts. They live in strip malls, often in the outskirts of town. Here, the 10 spots that made our list.
This might just take the cake for the least spectacular strip mall exterior: Funny, because it belies the cozy décor and Michelin-starred sushi and small plates inside. It's all exquisite, whether you order from the menu or opt for one of the three omakase menus. "A", "B", and "C", range from expensive to extravagant, but they're all worthwhile treats. It's possible to walk-in (and wait) on a week-night, but reservations are essential on weekends.
Santa Monica 12217 Santa Monica Blvd. | 310.820.9787
This is as low-profile as it goes for strip mall sushi, which says a lot. It's always quiet (besides the elevator jazz in the background that lends a shred of ambiance) and there's never a wait to get a table. Whether you're ordering off the menu or opting for the set omakase at the bar, it's nicely affordable, too, which doesn't translate to lower grade fish.
Where East meets West. And by that we mean that its central location—right off the 405—makes it an excellent meeting point for friends from opposite sides of town. It's also where sushi purists and California Roll enthusiasts can dine at the same table. There's an extensive menu of cooked dishes, along with the whimsically-named rolls like Green Dragon, Asylum, and Sixteen Plus.
Kris Yenbamroong, chef at Night + Market, describes his menu as "equal parts drinking food and esoteric, regional Thai specialties." Here, recipes for two of our favorite dishes.
Som Tum Thai
“Think of this as the 'blank canvas' Som Tum, or papaya salad, upon which countless variations can be built. These souped-up versions might include salted raw crab, stinky fermented fish, or mama instant noodles. But this is the foundation. Papaya salad is usually eaten as part of a spread that might include larb, sticky rice, and grilled meats.”