10 Favorite restaurants in Los Angeles

restaurant

One thing about living in a city like Los Angeles, folks are always stopping through. Since I moved here nearly 17 years ago, friends, acquaintances, heck even strangers have reached out looking for recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in L.A. Hotel recommendations are always the hardest because, um, I live here. So while I can give a thumbs up to general areas in the city, I rarely know much about the inside of local hotel rooms. 

Food, however, food is a different story. In the last few years, LA has become quite the foodie scene (after a history of coming in behind cities like New York and Chicago on this front) and I have a running list of places old and new that I’m dying to try. In my 20s I couldn’t afford the great restaurants (and there were far fewer) and then I lost a good five years of the baby stage when Jeff and I were simply too tired to make much restaurant effort. 

Also, my tastes have changed dramatically in the last five years. Without going off on total tangent, suffice it to say that I’ve had lifelong food anxieties (texture issues and such) that have waned quite a bit through my husband’s gentle prodding. I’m still not an adventurous eater, but I (sometimes) venture off the kids menu. 

I often share new places we're trying on Instagram, using the #10TTTY or #10TTTYfood hashtags.

This is the type of list that fluctuates, of course, but right now here are my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles:

#1: Jon & Vinny's 

This is probably my very favorite restaurant in the city, and even though it’s casual dining, it continues to grow in popularity, meaning it’s harder and harder to get a table there. Their tiny space on Fairfax is charming enough, but I do hope they move to a bigger space (although apparently they’re expanding to the west side soon).

Well-known and award winning chefs and restauranteurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are behind some of the most buzzed about joints in the city: Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, and Trois Familia, but Jon & Vinny’s is their namesake and my favorite. Read a whole interesting piece about them in LA Magazine called Jon & Vinny’s Excellent Adventure.

Order:

Gem Lettuce salad (best salad in the city!! I don’t even like salad!)

Ricotta and Orange Blossom Honey Bruschetta 

Spicy Fusilli 

Marinara Braised Meatballs

Further convincing:

Jon & Vinny’s is the Country’s Most Efficient Restaurant (GQ)

Where To Go When You Can’t Get Into Jon & Vinny’s (The Infatuation)

 

#2. Crustacean

This Beverly Hills restaurant (newly reopened!) has been our “special spot” since we were dating. Birthdays, anniversaries, any kind of small celebration means Crustacean. This is one of the first places I started to tiptoe out of my eating shell, pun fully intended. No word yet on whether the new remodel kept the Koi pond under the floor, a feature Jeff and I both always loved. 

Do NOT go to Crustacean with a fresh manicure. If you order correctly, you’ll fully ruin it by digging into the delicious Dungeness crab. 

Order:

Coconut Prawns

Garlic Roasted Crab (seriously, just do it)

Garlic Noodles (do not miss these!)

Molten Lava Cake

 

#3. Cleo

If you’re a friend or family member who has visited me in the last few years, chances are I’ve taken you to Cleo. First of all, it’s in Hollywood and close to my home (as opposed to the first two selections), but also because the food is insane good. It’s mediterranean, which I didn’t even know I liked until I went to Cleo. Bonus: It has a fun stylish atmosphere and the drinks are delicious. 

(Note: the Hollywood location is currently closed for renovations, but they’ve recently opened locations on 3rd street and downtown)

Order:

Jasmine Margarita

Feta & Lebaneh (Do NOT miss this. I secretly want to drink this with a straw)

Grilled Octopus

Brussels sprouts

Flatbreads

Ravioli 

 

#4. Mixto

Mixto is our family’s neighborhood go-to take-out spot. (And it’s also owned by the same people who run Tomato Pie, my favorite local pizza joint.) All of the ingredients are so fresh, and it never feels heavy like other taco stands might. I basically LIVE for their corn (and craved it all through my second pregnancy). Parking is a pain, but they deliver!

See more photos of the food here

We get:

Chicken Burrito with the Cilantro Cream Sauce (Jeff) or Spicy Red (Laura)

Pork Burrito plain (because I eat like a child sometimes, and the meat is so delicious I hate mixing the flavors)

Corn (order the large, trust me)

Chips and Salsa (again, you cannot beat the Spicy Red salsa)

Lemon Kale Caesar

 

#5. Koi

Koi on La Cienega was THE hot spot when I was young and single and new to LA. It was the type of place where paparazzi posted up to catch the celebrities leaving. I didn’t eat any sort of sushi back then, but when Jeff and I were early dating he took me there and, after a few glasses of wine, convinced me to try my very first piece of sashimi. Since then, it has remained a favorite and a staple in our date night arsenal. The food is consistently delicious.

My favorites:

Yellowtail Sashimi with Crispy Onions

Creamy Rock Shrimp

Lamb Chops

Molten Lava Cake

**Jeff gets different variations of sushi & sashimi every time...

 

#6. Hot Wings Cafe

I will take zero guff for putting this on a list of favorite restaurants. I’m keeping it as real as possible, and hot wings are in my top 3 favorite food groups. I love them and will order them whenever, much to the horror of more sophisticated dining companions. (And in fact, a different sort of fried chicken wing appears later on the list, so love me for who I am.)

I love the Hot Wings cafe because their flavors are perfect (Hot, for example, actually means hot but not blazing), and they are super crispy and not at all soggy. We all love their curly fries and usually end up ordering another basket. I want to drink their ranch with a straw and BONUS I recently learned that you can purchase it in pints. Yes, I’ve done this.

 

#7. Din Tai Fung

Don’t let the fact that it’s in the mall throw you, Din Tai Fung lands on many people’s “favorite restaurant” list, as evidenced by the hours long wait you have to endure if you go during peak meal times. Sometimes we put our names on the list and then go to the movies for a few hours before they text us that our table is ready. (No joke.) This is my daughter’s absolute favorite place to eat in all the world, so we find ourselves here pretty often.

The huge draw here is the soup dumplings, so don’t miss those. 

The menu is huge, but for sure order:

Pork XiaoLongBao

Shrimp & Pork Wontons in Spicy Sauce

Garlic Green Beans

 

#8. Bestia

I actually can't believe there are two Italian restaurants on this list, as that's not the first place I naturally gravitate towards. But I've been to Bestia several times now and every time it knocks it out of the park. I especially wouldn't hesitate to recommend out-of-towners to go if they're downtown. The pasta with sausage is not something I would normally order, but it is DELICIOUS.

 

#9. Alcove

Alcove is another neighborhood favorite. Please note that while I’m sure there are lovely restaurants on the west side of town, Los Angeles is enormous and I do not typically drive an hour to eat. So most of my favorites end up being the Hollywood/Silverlake/Downtown area because that’s my general orbit. 

Alcove has delicious brunch and lunch, and it’s an easy spot to meet a friend or take visitors, because the almost-all-outdoor seating is pretty and good people watching. The menu is large with something sure to please anyone, from French toast to veggie wraps to delicious burgers. They also have a great dessert case and I usually end up snagging a super cute treat to take home to my kids. 

 

#10: Honorable Mentions and places I love to take guests.....

Yamashiro has some of the best views in the city and we regularly take visiting friends there for drinks or dinner. 

Cafe Stella is a cozy French restaurant located in total hipsterville. I have had many meaningful conversations over Steak Frites in this sweet spot that doesn’t even feel like you’re in the middle of a city.

Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills was the location of Jeff’s annual holiday dinner for his production company for several years. The food is different, but delicious.

Nobu Malibu is always really special. But you pay for that view!

République is a great spot down on La Brea that I would definitely frequent if it was closer to my house. It’s gorgeous inside, and everything I’ve ever eaten there has been stellar, but I’m partial to the Croque Madam. I also always order some fresh bread and homemade butter to take home for later. 

Umami Burger is always yum.

Kyochon Chicken. This is Korean fried chicken in the heart of Koreatown. It’s a small menu, but what more do you need than their signature soy garlic wings? You can buy them in quantities up to 100, and I’ve been known to do just that to serve at parties. 

Night + Market Song is delicious if you’re feeling adventurous. 

Also I’ve only been to Petit Trois once, but every single we ordered for brunch was insanely delicious. If I go back for dinner and am just as impressed, this will probably bump something off the official list…

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Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

Thoughts on a 6+ week social media break

An extended social media fast had been brewing with me for a long time. Facebook has been a thorn in my emotional side since the 2016 election, honestly, but it has been hard to cut the cord because the platform is the only way I communicate in certain personal and professional relationships. Twitter hasn’t ever been a problem for me, it isn’t even a time suck. I check twitter every single day, it’s my favorite source for news and opinions, but I rarely use it on my phone, nor does it make me emotional in any way. 

Instagram has long been my social media app of choice, but more and more I found myself losing (literally) hours to it over the course of a day. I use it to avoid feelings and chores and delude myself into thinking it’s “work” or that I’m actually connecting with people. When my husband left in January to make a movie for five long months, I knew after just a few weeks of solo parenting and general life chaos that I should make some dramatic changes to my personal routines and that included removing the distraction and emotion-swirling effects of social media. 

But I am addicted to this stuff, there is no doubt. I enjoy the creativity of it and the gratification of instant feedback. I genuinely like seeing other people’s creativity and work and their lives as depicted on a little screen. However, by the time I officially started my social media break - using Lent as a loose time frame - I was so ready to make the change that I didn’t suffer the withdrawal I thought I would given social media’s prominence in my brain. 

A few things I did notice, based on notes I took along the way…

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10 Podcasts to binge

10 Podcasts to binge

It's hard to imagine that just a few short years ago I didn't listen to podcasts at all. Now they are such a huge percentage of the entertainment and information that I consume, barely a day goes by that I don't listen to something.

I subscribe to dozens of shows, but it's rare that I listen to episodes on the day they drop. I'm a binger. I will wait until a series is done before I listen to it for 8 hours at a time. If you're a fellow binger, I have a few suggestions for you:

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10 Best Fiction books of 2017

10 Best Fiction books of 2017

End of the year lists are the best, I love keeping a record of the best things about a season, and my year-end book lists are my favorite to compile. On average, my goal is to read about 1 book a week, or roughly 50 - 55 books a year. I hit that goal in 2017, but it was a little uneven.

Mid-way through the year I became a little disappointed with what I’d been reading. It’s true that I had a small slump in the spring where I didn’t read much or read things that I didn’t love, but I kicked it up a notch and now that I look back on the whole of 2017, I can see that I read some truly phenomenal things. The types of books that when you’re finished with them, you think to yourself, “I want to read more stuff like THAT.” Not in content, but in caliber. 

Here are 10 of the best:

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WHY 10 Things To Tell You?

Picture us as best friends, life’s busy-ness means we haven’t caught up in several weeks and we are in dire need of a night out, or a lunch, or a long walk together. Imagine we meet at a favorite restaurant, you beat me there and order drinks first, and welcome the bowl of salty chips plopped in the center of the table. 

I arrive, slide into the booth breathless with excitement, and say “I have 10 things to tell you!”

“Oh, good!” You say. “I have a ton to talk about, too.” 

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This exact scenario plays out in my life regularly. In that booth, or on voxer, or over text. I have friends who live all over the country, and even though modern technology makes it easier for us to keep up with one another, it’s not the same as a marathon session catching up. Even my local friends here in Los Angeles are just as busy as I am toting children around and hustling work, and this culture of busy, achieving, overscheduled families means we go days or weeks without a proper conversation. 

10 Things To Tell You was born out of these marathon talks with friends and the desire to share what we're reading, watching, and listening to that is helping us grow. 

Sharing yourself is the only way to forge and deepen human connection. Giving and letting yourself receive from others makes us better friends, family, parents, and partners. I’ve been sharing my life and recommendations online for nearly a decade, and it has changed my world. The internet makes it so easy to share, but the real magic is face to face.

I have 10 Things To Tell You, but I REALLY want you to go tell your own 10 Things to the people who matter to you. Tell your friends about the books, shows, movies, podcasts, and whatever else that is making you think, making you laugh, expanding your heart. Share the things you can’t stop thinking about. If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Don’t be shy, and definitely don’t listen to that little voice that says your opinion doesn’t matter. TELL PEOPLE your ten things! Or twelve things. Or the TWO things you really want them to know.

Share your stuff. It makes all of us better.

10 Notes on starting a blog when blogging is dead.

1. Blogging is over, right? Donzo. Lame.

Was it always lame? Kind of. I mean, it was never cool. But there was a time when everyone was into blogs. A lot of people blogged and a lot of people read blogs and it was both an embarrassment and awesome. Everyone wanted other people to share their most personal stuff on the internet so we could read it. A lot of us fell on that sword, giddy over having a voice for possibly the first time. Now, it wasn't all rainbows and roses, even in its heyday blogging got a bad rap. Sometimes the people who were the most critical of personal blogging were also the most avid readers. But the most important part was real and true: people shared themselves and connected with strangers across the world. The blogging eruption was a history-making, world-shrinking miracle. 

2. And then, sure as sky, the big backlash happened. Popular blogs became too commercial, babies of mom bloggers grew up, people who wrote eloquently about their life struggles were outed as being insane. The monkeys ran away with the circus, as they say. 

3. I had a blog, back in the day.

Writing on the internet saved my life in some ways, kept me company during some lonely years and was one long course in personal essay writing. I enjoyed it, it opened a lot of doors for me, I traveled around the world three times on invitations stemming from my blog. But then I killed it with worry. Strangled it under the crushing fear of other people’s opinions. I grew tired and stressed over my blog and when the opportunity came for me to jump off that train, I gladly took it. 

 

4. But I’ve actually missed blogging in the intervening years. Not chasing page views and navigating algorithms, that part makes online content creators fully fetal. But the genuine sharing, on a site that’s not being manipulated by a foreign entity, or governed by a character count. I like writing on the internet. 

5. You know what else, I like? Lists.

6. And my real gift to the world is bossiness. Among friends and family and online acquaintances, I am known for telling you EXACTLY what you should do, the books you should read, what to order, how to feel, align, organize, breathe. My obsessions come in fast and deep and then I have an uncontrollable desire to share them with the world.

7. The internet has been great for me.

8. And also, not so great. I have true concerns about how all this screen time is changing our brains and hearts and culture at large. 

9. But every time I start to think about stepping away from the internet forever (I’ve never truly contemplated stepping away from the internet forever), I come back to the piece about sharing. I think that people sharing their stuff - the personal, the trivial, and life's most important lessons - is the key to connection and peace.

10. I might run out of things to say after the first six months. But for now, I have 10 Things To Tell You.