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.
Gem Lettuce salad (best salad in the city!! I don’t even like salad!)
Ricotta and Orange Blossom Honey Bruschetta
Marinara Braised Meatballs
Where To Go When You Can’t Get Into Jon & Vinny’s (The Infatuation)
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.
Garlic Roasted Crab (seriously, just do it)
Garlic Noodles (do not miss these!)
Molten Lava Cake
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)
Feta & Lebaneh (Do NOT miss this. I secretly want to drink this with a straw)
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.
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
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.
Yellowtail Sashimi with Crispy Onions
Creamy Rock Shrimp
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:
Shrimp & Pork Wontons in Spicy Sauce
Garlic Green Beans
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.
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.