After a year in LA and plenty of brunches, lunches and dinners out on the town, I thought I’d share with you my favourite restaurants in my new adopted home city.
These are restaurants I go to frequently. They’re not upmarket or temples of fine dining but casual, neighbourhood joints I like to return to again and again because they offer great food, friendly service and a fun atmosphere at a price that even a freelance journalist can afford on a regular basis.
There are plenty of other amazing restaurants in the city and this is not intended as a definitive guide to eating out in LA. These are (in alphabetical order) a few of the restaurants I’ve personally come to love. I hope you like them too.
Barbrix, Silver Lake
I wish every neighbourhood had a restaurant like Barbrix. It’s a relaxed and casual place with charming hospitality, a smart wine list that won’t break the bank, and a menu of excellent small plates inspired by the flavours of the Mediterranean. I’ve come here for hangover curing brunch with bottomless $5 mimosas and fried chicken sandwiches; a bottle of Nebbiolo with cheese and charcuterie at the bar; and romantic dinners on the patio with a delicious selection of sharing plates ranging from smoked trout crostini with mascarpone, pickled red onion and lemon; pork and ricotta meatballs in tomato sauce; or one of the excellent fresh pastas ( a favourite is the pappardelle ragu with variations of duck, veal or wild boar). I love Barbrix because it’s the perfect venue for any occasion.
Housed in a former warehouse in the Arts District, Bestia is one of LA’s most celebrated restaurants and for good reason: it’s the kind of place where you can sit for hours and eat everything off the menu and not have a single bad dish. Chef Ori Menashe serves up his clever and delicious interpretation of Italian food, including a hefty dose of offal, with things like grilled lamb heart and pan-roasted chicken gizzards. He makes pretty much everything in house and his charcuterie and sourdough bread are some of the best in LA. He also makes his own pasta, with at least 10 different varieties on the menu, ranging from squid ink to pistachio, saffron and stinging nettle. The wine list is equally interesting, with lots of unusual and natural wines. Bestia brings together smart yet rustic food, a sophisticated drinks list and a vibrant atmosphere. What more could you possibly ask for in a restaurant?
Figaro Bistrot, Los Feliz
The Louis Vuitton ad starring Madonna was shot at this local bistro, which is a little piece of Paris in the heart of LA and where I go when I need a dose of European lifestyle. The Parisian fin de siècle décor, with a zinc bar and red banquettes, and small tables on the pavement outside transport you straight to the Boulevard Saint-Germain. It is the ideal place for people watching and spotting the odd celebrity trying to look normal. I’ve spent whole afternoons here over a few carafes of rosé. The menu of classical French fare doesn’t mess around: think croque monsieur; salad Niçoise; escargots; moules frites; and coq au vin, while croissants, pains au chocolat, baguettes and macarons are baked fresh each morning in the adjoining bakery. Je l’adore.
1802 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz
This is not a restaurant for indecisive people as everything on the menu sounds amazing – and it is. The thin-crusted pizzas from the wood-burning oven are what Gjelina is most famous for but they’re not your usual pepperoni or Margherita and offer inventive California style combinations like nettles, garlic confit, chilli, Fontina and Parmesan; or cherry tomato, squash blossom and burrata. But there’s more: the kitchen’s creative genius embraces farm-fresh ingredients, with a sublime selection of vegetable dishes – like roasted white aubergine with walnut, sumac and cumin goat yogurt; or crispy purple potatoes with lemon aioli, pickled red onion, dill and horseradish – and bigger plates like crispy Mary duck confit, brown butter, haricot verts, smoked almond and sherry. The queue to get in can be long but it’s always worth the wait.
Malibu Farm, Malibu
Located on the edge of Malibu Pier overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this is where I go when I need to get away from it all and feel like I’m “on vacation”. The simple café menu has a focus on local and organic ingredients fresh from the farm. I’ve only ever come here for brunch when the menu includes the fried egg sandwich on toasted sourdough with bacon, rocket and baby potatoes; the multigrain pancakes with bacon bits and maple syrup; or the farm scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and ricotta. The vibe is relaxed and bohemian, both elegant and rustic bringing a sense of country living to the beach. It’s not cheap at $20 a head for breakfast but the food is good, the view is even better and the feeling of being on holiday is priceless.
Sage Organic Bistro, Echo Park
A year ago, when I was still living in London, I never would have dreamed that one of my favourite places to eat at could ever be a vegan restaurant – even one that’s co-owned by actor Woody Harrelson. Maybe they put something in the water here in LA but I genuinely love Sage Bistro and come here about once a week for my fix of kale, quinoa and dairy free ice cream. They have salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pastas and tacos and none of it is boring or bland. I love the goatless Greek salad with massaged kale, quinoa, carrots, cucumbers, spicy cabbage, tomatoes, onion, avocado, apple, kalamata olives and raw dill cheese and cashew alfredo; and their banana split with Kindkreme vegan ice cream seriously rocks my world. Don’t judge me man, vegan food can be awesome.
Terroni, Beverly and Downtown
The best Italian fare my food loving Italian friends from San Francisco have had since moving to California a decade ago, Terroni serves hands down the best (and possibly the only authentic) Neapolitan pizza in LA. Crispy and thin it is comes as a standard Margherita or with imaginative toppings like the Polentona with fontina, speck and pinenuts; or the C’t Mang, a white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh pears, walnuts and honey. There are plates of San Daniele prosciutto or cured duck with vegetables and burrata; divine fried zucchini flowers stuffed with herbed ricotta; and a fabulous array of home made pastas. The wine list is indulgent and not cheap but the sommelier has on more than one occasion let us have a glass of something that’s usually only served by the bottle.
7605 Beverly Boulevard, Beverly; and 802 S Spring Street, Downtown