You’ve spent weeks preparing your beach bod for a trip to Los Angeles. Little did you know you were walking into a world of gluttonous temptation! But there’s no need to count calories. Better yet, do as the locals do and make them count at these restaurants in and around Los Angeles.
This local hangout is known for its burgers, beers and no-nonsense attitude. Despite the increasing demand for customized burgers in the past decade, Father’s Office has prohibited substitutions or subtractions (even ketchup) in its dishes from the very beginning, a stance it continues to take very seriously today. Some have called it archaic — we call it confidence. First-timers should try the Office Burger, which chef/owner Sang Yoon says was inspired by French onion soup — think beef broth, caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese. Getting a table can be a challenge during happy hour and dinner, so be prepared to pass the time with a California microbrew or one of the other 3 dozen craft beers on tap.
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
Sawtelle Street in West LA, nicknamed Little Osaka by locals, is the city’s main hub for Japanese cuisine. Between Santa Monica and Olympic boulevards, you will find dozens of options for ramen, sushi and boba tea. Tsujita stands out from the crowd for its tsukemen, or "dip ramen," a twist on the traditional ramen dish that separates the noodles and broth into 2 bowls, requiring you to “dip” 1 into the other. In 2013, a second location called the Tsujita Annex opened across the street. Same owners and concept, just a slightly different menu. Go to whichever has a shorter line.
This family-run Cuban restaurant sits in a converted gas station, standing out against the blue sky with its bold, black and red exterior. The signature, must-try dish is the slow-roasted pork, flavored with mojo seasoning and served with black beans, rice and maduros (fried plantains). For lunch, try a traditional Cuban sandwich, pressed with roast pork, ham and Swiss cheese. Make reservations on a Tuesday or Thursday evening for live Cuban, Latin jazz and salsa music. Sets start at 8 and 9:45 p.m. and require only a $20 minimum purchase.
Courtesy of Bottega Louie
To say that Bottega Louie is an Italian restaurant would not be doing it justice. It does seat 255 patrons in its dining space, but it also consists of a market, patisserie and café. Sweets such as macarons and beignets are the main draw of the market, and the restaurant features a dinner menu of gourmet pizza and homemade pasta. Pair either with a glass of wine, and be sure to save room for the crowd-pleasing macarons. Get them to go if you tire of the loud, chatty atmosphere that is typical of Bottega Louie.
If Sawtelle Street is Little Osaka, then Artesia is for sure Little India. Pioneer Boulevard is riddled with Indian shops and restaurants, and the Surati Farsan Mart is one of the most extensive, consisting of a restaurant, sweets shop and market. Meat lovers, beware: The Surati Farsan Mart specializes in flavors from the Gujarat state on India’s west coast — a region known for its vegetarian cuisine. If you’re unfamiliar with the flavors, you will definitely want to split and sample a range of chaat (snack) dishes, such as bhel puri, dhokla or ragada. Follow that up with a main thali dish of rice, dal, roti, chutney and yogurt. Head to the counter to browse the selection of Indian sweets to finish off your meal.
Opened in a parking lot under pop-up tents in 2009, Ricky’s has grown considerably since, expanding its hours and replacing the tents with a food truck. The Baja-style fish and shrimp tacos are outstanding, and certainly the main factor in making Ricky’s the taco talk of the town over the past few years. But what completes the experience is Ricky Piña himself: The fedora-wearing proprietor still mans the fryer, and you should definitely strike up a conversation. You’ll find him parked at that original location on Virgil Avenue more often than not. Otherwise, keep tabs on his location, specials and hours on his Twitter page.
Given the dozens of city-view rooftop bars found in downtown LA, it might come as a surprise that such setups by the beach are few and far between. High Rooftop Lounge is without question one of the least creative names of all time, but the 360-degree views of Venice Beach and a front-row seat for the sunset over the Pacific make forgiving easy. The lounge, located at the Hotel Erwin, prides itself on a “no-velvet-ropes” type of atmosphere — a jab at the trendy who’s who scene found at many rooftop bars downtown — and you can feel free to come in casual clothes off the beach. The menu features small plates from different continents, including sliders, shawarma, currywurst and dim sum, to go along with beer, wine and classic cocktails.
Burnt to a Crisp Texas Smokehouse
Burnt To A Crisp Texas Smokehouse
This Texas-style barbecue food truck is run by 2 friendly guys from Houston. Pulled pork and sausage dishes are offered on the menu, but as you might expect from a Lone Star State-inspired BBQ joint, brisket is king. Try it straight up or in a sandwich, and prepare for large portions, especially when ordering the Texas Size Chili Cheese Fries. You can keep tabs on its location via Twitter.
No visit to LA would be complete without a leisurely brunch by the water. The patio at Geoffrey’s, perched on the cliffs of Malibu, lets you soak up the California sun in style. When you consider that getting there forces you to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, it all adds up to a memorable morning. You definitely pay for the view, but the $20 brunch entrees end up being reasonable when you factor in that the food is as highly regarded as the setting. Whether you go with a classic Benedict or step up to a lobster quiche, take it nice and slow — this is an all-around experience you’ll remember long after you’ve left the City of Angels. To ensure it goes smoothly, reservations are recommended.
Specialty sandwich shops are nothing new, but how many actually serve something unique? More often than not, restaurants market a slightly modified version of an already-existing sandwich — a far cry from an exclusive creation. Enter chef Josef Centeno, who has developed and trademarked the bäco sandwich. Found only at Bäco Mercat, it was originally reserved as an off-menu treat for friends and staff, consisting of crispy pork belly, beef carnitas and caraway pepper on flat (bäco) bread. The bäco went over so well that Josef decided to officially add it to the menu, and today, different iterations include pork, beef, veggie, seafood and chicken, combining flavors from Morocco and the Mediterranean. Make reservations for a Thursday night when the Art Walk is happening in and around the Old Banking District.