These days, Angelenos will proudly put their city’s food scene up against any region in the country. From old-school sandwiches in downtown dives to a classic martini and steak dining room in the heart of Hollywood, Los Angeles has it all. There are so many scenes and micro-scenes within the sprawl out here that it’s hard to narrow it down for a first-timer — but check out the picks below for some good places to start.
Why you’re here: You might notice an extra emphasis on original in this restaurant’s name and menu, and that’s because the French dip sandwich wars have been waging for almost 100 years now. Yes, you’re starting off your California adventure with a little bit of drama. Philippe’s and nearby Cole’s have been battling it out for the mantle of original French dip sandwich, but Philippe’s is by and large the declared winner.
What you’re ordering: Go traditional and get the beef dip with no cheese. Roast beef on a French roll with a hearty dip in the jus is the right way to experience this treat for the first time. There’s also pastrami (which is great with Swiss cheese and mustard if you go that route), lamb, pork, ham or turkey as options. Philippe’s serves soups and salads, and a whole breakfast menu, but the real move is to grab a sandwich, wolf it down and move on to your next activity.
1001 N Alameda St
Why you’re here: When Hollywood spots call themselves “world-famous,” they’re usually not exaggerating. That’s the power of the movies, baby. This is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood — one that’s managed to preserve a ’20s and ’30s golden-era feel and is still family-owned.
What you’re ordering: With its classic red booths and a massive, see-and-be-seen dining room, Musso’s has become a go-to martini spot. They make a strong one that comes with a sidecar — and are firmly on team stirred, never shaken. Get one (or two) to get into the mood, then settle in for steak and chops, bolognese or lobster thermidor. There might be fancier, trendier or more Michelin-y spots around, but nobody does the classics like Musso. The impeccable service from veteran waiters dressed to the nines makes even a first-time guest feel like Hollywood royalty.
6667 Hollywood Blvd
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Why you’re here: Bite for bite, there’s simply no better pizza in LA. Don’t just take my word for it — LA’s most esteemed food critic, the late Jonathan Gold, praised chef Daniele Uditi’s pies with fervor.
What you’re ordering: Gold’s pick was always the expertly crafted neo-margherita, which solves a lot of the traditional margherita’s problems with a layer of basil-infused breadcrumbs. But if you haven’t tried the cacio e pepe pizza, that’s the one Gold dubbed “a small miracle,” and it still regularly blows up Instagram whenever a newcomer gets a taste. Honestly, any of the pies or other Naples staples — squash blossoms, meatballs, artichokes — will be delicious. There isn’t a bad order on the menu, and since desserts come courtesy of co-owner/Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson, they’re worth saving room for, too.
11712 San Vicente Blvd
Why you’re here: Conduct a brief survey among food writers in Los Angeles, and the bulk of them will name Bavel as the best restaurant in the city. It’s just as elevated as its sister restaurant, Italian-serving Bestia, but with Mediterranean dishes and flavors that are far harder to come by than a standard plate full of pasta.
What you’re ordering: Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis include a whole section called “spreads” on this menu, and with good reason. Tuck into hummus or baba ghanoush, or farm cheese with fig za’atar to begin, then immediately move onto grilled prawns and lamb shawarma. Make sure to pair all this with selections from their wine list, which is heavy on French and Italian selections and organized from “lighter” to “heavier” for easy access.
500 Mateo St
Why you’re here: LA is a sandwich town, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. If you want a great one, spots like Uncle Paulie’s, Bay Cities or Gjusta all serve up incredible options. Canter’s, though? People come here for the atmosphere just as much as the food.
What you’re ordering: Whatever your heart desires. This seven-page dinner menu has benedicts, omelets and scrambles right next to fish plates, soup and deli case specialities. There’s corned beef and pastrami on rye, chicken tenders, burgers and melts. Pick your poison and tuck in, then wander over to sister bar The Kibitz Room to wash it all down afterwards. If you’re lucky, a local band — that just happens to have celebrity members — will take over the stage while you’re there.
417 N Fairfax Ave
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