To keep tabs on every Los Angeles restaurant and bar opening is folly. But to keep tabs on the most worthy? Yeoman’s work, and we’re proud to do it. Thus we present Table Stakes, a monthly rundown of the five (or so) must-know spots that have swung wide their doors in the past thirty (or so). Let’s eat.
In Los Angeles and around the world, the only certainty this summer is uncertainty. All this continued anxiety only means that little treasures — like outdoor meals with family or friends — are more important than ever. It means that supporting the culinary creativity in our community that soldiers on, against all odds, is a work of greater solidarity with the entire restaurant industry. And it means that outdoor dining and other precautions are here to stay through fall.
But as Angelenos prepare to shoulder yet another round of mask mandates and potential restrictions, everybody’s still gotta eat. From the plant-inspired elegance at Ardor in West Hollywood’s gorgeous Edition Hotel to an exceptionally ambitious Beverly Hills steakhouse, new concepts are still debuting, and old favorites are gearing up for another strange autumn. Strange can be good, though, and a hot, delicious meal can do wonders for a tired spirit. Here’s what resilience looks like in LA’s dining scene this summer.
The premise: From the one of founders of Sugarfish comes the first restaurant in LA to serve only 100% grass-fed Wagyu beef, and co-founder Jerry Greenberg describes their signature Wagyu dinner as “a take on omakase that showcases the beef in a variety of preparations.” Look, if you’re eating expensive meat in 2021, it better be GMO-free, sustainable, and pretty fucking delicious. With beef sourced from New Zealand’s First Light Farms, Matū’s meat is all of those things, so guests can partake in a fancy night at this upscale Beverly Hills steak restaurant without a guilty conscience. In Māori, Matū loosely translates to “essence” or “richness,” and the goal of this chic new spot is to get to the heart of what a great steak should be.
What you’re eating: The $78 Wagyu dinner is a five-course rollercoaster through everything Matū stands for — 24-hour-simmered bone broth gives way to filets, beef cheeks, and all manners of tartare and inventive vegetable sides. The prix fixe rotates nightly, so the chef can serve the freshest cuts and continue introducing guests to new preparations. Imagine the best steakhouse you’ve been to and turn your expectations up to 11: The martinis are stronger, the salads are crisper, and the meat is juicier. Nailing the proper calibrations for a perfect steak are one thing, this does all that restaurant and excels in every other category, too. For LA meat lovers this summer — Beverly Hills, that’s where you want to be.
The premise: Restaurateurs have been hit hard by the pandemic, but the ensuing creativity and pivots have been nothing short of inspired. One such renaissance comes from the transformation of Chinatown’s Lasa into Lasita. Flipping from a chef-driven, experimental concept into a more casual sit-down spot, the menu shift officially happened in early February, but with indoor dining still beleaguered by pandemic precautions, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Lasita made its official debut. The new dining room — by the trendy (and award-winning) design firm Preen — is warm and welcoming, and coaxes diners to linger long into the summer night. What’s another bottle of natural wine when the atmosphere is this good?
What you’re eating: Do not be fooled by the grocery store implications of “rotisserie” — Filipinos do it better! Either the slow-roasted chicken inasal or pork belly lechon are plenty succulent on their own; add the garlic mojo sauce and these dishes elevate from delicious to highly addictive. That’s OK, because they’re also extremely affordable, as are a plethora of grilled vegetable sides, like juicy eggplant (with more garlic) and crispy roasted cauliflower. Finally, add a dollop of chicken fat rice and the chili-spiked spicy salsita to hold it all together. When you go, do not skimp on the natural wine list, expertly assembled by the in-house sommelier, Ryan Mercado. And if indoor still isn’t your thing? They’ve also got a sprawling patio. Or you could do as Sunset suggests and go ham on some Lasita-approved takeout in your own backyard, Filipino barbecue style.
The premise: What if great yet unassuming New York-style pizza could exist in LA without a litany of pretentious caveats ruining the experience? This is what Eater-dubbed “East Coast legend” Daniel Holzman asked and answered with his new pizza counter, Danny Boy’s Famous Original. Holzman rather infamously helped launch New York’s beloved staple, The Meatball Shop, and yes, those balls do have a spot on his new menu. Unsurprisingly, it’s the pizza that steals the show here, though. As one of the first vendors in Downtown’s massive new dining and retail development, Halo, the beautifully renovated space is a haven for the area’s office workers. Side note: There’s also a massive patio if you’re hoping to continue outdoor dining.
What you’re eating: That really depends on your mood. For a late, lazy lunch get a fluffy Sicilian pepperoni slice, a slice of white pie with ‘shrooms to balance it out, and a whole mess of garlic knots. For a grab-and-go option, a plain slice and a traditional pepperoni will keep you fed and on your way in minutes, for under $10. There’s hearty, expertly constructed Greek, Italian, and Caesar salads that are much cheaper than a Sweetgreen delivery, or you can get a whole pie fresh and make friends wherever you go. The platonic ideal for a visit? Take advantage of their parking validation, experience the best of both worlds with a Greek Salad slice — a nostalgic nod to the now-gone Abbot’s Habit — and spend a couple hours soaking up art next door at The Broad. Don’t let New York fool you, LA’s got all the pizza and museums anyone will ever need.
The premise: As idyllic as Los Angeles is, all anyone really wants to do this summer is decamp somewhere beautiful, like a breezy Greek isle. Jonah Freedman, chef and owner of Silverlake staple Freedman’s, felt the same, and did everything in his power to transform his cozy Jewish-American restaurant into an outdoor Grecian paradise. Freedman and his father worked together to build out a gorgeous white patio with dark blue accents, swathes of bright green ivy, and plenty of shade to ward off the heat. Greekman’s is a sweet little gem who is here to stay for awhile — think of her as Freedman’s kid sister, in town for the summer and ready to wreak havoc on that sleepy Sunset strip mall.
What you’re eating: Listen, anything and everything. All manners of grilled meats and marinated cheeses, cool dips with fried or grilled or veggies, smooth hummus and spicy labne and extra tzatziki on the side, if needed. The very lemony potatoes and giganti beans with feta and honey both outdid themselves; perfectly grilled octopus and/or branzino would be foolish to skip. Go for a souvlaki party to try one of each skewer for under $40, or marinate in beets with sumac and yogurt. Either carnivorous or vegetarian routes are equally accessible here, and equally delicious, which is a rare, admirable feat for a brand new menu. And if you’re drinking, skip cocktails and dive right into the white and orange wines — they pair rather majestically with the Greek summer vibe.
The premise: One of the best vegan and vegetarian chefs in the world, Chef John Fraser, debuted his latest concept, Ardor, right at the tail end of 2020. Then, as we all know, a pandemic prevented most Angelenos from experiencing the vegetable-forward offering. Re-opened at the very beginning of July, this inviting, plant-filled spot is located on the ground floor of the West Hollywood outpost of the Edition Hotel. But Ardor isn’t simply an F&B concept for hotel clientele, this is an eatery on par with Fraser’s past New York hot spots like Nix (RIP).
What you’re eating: Please do not leave without trying the exquisite melt-in-your-mouth milk bread encrusted with carmelized tomatoes. As soon as you have some, you’ll want more and more, but save room for other jaw-dropping dishes like the clever cauliflower cacio e pepe, onion rings decked out in umami powder, and tandoor carrots on a bed of hummus, topped with dill and mint. You can absolutely venture into the meat-eaters section with wonderful preparations of steak and fish, but the grilled mushrooms with hen egg and crispy rice cake was plenty luscious on its own. Oh, and do not forget to order a few rounds of the plant-infused, color-coded cocktails, vegetable-infused takes on industry standards that somehow eclipse the originals.
The premise: There are already several Bacari locations spread across LA for a reason: Nobody does tapas like they do. These resourceful, family-run restaurants are always a good time, but Bacari Silverlake is especially notable because it commandeered one of the best-loved patios in the area. After Cliff’s Edge closed its doors in late 2020, locals were eyeing the spacious backyard haven, hoping to eat and drink in the coveted “treehouse” patio once again. Well, now they can, and it’s just as magical with the new endeavor in full swing. The owners, brothers Danny and Bobby Kronfli, are frequently on-site themselves, along with co-owner and executive chef Lior Hillel, serving up inventive small plates and smashing cocktails that will make this new outpost a Silverlake go-to in no time.
What you’re eating: The Mediterranean influence on Bacari’s menu items is undeniable, but staples like mussels, mac and cheese, the burger, and chipotle wings are always around. Go for the sabich for an open-face eggplant sandwich, or dive into rainbow beet salad, incredible polenta (topped with more eggplant), or a whole assortment of pizza options. There’s truly something for everyone here — just keep in mind the portions are smaller, designed for sharing. Dive into an assortment of five or six shared plates for the best experience, and don’t forget the incredible Best Cake You’ve Ever Had to close out the meal. Dates, caramel, bacon, oh my! That name might sound like it’s an exaggeration — it simply isn’t.
The premise: Although this Jewish-Chinese eatery became a takeout staple long before sitting in public together became a dangerous thing, there’s a certain atmosphere in-house that simply doesn’t come along with the familiar red-and-white takeout boxes. To help get patrons back in the door after re-opening, Genghis Cohen built a new patio, anticipating that the need for outdoor dining was going to last well into next year. Keep it in mind for all your West Hollywood-centric holiday dining plans.
What you’re eating: Please, what aren’t you eating? Come hungry and order an obscene amount of food so you’ll have leftovers for days. Start with the shrimp toast, because it’s only good plated and hot, and move forward through a New York egg roll, the signature Krispy Kanton Knish (essentially a shrimp, chicken, and veggie dumpling), and some Genghis fried rice. The spicy and salty tofu is a must, even if you’re not a big vegetarian eater — but there’s a whole list of vegetables served in the various preparations if you are. Grab a szechuan peppercorn margarita to help cut through the rest of the salt and heat — you’re going to need it.
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