To keep tabs on every L.A. 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). Bon appétit.
Image via Shalifa Anderson / @yourlafooddiary
Burgers Never Say Die
You’re here because: After years of flipping patties in backyards and parking lots for private events and pop-ups, the best burger in L.A. finally has a brick-and-mortar home on the east side of town. Don’t let the rumors of hours-long lines deter you from heading over and checking out — we’ll say it again — the best burger in all of Los Angeles. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon it took us 30 minutes to get our hands on — this is not hyperbole — the best damn burger in all of Los Angeles.
You’re dining on: What’s the secret to the smashburger’s success? Is it the crispy patty, the slightly sweet bun or the gooey melted cheese? Or the partnership of the beef tallow fries that are exactly like getting a sack of McDonald’s, except if every fry were that one perfect fry you get from the Golden Arches? We won’t presume to know the secret. Instead, we’re content begging you to go and find out for yourself.
Eleven City Diner
You’re here for: The American Diner might be the most sacred culinary institution in our nation’s history, providing a service to loyal customers that goes far beyond whatever ends up on the plate. Ask anyone about their favorite diner, and they’ll tell you about a place that’s been serving their neighborhood for generations. It’s what make cheating on your favorite diner a capital crime, and the greatest challenge to any new spot brave enough to throw its hats in the ring. Bradley Rubin has met that challenge head-on and then some with a romantic homage to Americana: Eleven City.
You’re dining on: The menu is a never-ending collection of any diner’s greatest hits — the French toast, bloody mary, matzoh ball soup and Wisconsin cheddar cheese fries were all outstanding — and deserves the opportunity to become your diner-du-jour. Eleven City boasts a deli counter, candy counter, soda fountain, rotating pie display, old-time cash registers — the charm that has been injected into the modern space is neither tacky nor artificial.
Image via Artisanal Brewer's Collective
You’re here for: Pizza, beer and a space to enjoy them with friends. Sometimes, it is that simple. Enter California Sun, where nearly every seat in the restaurant is a seat at the bar, thanks to a clever zig-zag design dominating the main floor. As if you needed more convincing, California Sun has several well-placed big screens and a healthy appetite for sports — they plan on offering customers the perfect place to play hooky for March Madness.
You’re dining on: With more than 140 cans and 14 beers on tap, this is a craft beer paradise, especially for those partial to suds from the Golden State — Nearly 70% of the beer hails from California. As for the pie, California Sun not only offers vegan options, but also brought along one of the best imports from the Motor City. The Detroit Style Pizza, first made in square industrial trays from the automotive industry, is a lighter, airy cousin of the Chicago Deep Dish. This is the choice for those tired of the California’s limited pizza options, but still denounce Chicago’s brand a “casserole” (h/t Jon Stewart).
You’re here for: For those looking for privacy, or have guests who have a hard time hearing in a space during the dinner rush, Pacifique offers a row of booths sectioned off from the main area, where ambient noise reaches pin-dropping levels and there’s no fear of rubbernecking neighbors. Take your clients, take your family; we would never condone cheating, but if we had to pick a place to bring the mistress, it couldn’t get much safe than Pacifique.
You’re dining on: Eastern-influenced, French-technique, veggie-forward ... describing the fare that Pacifique provides can sound like a food-blog madlib. The grub, however, speaks for itself. Start with the Chawanmushi, an elevated miso soup packed with Shimeji mushrooms, fluffy egg custard and topped with dungeness crab. For your main, pair up with a partner and split the potato agnolotti and the hanger steak. The agnolotti rests in a dashi butter broth that leans the entire dish toward a savory butternut squash ravioli, and the char on the hanger steak provides an exquisite complement to the cut’s rare center. The drink menu is also as creative as it is extensive (we had a mezcal, pear brandy, lemon, porcini cocktail that went down smooth).
You’re here for: A quick working lunch. Bento Moderno is a cure to the workaday itis, offering Latin-Asian fusion that won’t put you to sleep, or have you hankering for a snack a half hour later. Also for anyone who has a hole in their heart after Komodo closed its doors.
You’re dining on: The Three Amigos burrito. Shrimp tempura, kani kama, cucumber, avocado, panko and sweet eel sauce. Ask for a couple containers of their chile limon dipping sauce to round out the meal. Bento Moderno prides themselves on serving fresh fish from the same places that your favorite sushi spots use (they share a vendor with Sugarfish), and has a host of vegan and gluten-free options for all you Westsiders living your best life.
Main image via Artisanal Brewers' Collective