Travel

California Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
Little Prince
2424 Main St., Santa Monica
Little Prince started as a pop-up brunch spot in Santa Monica that—thanks to its immense popularity—is now a full-fledged permanent restaurant in an airy space with ceiling fans and beautifully rustic wood furniture. The recent expansion is no surprise, given that its chef is Ari Taymor, who formerly helmed the widely acclaimed downtown hotspot, Alma (which closed in 2015). At Little Prince, Taymor partners with Southern California farms (Flora Bella, JJ Lone Daughter Ranch) which provides the restaurant with high quality produce including squash, arugula, citrus, and avocado. Although brunch is still our favorite time to visit, dinner is just as good, especially the (gluten-free) smoked black cod with beets, sunflower, and fermented apple, and the pumpkin, persimmon, and burrata with grilled bread.
Oliver’s
1198 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Oliver’s is the kind of upscale vegetarian restaurant we wish would open in LA (preferably next to goop HQ). Thanks to Santa Barbara’s balmy climate, indoor-outdoor dining makes sense. At Oliver’s, the transition is seamless—the warm wood and blue-grey of the interior opens out onto a tree-laden patio strung with lights, and the long French doors are always open to catch the breeze. Dishes like sweet potatoes smothered in herbs and chili, jackfruit tacos, and nutty, toasted farro risotto with fried sage are satisfying and so tasty. The cocktails—made with cold-press juice, kombucha, and premium-grade liquor—are practically virtuous, and the enchanted-treehouse vibe, especially in the early spring, is irresistible.
Chaplin’s Martini Bar
1295 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Montecito needed Chaplin’s. The martini bar fills the lonely space left by the closure of Frankland’s Crab and Co. in the storied Montecito Inn. Owners Phillip and Margarita Lee wanted a place that was elegant, moody, and evocative of old Hollywood as much for themselves as for the locals. Chaplin’s evokes a bygone era with its dark walls, red drapes, and plush leather booths. It’s a moody, glamorous spot for a martini (or whatever you’re drinking). The menu is, of course, inspired by what Charlie Chaplin himself might have ordered in the ’20s and ’30s when he was knocking around Santa Barbara. Gin abounds in old-timey cocktails like the corpse reviver with lemon and dry curaçao or the French 75, which we’re especially keen on (the sparkling wine and lemon keep it light). That’s not to suggest that whiskey lovers should get panicky. The Sazerac-style Vieux Carré cocktail—a muddle of Old Overhold rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, and vermouth—is all you need with a dish of olives before dinner.
Farm
6 La Plaza, Baristo
Owner Liz Ostoich modeled Farm after the places she visited in her travels through southern France. This explains the Provençal aesthetic in the garden dining area (green shutters, wicker chairs, rustic wood dining tables), the French-press coffee, the house-made jams, and the truly impressive variety of paper-thin sweet and savory crepes. When we're there, we participate in an (almost) all-Brie diet, made possible by the pear, Brie, arugula, walnut, and date jam baguette, followed by the hazelnut, fig, and brown-sugar-baked Brie.
Las Casuelas Terraza
222 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Baristo
A Palm Springs classic, Las Casuelas has been serving live music and killer margaritas (the blood orange with Casamigos is our favorite) since the ’70s. And it’s the perfect spot to hit before a night on the town, thanks to the central location. Foodwise, we love the crunchy taquitos, tortilla soup, and the achiote chicken lettuce wraps (for health-conscious LA weekenders). Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the house-made guacamole.
La Copine
848 Old Woman Springs Rd., Yucca Valley
This small roadside restaurant is a haven of biodynamic wine and vegetable dishes so tasty and satisfying, you’ll question your meat-eating ways. Even a simple green salad here is a complex bowl of kale, red oak lettuce, pickled carrots, seeds, and herbs—tossed in a lemony vinaigrette. Fingerlings are grilled with duck fat; beets are paired with plums and a pistachio dressing. Check the hours before you go, as opening times vary. The last thing you want is to make the drive out here and find out that it’s closed (sadly, we speak from experience).
Pappy & Harriet’s
53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown
We’re always ready for a night of casual hedonism at Pappy’s. A sprawling bar-meets-restaurant-meets-live-music-venue on the edge of Pioneertown, anything goes here. While you wait (and without a reservation, you will definitely wait), order a beer at the always-packed bar before settling down at your table to racks of ribs, baskets of fries, and another beer. Afterward, jostle for space on the dance floor, which is always packed full of locals in cowboy boots, Angelenos down for the night, bikers, and bachelorettes rocking out to live country music.
Mr. Lyons Steakhouse
233 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Twin Palms
Mr. Lyons checks all the boxes of a proper steakhouse supper. The retro shrimp cocktail is impeccable, the filet mignon is fork-tender, and the beef Wellington Rossini is a true showstopper. In a steakhouse, it’s the sides we get most excited about, and Mr. Lyons is no exception. A dish of lobster mac ’n’ cheese, crispy smashed potatoes, or onion rings is a meal all on its own. Start dinner sipping on a martini as you eye up the space’s elegant marble flooring, plush velvet seating, and of course, your fellow diners.
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