718 N Highland Drive, Los Angeles
Tucked into the tail end of a Hollywood strip mall (across the street from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza empire, if you’re lost) is one of the most sublime French bistros outside of France. Chef Ludo Lefebvre has clung on to his Burgundy culinary roots—and his accent—despite more than twenty years in Los Angeles. The dining room, a small, narrow room that seats maybe twenty, has antique mirrors running the length of the wall reflecting the dim lights and open kitchen. Small stools and slivers of table space force diners to sit close; French rap makes the vibe as appealing as the food. A plate of garlicky escargots and half a warm baguette—never sliced, just torn with your hands—the confit-fried chicken, and a carafe of house red is the perfect order. Petit Trois doesn’t take reservations, but a much bigger sister restaurant has opened in the Valley, and honestly, an aperitif at the tiny bar while you wait is half the pleasure.
5706 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
Next time you drive past one of Los Angeles’s many, often tumbledown, strip malls, look closely. Nestled between the laundromat and the questionable massage parlor might be one of the city’s best restaurants. Petit Trois, Sushi Gen, Jitlada...all in strip malls. Baroo is no different, and for chef Kwang Uh—a Noma alum—the choice of location is deliberate. Affordable rent means more research trips abroad for fresh ideas and new ingredients. The dishes at Baroo are hard to describe: experimental, deeply savory, and Asian-inflected. Pickles take center stage to the point that the only decoration in the otherwise sparse space is jar upon jar of Uh’s fermentation projects. Surrender and roll with the chef’s recommendations, although we’re partial to the Amira basmati rice, coated in a ton of herbs, coconut, dried shrimp, and pickled things. Most of the menu is vegan, it’s all under fifteen dollars, and the house-made kombucha is essential.
1155 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood
Formerly crammed into a tiny space on Santa Monica Boulevard–where it quickly became known for both amazing oatmeal griddle cakes and long waits for brunch—the new Salt’s Cure has found a happier home. A few miles east on Highland, it now has a much larger, more relaxed dining room and really good cocktails. The menu stays true to the restaurant’s original ethos: Animals are bought whole, directly from California farms; seafood is sustainable and caught by local fisherman; produce comes from LA-area farmers’ markets. Make a reservation in advance if you can, for brunch especially. (If you want less fanfare with the best of the morning offerings, stop by Breakfast by Salt’s Cure, which recently opened in the restaurant’s original space.)
6372 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
Stella Barra's draw is the pizza, made from handcrafted dough, sized somewhere between a personal pizza and a pie, with a fairly crisp crust and addicting, soft center. First-timers should start with the Bloomsdale Spinach & Kale white pizza—and the Italian chopped salad is a solid side. A pro of the Stella Hollywood location (there's also a restaurant in Santa Monica) is that it shares the same parking lot as the Arclight theater, which makes it an obviously good date-night spot: After dinner, stop at the bar in front for salted chocolate chip cookies, and then head into your movie.
145 N. La Brea Blvd., Hollywood
Considering Nong La’s immense popularity, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a small, family-run operation. It started with brother-and-sister duo, Elaine and Victor Phuong, and their mom Khanh Phan, who sourced family recipes and adapted them into a perfect menu of Vietnamese banh mi, egg-topped fried rice, and a light, flavorful pho that you can customize to your liking. The new La Brea location is just a smidge fancier than the Sawtelle original but the menu is for the most part identical. Tip: Treat yourself to a glass of the homemade passion fruit iced tea—it’s delicious and just sweet enough to constitute as dessert. The original location is on the West Side.
Osteria la Buca
5210 Melrose Ave., Hollywood
The in-house pastas are particularly stand-out here, especially the bucatini and the rye rigatoni. A young, friendly staff and airy brick-and-wood interior with floor-to-ceiling windows and long steel bar make this place feel more like the East Village than LA. A big wine list, great pizzas, and even better prices make it a real gem.
7533 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
From taco night to free-range fried chicken, this homey restaurant/café serves up Californian comfort food that's local, sustainable, natural and all that other good stuff.
The Redbury, 1717 Vine St., Hollywood
This place is great if you love strong, Mediterranean flavors. The complex small plates are excellent, and served in the beautiful eclectic hotel dining room. Their signature cocktails are just as delicious and interesting, making this a great place for a night out.
911 Seward St., Hollywood
You'll feel as though you've stepped out of the city and into someone's garden upon arriving at the painted picket fence that surrounds the green outdoor eating area of this Hollywood spot. Grub serves up tasty California classics, in an charmingly-tongue-in-cheek way, from an 'Are You Yolk in'? Egg Sandwich' to a '1/2 Ass Order of Ice Cream.' A great place for lunch and brunch.
5233 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
You wouldn't expect it from the outside, but this place serves up really excellent and innovative Southern Thai cuisine, that pushes the boundaries on flavor and spice. The mussels are a standout and people rave about the 'crying tiger.' It's tiny, which makes for long but worthwhile waits.
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