Every major city in the world has sceney restaurants - those over-the-top places where the rich, the famous, and the people trying to be rich and famous gather to be seen, take photos, and appear to look important. In LA, this is an entire restaurant genre. For better or worse (OK, worse), this city is overflowing with beautiful, useless restaurants serving terrible food that attract a certain crowd of people who definitely didn’t do much today.
If you live here long enough, or you regularly have to plan meals with people in the industry, or you have a friend in town whose only knowledge of LA is what’s in Us Weekly, chances are you’re going to end up at one of these spots. Here’s what to expect.
If you took the saddest restaurant in Downtown Disney, filled it with A-list celebrities, and served food that hasn’t been seen since your aunt went on that cruise to Myrtle Beach in 1998, you’d get Craig’s. This seminal West Hollywood restaurant is arguably the most celebrity-packed place in the city, and yet somehow, it’s a complete bore. No one’s talking, no one’s having any fun - it’s just a handful of quiet booths joylessly picking at their spaghetti squash and whitefish piccata hoping their ex-wife’s lawyer doesn’t walk through the door. The best thing here is the free table bread, which is useless in a crowd that’d rather knowingly contract shingles than touch a carbohydrate.
Gracias Madre is that vegan Mexican restaurant you recognize from every unemployed makeup influencer’s explore page. It’s a place that has successfully made a profit by selling edible cardboard to its patrons, but also one with an objectively beautiful side patio, good cocktails, and food that looks pretty after slapping a Mayfair filter on it. Just be sure you don’t actually eat it - a completely acceptable behavior given that no one here would be caught dead chewing food in public.
Much like the club-travesty that is Tao and the bitter guy who still shows up at all our house parties to talk about “real art,” Catch is a place we wish New York had kept to itself. That’s not to say this ridiculously overpriced seafood restaurant is terrible, it’s just that this town already has plenty of rooftop restaurants full of people who pay for their Instagram followers. The food isn’t a total disappointment, but if you came here with the intention of taking down a seafood tower, the long line of Louboutins click-clacking down Melrose to come here should be your first indication that you got the wrong memo.
Here’s the thing about Giorgio E. Baldi - the food at this iconic Italian restaurant in the Palisades is actually really good, it’s just that no one here is eating it. With a tiny, cramped dining room where space between tables is measured by the inch, a meal at Giorgio is truly a night swim with the sharks. But instead of great whites, it’s studio execs, raging publicists, and Dustin Hoffman pouring sambuca shots under the table. It’s a wild time from start to finish, and if you’re worried about drowning, you should probably stay on land.
Whether you’re just visiting LA and want to see some celebs screaming into cell phones, or you’ve been here for years and also want to see celebs screaming into cell phones, the Tower Bar is a must-visit. Located in the heart of The Strip, Tower Bar is an iconic LA establishment where young Hollywood types still want to hang out and pretend to eat tuna tartare. The outdoor patio is a certifiable scene, so bring your best pair of sunglasses and sharpen up that side-eye. You’ve got some eavesdropping to do.
Cecconi’s is power lunch central where agents, fake agents, and a bunch of people who put “independent contractor” on their taxes this year pick at their food while trying to close a deal. The food here is fine - in the same way that regional print contract you just signed is fine - but under no circumstance is anyone finishing their $42 bowl of lobster pasta here. One thing you should consider eating though, is their Happy Hour burger that only appears from 3-6pm. It’s secretly a top 10 burger in LA.
There are a handful of abysmal steakhouses in West Hollywood, but none really compare to BOA. Come to this sprawling restaurant on the Sunset Strip and encounter greasy, middle-aged men making shady deals, a waitstaff trying desperately to get sent home early, and overpriced plates of meat that, no matter what, will always come out well-done. If you come here thinking you’re going to eat good food, you’ve been misinformed. If you come here to try to raise your own status, then please delete our number.
It doesn’t matter what day of the week you come to Mr. Chow, expect to walk into a party of the most unhinged variety. This iconic Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills is cramped and chaotic with giant abstract banners hanging from the ceiling that makes it feel like Las Vegas in the 80s. Mr. Chow also doesn’t depend on a random celebrity sightings (though you’ll see some familiar faces) or tourist foot traffic to get a nightly buzz - the Beverly Hills locals who’ve been coming here every week for the past 30 years to pound lychee martinis and Beijing duck have that covered. The outrageously expensive food is nothing to write home about, but if you came here to mentally take down a room temperature shrimp roll, you’ve missed the point entirely.
This list wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from the seminal Beverly Hills spot and the lowest rated restaurant on our website, the Polo Lounge. Located deep inside the Beverly Hills Hotel, this catatonic patio is certainly classic, but that doesn’t excuse how completely inedible and offensively overpriced the food is here. The fact that the most well-known dish is a $56 bowl of linguine that can only be the result of somebody dumping chardonnay over pre-heated noodles should tell you everything. So just stick to the scene, which is mostly aging Hollywood wannabees, and then maybe ask for the rest of that bottle of chardonnay.
Avra is a gaudy, over-the-top restaurant in Beverly Hills that’s trying its best to fit in with the neighborhood. Considering the crowd of screeching executives, lost tourists, and over-medicated locals desperately showing off which tax bracket they fell into this year, it appears as if they’re succeeding. On paper, Avra is a Greek restaurant, but aside from some mediocre saganaki and a $30 octopus appetizer, it’s really just a seafood spot for people who don’t like flavor. So save some money by skipping the food entirely, and then snag a table on the patio next to the valet line - it’s the cheapest circus in town.
Ysabel has one of the most beautiful hidden patios in the city and food that we wouldn’t force upon our worst enemies. If you’re into fashion/lifestyle/that sort of thing, this Fairfax spot is your sanctuary, where no matter what time of day it is, it’s somehow always golden hour. And really, what’s more important than that? It’s certainly not the $34 lobster ravioli that tastes like it was sauced by a five-year-old.
Oh, Sur, where would LA be without you? A lot better off, that’s where. This massive West Hollywood restaurant made famous from Vanderpump Rules on Bravo is a complete embarrassment, but that sure doesn’t stop every wide-eyed Midwestern tourist from eating there because a Ramada Inn hotel brochure told them that this is the “real Hollywood.” Update: It’s not. It’s a smoke-and-mirrors sham that charges exorbitant prices for frozen food, non-existent service, and sugar water they’ve rebranded as rosé. On the bright side, if you wear sunglasses and a baseball cap, you can literally convince anyone here that you’re famous.