You love going out to eat and feel pretty confident in your LA restaurant knowledge. But there’s always that one person in your life - maybe it’s a roommate, or Eric from accounting - who has somehow managed to eat everywhere. You’re terrified to make a dinner plan with them because you don’t want to be ridiculed for choosing a place for plebeians. Relax. This is LA, and you have plenty of options. Here is a list of lesser-known spots both old and new that are exciting but not mainstream. Your move, Eric.
Your co-worker Jeanine loves to talk about all of the pricey tasting menus she’s experienced across the globe, but when you mentioned Dialogue in Santa Monica, her face went blank. Despite the fact that it opened in 2017, Dialogue’s hidden location on the 3rd Street Promenade has kept the place somewhat mysterious. The tiny, bare-bones space isn’t particularly noteworthy and dinner for two here will set you back about $700. But if money’s not an issue tonight (is it ever for Jeanine?), this 21-course meal is surprisingly unpretentious and full of hyper-modern food that’s truly delicious.
This private supper club has been roaming around the Eastside since 2011, and though they’ve officially settled into a permanent residence in Los Feliz, it’s still very difficult to eat here. The best strategy to secure a dinner reservation is to stay informed via their mailing list and then proceed to bug them (via email) until space becomes available. There are only a few dinners each month, which involve a group of chefs freestyling a meal where seafood is the star of the menu. If that set-up sounds like something you can do with your own friends at home for a lot less money, know that at Wolvesmouth you pay what you feel like paying, it’s entirely BYOB, and the six-course, hyper-modern seafood dinner is unlike anything you and your friends could pull off.
Since LA has tons of real estate, year-round vegetation, and lots of privileged people willing to spend big money on food, seemingly every chef in America has opened a gigantic new dining destination here in the last five years. That’s why it’s refreshing that places like All Time still open and thrive. All Time is a tiny all-day cafe and wine bar in Los Feliz that reminds you about the importance of the neighborhood restaurant. Their dinner service runs Thursday through Sunday, with a menu that has everything from cavatelli to a 68-day aged ribeye and a focaccia bread that deserves its own religion.
You just matched with someone who has “sushi snob” in their bio, so you know you can’t go to Sugarfish until at least the 10th date. For the first or second, try Sushi Note. Located right on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, Sushi Note is exciting because it’s equal parts sushi bar and wine bar. The $80 omakase gets you almost 10 courses and the sommelier will be more than happy to course out tastings to go along with it.
Chateau Marmont needs no introduction. Every brochure tourist and local acting major with an IMDB credit is perpetually trying to snag a seat on their famous patio. Skip the chaos and go to Chateau Hanare instead. Located in a converted bungalow on the Chateau property (the entrance is on Selma), this quiet Japanese restaurant is just as expensive as the main restaurant, but the food is so much better. Get the house-made tofu, the rice pot, and any type of sashimi that speaks to you.
La Morra Pizzeria isn’t actually a pizzeria. It’s a portable pizza oven built into the back of a trailer that a husband/wife team tool around town. They pop up everywhere from farmer’s markets to private events and restaurants. But the most reliable spot you can find them is at the East Hollywood wine bar, Tabula Rasa, on Thursday nights. This is crowd-pleasing, Neapolitan-style pizza with a crunchy/chewy crust you’ll still be thinking about the next morning. The fact that you’re also in a wine bar with a very good selection is only a bonus.
Cento is one of those places that a lot of people in LA have heard of, but haven’t tried, probably because it’s only open four days a week from 11am-3pm inside a downtown wine bar. You should go out of your way to make it happen, though. You need their beet spaghetti and burrata immediately in your life. And beating your roommate pasta-snob from Long Island to the punch will feel absolutely incredible.
Located on a stretch of North Hollywood generally reserved for car mechanics and acting studios, Cahuenga General Store feels stepping into another world. Or at the very least, the mid-1800s. The all-wood floors are old and creaky, there are chairs hanging from the ceiling, and there’s homemade soap on the shelves. It’s not until you spot the cash register in the back that you realize you’re still in modern-day LA and at a coffee/sandwich shop. The 30-item menu can be a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll be happy as long as you order anything that involves the house-made pesto. If you hang out long enough, you’ll catch some live music on the stage in the corner.
That guy Trevor in your on-camera class loves talking about how the best food in LA is in stripmalls. But you already knew that, and you’re fairly certain that he hasn’t been to the greatest stripmall spot in all of LA. Zam Zam, the tiny Pakistani grocery store in Hawthorne, has no menu or waitstaff and the husband/wife team that run the place will probably just bring you an assortment of things they felt like cooking that day. There’s also an element of mystery to a meal at Zam Zam, you can usually expect a few curries, a kebab or two, and biryani rice that’s worth leaving class early to eat.
Are daytime pop-ups inside downtown wine bars officially an LA restaurant category? With the arrival of Hail Mary Bistro, it’s possible. Located inside Garcons de Cafe in the Spring arcade, Hail Mary comes from the same people as Triniti and serves seriously unique French food. The menu changes daily, but you can expect things like butter with brie whipped into it and live scallops with lychee. They’re only open for lunch from Wednesday through Friday, which pretty much ensures that your boss hasn’t been here yet.
Otafuku is a family-run Japanese restaurant in Gardena that treats soba noodles like a science. The three kinds of soba served here vary in size, texture, and taste, but all are made daily in-house from flour that’s imported from Japan. Our favorite is usually the all-white seiro, but whatever you choose will be served cold on a bamboo plate with a tiny dish of garlic soy sauce for side-dipping. It’s light, refreshing, and unlike anything we’ve had in LA.