Best of L.A.: The 24 Food and Drink Winners for 2016

Meet your new favorite sandwiches, cocktails, desserts and more

Well, it’s official: L.A. is delicious. So why waste a meal on anything but the tastiest stuff in town? Wake up with a fluffy egg sandwich and a stiff brunch cocktail. Munch midday on a cool poke bowl or a sizzling Korean spread, and indulge at dinner with steak frites worthy of seconds. Dessert just has to be a superrich blondie. Then raise a glass of something old at a revered new wine bar. Need something new to wear to dinner? Check out our list of 27 Best Places to Shop in L.A. and browse our full list of Best of LA. favorites here.

Steak Frites — L’Assiette


Other spots serve standout variations on the Gallic classic, but no place captures the “mais oui” brasserie quintessence of steak with pommes frites like L’Assiette on Melrose. Exceptionally tender from its sous vide preparation, the grass-fed culotte cut comes in two helpings to keep the meat and fries hot and crisp, respectively, as well as to give diners a second chance to experience the Platonic ideal of béarnaise as both dipping sauce and gateway to unalloyed happiness.

» 7166 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District, 323-274-2319 or lassiettesteakfrites.com


Falafel — Joe’s Falafel


Break through the rough strip mall facade of Joe’s Falafel and you’ll discover a warm, aromatic interior. The same can be said for the munchie that stars at this Mediterranean café in Studio City. Inside the fritter’s crunchy, grease-free shell lies an airy knot of ground chickpeas speckled with onion and so parsleyfied, it’s green. Order a plate of six paired with baba ghanoush or as a sandwich wrapped in stretchy, taboon-charred laffa bread.

» 3535 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Ste. 105, Studio City, 323-512-4447 or joesfalafel.net


Fried Chicken Sandwich — Alimento

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There are no lazy ingredients in the chicken Milanese sandwich at Alimento in Silver Lake: Calabrian chile mayo lends a hint of smoky heat, the pepperoncini-laced slaw is gloriously crunchy, and a nest of prosciutto cotto acts as a porky bass line. None of that would matter, though, if the bird weren’t superb. The piping hot boneless thigh, dusted with bread crumbs and fried Milanese style, is so juicy, it will have you questioning the popularity of breast meat.

» 1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-928-2888 or alimentola.com


Movie 
Theater Dining — iPic Theaters

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You’re ready to spring for a movie with the latest gazillion-speaker sound system and armchairs that double as beds. Such indulgences require more than Junior Mints. Westwood’s iPic Theaters brought in blockbuster chef Sherry Yard to craft cuisine that’s as action packed as the entertainment. Handhelds such as poached lobster rolls and ham-and-cheese biscuits with maple butter are easy to eat while watching the Suicide Squad perform cinematic mayhem. (There are vegan options if you prefer your mayhem meat-free.)

» 10840 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, 310-307-7003 or ipictheaters.com


Mexican
 Hot Chocolate — CaCao Mexicatessen

The cocoa at CaCao Mexicatessen is prepared with the same precision as the Eagle Rock restaurant’s famous carnitas de pato and handmade tortillas. Disks of cinnamon-infused Oaxacan chocolate are melted down to a rich syrup and combined with steamed milk via an espresso machine and some fancy wrist work. A flurry of chile powder adds a fiery finish to every sweet, frothy sip.

» 1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323-478-2791 or cacaodeli.com


Poke — Jus’ Poke

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L.A.’s poke proliferation is real. But while most joints offer Hawaii’s answer to ceviche in a Chipotle-esque array of fish, sauces, and chichi toppings, Redondo Beach’s Jus’ Poke is authentically spare. Hunks of raw ahi are available in four styles (original, spicy, shoyu, and wasabi), each using a base of sea salt, scallion, sweet onion, and lacy ogo seaweed. Accompanied by a heap of furikake-sprinkled rice and a side of your choice (Aunty’s Pickled Cukes are a must), the “small” is Big Island huge.

» 501 N. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach, 310-379-1133 or juspoke.com


 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet — Tres by José Andrés


Let go of any misgivings you have about buffets: the steaming vats, grisly carving stations, hepatitis C. Tres By José Andrés at SLS Beverly Hills pulls off a $42 brunch spread without a lick of ick. Andrés’s approach might best be called minimalist. Quail eggs accompany sliced-on-demand Russ & Daughters smoked salmon. Crab claws are paired with butter foam. Flan comes in a golden eggshell cup, sending you off on an AYCE high.

» 465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Grove, 310-246-5551 or slshotels.com

RELATED: The 25 Best Tacos in L.A. 


 Budget Birthday Cake — Angel Maid Bakery

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On Saturdays a slow-moving line of families dressed for quinceañeras snakes through a small Westside storefront. The wait is worth it, as the strawberry shortcake at Angel Maid Bakery is so fluffy, so lushly enrobed in semi-sweet whipped cream and chock-full of ripe strawberry nuggets, it’ll convert any member of the butter-cream-or-bust crowd. A seven-inch round cake, which feeds at least eight, is $26.75. Forgot to preorder? The shop usually stocks some ready-made confections, too.

» 4538-4542 S. Centinela Ave., Del Rey, 310-915-2078


 Late-Night Happy Hour — Backhouse


Barflies know that the wee hours bring a cornucopia of discount grub and booze. After 10 p.m. the Backhouse in West L.A. fills buzzed bellies with yakitori— grilled morsels like chicken livers and bacon-wrapped okra (from $1.75)—plus fried appetizers like karaage (for as much as $3 off). Raw bar deals feature oysters, sushi, and salmon carpaccio. Wash them all down with a $5 Sapporo.

» 10915 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., 310-481-6800 or backhouserestaurant.com


New Wave Doughnut Shop — Blue Star Donuts


L.A. is awash in superior cruller crafters, yet a bold gang of newcomers has arrived touting artisanal ingredients and wacky combos (ham and egg?). Venice’s Blue Star Donuts, a Portland import, manages to go modern without sacrificing the simple pleasures of fried dough. Chic flavors like house-made horchata and bourbon blueberry are bold but not gimmicky, and the brioche base has a classic yeasty kick.

» 1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-450-5630 or bluestardonuts.com


Barbacoa — Aqui es Texcoco

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Masters of Mexican barbecue, or barbacoa, know that the best meat is roasted in an underground pit. But try telling that to the health department. Former engineer Paco Perez, chef-owner of Aqui es Texcoco in Commerce, invented an oven that mimics subterranean cooking. The result is succulent lamb barbecue flavored with century plant and avocado leaves. Wrap some in a tortilla and enjoy the taste of tradition with a side of consommé.

» 5850 S. Eastern Ave., Commerce, 323-725-1429 or aquiestexcoco.com


Wine Bar — Augustine


The Sherman Oaks man-cave-cum-honky-tonk is totally modern in its mix of inquisitive crowd, good vittles, and broad wine selection meant to be shared. At Augustine peckish patrons can delight in how pork schnitzel brings out the rustic shade in a carignan. If you’ve ever wanted to try, say, a ’71 bordeaux, you’re in luck: Not only do they specialize in old vintages here, but they’ll split the pour (and sometimes hefty price) between you and a buddy.

» 13456 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-0938 or augustinewinebar.com


RELATED: See all the Best of L.A. winners


Matzo Ball Soup — Habayit

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Amir and Pnina Simyonov have run the kosher cubbyhole Habayit for nearly two decades. Their herb-flecked chicken soup’s amber broth has just enough sheen to signal home cooking. Unlike many restaurant matzo balls, which seem like science fair experiments in volume displacement, the ones here are delicate orbs, nestled among carrots as tender as a grandma’s pinch.

» 11921 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A., 310-479-7173 or habayitrestaurant.com


Fried Calamari — Cecconi’s West Hollywood

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Photograph courtesy Yelp/Andrew S.

Thicker than a bangle but less bulky than your uncle’s class ring, the calamari at Cecconi’s West Hollywood are gifts from the deep, wrapped in golden paper. The width of the squid sections is key, allowing each bite to hold a splash of lemon or a dab of tartar sauce while packing a marine tang.

» 8764 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 310-432-2000 or cecconiswesthollywood.com


Local Kombucha — Kombucha Dog

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The fizzy probiotic beverage made from fermented tea is now the health food world’s “It” beverage. Raw organic Kombucha Dog is one of the smaller local players, but the brand’s undiluted brew delivers a flavor wallop (not to mention an alcohol content of 1.4 percent). The basic bubbly variety is heady bordering on smoky and also comes tinged with wild blueberries or ginger. Just in case you like the pooch on the label, it’s up for adoption.

» kombuchadog.com


Blondie — Cake Monkey Bakery

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Lately we’ve seen renewed interest in the brownie’s nutty, cocoa-free cousin. Connie & Ted’s dessert menu has a knee-weakening version à la mode, but Cake Monkey Bakery gets our top vote. Its dense, pecan-studded square is as salty as it is sweet and crowned with a layer of toffee.

» 7807 Beverly Blvd., Fairfax District, 323-932-1142 or cakemonkey.com

RELATED: 22 Most Important Doughnuts in L.A. 


Brunch Cocktail — Belcampo Meat Co.

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Bloody Marys can be meals in themselves, so for his Snapping Turtle at Santa Monica’s Belcampo Meat Co., barman Josh Goldman wanted to create a less bulky variation on the hair-of-the-dog standard. He starts by straining the pulp from tomato juice, then mixing the clarified liquid with gin infused with shiso and black pepper. Horseradish oil provides the finishing pop. The requisite celery sticks are encased in ice to allow their flavor to permeate the drink as the cubes melt.

» 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 424-744-8008 or belcampo.com


Veggie Sandwich — Wax Paper


At Frogtown’s Wax Paper, the sammies are named after public radio talent (think Kai Ryssdal and Lakshmi Singh). The vegetarian Ira Glass represents a mastery of veggie harmony. Cucumbers are cut razor thin, sprouts are strewn with a discriminating hand, and shredded cheddar covers every inch. Avocado, raw and pickled red onions, and a light schmear of aioli add oomph, but the clincher is the poppy seed-encrusted wheat bread from local darling Bub and Grandma’s.

» 2902 Knox Ave., Elysian Valley, 323-284-8857 or waxpaperco.com


Korean
 Lunch Special — Hanjip

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From $6 spicy cauldrons to $10.99 all-you-can-eat barbecue, the midday meal deals in Koreatown are the stuff of legend. So we were stoked to discover that the most exciting Korean lunch bargain is in Culver City. At Hanjip $15 buys you not just one of Chris Oh’s primo rice bowls (order the poke or the spicy pork), but the servers will fire up the tabletop grill and hand you a satisfying heap of meat to ’cue.

» 3829 Main St., Culver City, 323-720-8804 or hanjip.com


Froyo Toppings Bar — Yogurt Stop


Any froyo pro(yo) knows that a transcendental yogurt experience is as much about the toppings as it is about the soft serve. West Hollywood’s Yogurt Stop marries the two: a ten-handle rotation of thick, tasty flavors and serious accouterments. The shop offers 55 toppings, including moist chunks of banana bread, carrot cake, and brownies, which are all baked in-house. Oreo bits and Reese’s Pieces live in harmony alongside carob chips and toasted coconut, and 11 sauces are available for your drizzling pleasure.

» 8803 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-652-6830 or yogurtstop.net


Breakfast Sandwich — Sycamore Kitchen

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Ooey-Gooey flavor-bomb egg sandwiches are la mode, but at the Sycamore Kitchen, Quinn and Karen Hatfield have come up with a stacked morning meal that’s as approachable as it is craveable. For their scrambled egg and chorizo sandwich, fluffy eggs, melted Swiss cheese, house-made chorizo, and roasted onions unite in one super-savory bite after another. A freshly baked brioche bun keeps everything intact.

» 143 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park, 323-939-0151, thesycamorekitchen.com

RELATED: Here’s Your New Favorite Gyro Place in L.A. 


Restaurant Bathroom — Paley

Order the foie gras crépinette to start and maybe the duck breast with umeboshi as your main. But to end your meal at Paley. on a truly sweet note, visit the loo before dessert. The posh private room has as its centerpiece a high-tech Japanese toilet with heated seats and a spectacular variety of water-jet features. Scented soaps and a lighted mirror help you remove that duck jus smidge from your chin.

» 6115 W. Sunset Blvd., Ste. 100, Hollywood, 323-544-9430 or paleyhollywood.com


Gnocchi — Pistola

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The bite-size potato dumplings at Pistola hit the right balance between chewy and supple. While the doughy bits remain constant, what they’re dressed in evolves: They might sop up a deep marsala gravy in winter or a buttery parmesan sauce with wild mushrooms and asparagus in spring.

» 8022 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove, 323-951-9800 or pistola-la.com


Cocktail Presentation — The Walker Inn

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During the omakase cocktail experience at Koreatown’s Walker Inn, bartenders don’t merely mix and serve; they educate and pamper. Menus, which have such rotating themes as “Wet Hot American Summer,” include refreshments garnished with “fog” or packaged in juice boxes. Instagram isn’t going to cut it—you’ll want to Snapchat the entire story.

» 3612 W. 6th St., Koreatown, 213-263-2709 or thewalkerinnla.com

See all the Best of L.A. winners

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