There's a nod to Old Hollywood here, from the atrium populated with famous folks to the menu, which skews vintage with Suzanne Goin's versions of “devils on horseback,” Gulf shrimp cocktail, and Julia Child's sinus-clearing ode to Dijon, Devil's Chicken. Tavern's casual larder could be Goin's most significant contribution to the L.A. food scene: You'll never look at a sandwich the same way again.
It started as a wine bar, mining everything from the markets of Istanbul to Spanish tascas as it brought small plates to L.A.
Unforced and driven by excellence, today's A.O.C. is anchored by a glorious courtyard with sunlight and laurel trees, while larger portions allow friends and family to gather over a single dish. Caroline Styne's wine list doesn't shy away from the ecology of vineyards. Suzanne Goin's cooking has become indispensable. The tarragon burrowed in Little Gem lettuce with green goddess dressing is an ideal. The darkly roasted chicken segments heaped onto a torn crouton salad with wilted radicchio is an homage to San Francisco's Zuni Café—a tip of the hat only a great restaurant can bestow.
Best Beignets, August 2013
L.A. may not have anything akin to Café du Monde, but the Big Easy landmark's signature confections have scattered trails of powdered sugar across our city. The doughnut's airier Southern cousin reaches its local peak at Suzanne Goin's Tavern, where the crème fraîche beignets are supremely moist and finished with fragrant vanilla sugar. Oiliness? Not a trace. The fritters, smothered in a toffee-hazelnut sauce, include a side of even more silky chocolate for dipping. A scoop of banana ice cream brings balance.
Best Salad, August 2011
A salad is asked to be many things: gentle preamble, protein-crowned main course, or plain old roughage. None fulfills these requirements as well as the Little Gem lettuce, shrimp, crab, and avocado salad with Russian dressing at Tavern. The seafood is as plump and fresh as you'd expect, and the lettuce leaves are arranged just so. The dressing—house-made mayo spiked with cornichons, shallots, and ketchup—is what brings it all together, winking at everything from a Reuben sandwich to a 1970s Sunset magazine spread.