Each Friday, the Digest surveys the burgeoning L.A. restaurant scene and compiles a list of the newest, most hyped and heralded restaurants in town this instant. Whether big or small, near or far, these are the restaurants that have people talking—us among them. Snag a seat at these hotspots while you still can.
1. Shake Shack
If you can put aside your personal East Coast vs. West Coast beef long enough to stuff one of Shake Shack’s burgers into your mouth, you’ll likely understand why there have been permanent lines outside L.A.’s first location in West Hollywood. Though the In-N-Out purists have remained staunch—and more power to them!—the Shack’s potato rolls, bigger patties, and more expansive menu have indeed won the city’s respect. Expect lines to die down once the Glendale, Downtown, and Hollywood locations are all open, sometime in 2017.
2. Seoul Waffle Pizza
Just when we thought the food mash-up craze in L.A. was over with the tragic shuttering of The Original Ramen Burger last month, Seoul Waffle Pizza comes into our lives and reminds us what we loved about those zany hybrids in the first place. Get some classic pepperoni and red sauce on a white waffle, or the Seoul Lover with grilled kimchi, corn, and bulgogi on whole wheat. But for the best, most mashed-up of mash-up experiences, get the Four Seasons pie (can you still call it a pie?) which comes split into four quadrants featuring pepperoni, BBQ steak, chipotle chicken, and pesto tomato.
Chef Marcel Vigneron hasn’t been attached to an L.A. restaurant since his sous chef days at the Bazaar almost a decade ago. You’ve probably seen him on various Food Network, Bravo, and SyFy (yup, SyFy) cooking shows, but now you’re more likely to see him in the kitchen at Wolf, artfully placing slices of watermelon radish and shimeji mushrooms next to a filet of miso-glazed black cod. Vigneron is ditching molecular gastronomy for the most part—nitrogen ice cream will show up, but, c’mon, Dippin’ Dots has been doing that forever—in favor of honest, seasonal, and rustic cuisine.
4. Trejo’s Tacos
Even though it’s currently soft open, Danny Trejo’s taqueria on La Brea has been sporting lines out the door all week. And for good reason—people have been waiting for this spot to open for months. Yelp moderators had to start deleting one-star reviews from angry diners who had driven for hours because they thought it was up and slinging tacos. The time is finally here. Consulting chef Daniel Mattern, formerly of Cook’s County, is adapting some of Trejo’s mom’s recipes to make standards like pork shoulder and brisket tacos, alongside some new-school tacos filled with tofu and fried chicken. There’s also house-made kombucha, because of course there is.
If Middle Eastern flavors, whole vegetable cooking, and live fire are the trends du jour then Moruno is arriving just on time. Though inspired by David Rosoff and chef Chris Feldmeier’s trip across Spain, it’s the Moorish and North African influences that really come through in the menu. A half a squash is roasted then seared off on the griddle before being topped with brown butter and dukkah. Whole cabbages are rotisserie-cooked alongside chickens and served with a fermented cremini-studded yogurt sauce. It opened last fall as a take-out window serving cheffed-up sandwiches and their signature skewered meats, but the addition of full dinner service and a vermouth bar brought in a whole new wave of buzz.
6. fundamental LA
You’ve probably driven by this dapper Westwood Boulevard hole-in-the-wall without noticing; or maybe you were blinded by the fluorescent lighting coming from neighboring Papa John’s and couldn’t see the signage. For its first few years of existence Fundamental seemed focused on catering chef-y sandwiches to busy local lunchers, but now that chef Nick Erven (formerly of Saint Martha’s) is at the helm, there’s top-notch New American coming out of the kitchen during dinner. Squares of black garlic panisse with yuzu and togarashi taste like something you would’ve gotten in the early days of Alma, and a $7 plate of crispy Brussels sprouts with deviled egg puree (kind of a deconstructed gribiche) would easily cost double anywhere else.
Spring might just be the ambitious French restaurant that L.A. has been waiting for. Rumors about it go back almost three years—it’s from the same crew that did Church & State—and, as of last Friday, it’s finally open for dinner service. There’s a bar facing Spring Street and an entrance on 3rd that leads into a sprawling dining room with vaulted ceilings and a fountain in the middle. The food is classic southern French, which means olive oil subs in for butter and chef Tony Esnault lends his deft touch to plenty of seafood.
After opening modern American restaurant Ellipsis in Mumbai, restaurateur Rohan Talwar next set his sites in L.A. His first stateside restaurant, Norah’s kitchen is helmed by former Tipple & Brine frontman Mike Williams, who is cooking up Southern-inflected dishes like fried hominy cakes with avocado mousse, alongside French-ish favorites like rabbit leg confit. John Snowden, Norah’s general manager and the former wine director of Eveleigh and Goldie’s, created the wine list, focusing on the Sonoma and the Central Coast.
9. Officine BRERA
This is the second venture from the team that opened Factory Kitchen back in 2013, and, this time, they’re all about the meats. And traditional Northern Italian food. But mainly meats. Tables at the expansive Arts District space, which was previously a warehouse, will be filled with carnivore-friendly dishes like quail with lardo and fennel ragu and braised beef shoulder with anchovy oil, alongside a few veggie options like the gnocchi with castelmagno fonduta. But don’t get married to those dishes—chef Angelo Auriana will be changing the menu often.
10. Kali Restaurant
Kevin Meehan’s roving dinner pop up, Kali Dining, is going brick and mortar along with a little help from friend Drew Langley, formerly the wine director at Providence. Meehan, who used to work at Patina, doubling down on the Michelin creds, is cooking up a $65 tasting menu featuring the likes of rockfish crudo with citrus, green olives, pink peppercorns, and nasturtium; escargot toast points; and tenderloin with burnt onion and fingerling potatoes. Trying to get away from the white tablecloth stuffiness typically associated with tweezer-ized tasting menus, Kali will also be offering dishes à la carte for locals peeking in for a snack.