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. 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.
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.
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.
4. 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.
7. 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.
8. Knead and Co. Pasta Bar
Finally, you don’t have to go all the way to Pasadena to get Bruce Kalman’s pasta in your mouth. The Union chef opened up his long-awaited Grand Central Market stall serving Italian staples like cavatelli with fennel sausage, bucatini all’amatriciana, and, of course, meatballs with Sunday gravy. The best part is—other than being able to chase your cannoli with a scoop of nearby McConnell’s ice cream—the bowls of pasta start at just $8. And if there’s one thing that Kalman does as well as pasta, it’s porchetta, which Knead and Co. is serving up French dip-style.
9. 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.
The burger patties are cut with whole grains, the buns are long-fermented using koji—a cultured grain used in soy sauce production—and the typical soda fountain is replaced with a list of aguas frescas. LocoL is not your typical fast food restaurant, which is why a line of customers has been wrapped around the Watts restaurant every day since it opened. Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s revolutionary new quick-serve is trying to promote health over grease while still churning out affordable, top notch munchie-food, resulting in items like a veggie-based chili bowl and a $4 fried chicken sandwich with buttermilk slaw. More importantly, the chef duo is trying to empower the community by hiring all local employees