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. Howlin Ray’s
It’s the hottest restaurant in town. Get it? Hottest? Like, hottest. It’s a double-meaning, because they serve Nashville hot chicken, but they’re also massively popular. Ahhhh, you guys get it. Dad jokes aside, chef Johnny Ray Zone’s chicken shack has had massive lines snaking throughout Chinatown’s Far Eat Plaza ever since the doors opened, proving that the Music City magic has only increased since he parked the food truck for good.
This glitzy and impressive restaurant is combining the Golden Age of Hollywood with modern farm-to-table culinary sensibility. The kitchen is helmed by chef Greg Bernhardt—he was previously at Church & State and Neal Fraser’s Grace, among other spots—and the food leans rustic with some heavy L.A. embellishments. Eat gochujang-spiked beef tartare and coal-roasted carrots while lounging in one of the city’s most impressive dining rooms.
3. Kogi Taqueria
Papi Chulo is back at it again with a renewed sense of taco vigor, and the fine people of Palms are reaping the benefits. The Kogi brick and mortar is way more than just a food truck sans wheels: Choi is cooking up a menu of taqueria classics like carne asada, pollo asado, and carnitas (you can get them in either taco or burrito form) alongside the old fusion standbys like the Blackjack Quesadilla and calamari taco with gochujang.
Chef Gavin Mills, formerly of Wood & Vine, is bringing his Mediterranean, charcuteri-forward stylings to Downtown. The menu is big, the space is bigger, and the whiskey selection is the biggest. With the towering Wilshire Grand set to open across the street, the restaurant will likely soon be flooded with hotel guests getting down with some cured pork products and rare whiskey.
Flour tortillas are back in style, and they don’t get much better than the chewy, blistery ones at this new Baja-inspired taco joint. Co-owners Ari Ampudia and Cameron Wallace, a former baker at San Francisco’s Tartine, started Loqui as a pop-up featuring Northern Mexican-style carne asada tacos and they’ve found their permanent home at the new Platform development in Culver City. The Westside’s taco scene will be forever grateful for it.
6. Baran’s 2239
This is one of the quieter, more exciting openings we’ve seen in a long time. Chef Tyler Gugliotta, formerly of the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, opened Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach last week, and not many seemed to notice, despite a fantastic pedigree in the kitchen, and an ambitious menu that spans the entire globe. Nosh on pork jowl with gooseberries, duck confit poutine, or hamachi crudo with aji amarillo.
7. 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.
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.
9. 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.