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.
Whenever you see Kris Tominaga’s name attached to a restaurant—like The Hart & the Hunter and Cadet—you know there’s going to be some tasty food. Mardi, the new restaurant tucked into Palihouse’s gorgeous courtyard, follows that line. The larger-format entrees, such as a slab of schnitzel-ed headcheese decked out with grape radishes and aioli sing, but don’t neglect the lighter options like roast carrots with sesame date butter. Palihouse, 8465 Holloway Drive, 323-656-4020.
2. Smorgasburg L.A.
Ok, so it’s not exactly a restaurant, but if you’re looking for a physical location you can show up to with a fistful of dollars and expect to eat large quantities of incredible food, Smorgasburg is it. There are roughly 100 vendors, ranging from fusion paratha tacos, to that edible breast implant known as a raindrop cake, to crazy inventive pastries and toast from L.A. chef dream team Smoke, Loaf & Saucer. The lines can get long, but there’s more than enough to keep you entertained. 746 Market Ct., Downtown, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. every Sunday.
It does exist! The first plans for the restaurant were unveiled almost a year ago, and, finally, this chic Kappo-style joint is open downtown. Chef David Schlosser, who used to be the private chef to an American ambassador in Japan and also did a stint at Urasawa here in L.A., is making waves with dishes like crispy-fried monkfish karaage and wasabi-crusted wagyu. 815 S. Hill St., Downtown, 213-265-7923.
4. The Cannibal
The anchor restaurant has finally dropped at Platform in Culver City. The Cannibal, a New York transplant that focuses on butchery, craft beer, and cycling (??) is officially open for dinner serving creative twists on charcuterie classics like matcha chicken liver mousse and a cochinita pibil-inspired head cheese. Or, during the daytime, stop by the butcher counter for lunch to grab meaty sandwiches like the pig’s head cuban and spicy meatball with kimchi marinara. Don’t forget the housemade chicharrones. 8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-2783.
5. Chica’s Tacos
The newest player in Downtown’s burgeoning taco game has been garnering buzz for their innovative takes on the classics. Longtime hospitality veterans Jon Blanchard, Chris Blanchard, and Nico Rusconi transformed a 700-square-foot space into their own personal taco lab, topping an Ensenada-style fish taco with Caesar salad and creating a vegetarian version of chorizo using cauliflower. The tortillas are coming from renowned tortilleria La Princesita, and the aguas frescas—like watermelon cinnamon and lavender canteloupe—are all made fresh. 728 S. Olive St., Downtown, 213-896-0373.
Silver Lake has got it good these days, what with a new 365 Market by Whole Foods and this pretty new seafood destination opening in the same week. The enterprise comes from Beau Laughlin, former head of Cardiff Giant Hospitality, which brought us such spots as the Churchill and the Hudson, as well as partners Brett Cranston and Jay Milliken. Here, things are focused squarely on the food, which skews pan-coastal and comes from chef Alex McWilliams and sous chef Joel Weidl (formerly of Egg in Brooklyn). Expect soft shell crab sandwiches on black bread, salt cod brandade, sweet corn and razor clam chowder, and skate wing with yam fries—so yeah, seafood. Brunch will launch soon, and there’s a Clover juice bar from the same gang right nextdoor. 3709 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-641-3709.
It’s been almost a year since we first noticed a little taco spot opening in a former auto body shop on the edge of up-and-coming Frogtown. It’s finally here, and so far the only thing up in the air is if it’s more of a destination for its Sonoran-style grilled meats, its wines, craft beers, and cocktails made for patio pounding, or its palm-shaded terrace. The man behind the wood-fire grill is none other than Mexicali co-owner Esdras Ochoa. Co-owner Billy Silverman was hoping to capture a bit of that Austin outdoor vibe, and threw in plenty of loungey seating and fire pits to encourage lingering. 2490 Fletcher Dr., Frogtown.
8. Howlin Ray’s
It’s one of the hottest restaurants 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. 727 N. Broadway #128, Chinatown, 213-935-8399.
This Little Tokyo newcomer is serving up Mediterranean-ish small plates and craft cocktails to the late-night crowd. Chef Duke Gervais, formerly of Pizza Antica, us using those oven skills to top pies with unusual combos like charred octopus with radicchio cream sauce and chorizo arabbiata with shishito peppers. Cocktails are serious business here, so don’t shy away from the likes of the Smoky Negroni, which subs in mezcal for gin. 243 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo, 213-947-3329.
10. 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. 3500 Overland Ave., Palms, 424-326-3031.