Each Friday, the Digest surveys the burgeoning L.A. restaurant scene and compile this (highly unscientific) list of the most hyped and heralded restaurants in town this instant. Whether old or new, big or small, near or far, these are the restaurants that have people talking. Whatever that means. Anyway, we recommend getting a seat at these places while you still can.
1. Cassell’s Hamburgers
Koreatown’s historic burger counter, which first opened in 1948, has been reborn at the newly refurbished Hotel Normandie. Chef Christian Page (Short Order) is serving house-ground, grass-fed burgers broiled on an old-fashioned griddle, along with classic diner fare like patty melts, hotcakes, and frozen custard, plus a selection of beer and cocktails from the bar for late-nighters. But as with the O.G. Cassell’s, there aren’t any french fries on the premise, only big scoops of potato salad served on the side.
Neal Fraser’s long-awaited restaurant housed in the former rectory of the old St. Vibiana’s cathedral has soft-opened, with a larger grand opening arriving early January. In the meantime, Fraser’s ambitious multicultural roster of dishes includes a riff on pozole with crisp pork belly and chiles, spot prawns with sea urchin and wasabi “snow,” Delicata squash salad with feta and hazelnuts, and a Thai-style Dungeness crab soup.
Chef/charcuterie master Kris Morningstar’s California comfort food, including dishes like veal meatballs, agnolotti with truffled rice filling, and a choucroute garnie with sausage, pork loin, crispy jowl, shank, and house-made sauerkraut, is the primary attraction here. But the stunning patio, and the wine, cocktails, and hospitality from a team led by Stephane Bombet and Francois Renaud all help create what Morningstar calls a “total-package” restaurant.
After opening several restaurants in Eastern SGV, chef Ricardo Diaz (Colonia Taco Lounge, Bizarra Capital) has finally brought his food to the Westside with this upscale taqueria and mezcal bar in Santa Monica. Sip cocktails made with bubble gum-infused mezcal and enjoy tacos featuring dry-aged chorizo and farmer’s cheese, duck confit tamales, or a chicharron quesadilla lined with queso Oaxaca.
Atwater Village has been dying for a charming Italian restaurant, and this new trattoria along Glendale Boulevard fits the bill perfectly. Look for Neapolitan-style pizza from a wood-fire oven as well as pastas, salumi platters, and a intriguing yet affordable wine list.
6. Love & Salt
Chef Michael Fiorelli (formerly of Terranea Resort) is at the helm of Manhattan Beach’s new Cal-Italian restaurant which takes over the Cafe Pierre space. On the menu: corned lamb tongue panini, crispy chicken skins, whole roasted glazed pig head, kale pizzas, and more.
After changing its name from Pete’s to avoid confusion with its previous tenant, Josef Centeno’s latest downtown restaurant boasts a new moniker and a reformatted menu. The kitchen’s focus is still on New American cuisine, however, with meatballs in cream sauce, wedge salads, and grilled seafood cocktails.
8. Eagle Rock Public House
Eagle Rock Brewery’s new pub is much more than a beer bar thanks to Jerry Su, the former sous chef at Son of a Gun who is behind the pass at this neighborhood-friendly restaurant located in the former Fatty’s space. Enjoy oysters, smoked fish dip, potted pork, and pork cheek with brussel sprouts along with a pint of craft beer.
9. Barrel & Ashes
Two Thomas Keller veterans (chefs Tim Hollingsworth and Rory Herrmann) are behind this ambitious barbecue hangout from Bill Chait, which specializes in smoke-kissed brisket and exceptionally tender racks of ribs. Don’t overlook stellar sides like butter-glazed hoe cakes and pork belly baked beans. At the bar, try one of Julian Cox’s easy-drinking, food-friendly cocktails.
10. Status Kuo
The rotisserie trend is red hot and the latest entrant is this Mar Vista neighborhood restaurant run by chef David Kuo. The star of the menu are plates of wood-roasted chicken, tri-tip or porchetta, but you’ll also find fried chicken with cole slaw or housemade noodles topped with “Taiwanese gravy” and pickled mustard greens. The casual all-day eatery aims to please local families too, with a selection of sides and salads ideal for a take-away meal at home.