Each Friday, the Digest surveys the burgeoning L.A. restaurant scene and compiles 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.
After months of anticipation, chefs Ramiro Arvizu and Jaime Martin del Campo’s Baldwin Hills restaurant is finally soft-open. As promised, you’ll find a stunning variety of regional Mexican dishes, tamales steamed to order, and one of the most ambitious mezcal cocktail programs in the city.
2. Odys + Penelope
Fresh off the closure of their acclaimed fine-dining restaurant Hatfield’s, husband-and-wife duo Quinn and Karen Hatfield wasted no time launching Odys + Penelope, a more casual, grill-centric restaurant that channels the type of cooking the Hatfields like to eat in their own home. There are Argentinian-style and Uruguyuan-style grills, offering different levels of char for meats and vegetables, along with a churrasco and a smoker. Don’t forget Karen’s renowned dessert items either.
Inspired by recent trips to Hawaii, Roy Choi decided to flip the concept of his Culver City restaurant A-Frame. The menu now features classic island fare like spicy tuna poke, curry gravy loco moco, Spam musubi, and marinated pipikaula short ribs. You’ll also find tropical and refreshing cocktails like the tiki-inspired Zombie and Pina Cholada. The laid-back, family-style service Choi installed at the original A-Frame is still in place. Mahalo, bruddah.
The new-wave barbecue trend spreads to Silver Lake with this new Kansas City-style smokehouse opened by the owners of nearby Barbarella. As you’d expect, house-smoked links, ribs, and pulled pork slathered in sweet-spicy sauce are the main focus here, though the space also offers a craft beer and bourbon-centric cocktail menu that make it a well-balanced addition to the neighborhood.
Neal Fraser’s long-awaited restaurant has opened in the former rectory of the old St. Vibiana’s cathedral. 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.
6. Ramen Champ
Chinatown’s Far East Plaza, currently home to Chego, Pok Pok Phat Thai, and ice cream shop Scoops, is welcoming another new vendor: Ramen Champ. Alvin Cailan of Eggslut is turning his attention to Japan’s most beloved noodle soup, focusing on profoundly porky tonkotsu ramen and izakaya-style dishes like fried chicken karaage and takoyaki “tots.”
7. The Lost Knight
High-end British pub fare is the latest eclectic addition to Echo Park’s growing restaurant scene. Nibble classic Brit dishes like steak pies or fish and chips, or try something lighter like the pastry crust-wrapped Beet “Wellington.” And because of course what would a pub be without beer, Lost Knight offers an array of locally-brewed, British-style lagers and ales on cask.
The owners of popular vegan spot Elf Café have opened shop in Atwater Village, serving hot-from-the-fryer falafel on house-baked pita bread. There’s also beet and feta sandwiches, and–as a departure from the veg-only mantra–a lamb sandwich with yogurt. Stand inside at the small counter or grab a picnic bench along Glendale Boulevard and indulge in an updated take on one of the world’s oldest street foods.
9. The District by Hannah An
The daughter of Crustacean matriarch Helene An has opened the first restaurant of her own, a bright, luxuriant space in Beverly Grove. The menu doesn’t stray far from An’s Vietnamese roots, with the kitchen preparing Cali-influenced takes on dishes like lemongrass beef noodle soup and wok-roasted lobster.
10. Boiling Crab Westwood
Bruins students haven’t been this excited since Shabazz Muhammad hit the hardwood: The insanely popular Koreatown seafood shack Boiling Crab has opened its newest location smack dab in Westwood, where it’s sure to attract hordes of sticky-fingered students eager to polish off bags of Cajun-spiced crawfish and pitchers of Hite beer. Ah, college life.