L.A.’s Restaurant Scene Isn’t Really the Best in the Nation—Yet

Resident intolerable foodie Joel Stein takes Angelenos to task for their collective frat bro palate

L.A. is now officially the best restaurant city in the country. This information was delivered to me by GQ, Eater, and Yahoo Travel’s Eat section—the definitive source of food criticism on Yahoo Travel. These media outlets, however, got it slightly wrong. What they were actually noticing is that L.A. has the best publicists.

Los Angeles is the restaurant city of the future and always will be, but food writers all want to declare that our time has arrived. They stroll the Arts District for four days to convince themselves they’re right. If judged on only four days, any city can be a great restaurant city—save for San Diego.

Reporters get excited about L.A.’s ethnic dishes, the farmers’ markets, and especially the mash-up ethnic dishes made using farmers’ market ingredients. Which is annoying, since their observations mean I can no longer feel superior about pointing out those things. It’s like being at a party with someone who just started watching Transparent.

Why did the L.A. Times’s Jonathan Gold win the only Pulitzer Prize awarded for food criticism? Because he has to work so hard to make this city’s food sound complicated. We have the palates of frat bros. Our best restaurants are places such as Song, Trois Familia, and Roy Choi’s joints, where food is gloppily, sweetly, spicily delicious. That’s also why we have superior burgers, Asian food, and breakfast spots. For a city that closes at 10 p.m., we eat as if we have a permanent hangover.

Yes, we attract acclaimed chefs with our stellar produce, money, and weather. But they quickly become frustrated after learning that half of Hollywood is on a Paleolithic diet; our actors don’t just talk like cavemen, they eat like them, too. Many of our top restaurants fold before I can go a third time: Allumette, Bastide, and most everything David Myers has ever touched. Michelin no longer puts out a guide to L.A. because it would have to be published weekly.

We can indeed evolve gustatorily. We can leave our homes more than once a week, endure 25 minutes of traffic, indulge in a carbohydrate, and eat a dish that requires utensils. Then we just might become the best restaurant city in the country. And all the desperate food writers will be forced to pretend to discover San Diego.