The single greatest thing about L.A.’s best restaurants is that they’re led by dreamers and risk-takers—chefs and owners who embrace change and dare to put it all out there, whether “it” means the obscurest Japanese delicacies or one man’s obsession with Nashville hot chicken. In 2016, they reshaped a landscape already stripped of fine dining’s trappings. We said our good-byes to white tablecloths long ago, but even by recent standards, the exceptional restaurants of the past year are a boundary-pushing bunch. Meat-eating chefs celebrated vegetable-based cooking without necessarily going vegetarian (then again, our favorite restaurant went vegan). A culinary incubator challenged the definition of a restaurant while bringing us exalted Chinese American food and introducing a broader audience to Filipino tasting menus. Even a quick-serve counter made our list with that spicy (we’re talking mouth-searing) fried chicken. Yeah, it’s freaking hot—like L.A.’s dining scene.