When I first visited L.A. from New York 17 years ago, my friends who lived here made us a dinner reservation at 7 p.m. None of us was over 60 or had kids yet. We weren’t going to a concert afterward. There wasn’t a confluence that day of group jet lag, daylight saving time, and an emergency citywide lunch ban. Eating, it seemed to me then, was just one more thing Angelenos had to accomplish before going to sleep early so they could get up at dawn for a busy day of hiking, yoga, and meetings about projects that will never get made.
All the best eating cities—Paris, New York, San Sebastián, London, Las Vegas—eat late, so I figured daylight dinners were another sign that L.A. didn’t care about food, kind of like scooping out the bagel from bagels. But now that I’ve lived here for nearly a decade, I realize I was wrong. By eating earlier, L.A. is actually foodier. You don’t enter a restaurant at 10 p.m. because duck confit tastes better when the night is still and you can focus on its flavors; you go because you want to get wasted first. People who eat at 10 aren’t coming from work; they’re coming from a bar. Or two. The finest restaurants in the world have to cater to the equivalent of Mardi Gras attendees, except none of them has the decency to show her breasts.
You can only truly judge a chef when your inhibitions are still up. You wouldn’t stumble hammered into the Getty at 11 p.m. to appreciate the works of James Ensor. That’s why, if you want to enjoy the five-plus courses at Trois Mec, Ludo Lefebvre (who saw the errors of Paris and Vegas when he worked there) makes you do it either at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. Your taste buds aren’t dulled by alcohol. Plus, if you pack in the focaccia di Recco, affettati misti, short ribs, and tomahawk pork chop at Chi Spacca at 7, you have time to ward off the meat nightmares.
But Los Angeles didn’t figure out the right time to eat because it’s full of genius gourmands. No, Angelenos discovered early dining, like all great innovations, by accident. Charles Bukowski aside, we are not a drinking town. We are a marijuana town, and stoners will not wait to eat.