Whether it’s the essence of the food, the view, or how the fabric of the city seems woven into the experience, certain restaurants in L.A. make you happy you live here. Go ahead and revisit an old flame, or better yet, start a new love affair.
On the edge of Chinatown, Philippe The Original is one of two restaurants that claims to have created the city’s iconic French dip. Philippe Mathieu opened up shop in 1908, moved here in 1951, and not much has changed. There’s still sawdust on the floor and a deli counter that attracts hungry diners like moths to the flame. You can have the French Dipped with beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or pastrami as a single dip, double dip, or wet. You’ll want to side it with macaroni salad or a pickled pig’s foot, perhaps, plus something sweet like lemon meringue pie or tapioca pudding. It’s nostalgia on a tray.
On the Westside sits another legend, the circa 1947 Apple Pan, as pure of a hamburger hut as you’ll find. Celebrities, tourists, and patrons who’ve been ordering the Steakburger or Hickoryburger since they were children are all equal while waiting for seats at the U-shaped counter. Behind it, stoic servers take orders, slap patties on the sizzling grill, and scribble tickets with scant eye contact. It’s tough love that materializes in extra ketchup on a plate. And as for the namesake pie, it’s served warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
If it takes a stirred martini to loosen your inhibitions, then head to Hollywood’s Musso & Frank Grill for cool, icy perfection in a glass. Take it at the mahogany bar so you can watch the red-jacketed bartenders deftly mix the classic, pouring the extra into a sidecar you may want to dive into.
Pacific Surf &Turf
Though some who live east of the 405 may forget it, one of L.A.’s treasures is its coastline, and Mastro’s Ocean Club in Malibu frames a heart-stopping view of the Pacific. Waves crash just below diners who load up on shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, and a winning surf and turf selection. From sunset to moonglow, this ocean view softens the hardest of hearts.
Where best to remind yourself that you love living next to the world’s largest urban national park? Try the hunting lodge-chic Saddle Peak Lodge and relish the grandeur of the Santa Monica Mountains (that’s Saddle Peak above you) while dining on an exotic game-centric menu that’s got elk and emu next to more usual dishes like chicken and trout.
Sometimes to fully see the one you love, you have to step back or, in this case, go 24 floors up. The view from WP24 by Wolfgang Puck is unparalleled: the city and the mountains beyond are the backdrop for a modern Chinese menu from a chef who changed the way the city dined and, fittingly, brought a love of California cuisine to the rest of the world.