Los Angeles

LA's Best New Restaurants of 2018

Alta West Adams
Alta West Adams
Alta West Adams

2018 was an important year in LA’s restaurant scene, for reasons both obvious and obscure. At the top of the year we were at the center of global culinary interest, thanks to many mainstream publications “discovering” LA in 2017 and wondering whether we’d live up to the hype. We were also under the microscope for a tragic reason: the undisputed culinary voice of the city, Jonathan Gold, passed away sadly in July. His absence has meant eaters and explorers alike have lost one of the most reliable ways to find amazing food in the city.

Alongside those challenges, though, tons of new restaurants opened up, with some of them riding out beyond their hype to claim 2018 supremacy. We’ve picked out the best openings of the past 12 months, from a downtown sequel that’s become one of the hottest tables in town to a legit Sichuan spot finally popping up outside of San Gabriel Valley. LA’s restaurant scene has never been more exciting — and here are some of the reasons why.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Bavel

DowntownThe Bestia team’s Middle-Eastern sequel
The best sequels improve the original — think The Empire Strikes Back, or The Godfather II — and Bavel is one of the best. The second restaurant from Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, Bavel is the follow-up to Bestia, a perennial Eat Seeker favorite from the day it opened and arguably the restaurant that most defines Los Angeles’s dining scene as a whole. The duo could have played it safe, piggybacking on Bestia’s legacy of fresh Itali-Cali food, and no one would have blamed them, but they didn’t: instead, they took Middle Eastern flavors and gave them the same care and treatment they did with Italian flavors at Bestia. The result is supple, smooth hummus; gorgeous, fluffy pita (with a fried option that’s up there among the best breads in LA), and the signature lamb neck shawarma, which comes on the bone, flaking off delicately before bursting with flavor in your mouth. The design is beautiful, the food is meticulously prepared, and the vibe is casual. In other words, it’s another perfect LA restaurant — a sequel that stands proud alongside what came before it.

APL Restaurant
APL Restaurant
APL Restaurant

APL

HollywoodA next-level steakhouse serving the greatest meat you’ll eat all year
Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s in a tourist-trap area of town. Yes, chef Adam Perry Lang’s best friend is Jimmy Kimmel, which means this is sort of a celebrity hang. Bite-for-bite, though, the best piece of meat I had all year was APL’s 100-day rib-eye, carved off the bone with one of those hand-forged “felony knives” that are always tempting to slip into a purse or pocket. The whole menu’s as insanely delicious as the steaks Lang’s aging downstairs (if you ask really nicely they might let you see the room where the magic happens): the roasted cauliflower is savory and sweet, and the French onion soup is the best I’ve ever had. Is it worth the price? Debatable, but if money is no object, you should have no objections.

Ma'am Sir
Ma’am Sir
Ma’am Sir

Ma’am Sir

SilverlakeFine Filipino food that’s more than just a trend
The idea of Filipino food being the “next big thing” in dining has been around since at least 2012; Thrillist’s own food editor Khushbu Shah wrote a piece just last year about how problematic those sorts of cultural identifiers can be. With that in mind, let’s not say Ma’am Sir — a trendy Filipino spot in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the country — is proof that Filipino food has arrived, so much as it’s proof that modern eaters are open to just about any regional cuisine so long as it’s delicious. The hangover rice is one of the standouts (a fried-rice dish topped with an egg and peppered with sweet longanisa sausage); the oxtail is served in a thick, salty base that’s absolutely craveable; and the bread is essentially a vessel for coconut butter that hits the top of your mouth with sweetness and saltiness at once. Trendy? Who cares. First and foremost, this place is delicious.

 Benedicte Castillo
Benedicte Castillo
Benedicte Castillo

Farmhouse

Mid-WilshireThe pinnacle of ultra-fresh eats… served in a mall
People who take “best-of” lists way too seriously are going to have a field day with this pick, thanks to it being in the bottom floor of the city’s most laboriously reconstructed mall, the Beverly Center. Here’s the thing, though: all of the pretentiousness inherent in this spot, which calls itself “seed-to-table cuisine” and counts a farmer as one of its most visible partners, actually works in its favor. The fresh ingredients here truly are fresher thanks to that aforementioned farmer: sharp vegetables and fruit lend major flavor to the dishes, which change seasonally based on said farmer’s crops, and he’s even growing his own grains for the flour used in the pasta and breads. You can taste the difference, and what Farmhouse gives up in menu consistency it makes up for flavor and robustness. Call it a brightly-lit dark horse pick.

Dylan and Jeni
Dylan and Jeni
Dylan and Jeni

SLAB

Mid-WilshireLA has crowned a new BBQ king
There were tons of reasons to be skeptical about SLAB, the first brick-and-mortar restaurant from Burt Bakman, whose Instagram phenomenon Trudy’s Underground BBQ literally was just Bakman — a former real estate agent — serving brisket out of his backyard on the weekends. The city has problems with open-air smokers, so his setup inside was going to be a different beast, and Bakman was teaming up with H. Wood — a restaurant group known more for sceney hangs than phenomenal food. But fans of Trudy’s can rest easy: though it’s just opened (it’s the newest restaurant on this list), it’s not a stretch to say that SLAB is serving the best Texas-style BBQ in LA, with that brisket perfectly peppered and moist, and chicken that smacks you in the mouth with flavor. They were out of pulled pork and ribs when we stopped by, but if your neighborhood BBQ spot’s running out of food at 1pm, that’s a good thing. This is the closest to Franklin’s that you can get without buying a ticket to Austin. Run, don’t walk.

Sichuan Impression
Sichuan Impression
Sichuan Impression

Sichuan Impression

West LASGV-quality Chinese food, without the drive
Perhaps Jonathan Gold’s lasting legacy on the city (other than using “perhaps” at the top of sentences about food) was opening up communities like the San Gabriel Valley to people who didn’t speak the languages most prevalent there, demystifying food and embracing the entire melting pot of LA culture in the meantime. It’s almost a testament to Gold, then, that Sichuan Impression, one of his Top 99 picks for years, has expanded far out of the SGV into West LA — only a couple-dozen miles geographically, but worlds away audience-wise from the enclave the original restaurant is located in. Sichuan Impression’s West LA flavors — peppercorn and sesame and ginger and more — are just as robust as they are in Alhambra, suggesting not just a saved drive for anyone from the westside craving authentic flavor, but that the geographic limitations on cooking with those flavors are nowhere near as limited as they once seemed.

Liz Clayman
Liz Clayman
Liz Clayman

Nomad

DowntownNY’s beloved hotel/restaurant takes a winning leap west
At the beginning of the year, when it opened, the hype around the Nomad was huge — and then it subsequently fell flat. Run by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara (the same team that takes care of the Big Apple location), the LA outpost’s early offerings seemed far too formal for the city; reports were not positive. A couple of re-tools later, though, and the restaurant at Nomad — in a two-story room that feels both classic and modern all at once — has become a totally lovely, absolutely delicious choice for special-occasion meals or treat-yo’self nights. Though the whole roasted chicken stuffed with foie gras and black truffle is the signature dish, it’s expensive (and admittedly overrated): there are plenty of other amazing choices on the menu, including a creative large-format duck and a sort of make-your-own-taco uni.

Majordomo
Majordomo
Majordomo

Majordomo

DowntownDavid Chang’s first LA restaurant is (unsurprisingly) a winner
The Majordomo story parallels Nomad’s in a lot of ways: beloved NYC restaurateur drops down in LA amid a sea of buzz, disappoints initially, then finds their feet. In Majordomo’s case, though, that chef is David Chang, one of the best-known, most recognized chefs in the US; the pressure was on. Though the APL short rib was an early standout, the whole boiled chicken here is one of the best dishes I ate all year: once done, it’s served in two ways, the first being a next-leveled Hainan chicken (absolutely delicious), and the second a meaty chicken noodle/vegetable soup (also completely delicious).

Petit Trois
Petit Trois
Petit Trois

Petit Trois

Sherman OaksThe Valley finally gets the brunch-and-more spot it deserves
Ludovic Lefebvre’s outpost of his Hollywood restaurant is less notable for its food (though that, of course, is exemplary as well) than its location: by opening in Sherman Oaks, Lefebvre has basically opened the floodgates to fine-dining chefs taking up residency and setting up businesses in the 818. Sure, others have come before him — we’re looking at you, Philip Franklin Lee, and we appreciate you — but dishes like Lefebvre’s signature omelette being available in the Valley at an always-packed restaurant can only mean other known chefs are chomping at the bit to sign their paperworks, too.

Rob Stark Photography
Rob Stark Photography
Rob Stark Photography

Simone

DowntownArts district opening that was worth the wait
On paper, Simone shouldn’t work: the much-anticipated restaurant from Jessica Largey is in an unlikely location, and the layout is, frankly, a bit weird. Thanks to Largey’s preternatural skill with flavors, though, a restaurant that should’ve just been an OK place to grab a bite and spot a celeb is instead home to some of the most interesting dishes of the year. The sturgeon and the squash (yes, the squash) are the homeruns, but even Simone’s more inconsistent dishes bubble with creativity and passion — plus, it’s an added bonus to try to overhear the conversation at the next table to see if you can get any spoilers for Infinity War.

Alta Adams

West AdamsLegit California soul food in a rapidly changing neighborhood
Alta Adams’ mere existence is controversial: the new California-inspired soul food spot from Daniel Patterson is emblematic of the gentrification in West Adams, a historically African-American neighborhood that’s seen all of the patterns of modern “development” in the past few years. That said, Alta Adams is proving to be a restaurant the community can stand behind, with chef Keith Corbin serving dishes that reflect his childhood in Watts: green beans simmered in tomatoes and spice, fried chicken that’s crispy and moist, unbattered black-eyed pea fritters with a glorious, rich herb sauce, and a bechamel-laden mac-and-cheese that’s rich and soul-cleansing. Every neighborhood deserves great restaurants, and though this one’s just getting started, it has every hallmark of being a mainstay.Sign up here for our daily LA email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun Los Angeles has to offer.

Jeff Miller is very proud that he ate at all these places and still lost 43lbs this year. He’s keeping track of all that stuff at @jeffslosingit on Instagram.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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