Is it just us, or is anyone else completely reliant on national months and days to keep their calendars in check? While occasions like National Pi Day (March 14) prompt us to treat ourselves, International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (all March long) are timely reminders that not all of us come into this world equipped with the same privileges, and some have to work extra hard to achieve the same successes that are automatically afforded to others.
This is especially true for women in the food and beverage industry. According to the U.S. Labor Department, fewer than 20% of working chefs are women, despite making up more than half of culinary graduates. When it comes to senior roles, the numbers are even more abysmal, with women comprising just 7% of head chefs and restaurateurs across America. As an industry, food and beverage presents additional challenges for working mothers who often work outside typical childcare hours and lack standard employee benefits like paid leave and health insurance.
And yet, more and more women in LA’s restaurant scene are successfully surmounting these obstacles, bringing diners one-of-a-kind food concepts and also making it easier for a new generation of women chefs and restaurateurs to join their efforts. In January, the new, women-led nonprofit Regarding Her Food, launched a 10-day festival celebrating the city’s women-owned restaurants with special menus, chef collaborations, and live discussions, plus an ongoing grant program to provide essential funds to restaurateurs in need. Thanks to efforts like these, LA’s women-owned restaurants are finally getting some of the support they deserve.
So branch out of your usual takeout routine and try some of our favourite women-led restaurants throughout LA County, for Oaxacan, Ethiopian, Filipino, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, vegan fare and more.
Any list of LA’s acclaimed women restaurateurs would be incomplete with powerhouse duo Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. The pair launched their first Border Grill, a modern Mexican restaurant, in LA in 1985, and have since expanded the chain to include a location in the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas. Located in Santa Monica’s Gateway Hotel, Socalo is a seasonally-driven Cal-Mexican restaurant serving small-batch spirits, Mexican wines, and craft beers. Menu standouts include lamb birria tacos, with slow-braised lamb shoulder, consomé, escabeche, and tomatillo mint salsita, and the duck carnitas cassoulet, with Salvadoran red beans, Spanish chorizo, and fennel. How to order: Walk-ins welcome, but reservations are recommended and can be made on OpenTable; order takeout and delivery via Toast.
Named after the two most important ingredients in any dish, Love & Salt is helmed by Sylvie Gabriele, whose father Guy Gabriele ran the successful French restaurant Cafe Pierre in the same location from 1977 until 2014, when it was rebirthed as Love & Salt. The restaurant features Italian-inspired cuisine with a Cal-fresh sensibility, resulting in dishes like Creste di Gallo Midollo with bone marrow, roasted garlic, parsley, parmesan, and cracked black pepper, and intriguing wood-oven pizza options, like their anchovy and caper pie with salted anchovies, fried capers, basil, Calabrian chili, and San Marzano tomatoes. The cocktail and wine list make the restaurant a favorite for weekend brunch and they offer their most popular cocktails, wines, and beers in their Booze Shop for takeout and delivery. How to order: Make reservations for outdoor dining or order pickup or delivery via their website.
Chef/owner Sandra Cordero was raised between the bustling city centre of Amsterdam and the rural, close-knit villages in the Galicia region in Spain, a dual heritage that’s reflected in each dish at Gasolina Cafe, which Cordero opened in 2015. Seasonally driven, sustainably raised, and locally sourced ingredients elevate what would be simple breakfast items like avocado toast, patatas bravas, and a chorizo omelet, into near religious experiences. Even more exciting, Cordero is launching a dinner service this month, which will likely feature tapas rotations as well as her take on paella. How to order: Walk-ins welcome for patio dining; pickup and delivery via their website.
Founded in 2014 by husband-and-wife Michael and Kwini Reed, Poppy+Rose has earned its way onto an array of “Best Breakfast” and “Best Chicken and Waffles” lists and for good reason. Southern comfort dishes with fresh ingredients are the main draw here, with menu highlights including a buttermilk fried chicken and waffle, and the less-expected Kitchen Sink Bowl with sunny side up eggs, jasmine and basmati brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, kale, green onion, pickled carrot, chilli, bacon, and BBQ pulled pork. Located directly across the street from the Original LA Flower Market, we’ve long decreed Poppy + Rose as the perfect way to fuel up before or after hitting the market. How to order: Reservations are required for patio dining and can be made via OpenTable; order pickup or delivery via Chownow.
Interstellar is defined as the space occurring between two stars, and in the case of chef/owner Angie Kim, those stars are her Korean and American heritages, with her menu acting as an ongoing homage to the flavours and dishes that shaped her upbringing. The restaurant successfully toes the line between coffee house, sake bar, and all-day restaurant, with plenty of seasonal dishes, and a short but worthwhile menu for those dining with their furry friends. Just make sure you save room for their pink guava cheesecake, served with berries and powdered sugar, that’s back for a limited time due to popular demand. How to order: Order online for pickup and delivery via Doordash and Grubhub.
Hotville Chicken chef/owner Kimberly Prince’s family invented Nashville-style hot chicken almost a century ago, and though the trend’s gone global in recent years, nobody does it quite like the originator. But don’t let the restaurant name or claim to fame narrow your choices unnecessarily: their smokin’ mac and cheese, waffles (only available on weekends), and lemon sour cream pound cake are just as noteworthy as their spicy fried chicken-and the fish, fried and dusted with your preferred level of spice, is also worth an order. How to order: Walk-ins accepted for patio dining or order pickup by calling 323-792-4835.
Founded in 2012 by chef Wes Avila as a roving food cart, Guerrilla Tacos landed in its first brick and mortar home in the Arts District in 2018 where it quickly found success slinging elevated Mexican fare. Last year, Avila stepped away to focus on different projects and his restaurant partner Brittney Valles stepped in as the sole owner. In the last year of the pandemic, Valles has kept the restaurant afloat with inventive offerings like their “Emergency Taco Kit,” which comes complete with two pounds of roasted chicken and carne asada plus all of the fixings (a veggie version is also available with sweet potato), and beefing up their tequila and mezcal-focused cocktail list, with many drinks available bottled or in a kit for takeout orders. How to order: Make reservations for patio dining or order takeout via Toast.
Celeb chef Jazz Singsanong and her late brother Tui Sungkamee took over Hollywood’s favourite strip mall Thai restaurant in 2006, transforming the menu with spicy Southern Thai cuisine that places an emphasis on seafood. Now, Singsanong runs the joint with chef Tui’s daughter, her niece chef Sugar Sungkamee. Passionate about giving back and helping others, Singsanong sells “Jazz is my L.A. mom” t-shirts and stickers, with 100% of proceeds going to three different causes, including a lunch fund for high school students at her alma mater in Thailand. Another can’t-miss LA spot, you’ll want to place your order well in advance of your hunger. How to order: Order takeout by calling 323-667-9809, or delivery via UberEats, Doordash, and Grubhub.
Named by the late Jonathan Gold as the best Oaxacan restaurant in America, Guelaguetza has been family-(and women-)owned since it first opened its doors in 1994. Now that original owners Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio have stepped down, their children Fernando Jr, Paulina, Elizabeth, and Bricia Lopez have eagerly taken over their roles, becoming enthusiastic ambassadors for Oaxacan cuisine. Co-owner Bricia Lopez is also one of the founding members of Regarding Her Food and is credited with helping popularize mezcal across the United States. As Guelaguetza’s website hints (ilovemole.com), the dish to try is mole, which comes in six flavours that range from sweet and smoky to spicy. How to order: Walk-ins accepted for patio dining and reservations can also be made by calling 213-427-0608; order takeout and delivery via Toast.
Though her quietly refined dining room is currently closed, somehow, chef Genet Agonafer manages to imbue each carryout container with the same careful attention that in-person diners came to expect and love from the Ethiopian chef. A long-time vegan, Agonafer sources only the highest quality meats in her dishes and seems to take even greater care in bringing out the flavours and complexities of each cut, resulting in decadent dishes like Mamoshye’s Special Kifto, a steak tartare bathed in Ethiopian butter and spices. Her veggie dishes are similarly inspired, with the vegetarian combo platter representing one of your best options for a healthy and hearty comfort dish. How to order: Call 323-938-9304 for takeout or delivery via Postmates.
One of the founding members of Regarding Her Food, Lien Ta knows all too well the challenges that restaurateurs have been up against throughout this pandemic. In July of 2020, Ta was forced to close her Koreatown restaurant Here’s Looking At You indefinitely, and her all-day breakfast cafe, All Day Baby, launched just months before the pandemic struck, was forced to furlough over 60 employees. And yet, her scrappy Silver Lake operation has continued to hold on, featuring a menu of filling breakfast favourites, plus Southern-inspired dishes like a hot catfish sandwich and half-rack of smoked baby back ribs. Complete with boozy milkshakes, the cocktail menu is similarly compelling, and now, with the patio open for limited seating, All Day Baby represents perhaps the best brunch option in Silverlake. How to order: Walk-ins welcome for patio dining and pickup orders; order online for pickup and delivery.
Chef/owner Minh Phan founded Porridge + Puffs, California’s only Asian porridge restaurant in Historic Filipinotown in 2018, quickly becoming a neighbourhood favourite. Phan opened its sister restaurant Phenakite just weeks before the shutdown took place, and after a year of pumping out porridges, is now pivoting to refocus on this new experiment. Located on Second Home‘s coworking campus, Phenakite seeks to take diners on a journey between air, sea, and land, with a multi-course omnivore menu that places emphasis on seasonal plants and seafood. How to order: Reservations can be made via Tock.
Executive chef Ria Dolly Barbosa combines her traditional French culinary training with the flavours of her Filipino heritage at Petite Peso, resulting in a vibrant menu with each dish acting as a heartfelt homage. With enough food to feed two people, chef Ria’s Kamayan Feast serves as the perfect introduction to her cuisine, with market kinilaw, fresh seafood, specialty meat dish, pancit, lumpia, rice, and dessert. You’ll want to order a glass of calamansi drink, a citrus hybrid fruit cultivated in the Philippines, to wash it all down. How to order: Pickup via Chownow and delivery via DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates.
Twin sisters Sarah and Boo Simms are credited with not just opening LA’s favourite family-owned cheese shop, but also helping to launch a global grazing board movement-even earning their way onto Oprah’s list of favourite things in 2019. Lady & Larder places a focus on American-made seasonal ingredients and specializes in custom edible displays, using seasonal crudités, fruit, cheese, and charcuterie. For those who are unable to stop by the shop in person, the duo also ships curated cheese boards and charcuterie kits, seasonal treats, and gifts nationwide, in addition to offering online classes. How to order:Purchase online for local delivery and pickup.
In June 2020, Moto Ramen owners Sarah Kim-Jenkins and Yuki Nakamoto took over the location that once held the acclaimed Ramen Yamadaya, at the corner of Washington and Sepulveda Boulevards in Culver City, shifting the menu to focus on Okinawa-inspired ramen. One of our favourite ramen spots in the city, Moto’s spicy tonkotsu is perfect for warming your bones on LA’s rare rainy days, while their cold tantanmen-served with a spicy sesame peanut sauce-is a refreshing choice all year long. The restaurant recently reopened their patio for outdoor dining, with a new happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4–6 pm. How to order: Walk-ins welcome for outdoor dining, order online for pickup or call 310-815-8776 directly for local delivery offered at a flat rate of $6.
An Inglewood institution since 1983, Harriet Park’s cheesecakes will make you forget that a well-known “factory” chain of cheesecakes even exists. With new flavours introduced each holiday season, Harriet’s menu now boasts over 65 options, with each cheesecake handmade daily and containing reduced sugar content so as to remain accessible for diabetic diners like Harriet’s son. Having trouble deciding on a flavour? The family-owned dessert shop is known for their infamous sweet potato cheesecake, while apple and spice (inspired by apple pie a la mode) remains Ms. Harriet’s favourite. How to order: Call 310-419-2259 to place orders. Call 24 hours in advance for whole cake orders.
One of the longest continuously family-owned restaurants in the greater LA area, Casa Vega will celebrate its 65th anniversary this year with TBA celebrity partnerships, activations, and more. And while we continue to mourn the recent loss of original owner Rafael “Ray” Vega, who passed away in January at the age of 86, the impact of his daughter Christy Vega’s stewardship over the classic Mexican restaurant is already evident. Casa Vega recently relaunched a drive-thru that makes picking up takeout orders a breeze, and just kicked off a Margarita Monday series, featuring Ray’s award-winning margaritas for just $5 every Monday from 4:30–7 pm. How to order: Patio reservations can be made on Resy and prepaid pickup orders can be placed via Tock.
Perhaps Pasadena’s favourite fine-dining restaurant, and certainly a contender for best Northern Italian cuisine across the greater LA area, Union is led by Marie Petulla, who brings two decades of hospitality experience to the restaurant, helping to secure it as a destination for locally sourced, market-fresh items, from handmade pastas to sustainably raised seafoods and meats. The restaurant recently debuted a raised wooden deck for outdoor seating and is preparing for the launch of U Street Pizza, which is scheduled to open next door to Union this spring. Petulla is also the restaurateur behind Grand Central Market’s Knead & Co, an ode to Italian-American classics using fresh, small-batch ingredients, and Red Jungle, a chicken wing spot for health-conscious diners. How to order: Make reservations for patio dining online, order pickup via Toast, or delivery via Postmates.
With all of the various challenges that women chefs and restaurateurs already face, we can’t imagine the additional hurdles encountered by those who champion niche diets like plant-based cuisine. Chef Babette of Stuff I Eat has been vegan for over 30 years, long before food challenges like Veganuary made it cool to cut out the meat. Even more impressive, Stuff I Eat specializes in rich Tex Mex cuisine-none of that so-called rabbit food that many believe vegan eaters are forced to subsist on-with hearty enchilada pies and a soul food platter complete with mac and cheese, yams, kale greens, black eyed peas, coleslaw, potato salad, and a cornbread muffin, plus your choice of bbq tofu or jackfruit. How to order: Call 310-671-0115 for takeout; delivery via Postmates.
Chef/owner Shirley Chung infuses her background as a Beijing native and Chinese American into this modern fast-casual restaurant, with everything on the menu, including breads, dumpling wrappers, noodles, sauces, and more, made in house. The result is fun, inspired dishes like Chung’s jumbo cheeseburger potstickers (a dish that sealed her Top Chef victory) and tea-smoked duck with steamed lotus buns. With similarly compelling brunch (get the house-made scallion pancake), dessert (mochi doughnuts and shaved ice!), and cocktail (think boozy Thai teas, lychee and passion fruit drinks) menus, there’s no question that you’ll be back to sample all of chef Chung’s delicious creations. How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made on Yelp, call 424-361-5225 for pickup, or delivery via Grubhub.
After three years of popping up at local farmers markets, chef/owner Soozee Nyugen opened her first brick and mortar for Wild Chive in LBC’s Bluff Park in June 2020, serving up soulful, stick-to-your-ribs vegan cuisine, with dishes like stuffed chik’n pot pie croquettes, fried oyster mushroom po’boys, and a stacked Southern-fried chik’n sandwich. The restaurant is only open for delivery and takeout currently, but fingers crossed that we’ll soon be able to enjoy Nyugen’s weekend brunch on-site! How to order: Takeout and delivery via Toast.
In 2017, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer opened a full-service all-day concept known as Kismet, which specialized in Cal-Med fare like flaky Yemenite bread, mezze platters served with farmer’s market crudites, and lamb meatballs. More recently, they expanded to open Kismet Rotisserie down the block, whose to-go friendly roast chicken and sides concept was a lifesaver when COVID struck in March of 2020. Now both concepts are open and offering take-out and delivery for dinner only, with no return to outdoor dining yet in sight. Snag takeout at Rotisserie and you’ll take home a quarter, half or whole roasted chicken with sides like wedge salad, pickled veg, homemade hummus and may we also recommend the schmaltzy potatoes. How to order: Takeout and delivery via Doordash.
Food writers Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer decamped from NYC and Chicago respectively to open this local favourite back in 2017, specializing in Cal-Med fare with a farmer’s market-driven ethos. The ultimate slashie concept also includes a market at the front of the space where customers can take home pantry items like house-made dukkah, natural wines, and other staples. Botanica even has its own online brand magazine. When COVID-19 struck, after some stops and starts, the restaurant continued with outdoor dining in their dreamy string-lit back patio in the summer and fall. However, post winter surge, it’s takeout and delivery only for now. How to order: Via Toast and Doordash.
This brand spanking new chicken joint flew into Silver Lake this week from chef/owner Mei Lin, who closed her popular James-Beard nominated restaurant, Nightshade in DTLA, in the wake of COVID-19. The new fast-casual concept is pandemic friendly and specializes in Szechuan hot fried chicken tenders. Order them up solo or in sandwich form which comes dressed with coleslaw and pickles. And don’t forget fries on the side with hot honey or habanero ranch. How to order: Via website
Led by chefs Niki Nakayama and sous chef Carole IIda-Nakayama, this high-end Japanese concept is one of very few sushi restaurants helmed by women in the country if not the world. Opened in 2011, the restaurant specializes in kaiseki, which is a type of multi-course Japanese dinner that combines elements of omakase sushi mixed with cooked non-sushi items. In pandemic times, the restaurant has pivoted to to-go only which is available for $125 in pre-paid, order-ahead format. How to order: Via Tock
After sadly closing her OG LA Mediterranean restaurant, Lucques, at the very start of the pandemic (and unrelated to COVID), Suzanne Goin’s wine bar concept A.O.C. luckily still remains. Popular for both brunch and dinner, the spot currently offers outdoor dining as well as to-go options featuring a Winter Prix Fixe for $45 that includes dishes like roasted half chicken (“ode to Zuni”) which is a nod to the famed bread-stuffed chicken at SF’s Zuni Cafe. How to order: Book via Opentable or order takeout via Toast.
Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.
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 café with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.
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.
Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and café, 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.
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 café’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.
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.
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.