For anyone wondering which sit-down restaurants are currently hot in LA right this second, you have arrived at the right figurative Internet place. What does “hot” mean, you ask? Well, it’s safe to say that we put on relatively cute outfits to dine at each restaurant below (possibly even that pair of shoes that make our ankles bleed a little). A night out at one of these places–whether it’s for a casual catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night–feels overwhelmingly of the current moment. Many of them are brand spanking new, but we’ve also listed a couple of old spots that are either doing something new or have finally reopened for the first time in a while.
And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve, so you can plan your dinner confidently.
“What’s going on at Antico?” is a question we’ve asked ourselves many times over the past year. Located in a random, semi-deserted stretch between Larchmont and Koreatown, this rustic Italian restaurant has gone through many phases. At first it was perfectly fine, then it became a really good to-go spot, and now it’s officially one of our favorite places to eat in the entire city. It’s Antico 2.0, and they seem to have fixed a lot of the things that kept it from becoming truly stellar in the before-times: the room is now soundproofed, the décor feels cozy and reminds us of the set of a Hallmark movie, and there’s not a bad dish on the menu. The focaccia is still as thick as a mattress and drenched in olive oil, and the home-style agnolotti are pillows filled with pan drippings that are pinched around the edges. Oh, and if you don’t order at least one of the ice creams at the end, you’ll have to make a return visit, ASAP.
Back when Found opened in 2019, it felt like the sexiest restaurant in the world. It’s not really our style to throw around words like “sexiest restaurant,” but there’s truly no other way to describe it. And we’re happy to report that not a single thing has changed. Anyone cool, anyone with taste, should be dying to head to this tiny, cramped hallway in East Hollywood to eat Little Namskaket oysters while basking in the bright-blue glow of the neighboring Scientology building.
Crudo e Nudo
You’re going to spend a lot of money at Crudo e Nudo. That’s just a fact. But unlike the time you bought a sectional couch from Craigslist, had it delivered all the way to your apartment, and then found out its springs were broken, the dollars spent at this Italian-seafood restaurant in Santa Monica will be totally worth it. The focus here is on sustainable sourcing and minimal waste, which means herbs and vegetables come from farmers’ markets, there’s absolutely no plastic allowed, and the kitchen works with local fisheries and personal friends to find seafood that’s exactly right for them. Which, on paper, kind of sounds like a book report. But you’ll eat clams steamed in wine and fruity olive oil, beautifully plated crudos, and oysters decorated with purple wildflowers. People with Twitter accounts love to say that there’s, “No such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism,” but at Crudo e Nudo, the question becomes, “Well, why not try?”
While we’re still sad that The Pikey closed, the good news is that the people running its replacement, Horses, seemingly understand what it meant to the neighborhood. Beyond the nod to the name, (The Pikey used to be called Ye Coach & Horses) Horses has preserved the dark and casual, anything-is-possible-tonight feel in the main dining room – where the same narrow red booths are already packed and the worn-in wooden bar practically asks you to please sit down and order a vesper. The food is not exactly as accessible as the setting, but that’s not a bad thing. On our first visit, the cornish hen with dandelion panzanella was so juicy and frankly adorable, that we picked up the bones and sucked every morsel of meat off the carcass. The braised cranberry beans and pork chop with baked peach were also tasty. With a $27 burger on the menu, Horses may not be a casual neighborhood hang we’d recommend popping into without a reservation, but it’s absolutely one of the very best new restaurants of the year.
Outside the world of $400 omakases, it’s rare to find a sushi experience that truly surprises us. But that’s exactly what we discovered at Kinkan, a new half-Japanese, half-Thai restaurant in Virgil Village that feels like an intimate dinner party with friends. After running a successful pop-up throughout the pandemic, chef Nan Yimcharoen launched Kinkan 2.0 in early October 2021 on Virgil Avenue in a space filled with mismatched wooden tables, dried flower bouquets, and a full sushi bar. The lunch omakase is cozy and conducted almost like a communal gathering: the entire bar is seated at once with free sake and ice-cold green tea before the chef passes out rounds of hotate scallop, ahi tuna that’s been marinating for 10 days, and uni that tastes a little funky (in a good way). It’s fun and casual, words we usually don’t use when dropping $150 on lunch. They also serve lunch a la carte and a 10-course Thai prix-fixe dinner menu that’s just as special as the daytime affair.
Sunday Gravy feels like a hot, new Italian restaurant in an old-school Italian restaurant’s body. That’s probably because the brother and sister team behind it took over their dad’s pizza joint in Inglewood and gave it a total revamp. Tables are covered in red checkered tablecloths, but the bumping playlist has a mix of ethereal rap and sensual R&B. You can order a classic meatball sub, but they’ve also got a rotating lasagna special featuring options like garlic chicken and creamy spinach. It’s a masterful blend of the past and present, and it’s where we had our favorite Italian-American meal in recent memory. Make it a top priority for your next lazy Sunday dinner.
With a warm earth-tone aesthetic, a meat-and-cheese-heavy menu, and a roaring fireplace in the corner, every aspect of this Puglian restaurant on 3rd Street seems designed to comfort and relax. And that’s about as exciting as it gets as we officially enter holiday season. It’s also refreshing to be in an Italian restaurant in LA that doesn’t serve the same Northern and coastal standards as everyone else. There are only two pastas – and the slightly bitter, al dente orecchiette is a standout. The rest of the menu leans largely on traditional Puglian meat skewers, as well as imported Puglian cheeses that taste great spread across their house-made focaccia.
From the second you round the corner and spot Anajak’s alleyway patio, you’re hit with a sensory overload. There’s a row of white-clothed tables reflecting dramatic shadows on the massive brick wall. You’ll hear R&B blasting over the loudspeaker, and spot chef Justin Pichetrungsi at the far end preparing his 14-course Thai omakase experience for the lucky group who snagged the reservation. It’s one of the most objectively unique and cool dining setups in town right now that’s only heightened by the food coming out of the kitchen. Whether you’re there for the omakase, Tuesday’s taco night, or you simply rolled up with some friends on a random weeknight to drink natural wine, Anajak’s assorted menus are all filled with flavor. There’s perfectly-crunchy fried chicken with a sweet and spicy side sauce we’d buy in bulk, Chinese sausage tostadas topped with mint, and haw mok, a creamy fish curry custard that tastes like a spicy dessert. Anajak has been open in Sherman Oaks for over 40 years and is a case study of reinvention. The time is now to experience it.
At first glance, Melanie looks and feels like many other good wine bars around town. There’s a well-curated list filled with mostly European biodynamic wines, a cute space that feels like a friends’ living room right as the party is starting to peak, and a menu filled with snacks you want to be eating while drinking chilled Beaujolais. But what makes this Beverly Grove spot exciting are the actual people serving you the wine. Melanie’s sommeliers know how to level with you. No question is a dumb question, and they’ll also happily keep offering tastes until you find your match. For food, the mussels are a standout. They’re plump, buttery, and come bathed in a rich, savory vadouvan curry. We also loved the stone fruit toast topped with Iberico jamon, and though it’s not technically on the menu, be sure to ask for a side of their perfectly-crispy shoestring fries. They’ll go great with your next bottle.
Whenever people ask us for a dinner recommendation lately, we find ourselves leaning heavily on Lasita, the Filipino rotisserie spot and wine bar in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. Date night? Go split a chicken and a bottle of wine. Birthday dinner? Go split several chickens and several bottles of wine, and order every sauce and side on the menu. Meetup with a friend? You get the idea. We’ve been fans of this place since its very first iteration as Lasa – a BYOB Filipino pop-up in 2017. While the interior, the management, and the menu have changed a little over the years, many of the same bright and spicy flavors (the electric orange spicy salsita is a non-negotiatable) and friendly faces are there to welcome you for a fun, family-style meal. Plus, no worries about making a reservation way in advance – you should be able to roll up on a Friday night with a group, no problem.
Run by the Los Angeles power duo behind République, this cozy, subterranean spot in the old Sotto space in Beverlywood is a traditional French bistro in every sense of the word. Unlike their other restaurants, the focus here is on simply, heavy French dishes like caramelized onion tarte tatin, crusty baguettes topped with sardines, and beef short ribs served with golden potato mousseline that are so tender, you can slice through them with a butter knife. However, no meal is complete without their escargots en croute – baked in a buttery, flaky pastry crust (which our server instructed us to delicately cut into, before flipping upside down and letting the escargot and its garlic/parsley/butter juices soak through it), it’s exactly what we want to be eating when our cooler, more-cultured alter ego takes over and demands nourishment.
Agnes Restaurant & Cheesery
As you walk through Agnes’s massive barn doors on Green St. in Pasadena, don’t be alarmed if you’re hit with a bucolic-type nostalgia you didn’t even know existed within you. There’s a wine and cheese market up front, a giant hearth roaring in the back, and giant wooden beams soaring across the dining room. The whole place feels like an upscale dairy farm in the Midwest and that’s very much on purpose. Agnes is an homage to the head chef’s Iowa upbringing, with a tremendous menu filled with giant cuts of meat, pasta, and of course, lots and lots of incredible cheese. For native Midwesterners (like myself), seeing things like cheese curds with buttermilk ranch and puppy chow on the menu might make you immediately text a high school friend, “I’m at a restaurant in Pasadena that serves puppy chow.” Don’t feel bad about it. This place is designed to rehash all sorts of childhood comforts – and that’s about as exciting as it gets.
via The Infatuation