dineLA’s Restaurant Week returns for the second time in 2015 from July 13-26, featuring over 340 options. This time, dineL.A. has requires participating restaurants to offer at least a 15% value, when compared to exiting menu items, and encourages restaurants to create an exclusive dish. You’ve only got 28 meals to work with. Make your calendar count.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Border Grill (Santa Monica) ($20)
This mainly Mexican restaurant from chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger remains an enduring classic. For Restaurant Week, they’ve created different menus at their two L.A. locations, and I’d give the edge to Santa Monica’s selection.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Squash Blossom Quesadilla • Baby Back Rib Tacos • Espresso Flan
2. Cardamom ($15)
This modern Indian restaurant from Nasir Syed and chef Badrul Alam Chowdhury, with input from consulting chef-uncle Manju Choudhury, has a promising menu for Restaurant Week, particularly at lunch.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Lamb Samosa • Madras Machli Curry
3. Catch & Release ($25)
This fun New England-esque seafood spot from Chef Jason Neroni and Sprout Restaurant Group has a strong line-up at both lunch and dinner, though I can’t help thinking a leisurely Marina del Rey lunch is the way to go.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Ho Jo Clam Strips • Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy • Espresso Flan
4. Connie and Ted’s ($25)
This nouveau seafood palace from chef Michael Cimarusti and front of house partner Donato Poto, with Chef Sam Baxter leading the culinary charge, doesn’t look like any seafood shack you’d find in Rhode Island or Maine, which is fine by me. Cimarusti sources impeccable seafood, though that burger sure is tempting.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Jo’s Wicked Good Chowda’ Sampler • Hook Burger • Whoopie Pie
5. Farsi Cafe ($15)
Farsi Cafe’s owners started with a counter at Westwood’s Super Sun market and stockpiled enough resources to take over the fashionable restaurant next door. Their saffron-stained chicken drumsticks are good as ever.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Mast O Khiar • Chicken Drumsticks Kabob
6. Ford’s Filling Station ($20)
Ben Ford traded downtown Culver City for the big lights of L.A. LIVE, and his cooking has progressed since he helped lead L.A.’s gastropub charge more than a decade back.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Charred Octopus Flatbread • Halibut
7. Fundamental LA ($15)
Fundamental LA owners Woogene Lee and Jeff Faust continue to follow through on their serious ambitions, Chef Philip Pretty has made sure dinner has become even more advanced, and satisfying. Their dineL.A. lunch remains one of the best deals in town.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Smoked Brisket Sandwich • Dirty Potato Salad • Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies • Real Vanilla Cream Soda
8. Gusto ($25)
This intimate Mid-City Italian restaurant from chef Vic Casanova and wife Jessa features exposed wood rafters and red and white walls lined with mirrors. Casanova and a Puglian chef make all the pastas in-house. Their impeccably sourced ingredients and layers of flavor now factor into lunch as well.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Polpette Alla Napoletana • Bucatini All’Amatriciana • Chocolate Budino
9. Ohana Poke Co. ($15)
Eric Park recently flipped his Hero Shop in downtown’s Historic Core, trading sandwiches for Hawaiian-style poke. As Stitch said, “Ohana means family.” Hopefully that spirit serves the space even better.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): White Heirloom Sushi Rice, Ohana Shoyu, Ponzu Crunchy Noodles • Mexican Pop • SPAM Musubi
10. Pez Cantina ($20)
Bret Thompson, co-founder of MILK ice cream shop, is now focused Mexico at the Bunker Hill restaurant he opened with wife Lucy. Considering the oceanic design flourishes and the name Pez, fish should be a focus when ordering.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Habanero Mustard • Salt, Pepper and Lime Calamari • 2 Loreto Style Fish Tacos
11. Plan Check Kitchen + Bar ($25)
Chef Ernesto Uchimura is always innovating for Restaurant Week. This time, you can of course find plenty of burgers in all three Plan Check locations, but he also dips into the sea and serves donuts.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Griddled Corn Cake • Crispy Soft Shell Crab Sandwich • Old Bay Fries • Cole Slaw • Yuzu Soda
12. The Polo Lounge ($25)
This celebrity hideaway and historic power lunch spot features pink walls and a setting that’s well-suited for hanging out. Executive chef Kaleo Adams has constructed an upscale but approachable menu.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Tortilla Soup • Polo Lounge Burger • French Fries • Mocha Double Chocolate Ice Cream Pie