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. Aestus ($40)
Chef Alex Ageneau has created one of the Westside’s most inspired dining options, practically in the shadow of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. Top-flight ingredients and creative plating are draws. His grandmother also contributed to the success of the restaurant’s signature dessert.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Beef Tartare • Striped Bass “A La Plancha” • Millet Pudding
2. B.S. Taqueria (30)
Chef Ray Garcia, front of house partner Jacob Shure and Sprout Restaurant Group have a hit on their hands with this colorful taqueria, a more casual precursor to the other project they’ve delivered to downtown: Broken Spanish.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Calabacitas Tacos • Rice and Beans • Shrimp Fideo (Wednesday) • Tres Leches
3. BLD ($30)
This welcoming comfort food emporium from Neal Fraser and wife/partner Amy Knoll Fraser remains a Mid-City warhorse, serving three creative meals every day. Now pastry chef Mariah Swan has helped open ICDC next door, and her donuts are on display for dessert.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Crispy Lamb Belly • Idaho River Trout • Trio of Mini ICDC Doughnuts
4. The Church Key ($40)
Steven Fretz and front of house partner Joseph Sabato have delivered a playful dining experience to the Sunset Strip, with servers pushing dim sum style carts around the dining room, dispensing international eclectic cuisine and “Mad Men” era Pan Am stewardesses dispensing liquid nitro cocktails tableside.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Rigatoni Pasta • Tapioca Crusted Tai Snapper • Brioche Donuts
5. East Borough ($30)
Chef Chloe Tran and John Vu Cao created a modern Vietnamese concept that combines authentic culinary touches with a modern, fun setting. They recently celebrated an anniversary with American Gonzo Food Corp. partners, and are going stronger than ever.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Daikon Rice Cake & Egg • Grilled Hanger Steak • Coconut Milk Panna Cotta
6. Petrossian ($50)
Chef Giselle Wellman proves that just because you have luxury ingredients in your arsenal, food need not be stuffy. She continually proves that Petrossian is willing to have fun with seasonal flavor combinations and plating.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Burrata • King Salmon • Panna Cotta
7. The Royce | Wood-Fired Steakhouse ($50)
Perry Pollaci commands the kitchen at this progressive steakhouse inside The Langham, Pasadena, a stately old guard hotel. Since this is a steakhouse, beef is clearly a great direction to take. You’ll probably want to supplement with sides, which are some of the best I’ve found at any L.A. steakhouse.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Wood-Grilled Butter Lettuce • Korean BBQ Skirt Steak • Chocolate Panna Cotta
8. Sotto ($40)
Steve Samson is holding down the kitchen at the southern Italian restaurant, which remains a subterranean Beverlywood destination thanks to the hearty cooking and welcoming vibe. Samson sources impeccable product and has a deluxe wood-burning oven at his disposal, which doesn’t just come in handy for pizza.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Marinated Olives • Big-Eyed Tuna Crudo • Roasted Black Cod • Olive Oil Cake
9. Spaghettini & The Dave Koz Lounge ($40)
Former Bay Area culinary standout Scott Howard teamed with local music powerhouse Dave Koz to deliver the rare live music venue that also has good food, or vice versa.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Spaghettini • Shrimp & Mussel Stew • Short Rib • NY Steak
10. Taylor’s Steak House ($40)
This restaurant dates to 1953, and Koreatown has grown up around it, but Taylor’s still remains vital. Slide into a comfortable booth, start with a stiff drink, and soak it up with a steak and comforting accompaniments.
STANDOUT DISHES (aka, what I’d order): Our Famous Molly Salad • Famous Culotte Steak • Ice Cream Sundae