By Carole Dixon
While we love our booming restaurant choices in WeHo, and the new seasonal menus at Norah, The Ponte and Sunset Marquis – to name a few, there is nothing like exploring a new neighborhood for fun-foodie-finds during the longer summer hours.
Santa Monica & Venice
Rudy & Hudson
The best news out West is that Joe Miller – pioneer of Joe’s in Venice and Bar Pintxo – has opened a diner serving elevated comfort food. At Rudy and Hudson, you’ll find the most deliciously crispy fried chicken (it’s the buttermilk brined crust), breakfast burritos bursting with spicy chorizo, stacks of Reuben sandwiches, perfect thin-cut French fries and lemon ricotta Dutch baby cakes in a skillet just for a start. Local California wine and beer on tap have recently been added to this sleek space, so whether you linger in a booth, sit at the counter or take a picnic to the beach, this is some of the most soul-satisfying food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, if you find yourself in a carb-induced coma, you can book a room at the adjacent Best Western hotel.
Lunetta All Day
The upscale all-day diner trend continues with chef Raphael Lunetta – a staple in the community after 20 years at JiRaffe – now at the helm of the old 2424 Pico location. Start your day with a savory grain bowl, vanilla bulgar and freekeh porridge or a breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, bacon and white cheddar. For lunch, the fried chicken sandwich is one of the best in town as is the Hamachi crudo, cobb salad and chocolate cake from the well-stocked pastry case. If the main room is too buzzy for you, grab a seat out back on the slightly more serene patio. In the evening, pasilla negro-rubbed grilled carnitas, rotisserie small-eye prime rib, or fried Jidori chicken are all good bets along with a seasonal cocktail. The charred Bloody Mary is already our favorite.
Closer to the ocean in the old Marix space (we think the best one is in WeHo anyway), lies the new modern Mexican haven by the crew behind some of our favorite Santa Monica spots: Cassia, Esters Wine Shop & Bar and Rustic Canyon. Jeremy Fox is in the kitchen but so is Executive Chef Mario Alberto who has worked with Ricardo Zarate and Josef Centeno and was last seen at Ysabel and Laurel Hardware in WeHo. Entrees include Mexican white shrimp, fish tacos or turkey enchiladas, and crowd-pleasing nachos are spread out on a large baking tray, but those tender duck chilaquilas are calling our name. www.tallulasrestaurant.com
Over in Venice, pasta master Evan Funke is back and better than ever in the old Joe’s space on Abbott Kinney. Don’t miss the trofie with pesto Genovese, pecorino stagionato or the pappardelle with ragu bolognese “Vecchia Scuola” and a Parmigiano Reggiano – aged for 48 months. There are seafood, chicken and brisket options, along with a selection of four pizzas and stuffed squash blossom, but there are also many more pasta dishes to order (many more) and fortunately, you can see most of the them being made in the main dining room through the temperature controlled glass room where they make all the magic happen.
Woodley Proper, Frankland Crab & Co. and Scratch Bar
Food Network chef Philip Franklin Lee first wowed us with Scratch Bar on LaCienega before moving to Studio City with his popular vegan-veggie concept The Gaderene Swine. Lee is still in the valley but has moved his enterprise to a high-end strip mall in Encino and has somehow managed to take over three consecutive spaces, well four if you count the just added ‘sushi speakeasy’ in the back of Woodley Proper. The main trifecta also includes the tasting-menu-only Scratch Bar and a seafood friendly Frankland Crab & Co. A few options include having a cocktail at Woodley Proper before heading to Scratch Bar (since they only serve beer and wine), or keep imbibing there and order a feast of seafood from Frankland Crab & Co. Since these two fine establishments are connected, and share the same kitchen, you can order that fantastic branzino fish & chips or the clam chowder while sipping a ‘proper pour’ from aromatic to herbacious, floral or fruity. Genius.
Silver Lake & Hollywood
Hot Hot Food
We are happy to reconnect with Coly Den Haan – formerly of The Must and Perch – and Dean Harada of Earl’s in Mar Vista, who now have a cool all-day spot around the corner from Sqirl in Silver Lake. We are even happier to reconnect with the signature LA rice bowls which are an inspiring mix of Asian fried rice and Mexican street tacos topped with a fried egg. Try the carnitas combo that can be an entire meal for brunch and a perfect hang-over cure all with a ginger lemonade slushy or two. Save room for the Goldfish mac-n-cheese and the fluffernutter dessert. Soon, they will have a liquor store down the street where you can buy global wine finds or premium spirits and discretely slip them into your iced beverage. Just a thought.
Already one of the most Instagram-able spots in town that incorporates a mural made famous by the late musician Elliot Smith into the design scheme, this gastropub also has great salads, pizza and cocktails. We’d expect nothing less from the team behind Grand Central Market’s Horse Thief BBQ, Cafe Birdie, and Good Housekeeping in Highland Park. Chef Booterbaugh describes the menu as ‘thoughtful bar food with a red sauce twist,’ referring to the house- Cal-Italian style fare and house-made dough for Roman-New York pizza but they also feature a white pizza with clams, capers, pecorino and salsa verde, or a burrata pizza with bacon, spring onions and roasted garlic on the menu.
TAO Asian Bistro
The jaw-dropping entrance with a min-reclining Buddha as you ascend a staircase with a 20-feet tall Quan Yin statue looks more like a Far East movie set or a nightclub with a stage than a restaurant with a koi pond, thanks to the Rockwell Group. Perhaps that is because the original and wildly successful club in Vegas and outpost in New York are equally dramatic and entertaining venues. In most cases, this would just be a pretty exotic place for a drink that you could post on Snapchat, but the food also takes center stage. Standouts include seabass skewers, tuna Pringles (yes, raw tuna on a potato chip – trust us), surf-n-turf rolls with wagyu and King crab, lobster fried rice or spicy-crispy Szechwan duck. Soon, you can book a room next door at the Dream hotel and make a weekend out of it. The TAO Group has actually taken over the whole block with Beauty and Essex, Avenue and Lucchini pizza.
Hollywood Proper Residences
This weekly or month-long-stay residential meets a hotel group, eclectically designed by Kelly Wearstler from her global travels, has landed just off of Vine Street in Hollywood. Whether you are a staying on the property in one of the newly refurbished Penthouses or just in the neighborhood at the Columbia Square complex, you can now pay a visit to the rooftop Filifera Bar & Lounge with 360-degree views. (Bookings can be made through Resy.com
The Tuck Hotel
Probably one of the most interesting spaces to hit LA, this edgy 14-room boutique hotel is the brainchild of Argentine-born chef, designer, and owner Juan Torre. The tastefully minimalist décor is primarily black and white with dark painted woods and luxurious touches like Frette linens, a mini-Marshal amp and a wine fridge. Torres has utilized local artists and photographers for paintings, prints, collages, murals and maps of LA throughout the space. In the kitchen at Delicat (recently opened for dinner) the Spanish-inspired menu – is an ode to the original Delicat restaurant by Chef Paco Parreño in Valencia, Spain – soars with crispy artichoke and mushroom paella, spinach pasta with burrata and egg yolk or grass-fed NY steak with potato ratatouille and chimichurri. Check out the brunch as well with a traditional Spanish tortilla and other worthy egg and salmon dishes.
Originating from Miami, New York and Chicago, we now have our own cozy, hip option for a reasonably priced stay in the city. The Freehand LA hotel, is housed in the historic Commercial Exchange building downtown, along with Rudolph’s Bar & Tea, The Exchange for Israeli fare, and Broken Shaker will open soon on the roof. Amid the 226 rooms, about 59 have been appointed for a shared space. Similar to a youth hostel – but with much better décor and linens – the budget options have either sets of two, three or four bunk beds and would be perfect for a girls or guys getaway bash.
So Long, Hi
You’ll want to book this tropical themed patio with palm trees and umbrellas for any parties this summer because, despite all the massive growth downtown, everything shouldn’t happen in a hotel lobby. You’ll also benefit from the photo booth and pool table after a few “Dirt Cheap Happy Hour” $2 beers, $6 bar bites and $5 traditional pad thai (weekdays, Monday-Friday, from 3pm-7pm.) This ‘taste of Thai street food’ is brought to you by David Tewasart (Sticky Rice, Side Chick) and Bryan Sharafkhah-Sharp (White Guy Pad Thai) and also features green curry with deep fried roti (their version of chips and dip) and a crowd-pleasing fried rice.
Located inside the new Intercontinental downtown, this spot is reportedly open-air bar-lounge in the Western Hemisphere. To reach this perch, you must take an elevator to the lobby on the 70th floor. Be sure to grab a drink as there will be a line by 5pm when the elevator to the 73rd floor opens. Once you land on top of the world, order a margarita and kick back on fake Astroturf mounds, the bar or a wooden banquette – but don’t plan to use your phone to send a sky-high selfie as there is no cell reception. You can order sandwiches and other savory snacks but you might want to visit one of the other eateries on the 69th floor (are you still with me?) for sushi at Sora or the buffet at Dekkadance. Floor 71 has LaBoucherie: a French inspired steak house with plenty of private dining alcoves for a romantic ending to the adventure.