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Best Los Angeles Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors
Angelenos love to eat, and the restaurant scene is always exciting and always in flux, with too many top chefs to name. Ethnic foods of all varieties are available, and there are enclaves like Little Tokyo, Koreatown, and Thai Town. A somewhat diminished Chinatown is still downtown, but the San Gabriel Valley to the east has become home to an even larger Asian community and there you can find everything from noodle shops to Hong Kong-style dim sum spots. The day starts early for anyone doing business with the east coast and, as a result, people tend to meet for dinner earlier in LA, around 7:30PM.  Prices are high at the best Los Angeles restaurants, but not as high as New York. Lunch is always less expensive than dinner, and there’s a new phenomenon: Sunday night prix fixe dinners at some of the best spots in town, like Culina (price for three courses are $30-$40). Another major phenomenon is the trucks: gourmet food trucks that park in different spots daily and serve everything from tacos to grilled cheese to ribs.

Bouchon

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills Price: Expensive
Thomas Keller, the much-worshipped French Laundry chef, has finally returned to L.A. (he cooked at the Checkers Hotel downtown before he gained national fame) with a sister to his Bouchon bistros in wine country and Vegas. It has immediately become one of the hottest spots in town, full of beautiful people basking in the soft glow of its traditional décor—dark wood, brass fittings and tall mirrors—and excellent bistro cooking, like a sublime boudin noir (blood sausage on a bed of pureed potatoes, accompanied by caramelized apple) and the echt roast chicken. The raw bar is another excellent reason to come.

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Bouchon  

Culina

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills/West Hollywood Price: Expensive
The new Italian restaurant in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons is drenched in light by day and at night the terrace is warmed by fire. Because it’s the Four Seasons, the people-watching is excellent. The real news, however, is the food from chef Victor Cazanova. The crudo bar (an Italian version of sashimi, thinly sliced and delicately flavored) is an immediate favorite, and diners love the panzanella, a traditional bread, tomato and cucumber salad tweaked with the addition of watermelon. There’s also the ricciola, grilled yellowtail served with roasted artichoke and fennel in lemon sauce, topped with chopped black olive in vinaigrette. The rice cloud dessert is terrific. Go on Sunday night, when the prix fixe menu is three courses for $30. From Sunday through Thursday from 5-7PM  try the Festa del Vino, where glasses of premium wines are only $6 and the antipasti are complimentary.

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Culina  

Providence

Neighborhood: Hollywood Price: Expensive

Michael Cimarusti’s serene and simply decorated restaurant is considered the best seafood restaurant in Los Angeles, with two well-deserved Michelin stars. You won’t find anything farm-raised here, and each dish is carefully sourced on the seasonally changed menu. You’ll love the wild black bass with braised artichokes, basil and candied orange rind and for non-fish-lovers, the menu includes alternatives like duck breast in a fabulous blood orange confit, served with braised daikon and pea tendrils.

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Beso

Neighborhood: Hollywood Price: Expensive
Latin flair meets Hollywood glamour at Beso (the name is Spanish for “kiss,” which, appropriately is the name for the adjoining nightclub). Eva Longoria tag-teamed with celebrity chef Todd English to create this upscale steakhouse, which pays equal tribute to red meat, seafood and Latin American flavor. You can order your skirt steak any way you’d like, but we’re partial to the cut when it’s rubbed with chili and served beside tortilla fattoush. Another excellent option: the crispy lamb ribs spiced with peanut-chipotle and served with jicama. Nowhere is the Latin influence more evident than in the cocktail menu, which features everything from Spanish wines and sangrias to Mexican tequilas (you can’t go wrong with the margarita, but we love the tequila spa—a mix of herradura silver tequila, red grapes, cucumber, lemon and lime). The decidedly modern décor is sexy (would you expect anything less from Longoria?) with its swooping ceiling, textured walls and flickering candles.

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Beso  

Osteria Mozza

Neighborhood: West Hollywood Price: Expensive
Celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton collaborated on the creation of this perennially popular three-year-old restaurant (where it’s still hard to get a reservation, so persevere) serving rustic Italian food that’s at once imaginative and sophisticated. Silverton’s Mozzarella Table—an L-shaped marble counter with seating—turns out brilliant cheese appetizers like burrata with leeks in vinaigrette and mustard breadcrumbs. A favorite among the antipasti are pig’s trotters that arrive as crisp patties with chicory and mustard. For the main course we recommend the beef brasato (braised beef) with polenta and a horseradish gremolata. Want to try Silverton’s creations without spending a fortune? Next door is the more moderately priced Pizzeria Mozza, where you’ll find addictive pizzas with perfect crusts (http://www.mozza-la.com/).  

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Street

Neighborhood: Hollywood Price: Moderate
Susan Feniger of the “Too Hot Tamales,” Border Grill, Ciudad, and now the TV show “Top Chef Masters,” dreamed up this eclectic restaurant serving gourmet versions of street food from around the world. There are tastes from Asia, from Latin America and from Russia. Try the Massaman beef curry, a specialty from Southern Thailand and the Indonesian peanut noodles. There’s also Moscow-style eggplant—thin strips of eggplant cooked in a sweet vinegar sauce. A great appetizer is paan puri, a sweet mix of potato and chutney encased in puff pastry. The place is modern and casual with an outdoor patio.

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Street  

Umami Burger

Neighborhood: Hollywood Price: Budget
There are Umami Burgers popping up all over town, each with its own unique décor, but the original is a tiny spot south of Hollywood. Inexpensive (average $10) and inventive burgers have made this place hot. Some of the choices include the Hatch Burger (with 4 types of green chiles), the Truffle Burger (with Italian truffle cheese and truffle glaze) and the Port & Stilton Burger (with blue cheese and port-caramelized onions). Another interesting choice is the Triple Pork burger, which is ground pork with chorizo and smoked bacon and manchego cheese.

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Umami Burger  

Pink's

Neighborhood: Hollywood Price: Budget
This hot dog joint has been in business since 1939 and is an L.A. landmark, with a constant line outdoors waiting for those chili-drenched hot dogs. It’s kind of a daily rite, the classic snack on your way to or from the day’s entertainment. Little has changed over the years but it Pink’s attracts everyone from blue collar workers to A-list celebrities like Jay Leno, Bruce Willis, Tyra Banks and Alec Baldwin. You may not spot a celebrity when you’re there but you’re guaranteed to get a great dog. The menu features a variety of options including the Guadalajara Dog with relish, onions, tomatoes and sour cream, the Bacon Chili Cheese Dog and the Chicago Polish Dog with mustard, onions, tomatoes and lettuce.

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Food Trucks

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
L.A. has always had food trucks (jokingly called “Roach Coaches”) that prowl neighborhoods where workers will need a good, cheap lunch. The latest trend began with Kogi, a gourmet Korean taco truck from chef Roy Choi, that got its start by setting up outside nightclubs. The buzz was intense, the tacos terrific and imaginative, and soon after gourmet trucks began popping up all over L.A., from lunch through late night, twittering and posting their locations online. Expect lines but it’s often worth the wait. The Border Grill’s truck BeeGee serves tacos, quesadillas and ceviche. The Dosa Truck serves up hot dosas with Indian and Mediterranean fillings and then there’s the Grilled Cheese Truck serving tomato soup and gooey items like a grilled double-cream brie with pears and honey. The Fish Lips Sushi truck serves a variety of sushi rolls and many more.

Farmers Market

Neighborhood: West Hollywood Price: Budget
The Farmers Market is one of those great L.A. traditions that has managed to keep going despite having a giant mall (The Grove) built around it. It is comprised of a series of produce stands, shops and food stand/restaurants with open seating. Notable spots are Loteria, a Mexican stand with counter seating that’s always got a line of hungry locals (try the chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce), DuPar’s, a classic diner with banging pancakes, and M. Marcel, a French café with table service and wine at half price during happy hour. You can get everything from doughnuts to Eastern Mediterranean to Brazilian or Singaporean food. The price is right and the food is good, so hip locals balance the number of visitors.

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Farmers Market  

Griddle Cafe

Neighborhood: West Hollywood Price: Budget
When Megan Fox and Jessica Alba are willing to expend calories on a stack of pancakes you know they’ve got to be good. The Griddle Café is hands-down the best restaurant in L.A. for pancakes and it might even be the best in the nation (they’ve been written up in just about every publication in the U.S.). Rock-n-roll music sets the tone at this mod diner with its fashionable, stainless-steel décor but you’ll hardly notice your surroundings when you open the menu. We’d like to try more of the items offered here but we just can’t get past the “Tis the Season” pancakes—pancakes filled with homemade pumpkin pie filling and topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. That said, the espresso-and-chocolate chip pancakes look amazing as does the apple cobbler French toast and the strawberries-and-cream waffle. Best of all, most of the items on the menu clock in at under $11.

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Griddle Cafe  

Canter's

Neighborhood: West Hollywood Price: Budget
It takes a special kind of diner to keep its appeal for decades in a fast-moving city like L.A. and Canter’s is just such a place. The classic L.A. landmark has been going strong since it opened in 1931 and, to this day, does enough business to justify keeping its 475 seats available 24 hours a day. There’s no pretense here—it’s your standard deli serving corned beef sandwiches, hamburgers and bagels, but there are a few things that set it apart. For one, it has a full bar and cocktail lounge (open from 10:30AM to 1:40AM) and, for another, it serves some of the best baked goods in the city (the rugelach is a must). Prepare to share the dining room with locals and tourists alike as Canter’s is by no means an undiscovered treat—the diner has been featured in television shows ranging from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Entourage.

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