LA is rich with chefs cooking various cuisines, making dining across the city a tasty pleasure. These 10 chefs (or chef duos) have helped to put LaLa Land on the map when it comes to culinary prowess. From the meat-heavy offerings of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo at Animal to the pasta perfection of Evan Funke at Felix, there’s a lot of good food to go around. Dig into this list of the best restaurants from some of LA’s very own culinary masters.Read More
The Best Spots from LA’s Culinary Masters
Jon & Vinny's
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo may be the example of culinary masters all other restaurateurs aspire to be. The chefs/restaurateurs behind Jon & Vinny’s have created their own mini-empire of essential LA restaurants, including Animal, Son of a Gun, and Trois Mec. At Jon & Vinny’s, the duo has taken on classic Italian fare, like pizzas, pastas, and meatballs, for an elevated take on your neighborhood Italian joint. Menu favorites include the White Lightening pizza (mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, onion, oregano, and pickled jalapeno) and the LA Woman (burrata, tomato, olive oil, basil, and sea salt).
Few chefs have truly mastered kaiseki, a formal, multi-course Japanese meal that pays homage to the seasons, but chef Niki Nakayama belongs in that group, while also making the format her own. The seasonality of the dishes at her Michelin-starred restaurant in Palms is, in part, guaranteed thanks to produce picked from the restaurant’s own organic garden. One look at Nakayama’s exquisitely beautiful plates (a meal of 13 courses averages somewhere between $225 and $275) is all the explanation you need to understand why a reservation here is such a difficult score.
Chef-owner Jeremy Fox and executive chef Andy Doubrava helm Rustic Canyon, a Santa Monica favorite for precise, balanced farmers market-fresh dishes. A read-through of the menu offers an education on what’s in season, perhaps beets and berries or corn succotash for summer. Purveyor names make an appearance — Autonomy Farms chicken, Rancho Gordo hominy, Weiser Farms mulberry — to underscore the farm-to-table commitment. Among other Rustic Canyon Family restaurants Fox oversees, Birdie G’s at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station is the most recent, his ode to Midwestern dining (through a California lens, naturally).
Travis Lett opened Gjelina in 2008 with just a few dishes on an Abbot Kinney that had yet to be gentrified and corporatized. Today, Gjelina is a name-dropped spot on any LA eating tour, and Lett also helms a takeout spot next door, GTA, the souped-up bakery Gjusta, and MTN, a Japanese izakaya. At Gjelina, open from breakfast through dinner, the theme is market-fresh seasonal items, which encompasses everything from wagyu beef heart tartare to a plate of grilled stone fruit with burrata and prosciutto. The pizzas are legendary and the salads taste fresh from the farm.
This all-day Los Feliz spot from chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson is the 2017 follow-up to their Madcapra (now Kismet Falafel) in Grand Central Market, which opened in 2015. The bright flavors of Mediterranean cooking, combined with a California sensibility and the chefs’ own creativity, shine in dishes like housemade labneh, freekeh fritters, crispy rice topped with an egg, and beyond tender lamb belly. To get treated to a rotating selection of natural wines, stop by from noon to 6 p.m. on weekdays for discounted by-the-glass selections. The duo seems to have the surrounding neighborhood on lockdown as they’ve got a rotisserie chicken place in the works just a few doors down.
You don’t have to know that chef Nancy Silverton is an LA cooking legend who has worked with top chefs, been tapped for awards including a James Beard for outstanding chef, and written multiple cookbooks to appreciate her Hollywood pizzeria, which opened in 2007. Instead, you just have to like perfectly done wood-fired pizza with first-rate toppings in a cozy space. Pies run the gamut from one with Meyer lemon, tomatoes, fried capers, Fresno chiles, and fried parsley to a meat-heavy round with bacon, salame, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato, and mozzarella. Don’t miss her butterscotch budino with Maldon sea salt and rosemary pine nut cookies — it’s almost as legendary as Silverton herself.
Ludo Lefebvre has been tempting Angelenos’ palates since his LudoBites pop-ups and, then, the opening of Trois Mec with partners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo in 2013. With Petit Trois in 2014, the city fell in love with his take on Parisian bistro fare — dishes like pate de campagne, steak frites, and a picture-perfect omelet — and he’s expanded the concept from Hollywood to Sherman Oaks. Squeeze in if you can to the Highland spot’s cocktail hour, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., for discounted cocktails, wine, and snacks like a ham and butter sandwich served with crispy frites.
The husband-and-wife team of Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis are the magic behind the Middle Eastern-leaning Bavel (and the Italian spot Bestia) — she as pastry chef, he as chef — in the Arts District, which opened in 2018. Diners can taste the inspiration behind soul-satisfying dishes like duck ‘nduja hummus, malawach (a flatbread served with grated tomato, dill creme fraiche, aged egg, and strawberry zhoug), and a bone-in lamb neck shawarma. The imagination doesn’t stop at the dessert menu, which plays with often unexpected flavor combinations like licorice and ice cream, and baharat spice dust and peach cobbler.
File A.O.C. under the “oldie but goodie” label. Chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne have racked up the accolades (including multiple James Beard Awards) since they began their restaurant empire in 1998 with Lucques. Their wine bar, A.O.C., opened in 2002, and it’s the small plates restaurant that Angelenos keep coming back to. Bacon-wrapped dates, a meat and cheese plate, some Spanish fried chicken, a California cabernet — it’s hard to go wrong at the Beverly Grove spot, especially if you’re noshing on the dreamy patio.
The buzz around chef Evan Funke’s Venice trattoria hasn’t subsided since its 2017 opening. His fresh, handmade pastas are the star — peek through a glass wall to watch orecchiette, busiati, and the like being rolled, shaped, and otherwise formed in the manner Funke learned in Bologna, Italy — but don’t limit ordering to just pasta. Other menu highlights include focaccia, cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, wood-fired pizzas, and a few bigger ticket items, like a 60-day dry-aged prime rib-eye. As befits the Abbot Kinney strip, the interior exudes a homey kind of sexiness, with warm wooden tables, an intimate bar, and enchanting floral wallpaper in the back dining room.
Although Jon and Vinny’s, the Italian-American diner up the street, bears the name of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Animal is the restaurant where it all began in 2008. On that menu is a whole lotta meat — things like bone marrow, pig ear, and sirloin carpaccio. For a place with such an outsized reputation (including a James Beard under its belt), it’s a simple affair inside, with plain walls, wooden tables, and a small black bar. Still, it’s hard to top that rich, messy, off-menu Boner Burger.