It’s been a tough year for restaurants and bars, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that LA establishments are resilient and resourceful - they’ve been pivoting, popping up, collaborating, and banding together to support their communities since the shutdown first hit back in March.
Supporting these spots is more important than ever, which is why we’ve brought back The Hit List - our guide to the best new food and drink experiences in LA. We track new openings across the city, and then visit as many as we can. While the Hit List is by no means an exhaustive list of every good new spot, one thing you can always rely on is that we’ll only include places that we have genuinely checked out.
Our goal is for this list to be as diverse as the city itself - inclusive of a wide range of cuisines, price points, neighborhoods, chefs and owners of all backgrounds, and the multifaceted communities within the industry. If you think we missed a great new place, we want to hear about it. Shoot us an email at email@example.com
And if you’re interested in The Best Things We Ate This Week, well, we’ve got that, too.
New to the Hit List (1/22): Yess Aquatic, Shiku, La Sorted Pizzeria, Fellow Traveler.
Yess Aquatic is a new seafood truck in the Arts District that’s a preview for a full restaurant and wine bar that will be debuting in the neighborhood later this year. But there's no need to wait for the main event. Run by famed London chef Junya Namasaki, the mantra of Yess Aquatic is essentially to serve whatever is fresh from the ocean that day, and that means a constantly changing menu filled with some of the freshest fish you’ll find Downtown. The ridgeback prawn bánh mì is an absolute standout, and after one bite, I was texting every one of my sandwich friends (yes, that’s a category) to haul ass to the orange truck on the corner of Mateo and 7th St. The Nashville-style hot shark sandwich is spicy, meaty, and stands out from the thousands of other Nashville-style dishes you can find around town. But if you want to appreciate the true technique and care that goes into everything at Yess Aquatic, grab one of the plates that comes with a simply sauteed fish and served with a bouillabaisse-style curry.
-Brant Cox, Editorial Lead
Outside of the Christmas On The Square Netflix premiere back in November, there have been very few dates I’ve considered important recently. The opening of Shiku in Grand Central Market is one of them. The new Korean spot comes from the team behind Baroo and Baroo Canteen, two of The Infatuation’s favorite restaurants to open (and close) in LA over the last half-decade. After one meal at Shiku, I’m confident Chef Kwang Uh’s fermentation skills have only continued to improve over the years. Right now, the tight menu focuses mainly on dosirak boxes featuring proteins like galbi and perfectly-marinated maekjuk chicken, but no meal here is complete without raiding the daily banchan case. From the spicy musaengchae to the refreshing mu namal (braised radish with perilla dressing), these are among the most complex banchan I’ve ever eaten in LA - or anywhere in the world for that matter. Lines and wait times are pretty high at the moment, so just stay patient and daydream about the incredible meal that awaits you.
La Sorted’s Pizza is one of several vendors taking part in the West Hollywood Night Market, an outdoor pop-up hosted by Employees Only that has no relation to the famous Thai restaurant with… the exact same name. All confusion aside, you can find everything from Filipino rice bowls to table plants here, but the absolute star is La Sorted’s. Named after the legendary Dodgers manager (R.I.P.), this tiny pop-up is cranking out tremendous wood-fired pizza with chewy, bubbly crust and toppings that range from burrata to artichoke pesto. There isn’t a bad pizza on the menu, but the pepperoni and honey-topped “Spicy, But Oh, So Sweet Boy” should be a priority. Also come on Sundays for focaccia sandwiches.
Anyone who lives near West Hollywood and drinks natural wine (see: me) knows you generally have to leave the neighborhood to buy it. The opening of Fellow Traveler in November changed that in a big way. Run by sommelier Rick Arlene (formerly of Auburn), the wines at Fellow Traveler are fresh, funky, and, frankly, unlike anything you can get for miles. That said, the food might be even better. On paper, Fellow Traveler’s menu reads mostly like snacks you’d eat while drinking wine (and to be sure, that is the goal here), but the fact is, this is food worthy of its own order. The charcuterie board is balanced and interesting, I could drink the truffle porcini dip from a Yeti, and the smoked paprika aioli burger is easily one of the best new burgers in town.
It’s the Return of the (Burger) King: New to Abbot Kinney is Adrift, the brainchild of David Myers, formerly of LA’s Comme Ça (the now-closed home of a burger once declared “perfect” by The New York Times). And it’s a fitting addition to his legacy. There are only three burgers on the menu, which is a good thing, because you should definitely order them all. The 1940s Classic is an old-school option, with appropriately old-school toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc), while the DM (with aged Vermont cheddar and “secret sauce”) and the Adrift (kicked up with tomato-and-Indian-ajowan jam, pickled jalapeños, and a pair of cheeses) push things forward, and though the latter was my favorite, they’re all worth your time. Throw in amazing shakes, curry leaf fries, and must-order fried button mushrooms, and you’ve got a spot so good, it’ll leave you bowing in reverence.
- James Montgomery, LA Editor
I’m not going to mince words - Holy Basil is making the most exciting Thai food in LA. Located in a Downtown food court, the menu is in stark contrast to Yum, the tremendous dinner series chef Deau hosts every month in the same location (it’s also on our Hit List, btw). Where Yum’s menu highlights Bangkok-style street food such as raw blue crab and fermented branzino, Holy Basil’s menu is filled with pad Thai, green curry, and tom yum soup. These are dishes I’ve eaten a thousand times, and yet, at Holy Basil, it’s like I’m eating them all for the first time ever. The tom yum soup, in particular, is the best I’ve had. So come hungry and order as much as you possibly can - there’s not a single weak spot on the menu.
Today Starts Here is a new spot in Chinatown, and there may not be a more aptly-named restaurant in town. Because every day should start here. My favorite thing at this Taiwanese breakfast operation (from the people behind Joy) is the dan bing, an excellent layered crepe that is rolled with scrambled eggs, corn, and scallions. I also love the mushroom-heavy daikon rice cakes, and the savory soy milk, a porridge made from their house-made soy milk, with pork floss, preserved vegetables, and youtiao (deep-fried dough). They’ve also got a great selection of teas - we recommend the Dong Ding, a roasty, toasty oolong from Nantou County in Taiwan.
- Brett Keating, Staff Writer
Available for pick-up. Call (323) 561-3084 to order.
Chifa is a Cantonese-Peruvian restaurant in Eagle Rock and the kind of place that, in the midst of our 100th lockdown, is a much-needed breath of fresh air. The menu is inspired by the owner’s original Chifa restaurant in Lima, Peru, and features dishes like pollo ala brasa, mapo tofu, and traditional zongzi, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf and filled with Chinese sausage, pork belly, and mushroom. I particularly loved the spicy beef noodle soup and si yao chicken, but whatever you do, make sure you save room for a few black sesame cheesecake tarts at the end - they’re excellent.
I know why this pop-up shares its name with a Tom Waits song about a death row inmate’s last meal - I can die happy after eating here. René Alesandro Coreas, who also cooks at Petit Trois, began selling his innovative Salvadoran food out of an apartment complex in Alhambra early in the fall. His pupusas are pillow-soft and very good - my favorites are the smoked chicken with nopal and the revuelta (chicharrón and cheese). The fried chicken sandwich here is also a game-changer - inspired by pan con pollo, this hunk of fried dark meat is served on brioche with tons of curtido (vinegar-heavy slaw), cucumbers, and tomato, and is an absolutely gorgeous mess. DM to order.
I absolutely love the wood-fired pizzas coming out of Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co. in Boyle Heights. The pies are probably closest to Neapolitan-style, with blistered, perfectly chewy crusts, and while you can certainly get a traditional margherita, chef Mario Christerna (a Boyle Heights native himself) has added items to reflect and honor the surrounding neighborhood. Think fries topped with beef chorizo and queso fresco, elote Old Fashioneds (they have a full list of to-go cocktails, beer, and wine), and a mole pizza I’ve eaten twice this week. If good pizza and booze isn’t enough of a selling point for you, Brooklyn Ave. also does extensive charity work, working closely with the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory and C-Cap a nonprofit that empowers underserved youth through the culinary arts.
There’s a lot of new fried chicken in town, but the spot I’ve been most impressed with recently is Go Go Bird, a Hollywood pop-up run by Brandon Kida, the chef at Hinoki + The Bird. The chicken really is the star of the show here - it’s brined in white soy, paprika, and a spice blend involving kombu, shiitake, and bonito powder - then fried in Szechuan chili oil (which you should also order a jar of on the side). This bird is taken to a new level with both hot and numbing spices, and it’s extremely umami-forward. As far as sides, the mashed potatoes and curry gravy and the fries doused with furikake are both winners, and the cheddar biscuits with honey miso butter are absolutely tremendous. I highly recommend this place go(go)ing straight to the top of your personal takeout hit list.
This takeout-only taco spot, run by the team behind the excellent, high-end Mexican restaurant Damian, wasn’t supposed to open yet. But when Damian - which only offered patio dining - was forced to temporarily close due to LA County’s outdoor-dining ban, it quickly became Ditroit’s time to shine. Got it? Good. Let’s talk about those tacos - and everything else on the excellent menu. The suadero tacos, with brisket and top round beef, crisped and topped with raw onions, are my favorite so far, but the esquites with chicatana (ant) mayonnaise, and the meaty, moist swordfish flautas are also great. They also have a market of salsas and moles, and desserts like Oaxacan fudge paletas, too.
I don’t care if the temps are still in the mid-70s, ramen season is officially underway in my mind. And that’s why I made a bee-line to Bourusu after seeing it on our Openings Guide recently. Located on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, this tiny shop does both hot and cold appetizers (the spicy shrimp wontons are a standout) and even some temaki, but the reason you’re here is the ramen. I ordered the spicy Reddo, which is made with Japanese chili oil and sesame paste, as well as the broth-less Orenji, but please don’t ask me which one was my favorite, because as my boyfriend will attest, I don’t have that answer. They’re both excellent, so just order both, plus anything else that looks good to you.
Ospi is the new Venice spot from the duo behind El Segundo’s Jame Enoteca, a restaurant so good even their kale salad is incredible. Like Jame, the menu at Ospi features plenty of pasta - my favorites were the malloreddus (tiny, pillowy Sardinian gnocchi) with a rich beef-cheek ragu, and a fantastic cannelloni stuffed with tender lamb neck - but there’s a lot more, too. I loved the thick slices of toasted fettunta topped with chilled lobster, stracciatella, watermelon radish, and Calabrian chili, the Hapa Pizza with roasted pineapple, pickled jalapeño, and spicy ground pepperoni (a play on the pies at Long Beach’s iconic Domenico’s, which co-owner Melissa Saka grew up eating), oh, and the crab cake, which was very full of plump crab and came atop a tangy gremolata with spicy giardiniera on the side.
Open for takeout.
Whenever I drive to Ensenada - which, before the pandemic hit, was approximately once every four months - my first stop is always Tacos Fenix, an incredible fish and shrimp taco stand that popularized the now-ubiquitous Baja-style taco. And L Fish, a new-ish (they recently reopened after a two-year absence) taco stand in East LA, uses the exact recipe as Tacos Fenix. Like the original, there are two options - fish and shrimp. I slightly prefer the latter over the former, but in both I was deeply impressed with the remarkably herb-y batter, which gives the taco a deep, bread-y crunch. They’re served undressed on a corn tortilla, with plenty of topping options - I go for finely chopped cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro crema, and habañero salsa, with a heavy hit of lime.
Open for takeout.
Gather ’round, boys and girls, because Courage Bagels is teaching a MasterClass® in opening a restaurant in Los Angeles. First off, the menu: As you approach their storefront in Virgil Village, you’ll immediately notice that their menus are translated in both English and Spanish - which is especially important, considering their location in a historically Central American neighborhood with a large Latinx population. Second, the bagels: They’re Montreal-style - slightly smaller, thinner, and sweeter than the New York-style bagels found at places like Maury’s, Brooklyn Bagels, and Hank’s. Toppings include thick, hand-sliced smoked salmon paired with cream cheese, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, dill, pepper, and drizzles of olive oil - which makes for a thoroughly well-seasoned bagel you might not be used to. The pan dulce on the menu is quite good as well, including pastries like the traditional and sweet concha, or slightly tart empanadas de pina. Oh, and they also carry some of the best merch in town. Like I said earlier, MasterClass®.
-Kat Hong, Staff Writer
Open for takeout - order through Instagram.
To echo what our Editorial Ops Coordinator, Anikah Shaokat, wrote in Favorite Meals Of Week, the Bangkok-style street food coming out of Yum is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten in LA. Popping up inside Holy Basil (another very good new Thai spot Downtown), Yum doesn’t have a set schedule or menu, so just do what most of our LA staff does: Stalk their Instagram, and prepare yourself for a truly extraordinary meal. From raw blue crab soaked in fish sauce to fermented branzino to white mushrooms in a pickled bean curd, Yum’s food is spicy, pungent, and unabashedly original.
The sandwiches being sold out of the window at Angry Egret in Chinatown are some of the most interesting tortas in LA. The Torta Au Pied De Cochon involves pork shoulder rolled in a deboned pig’s foot, served with habañero mustard - the ground pork patty is salty and tender, with just a bit of gaminess. There’s also a (slightly) more traditional brisket sandwich, with avocado, queso fresco, and horseradish cream. No matter which torta you pick, be sure to add in a machaca flauta, a heavily spiced beef flauta topped with very spicy red and green salsas. The operation was started by Wes Avila, who founded Guerrilla Tacos, the food-car-turned-truck-turned-big-deal Arts District restaurant. In some ways, Angry Egret reminds me of the early(ish) days of Guerrilla, when they were a truck outside of Silverlake Wines - innovative, fun, and sort of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. And when you’re a chef as talented as Avila, the answer is: a lot.
I’ve had a lot of standout sushi this year - and Piven-esque levels of mercury toxicity as a result - but no one sushi spot surprised me more than Sushi Tama. On paper, this neighborhood spot sounds a bit intimidating (who’s jumping to eat at a “high-end sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills” during a pandemic, anyway?), but make no mistake, their ten-piece omakase nigiri set is secretly one of the best deals in town. For just $45, you’ll receive a stunning box filled with scallops hand-selected by the chef, ikura that bursts in your mouth, and extra-thick cuts of speckled toro - you know, the kind of rich, indulgent meal you need after being locked in your apartment for [REDACTED, TIME ISN’T REAL].
Much like Al Pacino performances, great BBQ isn’t exactly subtle. But every once in a while, there’s a Godfather II -level of nuance amongst all the smoke and salt, and that’s what I found at Neighborhood. This pop-up, started by Erik Piedrahita - a former chef at the now-closed Bon Temps - brings a bunch of incredible, chef-y touches to traditional BBQ, like smoked tomato BBQ sauce on a massive beef rib, or mac & cheese with Velveeta and truffles. You order ahead through their Instagram for Saturday afternoon pickup in Griffith Park, so bring a friend, a blanket, and some napkins for a remarkable weekend picnic.
From perfectly seasoned jerk chicken to an oxtail stew so tender, the meat literally falls off the bones, this Caribbean pop-up once again makes the case that the best meals of 2020 aren’t found at restaurants, but rather, in places like the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market. Once a week, Guyanese chef Yonette Alleyne drops a menu of home-cooked Caribbean fare on her Instagram, like vegan curry made with channa masala or crab and callaloo soup with coconut milk, okra, and pimento peppers. Served in microwave-safe takeout containers and labeled with precise reheating instructions, cooking at home has never been so convenient, easy, or delicious. Well, not in my home, at least.
Between Little Coyote in Long Beach, Prince Street in West Hollywood, and this city’s newfound obsession with Detroit-style square pizza, 2020 has been a very good year for pizza in LA. And now there’s Cento Pizzeria. If that name sounds familiar, it’s the same people behind Downtown’s Cento Pasta - only now they’re serving bubbly Neapolitan pizza perfection inside Tartine Sycamore. I haven’t tried a pizza yet that I wouldn’t recommend, but the Green Goddess (hot pizza, cold salad, green goddess dressing, herbs, red onion, and feta) and Beef Birria are early standouts. They’re open Thursday-Saturday from 5-10pm for takeout, delivery, and patio dining.