The Hit List is 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
New to the Hit List (7/8): Amiga Amore, Moo’s Craft Barbecue; Quarter Sheets.
Amigas Amores is an Italian/Mexican pop-up that’s been doing various stints around town for a while, but as of April this year, the husband-wife operation have planted permanent roots on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Right now, the experience happens in a discreet parking lot (you get directions once you RSVP) decorated with string lights, papel picado, and a front row seat of Chef Danielle Duran-Zecca’s cooking. The menu changes weekly, but you can generally expect dishes like pillow-y soft elote agnolotti, lobster black ink fettuccine topped with epazote breadcrumbs, and a calzone filled with perfectly-cooked pork carnitas and mozzarella and Oaxacan cheese. Oh, and a lot of wine. There are plans to open permanently in the adjacent building by fall, but in the meantime, make reservations now for one of the most delicious - and personalized - dining experiences in LA. They’re currently serving on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons for brunch.
- Brant Cox, Editorial Lead
Moo’s Craft BBQ is not a new operation. Michelle and Andrew Muñoz started as backyard pop-up in East LA before taking on eventual stints at Smorgasburg. But with a new permanent space in Lincoln Heights - complete with a taproom and expansive side patio - the time to become a devout consumer of this popular BBQ is now. They’re currently only open Friday through Sunday from 11am until sell-out (which usually happens by 2pm), so we recommend showing up early and bringing some patience - you’ll be in line for several hours. So what’s the hype about? Central Texas-style BBQ that rivals the best of central Texas. Think pork ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork, and the best brisket I have ever eaten. That said, the highlights on Moo’s menu aren’t just limited to big slabs of meat. The mac and cheese is crusty on top and properly gooey inside, the dill-heavy potato salad is light and fragrant, and if you show up to your next friend picnic with some of their tres leche pudding bread pudding, you’ll be the star of the afternoon.
The proliferation of Detroit-style pizza shops in LA over the past year and a half has been pretty extraordinary. And as someone who fell in love with the style as an undergrad in Ann Arbor (Go Blue), I am thrilled. But as more places open up, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to know which ones are doing it right and which ones are just cashing in on the trend. Quarter Sheets is doing it right. The Glendale pop-up (pick-up is at the chef’s home) started last fall on Instagram and has slowly built a rabid follower-base that sells out the pizza within minutes every week. The focaccia-like crust is thick and crispy with inch-high edges that crackle and snap under each bite. The interior, on the other hand, is soft and pillowy, soaking up the sweet red sauce that’s striped across the top. I could say this is my favorite Detroit-style pizza in LA, but I don’t think that’s the whole picture. This is some of my favorite pizza, period. Follow @quartersheets for all the latest details and menu drops.
Listen, I don’t always want to eat French food that tastes like it’s been surgically injected with five to six sticks of butter by Julia Child herself. But when I do, I know I’ll be heading to Bicyclette. Run by the power duo behind République, this cozy, subterranean spot in the old Sotto space in Beverlywood is a traditional French bistro in every sense of the word. Unlike their other restaurants, the focus here is on French home-style cooking; simple, heavy dishes like caramelized onion tarte tatin, crusty baguettes topped with sardines, and beef short ribs served with golden potato mousseline that are so tender, you can slice through them with a butter knife. However, no meal is complete without their escargots en croute – baked in a buttery, flaky pastry crust (which our server instructed us to delicately cut into, before flipping upside down and letting the escargot and its garlic/parsley/butter juices soak through it), it’s exactly what I want to be eating when my cooler, more-cultured alter ego takes over my body and demands nourishment.
- Kat Hong, Staff Writer
Even if you’re a casual ramen eater, you’re probably aware that certain varieties have been oversaturated in LA in the past decade or so (we’re looking at you, tonkotsu). And that’s exactly why the arrival of Afuri in the Arts District is so exciting. The specialty at this Tokyo-based ramen chain is yuzu shio - a light, acidic broth that’s unlike any version that’s ever made its way to LA. The broth itself is made from a combination of chicken, seafood, vegetables, and seaweed - providing a bright umami flavor that hits the spot whether it’s 50 or 100 degrees outside. I also loved their perfectly-crispy gyoza and the crackliness of the fried shiitake wrapped in a soft, pillow-y bun. Right now, they’re only open until 9pm, but with a full cocktail and beer program, Afuri is a great option if you’re looking for a casual big group dinner spot in the AD before heading out on the town.
Even as someone who identifies as mildly lactose intolerant, walking into Agnes was like entering the dairy heaven of my dreams. Much like the Sims house I spent two months building in the summer between seventh and eighth grade, this new Pasadena restaurant and cheesery (!) includes everything I cherish most in this world: giant plates of cured meat, glass-encased workstations where you can see the chef lovingly rolling pasta, old horse stables, a cheese and wine market, and incredible soft serve. It’s a wild mix, inspired by the chef’s Iowan upbringing and is located in a massive barn on Green St. with a giant hearth roaring in the back. It’s the perfect place to bring your parents or an out-of-town friend, or whenever you need a big ol’ dose of comfort and nostalgia injected into your veins.
Whenever I think of Sunset Blvd., what comes to mind are the iconic Cinerama Dome (R.I.P.) and that gigantic, glowing Arby’s sign that both haunts my dreams and tempts me whenever I pass by. And now, with the opening of El Ruso in Silver Lake, I can add incredible Mexican food to that list. The Boyle Heights taco truck, known for their Sonora-style tacos and handmade tortillas, can now be found in an empty lot across from All Day Baby, alongside a little patio, shaded from the sun. Nothing much has changed with their expansion, you’ll still find a knock-out menu of cheese-encrusted vampiros, birria that’s been stewed in hot consommé, and, my favorite, anything wrapped in their signature sobaquera. The huge Sonoran tortilla could double as a parachute, and whether you opt for it stuffed with beans, chile colorado, or as a vehicle to wipe away any joy-related tears, this needs to be in your order.
Between movie premieres, shows at The Pantages, and general industry action, Hollywood is a neighborhood that can never have enough fancy-ish dinner spots. Time to add The Barish to the top of the list. The new Nancy Silverton restaurant inside The Hollywood Roosevelt reopened this spring after a brief stint last fall, but it already feels like a place that’s been doing its thing for years. The dimly-lit dining room has strong Old Hollywood energy (it helps being located in one of the most historic hotels in the city), but not in a way that feels stale. The cocktails are strong and interesting (we particularly love the fennel-forward Barish martini), there are individually painted goats on the dinner plates, and the tight Italian menu is littered with pasta, big meat dishes, and a lot of bread. But it’s the aromatic, mustard-y steak tartare that we can’t stop thinking about. It arrives at the table deconstructed and is one of the most memorable versions we’ve had in years. Also, whatever you do though, save room for the olive oil gelato. It is a soft, silky textural fantasy, and the perfect way to end your night.
Although Mazal only opened in November 2020, this tiny Lincoln Heights restaurant has quickly become one of our favorite dinner spots on the Eastside. There’s plenty of seating both inside and outside, although we prefer their lovely little alleyway adorned with string lights and patterned concrete walls - the whole atmosphere makes it the perfect place for a low-key date night, or semi-romantic outing with a platonic friend. The Israeli menu is completely vegetarian, and consists of dishes like phyllo-encased bourekas, smoky babaganoush, and a sweet potato/carrot soup that’s heavily spiced and may have even cured our seasonal allergies. Plus, everything is sharable and under $20, meaning even with a few glasses of wine, you and your table can walk out having spent around $40 a person.
When a ramen spot opens up on Sawtelle, it’s not often headline news. After all, this West LA neighborhood is already stacked with great noodle shops, many of which have been operating for years and already have fervent cult followings. But Menya Tigre deserves your attention. This tiny spot specializes in Japanese curry ramen - something you can’t find on Sawtelle or really anywhere in LA - and it’s the best bowl of soup I’ve eaten this year. The broth is a rich blend of earthy curry and salty chicken stock that’s topped with a slice of braised pork chashu, crunchy bean sprouts, and green onions. When it all comes together with the chewy noodles down below, it’s a delicious, expertly-made bowl of soup that I’ll be eating any day when May Gray and June Gloom threaten to ruin my summer energy. Be sure to also try the equally-flavorful Keema, a dry curry noodle that comes topped with pico de gallo, corn, and shredded chili peppers.
It seems like everyone in LA just wants to be outside right now. And Playita’s standalone patio is the place to be on any given afternoon or evening in Silver Lake. The new, order-at-the-window mariscos stand on Sunset from the people behind Guisados has a street-facing dining space perfect for people-watching while you make your way through their outstanding Mexican seafood menu. The tomato-based campechana is a stand-out, and while you can get it with just shrimp, I recommend ordering the mixto, which comes with albacore, crab, octopus, and shrimp. It’s light, refreshing, and served in a plastic cup, making it an ideal on-the-go option if you want to wander Sunset Junction with a snack. That said, I recommend taking a seat so that you can get back in line for another round of citrus-y ceviche and perfectly-battered camarones tacos.
At Gigi’s in Hollywood, you’ll feel like you’re special. The host greets everyone like they’ve been waiting all night for this moment. When you ask your server about a particular wine by the glass, they’ll send over the somm, who will then send over four generous tastes. And the plushly designed interior has the capacity to transport you to a bar in New York where the hand-illustrated walls are full of secrets, even if you sit outside and just pass through to find the restroom. Gigi’s is less about the food than it is about having a night out, and yet the French bistro options will stick with you, whether you snack on delicate raw scallops, or opt for steak frites. It won’t be easy to get a reservation, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with excellent service, steak tartare, and an opportunity to finally wear that outfit you bought in 2019.
-Arden Shore, Senior Editor
Cha Cha Cha is the perfect restaurant for this moment in Los Angeles. As vaccine rates rise and more people hit immunity, it’s only natural to want to go out and experience the things that we all missed out on in the past year. Located on an expansive rooftop in the Arts District, this colorful Mexican restaurant (the original location is in Mexico City) strikes that perfect balance between fun and casual, while also being downright beautiful. What I’m trying to say is this place makes LA look like a million bucks - without trying too hard in the process. Swing by with a few friends for some mezcal cocktails and tuna tostadas, hit a romantic date night out of the ballpark, or show off to someone who you’re trying to desperately convince to move to LA. It’s also an ideal spot to eat and drink while trying to remember how to socialize - something I know I’m certainly working through at the moment.
A good pop-up simply serves food - a great one feels like you’ve been let in on a secret. Little Fish is the latter. The Echo Park shop typically operates out of a house on the weekends, where you’ll be handed a can of beer on arrival. There’s a fun, sunny atmosphere here, as if cool kids personally invited you to a party - and unlike this scene in Eighth Grade, actually want you there. Then there’s the fried fish sandwich. Golden-brown in color and served on a white, fluffy bun, it’s like McDonald’s’ Filet-O-Fish, but the one they promise you in TV commercials. The fish itself is wonderfully crispy (it’s beer-battered then fried, not breaded), which makes for an almost-airy texture. There’s a tangy Kewpie mayo/pickle combo that clings to the bun, and serves as the perfect complement to an otherwise salty sandwich. Plus, each box only costs $20-$25 and comes with a hefty portion of pasta salad and a bag of Zapps New Orlean-style kettle chips - and might just be one of the best deals in town. Pre-orders are usually required, but keep an eye on their Instagram for all the latest update
I feel like I’m dating Interstellar in Santa Monica. Let me start by saying, on paper, the all-day cafe did not reel me in. It’s two blocks from the Santa Monica Pier, and the menu is all over the place - spanning everything from waffles and breakfast sandwiches, to shakshuka, chilaquiles, katsu curry, galbi tacos, pasta, and branzino. First I tried the savory katsu curry and the sweet-leaning bulgogi burger, and both were so good that I returned the next week for the stacked turkey club and some tacos. That’s when we became “official.” Now I’ve made my way through half the menu, and have told every Westsider about this place - specifically mentioning that the Korean-America co-owners opened the first week of March before the pandemic hit, and still have the best new patio in downtown Santa Monica. I’m fully bought in, and love that this cafe doesn’t force any craving compromises. Plus, there’s a dog menu, in case you and your four-legged friend have become codependent.
Open for takeout.
From giant rounds of focaccia studded with rosemary to bacon-wrapped pâté and bright pink beet and cannellini dip - eating a meal from Happy Mediums is like attending a picnic put on by your closest friends. That is, if your friends were, like, really good at cooking. Run by partners Bonnie Hernandez and Shea Montanez, this new, cute pop-up drops a menu of deli-style offerings each week, including plant-based cherry ice cream, butternut squash soup, and grilled achiote chicken thighs covered in a charred pasilla sauce. Although the offerings seem relatively simple - they’re the kinds of shareable, finger foods you’d want spread out on a blanket at the park or on the beach - from the rich, salty pork sugo to a super cauliflower soup that’s heavily scented with dill, everything here is made with extreme care and perfect for almost any occasion. Even if that occasion is just finally finishing The Sopranos on HBO. Let’s talk about that ending? DM me.
Before I get into my full thoughts about Thanks Pizza, I’d like to shout out @koreatown for bringing this new Ktown pizza shop to my attention. (Michael Pak is a must-follow for all LA humor and food news.) This order-at-the-counter spot in the third-floor food court above California Marketplace isn’t trying to do anything fancy with their pies. While other spots around town are busy perfecting their wood-fired, bubbly-crusted craftsmanship, Thanks’ pizza reminds me of what I devoured as a kid growing up at skate rink birthday parties - affordable, well-built pie with outside-the-box toppings that taste incredible. The garlic chicken pizza is a little spicy with a sweet, pungent kick from the blue cheese, but the mascarpone pizza might be my favorite pizza I’ve eaten all year. Topped with basil pesto, mozzarella, cream cheese, and mascarpone, this pie sent shockwaves of childhood bliss through my body. It’s sweet, tangy, and herbaceous, both nostalgic and novel. Each pizza is available in two sizes, 9 or 12-inch, and everything on the menu falls under $16.
In the midst of … ~ gestures towards everything ~ , LASA, the family-run Filipino spot in Chinatown, has pivoted to a new takeout rotisserie concept called Lasita. The streamlined menu focuses primarily on brined meat like pork belly lechon, but after a recent visit, the star of the show was without question the inasal. Lasita’s version of this rotisserie chicken dish is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, giving it sweet and citrusy notes, with an acidic bite at the end. I would say you don’t even need the garlic vinegar and spicy birds eye salsita that comes on the side, but you actually do - they take the already fragrant flavors of the chicken and crank it up a notch. All that said, do not under any circumstance leave Lasita without one of their turon cream pies in your bag. Filled with banana confit, jackfruit, and brown sugar whip, this is the type of dessert that makes you keep rechecking your refrigerator for leftovers when you know damn well you finished it on the way home.
Devastated by the overwhelming number of restaurant closures due to the pandemic, Jared Jue and Alice Han teamed up with fellow marketing experts and creatives Jonathon Chu, Andy Lam, and Geng Wang to put their love for LA immigrant food culture into action. And thus, Mama’s Drive-By Kitchen was born. Equal parts charity initiative, restaurant pop-up, and revolutionary delivery platform, this mega-hybrid distributes dish pairings from two separate mom-and-pop restaurants to convenient pick-up points in West LA, Koreatown, and the San Gabriel Valley. Past collaborations have included Boyle Heights shop Las Flautas + Colombian Korean-owned Escala, the legendary Brodard Restaurant paired with Ktown institution, Hwang Hae Do, plus a Gamboge + Medan Kitchen crossover that might just have been LA Senior Editor, Arden Shore’s favorite meal of the year. Presales tend to sell out quickly, so make sure to keep an eye on Mama’s Drive By Kitchen’s Instagram for all the latest updates.
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.
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.
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®.