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Hollywood’s Essential Restaurants – Summer 2018

Hollywood’s best restaurants don’t always have a gimmick, but when they do they resemble a summer blockbuster more than a favorite film you decide to return to again and again. The latest en vogue tendency for Hollywood restaurants is actually no gimmick at all, but instead a worthy reclaiming and reimagining of urban blight: Hollywood’s best restaurants are taking back the strip mall. The strip mall is, of course, not unique to Los Angeles at all, but it does feel like a Los Angeles signature, especially when you are driving down Hollywood’s most famous streets like Hollywood, Sunset, Melrose, and Santa Monica.

Of course, not all of Summer 2018’s essential Hollywood restaurants are packed like sardines inside a strip mall, many are sprawling and grand architectural and artistic works in themselves, Provençal cafés, or sleek and modern spots with menus to match. Here, we take a look at 14 of Hollywood’s best restaurants including Baroo, Chi SPACCA, Gwen, Kali, Trois Mec, and more.

Also, for the purpose of this article – let’s define exactly where Hollywood is. We only looked at restaurants above Melrose, below Franklin West of the 101, and east of Fairfax. Give or take a block or two. If we’ve left any incredible restaurant out, please let us know! We love trying at least one new restaurant each week.

Enjoy!

Photograph by Jakob Layman.

Baroo
5706 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 929-9288, baroola.strikingly.com.
“Baroo” allegedly means a bowl that Buddhist monks are allowed to possess 
and use for their meals until their last breath. Baroo has been offering diners a culinarily religious experience since opening in 2015. Jonathan Gold then called it a “taste of the future.” In 2016, Bon Appetit deemed it the fifth best restaurant in the United States. Since then it’s only gotten better, not worse. The hip, compact joint is located in – where else –  a strip-mall on the tail end of Hollywood, just past Hollywood Forever Cemetery and before the 101. The restaurant prepares locally sourced Korean classics with a modern twist. Their goal is to serve food with respect & love to nature and people, by using local, sustainable, and organic ingredients with “with and an open mind.” Chef Kwang Uh’s now famous, and often imitated but never duplicated, Kimchi Fried Rice Bowl just might make your synapses fire. Baroo is the perfect place to dine before or after catching a screening down the street or, really, any time or day of the week because the no frills Baroo has become a modern day classic.

Chi SPACCA
6610 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038. (323) 297-1133, chispacca.com.
chi SPACCA is the first of Nancy Silverton’s restaurants to appear on this list, above Osteria Mozza but only because this list is alphabetical. Chi SPACCA 
is an an award-winning meat restaurant in Los Angeles owned and operated by Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton. The team has described it as “an Italian steakhouse on steroids.” I don’t particularly like that description, but, yes, it is a one-of-a-kind steakhouse, especially for Los Angeles. All of the dishes here are served family style. I recommend 3-5 dishes if you’re dining for two. The dishes are heavy, indulgent, savory, deeply favorful yet balanced. The two signature dishes – the Tomahawk Pork Chop and the Beef and Marrow Bone Pie – are absolute musts. Much has been made of these two dishes and many will tell you that if you’re a vegetarian to steer clear, but Chi SACCA does, in fact, have many incredible vegetarian dishes that would be known city-wide were it not for their flashier and meatier counterparts. A vegetarian meal IS possible here. Focaccia di Recco is the best, cheesiest foccaccia you’re likely to find in the city. Antipasti dishes include the delectable Roasted Squash Blossoms and the Fava Bean Fritti. Seafood dishes include Carabinero Prawns and Whole Branzino alla Piastra. Silverton, as we all know now, also makes a show-stopping salad.

Delphine
6250 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028. (323) 798-1355, delphinehollywood.com.
Delphine Eatery & Bar offers Contemporary American cuisine that is California-inspired with a focus on fresh organic ingredients. A warm and inviting space reminiscent of Provençal cafés, Delphine’s vibrant colors and classic archways convey a convivial atmosphere, where guests of the W Hotel mingle with locals and tourists alike. The expansive, indoor-outdoor space is located at street level facing bustling Hollywood Boulevard, located inside the W Hollywood and is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as weekend brunch. Both casual and sophisticated, Delphine’s menu features a selection of starters from the house favorite Kale Salad and Charred Brussels Sprouts to entree specialties like the famous Delphine Burger, 12oz Bone-in Filet, and Seared Maine Diver Scallops. A favorite is the awesome raw bar (only rivaled by The Hungry Cat perhaps?) and the cocktails and people watching are alone great reasons to visit.

Gwen
6600 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 946-7512, gwenla.com.
Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant is the second restaurant from fine dining chef Curtis Stone (of Maude) and the first with his brother Luke Stone. Gwen is both a European-style, chef-driven butcher shop and a restaurant that is redefining fine dining in LA. Yes, another meat-centric restaurant – but Gwen is a very different beast from Chi SPACCA and others. Their
 menu calls on fire-based cooking techniques, guests have flexible options including á la carte or a ten-course degustation. A stone’s throw from The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, also offered is a pre-theatre menu. Reservations are recommended for the dining and wine rooms however walk-ins are welcomed and can always be accommodated on the patio or bar. Or, you know, grab and go and dine at home. Pick up house-made charcuterie, prime and rare breed meats from the retail butcher store. Whether you’re enjoying a meal in the dining room or relaxing with a bite and cocktail on the patio, Gwen delivers the highest standards of quality, taste and service.

The Hart & The Hunter
7950 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. (323) 424-3055, thehartandthehunter.com.
The Hart & The Hunter in the Palihotel is a favorite for lunch whenever we’re on that side of town. Some would say that side of town is more West Hollywood than Hollywood, but because we can’t get enough of outgoing chef Kris Tominaga’s biscuits we must include it here. The Hart Breakfast is one of the best in Los Angeles and includes: Choice of Coffee, Tea or Orange Juice, Two biscuits, and Choice of Avocado Toast, House Granola, or Toad in a Hole. Dinner is no slouch either with highlights: the Fried Green Tomatoes with herb buttermilk dressing, chow chow, radish, and pickled red onion and the Mushrooms & Polenta with crème fraiche, and parmesan. Meatier musts are the Pan Seared Scallops with jalapeno creamed corn, and seasonal mushroom and the Smoked Chicken and Ricotta Dumplings with chicken broth, bacon, brown butter mushrooms.

© Andrew Stuart

The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine Street, Hollywood. (323) 462-2155, thehungrycat.com.
The Hungry Cat has now been open since 2005! That makes it something of a Los Angeles institution at this point. If you’re like me and love seafood, The Hungry Cat is a a classy yet casual lunch and dinner destination. The Hungry Cat produces its own in-house smoked meats and seafood, curing and pickling, as well as featuring a unique farmers market driven cocktail program, esoteric wine list and rotating local beers. Plus that raw bar is often visually stunning! Start with the clam chowder, perhaps the best in the city this side of Fairfax. Follow that up with XO Mussells for the table. It’s braised mussels with XO sauce, jasmine rice, and charred bok choy. Next up, you’ll love the  Grilled Whole Striped Bass served with sunchoke puree, maitake mushroom, bitter greens, and salsa verde.

Kali
5722 Melrose Ave., (323) 871-4160, kalirestaurant.com.
Kali was perhaps the buzziest restaurant opening in LA a few years ago. And unlike some restaurants that have fallen off or disappeared (Paley, etc.) it’s as amazing as it ever was. One of the most charming aspects of Kali is that if you are seated at just the right table, you can see Chef Kevin Meehan in his kitchen in action. And Drew Langley, an expert sommelier, goes from table to table recommending wine pairings for each dish. Start with the asparagus tips with duck egg, tarragon, and cracklin. When mixed altogether along with the crispy duck skin it will be a really nice and refreshing start to your meal. The wheat berry “risotto” with black garlic and burnt cheese has been perhaps the most discussed dish from Chef Meehan. Love it or hate it, like the chicken liver crostone at Alimento in Silver Lake, it’s a dish you simply have to try at least once. The Cavatelli Pasta comes surrounded by a bed of crispy charred arugula. This was a really excellent touch because it made the cavatelli feel at once both decadent and light and airy.

Musso and Frank
6667 Hollywood Blvd. (323) 467-7788, mussoandfrank.com.
The legendary Musso and Frank is an old school Hollywood hotspot that’s been frequented by the who’s who of Hollywood for years. It is, in fact, Hollywood’s oldest eatery. Barring some sort of closure or change in ownership it will most likely always be one of Hollywood’s essential restaurants. Its popularity and reputation as a hangout for actors is probably due to its comfy red booths, the dim lighting, and, of course, the martinis. The steakhouse, right in the heart of the most touristy section of LA, has been virtually unchanged since the days when the Rat Pack spent their off-time there. If you are looking for old school classic dishes done right, stiff cocktails, and the best service in town, look no further.

Odys + Penelope
127 S La Brea Ave. (323) 939-1033, odysandpenelope.com.
Odys + Penelope is a wonderful new restaurant from the husband and wife team behind The Sycamore Kitchen. At the heart of Odys + Penelope is its open grill, wood-fired smoker, and Brazilian churrasco. The sprawling and rustic space is perfect for both brunch and dinner. be sure to get The Farmer’s Dozen Salad, made with 12 seasonal raw and roasted veggies, herbs, pepita “butter” and lime vinaigrette plus a to die for Skillet Focaccia served with dandelion greens and parmesans. The Grilled Line Caught Swordfish with barely, mushrooms, cherry balsamic, and salsa verde is a delicious entree that will keep you coming back. Odys + Penelope also offers craft beer and wine and delectable handcrafted cocktails.

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave., (323) 297-0100, osteriamozza.com.
If you saw the recent Chef’s Table episode on Netflix featuring chef Nancy Silverton chances are you’ve probably already booked a table at Osteria Mozza. What more can I say that hasn’t already been said? You will love it. Go and go soon. Pro tip: if you can’t snag a table, sit at the bar where the service is just as excellent and attentive and where, Tuesday through Sunday, you can dine on three courses from the following categories – Mozzarella Bar, Primi, and Dolci – for just $35. That’s quite a steal any day of the week.

Papilles
6221 Franklin Ave., Hollywood; (323) 871-2026, papillesla.com.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Papilles, a French restaurant tucked in the corner of a strip mall off the 101, is the gallery wall of artwork whose mismatching frames make the dining room feel a tiny bit like Gertrude Stein’s salon. The modest and unpretentious bistro is best known for its affordable prix fixe menu that features modern Gallic dishes like Frog Legs with Celery Consomme, Scallops with Chanterelles, and Caramelized Peaches. The selection of Old World and natural French wines adds to Papille’s understated elegance. What we love about Papilles is that all of the produce is local. Yes, all of it. The prix fixe menu begins at just $38, which when compared with some of the other prix fixe menus on this list seems like downright robbery.

Providence
5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. (323) 460-4170, providencela.com.
Everybody raves about Providence. Chef Michael Cimarusti’s fine-dining destination delivers innovative seafood in a tranquil setting. The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars. As you can expect, it is pricey but for seafood lovers you’ll never taste anything like it.

Salt’s Cure
1155 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood.  (323) 465-7258, saltscure.com.
You’ll love Salt’s Cure most at lunch. The sleek and modern spot serves inventive California-sourced dishes. Go with friends and sample all of their toasts. That will only set the table back about $25. Which, of course, will leave more room in your budget for cocktails! You’ll flip over their refreshing mimosas, with your choice of freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit. The wine spritzers are particularly enjoyable on a hot summer day. The white apricot, cucumber, and mint is a personal favorite.

Trois Mec
716 Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038.  (323) 484-8588 troismec.com.
And last, but not least, Trois Mec. The most Hollywood restaurant of all. At Trois Mec, one doesn’t simply make a reservation, they reserve tickets. While that movie theatre concept doesn’t entirely work – it suggests more of a Disney-esque safari cruise more than an Old Hollywood dinner and a show – there’s no doubt that Trois Mec and chef Ludo Lefebvre have changed the dining landscape throughout Los Angeles. Trois Mec is perhaps the first fine dining restaurant to jumpstart the reclaiming of the strip mall. Located in an old Rafallo’s Pizza spot (the Raffalo’s Pizza sign still hangs above the door outside…”intentionally” their website clarifies for some reason), Trois Mec
offers a constantly changing five-course tasting menu and operates on a special ticketing system. Based on what I’ve said above, you may be surprised to find out that  Trois Mec is actually not as pretentious as it may first appear, even after being a James Beard Award Finalist in 2017. Whatever Ludo has in store for you, it’s safe to say you will love it.

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