A mecca of all things celebrity, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles attracts chefs who want to make a big splash. Household names like Rick Bayless, Nancy Silverton, and Wolfgang Puck—whose legendary Spago in Beverly Hills still attracts A-listers—offer amazing, creative dishes, often in equally spectacular settings. Newer to the scene, Michelin-starred upstarts like Jordan Khan’s Vespertine and Dave Beran’s Dialogue deliver unique experiences alongside delicious food.
Market-driven menus, focusing on California’s über-fresh ingredients, are the norm at places like Santa Monica’s Cassia eatery, a lively spot offering a fresh take on Vietnamese cuisine, and ultra-fancy Patina, the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s star restaurant, where chef Joachim Splichal creates gastronomic showstoppers. If you venture a little off the beaten path, in neighborhoods like Beverly Grove, you can find excellent eats—like cicchetti, or Italian-style tapas—minus the scene at places like Bacari West Third.
For all the innovative dining experiences, it’s the city’s international nature that just may be its biggest selling point. There are countless places to get authentic, reasonably priced meals from around the globe. Try such down-home Indonesian dishes as batagor (fried tofu) or otak otak (banana leaves with grilled coconut fish paste) at Simpang Asia in the Palms section of the city. Order the green corn tamales, a local favorite, at El Cholo, an L.A. tradition since 1923. Dig into perfect ramen at Tsujita in Little Tokyo, or drop in at Silver Lake’s Night + Market Song for some of their famous sweet-and-salty party wings.
L.A.’s well-known driving culture permeates the culinary scene as well, with a number of popular food trucks stationed around town. At Guerrilla Tacos, former fine-dining chef Wes Avila experiments with unexpected fillings like oxtail, sweet potato, and octopus. Let’s Be Frank (hot dogs), Coolhaus (ice cream sandwiches), and The Grilled Cheese Truck (you guessed it), serve up gourmet twists on everyone’s favorite comfort foods. For something a little different, Kogi BBQ mixes Asian flavors with Mexican classics to create Instagram-worthy bites like kimchi quesadillas and spicy tuna burritos wrapped up in soy paper. Check the eateries’ websites or Twitter handles before visiting as they are often on the move.