Since Los Angeles is the town that practically invented the phrase, “Let’s do lunch,” it’s easy to see how important eating a meal can be.
Hollywood is all about being seen and there’s no better way to do that than dining in front of paparazzi and gawking bystanders.
Here are three days worth of restaurants that will let you be seen while eating like a local.
Mix breakfast and lunch at a Los Angeles tradition: Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. This Hollywood eatery (now with four locations) has been open since the mid-1970s and is loved by residents and visitors alike. Try the Carol C Special, the house favorite: one fried chicken breast placed on top of one perfect waffle. For bigger appetites, try the Jeanne Jones omelet, which adds cheese on top of the traditional chicken and waffle. A side of candied yams and macaroni and cheese yields a perfectly rounded, albeit calorie-laden meal. The interior is minimalist, the food is anything but. 323-466-7453, www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com
The term “Mexican cuisine” doesn’t even do justice to the flavors of this tiny San Gabriel restaurant. At Babita Mexicuisine, the chef adds gourmet touches while staying true to the heart of each dish. The tender lamb shank is a must-get—the shank is steamed in beer and marinated in a special chili sauce. For a lighter dish, try the snapper served with mango relish and a rice pudding flavored brulee. This menu is a great place to venture off the beaten path, but be warned that spicy really does mean spicy. The décor is modest, but fits in perfectly with the laid-back, comfortable mood of the location. (626) 288-7265
If you’re going to try sushi, L.A. is the place to do it. This posh city is known for its highbrow eats and Asanebo Japanese Gourmet is the Cadillac of sushi. When a plate is first set down, you may wonder whether you’re supposed to eat it or just look at it. Start your journey with the assorted sashimi platter or, if raw fish makes you squeamish, try the Chilean sea bass paired with a creamy pepper sauce. The space is tiny and reservations are recommended. Also, you never know who you are going to see here, as it is known to be a key location for studio heads, stars and other big-deal Hollywood players. 818-760-3348
Auntie Em’s Kitchen may be known for its cupcakes stacked high with one-and-a-half inches of frosting, but breakfast is also perfectly scrumptious. The restaurant hidden in a slightly out-of-the-way strip mall, but the white lettering on the brick exterior will point you in the right direction. The interior is tiny with a fun and totally laid-back atmosphere. Try an open-faced breakfast sandwich, which include options like roasted asparagus and brie or Cajun turkey sausage, all of which are served with Gruyere cheese, scrambled eggs, and homemade salsa over grilled ciabatta bread. Auntie Em’s is also known for its honey orange French toast, which is ultra-sweet and topped with berries and powdered sugar. Come here with enough time to linger over breakfast, as the wait staff tends to be on the slower side. 323-255-0800, www.auntieemskitchen.com
Former Top Chef contestant Betty Fraser co-owns grub, a restaurant that prides itself on serving California comfort food. The interior is best described as homey, which fits perfectly with the food. Try the “after-school special,” a grilled cheese made with cheddar and Swiss on sourdough and plated next to a bowl of creamy tomato soup. Or you can choose to go green with a “hot chicks” salad. The salad is topped with a boneless chicken breast covered in a super spicy sauce, onions, celery, carrots, bleu cheese, and tossed in ranch dressing. Regardless of your main dish, order a side of black pepper potato chips, which add a perfect crunch to every meal. 323-461-3663, www.grub-la.com
If you’re looking for intimate and romantic, Brandywine, located in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, is the place for you. The color scheme is burgundy and pink with booths separated by lace curtains, which instantly creates the feeling of Cupid’s comfy living room. The owner is always available should you have any questions. Start with something light like a spinach salad with warm vinaigrette or a grilled eggplant salad. For the main course, move on to something heavier like veal sweetbreads or sautéed frog legs Provincial. Definitely save room for dessert—pretty much everything on the menu is good, but the Meyer lemon pudding cake with strawberry puree is truly sublime. 818-225-9114
With its dark wood and dim lighting, Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills is reminiscent of a 1950s chophouse. Live entertainment adds some energy to the space, but it still never loses its extreme elegance. Get your vegetables in early with a healthy appetizer like a chopped salad or beefsteak tomato and onion salad. Then, it’s time for steak, which can be prepared however you desire. If you can’t choose between a side of Gorgonzola macaroni and cheese, au gratin lyonnaise potatoes or sweet potato fries, just get all three. Portions are generous, but don’t worry about saving room as the savory options are far superior to the sweet. 310-888-8782, www.mastrosoceanclub.com
If you want to see power-players at work, head to The Griddle Café, a hole-in-the wall restaurant next door to the Directors Guild offices. The unimposing brick wall with painted logo seems light-hearted, but the amount of Hollywood players dining here at breakfast isn’t. The menu seems to go on for miles. On the sweeter side, you can order the thick French toast or a “griddlewich,” a peanut butter, strawberry jam, and chocolate-covered banana sandwich. If you’re in the mood for more protein, try the caballera, a breakfast burrito made with chicken chorizo, or the huevos rancheros which is topped with a sauce made with tequila. Best of all, the Griddle Café really knows how to start a day (or end a long night) with its “morning drink” menu, which includes items like bloody sake. 323-874-0377, www.thegriddlecafe.com
Who knew Formica could be classy? Until I walked in the door of Nate n’ Al’s, I wasn’t convinced it could be done. This restaurant has been proudly family-owned since 1945. Try the Hollywood, a sandwich full of corned beef, or the New York a sandwich pilled high with pastrami. And fry lovers rejoice! They serve both skinny and steak fries. Cap off the meal with a slice of apple, cherry or blueberry pie—a la mode, of course. 310-274-0101 www.natenal.com
Nestled behind a Borders bookstore, The Hungry Cat has expansive white walls that make the interior space seem huge. The kitchen is open air so aroma wafts throughout the dining area. Hungry Cat specializes in seafood, so get ready for an ocean-focused meal. Start out with a selection from the raw bar, like the big-eye tuna with green curry or tandoori-spiced salmon. For an entree, the fried squid with grilled pineapple and sesame vinaigrette is a winner, or feel the East Coast breezes with a Maine lobster pot pie made with roasted carrots, peas, kale, potato, and a lobster cream. End with a land lover’s dessert of chocolate bread-and-butter pudding. 323-462-2155, www.thehungrycat.com
Angelini Osteria, in my humble opinion, is one of the best Italian places in the city, if not the nation. Osteria means a meeting place, often times where both the poor and the rich could congregate and even share a drink. Today, Angelini carries out that tradition by serving top-quality ingredients at affordable prices. Move out of your comfort zone and try the anchovies appetizer served with artichokes and beets, or the fegatini chicken liver that is served with green beans. The primi, or pasta, options are all good, especially for vegetarians, but meat eater should skip right to the secondi. The breaded veal chop served Milanese style with a side of eggplant and fried zucchini is delicious, as is the grilled bistecca all Fiorentina finished with grilled radicchio and roasted potatoes. 323-297-0070, www.angeliniosteria.com
By Courtney Crowder for PeterGreenberg.com.
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