The LA Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Los Angeles guide image


The LA Hit List: The Best New Restaurants In Los Angeles

We checked out these new restaurants in LA and loved them.

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.

New to the Hit List (06/08): Lingua Franca, Amiga Amore, Sushi Yamamoto


photo credit: Lingua Franca

Lingua Franca  review image

Lingua Franca


2984 Allesandro St, Los Angeles
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Lingua Franca has the power to make the LA River feel romantic (well, almost). This inviting Frogtown restaurant from the Wax Paper team balances the worn-in feel of a neighborhood spot with the stylish scene of a place where you might see Eric Wareheim. It sits along a riverside bike trail, serving natural wines and a rotating mishmash of elevated picnic food. There’s crunchy lavash with pepper-crusted albacore crudo, a bright green pea risotto with pistachio pesto, and a truly excellent burger served on an English muffin with fistfuls of matchstick fries. We highly recommend dropping by for Happy Hour on the river-facing front patio, then squeezing into the intimate dining room for a mellow dinner.

LA finally has the Mexican-Italian fusion spot it deserves. Amiga Amore is a charming husband-and-wife operation that started out as a pandemic project in a parking lot. They’ve now found permanent digs in a tiny Highland Park space with a massive patio: you’ll see the owners serving tables and mingling like they're hosting a dinner party. Most of the “Mexitalian” menu is made up of clever, borderline genius remakes of familiar dishes, like plump elote agnolotti, a caprese with diced cactus, and a bowl of chorizo and clams with thick slabs of toast. They’re currently BYOB, so plan on bringing a bottle of gamay and kicking back under the string lights eating food that’ll live in your head rent-free for weeks.

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The newest member of LA’s growing club of very expensive omakase spots, Sushi Yamamoto is hidden on the second floor of Two Rodeo plaza in Beverly Hills (sushi geeks might know it as the former home of Urasawa). Dinner at this eight-seat counter costs $390 per person—gulp—but if spending that on amazing sushi sounds not totally unreasonable, you’re in the right place. The young chef running the show here worked at Matsuhisa and Nobu Tokyo, and he brings a loose, fun energy that perks up what might otherwise be a too-serious meal. A simple surf clam in dashi is enough to make your knees wobble, while flashier dishes like uni-caviar tempura and hay-smoked wagyu explode with flavor. Nigiri is fine-tuned to highlight the natural sweetness of seafood, but dessert is perfectly not-too-sweet: a wedge of hollowed-out Japanese melon filled with extra creamy melon ice cream.

This multi-floor Italian spot in Beverly Hills is the third restaurant from the Willy Wonka of pasta, chef Evan Funke. And much like his other two spots, Mother Wolf and Felix, Funke is the kind of exciting, blowout dinner spot that actually deserves the hype. The loud dining room is full of Gucci-clad guests sipping vintage Barolo and shouting travel stories over perfectly al dente orecchiette. You’ll have the kind of fancy Italian experience where servers course the meal with precision and refill water before you hit empty. But you’ll do it in the shadow of a 20-foot glass pasta workshop where cooks roll fresh agnolotti for your entertainment and eventual enjoyment. Come here the next time you want to throw down on a baller meal that’s actually fun, or head up to the walk-in-only rooftop for a special occasion date night.

There’s an air of mystery surrounding Le Great Outdoor in Santa Monica. The name sounds like it could be an REI surplus store and its Instagram presence, however beautiful, doesn’t give away many details. So here’s the deal: it’s an order-at-the-grill dinner spot in the Bergamot Station parking lot where meat, fish, and veggies are cooked right in front of you. The menu is essentially a list of Things Alice Waters Might Bring To A Potluck—bok choy with sumac, goat cheese tartines drizzled in local honey, and a whole branzino that was probably caught before you went to work this morning. Everybody’s hanging out on picnic tables (you might know this area as Bergamot Cafe during the day), drinking chilled wine from Argentina, and eating platters of root vegetables like it’s a horticultural block party. And maybe that’s what this place is. We’ll be there all summer long.

If someone tasked us with creating our ideal summer lunch spot, it would look a lot like Za Za Zá, from the same team as LA Cha Cha Chá and another recent Hit List addition, Loreto. You'll find the order-at-the-counter mariscos spot in Loreto's tree-filled Frogtown courtyard that feels like a designated pocket park. The daytime-only menu has 10-or-so items that are exactly what you want to be eating when the marine layer burns off and suddenly, you're sweating a little. Think dishes like tostadas layered with yellowtail and tobiko mayo, calamari-topped guacamole, and gooey, griddled Oaxacan cheese tacos. There’s also a full drink menu with agua frescas, micheladas, and boozy punches—which you’re obviously dabbling in, it’s summer and you just turned off Slack notifications.  

For almost three decades, Stir Crazy, the cutesy cafe between Highland and La Brea, was a go-to spot for laptop warriors and midday coffee dates that ended in sex. That version of Stir Crazy closed in 2022, and after an extensive renovation, it has transformed into a breezy, chilled-out wine bar that feels like a green room after-party at The Largo. The menu is pretty bare bones at the moment with snacky stuff like marinated tomatoes, serrano ham, and a particularly delicious plate of anchovies. So instead of planning a full dinner experience, do as the locals do: use it as a laid-back hangout filled with great wine, great music, and a bunch of people who probably have Netflix comedy specials coming down the pipeline. 

Two Hommés could serve their Ghanaian jollof platter in the middle of traffic on the 405 and we’d still implore you to seek it out. Fortunately, all you actually need to do is stop by this casual sit-down spot in Inglewood. Served in a mound as large as a hockey puck, the fluffy, moist rice dish comes with a side of meaty black beans and sweet plantains. This West African fusion spot from an LA chef duo (hence the name) also serves a bunch of fun mash-up dishes that’ll have you fighting over the leftovers, like fried catfish garlic noodles and berbere-dusted spicy honey chicken bites (they're as good as the sound). We highly recommend dropping in for a date night, Sunday brunch, or whenever you’re in the mood to try something unique, but not too fussy.

The newly reopened—and completely revitalized—La Dolce Vita might be located in Beverly Hills, but it’s really a pulse-raising portal to Old Hollywood set in a tiny, windowless room that exudes exclusivity. Celebrities, CEOs, and studio execs crowd the gold-tinted bar sipping tequila gimlets and some of the best martinis our livers have had the privilege of metabolizing. Other people with disposable incomes crowd into big leather booths surrounded by tableside caesars and juicy, bone-in veal parm. The leopard print carpet, illuminated horse busts, and lilac-hued brick walls are straight out of 1966—the year this classic Italian spot first opened—but the room feels entirely of the moment. For a glamorous, over-the-top night out filled with great food, excellent people-watching, and pure Hollywood escapism, La Dolce Vita nails every aspect of the assignment. Just book your table now, they’re going fast.

We love a good comeback story, which is probably why the return of Porridge + Puffs has us as misty-eyed as the last 20 minutes of Remember The Titans. This neighborhood congee spot served creative comfort foods that captured our hearts right up until it closed in 2021, but now it’s reopened and phewf, little has changed—right down to the fermentation jars lining the back counter. Start with the bright cabbage and herb slaw, then pick a porridge. The chicken one could use a little more kick, but the colorful seaweed and mushroom one is a roman candle of umami. And somehow the brown butter mochi are even better, like chewy rice cakes transformed into the world’s greatest french toast. Menu and hours are currently limited—P+P is only open for lunch Friday through Sunday—but we’d still send anyone here for a low-key, spectacular midday meal without hesitation.

photo credit: Catherine Dzilenski

Isla review image


It’s been a long winter, so if you’re struggling to break into warm-weather mode, head to Isla. This breezy California-ish spot from the Crudo e Nudo people is located on Main Street in Santa Monica mere blocks from the beach, and it’s where you’ll find us hanging out all summer. The space is upscale, but still neighborhood-y with plush banquettes and an open hearth surrounded by seating. Grilled skewers make up most of the menu, ranging from chicken hearts to kanpachi in orange-koji marinade, and we suggest making them the centerpiece of your meal. They’re small, fall into the $8-$12 range, and are uniformly excellent, so if you’re a table of two, order all of them and fight over your favorites. Round out dinner with an absurdly fresh citrus salad, crispy calamari with macadamia nuts, and a house gin and tonic or two. Or three. It’s warm out.

Frogtown, a small residential enclave cozied up against the LA River, has grown into a real dining destination over the past few years, with standouts like Wax Paper and Salazar leading the pack. But even so, there’s never been a place quite like Loreto. With multiple dining rooms, exposed rafters, a wrap-around bar, and [collective gasp] valet, you might mistake this upscale Mexican seafood spot from the owners of LA Cha Cha Chá for a warehouse restaurant in the Arts District. And we don’t mean that as a slight, especially because there’s still plenty of neighborhood-y energy in the dining room. The menu puts a clear spotlight on raw fish—there are separate sections for sashimi, ceviche, and tostadas—and while all of it is excellent (definitely get the spicy rojo aguachile), the dish you can’t leave without is the whole grilled fish. Served with rice, beans, escabeche, blue corn tortillas, three different salsas, and unlimited quesadillas (yes, really), it’s enough food for at least three hungry adults. Even more exceptional is that it’s somehow only $64. We’d send you to Loreto just for that, but that’d be a shame—because you’d miss out on the lobster and shrimp-topped esquites and carajillo-inspired chocolate dessert (both just as stunning).

Sometimes the pre-party ends up being more fun than the actual party, which might be the best way to describe a meal at Barra Santos. This narrow, brick-walled Portuguese spot in Cypress Park from the Found Oyster people is somewhere between a bar and a restaurant, making it a perfect destination for a glass of sherry and some salty snacks, though maybe not a full-on meal. While the menu here is fairly short, we’re happy to report everything on it is flat-out delicious: bright, lemony tuna crudo, shaved Iberico ham, garlicky prawns dusted with chili flakes. You’ll also find a few more substantial plates, like a confit chicken leg in vinegary piri-piri sauce or a juicy pork sandwich with herb sauce, but nothing is heavy enough to kill your appetite before dinner. Barra Santos only takes walk-ins, so plan on showing up early if you want to grab a seat at the gorgeous, dark-wood counter where bartenders pour chilled wines and chat up customers—we can’t think of a better place to start your night.

If a cross-cultural fusion restaurant that plays punk tracks inside a barcade sounds like fun, that's because well, it is, and its name is Poltergeist. Located in Echo Park's Button Mash, this oddball dinner spot serves in-your-face riffs on classics, like a caesar salad punched up with lemongrass and smoked anchovies and miso honey parker house rolls, plus dishes you didn't know you needed, like battered honey walnut prawns paired with a silky horchata panna cotta and tingly mapo tofu cabbage rolls. The chef previously worked at Bestia, so don't overlook the thick bucatino pasta in a tangy green curry with scallion confit and crunchy pistachio gremolata, either. Poltergeist is open late (until midnight on weekends), so if you're waiting for a table to open up without a reservation, just show up early for draft beers and a few rounds of pinball.

If we were handing out Oscars this year, we’d give a nod to Corridor 109 in several categories, like Best Sardine Toast and Most Unique Fine Dining Experience. This tiny eight-seat restaurant in Chinatown is one of the toughest reservations in LA right now, but a meal here stands out from other tasting spots in the way it coaxes deep flavors from utterly gorgeous seafood using Japanese and Korean ingredients. It's run by a chef who cooked in a bunch of award-winning kitchens before starting his own pop-up inside Kobawoo House, an iconic Koreatown restaurant run by his parents. Now he's on the second floor of Far East Plaza in a bare-bones space serving nine courses of inventive dishes like a spot prawn and caviar tartlet, seared skipjack tuna with some very good pesto spaghetti, and a Hokkaido scallop in a herbaceous clam broth that will be memorialized in our hearts and minds for years to come. Dinner is a BYOB affair that costs $250 per person—if you want to book a seat, wait until tickets drop on Tock near the start of each month, then cross your fingers.

Pre-theater dinner spots can be a little boring—most are built to put chicken piccata in people’s stomachs before two-plus hours of David Mamet. But then there’s Bar Chelou, a French-ish bistro on the grounds of the Pasadena Playhouse where the food is special enough to be its own attraction, whether you have tickets to the show or not. The moody, dimly lit dining room buzzes into the night with dates sharing hearty, artfully plated dishes like snapped peas topped with smoky crumbled Spanish sausage and bluefin tuna in a celery root puree. And while a good chunk of the crowd inside Bar Chelou does have a performance to get to, it’s not like the place dies after showtime. People who are thankful their kids went to bed early swarm the bar area, sipping martinis and ordering lemon-chamomile semifreddo well past 10pm (not exactly late night, but pretty good for Pasadena). 

Walking into Monarch, a Hong Kong-style cafe in Arcadia, feels like you accidentally crashed the Mad Hatter’s tea party. The maximalist dining room is a technicolored dreamscape with plush, tie-dye chairs, wavy blue wallpaper, and a waterfall mosaic created from thousands of glass beads. Even the monogrammed dinner plates with ethereal butterflies will have you pulling out your phone. The man behind the magic is Humberto Leon, fashion designer and owner of the equally maximalist Chifa in Eagle Rock. But just like its sister restaurant, Monarch is more than just aesthetics and vibes. The food is great, too. We love the salty, slippery egg crab fried fun and the curry noodle with briny squid ink noodles. Even simpler dishes like the steamed beet cake and spiced okra in Szechuan sauce pack flavor-heavy punches. We’ve never seen an upscale, party-like restaurant quite like this in the SGV, and Monarch pulls it off.

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