Did your ticket to the Academy Awards get lost in the mail? Never mind. Thanks to an exciting new crop of hip, casual L.A. restaurants, you can dine like a star – no invitation required.
These five restaurants represent a democratic food moment happening right now in the City of Angels: The plates and prices are smallish, the flavours enormous and the vibe totally unpretentious, even when you can spot celebs mixed in with the agents, PYTs and ad guys. Perhaps best of all: You can make reservations instead of having to lineup in the, um, sunshine.
SUPERBA SNACK BAR
Located on a strip of Rose Avenue that is currently the hottest spot in Venice, Superba's menu will seduce you with its delicious snacks (crispy burrata), muscular veggies (cauliflower T-bone) and creative pastas (smoked bucatini carbonara). The interior feels like an industrial but comfy garage with a mix of communal and regular tables, and one side is open to the street. Dinner was so delish I went back for brunch and ended sitting beside Chris "CJ" Jacobsen from season 3 of Top Chef.
Standout dish: crispy Brussels sprouts with dashi broth and a poached egg on top. 533 Rose Ave., Venice; superbasnackbar.com
Before they opened Animal, co-chefs and owners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo were caterers to stars such as Harrison Ford. Now anyone can book a table at their minimally adorned West Hollywood shrine to all things meaty. Animal parts (pig ears, veal brains) compete with beautiful produce (baby kale, English peas) for top billing, and generally win. The mood is masculine and just a touch upscale – but don't put away your jeans. This is Los Angeles, after all.
Standout dish: braised rabbit legs with potato purée and mustard jus. 435 North Fairfax Ave.; animalrestaurant.com
It's back to Venice and into a place that could almost pass for Grandmother's house, if Grandma were a killer cook and lived a block away from Muscle Beach. The mismatched vintage dishes and pretty floral arrangements are as sincere as the food at this three-week-old charmer. Chef Jesse Barber trained with master manipulator Thomas Keller, but here the cooking is stripped down, seasonal and flavourful.
Standout dish: braised baby octopus with fresh chickpeas. 1715 Pacific Ave., Venice; barnyardvenice.com
Located on what GQ Magazine called the "coolest block in America," this Abbot Kinney hangout that opened last spring has a crowd milling around the huge wooden front door. On the other side lies a buzzy, industrial space and to-die-for rustic cooking. Nowadays everyone is making grilled kale and charred cauliflower, but I tasted it here first.
Standout dish: The pizzas rock, but also try the salted chocolate tart with caramelized blood orange sections. And then order another. 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; gjelina.com
The scene at Cooks County is not what you imagine when you think "hottest restaurant in Hollywood": a simple, little patio lit up by outdoor fireplaces, a comfy dining room with wooden rafters and exposed duct work, attentive, zero-attitude service. And, oh, the food! The kitchen sends out inventive, produce-heavy plates large and small, from juicy wood-grilled California duck breast with scarlet turnips to a tiny saucer of ethereal fried cardoons. With cooking this good, pretense is a waste of effort.
Standout dish: crostone with poached duck egg, house-cured pancetta, chicories and Parmesan. 8009 Beverly Blvd.; cookscountyrestaurant.com