I can’t remember the last time we said, “Let’s go to LA for a long weekend.” New York, of course. Boston, no question. Chicago, absolutely.
Los Angeles has everything on the checklist that most cities don’t: consistently great weather, selection of incredible hotels, fantastic restaurants. Unfortunately, what ties them all together is a very long line of cars. If you’re walking on a street or an oh-so-rare sidewalk without a dog, people will actually stop and ask if you’re okay.
That said, we never complain when business brings us there often, and we always add on a few days. The key to a successful trip? Find a neighborhood and stay within a 5-mile radius to keep your sanity. And stick to Uber and Lyft and make them do the heavy lifting.
The other key? Stay only one night and rent a car to drive to Santa Barbara/Montecito.
Thank you for: The Nomad opened recently. Until then, downtown was a little hard for us.
Because we always stayed where the cool kids went: The Ace Hotel gets props for its historic building and for changing the vibe downtown, and has a great rooftop and gathering spot (but now it makes us feel old).
For something quirky: Like its sister hotel in Miami, the Freehand has a great bar and fun vibe. It’s the new Ace.
For the chef who does it all: All of Josef Centeno’s restaurants are thoughtful and fun, and they’re all within a short walk off Spring and 4th/5th—Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston, Ledlow, and Baco Mercat.
If you can handle the hipsters: Grand Central Market on South Broadway is a revitalized OG food hall.
When there’s sushi on every corner: Q and Sushi Gen are the two worth stopping for.
More than a clever name: In a sea of great Mexican food, Broken Spanish stands out for its homemade-but-cool vibe.
For family-style Middle Eastern: Bavel is the new gem from the Bestia team.
For Japanese with Zenlike balance: Much-acclaimed Shibumi is more formal than neighborhood izakaya but stops short of those intimidating tiny fine-dining plates
For breakfast: Eggslut (is that not the greatest restaurant name?)
For a speakeasy vibe: The Varnish is serious about its cocktails and Birds and Bees is what the bartenders recommend.
Other must-dos: Otium, (especially for location) Bottega Louie, and Bestia are really not to be missed.
All of the hotels in this ’hood have happening outdoor bars or rooftops, overpriced cocktails, and flawless weather. Our go-tos:
For the balconies and the rooftop view: The London
For a killer hotel breakfast: The SLS—try the eggs Benedict. Also, Jose Andres just put in Somni, a new tasting counter in the hotel to try along with Bazaar.
For the guys who own the neighborhood: Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo have a group of restaurants here that are all good—Trois Mec (a finer dining prix-fixe spot), Animal, Jon & Vinny’s (a tiny place with great pizza, pasta, and meatballs), Son of a Gun, and Petit Trois (tiny kitchen, fantastic food close to Trois Mec and what we prefer over the fine dining experience).
To eat all day: Republique has a great space and a revolving menu for every daypart. And the space is very cool, and a great learning experience.
The neighborhood darling: Joan’s on Third is ever-popular with the people.
For izakaya: Aburiya Raku
When you want really good pizza: Nancy Silverton’s Mozza is a staple in town.
The fine-dining vet: Providence
For steak frites: Lucques (eat them at the bar)
Where the meat is right there: Beard-recognized Gwen is a combo butcher shop/restaurant. You can hit this on the same night as checking out April Bloomfield’s new Hearth and Hound. (Great space, great hearth, service is a little inconsistent.)
The hot-ticket steakhouse: APL is new and has an Art Deco vibe.
For a glass of something great, and to see a place that’s really stood the test of time: AOC
For Francophiles: French-inspired Tesse is the latest restaurant from Bill Chait, who opens basically everything in town.
To wander: The LA Farmers’ Market is mostly shopping mall now even featuring Dominique Ansel and the cronut lines, but it’s great to see the unchanged food stalls.
Actually in East Hollywood: Awards-laden Kismet has been driving the all-day dining trend, with Mideast-meets-CA dishes.
Even though Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are intertwined neighbors, we’ll separate them out for the purposes of hotels and restaurants. The hotels are decidedly bigger, more posh, and much more expensive, and the big dogs all have big-dog restaurants.
For the Wolfgang Puck experience: The Beverly Wilshire is now a Four Seasons, and home to WP’s Cut restaurant.
For something iconic: Hotel Bel Air (which is essentially a free-standing resort) or the Beverly Hills Hotel.
To be able to walk into Beverly Hills: The Viceroy L’ermitage has a higher-end price point, but you can see why, and it’s an easy walk through Beverly Hills.
The perennial to-do: Spago
For something offbeat: Hinoki & the Bird
For a crazy tasting menu: Vespertine is the must-do “gastronomic experience” in town, just south of BH in Culver City.
For something Italian: Sotto
It’s cool and beachy and basically why you go to California year-round.
For a strip-mall surprise: Dialogue, which has the craziest location for a big-name chef (James Beard winner Dave Beran)
For a tasting trip to Southeast Asia: Cassia blends those bright flavors with a California vibe.
For a sip after Cassia: The restaurant’s sister restaurant/wine bar, Rustic Canyon, is a short walk away (but no one walks). Great for a meal or dessert as well.
To smell like a campfire: The menu at Tar & Roses is crafted around the wood-burning oven.
The one changing the neighborhood: Felix is delicious, Italian-inspired, and started bringing the quality level up in this area.
For true fine dining: Melisse is a 2-Michelin French restaurant, and some of the only real fine dining left.
To ogle all day: The display at Gjusta is fantastic.
The chef making a splash: Michael’s has been open for ages, but the new chef has been twice nominate for the Rising Star Beard because he’s making the kitchen feel new again.
Where the brunch doesn’t suck: Tasting Kitchen is always bustling and has killer cocktails (related?).
Reminding you why you go to California: Gjelina has one of the city’s most-envied patios.