Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
Philippe the Original
"This 99-year-old restaurant was the accidental birthplace for the French dip sandwich."—Mari Florence. Historic lunch counter, with sawdust on the floor, hearty breakfasts, free parking, and ten-cent coffee. For the signature "French dip," choose from roast beef or pork, leg of lamb or ham. 1001 N. Alameda St.; tel. +1 213 628 3781; www.philippes.com.
"Masses flock to the original Hollywood location for crispy rotisserie chicken served with smoky garlic sauce."—Mari Florence. Lebanese chain well known for moist and juicy tarna (roast chicken), shawerma (spicy grilled beef), mutabbal (eggplant salad), soujouk (spicy sausage) and that sharp, eye-watering garlic sauce. 5065 W. Sunset Blvd. (also West L.A., Burbank and Pasadena); tel. +1 323 665 7842; www.zankouchicken.com.
"The hip crowd is as eclectic as the menu, drawing both piercings and Prada."—Roger Grody, dining critic, Fodor's L.A. Fifties-era 24-hour diner with inexpensive, oversize portions and occasional vegan choices. Outdoor patio; interior is decked out like an old car or jukebox: metal stools, vinyl booths (some with old car seats built-in), and plenty of quirk or panache (note stuffed ducks in bathroom). Rich milkshakes (try combining strawberry and peanut butter), moist and tender fried chicken salad, hefty burgers. Tip: Go early for brunch or dinner, or late at night to avoid lines. 1850 N. Vermont Ave.; tel. + 1 323 667 0062.
"Don't miss the dark chicken mole, or the chile-lime crickets."—Neal Fraser, chef-owner of BLD. Most atmospheric location of this raucous Oaxacan restaurant is in enormous former banquet space in Koreatown. Moles—both red and black—excel. Be warned: Mariachi band may drown out conversation. 3337 ½ W. 8th St.; tel. +1 213 427 0601; www.guelaguetzarestaurante.com.
Soot Bull Jeep
"With clouds of smoke billowing from the open charcoal grills, low-key Soot Bull Jeep has its very own fantastic authenticity."—Patric Kuh, restaurant critic, Los Angeles magazine. It's all about the barbecue at this Korean favorite: excellently marinated kalbi (short ribs), bulgogi (sliced beef), chicken and pork, served with the usual array of pan chan—salad, sweet pickled daikon (radish), and spicy kimchi (pickled cabbage). "Get the thin-sliced, marinated short ribs, and the squid," says Neal Fraser. 3136 W. 8th St.; tel. +1 213 387 3865.
"Sushi Roku dimmed the lights and made the nightclub experience part of the sushi one."—Patric Kuh. The original installment of this ten-year-old restaurant is lively, even rowdy, with the sushi chefs' signature greeting getting louder and louder throughout the evening. Chilean sea bass and lobster rolls are crowd-pleasers. 8445 W. 3rd St.; tel. +1 323 655 6767 (other Los Angeles locations in Santa Monica and Pasadena); www.innovativedining.com.
"The duck with chili and garlic is one of my favorite dishes in the world."—Neal Fraser. Thai classics—crispy catfish with sweet red curry sauce, wide rice noodles with beef or chicken, green curry, crisp pork belly, the aforementioned duck—in an unassuming strip mall. 5757 Hollywood Blvd., tel. +1 323 462 0292.
Sustainable food and artisanal cooking in a lounge-style restaurant—dim lighting, club vibe—under rigorous watch of French-Moroccan chef Dominique Crenn. Try house-cured meats (duck prosciutto), Maine lobster tail with exotic fruits, pork chop with crispy bacon lardoons, and the Sonoma artisan foie gras. 1541 Ocean Ave.; tel. + 1 310 394 3463; www.aboderestaurant.com.
Charlie Chaplin's office from the 1920s was converted into one of L.A.'s finest Italian restaurants. These days, the menu veers toward contemporary American, with heritage dishes popping up here and there: a selection of Mediterranean olive oils, linguini marsala with pancetta, and lovely gnocchi with fava beans. 624 S. La Brea Ave.; tel. +1 323 938 1447; www.campanilerestaurant.com.
"Foie gras, côte de boeuf and fine wines share a stage with (architect) Gehry and (composer) Gershwin."—Roger Grody. Reflecting its location within the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, Patina unveils its contemporary American dishes like a fine performance, rolling out (not in this order) caviar cart, cheese cart, even a tea cart. For an even more theatrical experience, spring for the chef's table—a six-course tasting menu for nine (from around $1,000). 141 S. Grand St.; tel. +1 213 972 331; www.patinagroup.com.
Everyone who is anyone has eaten here at one time or another—particularly the celebrities and wealthy who consider the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows to be their home away from home. Indoors is the effervescent tinkling of a piano; outdoors, ivy, original brick flooring, and iron touches give the sunny patio its great sense of history and privilege. 9641 Sunset Blvd.; tel. +1 310 276 2251; www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com.
Known informally as the home of the "sushi Nazi" for chef Kazunori Nozawa's mastery and preferences (i.e., eat whatever he makes, and don't even dare order a California roll), this boxy strip mall joint in Studio City is legendary. Yellowtail and albacore are astoundingly fresh, crab rolls generous, sushi rice fall-aparts warm, nori (seaweed) crisp, and iced tea a dark green flavor bomb. Tip: Sit at the sushi bar for the full experience. 11288 Ventura Blvd.; tel. +1 818 508 7017.
"Intense and reflective, Myers is constantly inspired to create…even when he's surfing."—Roger Grody. Sona's name derive from the word "sound" in Latin, and so go the small plates and six- and nine-course tastings at this exceptional restaurant: like improvisational riffs of jazz. Muted, minimal surroundings let the freshness of bean ragu, big-eye tuna, miso short ribs, and caramel braised salmon really shine. 401 N. La Cienega Blvd.; tel. +1 310 659 7708; www.sonarestaurant.com.
"The dining equivalent of sitting courtside at a Lakers game."—Roger Grody. Wolfgang Puck's flagship restaurant put the town on the gastronomic map in the 1980s. Still packs a crowd, with power lunches and power dinners. Interior is a whimsical fantasyland of art, color, and shape, including the stained glass diorama in the main dining area. Try handmade agnolotti, roasted-beet layer cake, impossibly thin wienerschnitzel, or dripping-hot calzones. 176 N. Canon Dr.; tel. +1 310 385 0880; www.wolfgangpuck.com.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
Submit your best shots for a chance to be featured in our weekly galleries and to win a grand prize trip for two to Alaska.