Editor’s Note: This travel guide to some of the best restaurants and wine bars in LA is part of our ongoing itinerary series for wine and food lovers. Discover top restaurants in cities all over the world and what makes them special.
Los Angeles is one of the most famous cities in the United States and not always for good reason. The glamour attached to Hollywood is often upended by social issues that have plagued the city since its inception. It’s also notoriously expensive and clogged with traffic. What, then, makes LA so endlessly fascinating a draw that has thousands relocating there every year? Well, we’re not saying it’s the restaurant scene entirely, but that’s probably got something to do with it.
In this fiercely competitive city, fair-to-middling restaurants simply won’t make it. There are too many other beautiful, hip, thoughtful, and innovative places to explore, so why would anyone settle for mediocrity? Fold in that so many residents have worked hospitality at some point and service is exceptional as well. To wine and dine in LA is to be almost guaranteed a memorable experience.
Here, we explore some of the best restaurants, wine bars and wine lists across this expansive city. Thank goodness for Uber.
Winetraveler Foodie Tips: Stay at the luxury Beverly Wilshire hotel and dine at upscale CUT Restaurant by Wolfgang Puck for an opulent experience in LA. Alternatively, stay in Santa Monica at Shutters on the Beach and book an ocean-front room. Dress down and dine at Coast Beach Café and Bar. If you’d prefer to experience downtown LA in style, stay and dine at The Nomad Hotel (NoMad) for menu items like sea urchin pasta, kanpachi ceviche, cavatelli and pan-seared branzino.
COVID-19 NOTICE: Restaurants may or may not be open due to COVID-19, be sure to call ahead to inquire about reservations. We include phone numbers for each throughout this article.
First time in LA? Customize a private guided experience to all the hotspots with our friends at CityTour1. Alternatively, bike your way around the city with Bikes and Hikes through its diverse neighborhoods, beaches and beyond. It’s probably the best and most immersive way to see everything that Los Angeles has to offer.
Tabula Rasa Bar
Oh, we’re starting off like this, are we? We can’t help it. The unassuming exterior of Tabula is a bit deceptive given the wonderful weirdness available inside. In the mood for an orange pet-nat? Red bubbles? Intriguing amaro? You’ll find it here. The bottle shop is very reasonable, but guests are welcome to grab a glass of something to sip as they nibble small plates and debate how to categorize orange wines.
Bonus: There’s a very well-thought-out non-alcoholic beverage list as well.
5125 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
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Before the congresswoman, A.O.C. stood for “appellation d’origine contrôlée,” or, the reason only Champagne can produce champagne. And if that sentence didn’t make any sense, don’t worry: A.O.C. the bar will. This West Hollywood haven offers French cuisine with California ingredients to delectable results. The focused wine list is just as inviting, with by the glass offerings from France, New York, and just about everywhere else. Try the wild mushroom polenta with a glass of Habit’s Cabernet Franc for a truly delightful pairing.
8700 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
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Musso & Frank
At first glance, Musso & Frank might appear to be an old-school steakhouse and while that’s not too far off, we urge you to take a deeper look. This place is steeped in Hollywood tradition, from the leather banquettes to the servers’ uniforms. The menu is just as legendary, boasting fettuccine alfredo created just for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. The best part for us wineauxs is that the wine list is impressive, with a huge range of options and a very respectable half bottle list. All of that said, there’s no shame in ordering a Manhattan and toasting to days of yore.
6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
Chinois on Main
Wine-centric restaurants always tend to lean towards France or Italy so we’re always delighted when restauranteurs break rank. Consider this more creatively Asian than traditionally Asian which is probably not a surprise since Chinois on Main was opened in the 1980s when the American culinary world began to get a little more experimental. Wolfgang Puck’s great achievement here is that Chinois on Main has managed to stay fresh and inventive, crafting intriguing dishes and offering thoughtful wines to pair. Not sticking with the standard Riesling for all-dishes-Asian, wine savvy servers can recommend everything from zero dosage bubbles to juicy reds.
2709 Main Street, Santa Monica
Long Beach native Gary Menes decided to off-road with his Le Comptoir by offering an 8-course prix fixe to a very limited number of guests each night – and lo and behold, he earned himself a Michelin star. Join him for the experience, along with wines to pair, and you’ll immediately understand his star-status. His choices are always based around seasonally fresh produce and it’s refreshing to see vegetarian options for each course that pair just as beautifully with the wine selections.
3606 West 6th Street, Los Angeles
Despite all of the amazing epicurial possibilities in this world, it’s hard to argue against the profound beauty of a toasted sandwich and a good glass of wine. Zinqué seems to have heard our cry because it serves a delightful array of tartines, flatbreads, and other toasty-bread options. Is there anything better than garlicky pan con tomate and a glass of rosé? Or, skip real food altogether and try the luscious pear tart while sipping sauternes. (Yes, we realize that’s veering away from our initial claims of simplicity but just go with it.)
8684 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
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Spain is still one of the underappreciated heroes of the culinary world and Manchego brings the best iterations of Iberian cuisine to the streets of Santa Monica. Although many of us just think “Rioja” when we think of Spanish wines, there’s a huge variety range of styles that pair with regional specialties. Manchego enables curious diners to savor tapas like spicy garlic gambas or jamon wrapped dates with a glass of Godello or Mencia. Or, go hardcore and sip a fino sherry while nibbling marcona almonds.
2518 Main Street, Santa Monica
Oriel is kind of a neighborhood oddball. A hip French bistro plopped down on a Chinatown corner is bound to stand out but that’s certainly not a bad thing! Dishes are more earthy fare than high-end French cuisine but there’s no lack of delicious pairings to explore. What could be better than a rich bowl of onion soup and a glass of Bourgueil on a cold day? Maybe only starting with a sparkling Vouvray and a cheeseboard.
1135 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles
Mignon Wine Bar
Who knew we could experience cute and quaint in Downtown LA? Mignon clearly did, given its name. This no-reservations wine bar offers small plates and a well-curated wine list that includes Manzioni and Pinor Noir from Arbois. Who needs a 40-page list when every by-the-glass option is so good? And the point of Mignon, really, is to decompress and to enjoy the ambiance, which is just as endearing and indulgent as the gourmand offerings.
128 East 6th Street, Los Angeles
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The Little Door
The Little Door sounds much more subdued than it actually is: this place is gorgeous. With a focus on the Mediterranean, the attention to detail touches everything from the menu to beautiful blues that saturate the décor. The menu is just as pan-Mediterranean as the blue, with dishes and wines from France, Spain, Italy, and North Africa. Try the Portuguese piri piri shrimp with a Morgon served chilled to fully appreciate the thought and care that went into building The Little Door.
8164 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
Augustine Wine Bar
Brought to us, in part, by one of the minds behind the much-loved Bar Covell is Augustine Wine Bar, which means that we know we’re in for the good stuff! With about 50 wines available by the glass, oenophiles can sip their way through everything from Crémant du Jura to Chasselas to Alicante Bouchet. The wine list holds no loyalty to region, style, or ethos beyond every single wine being fantastic. The food menu is similar in that we’ll find standards like brussel sprouts alongside dishes out of left field like blue crab rice porridge. Personally, we love the tater tots with spicy aioli because who doesn’t love tots? (Pssst… try them with a demi sec Vouvray…)
13456 Venture Boulevard, Sherman Oaks
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Veering back towards that big boot in the sea, Antico Nuovo is more understated and paired down than Italian pizza and pasta joints and thankfully there’s room for it all. At Antico, we actually recommend starting with the wine list and selecting a glass to start and then finding a dish to match because all by-the-glass options are offered with the menu in mind. A Mexican Falanghina, for example, is right in our wheelhouse and even more so when we pair it with Antico’s caprese. Ask one of the well-versed servers for their favorites.
4653 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles
If you are one of those rare birds who feel is such a thing as too much French or Italian, a) uh, we don’t understand what that means, but b) n/naka is here to shake things up! N/naka is the epitome of Japanese focus and execution, making use of the finest ingredients to craft some of the most visually stunning dishes we’ve ever seen. Make sure to arrive very hungry as Chef Nakayama will take you through thirteen courses. Guests can opt for the wine pairings or select for themselves from the extensive wine and sake list.
3455 Overland Avenue, Los Angeles
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Hatchet Hall’s wine list is a work of art, plain and simple. Categorized by style and weight, guests shouldn’t feel shy about asking for recommendations because there are some unusual wines here, like a Furmint and a Grolleau-Pineau d’Aunis blend. With a focus on relationships with farmers and food producers, the menu is just as beautiful and includes some little surprises like cornbread with shishito or avocado with lemon crème fraiche. But, don’t limit Hatchet Hall to being just another farm-to-table place: one of the best surprises about it is their “Old Man Bar” around back, where guests can stick with a beer and a shot if that’s what moves them.
12517 West Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles
Jon & Vinny’s
…and now, the end is near: this article faces the final curtain. Our friends, we’ll make it clear. We’ll state our case, of which we’re certain: Jon & Vinny’s will have you very thankful that pizza exists and that they do it their way. And yes, we’re still tying this to Ol’ Blue Eyes by insisting you try their “Jersey Marinara” pie to taste simplicity at its finest. If you insist on extras, there’s no shortage of other options, many of which offer a nod back east. Or, opt for a dish of pasta like Nonna used to make. Grab a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and savor why the Motherland is still Queen of Cuisine.
11938 San Vincente Boulevard, Los Angeles
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