Welcome to all in town for the annual Rose Bowl game. No doubt you are already in a frenzy getting ready for your hometown team to win, but be sure you make the most of your trip by visiting some of Los Angeles’ special restaurants. These spots are guaranteed to keep you coming back to Los Angeles for great food and wonderful culture.
435 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; animalrestaurant.com
MEAT. Animal is appropriately named and lives up to its name. I can’t even begin to tell you the after effects you’ll feel after eating here. I guess a close approximation would be how it feels to walk on water? Animal, helmed by the formidable duo Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, is pure heaven. They studied under Michelle Bernstein and Govind Armstrong of “Top Chef Masters,” respectively, and had their own show on the Food Network, “Two Dudes Catering.” The daily menu never disappoints, and one thing Angelenos know for sure, everything is delicious. -E.C.
4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead; bahooka.com
Fish, fish everywhere! Well, them and my favorite sea turtles surround you – in tanks – in this Hawaiian cuisine family restaurant. It’s the closest you can get without snorkeling in Hawaii or catching the meal yourself. Start off with the flaming punchbowl or the stiff Star Trek. Then order some clam chowder, pick a grilled fish and you’ll be on your way to paradise. —E.C.
3300 Overland Ave., Palms; eatchego.com
Leave it to the food geniuses who brought us Kogi food truck to come up with a restaurant that offers a delicious twist on one of the most simple of dishes, the humble rice bowl. In case you’ve lived under a culinary rock the past couple of years, Kogi ushered in a new era of cuisine – taking high-end fusion restaurant fare to the streets, literally.
Their new venture is of the traditional brick and mortar variety, but with their own unique style. Chego is described as “peasant food for the soul” and delivers perfectly executed Korean-inspired rice bowls, for under 10 bucks. The limited menu includes seven rice bowl options, six appetizers including a wonderful hot mess called “Ooey Gooey Fries” and five desserts. My personal fave is the Buttered Kim chi Chow – hot and buttered rice with fried egg, red chili tofu, edamame, parsnip, garlic soy jus, chicharrones and furikake.
Chego is located in a non-descript mini-mall in Palms, the lines are out the door and there are no reserved tables. Certainly you can go get a fancier meal, however, I don’t think you’ll find a better meal, and one that is so uniquely Los Angeles. —S.B.
209 World Way, Los Angeles; encounterlax.com
Science-fiction fans unite … at LAX. Encounter is truly one of the most unique restaurants in Los Angeles. I haven’t come across one like it, with the alien themes and views of the “UFOs,” er, OK airplanes arriving and departing. For all its kitsch, Encounter really serves top-notch food (for airport cuisine) to passengers coming or going. It’s easy to get lost in the aerial views of the restaurant, and while you’re doing that make sure to order a specialty drink, crispy buttermilk calamari, flat iron steak and anything chocolate, and you’ll be full and satisfied as you head for your final destination. —E.C.
501 S. Spring St., Downtown; thegorbalsla.com
“Top Chef” Season 2 winner Ilan Hall gives you some dishes from his cultural background of Scotland and Israel. The Gorbals, named after the Glasgow neighborhood that can be likened to the old tenements in New York, is located right in the Alexandria Hotel in Downtown. As you walk through the halls of the hotel, you’ll see original art and find yourself at the door of the small, lively restaurant. The menu is eclectic, from bacon wrapped matzo balls to GLT’s where the G stands for gribenes (fried chicken skin), and your palate will definitely be broadened. Nothing is over $15 on the menu, and the drinks are impressive. At any given time you’re sure to see the chef himself manning the kitchen, especially if you pull up a chair right at the bar that puts you face to face with the kitchen. —E.C.
Various locations; in-n-out.com
In-N-Out is the best burger in Los Angeles. Period. I don’t think many have traveled to Los Angeles, had a Double Double and didn’t go back home gushing about these made-to-order burgers. The only other people lucky enough to experience these on a daily basis are those that live in Texas, Arizona, Nevada or Utah. Even if you have to purchase one before you board your flight from LAX, do it. Animal Style! —E.C.
2020 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; la.darkdining.com
Only in California can you dine in the dark and actually enjoy it. This spot in Santa Monica is a once in a lifetime experience. I know it sounds a bit strange, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be dining with the best of them. This spot is best for light meals like the Heirloom Tomato Salad, or dessert – Lava Chocolate Cake will make you see stars … in the dark! —E.C.
Philippe the Original
1001 N. Alameda St., Downtown; philippes.com
I know, you’re probably thinking French Dip in Los Angeles? Probably not as good. But let me tell you, Philippe’s hasn’t been in business since 1908 by making sub par French-dipped masterpieces. Walk up to the counter, don’t mind the crackling of sawdust and shells beneath your feet and grab one of these bad boys topped with your choice of roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham. Keep it simple with the accompanying tangy coleslaw and a dash of the house-made hot mustard. Mustard so good, they sell it! —E.C.
8155 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; redorestaurant.com
Red O’s upscale Mexican cuisine is not only approachable, but it’s the closest you can get to trying Chef Rick Bayless’ cuisine without actually dining in his signature restaurant in Chicago. The owners at Red O tagged Chef Bayless, winner of “Top Chef Masters” Season 1 and host of PBS’ “Mexico, One Plate at a Time,” to design their menu, and what they acquired was a refreshing take on classic dishes that have earned them lots of buzz in the Los Angeles foodie world. Try the guacamole, ceviches and one of the most popular items, camerones mojo de ajo. This dish features shrimp soaked in garlic sauce with fresh spinach. It might add a bit to the waistline, but it’s worth it. Plus you’re on vacation, so eat well! —E.C.
742 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles; eatatstreet.com
Susan Feniger is no stranger to the L.A. food scene, having opened her first restaurant, City Café (CITY), in 1981, and the very popular Border Grill soon after, serving upscale, modern Mexican food in an urban cantina setting. Out-of-town guests are sure to recognize her from her Food Network show “Too Hot Tamales” and appearances on “Top Chef Masters.”
Her latest venture is Street, where she takes traditional street dishes and infuses them with her own upscale flare. The concept is simple actually: Find the best street food from around the world and serve it all in one place. Don’t have time to fly to Japan for Tatsutage fried chicken? No plans to go to Lima for the spicy fried Peruvian potatoes with aji Amarillo cream, pickled chilies and capers? How about a quick flight to Nigeria for greens braised with caramelized onion, egusi seeds and red palm oil? Not a problem, all and more are available at Street. —S.B.
5239 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; tokyodelvessushibar.com
If you and your friends are all out here together or you meet like-minded football fans, a great place for large groups is Tokyo Delve’s. This sushi bar stands out because it’s literally all over the place with the choices of rolls and sashimi offered. Though it’s eclectic, it’s not gimmicky or sub par. Tokyo Delve’s has great food, music and, best of all, dancing! —E.C.
351 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; vodvil-la.com
For a little extra entertainment with your meal, try Vodvil, where the whole family can enjoy themselves. Vodvil is unique in that every day is full of activities, be it board game night, karaoke or trivia night. “Top Chef” alumna Jamie Lauren serves your food. Chef Lauren keeps it wholesome with “sliders” like turkey sloppy Joes, pulled pork and falafel. The interactive games are the draw here, be sure to check the Web site for the theme of the evening. —E.C.
And there you have it, visitors to Los Angeles. We hope you have a wonderful time here and that your respective teams win. If not, at least you can go home and brag about your amazing dining experience!