Obsessively crafted espresso drinks—brewed in $10,000 Clover machines, bonglike siphons, or a brass-sheathed La Marzocco elegant as an old French horn—are the main perk at Lamill (breakfast for two $45). But the note-perfect coffee is equalled by the food, courtesy of Providence chef Michael Cimarusti. Don’t miss the eggs en cocotte, a burbling ramekin of velvety yolk and gently baked whites swirled around crimini and oyster mushrooms, lardons, and fines herbes.
F: Farmers’ Markets
Musky Charentais melons, candy-like persimmons, juicy citrus at any time of year, a dozen varieties of artichoke and avocado: just a few reasons why southern California is the envy of any sentient human cursed to live elsewhere. No place is better for working up an appetite—or sating one—than the Santa Monica Farmers Market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), which sells all of the above and more.
Speaking of the farmers’ market, that’s where you’ll typically find Travis Lett when he’s not behind the stoves at Gjelina (dinner for two $85), the bright new light on ever-trendy Abbot Kinney. Lett’s surfer-boy looks—perhaps you caught him in Vogue—belie his talent for the earthy, assertive, locavore cooking that makes even vegetarian dishes (wood-roasted Tahitian squash with rosemary and unfiltered olive oil; braised chickpeas with harissa) taste as hearty as the short ribs. Lett’s intensely flavorful, flame-kissed plates find an ideal setting in the dark, candlelit dining room or back courtyard.
Look, we’re happy to see brash new upstarts stake their claim: 25 Degrees, in Hollywood; the Counter, in Santa Monica; Umami Burger, on LaBrea Avenue. But honestly—we could sample L.A.’s myriad haute-burger offerings until the grass-fed cows come home and never find two better than the Double-Double at In-N-Out (multiple locations; in-n-out.com; $2.99) or the Office Burger at Father’s Office ($12.50). These are the polestars of California burgerdom: the former a well-balanced assemblage of fresh trimmings and never-frozen beef that evokes all the scarf-worthy pleasures of fast food, while utterly transcending the genre; the latter a fancily dressed interloper made with ground dry-aged chuck, topped with a smoky bacon and caramelized-onion compote, Gruyère, Maytag blue cheese, and arugula, served on a disarmingly crunchy demi-baguette—less a burger than an exceedingly rich steak sandwich. Pair it with sweet-potato fries and a glass of AleSmith Anvil ESB, one of 35-odd craft brews on tap.
Along with Donkey Kong, instant noodles, and SMS serial fiction, one of Japan’s finer inventions is the izakaya: a folksy, rowdy pub specializing in small plates evoking ofukuro no aji (the taste of mother’s cooking)—that is, if your mom made you grilled yellowtail collar, braised pork belly, or flanlike tofu topped with crunchy scallions, baby shrimp, and wispy threads of ginger. You’ll wish she had at Izayoi (snacks from $3), a convivial Little Tokyo tavern where the shochu, sake, and cold beer flow freely well into the night.
J: Jonathan Gold
The high/low priest of Southland dining. The first restaurant critic to win the Pulitzer Prize. The Lester Bangs of food writing. Jonathan Gold, stalwart reviewer for LA Weekly, makes the hungriest of us look meek and unadventurous, not to mention ineloquent. His reviews collection, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles (LA Weekly Books), reads like a book of short stories populated by a rogue’s gallery of vivid global characters. In the end, it’s Gold’s city; we’re just the dinner guests.