Anna writes mostly about food, dabbling in other lifestyle subjects.

Hungry in LA?

Eat well and rub shoulders with California’s finest at the same time, finds Anna King Shahab.
Exterior image of coffee shop Intelligentsia in Los Angeles. Photo / Babiche Martens.
Exterior image of coffee shop Intelligentsia in Los Angeles. Photo / Babiche Martens.

Lately, LA has been top of the game when setting new food trends. It's the city that gave us raw foodism, the Korean taco, rescued the reputation of burgers, and took provenance to spoof-worthy heights. The variety on offer in LA is as great as it gets, and includes influences from Armenia to Argentina and runs the gamut of calorific carbolicious to orthorexic-pleasing oddities. Here's our pick of places to eat like a true Angeleno.

1 In star-studded Beverly Hills, Bouchon Bistro is where Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) offers simpler, traditional French bistro cuisine with plenty of flavour. It's not cheap but not too pricey and the service is tops. If the gnudi with black truffle is on, order it - they're heavier-handed with the grated truffle than I've ever experienced. Downstairs at Bouchon Bakery the kouig-namann (a Breton caramelised brioche) is a cult classic.

Gnudi with truffle at Bouchon.
Gnudi with truffle at Bouchon.

2 Tucked under a luxury apartment block, Hinoki and the Bird ticks all the trendy boxes: hard to find, beautifully designed, moody lighting, hand-thrown ceramics and waitresses in long chambray shirts atop long bare legs.

The menu, from raw bar to small plates and cocktails, draws inspiration globally but is essentially a Californian take on the Japanese culinary aesthetic.

Scallops at Hinoki and the Bird.
Scallops at Hinoki and the Bird.

3 Cafe Gratitude (Venice and Downtown) serves up lashings of good karma shredded into salads and cold-pressed into juices. Well, that's the idea, anyway, and it attracts a big following, including plenty of celebs.

4 You're never far from a good taco in LA and there's a taco for every occasion. For great fish tacos head to Ricky's fish tacos; breakfast tacos are the thing at Bar Ama; for a menu that changes daily try Guerilla Tacos and at Guisados you'll find an authentic Mexican sentiment and lots of choice. The most-lauded taco on wheels are at Leo's Taco Truck, where the pineapple and citrus-marinated al pastor tacos fly out the hatch. And one of the best taco stands in the city, Pinches Tacos, sits in delightful juxtaposition to Chateau Marmont on Sunset.

5 The donut competition is fierce here. Some are all about the looks while others manage to marry a pretty face to a worthy taste. A good example is Portland-born Blue Star Donuts, which has a branch on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. Here, all the donuts start with an 18-hour brioche dough. They build on that with flavours like blueberry-basil-bourbon and, my favourite, a simple orange-extra virgin olive oil.

Coffee and donuts at Blue Star Donuts.
Coffee and donuts at Blue Star Donuts.

6 Sugarfina's Beverly Hills store is like Willy Wonka's for grown-ups. The goods here are too pretty to eat, almost. The owners travel the world sourcing all sorts of sweet wonders. Buying the Champagne gummy bears spiked with Dom Perignon vintage gives you the perfect excuse not to share with your under-age kids.

7 Fig & Olive, on chi-chi Melrose Place, is a beautifully airy space with double-height ceilings and a menu that celebrates a marriage of Mediterranean and Californian cuisine. Especially good here are the crostini, topped deliciously - octopus, hummus, pimenton (paprika) or manchego, fig, marcona almond. Half a dozen of these are the perfect appetiser for two.

Crostini at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place.
Crostini at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place.

8 Clementine is a family-owned cafe and bakery, the homely appearance of which belies the fact its two locations (Beverly Hills and Century City) attract a steady crowd, including local celebs. They come for glorious sandwiches like the turkey caliente (DJ Calvin Harris' fave, the manager tells us), bagels and delicious salads. And during the annual grilled cheese fest, they make one of the best in town.

9 US steakhouses are often stuffy and old-fashioned but not so at STK, inside the W Los Angeles Hotel in Westwood. It's a classy joint, popular with the in-crowd and the kind of spot you might move on to the bar for a cocktail or two after dinner. The New York strip steak is especially flavoursome.

10 For coffee-mad Kiwis, LA can easily disappoint; you have to know where to go to get a decent brew. For reliably great coffee head to Intelligentsia, with branches in the hip hotspots of Silver Lake, Venice (on Abbot Kinney) and Pasadena. Like some of our favourite Kiwi coffee purveyors, Intelligentsia trades directly with coffee farmers, roasts its own and offers espresso as well as other brewing technologies in its stores.

- Spy.co.nz

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