We fell in love with Kuya Lord back in 2020, when it was a weekly pop-up operating out of the chef’s garage in La Canada-Flintridge. Now the Filipino spot is in its first brick-and-mortar at Melrose and Western, and we’re still in love with it as ever. The tiny, order-at-the-counter space only has about four communal tables inside, but if you happen to roll in with some family or friends, there will somehow always be enough room. The menu consists mostly of rice bowls made with garlicky java rice and your choice of protein (the sweet longsilog with eggs is a standout), but under no circumstance should you be leaving without the pancit chami. It’s a savory, decadent stir-fry made with fish cakes, soy sauce, and thick, plump wheat noodles—the kind of dish that makes braving the epic Melrose traffic a non-factor. If you’re with 2-3 people, definitely go for the long-tap-silog tray, which comes with grilled sweet sausage and short ribs, pancit chami, garlic rice, a salad, pickled vegetables, and several dipping sauces for $42. Leftovers will be a given.
We don’t know the science behind it, but there’s something about hot pink neon signs and adorable bear drawings that gets the neurons firing. No Ghost Bears does exactly that in the Fashion District, a plush coffee shop filled with green velvet furniture and fun caffeine drinks like the spiced beet latte and mushroom adaptogen-filled chagaccino. There are a few bar seats inside, as well as a patio for getting work done.
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When it comes to staring at the computer for hours, we recommend using Skid Row Coffee as a one-two-punch. First, load up on caffeine at the Downtown LA “community-based social enterprise” café—a place where you’ll find espresso drinks, hot cocoa, teas, and sandwiches. It’s located on the ground floor of the L.A. Central Library, so head there next. While the cafe itself is great for work—it’s got all the prerequisite wooden tables and long bars to stand at—the library it’s located in is even better, an architectural landmark filled with plenty of nooks, crannies, and quiet places to post up.
Bay Area coffee roaster Equator Coffee now has its first SoCal branch in Culver City. You’ll find the sleek, primary colored coffee shop (complete with glossy, light wood tables and plenty of sunshine that streams through the large windows) at Ivy Station, a new mega development near the Metro Expo line. In addition to standard coffee options, Equator has also teamed up with the chefs behind Border Grill and Socalo to offer specialty items like a cinnamon and star anise café de olla latte and guava empanadas.
Why are there so few hybrid bookstore/cafes in Los Angeles? It’s the perfect concept. Case in point, The Village Well, a groovy bookstore with bold colors and lots of electrical outlets in Culver City. New releases, novels by local authors, a book of the week, watermelon basil agua frescas, smoothies, and almond butter toasts—you’ll find it all here, as well as a wonderfully lit space and a large community table where they host meals and conversations. The Village Well ideal for book clubs or all-night study sessions.
At some point, we made Stone Street our designated work-from-home spot and never looked back. The Melrose coffee shop resembles a WeWork—there are bar seats, tables, and picnic situations that are all ideal to work on. The menu is packed with brain-nourishing items like strong lattes, eggs and bacon, grilled chicken sandwiches, wine, beer, cocktails, and oysters (if you, like us, need oysters to get the creative juices flowing).
There’s a lot going on at Upside Down, a coffee shop in Westwood that doubles as an art space and community center. Between their signature (and super strong) caffeinated drinks, like the tiramisu latte and lavender London fog made with Earl Grey tea, and immersive art exhibits, Upside Down has earned its place in the hearts of many UCLA Bruins. It’s become a favorite place for college students to look at Canvas and have a mini-spiral over impending deadlines. Make sure to check out their monthly Shabbat dinners.
Kendall outsiders may be surprised the area has some solid bagel options. We get it. Kendall doesn’t have a bagelicious reputation. But before croquetas took over, bagels were as common in this part of Dade as Michael Kors bags in TJ Maxx. Bagel Express is one of those old-school Kendall bagel shops located across Town & Country Mall (or whatever bougie name it goes by now). If the dude across the counter wore more form-fitting clothes, you’d think you stepped into the ‘70s. Bagels here strike the perfect balance between soft and chewy, the lox schmear is smooth and savory, and the coffee is hot. It’s also kind of trippy to eat a bagel in a place that feels less like being on the set of The Nanny—which is what you’d get in Aventura—and more like ¿Qué Pasa USA?.
Independent, fast-casual Tex-Mex spots are about as hard to find in Miami as free parking. And while we feel quite sad for our collective lives devoid of lard-infused beans, salsa bars, and deep-fried deliciousness—we’re also happy Ernesto’s exists. This is an ideal spot to sit by yourself with a chimichanga, quesadilla, or plate of carne asada fries and wash it down with horchata. If you can’t decide what to get, go for one of the combination platters. Ernesto’s proximity to Kendall’s infamous stoner park, Indian Hammocks, is a bonus. Come here with three of your cousins in a tricked-out Honda Civic for a truly authentic Kendall experience.
Kendall isn’t the first place that comes to mind when most Miamians think of where to find the best Nicaraguan food. However, my first taste actually happened at this Kendall fritanga over 20 years ago. The flavors of the food here - chargrilled carne asada, delicately seasoned gallo pinto, and caramelized nuggets of sweet plantain - compelled me to learn as much as I could about Nicaraguan cuisine. Fritanga Monimbo continues to deliver to this day, and it has become one of the go-to fritangas for residents of this huge swath of unincorporated Miami-Dade County. Besides serving well executed grilled meats and refreshing drinks, this place also specializes in some harder-to-find specialties, including a braised tongue that is as tender as filet mignon.
SXSE is a Laotian food truck parked at 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative on Metric Boulevard in North Austin. They serve a regular menu of dishes like rib-eye skewers, crispy fried rice, and chicken wings with a caramel fish sauce. They also do a ticketed, multi-course chef’s table meal—reservations required—that’s paired with beer from 4th Tap.
Nine Orchard is a new hotel in the far corner of the Lower East Side known as Dimes Square, and there’s quite a bit going on inside. In addition to a restaurant from the chef behind Estela and Altro Paradiso, there’s a fancy cocktail bar set in the former bank’s most ornate room where they’re making equally fancy cocktails. The scene here is more button-downs than crop tops, which is different for the neighborhood, but it’s worth coming to take in the beautiful, impressive space. Food-wise, you won’t be having a full dinner here, but try the ibérico ham, cheese plate, or shrimp cocktail if you need a snack.
Em Sherif, located in the depths of Harrods, is the place to come when you’re in the mood to spend some serious money and eat some seriously good hummus fatteh. Part of the popular restaurant group of the same name, Em Sherif originated in Beirut and now has locations across the UAE, Egypt, and Syria that are renowned for fine dining and excellent Lebanese food. And its latest London spot lives up to the gold standard the group sets for elevated traditional dishes.
Wallflower is a mostly-Indonesian restaurant that makes some of the best craft cocktails we’ve had in recent memory. Besides the excelllent, golden, flaky duck lumpia, everything else on the menu is fairly good and flavorful without necessarily blowing us away. But this solid Rose Ave. spot serves a very important purpose in this part of town, which is offering a much-needed alternative to Venice’s abundance of Italian and “New American” restaurants. Come here for some family-style dining, a nice outdoor patio, and a cool, dimly-lit bar that’s perfect for drink dates that potentially spill into dinner.
Market feels more like a bumping apartment party than an Italian restaurant. Apart from the lively crowd and great nu-disco playlist, this dimly lit aperitivo spot serves small plates with a solid cocktail menu featuring lots of amari. Market might not be the beachside restaurant you had in mind, but instead a place to feel seen by tables of well-dressed people somehow managing to carry a conversation over the blaring music. The fresh pasta is the main attraction here, including a perfectly al dente strozzapreti in a nutty white pesto sauce, but what really steals the show is the saucy steamed mussel toast with a saffron-infused sofrito.
At Thai Curry Pizza in Long Beach, you'll encounter pies that sound wrong in theory, but taste extremely right in practice. Alongside takeout staples like papaya salad and pad see ew, this strip mall spot offers Italian-Thai mashups like tom yum and curry pizzas that layer Southeast Asian flavors onto a crispy leopard-spotted crust. The tom yum pizza in particular is an absolute masterpiece, topped with gooey mozzarella, mushrooms, tomatoes, and just enough tom yum paste to create an explosion of spicy-sour flavors. Dip any leftover crust into their incredible panang curry sauce, which you can (and should) add on the side for $1. There are a couple of tables inside the dining room, but most people take their orders home or to one of the nearby beachfront parks where they can lay horizontally and ponder what other promising food remixes should see the light of day.
We like going to Bottle Club Pub—the retro-themed bar near Union Square—to admire the huge collection of vintage ceramic whiskey decanters, and watch the mechanical shelves stocked with shiny bottles of alcohol slowly move from floor to ceiling. The displays are mesmerizing, and best experienced alongside creamy dessert cocktails, shaken and stirred drinks, whiskey from their obscenely long list—and maybe some fries from the short food menu. Even better is that you can stroll into this place with whatever you decided to wear that day. So expect to trade life stories with suited types, adult backpack crews, and tourists who didn’t get the memo on dressing for Bay Area weather.
Don’t confuse Bellucci’s Pizzeria with Bellucci’s Pizza just a few blocks down the road. Chef Andrew Bellucci left the latter to start his own shop on his own terms, and he took his famous hand-shucked clam pie with him. You’ll have to order 48 hours in advance to try the clam pie, but you can get other pizzas—with dense, fluffy beds of dough sitting atop crispy bottoms—anytime. Bellucci’s nails the crust, but their signature sauces earn them our loyalty. The tomato sauce gets some smokiness from a generous amount of black pepper, and we’d dip anything in that silky vodka sauce just to airlift more of it into our mouths. (In fact, we recommend getting an order of well-seasoned mozzarella sticks to do just that.) Sometimes on slice days (Thursday-Sunday), you’ll see a bit of a line, but if they’ve posted a particularly enticing slice-only option on their Instagram that day, we bet it’ll be worth it.
Pizzeria Panina is an aggressively likable place, and it’s where you’ll find some of the best pizza in Ridgewood. The small dining room—which tends to stay packed—has checkered floors, soft lighting, and a bay-window nook to sit in up front. If there’s a wait, the manager might pour you a complimentary glass of wine to sip on while you listen to a retro soundtrack and smell the fresh espresso being made behind the bar.
Something of an IYKYK spot, Giacobazzi’s has been serving handmade pasta, caponata, cold cuts, pesto, and other Italian good stuff to Hampstead Heath residents since the early ‘90s. It’s right by the massive go-to M&S but save that for booze. At Giacobazzi's there are daily-changing pizzas, frittatas, and homemade focaccias—all of which are perfect for the most NW3 picnics.