This teeming gastropub occupies a historic flatiron-style building and splits the difference between smart takes on both comfort-food familiars and food for the future.
Number of seats: 81
Average per-person check: $50
Popular dishes: Peaches and porcini with burrata; soft-shell crab with fingerlings, shishito, watercress and marmalade vinaigrette; rotisserie chicken with bread salad, mustard greens and currant vinaigrette
What people come for: Unique cocktail list, gastropub atmosphere
Address: 840 S. Spring St.
With origins as a pop-up restaurant at various places around town, chef Ari Taymor’s Alma takes an agile, elemental approach to alternately earthy and refined aspects of creative haute cuisine.
Number of seats: 37
Average per-person check: $80
Popular dishes: Pigeon with burnt eggplant, plum, button mushrooms and tarragon; seaweed and tofu beignet with yuzu kosho and lime; chicken-liver toast and date jam
What people come for: An ever-changing menu without a signature dish and a bare-bones approach
Address: 952 S. Broadway
Seasonal ingredients meet preparation methods dependent on a wood-fired oven at this Santa Monica favorite.
Number of seats: 74
Average per-person check: $55
Popular dishes: Braised lamb belly with apple chutney; whole fried snapper with cold soba noodles and dipping sauce; oxtail dumpling with san bai su, chile and green onion; popped corn with crisp bacon, brown sugar and chile
What people come for: Wood-fired oven, creative wine list, covered open-air patio
Address: 602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
An interest in every part of the animal they revere enough to serve mingles with a sense of unexpectedness and play at Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s restaurant of the moment.
Number of seats: 57
Average per-person check: $45
Popular dishes: Hamachi tostada; barbecue pork belly sandwiches with slaw; shrimp and rabbit sausage spring roll with mizuna and green curry; veal brains with vadouvan, apricot purée and carrot
What people come for: Discrete presentation (no sign out front), “dude food”
Address: 435 N. Fairfax Ave.
Spacious and special in terms of energy and ambience, this home for approachable high-end cuisine features the cooking of chef Quinn Hatfield and celebrated desserts by his wife Karen Hatfield.
Number of seats: 60
Average per-person check: $36
Popular dishes: Croque madame with yellowtail sashimi, prosciutto and sunny-side-up quail egg on grilled brioche; sugar-and-spice beignets with Venezuelan chocolate fondue and Earl Grey milkshake
What people come for: Prominent open kitchen, outdoor garden, all-vegetarian prix-fixe menu option, noted desserts
Address: 6703 Melrose Ave.
Photo: Todd Porter and Diane Cu
Wood-burning ovens, whole animals and straightforward cooking styles appeal to Angelenos this season.
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