Second only to pajamas and a good book, my favorite way to spend the evening is dining out. Preferably somewhere with delicious food, preferably somewhere that makes me feel like I'm in Los Angeles.
The Gorilla and I like to try the latest trendy spot and we also have our old standards. Like anyone who has lived anywhere for any length of time, we've had good and bad experiences all over town.
Much like we choose not to enter an establishment that forces people to wait in line like cattle, we also don't like to dine at places where they bring LA snobbery to a new level. In the past few days, I've been told that certain tables at a restaurant had been booked weeks in advance (patently untrue, this hostess mistook me for a tourist) and I've had another hostess require a credit card for a dinner reservation. No, ma'am, I will not give you my credit card number, expiration date, or mother's maiden name.
Finally, I called a quality spot on Sunset where we've never had a bad meal. Before I told the maitre d' anything, she accommodated my desired date and time, asked if I was celebrating anything special, and told me her name and that she would be working while I was there. I promptly booked a table for six and I look forward to the meal. Customer service starts days before you pull up to valet.
Since I can talk about food all day - and enjoyed a lengthy twitter conversation about it a few nights ago - I wanted to share with you my favorite spots to linger over dinner in Los Angeles. All of these places have been around for years, and I consider them a go-to for date night or girls night or entertaining guests.
This is where The Gorilla and I go for special occasions. It's not necessarily fancier than anywhere else we may eat, but it has become sentimental for us. There is no reason to order anything else for your entree besides the cracked dungeness crab and the garlic noodles. Both dishes come from the secret kitchen, where only members of the owning family are allowed.
This used to be the trendiest of the trendy spots back in the day, and the looming paparazzi and solidly booked tables were sort of a turn off. But we ate there a couple of times with friends and couldn't get enough of the food. It's Japanese, but the menu is wide enough for non-sushi eaters like me. I love the steamy rock shrimp and the lamp chops. And one night after several glasses of wine, The Gorilla convinced me to try the yellowtail sashimi with crispy onions and I've never looked back. It is the only place in the world where I eat raw.
This is the only place on my list that we haven't been going to for years and years. It's been around, but The Gorilla and I didn't try it until about a year ago. We've been back several times and it has never disappointed. I've been so impressed that it has landed on this list and may possibily rank first. Bonus points for fun ambiance.
I rarely hear people throw out Jar when listing LA spots, but it is so consistently good and consistently packed, so I can't be the only one who feels this way. It has great food and great atmosphere. I always get some sort of comfort food at Jar, like roast and mashed potatoes.
The Palm is a chain, so I almost didn't want to put it on this list, but truth be told we eat there often. The Gorilla and I went on our first date there and recently spent New Years Eve devouring lobster there. You won't find better service, and I defy you to leave with an unsatisfied stomach. Won't happen.
The Bowery feels very New York-y on person. But the food is great and the wine list is always interesting. Before we had a baby, the Bowery was the first place we always landed when we wanted to "grab a bite."
At first glance, this does not seem like the type of food I would enjoy. But C&M taught me to love tapas! There is always a spirited crowd and, while it's always full, it's never hard to get a reservation. I like that in a restaurant.
This place feels just how I want a neighborhood restaurant to feel. All the dining is outside, under warm heat lamps if necessary. It's tucked into a corner that you can't see from busy street, and it's lit with sparkly white Christmas lights. It feels like a secret. The food and wine are yummy, and there always seems to be someone at the next table who you can't figure out if you know them from somewhere, or if they're on tv.
This list was almost impossible to narrow. I could go on and on. Do you have a favorite spot where you live?