My list of top 10 "essential" restaurants in LA (feel free to add yours)

i dont know just what J Gold means by “essential.” To me, “essential” means: core parts of the LA food world. And whose world is this? It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine. Feel free to make your own list, in this thread if you want. Feel free to criticize me for not including more ethnic restaurants. I’ve been to hundreds of restaurants in the SGV and Little India and I’m sorry to report that none is quite essential enough for this list.

  1. Grand Central Market. It’s a single destination and it’s the best destination LA has to offer.
  2. Shunji. It’s cool, high-quality Japanese food unlike anything I’ve had in Japan. The best dish is the tomato tofu (or whatever they call it).
  3. Gjelina. California cuisine at its finest.
  4. Spago. Fancy California cuisine at its finest. Don’t ask what I mean by California cuisine.
  5. Pizzeria Mozza. Unique and delicious pizza. Great salads, great apps.
  6. Sustain Juicery. Juice bars are a huge part of the LA food world. They’re nothing to sneer at; the ingredients are fresh and high quality. Sustain is my favorite LA juice bar.
  7. Stumptown Coffee. Third Wave coffee is another huge part of the LA food world. Or maybe it’s the LA coffee world. But anyway, the pastries I’ve tried here are great too. I love the white miso kouign amann.
  8. The Springs. Exceptionally well-executed, high-end raw vegan cuisine. A standout among many great vegetarian, vegan, and raw food restaurants in LA. Honorable mention to Shojin, Au Lac, and Cafe Gratitude.
  9. Bestia. It’s good, it’s fun. It’s overrated but so what? It’s more “essential” than Drago Centro and Valentino.
  10. Jitlada. I’ve had so many mindblowingly intense and delicious dishes here that I’m willing to forgive all its faults. At its best, Jitlada offers the most exhilarating food in LA.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Gold’s list is composed of the 101 Best Restaurants. In this incarnation of the list, he cares nothing for “essential.”

I’ll bite though.

Taco Maria
Isaan Station
Chichen Itza
Night + Market
Rustic Canyon


Could you expand on your reasoning for Cassia?

I feel I get it intuitively, but curious what other’s reasoning is for the instant love. Is it essentially carrying over from the Spice Table?

Funny you asked. Of all the restaurants on the above list, I’d say Cassia would be what I’d consider most essential, rather than my favorite. Cassia and Ng just embody LA food, specifically the trend we have of chefs reinterpreting/heightening “ethnic” cuisine. And there’s something to be celebrated in the fact that at a higher-end place like that, they still are throwing intense flavors at you. Sure, it’s expensive, but the flavors aren’t mellowing for anyone. That’s a remarkably LA concept.

PS: learn to use the quote function :grinning:

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Dan Tana’s
Chi Spacca
Night + Market
Pollo las Brassa
Hardy’s Best BBQ

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What would I have quoted to respond to exactly?

Interesting line of thought re: Cassia.

If that line of thought applies though, why is Isaan Station essential? It’s really fucking good, I’ll certainly grant you that, but what does it specifically say about Los Angeles dining in the way you describe Cassia as being essential?

I feel like the only thing missing from your list is something representing the ridiculous fusion flavor bomb side of LA…could be Kogi, Baco Mercat, or even Starry Kitchen/Button Mash, but it somehow to me talking about the essentials of LA dining needs that. Maybe Ink qualifies, but it feels like something else for some reason.

Also, whatever you might think of it, honestly, Petit Trois kind of encapsulates a certain return to classical mixed with extreme casualness, but also sort of elevating an ethnic cuisine of its own. But French cuisine regardless seems to be making some sort of comeback. Perhaps others would argue Republique is more essential, idk…

I suppose even an argument for Maple Block could be made though as the herald of the BBQ craze of late.

Isaan Station is on the list because it is a perfect example of LA doing an ethnic cuisine outrageously good.

I may be going out on a limb here, but outside of the Isaan provence itself, I’m guessing there might be ten places in the world doing Isaan food at this level. If that.

You could even have just replied to the post so then I would have had a notification…

I did reply to the post haha

It really is somewhat remarkable that the restaurant doesn’t appear on Gold’s list, the Weekly’s list, or even Eater’s 38 if it truly is of that magnitude, though I am inclined to agree with you of course. I wonder why it has been “snubbed” so to speak?

Maybe I went on an off night - or ordered poorly - but I would posit that there might be 10 places doing Issan food here in LA better than Issan Station. It was OK taste wise but the protein ingredients were skimpy and not of highest quality. The only thing super-remarkable I found were the prices - it was fine for extremely cheap flavorful food, but nothing mind blowing.

To each their own. All I know is I spent seven months in BKK and didn’t find an Isaan spot on this level.

Which la spots do you prefer? No need to list them all–just the ones that you find much better

jitlada is better for starters.

and so is luv 2 eat thai bistro.

and that’s no fucking joke.

my fucking bad, you meant issan only ???

ok, disregard.

I’ll disregard. Thank you for the enthusiasm though.

I, too, am immensely curious what these 10 spots are. Pleasse don’t leave us hanging! Great Isaan food ain’t no fuckin’ joke!

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I am just guessing there are 10, I do not know of 10 myself.
I preferred the Issan dishes at Lacha Somtum, Pailin, Krua Siri, the Night Markets to Issan Station’s.
Like I said, it may have been an off night - I was expecting great and got so-so.

Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Sea Harbour
Park’s BBQ


Fair enough. I tend to think of night market as a more Chang Mai leaning spot…

Totally could have been an off night.

EDIT: Just took a look at Night Market’s menu…more Isan dishes than I remembered…

im going to revise my list.

Ten. Q Sushi. This is the best sushi restaurant in the United States. The highest quality fish, the highest quality execution. The sad reality is almost nobody cares about these things. But I can’t rate Jitlada higher than Q when every other meal Jitlada serves a dish that is sloppily prepared or has noticeably poor ingredient quality.

What are the good dishes at Jitlada anyway?

I always get and enjoy Jitlada’s Spicy Pig Knuckle Soup or Pig Feet Soup…forgot what they call it.

Really nice sour lime infused spicy soup with gelatinous, cartilage loaded pig knuckles. Suck, slurp, blow your nose, repeat.