Sometimes, its all too easy to get caught up in the constant shuffle that is Today's Hottest Restaurant. This search for that one spot where all the cool kids are flocking is endless and nearly impossible to keep up with; by the time we pin down this week's Newest and Most Popular Eatery, it has already been de-throned by 8 new places that have seemingly sprung up overnight and are now vying to claim the prestigious title. Wait...is L.A.'s competitive restaurant scene actually just the plot of Game of Thrones? If it is, then these next 3 places are certainly members of the Stark family; reluctantly sucked into the fray, they're tasty and dependable. And while they represent the traits that make them worthy of LA's Hottest Restaurants, the title is not nearly as important to them as their mission statements.
1. Crossroads : For Plant-Based Cuisine That's Actually Great
Since opening on Melrose in 2013, Crossroads Kitchen has stuck closely to it's goal of an entirely plant-based menu (which is essentially vegan) in an upscale, elegant space that definitely doesn't scream "no meat allowed." The beautiful, modern bistro serves really tasty food that doesn't draw any attention to the absence of meat, but also doesn't deny it. Come for brunch to really indulge in their well thought-out offerings, like a Benedict that smartly utilizes Shitake mushrooms and tomato hollandaise to mimic the savory tastes and creamy textures of a traditional, meat-based Benedict. Another favorite includes Jann's Bagel, which is a vegan take on a bagel and lox; the lox is made from Smoked Heirloom Carrots and honestly tasted just like lox, while the Almond Cream Cheese and raw onions made this really seem like a normal (and delicious) bagel and lox. Finally, the Fried Chicken and Waffles (the "chicken" is completely plant-based) is another really interesting take on a breakfast classic. Crispy and a little sweet, the "chicken" went really nicely with the fluffy waffle and sweet maple syrup. Crossroads is a true staple in L.A., and the plant based cuisine keeps regulars and those in need of a meat detox coming back for more.
2. Luke : For a Modern, Upscale Casual Dinner in Woodland Hills
Though The Valley isn't known for trendy hotspots, you can't deny that there has been a recent influx of cool, modern restaurants and go-to spaces with some serious foodie cred. One of those is Luke, an elegantly casual neighborhood space with modern takes on the classics that is valiantly achieving the tricky goal of encouraging local, Valley-dwellers to actually stay in the neighborhood for a good meal. Between the extensive wine list, the creative cocktails, and the approachable food, Luke is a Woodland Hills staple that's definitely worth a visit when you're in the area. Stop in for happy hour to try their fluffy and surprisingly light Buttered Pretzel, or the Crispy Calamari that's upgraded with a healthy dose of sautéed shishito peppers. The dinner menu includes other favorites like tender and smokey Baby Back Ribs, or an Ahi Tuna Napoleon for a lighter bite.
3. Baldoria : For a Casual Not-Happy-Hour in Little Tokyo
Self-described as "not happy hour, it’s not share plates, it’s not family style," Baldoria is simultaneously eschewing the clichés of modern, trendy dining while providing a casual, laid-back spot that has the potential to be an of-the-moment, cool-kids favorite. The minimal interior, wood details, and upbeat prints definitely plays the part of a Downtown hotspot, while the menu tells a different story, putting forth fun, creative dishes that forgo your standard avocado toast and brussels sprouts dishes. Our favorites were some of the small bites towards the beginning of the meal; the Fried Short Rib Ravioli is unlike any dish you can get in LA, with a crispy exterior and savory, meaty filling. Braised Bacon Arancini is smoky, cheesy, meaty, and still has a bit of acidity and brightness from the tomato conserva risotto. Enjoy a casual evening and stop in with friends for cocktails, a wine flight, and some tasty little bites.