If you're looking for the best spots to eat in Los Angeles, you can't beat asking a chef--especially not if the chef in question is Carolynn Spence, who spends her days (and nights) in the kitchen as executive chef at Chateau Marmont.
Although born and raised in New York, she moved out to the West Coast seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. "When I first got here it was a little more bland, but there's really a lot of energy with small restaurants and chefs, and the clientele is changing as well. And it's fun," says Spence.
You can taste what she means this weekend at Le Grand Fooding Crush Paris-LA, a major two-day outdoor picnic in front of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA featuring some of the biggest Cali and Paris chefs plus some awesome artists and DJs for good measure (get details here). And then after, keep eating by following along with her guide to the best food spots in Los Angeles.
Son Of A Gun (8370 W. 3rd Street)
"It's a small seafood restaurant from the guys who opened Animal. It's great. It's a small restaurant but it's very hard to get into--for good reasons. The lobster roll is ridiculous. Their menu changes quite a bit, but they have a crazy chicken sandwich that was just on the cover of Bon Appetit. I try to sneak out of the restaurant and go there."
Pizzeria Mozza (641 N. Highland Avenue)
"Any of the Mozzas--they have a pizzeria, an osteria, and a little salumi counter type thing. It's amazing. Mario Batali's one of the backers. I love me some lambrusco and some pizza. It's straight-up Italian, real classic Italian, they don't get too crazy; they keep it traditional."
Din Tai Fung (1108 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia)
"It's a little bit on the outskirts of LA, but it's a soup dumpling house and it's amazing. For a long time there was only three of them as a chain in the world, but now there are a couple more. They're just perfection, the pork dumplings. It's major."
El Siete Mares (3131 W. Sunset Blvd.)
"It's the place in Silverlake to get fish tacos. It's airport stuff--you know, when you pick somebody up at the airport you bring them straight there. There's a little outside seating area and it's right in the middle of Silverlake, so you can sit outside, watch the freaks--I mean the hipsters [laughs]. Tacos comes with chips, radishes, roasted chile pepper, a really smoky salsa, and all of the fixings are already on top of the tacos."
Proof Bakery (3156 Glendale Blvd.)
"This woman has some of the best croissant out here--they're real crusty and caramelized and they have a lot of character to them. There's a little bit of a seating area outside, but I usually just run in and get some. She uses the Handsome Roasters coffee, which is good."
Santa Monica Farmers Market (Arizona Avenue at 2nd Street)
"I love this one because it's giant and then you can go to the beach after. If you need to shuck lava beans, it's best to do it before you get to work--it's nice to spread out the blanket and shuck the beans on the beach!"
Bar Marmont (8171 W. Sunset Blvd.)
"At the Bar Marmont I have a bunch of different dishes--sit at the bar! We do oyster night on Mondays--we do six bushels of oysters on Monday at cost, that's the fun night at the bar. It's a good crowd."
The Santa Monica farmers market
Son Of A Gun
Son Of A Gun