Pulitzer Prize-winning food scribe Jonathan Gold's annual list of 99 Essential Restaurants has become a highly anticipated document in foodie circles. This year's list has been rocked by the explosion in mobile food trucks, among other things.
This year especially, an essential L.A. restaurant may not even be a restaurant at all — it may be a tweet telling you which street corner to hang around at, or a cart parked in the same location from the hours of 11 to 2. Clubgoers are used to seeing their favorite band at the Smell one week and at Spaceland the next, but it is a new thing for diners, separating chef from dining room, the exultation of guerrilla cuisine.
As we’ve said before, an essential restaurant is one that reflects Los Angeles in a startling and unusual way, that uses fresh local ingredients in a fashion that respects the land in which they were grown, that showcases cooking echoing both foreign-trained chefs’ region of origin and the hypercharged mosaic of the L.A. dining scene. An essential restaurant moves people, inspires them to think about food in a different way, inspires them to think about Southern California as a great agricultural region, a great port, a builder of the shiny symbolism that is a large factor in how the rest of the world thinks of itself. And it’s also a damned good place to eat.
New adds to this year's list include Eagle Rock's Auntie Em's; Downtown's Bottega Louie; Santa Monica's Caché; Downtown's Chaya Downtown; Downtown's Church & State; Downtown's Drago Centro; Venice's Gjelina; the Fairfax district's Golden State; Highland Park's Good Girl Dinette; Santa Monica's Huckleberry; food truck Kogi; Los Feliz's Little Dom's; Hollywood's Loteria Grill; the on-location Ludo Bites; South L.A.'s Mo-Chica; East L.A.'s Moles La Tia; Melrose's Mozza; South El Monte's Pho Minh; Santa Monica's Riva; Highland/Melrose's Street; Brentwood's Tavern; and Downtown's Wurstkuche.
Wow, I just realized that we've sampled most of these spots. So that's why I'm getting fat.