Eating your way through the 'Ring' cycle

Patina:Located on the street level of the shiny Disney Concert Hall, Patina is one of the easiest restaurants to find in downtown L.A. Just follow the glare to the corner of 2nd and Grand and wait to be seated. Everything about Patina is upscale, like the building that houses it, and it's hard to find fault with the food. Executive chef Tony Esnault's menu includes delicious offerings such as duck foie gras terrine with rhubarb and strawberry chutney; butter-poached Maine lobster; glazed short ribs and Colorado rack of lamb with quinoa. The knowledgeable staff is always happy to make a wine suggestion to accompany your meal, although even the by-the-glass prices can be substantial. The best dining area is on the outdoor patio, screened from the street by bushy bamboo hedges and shaded from the sun by wide umbrellas. Open for lunch and dinner, daily.141 S. Grand Ave. (213) 972-3331.

First & Hope Downtown Supper Club: This elegant Art Deco supper club is located across the street from Disney Hall. It features an old-school vibe and a menu of Southern comfort food classics like beer-can chicken and meatloaf. There is also an extensive winelist and a cocktail program that rivals some of the best in town. Expect top-notch jazz and dance performances in the 300-person capacity showroom when the restaurant officially opens on April 24. 710 W. 1st St. (213) 617-8555.

Kendall's Bar and Grill: Kendall's is an opera-goer's tradition, as it's right downstairs in the Music Center. A classic brasserie, it will put you in the mood for musicalappreciation with flavorful Continental cuisine in an elegantatmosphere. Make sure to sit for dinner two hours before yourperformance. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 135 N. Grand Ave. (213)

The Lazy Ox: The eclectic tavern is rustic, inviting and just whatLittle Tokyo needs. And the menu? A brilliant melting pot offlavors. For nibbles, there's Moroccan-spiced beef jerky on toastwith a fried egg on top or delicious chopped chicken livers, Tuscanstyle, on toast, topped with a slice of bacon. Cod brandadefritters, straight from the fryer, are delicious with a sunny yuzucitrus aioli. The menu is mostly small plates, but not all thatsmall, really, including salads, such as blue lake bean salad withhazelnuts and tarragon dressing, or greens with blood orange androasted beets. Brick-roasted mussels with Thai chile sauce makes agood dish to share: Just scoop up all the fiery juices with a shellor a piece of bread. And don't forget an order of Kennebec frites. Open for lunch and dinner, daily.241 S. San Pedro St. (213) 626-5299.

Bottega Louie: No detail has been overlooked. More than three years inthe making, Bottega Louie has 20-foot ceilings, more than 2,000feet of brass millwork, marble-tiled floors, custom deli cases andtables, and about 200 employees. The kitchen handles 600 recipesfor the Italian menu and the prepared dishes for the market. Thebakers turn out 800 pastries a day; stacks of pastel boxes tiedwith silk ribbon decorate the windows at 700 S.Grand Ave. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. (213) 402-1470.

Church & State: Church & State occupies the former loadingdock of downtown L.A.'s Nabisco Biscuit Co. Building, which datesfrom 1925 but has been recently renovated to create a series oflofts and this working-class French bistro. "Incongruous," youmight say, in a neighborhood where loft dwellers may not feelcomfortable walking their dogs late at night too far from thebright-lights, big-city look of this end of Industrial Street. Butwhat a wonderful find this is in the outer reaches of downtown'sarts district. Old subway tiles line the walls. Potted plantsdefine the oh-so-French sidewalk terrace out front. And piazzalights strung across the ceiling of the large space create afestive atmosphere just as much as the terrific downtown mix ofpeople eating and drinking. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 1859 Industrial St. (213)

Wurstkuche:This purveyor of exotic grilled sausages is making it big inDowntown Los Angeles: 24 beers on tap, a collection of gourmetsodas, Belgian fries in homemade dipping sauces and a home in abig, friendly, endearingly unfinished brick building. With anenormous grill area, chef specialties such as alligator andrattlesnake and plans for ultra-late hours soon to come,Wurstkuche warrants this close-to-home trip to thebeer-making capital of the world: Willkommen! Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 800 E. 3rd St . (213)687-4444.

Yxta Cocina Mexicana: Run by thosebehind the 40-year-old El Arco Iris on York, Yxta's menu promisesfresh, simple and sophisticated cocina Mexicana. Items such asMexican sweet shrimp, salad with skirt steak and Salmon Creekslow-cooked pork with guacamole keep the tastes both authentic andinteresting. The space is the old Sixth Street Bar & Grill, andwhat the restaurant loses in neighborhood surroundings itcertainly makes up for in flavor. Don't miss the Abuelita ChocolateCake. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Sundays. 601 S. Central Ave. (213) 596-5579.

Checkers Downtown: Tucked into a charming downtown boutique hotel isthis outstanding restaurant, a pleasantly sedate refuge from thehassles of city life. The restaurant recently underwent extensiverenovations and emerged as a more modern and hip version of itsformer self. The new color scheme is ivory, taupe, black and brownand is accented with bright colors here and there. Chef ToddAllison has created a fresh, accessible menu of modern classicsincluding pan-roasted loup de mer with braised Underwood Ranchvegetables and romesco sauce; herb-crusted rack of lamb with RanchoGordo heirloom bean ragout, shank meat and natural jus; Gilroyroasted garlic and fava bean angnolotti with chanterelle mushroomsand crispy pancetta; and grilled Black Angus filet mignon withsauteed wild spinach, baked Yukon gold potatoes androasted shallot demi. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 535 S. Grand Ave. (213)

Rivera:At this casual, Latin-themed restaurant, [John] Sedlar is sendingout small plates calibrated to get even the most jaded foodieexcited. He grinds his own maize for the handmade Nixtamaltortillas florales with flowers and herbs pressed into theirsurface. Served with a silken avocado butter, these are a must. Hedoes the crudo genre a favor with his raw scallops garnished withcucumber, gentle horseradish pearls and ginger salsa, and reinventschile relleno by stuffing a pickled pasilla pepper with a perfectlytuned avocado salad. Seared black cod with matchsticks of serranoham is another beautiful tapa. Or a crispy duck leg in a Rioja andmorita chile sauce. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 1050 S. Flower St.

Provecho:Much as "bon apetit" marks the enjoyment of French fare, "buen provecho" is the Spanish precedent of any tasty meal. Provecho,found Downtown, is no exception to the namesake. With bold, freshflavors, like an Australian lobster ceviche and chicken sopes withspicy onion marmalade, this restaurant and tequila bar presents acontemporary hangout with a hard-to-beat Mexican menu andlots -- and lots -- of high-quality tequila. Creative drinks, includinga mango sapphire and cilantro martini are available at Provecho'slounge, Remedy, making it a spirited spot for a fiesta. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays. 800Wilshire Blvd. (213) 489-1406.

Pete's Cafe & Bar: Floor-to-ceiling windows and aturn-of-the-century tile floor belie the unassuming nature ofPete's Cafe. The bistro serves brunch every day starting at 11:30a.m. and keeps the kitchen open till 2 a.m.--which is usually whenthe urge for an order of bleu cheese fries strikes. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 400 S. Main St.(213) 617-1000.

Zucca Ristorante: One of Downtown's elegant options, Zucca is but onebranch on the Patina Group tree. Focusing on traditional(ish)Italian food, the restaurant makes its own pastas, and fish andcheese are imported from Italy. They even import flour from Italyfor the pizzas, and claim to "match the water to that used inpizzerias in Naples." We're not sure exactly what that means, butit does sound impressive. Located just a few blocks away fromStaples Center, this is a good choice for pre-game or -concertdining. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 801 S. Figueroa St. (213) 614-7800.www.patinagroup/zucca.

Casa:CASA, Downtown's thriving cocina and cantina, effortlessly embracesboth the colorful spirit of Mexican cuisine and L.A.'s too-cooltrendy. With an informal lunchtime taqueria menu, a chic luxurydinner menu and cocktail lounge with strong, Mexican-flavoredconcoctions, CASA makes guests feel right at home -- with (of course)some delicious albondigas (pork and beef meatballs), conejo(braised rabbit with chestnuts) or cochinita pibil (black beanpuree, citrus marinated onions and cilantro). Fiesta-seekers cantop off the evening with a nifty twist on the original Mexicanbeer-cocktail: una Cerveza Sangrita (house-made sangrita, Coronalager, Herradura silver tequila and a salted rim). Salud! Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 350 S.Grand Ave. (213) 621-2249.

The Nickel Diner: This trendy new diner is located on a historic stretch of Main Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Inside you're greeted with a picture-perfect model of a pre-WWII-era diner. High ceilings, vintage wallpaper, wooden tables, scuffed tile floors, cushy red leather booths and an old-school, lunch counter-style open kitchen make for a historically sentimental scene. You can almost picture John Fante ambling into this place for a cup of coffee back when Angel's Flight first ran and Bunker Hill stood proud. The menu is moderately priced and carries a roster of egg and pancake dishes along with burgers, salads, soups and vegan and vegetarian options. Open for lunch Tuesdays through Sundays; dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays; closed Mondays. 524 S. Main St. 213-623-8301.

Cole's: With a fully restored building and a true-to-tradition menu, Cole's ("Originators of the French Dip") is back, bringing the signature sandwich -- and a few new twists -- to the tables of its classic downtown location. This old-time saloon, now under the guidance of Cedd Moses and 213 Inc., also features homemade, seasonal pies (predominantly made from local farmers market produce), tasty appetizers (Americana soups and salads) and drinks (beer, wine and Moses' classic cocktails), plus a speakeasy bar soon to come. Eat cheap with the Saloon Specials, daily 4 -7 p.m. Enjoy the characteristic charm of a Los Angeles classic, and don't miss the violet mustard. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 118 E. 6th St. 213-622-4090.

Blossom: Blossom offers tasty Vietnamese grub such as pho and crepes, and an array of coffees and teas at very affordable prices -- all in an atmosphere that feels decidedly chic. Bring your own beer, sit outside and watch the street traffic go by. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays. 426 S. Main St. (213) 623-1973.

Banquette: The wine's the thing at Banquette, a lovely Parisian-style eatery that features an impressive wine list and an irresistible selection of homemade pastries. The romantic dining spot also features a week's worth of after-7 p.m. specials, including "The Friday Five," when five wines are featured for $5 a glass. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 400 S. Main St. (213) 626-2768.

Drago Centro: Downtown is now flush with the riches of Italy, as Celestino Drago invades the financial district with Drago Centro, located in an elegantly renovated former Bank of America. Like Drago's other L.A. joints, the menu at Centro is traditional Italian with a California twist and features such decadence as foie gras crème caramel and risotto cakes with octopus. Invest in some time at the bar for a glass of vino from a globally comprehensive list featuring more than 1,000 wines. For the truly exclusive, the vault has been transformed into the private dining room, complete with a flat screen showing a live feed from the kitchen. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 525 S. Flower St., Suite #120. (213) 228-8998.

The Original Pantry: Forget all the fancy-pants highbrow downtown steakhouses that brag about their aged USDA beef and garlic mashed potatoes. The Original Pantry has been the preeminent steakhouse for picky downtown carnivores since 1924. Garlic mashed potatoes aren't on the menu, but you can order cole slaw in pint, quart or gallon sizes. A gallon serving of coffee is available for serious caffeine fiends. The Pantry's slightly shabby décor seems frozen in time, a worn slice of the 20th century that is both comforting and visually exciting compared with the sleek, modern design of many of downtown's newest generation of restaurants. Old wooden booths and fluorescent lights define the dining room. The servers, with expressive, lined faces and white coats, look like they've been working at the Pantry since 1964. Slide onto a grill-side stool and watch the chef flip cooked-to-order hunks of meat and expertly fry up hash browns. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day at the Pantry, as are the steaks. 877 S. Figueroa St. (213) 972-9279.

Ciudad: Rumor has it that one sip of Ciudad's "Supremo Mojito" -- a frothy concoction of fresh mint, lime, sugar and 12-year-old Zaya Gran Reserva rum -- is enough to turn any nonbeliever into a fan of Cuba's favorite cocktail. Of course, the famed mojitos are just one of countless epiphanies in store for visitors to celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's pan-Latin restaurant in downtown's Financial District. Other draws include the hopping weekday happy hour, paella-themed Tuesday nights, tapas-centric Sunday evenings and frequent live Latin jazz sessions on the patio. Just hearing the daily specials can be a sensual experience (i.e. Spanish rice infused with saffron, almonds, garlic and nutmeg, for example), but Ciudad regulars know to order the Peruvian ceviche with their mojito before even cracking the menu. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 445 S. Figueroa St. (213) 486-5171.

Bottlerock: After months of delays, the downtown outpost of wine bar BottleRock officially opened. Only a stone's throw from the recently opened Corkbar in South Park, this incarnation of Fred Hakim's popular wine bar expands on the space and the menu of the Culver City original. The downtown BottleRock's dinner menu still features cheese, charcuterie and roasted veggies, but otherwsie there's little overlap between the two locations. Executive chef Jared Levy (Providence, Blue Velvet), who oversees the menu for both, will actually be in the kitchen of the downtown venue cooking up small plates of green curry mussels, seared scallops with lamb sweetbreads, pork belly risotto, roasted bone marrow, fava and pistachio falafel and potato gnocchi, to name a few. Prices, as well as the lunch menu, haven't yet been finalized. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 1050 S. Flower St. (213) 747-1100.

Corkbar: With an easygoing approach to wine, Corkbar aims to create an unpretentious tasting experience for aficionados and newbies alike. Inspired by California wine country, the bar serves a rotating selection of 40 wines by the glass and many more by the bottle in a relaxed, communal setting. Corkbar also features a selection of craft beers and farmer's market fresh food that can be enjoyed inside or on the patio. Close your eyes and it's almost like you're in Napa. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 403 W. 12th St. (213) 746-0050.

Water Grill: Not surprisingly, Water Grill specializes in seafood. Not just any old seafood but dazzling and inventive seafood. You'll find no breaded clam strips here. Instead, the ever-changing menu explodes with an imaginative medley of mouth-watering creations culled from the deep sea and fresh water alike. Dungeness crab cakes with harissa, herbed cous cous and yogurt lime cucumber sauce. Slow-poached Columbia River sturgeon with roasted and pureed beets, warmed spinach and horseradish-celery sauce. The lively bar is an ideal place for walk-ins to sample oysters and appetizers. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and dinner only on Saturdays and Sundays. 544 S Grand Ave. (213) 891-0900.

McCormick & Schmick's: High-backed booths create a private setting for dates or business deals over oysters-on-the-half-shell. If you're not into eating from the sea, check out the bar area, which offers a menu of burgers and buffalo wings. Open for lunch and dinner, daily. 633 W. 5th St. (213) 629-1929.

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