Southern California is full of great restaurants. But which ones do people really go to the most?
At least according to the voters at Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, it’s Border Grill by a landslide, followed by the Kogi BBQ Truck, Langer’s Delicatessen and the Mozza-plex (Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca).
An interactive feature on the Gold 101 allows readers to name which of the best restaurants they’ve already visited. More than 1,300 readers have already made their selections.
More than 500 named Border Grill, the venerable Santa Monica restaurant run by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, that helped pave the way for the renaissance in serious Mexican cooking we’re enjoying today.
“The restaurant, its chefs and its cookbooks have been around so long that it is easy to take them for granted, as breathtaking as its stuffed steak and pescado Veracruzano were when we all first tasted them,” Gold wrote. “But still, nobody has managed to marry the freshness of the California kitchen with the deep, complex flavors of Mexican cooking in quite the way that Feniger and Milliken do.”
More than 100 votes behind Border Grill was Kogi, the Korean taco truck that launched the Roy Choi empire.
“Kogi is credited with hot-wiring the Twitterization of American cooking, the food-truck craze, and the shotgun marriage of Korean flavors and the L.A. street taco,” wrote Gold. “So sometimes it is good to step back a bit and realize that the miracle of Kogi lies chiefly in the four trucks that cruise Southern California every night and that Korean short-rib tacos, Kogi dogs and blackjack quesadillas taste really good, even if you do have to wait 30 minutes in line for them.”
If you think Border Grill is old-school (dating from 1998), what about Langer’s, which finished in a virtual tie with Kogi and Mozza? It was founded in 1947.
“Everyone knows that Langer's serves the best pastrami sandwich in Los Angeles. Guidebooks say so. National magazines say so. The MTA Red Line disgorges so many Langer's-bound fressers that it has sometimes been called the Pastrami Express,” wrote Gold. “Distinguished chefs flirting with putting pastrami on their menus rarely do so without at least a nod to the noble deli masters of Westlake.”
The Mozzaplex is the newcomer of the top vote-getters, probably because it keeps re-inventing itself, this year adding the meat-centric Chi Spacca. As Gold wrote: “The consensus hit of L.A.'s meat world this year is probably Chad Colby's tomahawk chop at Chi Spacca, a monumental cross-section of pork rib, hefty as a squash racquet, rubbed with fennel pollen and grilled slowly until it glows with flavor…. Any of the components of the sprawling Mozzaplex would be among the better restaurants in town; together, they command L.A.'s universe of urban rustic cuisine.”
Rounding out the Top 10 most-visited restaurants are soup dumpling icon Din Tai Fung, Josef Centeno’s casual Bäco Mercat, the truly venerable Musso & Frank Grill (founded 1919), and Spago, Hungry Cat and Lucques.