Thursday, in my weekly online chat, I was asked what the 102nd restaurant in the 101 best restaurants list might have been; the restaurant I really hated leaving out of the ranking. And my response was pretty glib – I said that there had been a 19,000-way tie for second, and that the wonderful Armenian-Lebanese restaurant Alcazar had been on the list but closed just a few days before we went to press.
But to tell the truth, the choice had been difficult. There are a lot of deserving restaurants, but a limited number of slots for them.
I have gotten emails from readers complaining that the list was weighted toward expensive restaurants and readers who thought I included too many cheap ethnic restaurants; people who thought I favored the Westside or the Eastside, old places or new places; people claiming I ignored the South Bay, Claremont, Cerritos, or the San Fernando Valley. And all of them, really, are right.
There are no kosher, gluten-free or explicitly vegetarian restaurants among the 101, although many of them can certainly accommodate restricted diets, and fewer hotel restaurants than you may expect.
I tried to choose restaurants that expressed something about Los Angeles, whether in the way they reflected the city’s role as the center of a great agricultural region, or ignored it in favor of reflecting Shanghai or San Juan de los Lagos – but the quality of representing Los Angeles is obviously subjective, whether it is a plate of flautas in Boyle Heights or an indifferently cooked but pleasant seaside lunch.
Which brings us to the subject at hand: What was restaurant 102? Choose the omission you are angriest about, whether it be Street, Josie, Saddlepeak Lodge, Wang Xing Ji, Lawry’s, Elite, Gusto, Café Pierre, or the Belvedere. It was that one.