<i> Compiled by Jane Greenstein</i>

Some of them are plain. Some of them are fancy. But all of the following restaurants consider themselves cafes. AUTHENTIC CAFE(7605 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 939-4626). This itty-bitty cafe has a bright Southwest face and an even brighter menu. Many nationalities coexist on the menu-- French, Italian, Mexican and Chinese. Among the appetizers you’ll find Moroccan bastilla (filo pastry filled with chicken) and mergez, a hot-and-spicy Moroccan sausage. Other dishes available at this friendly neighborhood cafe, where the cooking is upscale and the prices down-scale, are fresh corn tamales, meat loaf, a Yucatecan chicken, many kinds of wonderful pizza and homemade dessert. Open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. Street parking. No checks or credit cards. Dinner for two: about $16.

BEAR FLAG CAFE(5225 Canyon Crest Drive, Building Nine, Riverside, (714) 369-FLAG). Take a detour off Highway 60 and check out the Bear Flag, which looks like a Swiss travel-poster inn with its shirred white curtains, pretty flower boxes and rustic wood facade. The menu discreetly claims to serve (what else?) California cuisine. The warm leek salad with baked yams, artichoke hearts and cilantro vinaigrette is recommended. Pasta, including a nifty fettuccine glossed with Parmesan, cream and tossed with pieces of lovely shrimp, is all homemade. Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch, Mon.-Sun. for dinner. Full bar. Major credit cards. Dinner for two: $30-$50.

CAFE MONDRIAN(Mondrian Hotel, 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 650-8999). In this lovely light-filled room with commodious tables and spanking white linen, the service is not always up to par, but frequently the menu (depending on which of the seven you choose) is. On the menu minceur is an exceedingly generous portion of mahi-mahi enhanced by a marvelous sunrise-colored mango curry coulis and half a broiled chicken, which is fine-textured and grilled to a crisp coppery sheen. And you can feast your ears as well as your eyes--there’s jazz or some other type of entertainment every night of the week. Open daily 7:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Major credit cards. Valet parking. Full bar. Dinner for two: $32-$85.


CENTRAL CITY CAFE(601 S. Central Ave., in Triangle Plaza Center, Los Angeles, (213) 627-4482). Housed in a new commercial plaza in an industrial part of downtown Los Angeles, this cafe is factory-casual and appeals to the loft set. The menu includes what everyone is eating these days--Cajun-spiced food, Buffalo hot wings, potato skins, pasta salads, taco salad, pizza, calzone, broiled fish, burgers, beef dips and more. Standout appetizers include the stuffed baked clams and fried onion rings. Open Mon.-Sat. for all meals. Cash or check. Park in the Plaza Center lot. Dinner for two: $10-$14.

GALAXY CAFE(2920 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 392-9436). The Galaxy Cafe is yet another remembrance of Modernist coffee shops past with its streamlined facade, black sunburst sconce and aqua and pink color scheme. The menu is enormous and fun to look through. Pancakes are “flying saucers” and eggs are “moons.” The menu states that the food is “out of this world,’ but at lunch and dinner it’s occasionally grounded by inconsistency. However, the burgers are juicy and lean, and there is an excellent plate of vermicelli laden with garlic, basil and tomatoes. Open daily for all meals. MC, V. Dinner for two: $15-$35.

STUDIO CAFE II(3201 E. Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, (714) 675-7575). With its huge windows right on the street, this restaurant--part bar, part jazz club--is not only a cute place to be seen, but also serves surprisingly good food. There is a sort of hand-hewn adventurousness to this menu. The most amazing item is an appetizer called paillard of chicken. Menu items include teriyaki chicken strips, lemon chicken, ribs and shrimp, and prime rib. The main dessert is the huge mud pie, a chocolate blowout made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Open for lunch and dinner daily. Major credit cards. Dinner for two: $20-$48.