18 great outdoor L.A. dining options from the 2022 101 guide
Our annual mega-project is live! The official title is “101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles,” though the guide occasionally looks farther afield to include communities such as Anaheim’s newly officially designated Little Arabia district and the delicious density of Vietnamese restaurants in Orange County’s Little Saigon — to celebrate the vastness of our region’s dining culture.
Print subscribers will receive their copy of the magazine version, gorgeously designed by Weekend section art director Kay Scanlon, in their Sunday papers this week. You can buy a print version at The Times’ online store.
The 101 is released every December, positioned to look back at the year and toward the one ahead — and arriving in time to aid in dining decisions during the holidays.
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This is also our third year in a pandemic. As with the previous two late-fall and winter seasons, COVID-19 cases are surging and hospital beds are beginning to fill. “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.9% of L.A. County’s staffed hospital beds are being used by coronavirus-infected patients, up from 5.6% from the prior week,” reported Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money this week. “That figure would need to be 10% or greater for a mask mandate to be on the table.”
Lin and Money also reported that L.A. County is “not asking people to curtail their activities, to avoid activities or to shut down any activities.” The situation is unpredictable right now; Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer is advising Angelenos to voluntarily mask up in indoor public settings.
So let’s talk outdoor dining.
By my count, at least a third of the restaurants on the 101 have comfortable patio spaces. Plenty more of them have a smattering of alfresco tables up for grabs — and that’s not factoring in top-tier takeout or pop-up operations like Mini Kabob, Meals by Genet, Bridgetown Roti and Poncho’s Tlayudas.
If you haven’t yet eyed the ranked list (we all hate paywalls, but the introductory $1-for-six-months subscription rate supports hardworking journalists!), consider these 18 favorites with primo open-air dining options an alphabetized preview.
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It’s hard to imagine a dinner here without chef and co-owner Keith Corbin’s fried chicken, or oxtails braised with miso and soy, served with rice to catch all the goodness, with a side of punchy, unfussy collards. Savor them on the back patio, an oasis of trellised vines, knotty wood fencing and strung lights. altaadams.com
On a busy, wide, restaurant-filled block of 3rd Street in Long Beach, Dima Habibeh sets up a sidewalk patio filled with umbrella-covered tables and potted shrubbery. In her rotisserie chicken over faintly smoky freekeh, Habibeh — born to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother and raised in Jordan — embodies her origins and beyond. ammatoli.com
Angry Egret Dinette
Wes Avila’s project in Chinatown’s Mandarin Plaza brings daily menu surprises but count on the Hey Porky’s breakfast burrito filled with roasted and shredded pork shoulder, scrambled eggs, black beans, queso Oaxaca and salsa verde. The shaded courtyard setting has been a draw since the darkest days of 2020; now there’s a cozy indoor dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows too. aedinette.com
On his ever-evolving menu of comfort foods, Jeremy Fox traces his zigzagging roots through Eastern Europe, the South, the Midwest and California. The side-street location in a former Santa Monica train depot turned out to be the ideal place for an inviting patio lined with young palm trees and other greenery. birdiegsla.com
There is no other cuisine in the Los Angeles area, or arguably anywhere, like Bryant Ng’s. He culls his Chinese Singaporean heritage, wife and business partner Kim Luu-Ng’s Vietnamese background, his Parisian culinary training and his work at places like Pizzeria Mozza. The Santa Monica dining room has returned to punishing decibels, though plenty of well-heated outdoor space provides a quieter option. cassiala.com
Sometimes it is boggling how few L.A. restaurants crack the code on vegan dining that carries a sense of occasion. Chef-owner Tal Ronnen and partner and executive chef Scot Jones solve the puzzle, though, particularly when a knowledgeable server drops off still-life plates such as halved baby eggplants filled with soft whole garlic cloves, drizzles of “tahini yogurt” and crushed pistachios. It pairs nicely with a dry martini while you casually study the patio crowd — surely you’ll spy at least one entertainment industry heavy. crossroadskitchen.com
Damian’s Arts District terrace is especially stunning. Architect Alonso de Garay and designer Micaela de Bernardí have turned the area — amid industrial decay, offset with fresh planters built above winding banquettes — into something exhilarating: part art installation, part urban haven for enjoying Jesús “Chuy” Cervantes’ modernist tlayudas or the elegant duck “al pastor” served with caramelized pineapple butter and hand-formed corn tortillas. damiandtla.com
The Venice pasta laboratory Evan Funke started five years ago with Janet Zuccarini is as splendid as ever, brainy all-Italian wine list, cocktails spiked with citrus and amaro and Sicilian focaccia called sfincione included. The restaurant’s rambling outdoor dining space out back has the right pastoral feel for the Funke aesthetic. felixla.com
The 3-year-old East Hollywood seafood bar feels in essence like a neighborhood hangout, but the wit and consistency of its bicoastal dishes makes it a citywide destination. At most any other hour of service, patience for seats (inside or along a semi-enclosed sidewalk patio) will be necessary. foundoyster.com
Behold Maria Ramos’ tlayuda Gish Bac — a circle of life layered with pureed black beans, lacy Oaxacan string cheese, grilled steak, chicken and chile-marinated pork, with slices of tomato, avocado and strips of rajas arranged like spokes radiating from a wheel’s center. Then shift your attention to her signature barbacoa, either goat long-simmered with chiles or a less saucy, cumin-scented version with lamb. Remember Gish Bac for a serene breakfast as well, relishing enmoladas layered with chorizo on the shaded back patio strung with red and silver papel picado. instagram.com/gishbac
The future of barbecue in California — and probably America — will doubtless look and taste very much like the cross-cultural connectivity that pitmaster Daniel Castillo is forging in San Juan Capistrano. All the seating is at outdoor tables: Wait in line and then, with a tray of brisket or beef rib and sides in hand, find a seat in the shade and gorge. heritagecraftbbq.com
Kenji Tang’s homage to the coffeehouse culture of his hometown Ipoh is one of the few lodestars for Malaysian cuisine in Los Angeles. The crowds — who keep the restaurant’s small covered patio full, particularly at high lunch hours — attest to the care evident in Tang’s cooking. I keep returning for the mulchy beef rendang, in which minced shallots and lemon grass pierce through as both textures and flavors. ipoh-kopitiam.com
David Chang christened Majordomo in 2018; executive chef Jude Parra-Sickels and his team continue to keep pace with a repertoire of dishes that has taken root nicely in Los Angeles. I come anytime, sitting on the courtyard patio among a warren of Chinatown warehouses, for the fried peppers stuffed with Allan Benton’s Tennessee-style sock sausage and the boiled chicken served in two courses — poached breast made in the image of Hainan chicken rice followed by soup teeming with hand-cut noodles. majordomo.la
When n/soto opened in April, I heard some initial grumbling that the second restaurant from Niki Nakayama and her wife, Carole Iida-Nakayama, was nearly as difficult a reservation as their fine-dining flagship n/naka. That’s because the tranquil covered patio wasn’t quite ready at first. With its izakaya model — small to midsize plates that incorporate myriad culinary techniques, matched with a thoughtful beverage program — a table doesn’t require anything close to the combination of calendar reminders and blind luck that booking at n/naka does. n-soto.com
Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’ third restaurant — a study of focus on kebabs, hummus and a dozen or so California-inflected small plates in an Art Deco space across from the big blue Church of Scientology building in East Hollywood — follows their downtown successes with Bestia and Bavel. The dining can be raucous, but an awning that stretches nearly to the curb adds significant and far quieter outdoor seating. saffysla.com
Taste of Tehran
Chef and owner Saghar Fanisalek offers a reassuring mix of Iranian dishes — marinated meats singed over flames and served with snow banks of rice, yogurt and eggplant dips as tart as they are rich — all with uncommon finesse. Her tiny restaurant has tables that spill out onto the sidewalk of a busy corner. In the symbiosis of the cityscape, you’ll be people-watching while passersby watch back, appraising your feast with hungry eyes. tasteoftehran.com
Charles Namba and Courtney Kaplan’s Echo Park gem exists at the intersection of Japanese pub, neighborhood restaurant and tiny atelier — the kind of place where the owners present their latest fixations on the plate (incredible yakitori and only-in-L.A. seasonal salads) and in the cup (Kaplan’s selection of sake is one of the deepest and most exciting on the West Coast). Then you too become rapt. Book an outdoor table along the restaurant’s uncovered sidewalk. tsubakila.com
After years cooking in the fine-dining realm, Katianna and John Hong opened their first restaurant with a retuned philosophy; they’ve mined their personal narratives as a reclamation of their Korean American identities. A rippling, flaky square biscuit covered in curried gravy with ground beef and pork has been an early signature; same with the avocado and Shinko pear salad with its head-clearing hot mustard vinaigrette. Settle in at an outside table along the brick-lined alley across from the Warner Music building in the Arts District. yangbanla.com
Have a question?
—Stephanie Breijo has details on the latest update to the California Michelin guide, including eight stars added to L.A.-area restaurants.
— Jenn Harris devotes this week’s episode of “The Bucket List” to dumplings with flavors that might be familiar, though you might not expect to find them inside a dumpling. She lovingly refers to them as Frankenstein dumplings. Think tom yum xiao long bao and grilled cheese dumplings.
— Andrew J. Campa reports on L.A. street vendors who are suing the city over right to sell food in prohibited zones.
— Heather Platt writes about how Kerry Seaton-Stewart brought the legendary New Orleans fried chicken from Willie Mae’s Scotch House — a recipe created by her great-grandmother Willie Mae Seaton, to the West Coast.
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