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Food

101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles: How we came up with the list

Uni on crisped tapioca from Kato
Two delectable bites from Kato: uni on crisped tapioca.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

[Looking for the 2019 101 Best Restaurants in L.A. list? Look no further.]

In 2013, the Times published the first edition of the 101 Best Restaurants, Jonathan Gold’s year-end list of where to eat in Los Angeles. Since its debut, “the 101” has become one of the paper’s most anticipated and widely read annual projects.

Gold’s lists, which he had started when he was at L.A. Weekly as “99 Essential Restaurants,” were remarkable for a variety of reasons. Like all great lists, they were deeply researched and passionate, reflecting a native son’s expertise but also a gift for interpreting and celebrating the city’s history and rich cultural life.

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When Bill Addison and I began our tenure as The Times’ new restaurant critics in December 2018, we understood the enormous privilege and responsibility of following in Jonathan’s footsteps. In working on our first 101 list, we have sought to be mindful of his extraordinary legacy.

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The 2018 list — written by our Food section colleagues Andrea Chang, Jenn Harris and Amy Scattergood, with contributions culled from Jonathan Gold’s last year of restaurant reviews — was our springboard for building this year’s list.

We ate at every restaurant on the 2018 list, squeezing in tasting menus and taco runs between our weekly reviewing duties. We visited (and sometimes revisited) restaurants that appeared on previous iterations of the list.

Los Angeles Times restaurant critics Patricia Escárcega and Bill Addison
Los Angeles Times restaurant critics Patricia Escárcega and Bill Addison.
(Tiffany Roohani / For The Times)

Every critic brings their own palate, distinct opinions and aesthetic to this kind of project. It was important for us to make this list our own. We didn’t devise any formal scoring system; we didn’t need it. The city’s most remarkable restaurants naturally made their own case.

One early fall afternoon, we drafted an early version of the 2019 list in the back room of Mingles Tea Bar in Inglewood, fortifying ourselves with lemon tea. We each brought our own lists. We debated our personal top 10; we made the case for the restaurants that had worked their way into our lives and our hearts. A great restaurant does that: it becomes assimilated into your worldview and shapes the way you live in the world thereafter.

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(We also immediately agreed on the restaurant that occupies the last slot.)

It took a few weeks to pin down the final list. We fretted; we tweaked. We grappled with the big questions: What does it mean to eat well in Los Angeles right now? And what restaurants are essential to this endeavor?

The official L.A. Times list of the 101 best restaurants in Los Angeles, curated by our restaurant critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.

One of the questions Bill and I are asked with regular frequency: How do you deal with disagreements? Weirdly, perhaps, reaching the final ranking wasn’t too much of an ordeal. We’re fierce in our opinions — but, to be honest, we are rarely so divided that we can’t find common ground. We made our arguments while hearing the other out. In writing the list, we tried to split our duties equally.

The central challenge in assembling a compendium of Los Angeles restaurants is that the city’s size and astonishing diversity defies easy classification. But we’ve made a serious effort to create a list that’s inclusive, geographically diverse, and representative of the people who eat and cook here. Our 101 list is nominally a dining guide, but it’s also a living portrait of the city we love and call home.

Restaurant critic Bill Addison pinpoints seven recent reviews, from a carnitas food truck to a tiny Japanese wonder, that illustrate the city’s amazing dining culture.

In keeping with the Gold era, we ranked the list. Ranking allowed us to make concrete order out of our experience. We hope it also encourages more readers to engage with our conclusions. The top 10 reflect the restaurants we feel best capture the city’s culinary pulse and energy. The No. 1 pick may surprise some readers, but it’s in keeping with the qualities we believe makes Los Angeles the best food city in the country: a sense of creative energy and ambition unified by an extraordinary culinary performance.

Our 101 was designed to guide you to the city’s most singular dining experiences but also reacquaint you with some old favorites. To that end, we have expanded the Classics list from last year with 10 additional restaurants that have stood the test of time. And new this year, we have added a list of 10 places we love to drink around Los Angeles that includes cocktail bars but also favorite places to sit with a cup of coffee or tea.

We’re so excited to share The Times’ 2019 101 Best Restaurants with you. You can read the list here.


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