I asked ChatGPT to tell me where to eat for a week. Worst idea ever?

In-N-Out Burger restaurant.
In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Li Anne Liew / Los Angeles Times)

When you think of the restaurants that best represent Los Angeles, which ones come to mind? With the world fixated on ChatGPT, the OpenAI-designed chatbot capable of writing term papers, music and everything in between, I thought I’d ask it where and what to eat for a week. I sat with the chatbot, typed in that I was hungry, then asked where I should eat in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles has a great variety of restaurants to choose from, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Here are some suggestions,” offered the bot. “Remember to check the restaurant’s menu and reviews beforehand to ensure that they have options that you’ll enjoy and meet your dietary needs.”

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The artificial intelligence proceeded to recommend In-N-Out Burger, Grand Central Market, Urth Caffé, Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles, Canter’s Deli and the Apple Pan.


It’s as if the bot understood the question as “What are the most well-known or searched-for restaurants in Los Angeles?” and proceeded to answer with destinations most tourists would associate with the city. It was a short list that ignored a wide swath of cuisines and neighborhoods. No tacos, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Japanese or anything beyond sandwiches and fried chicken.

I also asked the bot what to order at each destination. None of the restaurants or dishes were foreign to me, but I revisited them all, looking for a taste of Los Angeles through the eyes, or I should say screen, of a soulless, tastebud-less chatbot.

This week, I let AI be my guide. Worst idea ever?

Double Double at In-N-Out Burger

A red tray holds a hamburger and french fries
I’ve always believed that you can tell a lot about a person from their In-N-Out Burger order. But a chatbot?
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I grew up in Southern California. All of my high school polo shirts and AYSO soccer jerseys are stained with In-N-Out spread. I will always think In-N-Out Burger is better than Shake Shack, Five Guys and any other fast food burger restaurant. There’s no convincing me and thousands of Angelenos otherwise.

The burger chain has opened locations in multiple other states and cities, but I’m convinced this particular amalgamation of meat, cheese, bun, spread and sunshine tastes better here in Los Angeles. This is one thing ChatGPT seems to understand. In-N-Out Burger is the first restaurant it suggested in the city. And the Double Double is the first suggested dish.

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I order mine Animal style, add raw onions, no tomato, with an extra pack of spread on the side. I squeeze the spread onto my tray, then pour in some of my favorite chile crisp or Sriracha brought from home. Then I use a French fry (well done, of course) to apply a clump of my concoction to each bite of burger.


I’ve always believed that you can tell a lot about a person from their In-N-Out Burger order. And I like to read them like tarot cards. In mine, I see a bright future, mild anxiety and OCD, onion breath, an uncertain love life and a stained shirt.

The Fairfax from Eggslut at Grand Central Market

A paper-wrapped bun filled with scrambled eggs
The Fairfax sandwich from Eggslut: To be honest, I’d forgotten how good it was.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

I had to ask ChatGPT a few additional questions before I arrived at Eggslut. The food-truck-turned-counter is not my first choice when visiting Grand Central Market. With pupusas, Filipino rice bowls, Fat & Flour pie and carnitas, it’s difficult to choose a favorite. But Eggslut is the one stall with a perpetual line, where you can count on half the people waiting being tourists with expensive cameras around their necks. I suspect the search-engine power of this particular egg-centric restaurant is strong. It was the first answer when I asked ChatGPT where I should eat in the market. And when I asked what to order, I was told the Fairfax.

If you sit at the counter, you can watch the cooks prepare your sandwich. It appears simple enough. A lightly toasted brioche bun smeared with Sriracha mayo, creamy scrambled eggs with chives piled on in a dome, a slice of cheddar cheese that melts like American and a tiny dollop of caramelized onions.

I remember waiting in line for the sandwich when the counter first opened nearly a decade ago, then taking it for granted as locations opened in Venice, West Hollywood, Glendale and Las Vegas.

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To be honest, I’d forgotten how good it was. The bread is soft and buttery, more cushion than bun. The eggs are pure lushness but not heavy, leavened by the chives, the sweetness of the onions and just a trace of heat from the mayo. I spent most of my time eating wondering how I could have forgotten the sandwich. And then it was gone.


Avocado toast at Urth Caffé

A green container holds a piece of avocado toast with microgreens and cherry tomatoes
Avocado toast from Urth Caffé on Melrose Avenue.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Avocado toast most likely was invented in Australia, but over the years, the dish has become synonymous with Los Angeles, with our assumed perpetual sunshine and penchant for superfood smoothies. And Urth Caffé, the self-described “European-style cafe,” is at least partly to blame for the association. I have not been to an Urth Caffé in probably a decade. They are usually too crowded, the line too long, the patio too much of a scene and the cramped dining room too full of people on laptops. ChatGPT didn’t specify which location to visit, so I went with the one on Melrose Avenue.

This restaurant may serve the most L.A. version of avocado toast, likely prompting ChatGPT to offer it as the first suggested food item at the restaurant. The avocado is smashed into a rough mash and spread onto “sprouted ancient grain bread.” It’s sprinkled with crumbles of “almond cheese” and then garnished with micro cilantro and olive oil. Yes, you can make it gluten-free.

It tastes like bland guacamole on toast. I prefer my avocados as actual guacamole with chips, sliced and layered onto a BLT or on a taco. But I’m in the minority, and I don’t think avocado toast is going anywhere anytime soon. Order the avocado toast if you must, but I find the pastry case, packed with oversized muffins, sticky buns, scones and croissants, more appealing. The best thing I’ve tried is the Nutella Girella bun (heads up, ChatGPT!). It’s a squat, circular, buttery croissant filled with pastry cream, Nutella and toasted hazelnuts.

Obama’s Special at Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles

Two plates, one with chicken wings and potato salad, the other with a waffle with butter and syrup.
Obama’s Special at Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles comes with three wings and your choice of potato salad, two waffles or French fries.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

“I’ll have what President Barack Obama had” seems like a good place to start when ordering lunch. The Hollywood Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles is my preferred location, with its dark wood dining room awash in a faint red glow from a neon sign hanging from one wall and a mural featuring a man holding a Los Angeles Times newspaper on another. Obama’s Special is actually the Country Boy, or the No. 9, renamed after the president visited the now-closed Pico Boulevard location in 2011.


It comes with three whole fried chicken wings and your choice of two waffles, potato salad or French fries. The chicken is always seasoned well, with a light, crisp coating. If you’re intent on having the waffles, know that they always look, feel and taste underdone. The fork sort of smooshes into the waffle rather than slices when you attempt to cut away one of the quarters.

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The pliability is ideal if you want to strip the pieces of chicken bare, pile the meat onto the center of the waffle, pour on the syrup and then wrap it all up and eat it like a burrito. It’s a waffle that flops but never cracks. I order my wings with a heaping scoop of the potato salad instead. Chunky and just a tad sweet, it’s something you might find at a company potluck or your neighbor’s backyard barbecue. The side doesn’t matter though, as long as there’s chicken, and you enjoy it. If it’s good enough for Obama, it certainly deserves a nod from ChatGPT, and it’s good enough for me.

The Reuben from Canter’s Deli

Two halves of a Reuben sandwich stacked
Reuben sandwich from Canter’s Deli on Fairfax Avenue: I’ll consider this suggestion a win for AI.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Are there better Reubens in Los Angeles? Probably. I’m sure you have a couple in mind. But will they taste like the ones I used to eat tucked into a Canter’s booth post-midnight after my friend’s band played at the attached Kibitz room when I was most likely too young to be in there? Probably not. The Canter’s Reuben is a dependable stack of pastrami, strands of sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese that spills over the sides and a smidge (never enough) of Thousand Island on toasted rye bread. Eat it hot and order extra Thousand Island for dipping and I’ll consider this suggestion a win for AI.

The steakburger at the Apple Pan

A steakburger cut in half, with an order of french fries
Half of a steakburger from the Apple Pan, a place Angelenos take enormous pride in.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Considering the overall direction of ChatGPT’s restaurant recommendations, I wasn’t surprised to see Apple Pan on the list. Opened in 1947, the Apple Pan is a place Angelenos take immense pride in. The white U-shaped counter is a time capsule where the familiar sounds of the kitchen and the sizzle and smell of the grill are always the same.


The burger you’re eating with your sleeves rolled up and your elbows on the counter is the same one founders Ellen and Alan Baker served in the 1940s. ChatGPT suggested I order the Steakburger, Apple Pan’s classic burger with a secret sauce that tastes like a combination of ketchup and chunky relish. This is the obvious order, and I won’t fault the bot for the recommendation. With a slice of melted cheddar added to the patty and an inch and a half of iceberg lettuce underneath, it’s a consistent, satisfying burger.

Tuna melt by request at the Apple Pan.
Tuna melt by request at the Apple Pan.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

What the bot didn’t know is that Apple Pan makes one of the best tuna melts in the city. Just ask nicely, and they’ll turn the tuna sandwich on the menu into a melt. I prefer mine on buttery rye bread with cheddar cheese. The tuna is generously studded with diced sweet pickle, the marquee ingredient, and fashioned with just the right amount of mayonnaise.

The day the Apple Pan opened, on April 11, 1947, a neighbor brought flowers to crown the U-shape counter of the Pico Boulevard burger joint.

Feb. 3, 2017

Is AI going to take over my column? Will you be looking to ChatGPT for your next dinner recommendation? I hope not. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how long I have before the machines take over. Is this even me typing right now? Someone cut the lights and cue “The Terminator” music.

Where ChatGPT told me to eat in Los Angeles

In-N-Out Burger, multiple locations,
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles,
Urth Caffe, multiple locations,
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, multiple locations,
Canter’s Deli, 417 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles,
The Apple Pan, 10801 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 475-3585,