Michelin reveals latest ‘value’ restaurants, with stars announcement to follow next week

An overhead photo of three tacos and a mulita in white to-go containers
The Villa’s Trio, right, and mulita con pierna de pollo at Villa’s Tacos, a new Michelin Bib Gourmand pick located in Highland Park.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)
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In advance of the annual announcement of its top restaurants across California, this week the Michelin Guide — one of the world’s most recognized restaurant and bar compendiums — debuted the 10 new restaurants it labeled “a good value,” with four of them located in the L.A. area.

Michelin’s 2023 California Guide is set for release on Tuesday following a ceremony in Oakland, listing the restaurants that are star-worthy (the most coveted category, and ranked from one to three stars), as well as new additions and those with the Bib Gourmand designation. That last category recognizes restaurants and food vendors that “offer a meal of good quality at a good value.” The Bib Gourmand follows criteria that Michelin’s anonymous inspectors search for, such as offering three-course meals for less than a set amount (the cost varies by country, determined by cost of living). According to the company, which also manufactures tires, the 2023 California Guide will include 143 Bib Gourmand restaurants.

An overhead vertical photo of dungeness crab; tofu casserole; and fried rice from Eat Joy Food in Rowland Heights Los Angeles
With Taiwanese dishes like steamed glutinous rice with dungeness crab; tofu casserole; and fried rice, Eat Joy Food in Rowland Heights is now a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee.
(Ron De Angelis / For The Times)

Some of these restaurants were teased as new additions throughout the year, though their appearance in the guide was not specified at the time. Santa Monica’s Cobi’s, which offers Southeast Asian curries, grilled meats and snacks such as larb and curry puffs, is a 2023 Bib Gourmand awardee, as is Lincoln Heights Mexican restaurant Carnes Asadas Pancho Lopez, a breakfast-into-afternoon specialist of Jalisciense cuisine with birria, tuetanos, queso fundido and more. Rowland Heights’ Eat Joy Food — a comforting Taiwanese restaurant on last year’s L.A. Times 101 List — is another Bib Gourmand addition, with the Michelin Guide suggesting readers order the three-cup chicken, the chicken fried rice, the seasonal dragon whisker and more. The fourth new L.A. Bib Gourmand recipient is another L.A. Times 101 Restaurants pick of 2022: Villa’s Tacos, the family-owned Highland Park street stand-cum-taqueria that prides itself on quality, generational recipes and feeding the neighborhood.

“That’s why we became a business: to deliver an exceptional product at a reasonable price and share it with pretty much everybody,” founder Victor Villa said. “It’s awesome to be recognized by one of the most elite food companies in the world.”

Standing out as a taqueria in L.A. can be a difficult task, he admits, citing the fact that thousands of incredible stands and storefronts exist across the region. But he said Bib Gourmand nods — given the Michelin Guide’s international audience — can help businesses succeed in the competitive field, potentially drawing visitors from around the globe.


The other 2023 new Bib Gourmand awardees in California include San Diego seafood and gin spot Mabel’s Gone Fishing; Seaside’s European- and American-leaning, seafood-focused Maligne along the Central Coast; Oakland wine bar and contemporary-snacks restaurant Snail Bar; Oakland’s Bombera, with historical- and ancestral-minded Mexican fare; San Jose Portuguese small-plates destination Petiscos; and San Francisco Korean tapas restaurant Bansang.

Owner Victor Villa of Villa's Tacos stands behind his taco stand, smiling at the camera, in Highland Park
Owner Victor Villa of Villa’s Tacos at El Mercado Street Festival in Highland Park in 2022.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Villa is unaware of when the inspector came to visit, and first learned of the nod because his dad sent him a social-media post from the Michelin Guide. The taquero said he is delighted with the award, though not surprised: “We put our all into it,” Villa said. “We put a lot of love, energy and not only that but high-quality ingredients, high-quality products.”

At both the stand and the restaurant the fresh, chewy blue corn tortillas are made to order. The meats are all marinated and cut in-house, then grilled over mesquite wood. The guacamole balances fresh-squeezed citrus, salt and extra virgin olive oil, while the salsa bar features a rainbow of 10 options that span multiple generations and represent Villa, his grandmother, his father and others.

He knows that the stars — the most coveted Michelin award of all — will be revealed on Tuesday but said he was hoping for the Bib Gourmand all along. “It’s affordable for the average person,” Villa said. “Low-income families can still get that high-quality, fine-dining food, without having to break the bank or without having to only go there for their birthdays or on special occasions.”

The affordability criterion means the award signals accessibility, and Villa hopes that, given the year’s Bib Gourmand nods and the broader trend of tacos entering the Michelin Guide, more taquerias could wind up on future lists not only in California but around the world.

An overhead photo of a barbecue tray featuring ribs, sausages and sides from Moo's Craft Barbecue in Los Angeles
The Muñoz family, behind Moo’s Craft Barbecue in Lincoln Heights, hope to retain their Bib Gourmand nod in the 2023 California Guide.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

For the owners of Lincoln Heights’ Moo’s Craft Barbecue, which garnered a Bib Gourmand award last year, the recognition signaled the promise of not only more affordable restaurants beyond the scope of fine-dining businesses — usually those that earn stars in North America — but a way to embrace regions that don’t normally snag the spotlight.

“L.A. is such a big city and when you think of L.A. if you’re not from here, you think about the big names — you think about Hollywood, Santa Monica — but there’s so much more to L.A.,” said Michelle Muñoz, who operates Moo’s with her husband, Andrew Muñoz. “The fact that these inspectors are coming to inner cities and places like Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights is so cool, to really notice and see that there’s so much more beyond fine dining as well.”

When their barbecue restaurant — which riffs on East L.A. flavor with sides of esquites, chile verde sausages and beyond — was named a Bib Gourmand last year, they were ecstatic, and they still are. That they might bring business to Lincoln Heights is important to them, helping to shine a light on East L.A. small businesses and the community. While the Muñozes said it’s difficult to pinpoint how much if any of their business is credited to the Michelin Guide inclusion, they’re determined to remain a Bib Gourmand pick.

“It’s not automatic that you’re gonna maintain your name on the guide,” said Andrew Muñoz. “It kind of gives us a goal to be like, ‘All right, well, we finally made that list. How do we stay on it?’”

Until the full California list is revealed on Tuesday, they’re remaining optimistic — and keeping their eyes on the guide.