Beverly Grove/Carthay | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Beverly Grove/Carthay

A.O.C.

photo by Anne Fishbein

Since moving up the street to a larger, more festive location, Suzanne Goin and Carolyn Styne’s A.O.C. has become a kind of archetype for the modern Californian restaurant. What does that mean, exactly? It means big, flavorful seasonal salads, crispy focaccia topped with goodies such as chevre and house-made lamb bacon, beautifully balanced and inventive vegetable sides and big, generous platters of Euro-Cali cuisine to share with the table. It means one of the best wine lists on the coast, inclusive of our state’s viniferous bounty but with a focus on France and fun asides, like selections from Slovenia and Hungary. It means a gorgeous indoor-outdoor dining room that positively thrums with good energy, and plenty of bar seating for the casual diners and serious drinkers among us. Oh, and behind that bar is Christiaan Rollich, one of the country’s most promising up-and-coming crafters of cocktails. It means an utterly home-grown restaurant we can be immensely proud to call our own. —Besha Rodell

Buna Ethiopian Market

photo by Danny Liao

It’s easy to miss Buna Ethiopian Market amidst the handful of restaurants in Fairfax’s Little Ethiopia, as it’s hidden in the back of a small grocery store selling homemade berbere mix and Teddy Afro CDs. Persist, though, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by impeccably prepared stews that border on life-changing, made from the likes of spiced lentils, collard greens and juicy cubes of sauteed beef, each spooned onto a canvas of soft, sour injera bread. For the bravest diners, there is dullet, a wild, mineral-sharp mixture of raw liver and tripe, seasoned into submission with large amounts of diced jalapeño and cardamom. Maybe next time? Better to end with an espresso and a delicate square of tiramisu instead, both cultural holdovers from the days when Mussolini annexed Addis Ababa into his short-lived empire.—Garrett Snyder

ink.

photo by Anne Fishbein

Three and a half years after opening, Michael Voltaggio’s ink. has lost a little bit of its foreboding, serious-chef overtones, and is now just one of the most giddily enjoyable places to eat in town. Is this because Voltaggio and crew have lightened up? Or because we have? It’s hard to tell. But try not to smile when your plate of potatoes arrives, looking like lumps of coal (and tasting not far from it, if lumps of coal were starchy and salty and smoky and delicious, perked up with black vinegar), or when your strips of lamb belly come with tufts of “mushroom hay” arranged like spiny coral poking out of the ends of the dish. That the food might make you giggle becomes beside the point when you taste it — despite appearances, it’s engineered for taste above all else. There are cocktails made from carrots, and wines from regions you’ve never heard of, and a general feeling that you’re here to experience newness and whimsy, so why not just go all in? Go ahead. Have a blast.— Besha Rodell