West Hollywood | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

West Hollywood

Connie & Ted's

photo by Anne Fishbein

If you grew up, as Michael Cimarusti did, fishing in the Atlantic and dining on the bounty of the great Northeast, you’ll understand the chef’s nostalgia for the brine and comfort of that type of seafood. Connie & Ted’s is Cimarusti’s ode to New England, and he’s created a restaurant that would be utterly at home on Boston Harbor but also feels exactly right for West Hollywood. The large dining room is an immensely convivial place to scarf down chowder and lobster rolls and fried clams, and the bar is one of the best places in town to watch the Dodgers while slurping on oysters from the massive raw bar. On top of all this is Cimarusti’s dedication to only the freshest, most sustainable seafood, so you can rest assured that not only is your meal enjoyable but it’s also entirely ethical.— Besha Rodell

Crossroads

photo by Anne Fishbein

It’s amazing that it took as long as it did for a truly trendy, upscale vegan restaurant to emerge, one with great cocktails, a killer wine list and an atmosphere to match its swanky Melrose Avenue location. In the two years since Crossroads opened, chic vegan restaurants have become a bit of a trend, with even a couple of meat-loving chefs jumping on the bandwagon. But Crossroads remains the standard-bearer, the place you take your meat-free friends on their birthdays and secretly enjoy your meal every bit as much as you would if it were sprinkled with bacon. Chef Tal Ronnen and crew focus on the vegetables themselves rather than messing around too much with fake meat (aside from a couple of “comforting classics” for the vegan desperate for veal scallopini), and each dish is a fully realized composition, making for a meal that’s far more compelling than the usual grain bowl or collection of sides. Your rapini might come with black garlic and toasted hazelnuts; your “crab cakes” made from hearts of palm might make you swear off the fishy version for good.— Besha Rodell

Irv's Burgers

photo by Tien Nguyen

Irv’s Burgers makes a burger that’s hard to find these days: a simple one. This is the quintessential roadside burger, with a thin, nicely seasoned patty, melted cheese, lettuce and onion on a toasted bun. The Hong family has operated Irv’s since 2000; back then, it was located a few blocks from its current space, in a roadside burger stand originally built in 1950 on what had become some valuable West Hollywood real estate. So it wasn’t a surprise when the land’s owners drastically increased the Hongs’ rent late last year, effectively evicting the family. The David-and-Goliath story didn’t quite end with a slingshot between the eyes, but it was close enough: The Hongs left their beloved stand — a “beach-style cafe” now sits in its place — but found a new spot nearby. The community followed, enthusiastically,  and it takes just one visit to see why. It’s impossible not to be taken in by the warmth that fills Irv’s, especially when Sonia decorates your to-go bag with one of her famously kawaii doodles. “Just for you!” it might say, above an illustrated thumbs-up. Of course, there is the burger itself, fantastic in its simplicity. Thumbs up indeed. —Tien Nguyen

Lucques

photo by Rob Stark Photography

Now that A.O.C. has moved to its charmingly bustling new location, and Tavern is the lively, beautiful cavern it’s always been, Lucques is the last Suzanne Goin restaurant left where you can go for the quiet, civilized, gracious meal at which she excels. From the comforting fireplace that greets you upon arrival, to the back patio with its vine-covered walls, everything about the place oozes calm and refinement. Here dishes are classics spun on their heads to become something that seems even more classic than the original. Local albacore tuna served over braised leeks and potatoes with Dijon mustard and salsa verde seems like a warm, Californian riff on Niçoise salad, minus the anchovies and olives. Boudin blanc is served here over an almost Alsatian setup of cabbage, butter and dried fruit, with nods to France, Germany and Louisiana all on one plate. Here is a restaurant for special occasions and romance, for quiet conversation and a fine bottle of wine — it’s a dying breed, but none the less thrilling for being so. —Besha Rodell

Night + Market

photo by Anne Fishbein

All restaurants reflect to some extent the personality and passions of their owners and chefs, but Night + Market and Night + Market Song are extreme examples, in the best possible way. Chef-owner Kris Yenbamroong has created two spaces that are all him, combining a passion for the food of his Northern Thai heritage, his love of funky wines and his somewhat wonky art-house sensibilities. At the original West Hollywood location, attached to his parents’ more conventional Thai restaurant, Night + Market still feels a little like a pop-up more than four years after opening, the sparseness of the space allowing you to concentrate fully on the blazingly spicy, gorgeously complex food coming out of the kitchen. At the newer location in Silver Lake, the room is anything but sparse — orange walls compete with garish flowered tabletops, beads hang from the doorways, Cindy Crawford stares alluringly over her shoulder from the large poster that overlooks the dining room. Here, Yenbamroong gets even bolder with his food (we didn’t know it was possible), serving pork blood soup, and fried chicken with mashed water bugs as relish. Don’t be fooled by the bluster of these choices — what makes the food here so exceptional is the extreme care taken, the roasting of chilies, the layering of flavors. Behind the bravado is a thoughtful, delicate touch with even the spiciest, stinkiest dish.— Besha Rodell

Salt's Cure

photo by Anne Fishbein

Since making the switch to a daily breakfast-lunch-and-dinner routine, Salt’s Cure has become a glorious model for the next-generation diner, a small, all-day operation that serves as a sunny spot where you can meet over some of the city’s best oatmeal pancakes, or indulge in the simple but stunning smoked fish on toast (smoked in-house, of course). There’s a killer burger at lunch, or a classic chopped salad, and the vibe is laid-back and friendly — just what you hope for in a neighborhood hangout. At night things turn a little more serious, with big hunks of meat (all animals are bought whole from local farmers and butchered in-house), or beautifully cooked fish prepared simply and thoughtfully. The space is barely more than a room with a kitchen in its center, and eating here can feel like strolling into someone’s storefront living space. But order a glass of odd wine, look to the blackboard for guidance, and know that just about anything you order will be better than you imagined.— Besha Rodell