After we made the decision to move to Chicago, we came up with a California bucket list. Not surprisingly, it was almost entirely comprised of our favorite restaurants. So today I'm sharing our all-time favorites. I use the location, Los Angeles loosely as this list encompasses places from Ventura down to Hollywood. We've been to these places over and over, I've given them all 5-stars Yelp reviews, and completely whole-heartedly think you should check them out if you're in the area!
Pizzeria Mozza, Hollywood. We went Mario Batali's famous restaurant for my birthday last year. I fell in love and have been back nearly a dozen times since. Order the mozza caprese with garlic bread. With fresh creamy burrata, perfect pesto, and organic bursting cherry tomatoes still on the vine. The garlic bread is roasted in the oven and soaked in spicy garlic and the highest quality olive oil. It reminds me that simplicity done right can be perfection. The pizza is also excellent. If you can swing it, their late night special is an absolute steal with pizza, wine, and dessert for $20. Considering most of their pizzas are almost $20 alone it feels like highway robbery. Don't bother getting a table, sitting at the pizza bar and watching them make the pizzas makes for dinner and entertainment. We frequently watch while debating who has the best job along the pizza assembly line. Clearly it's the dough boy!
Salt & Straw, Larchmont Village - a Portland transplant. Highest quality ice cream with interesting, complex flavors, and seasonal updates. We love everything about Salt and Straw. I even got Nate the t-shirt for Christmas. I love almond praline and salted ganache.
Fritto Misto, Santa Monica - What a gem. This place is casual, quaint, and all about the food. They have hands down the most creative, interesting pasta dishes I've ever seen with options to create your own and dozens of vegetarian, veggie-based, and gluten-free dishes. Many of their pastas are Mexican influenced with sauces like chipotle chili cream and cilantro pesto. Trust me, it sounds weird but tastes absolutely incredible.
Bay City Italian Deli, Santa Monica - The burrata sandwich is what dreams are made of. We split one with a smear of avocado spread and it was absolute perfection. They use fresh high quality ingredients including freshly baked rolls which make these sandwiches really something special.
Malibu Farm, Malibu - I adore everything about this farm to table cafe, which as of a few weeks ago has now bought out all the restaurant space on the pier. They have tons of fresh options and you get to eat overlooking the ocean. I love their portobello mushroom burger and the vegan coconut entree. Don't leave without getting the grilled chocolate cake!
Follow Your Heart Natural Cafe, Canoga Park - This place transports you to what feels like a 1970s vegetarian commune, in the absolute best way possible. They are the creators of the very famous, Vegenaise, and have been cooking up vegetarian food since 1970. I don't know that it's possible for this place to have more character. It's a vegetarian tree-hugger's heaven. The restaurant feels like a diner meets a yoga ashram with delicious vegetarian/vegan options even a meat eater would love. And it's attached to a pretty huge fantastic health food store. The Baja "Wish" Tacos are my favorite.
The Old Place, Agoura Hills - We've been coming to here for years, we take visitors whenever they're in town, and it's one of our favorite restaurants of all time. I say all of this as a vegetarian. Yes, it's a steakhouse. Yes, their steak is phenomenal (we've been going here since my pre-veg days). But this place has more than just good steak. I'm pretty sure you couldn't find a more charming or rustic restaurant with more character is all of Los Angeles. They even have a banjo-style band play at the tables and a fabulous wine tasting room featuring local wines next door. The restaurant is tiny in a cozy way and if you want a table you need to make a reservation weeks in advance. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all phenomenal. Nowadays I order the grilled vegetable salad which is monstrous and delicious. The desserts are my favorite. Their all served in pipping hot cast iron skillets and topped with a monstrous amount of homemade whipped cream.
Lal Mirch, Agoura Hills. I am a creature of habit. I know what's good and I stick with it. I love Lal Mirch. It's the best Indian Restaurant in the valley and we come here every week, and every week we order the Vegetarian Special for Two. We alternate between 4-6 vegetarian entrees and they are all amazing. They know us, we know them and saying goodbye was sad. We love this place so much we spent our last night in California here.
McGrath Family Farms, Camarillo - This is my happy place. It's a family-owned, completely organic small farm. They give tours, allow you pick your own strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. They also offer a CSA, host events like Ventura County Farm Day, and sell organic produce, flowers, honey and eggs at their farm-stand shop. Their u-pick strawberries and tomatoes are life-changing. I guarantee the best you will ever have.
Beach House Tacos, Ventura - Nate and I came here hours before getting engaged, so it's kind of special to us. It's a no-fuss, cheap, authentic taco stand right on the Ventura pier. You must order chips and guacamole. Their Mexican street corn and fried banana occasionally show up on the special and they are both incredible.