Restaurants Guaranteed to Convert Los Angeles Haters
Batesian Mimicry is a phenomenon where an animal disguises itself as dangerous to predators so that they’ll avoid snacking on it. Thanks to a preponderance of L.A.-based reality shows that portray Los Angeles as a collection of The Bachelor rejects wandering the thirsty, flaming, earthquake-shattered landscape, L.A. may be the only city that actively uses Batesian Mimicry to try to stem the unending tide of new residents. That has produced a lot of L.A. haters. And so, for those who need some help overcoming this evolutionary defense mechanism, we’ve got eight authentic Los Angeles spots to convert anyone into a Los Angeles acolyte.
From its founding in 1931 by civic crusader Clifford Clinton to its new Andrew Meieran (of The Edison) restoration in 2015, Clifton's has always been one part food and one part spectacle. While the giant cafeteria menu has had its ups and downs since their reopening, the interior has only grown more spectacular, featuring four stories of what feels like a natural history museum dedicated to California. While you and your hater take in some cocktails and admire the giant indoor redwood tree, regale them with tales of Clinton’s generosity (the Depression-era menu was pay-what-you-can), his efforts to clean up the town (he almost got assassinated!), and his, uh, less socially acceptable habits (**cough cough mistress cough**).
Up on the windy roads of the Santa Monica mountains, just when you think you must be lost, you finally happen upon Calamigos Ranch, home of the rustic, beautiful Malibu Cafe. It’s such a rural idyll; it feels like you’re nowhere near L.A. But then come the bottomless mimosas and truffle mac and cheese balls, so it can’t be too far away. If your hater’s thirst for that uniquely Malibu brand of country living still isn’t slaked, try playing some lawn chess or giant Jenga, taking in the live bluegrass band, shooting some pool at the table under a giant chandelier hanging from a tree branch, or paddle boating for free across “Love Lake.”
If your hater just can’t get over how “new” everything is out here, go old-school and take them out for prime rib. Built in 1922 in the “Storybook Style,” Tam O’ Shanter, with its deep mahogany rooms adorned with British coat-of-arms flags and flickering fireplaces, is such a concentrated slice of nostalgia that both real (Walt Disney) and fictional (Don Draper) characters used to eat here.
Your hater probably thinks L.A. doesn’t have any real “characters.” Introduce them to Vicious Dogs’ lovable owner Willie. Using a complex “farm system” of menus, he became a mad scientist of sausage, taking the simple hot dog to its most extreme limits. Now he also serves Mediterranean Dogs topped with hummus and cucumber salad, Peanut Butter Dogs covered with M&M’s, and a bacon-wrapped Polish dog topped with onions, peppers, chipotle sauce and jalapeño poppers.
L.A. is the home of the French Dip sandwich, and while Cole’s claim to its origin is a matter of debate, its claim to deliciousness is not. First, treat your hater to a classic Beef Dip. Then wander to the door in the back to the dim and cozy speakeasy, The Varnish, where the seats look like old train benches, there’s jazz three nights a week and the cocktails are dangerously good.
The Park’s Finest is a classic L.A. story. Some Filipino kids grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood and learned to meld the recipes they were raised on with the American barbecue tradition. After years of being the best backyard barbecue in Echo Park (among others), they finally went brick and mortar in 2009 and they’ve been one of the city’s best success stories ever since. It’s not just the tale that’s awesome here; everything is delicious, especially the addictive hot links mixed with sweet Filipino longaniza sausage and Ann’s Cornbread Bibingka (a Filipino cake).
Industry Cafe & Jazz
One of the most exciting parts of living in Los Angeles is how easily you can visit a culture that you may never have even known existed. Case in point, Industry Cafe & Jazz, which serves up both Ethiopian food and Ethiopian jazz. So take your hater for some of their spongy injera, chicken tibsi and candied yams then, around 9, sit back with the friendly regulars and a coffee and enjoy letting some of the best musicians in town broaden your horizons.
The Apple Pan
If your friend is still hating on L.A. after all that, hop back to this classic U-shaped burger counter that’s been serving food up the same way since the 1940s. Maybe the thick-cut fries and hickory steak burgers will remind them of that burger back in their hometown. Maybe the paper hats on the servers or the paper cones of soda perched in their cold metal chalices will inspire a nostalgia for an age they never knew. Maybe that banana cream pie will just hit the spot. And if doesn’t, at least you got to hit up The Apple Pan again.