One could argue that pop-ups, food trucks and cold-pressed juicing all began in Los Angeles. After fostering some of the country's biggest-name chefs—from Roy Choi to Michael Voltaggio to Ludo Lefebvre—all within the last decade, the city has rapidly matured from a chain-restaurant wasteland into one of the country's most exciting cities in which to dine. And though L.A. offers countless distinct dishes from these ingredient-bending, forward-thinking chefs—many of which have become social media famous—below is a guide to five of the most delicious bites every food enthusiast must try.
Salted Caramel Croissant at Valerie Confections
Since her humble beginnings in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood in 2004, confectionary ace Valerie Gordon quickly won over Angelenos with her elegant and modern updates of retro desserts. But it wasn't until 2010—at the peak of the salted caramel craze—that she experimented with wrapping buttery pastry around a small slab of salted caramel. Baked until golden and garnished with fleur de sel, the salted caramel croissant has remained a staple of her three locations ever since.
Focaccia di Recco at Chi Spacca
It took superstar baker Nancy Silverton—responsible for places like the original La Brea Bakery and Pizzeria Mozza—two years to nail the recipe for the addictive cheese bread she discovered at a bakery in Recco, Italy. When Silverton's focaccia di Recco finally hit the Chi Spacca menu, the flaky flatbread was an instant success and likewise, a lesson in the varying faces of focaccia. Instead of an olive oil- and rosemary-garnished cloud shaped by air pockets, Silverton's version is composed of funky stracchino cheese, olive oil and salt sandwiched between nearly cracker-thin crusts. You'll never look at focaccia the same again.
Butter and Salt Doughnut at Sidecar Doughnuts
Sidecar Doughnuts quietly shacked up in a Costa Mesa strip mall an hour south of L.A. in 2012. But despite the sweets shop's unsung locale, it wasn't long before Angelenos caught word of owners Sumter and Chi-Lin Pendergrast's inventive, quality-minded doughnuts—before convincing the pair to later open a Santa Monica location. Every doughnut sold is less than an hour old, ensuring lines out the door and constantly sold-out cases. On any given day, one will find a bevy of season-specific flavors from eggnog to Girl Scout Cookie Samoa, but the OG and unexpected sleeper hit is the Butter and Salt doughnut that's been on the menu since day one. Think a Madagascar vanilla bean cake doughnut with a brown butter glaze made from high-quality European butter and topped with flaky Jacobsen sea salt.
Omelette at Petit Trois
The trick to the cloud-like, fluffy omelet on offer at chef Ludo Lefebvre's micro, counter-style Parisian café is a generous wad of butter, along with a particular shaking of the pan once the eggs hit the bubbling fat. Next, a mountain of Boursin cheese, which rapidly melts into the creamy omelet as it's rolled onto a guest's plate before being finished with—you guessed it—more butter.
Bread and Jam at SQIRL
At first, Jessica Koslow started off with just jam. And when she opened her little-known (at the time) café named SQIRL, those seasonal spreads flavored with blueberries and thyme or rhubarb and kumquat needed a partner. So, she paired them with a thick slice of brioche and a generous dollop of whipped ricotta. Today, SQIRL has grown into one of the country's buzziest cafés, lauded for its original, California-flavored plates. But it's the humble bread-and-jam duo that every guest orders more than any other dish.
Kat Odell, a freelance food and travel writer, is the author of Day Drinking. Follow her on Instagram at @kat_odell.
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