New York loves to pounce on Los Angeles, which is ironic since the West Coast could care less about the one-way rivalry. Slam LA, and an Angeleno will simply say, "Yeah, sure, so just don't move here." That said, New Yorkers did have a valid criticism when it said Los Angeles—which the Michelin guide currently ignores—had a weak culinary culture because restaurants cared more about the scene than the cuisine. That's all changed in recent years with an emerging food culture that should have New Yorkers clamouring for some California love.
Sorry New York, you're not getting In-N-Out, especially with all that nonsense about Shake Shack being better (it's not). Alexander's Steakhouse, Providence, Osteria Mozza, Kato and n/naka didn't make the cut simply because NYC already has comparable spots, and Manuela got dropped from the list after chef Wes Whitsell flew the coop right before Christmas. Gwen, Maude and Trois Mec failed to make appearances because they are all overrated, and the beloved Tsujita and Din Tai Fung don't qualify because they're actually LA imports from the other side of the Pacific. Nevertheless, the following seven restaurants would make a bigger splash in NYC than King Kong hanging from the Empire State Building.
Chef Ricardo Zarate is the best Peruvian chef north of Lima, but he also spent a decade working in Japanese restaurants in London, so he specializes in Asian-influenced Peruvian styles like Nikkei and Chifa. Brooklyn's Llama Inn deserves a mention, but Zarate would bring an elevated style of Peruvian cuisine that's more in line with Lima food shrines like Maido, Rafael, Fiesta and Chez Wong. New Yorkers will love Rosaliné classics like the chaufa paella and lima bean salad with blistered cabernet tomatoes and Amazonian dishes like the banana leaf-wrapped pork ossobuco tamale and the fried paiche fish with popped kiwicha and yuzu aioli sauce. Eater named Rosaliné the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles for 2017, and Zarate just debuted his Nikkei concept Once (the Spanish word for 11) at the Shoppes at The Palazzo in Las Vegas. Rosaliné East, meanwhile, would be perfect for the West Village or Tribeca.
New York is getting better with tacos, but when comparing the two cities, that's like saying L.A. is getting better with pizza. Both cities have a long way to go, respectively. For NYC, the arrival of Guerrilla Tacos could get them there overnight. In what is arguably the nation's most competitive taco-truck town, chef Wes Avila rocketed to the top with Guerrilla Tacos, which the PRØHBTD staff literally eats at every week. The first brick-and-mortar Guerrilla Tacos arrives this spring in the DTLA Arts District, and if a second location landed in Bushwick, Bay Ridge or Park Slope, it would be huge. Vegetarians love Avila's roasted sweet potato taco with feta cheese and almond chili, which his truck always sells, while the rest of the menu changes weekly based on locally sourced ingredients. Recent taco options included wild boar, octopus, swordfish and Puerto Vallarta-style crab, while his black truffle quesadilla is always a huge hit. For a look at what New Yorkers could expect, check out the chef's new cookbook here.
Noma alum Jordan Kahn is the most celebrated chef in the city right now with his futuristic restaurant Vespertine, so why open his humble day spot Destroyer in NYC instead? Simply put, Vespertine delivers brilliant California-style pretentiousness that might get lost on New Yorkers, while Destroyer offers deceptively progressive dishes accessible to all. The dishes often evolve, and the options sometimes change, but the relatively consistent staples include a chicken confit with heirloom grits and roasted strawberry and a steak tartare with smoked egg cream and pickled mushrooms. Breakfast menu highlights include the organic hen egg with crispy potatoes and a stellar line-up of coffee, tea and baked goods. I hate to do this to the downtown crowd, but Destroyer would kill it on the Upper West Side.
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo rule the restaurant world in Los Angeles, and their minimalistic shrine to all things carnivorous will have New Yorkers sharpening their knives in a good way. Think snout-to-tail gastronomy and hard-to-get-reservations worth bragging about, paired with a Cali infusion of cool and casual. Current dishes include veal brains, barbeque pork belly sandwiches, spicy beef tendon chip, yellowtail collar with jerk spices, spaghetti dan dan with lamb, smoked turkey leg and foie gras with biscuits and maple sausage gravy. The motherfuckers even put bacon on a chocolate crunch bar. Had the restaurant opened earlier, the late Dr. Atkins would have left NYC immediately for Fairfax Avenue. Animal should open up in the East Village or Lower East Side where everyone already acts like animals.
Los Angeles would be thrilled to have its own Uncle Boons, but a worthy quid pro quo would be opening a Night + Market in SoHo, Chelsea or near Union Square. With three locations in Los Angeles, N+M is like Pok Pok if Andy Ricker were actually Thai. Chef-owner Kris Yenbamroong, who went to film school at New York University, is a Los Angeles native who never went to culinary school. Instead, he learned the culinary arts growing up in the family's Talésai restaurant in Studio City. Think traditional Thai street food paired with heavy inebriation. Dishes include a variety of meat larb salads, mae sai curry noodles with chicken wings, and drunken noodles with sliced short rib.
Tarzana is named after a former resident who authored the Tarzan novels. How do I know that? Because when someone told me to check out this restaurant in Tarzana, I said, "Where the hell is that?" Equally surprisingly is the idea that a no-reservations restaurant deep in the San Fernando Valley claims hours-long waits to get a table on the weekends. This place is hotter than Tarzana's summer temps, and most people come for its signature dish, the Molcajete, featuring strips of steak, chicken, shrimp, cactus and panela cheese in a hot stone molcajete filled with guajillo red sauce. Angelenos love to praise Broken Spanish, La Casita, Mole de Los Reyes, Las Molenderas Restaurant and the overrated Guelaguetza, but Sol y Luna rules them all. This restaurant would be perfect for Astoria or Long Island City in Queens.
Super chefs Roy Choi (Pot, Koji) and Daniel Patterson (Coi) opened this high-quality, low-priced restaurant in Watts, a tough neighborhood famous for the Watts Towers, the 1965 riots and for the 1970s TV series Sanford and Son. "We fundamentally believe that wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don't have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food," says the restaurant website. "We believe that fast food restaurants can truly empower the communities they currently underserve." Hoping to elevate communities through affordable gastronomy, LocoL serves burgers, bowls, quesadillas and other tasty dishes for between $1 and $4 each. Bronx neighborhoods like University Heights, Fordham and Grand Concourse would be great locations for another LocoL.
Top Pick for Eating Stoned: The real answer is all of the above (these restaurants are coming from Cali, after all), but forced to pick one, Guerrilla Tacos is undoubtedly a stoner's delight.