When you see a year of your life reflected back at you in the food choices made, it paints an accurate picture of what the last 365 days have felt like. 2021 was a year of mind-numbingly large amounts of dough, ricotta, and sugar - with an occasional roasted vegetable added in for good measure. Can you relate? Also, much of what I ate came from a cardboard box. Here's hoping there's more of a balance in 2022 for all of us, and a return to eating on plates in front of strangers. For now, here are the 12 Best Bites of 2021 in Los Angeles.
The Jewel City from Quarter Sheets Pizza Club (Glendale/Echo Park)
This is one of my favorite restaurants to come out of the pandemic. What once started as a secret pizza club pop-up with pick-ups at their home in Glendale, has now expanded to a brick and mortar in Echo Park. My favorite pie so far has been the Jewel City made with ricotta, mozzarella, basil, Bill’s Bees Honey, and Sambal Goreng from Bungkus Bagus ($38).
Follow their Instagram for more details on the hours at the Echo Park location as they are still settling in.
The Tomato Straciatella Salad from Locura Los Angeles (Silverlake
The Locura Los Angeles X Sqirl pop-up from Chef Julio Alvarenga was my favorite pop-up of the year. The Mexican Italian fusion prix-fixe meal ($56) included this superb starter of a Tomato Straciatella Salad and pasta and dessert. The fresh tomatoes and basil were unlike anything I had tasted all year. This Chef is truly one to watch, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
The Lasagna from Real Food Daily (Pasadena/West Hollywood)
If you are vegan, run, don't walk, to try the Lasagna from Real Food Daily. Crafted with ricotta, cremini mushrooms, marinara, and oil, I practically fell off my chair when I found out it didn't have dairy ($19)! I promise you will too.
The Alla Norma from L' Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (Hollywood)
It's no secret that Pizzeria Da Michele has great pizza, but have you ventured to try their pasta? This year I steered away from the Spaghetti Pomodoro and indulged in the pasta Alla Norma made with Cavatelli pasta, eggplant, cherry tomato, ricotta Salata, Parmigiano, and basil ($29). It's my new must-have.
The Farmhouse Roll at The Barish (Hollywood)
Chef Nancy Silverton's highly anticipated restaurant opening at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel certainly has not disappointed anyone, but the first taste I had at The Barish was my favorite (and the least expensive). One cannot live on bread alone, but if I had to, this would be the one. The Barish Farmhouse Roll with butter from Normandy arrives warm and will certainly warm your heart ($8).
The Spicy Spring from Prince Street Pizza (West Hollywood)
It's impossible to forget the taste of The Spicy Spring - and I've only had it once! It's made with Fra Diavolo sauce, mozzarella, spicy pepperoni, and romano cheese and comes on a thick crust ($37.50). This spot might not be a Los Angeles original, but I'm sure glad they are here.
The Roast Beef from Garo's Deli (DTLA)
In the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, Garo’s Deli is a hidden gem in what I’d like to call “Deli Row” in St. Vincent Court. The owner DK (Dikran), is from Lebanon. What makes all his sandwiches and flatbreads unique are the ingredients like Lebanese Pickles and Akawi Semisoft cheese alongside the Boar’s Head you are familiar with. Your must-have sandwich is the Roast Beef served warm on a 10-inch French Baguette baked in-house with provolone cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, and Lebanese pickles ($12).
The Fideo Seco from La Cha Cha (Arts District)
The opening of La Cha Cha Cha from Chef Alejandro Guzman was one of the most exciting restaurants to open in 2021. While I could probably put multiple dishes from my meal on the best bites of 2021 list, the Fideo Seco pasta with salsa Morita and whipped avocado is the one I can't get out of my mind. Reservations are not easy at this rooftop restaurant; however, you can always sit at the bar and order food there. They also have a new space, La Barra, which is like a bar inside a bar open in the late evenings. Confirm details on that one via Instagram.
The Altadena from Side Pie (Altadena)
This is another pandemic side-hustle that thankfully blew up into a brick-and-mortar. My favorite pie so far is The Altadena made with Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes, basil, Ezzo Pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and garlic ($24). They also are constantly developing new pizzas. Check out the website for easy ordering as they are a pick-up-only location for the moment.
The Szechuan Hot Chicken Sando from DayBird (Virgil Village)
While the temporary closing of Nightshade from Chef Mei Lin might have been one of the sadder moments in restaurants this year, the opening of DayBird was one of the brightest.The Szechuan Hot Chicken Sando is a Jidori chicken thigh fried in rice bran oil and rubbed with a mix of herbs and spices that is the stuff of legends ($16). I'm literally salivating as I write this... Follow the link here and pre-order to avoid a long wait time. Hours vary.
The Beignet from Beignet Box (Glendale)
Is there anything better than hot fried dough? Well, maybe if you add powdered sugar :). Beignet Box is a collaboration between Elizabeth Morrisell and singer Christina Milian specializing in Beignets and great Coffees and Iced Teas. Prices start at $6 for a box of 3 traditional-sized. It turns out you can buy happiness.
The Kouign Amann from Clark Street Diner (Hollywood)
Clark Street Diner opened in November of this year from your favorite Angeleno baker Zack Hall of Clark Street Bread. The food is traditional diner fare in a fabulously Hollywood spot (the former 101 Coffee Shop spot) but what most impressed me was the bakery section off the counter. You'll find different treats daily, and if you're lucky, you might get your hands on a Kouign Amann made of circular rings of of dough and caramelized salt and sugar.
It pretty much summarizes an entire year of eating - and it fits nicely in the palm of your hand.