No. 2: Los Angeles, CA
What can we say: Everyone wants to be in LA. The culinary scene in Los Angeles is more vibrant than ever thanks to our ambitious young chefs; others who’ve been the cornerstone of how and what we eat since the 1980s; and the cultural pockets offering up the best Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Peruvian and Mexican fare in the country. In some cases, it’s the melding of all of these together that helped LA's rise to the top, with exciting new restaurants popping up in unexpected corners with a sort of new fusion cuisine.
It's places like Baroo, which at its heart is Korean, but where chef Kwang Uh has heightened fermentation to an art form with mind-bending grain and noodle bowls, that have caught the eye of national food editors. Newcomer Destroyer, Jordan Kahn's hidden spot for modern twists on breakfast and lunch staples, is also hot and buzzy. National media darlings including Curtis Stone's meat-centric Gwen, Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Jon & Vinny’s, and Roy Choi’s game-changing, socially responsible LocoL chain, have all made big waves in 2016.
LA has become a magnet for out-of-towners, like Andy Ricker, Eddie Huang, Geoffrey Zakarian, Daniel Humm, Jenn Louis and April Bloomfield, all opening restaurants here. They're tapping into what we’ve known all along — that the recipe for success on the Best Coast is a blend of our gorgeous year-round produce; attracting the very hungry and constantly evolving crowd that’s more and more willing to try new things; and of course the weather. Brooklyn food incubator/outdoor market Smorgasburg also made its LA debut Downtown this year, wrangling amazing local vendors from far-flung parts of the city plus making new stars out of up-and-comers like 30 Under 30s Calo Provisions and We Have Noodles. The James Beard awards somehow skip this beat (with the exception of recent medals for the very deserving Suzanne Goin, Dahlia Narvaez and Nancy Silverton), but just about everyone else has taken notice this year, even with a bit of envy, including Bon Appetit (Best New Restaurants and Dish of the Year), Lucky Peach (the Los Angeles issue), Food + Wine (Best New Chef) and the New York Times (critic Pete Wells’ first out-of-New York review, three stars for Cassia in Santa Monica).