Kaitlin Orr

In 2017, Kaitlin Orr set out to become the first person to dine at all 101 of the restaurants on Jonathan Gold’s Best LA Restaurants list in 101 days. She succeeded, and in the process, the Los Angeles-based writer and blogger laid the foundation for her new career covering the international dining scene. While her role as a Taste Hunter for World’s 50 Best Restaurants takes her around the planet – Orr and her Taste Hunter boyfriend Anders Husa share their journeys via his blog – she remains a Californian girl at heart and still finds comfort in the state’s most iconic dishes.

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The Best French Toast In L.A.

For brunch, Republique is my all-time favourite. When you walk in, there’s a huge pastry counter filled with some of the best pastries in town. It has a really delicious menu, and I think the best French toast in L.A: it’s a super thick brioche, perfectly soft and fluffy. I’m getting hungry talking about it. It’s so good.

Pancakes For Breakfast (Or Dinner)

Salt’s Cure makes my favourite pancakes in L.A. The pancakes are so good that they’re not only served for breakfast, they’re on the dinner menu too. They come with a bourbon maple butter that is insanely addictive. You should also get the signature pork chop.  

Deliciousness Without The Guilt

Sqirl is iconic, and everybody probably knows that already, but it’s definitely worth the hype. This is a place I feel is pretty defining of L.A. because it’s so delicious, but you don’t feel guilty when you’re eating there – it’s very green, with a lot of healthy food like rice bowls, salads, and veggies. This is a place that people will drop by before going on a hike, but it also has killer pastries.

Where You Go To Network With L.A. Food People

There are weekend markets, but if you’re in the industry – or if you’re a real foodie – then you’re going to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on Wednesday. There’s a weekend market too, but Wednesday is when you’ll see all the best chefs from L.A. there, picking their produce for the week. It’s where you go to network with the L.A. food people; you’ll run into everyone. It’s amazing, and the produce is just gorgeous.

The First Place I Eat When I Get Home

The number one place that I always go whenever I’m back from travelling – my first stop from the airport – is always In-N-Out. It’s so cliché, but if you’re from L.A, then you don’t go anywhere else. You get off the plane, and you go to In-N-Out – it’s the rule. Especially if someone’s visiting L.A. for the first time, this is the first place I take them to.

Burritos Made With Housemade Flour Tortillas

One of my other favourite places is Burritos La Palma. It has these small, taco-sized burritos which are great because you can try a bunch of different flavours. It uses housemade flour tortillas, and they’re only like $2 or $3, depending on what filling you get: my favourites are the beans and cheese and birria (Mexican beef stew) burritos. People love L.A. tacos, and you can’t come to L.A. and not have tacos – those are great – but for me personally, I like burritos slightly better because they’re a little juicer, saucier and cheesier; and that’s kind of my vibe.

A Bakery Serving Amazing Pastries

A place I love taking people when they visit L.A. is Gjusta, which is a pretty trendy bakery that has amazing pastries. I love pastries, if you haven’t been able to tell already. It also has sandwiches and salads and really good lunch dishes too. It’s another one that’s healthy-ish – which is exactly how I would describe L.A.

Great Turkish (With An Off-Menu Fried Chicken Sandwich)

There’s a Turkish restaurant called Kismet that does a lot of different marinated vegetables that are really full of flavour, but my favorite dish is their malwach, an amazing flaky bready. It’s a laminated dough that’s almost like a naan in terms of thickness, but it’s layered like a croissant and super buttery. You eat it with all your vegetables, and it’s so, so good. Also, be sure to ask for the off-menu fried chicken sandwich on brioche bread.

An All-Time Cheeseburger

My all-time favourite cheeseburger is actually at a cocktail bar, Everson Royce Bar, or ERB as the locals call it. It’s nothing too fancy; it’s pretty simple, but really well done. It’s kind of like a smashed patty – you know, a little bit charred, but not too much, and it has an incredible peppery sauce, it’s just so delicious. It’s definitely my favourite burger in the city. It also has these flaky buttermilk biscuits served with honey butter that are to die for. ERB is a really cute bar. It has a backyard with string lights, picnic tables, and bocce balls.

An American-Italian Pizzeria

My favourite pizza in L.A is at Pizzana, a place that I discovered from Jonathan Gold’s list. I met the chef Daniele Uditi through that project and he and I became super great friends. He’s originally from Naples and just the kindest, most passionate pizza guy in the world. He grew up making pizza in Naples, but Pizzana is more of an ode to America. It’s traditional in the sense that I think it’s one of the closest things we have to Italian pizza in L.A., but it’s also American in how creative and modern it is, so you really get the best of both worlds. He has a pizza called the Neo Margherita, and instead of using fresh basil on top, he created a basil powder that he sprinkles all over the pizza so you can taste basil in every bite. The desserts are amazing as well. He partnered with Candace Nelson, an awesome pastry chef and the founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, and she does all the desserts at the restaurant. It’s also one of the few places in L.A. that’s open from lunch through to the end of night, so if you go at 4pm or a weird off-time, you can always get a table.

“The Best Ceviche I’ve Ever Tasted”

I hadn’t had a lot of Peruvian food before eating at Rosaliné, and these flavors just totally blew me away. It has the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted. In L.A. there are a lot of really cute, trendy restaurants, and those aren’t always the places with the best food in my opinion, but this place really has the best of both worlds. The interior, the ambience, the food: it’s all so, so good. 

Two Vital Koreatown Addresses

L.A. has the biggest Koreatown outside of Korea, so we have really authentic Korean cuisine here. Sun Nong Dan is a 24-hour Korean restaurant, but you can wait for hours to get into this spot because it’s so popular, and so good. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, with no ambiance at all, but if you’re a foodie, then this place is definitely your kind of spot. It’s famous for its braised beef short-rib stew called galbi jjim, and it’s this huge, bubbling cauldron that they bring out to your table. The pro move is to add cheese on top, which gets flame-torched, and then it’s just this gooey, cheesy, bubbling, beefy bowl of deliciousness. Park’s BBQ is by far the best Korean barbecue in L.A. The quality of meat is top-notch, so it’s more expensive than the $20 all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue spots, but it’s like eating good sushi – you want to be paying more for better quality.

Great Thai Food And Natural Wine

There are places in L.A. where you don’t feel cool enough; places that are stuffy and pretentious, but Night + Market is for anyone. It’s cool, while still being welcoming, it’s so chill, and it has a really fun vibe. It’s got great Thai food and one of the best natural wine lists in L.A. It also has my favourite fried-chicken sandwich in the world. There’s another great, more traditional hole-in-the-wall Thai spot that’s quite well known called Jitlada. Be prepared for some heat: the food here is hot.

The San Gabriel Valley: L.A.’s Home Of Great Chinese Food

About 30 minutes outside of L.A is the San Gabriel Valley, which is home to some of the best Chinese food outside of China. This is just one example of an area that not a lot of people would have even thought of going to before Jonathan Gold came along. In general, if you go to this part of town, you’re going to find amazing dumplings and noodles, but one of my favorites – and one of Jonathan Gold’s favourites – is Chengdu Taste, which has really delicious Sichuan food. It has this amazing “toothpick lamb” that’s pretty famous. It also has all of these amazing dishes with Sichuan peppers, and by the end of the meal your tongue and mouth are so numb, but you can’t stop eating because the food is just so good.

The City’s Most Revolutionary Restaurant

To me, Vespertine is the most revolutionary restaurant that we have in L.A. Every time I travel, people ask me where to eat in L.A., and I’m telling everyone, “you have to come here, even if it’s only to eat at Vespertine”. It’s so unique. The restaurant is a huge architectural structure that looks like a piece of art itself. It’s such a fun and interactive dining experience. You move around. You sit in, see and experience different spaces throughout the building. It’s definitely polarising. It had mixed reviews when it first opened – some people hated it – but then Jonathan Gold loved it, and named it the number one restaurant in L.A. It’s game-changing, and it really should be on the international map. The chef, Jordan Kahn is so, so talented. If you want to experience Jordan’s food, but don’t want to spend $300 on a tasting menu, then go to Destroyer, his casual restaurant. It has the same quality of cooking and is a great breakfast or lunch spot.

A 10-Seat Chef’s Counter Restaurant From An El Bulli Alum

For another fine dining spot in L.A., I highly recommend Somni, the new 10-seat chef’s counter restaurant from chefs Aitor Zabala and José Andrés. Chef Aitor has taken his Spanish heritage and experience working at El Bulli and combined it with the flavors of California to create an absolute masterpiece. Everything was perfect, from presentation, to texture, and especially to flavor. This was one of my favorite meals this year.

My Favourite Ice Cream Shop In L.A.

Salt & Straw is my favorite ice cream shop in L.A. It’s actually a pretty big chain from Portland, but it has really fun and different ice cream flavors like avocado and strawberry and – my favourite – honey lavender. For Thanksgiving, it had an entire Thanksgiving menu as the seasonal ice cream flavors like candied turkey and mashed potato.

Guide last updated March 2020

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