These enduring institutions defined L.A.’s food scene when they launched over 20 years ago and continue to stand out as favorites today. Here’s what keeps them hot.
Chef Josiah Citrin’s fine dining icon Mélisse was the first restaurant to be reviewed in Angeleno, and his accolades include being one of the few in town to be awarded a Michelin star. The restaurant recently got a face-lift and will reopen in late fall as two concepts: Mélisse, an intimate room offering a tasting-menu-only space, and Citrin, a larger dining room with a seasonally driven a la carte menu focusing on California ingredients, with a separate bar area to enjoy cocktails or a full meal.
Star Dish in 1999: Egg caviar with a soft poached egg, smoked lemon creme fraiche and golden Ossetra caviar
Hot Hit Today: Lobster Bolognese made with fresh capellini, sweet basil and topped with a truffle froth
Secret to Success: “It’s our obsessive attention to detail,” says Citrin. “We are constantly evolving to make ourselves better, and never staying complacent. We are always in pursuit of excellence.” Santa Monica, 310.395.0881, melisse.com
When chef Suzanne Goin and partner Caroline Styne opened Lucques in the former Harold Lloyd Estate in 1998, their concept of a sustainably driven, wine-focused restaurant was at once revolutionary and welcoming. Countless awards later, they’re still guided by the same principles of gracious hospitality and bright comfort fare that highlights the bounty of SoCal’s farmers.
Star Dish in 1999: Heirloom tomato salad with torn croutons, burrata and feta salsa verde or the braised beef short ribs with potatoes Parisienne, cipollini onions and horseradish cream
Hot Hit Today: The restaurant changes the menu four to six times a year, but right now it’s the spatchcocked squab with corn pudding, grilled nectarines, coriander and chanterelles.
Secret to Success: “We invest in our staff through training and motivation, making them feel like they’re part of a family, part of something special,” says chef-owner Goin. “A restaurant has to be about more than the food, the drink and the atmosphere. It has to be something bigger than the sum of its parts.” West Hollywood, 323.655.6277, lucques.com
First opened in 1941 at The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Polo Lounge has always been an iconic destination for Hollywood elite, with regulars including Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Fred Astaire. It’s just as popular today, with execs and celebs regularly holding court on the open-air patio or in the forest green leather banquettes overlooking the lively bar scene.
Star Dish in 1999: McCarthy Salad, named in honor of polo player Neil McCarthy, who used to frequent the hotel
Hot Hit Today: More than 600 McCarthy Salads are still sold each week. Tableside steak tartare and chocolate souffle are also popular.
Secret to Success: “Our secret to success starts with our team members. They’re some of the most recognizable faces in the city,” says General Manager Edward Mady. “They are part of our history as well as Hollywood’s history—and some of them have been with us for decades. We honor their personalities and encourage them to create meaningful bonds with our guests.” Beverly Hills, 310.887.2777, dorchestercollection.com