Tonya Beaudet was perplexed when a strange sign appeared on the door of her favorite restaurant in 1980. Before long, she deduced that “Here today, gone to Maui” meant that its surf-crazy owner had traded California’s waves for those of Hawaii. Filled with visions of organic feasts, she scrambled to buy the shop, otherwise known as The Spot Natural Food Restaurant. House-made vegetarian fare has ruled the menu for more than 30 years, transforming Tonya into a meat-free eater and converting unabashed carnivores into legume lovers. Sautéed mushrooms and onions crown the restaurant’s veggie burger, whose blend of beans, seeds, and soy cheese the Travel Channel deemed “jam-packed with flavor.” Brown rice and whole-wheat tortillas lend wholesome goodness to hearty burritos, savory garden omelets brim with seasonal produce, and organic ales and purified water refresh palates between bites, preventing diners from plunging into the nearby ocean. To accommodate a wide range of dietary needs, the kitchen can prepare meals without wheat, dairy, or sugar. Tonya and crew’s cookbook helps diners recreate their favorite dishes at home, using healthy ingredients such as garden-grown veggies and raw agave.
Though the name of their business venture has been synonymous with finery and prestige for more than 100 years, the chefs at The Rockefeller never stop looking for ways to add even more weight to the name. Specializing in artisanal pub eats, the chefs whet appetites with fresh, briny oysters, which often serve as a savory prelude to braised-short-rib tacos or apricot-enriched duck confit. Inventive yet selective, the culinary magicians also infuse waffles with bits of bacon, topping each creation with fried chicken and pads of clover-honey butter. Pair any of these eats with any one of the bar’s 24 craft brews on tap and there’s bound to be some magic or nonmagic belches in the air.
Not to be outdone by the back-kitchen specialists, the servers claim domain over a setting that’s as quietly elegant as the offerings on the menu. A stone-pillared, covered patio with skylights contrasts the rich wood tones of the indoor dining room, with both spaces primed for special events that range from the no-frills 99-cent gourmet-burger days to wine Wednesdays. The space also plays host on Thursdays to cult-movie nights, an especially appetizing event for those who enjoy the taste of cheesy celluloid.
After the Inca Empire fell, waves of Spanish conquistadors, African slaves, Chinese workers, and Italian immigrants settled in Peru. Naturally, the country’s newfound cultural diversity manifested in one particularly noticeable way: the cuisine. Today, potatoes, chili peppers, and corn––as prepared by the Incas––share plate estate with beef, citrus fruits, soy sauce, and pasta to create the rich and unique cuisine found at El Pollo Inka.
Native Peruvians Rosa and Salomon Jaime opened the first El Pollo Inka in 1987, beginning their own culinary empire that today consists of six locations across California and one in Miami. The restaurant’s Peruvian-style chicken rotates on a rotisserie spit for hours to achieve the juiciness and tenderness that makes it the crown jewel of the menu. However, El Pollo Inka’s beef, seafood, and vegetarian dishes also vie for palate popularity with the help of cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and an all-star public relations team. The restaurant also matches bites with sips from a wine list that includes varietals from Chile.
Deemed one of the best spots in Los Angeles by Saturday Night Magazine, Rok Sushi Kitchen unites chefs who wrap more than 50 specialty rolls with a kitchen that cooks an array of Japanese fusion dishes. Inside a lofted dining room, minimalist decor glows with golden and brown tones, and warm lamps cut through the dark without help from the flashlight Mom tucked into a maki roll "just in case." Framed by shelves stocked with a multitude of bottles, the bar's deft mixologists synthesize cocktails that blend freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices with sake and other spirits. Bruce Lee stands frozen in time inside a pop-art portrait above the sushi bar, and Hermosa Pier beckons mere footsteps or cartwheels from the front door.
At Akbar Cuisine of India, the tandoors are always busy, whether they're puffing up naan and paratha breads or baking the spices into traditionally prepared lamb and chicken, as well as unusual house specialties. The grilled Chilean sea bass, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes, scintillates taste buds with herb-marinated slivers of fish. The unconventional twists on traditional flavors last through dessert, which can include mango cheesecake.
Chef and owner Avinash Kapoor pickles fresh chutneys each day. His staff also gives the pepper-lamb curry a hint of saffron and the prawns an unfounded rumor of coconut. The menu also features coco lamb, chicken tikka masala, and saag paneer. The made-to-order curries, in particular, make ideal diving pools for freshly baked roti.
Pedone's Pizza's cooks fulfill their titular promise for pies, but they use their ovens for far more than baking crust. They also whip up a slew of Italian specialties, from bubbling lasagna to toasty chicken-parmesan sandwiches. In addition to classic dishes, they flex their culinary creativity when creating their pizzas, sometimes replacing the standard tomato-based sauce with alfredo, thai sauce, or Pedone's secret pink sauce. Customers have the option of a preselected suite of toppings to accompany each sauce, or they can make their own recipes from a selection of fresh ingredients with which the kitchen staff will top any pie or vacation scrapbook.