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Eats & Drinks: Los Angeles

From lengthy check-ins to the debilitating effects of jet lag, it would be all too easy to sit here moaning about the plight of the international traveller, but I won’t. Having spent a considerable chunk of my working life on the road, one of the few things that excites me about the prospect of once again packing my life into a 60-litre, reinforced, synthetic wheelie bag and leaving both my family and my home is knowing that I’ll soon enough be somewhere different, which, because of the nature of my job, means eating and drinking in places I wouldn’t normally get to eat and drink. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it just a little bit.

For those of us with an above average interest in food and drink, Los Angeles is a city more than worthy of your attention. From the carefully curated shelves of independent wine shops, through to the hidden treasures of the city’s finest wine lists, if it’s grown, crushed and fermented somewhere on earth, then you can bet it’s currently available to drink somewhere in LA. And the same goes for good eating, with the city currently in the midst of a major food revolution – new restaurants, new markets, new ideas and new operators – a revolution that should bury the perception of good dining experiences in Los Angeles being solely for the well heeled.

If you’re heading for the city of angels anytime soon, here are ten stops worth adding to your list.
4628 Hollywood Blvd, Los Feliz

Covell oozes warmth, confidence and charm. And yet, despite the hand-selected 300 or so international wines carried in this pint-sized wine bar, there’s no list as such, rather you chat to knowledgeable, friendly staff, and based on the kind of things you like, they’ll find you something great to drink. On paper, it’s a formula that fills me with dread, and yet, on the night, it works brilliantly for our party of six – we all drink something different, and we all leave wishing we had a bar like Covell in our respective hoods. You can’t ask for more than that.
8700 W 3rd St, Beverly Hills

Don’t let the Beverly Hills address scare you, A.O.C. is as friendly and accessible as any wine bar in Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful space. Two floors of seductively lit wood-panelled goodness, and the kind of ivy-covered courtyard that literally dares you to throw caution to the wind and invest whatever holiday funds you have left in their 22-page internationally focused list. And if all of that’s a bit overwhelming, the by-the-glass offering is especially strong, with around 40 wines on pour at any given time.
2395 Glendale Blvd, Silverlake

With an incredible selection of wines from around the globe, uber-friendly service and one of the smartest interior fit-outs I’ve seen, Silverlake Wine is a must. Laid out by price and colour, and incredibly easy to navigate, this is technically a fully-fledged wine store, but for a small fee ($5), the staff are happy to guide you through a flight of whatever’s open on the tasting bar – a great way to discover new things.
1911 Hillhurst Ave, Los Feliz

Tucked neatly into a forgettable shopping strip in suburban Los Feliz, Lou Wine Shop is like a diamond in the rough. Greeted by the giant words ‘NATURAL & UNUSUAL’ as you step inside, the mission statement here is clear for all to see. Owner Lou Amdur is the kind of person I could listen to all day long, his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for wine utterly infectious. The tightly curated selection of wines are grouped into categories such as ‘Light Reds’, ‘Mineral Earthy Reds’ and ‘Heavy Reds’, and the constant stream of customers coming in and out of the store are testament to Lou’s reputation as one of the best.
6142 Washington Blvd, Culver City

Of all the local recommendations I got while in LA, none came as regularly as Bar & Garden. Three-parts wine shop, one-part wine bar, Bar & Garden is a champion of small-scale, non-interventionist winemaking. In fact, every wine carried in the store is herbicide and pesticide free. It’s a philosophy that also extends to the range of craft beer and spirits stocked there. The shop itself is beautifully curated, and the staff incredibly helpful. Time your visit to coincide with one of the store’s regular tastings.
952 S Broadway, Downtown

In 2013, Bon Appétit named Alma ‘Best New Restaurant in America’, which is no mean feat considering the meteoric journey of 26-year-old chef/owner Ari Taymor. Alma is tiny – 39 seats in all – and it’s delicious. Our visit comprised of a ten-course set menu with wines to match (additional $55). Alma’s kitchen focus heavily on locally sourced ingredients, and with six of the nine wines we drank coming from California, it’s heartening to see Alma’s wine program following in a similar vein. If you get a chance, go.
2121 E 7th Pl, Downtown

It’s an unnerving drive to Bestia. As you head further into the industrial wasteland of Skid Row, you could be forgiven, like me, for triple-checking the restaurant’s address. And then it appears. A hanger-like warehouse in the middle of nowhere, which at 10.45pm on a school night – the only time we can get a booking – is heaving. The energy here is palpable, as plates of chicken liver crostini, grilled meatballs and some of the best pasta in the city charge around the room, while the two-page wine list with strong Italian focus has been lovingly assembled and waves its freak flag high.
412 N Fairfax, Fairfax

The latest venture from the team behind Animal and Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s, is a brilliant reinterpretation of the classic Italo-American pizzeria. Seating less than 40 covers, bookings are at a premium, but worth the wait. Handmade pasta, chargrilled vegetables, porchetta and a pizza crust that defies words are all reasons to go. But it’s for ‘Helen’s’ – a micro-sized wine shop occupying the back of the restaurant – that all wine lovers should pay Jon & Vinny’s a visit.
2nd Floor, 515 W 7th St, Downtown

As you climb the staircase to Seven Grand there are little clue as to what awaits you at the top. Like a hunting lodge in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles, Seven Grand is a heady oasis of dark timber panelling, tartan carpet and taxidermy. This is a whisky lover’s paradise, where immaculately groomed barmen are happy to talk you though the 300-strong list of malts from around the world, or simply pull you a beer, or mix you something delicious to drink.
532 Western Ave, Koreatown

Two decades after the devastation of the LA riots, Koreatown is the place to be, a born-again borough brimming with innovation, enthusiasm and new ideas. And with around 450 places to get a drink in a four-kilometre radius, K-Town is also a lot of fun. Set in the rear of a car park, and boasting a meticulously curated and ever-changing selection of craft beers, Beer Belly is not just a great spot to cleanse your palate, but a shining example of Koreatown’s ever-changing face. Beer snacks, like duck-fat fries and deep-fried chicken skin, are almost worth the airfare from Australia to the US alone.