WHY Its patio, its still-amazing art collection and its front-of-the-house cocktail lounge.
WHAT Michael McCarty opened his namesake restaurant back in 1979 and was hugely influential in defining what was dubbed California cuisine and went on to become modern American cooking. His kitchen helped make goat cheese, arugula and caramelized onions a wildly popular culinary trinity, and he took California wines seriously long before many others. After a long period of stagnation, the place has new life with its lounge, where ultra-stylish cocktails are made from ingredients grown in the rooftop garden and beautiful people nosh on oysters, truffle-thyme frites and tuna poke. Lunch in the garden still delivers the California dream.
WHO Artists, writers, actors and tourists who can afford it.
Region: West of the 405
Neighborhood: Santa Monica
Features: Cocktails, Dinner, Lunch, Patio Dining, Quiet, Romantic, Vegetarian
Price Range: $17-$24, $34-up
Cuisine Type: Californian