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Empress Pavilion

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WHY The best dim sum in Chinatown, and good Hong Kong—style seafood for dinner, too. WHAT Chinatown’s most elegant restaurant, Empress Pavilion is packed for weekend dim sum; we prefer coming during the week. It’s lesser known for dinner, but the more than respectable cooking (steamed Dungeness crab with flat noodles in garlic sauce) and […]

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Spring Street Smoke House

WHY An American barbecue joint is a fish out of water in Chinatown, but this place has proved to be a big success, with fine sauces and meat so good it (almost) doesn’t need any. WHAT The pitmaster in this simple rib joint mans a J & R Little Red smoker, and his meats benefit […]

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Mayumba

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WHY The sandwich de cerdo with caramelized onions is mind-blowingly good. And there’s dancing to a Cuban orchestra on weekends! WHAT It’s got a lively weekend bar scene, a fine, buttoned-down dining room and all-around good Cuban cooking, but Mayumba’s sandwiches—cubanos and media noches fueled by a terrific lechón asado steeped in a garlic/sour orange […]

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Moishe’s Fine Middle Eastern Cuisine

WHY Quality falafel at a treasured spot in the old section of the Farmers Market. WHAT Don’t worry about the impatient counter ladies—once you get past the ordering and into the eating, the falafel sandwiches at this gem are extraordinary, wrapped in super-thin pita, dolloped with great tahini dressing and served with ripe tomato and […]

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La Creperie Café

WHY For generous, delicious sweet and savory crèpes in a campily ornate setting. WHAT Belmont Shore is packed with restaurants, and sometimes they all seem to blend into one another. But this place stands out for its over-the-top décor: huge mirrors, huge chandeliers, velvet curtains and giant Moulin Rouge mural. It’s also notable for its […]

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Amer’s Falafel

WHY They do crispy right—even to the point of packaging takeout falafel in a separate paper bag to preserve that lightning-fast fry. WHAT The falafel doesn’t hit the oil until you order, and the result is a revelation: thin, ultra-crisp exteriors with succulent steaming insides. Go with a sandwich, or, better yet, order as a […]

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Coffee Table Bistro

WHY Breakfast burritos are a favorite, and the wide selection of Sweet Lady Jane cakes makes a good accompaniment to coffee drinks. WHAT Chat or work in this Eagle Rock offshoot of the original Silver Lake screenwriter’s paradise. Thanks to the liquor license and adjacent bar and lounge, it’s easy to move from coffee to […]

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Green Street Restaurant

WHY Ordering the Dianne salad marks you as a true Pasadenan. WHAT This institution does a brisk business in Cal-American cuisine. There’s a popular outdoor patio and a modern-coffee-shop interior, but wherever you choose to sit, the go-to dish is the Dianne salad, its ginormous take on Chinese chicken salad (for a more reasonable serving, […]

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Le Pain Quotidien

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WHY Great chicken curry and egg salad open-face sandwiches; good lemon tarts; a communal table with loaves of bread serving as idiosyncratic napkin holders; excellent vegan and vegetarian options. WHAT These Belgian-based cafés offer a level of quality that’s almost never seen in chains. Fresh, flavorful, often organic ingredients go into the delicious open-face sandwiches, […]

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Phillips BBQ

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WHY Pork ribs and rib tips, a bit chewy, properly smoky and full of flavor; try the mixed sauce. WHAT This local chain of South L.A. takeout-only rib joints has its rabid followers and ornery detractors; we’re somewhere in the middle, believing for one thing that even so-so ribs are still a gift from the […]

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