L.A.'s Best Bar Bites
Why make dinner reservations in L.A. restaurants, when you can simply dine at the bar? The best food in the city can be found exclusively at the bars—not tables—of the city's top restaurants like Spago, Scarpetta, and Allumette.
Gone are the days where L.A. bar menus consisted of mediocre sliders and soggy zucchini fritters: Any plugged-in Angeleno will tell you that the best food in the city can be found exclusively at the bars—not tables—of the city's top restaurants. Though these plates are generally smaller—think tapas-style—they're also more exciting and experimental, as chefs happily deviate from the structure of the traditional dinner menus to play with inventive and often more exotic ingredients. These are our top three bar menu picks across Los Angeles.
Spago The exclusive bar menu at Spago heavily features exotic Asian influences, unlike its more traditional Californian dinner menu. Standout items include the Chinese steamed bao (glazed short ribs with a sweet bean sauce, pictured), sweet and sour pork belly (with black vinegar and jasmine rice), garlic noodles (with velvet shrimp, bok choy, and shiitake), and tempura ice fish (with a madras curry vinaigrette). If you're in the mood for something sweet, the bar menu boasts a handful of impressive "desserts" like doughnuts with yuzu glaze, and a frozen kulfi pop, which is based on the traditional Indian dessert, malai kulfi. Wash it all down with one of the excellent cocktails on offer—you're at a bar, after all. You can score them on the cheap during ($10) during Spago's Reverse Happy Hour, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9 to 11 p.m. (176 N Canon Dr; 310-385-0880, www.wolfgangpuck.com)
Scarpetta The clean, earthy flavors of Scarpetta's seasonal Italian dishes are also reflected in the bar menu—easily one of the most sophisticated bar menus in all of Los Angeles. Exclusive bar menu items like the burrata crostina (with tomatoes, marinated eggplant, and olives), porchetta piadini (with salsa and pickled shallots), and mascarpone ravioli (with mushroom and parmigiano) don't just taste phenomenal—but are also cost-effective. "We saw an opportunity at Scarpetta to fill a void," explained celebrity chef Scott Conant, creator of Scarpetta's bar menu. "I think our bar menu packs a punch—our small bites are $8 during happy hour [Monday–Saturday, 4–8 p.m.], and I'm not sure you can find a better deal in our neighborhood." (225 N Canon Dr; 855-370-8021, www.scottconant.com)
Allumette This hip and (relatively) new Echo Park restaurant has been getting buzz from foodies all over—it was even named one of Bon Appetit's Top 50 New Restaurants in the U.S.. Here, Chef Miles Thompson created bar-only dishes to pair with his cocktails, including fried oyster with kimchi ranch dressing and asian pear mignonette, olive oil poached tuna with buttermilk pullman loaf and saffron aioli, and pickled guinea hen egg fritter with country sausage and salsa verde. The restaurant's snack fare became so popular, it actually ended up being added to the regular dinner menu—though we think you should stick to eating them at the bar, it's way cooler. (1320 Echo Park Ave; 213-935-8787, allumettela.com)
This article was published on Conde Nast Traveler on October 12, 2013.
Featured photo: Chinese Steamed Bao at Spago, courtesy of the restaurant.