With Midwesterners and Southerners flocking to Los Angeles in the 20th-century, the town is awash in outstanding, stick-to-your-ribs “American food.” If you’re looking for burgers, steaks and fried chicken heavy on flavor and light on restraint, you’ll have a ball in L.A.
The prospect of preparing classic American staples has attracted many high-end chefs. Sparked by the phenomenal popularity of the work of art in beef over at Father’s Office, different L.A. restaurateurs have been falling over themselves to trick out hamburgers with elegant touches like Kobe beef, onion and bacon compote, and blue cheese or gruyere. The uninitiated may find these ingredients precious, or wince at the $10-16 price tag, but the results can be spectacular. While Father’s Office is only accessible by car, you’ll find excellent examples of the species downtown at Pete’s Cafe and Bar or Morton’s Steakhouse (lunch only), or in Hollywood at 25 Degrees, Bowery, Lucky Devils or the Hungry Cat. At the opposite end of the burger price, but not taste, spectrum, try the tasty, made-to-order $1.74 hamburger at In-N-Out, the one chain to actually to garner praise in Fast Food Nation.
If this gourmet approach to a simple dish rubs you the wrong way, there are also numerous old-school establishments in Los Angeles stubbornly impervious to trends. The 24/7 Pacific Dining Car has been a go-to steak destination for pols, power-brokers, and Hollywood night owls from Raymond Chandler and Nicholas Cage since 1921 – and they have a free shuttle from downtown. But with steaks north of $30 and sides at $5.75, the experience won’t come cheap. Budget-conscious lovers of the T-bone should head into Koreatown’s Taylor’s Steakhouse, which offers no-attitude charm, complete with thick white tablecloths and red Naugahyde booths. And for classic Hollywood ambience Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood) deserves a spot on your itinerary (there’s nary a wagyu slider or arugula salad in sight). While Musso is no longer one of the top steakhouses in town, and a bit overpriced, if you keep your order simple -- a steak, a martini, and creamed spinach -- you’ll travel back to the days when Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks were the biggest stars in town. Classy nostalgia keeps Musso fans, including Johnny Depp and Keith Richards, coming back.And if you’re really looking to get your cardiologist mad at you, head over to the Hollywood location of Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles (although it fills up quickly, so try to go on the early or late side). This soul food classic is as the name suggests – it’s up to you whether to add syrup or pour gravy over your fried chicken and waffles. Purists fuss that the bird isn’t sufficiently brined – but after a deeply satisfying calorie bomb of sweet and savory, most people walk out full, smiling, and vowing to hit the gym more often.Pacific Dining Car offers a free shuttle from select downtown locations.Subway access:Taylor’s Steakhouse, purple line to Wilshire and Normandie.
Hollywood: 25 Degrees, Lucky Devils, In-N-Out, Musso & Frank Grill, red line to Hollywood and Highland.Bowery, Hungry Cat, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles; red line to Hollywood and Vine.