Where Maggie Eats in L.A. Right Now

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Four days in Los Angeles was just about right, though another week in 75-degree weather wouldn’t hurt anything, except maybe my wallet. Besides seeing old and new friends at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference and speaking about marketing a cookbook, I ate. Everywhere.

So many of you commented on my LA food photos over on my Instagram feed, asking for a round-up, that your food wish is my command — here you go!

GJELINA

I landed, checked in, and promptly headed to Gjelina with four (sweet) strangers. We ordered everything and it was all, without question, amazing. They don’t do substitutions but there were so many fish-friendly, veggie-filled, dairy-free dishes on the menu. I ate well, especially scooping up every bit of the snapper crudo and the roasted fennel with orange. Try to get the front corner window, where the light and the sunset drift in through the curtains.

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SQIRL

Founder Jessica Koslow’s amazing preserves have practically flown off the shelves at every Eat Boutique event. After working with her for nearly 5 years now, I had to get to her restaurant. All I have to say is BRAVO; it’s every bit as good as everyone says. It’s how I want to eat every day, with a mixture of textures, and funky-familiar flavors in each dish. The crispy rice with a fried egg is wonderful. The ricotta toast is certainly one of the early toast recipes that started the trend. Prepare to wait in line a little while but the food and vibe are worth it.

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GJUSTA

Opened two years ago in a nook about half a mile from Gjelina, Gjusta is everything I want in a daily hangout spot. It’s a bakery merged with a precious deli and takeaway joint that serves the spectrum from rotisserie chicken to every kind of pickle to pressed juices, sandwiches, and coffee. The back parking lot (a.k.a. “the garden”) is set up for dining, though the neighborhood bops in and out all day, loaded with bags of modern takeaway. The vibe is noticeably Venice-mellow, and the sun always seems to shine on the white industrial building. You’ll be there every day.

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OSTERIA MOZZA

I expected a big restaurant like Osteria Mozza to be sloppy and slow, resting on its laurels, but quite the contrary. Nancy Silverton’s Melrose Avenue restaurant is exactly what an Italian spot should be — classic and fresh in every dish. The grilled octopus was probably the best I have ever had, and the linguini with clams was rich and creamy, with no added dairy. That said, go for the mozzarella bar and share several with a large group, or eat one on your own (no judgement). Ask for an off-menu Sbagliato because theirs is perfection.

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MUSSO AND FRANK GRILL

On my last night in Los Angeles, I needed a little bit of alone time and got it with an early seating at Musso and Frank Grill. The vibe is entirely classic with red leather seats, white table clothes, uniformed servers, and faux leather menus. My steak was nicely cooked, the martini was strong and free-flowing, and the sides were satisfactory. I was especially touched when the chef agreed to make me a dairy-free peppercorn sauce because he didn’t have to but he did. This spot is on L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold’s short list for a taste of classic Hollywood. Go early to avoid the wait.

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Found on the side of a building in Venice Beach, and a good reminder!

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