These are the best restaurants in L.A.

After nearly two brutal years fighting for its survival, the soul of Los Angeles dining remains resilient.

It can be hard to move past the heartbreaking losses, and questions about the future linger unanswered, but the restaurant terrain is feeling familiar again. Reservations for the hottest openings and the long-running blockbusters require planning a month ahead. Lines for tacos piled with al pastor shaved from the trompo trail down otherwise quiet blocks; the same goes for diners seeking boba and smoked brisket and Korean-style hot dogs.

The equation holds: Southern California’s superior agriculture combined with the city’s miraculous pluralism and creative spirit make the region one of the world’s most exciting places to eat.

With apologies to my editors, I don’t really believe in the idea of “bests” when it comes to the 101 project. Yes, this is a guide to excellence. It also is meant to capture, as much as a finite number can, the overall breadth and spirit of dining in L.A. Some well-established names and places appear (consider it a nudge to patronize them if you love them) and so do some fresh entrants: Look for Ammatoli in Long Beach, Flavors From Afar in Little Ethiopia, Sushi Kaneyoshi in Little Tokyo and the roving Los Dorados among them.

The number of stories to tell about L.A.’s food culture is limitless, and to that end three of my favorite writers contributed essays to extend the narrative. Please read Carolina A. Miranda on the designer whose cart may change the way street vendors sell tamales; Donovan X. Ramsey on the evolution of a tasting-menu series, heavy with history, that was featured on Netflix’s “High on the Hog”; and Esther Tseng illuminating an organization that supports restaurant workers who are part of the city’s varied, and often invisible, Indigenous communities.

Jenn Harris joins me in naming some of our very favorite places for imbibing (alcohol and otherwise), and I also highlight several enduring pop-up operators whose indie moxie matches their delicious cooking.

Whether you’re picking up takeout or settling in at a crowded counter, remember to treat those who feed us in these unprecedented times with kindness and patience. And welcome back to the table.

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