New Yorkers love to claim that they have the best food. However, OpenTable’s “Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in America” for 2015 just proved that California may be challenging The Empire State when it comes to gastronomical greatness. In fact, the Golden State claimed the greatest number of hip new restaurants, celebrity chefs and avant-garde restaurateurs on OpenTable’s list this year: 22. We can’t say we’re surprised. After all, we do have Roy Choi, Richard Blais and now, Barton G. to satisfy our palates. And while there were a few surprises on the list (No San Francisco restaurants? And do we really need TWO Lisa Vanderpump restaurants?), it does show the diversity of dining options cropping up throughout our state.
So, without further adieu, we’re giving you a quick A-Z foodie tour of the home-grown Hot 100, better known as California’s Hot 22:
1. Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits – San Diego
Here’s all you need to know about Ballast Point’s Kitchen at Miramar: chef-driven brew food. Pair one of their award-winning beers with their eclectic menu of salads, small plates, flatbreads, and entrees featuring local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients.
2. Barton G. – Los Angeles
After 10 years of success on Miami’s South Beach, impresario Barton G. Weiss is bringing his brand of whimsy to Los Angeles. Expect this stunning sister restaurant to fit right in with the moods and tastes of the Hollywood elite.
3. Bestia – Los Angeles
A hidden gem in downtown’s warehouse and arts district, Bestia has been wowing even the most jaded Angelenos for a few years now. Ori and Genevieve’s emphasis on nose to tail cooking can be found in dishes such as Coppa di Testa comprised of housemade headcheese and Cassoela Milanese with braised pork, veal ribs and pork sausage…and of course, plenty of sustainable ingredients.
4. BO-beau kitchen + roof tap – Long Beach
Located just blocks from the Long Beach Convention Center, BO-beau kitchen + roof tap specializes in globally inspired, sophisticated comfort food. Oh, and did we mention there’s also 46 beers on tap, a worldly wine list and a full bar with eclectic cocktails? Done and done.
5. The Church Key – West Hollywood
The Church Key’s take on modern American cuisine has an Asian twist. Just watch as carts whiz by your table, serving up dim sum style of cuisine. They also have an extensive menu of seasonal shared plates and “funked” up cocktails.
6. The Commissary at The Line Hotel – Los Angeles
Also known as Roy Choi’s “Vegetable Restaurant,” The Commissary offers a produce-driven menu on the second floor of Koreatown’s The Line Hotel. It’s basically “a backyard party spilling out of a greenhouse and into your sub-consciousness.”
7. Gjelina – Venice
Certainly not new, but Gjelina is a tried-and-true classic in Venice’s popular Abbot Kinney district. Expect flavor-driven farm to table American bistro dishes that never go out of style.
8. Ironside Fish & Oyster – San Diego
A new restaurant in Little Italy, Ironside Fish & Oyster offers seafood fare & cocktails in a renovated warehouse with quirky, nautical design accents.
9. Juniper & Ivy – San Diego
From the creative mind of Richard Blais, winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” Juniper & Ivy offers “refined American food with left coast edge.” In 2015, the successful Little Italy restaurant launched a must-try chef’s tasting menu for $95 per person.
10. Katana – West Hollywood
Also not new, Katana has been a Hollywood staple for years. The beautifully decorated restaurant serves Robata, a form of Japanese tapas, traditional sushi and a unique variety of Japanese cuisine—and spectacular views overlooking the Sunset Strip.
11. Kettner Exchange – San Diego
Another Little Italy hotspot, Kettner Exchange features progressive American cuisine from critically acclaimed Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski and expertly crafted spirit offerings by Steven Tuttle. The restaurant’s other claim to fame? It also houses Little Italy’s only rooftop patio.
12. Koi – West Hollywood
If you’re looking for feng-shui-meets-modern-elegance, look no further than Hollywood mainstay, Koi. Illuminated by candlelight, you’ll feel positively Zen while dining on contemporary Japanese plates—Koi Crispy Rice topped with Spicy Tuna, Spicy Crunchy Yellowtail Tartar, Hamachi Fusion with Soy Yuzu and Truffle essence.
13. The Lark – Santa Barbara
Nothing pleases us more than to see The Lark hit the hot spot list. Paying homage to the history of California train travel and the long-gone Santa Barbara Fish Market, The Lark features an imaginative yet approachable menu created by the gifted Jason Paluska. Expect to find everything that makes Santa Barbara, well Santa Barbara–wineries, farms, ocean and natural beauty.
14. MUA – Oakland
You’ll have to enter a 1930’s warehouse-era building and pass through a curtain before find yourself at MUA, an eclectic spot in Uptown Oakland. Dine on American and Asian comfort food in a two-story dining area with large communal tables and smaller tables, surrounded by a rotating collection of local artwork.
15. The Nest – Indian Wells
The Nest is probably one of the Palm Spring area’s most famous restaurants and lounges from the 1960s. In a way, it still is. Locals love it for its contemporary vibe, Mediterranean/California cuisine and lively bar scene featuring musicians like owner Kevin Henry and longtime favorite Tim Burleson.
16. OSO – Sonoma
Chef David Bush’s modern California cuisine gets a lot of love from us. Set in the historic Sonoma Plaza, Bush’s OSO Restaurant offers an a la carte menu with a tasting menu option featuring palate-pleasing items such as fresh raw oysters, farm to table California vegetables, and local fish and game. And don’t forget the wine pairing because after all, you are in wine country.
17. Pump – West Hollywood
Pump is described as “a sexy garden restaurant” in the heart of West Hollywood—so we’ll leave the rest to your imagination. As far as the menu goes, chef Penny Davidi took the lounge-y fare to heart: tuna tartare crostinis, heirloom tomatoes with burrata and an 8 oz. “Pinky Pump” burger.
18. The Purple Room – Palm Springs
One of two original Rat Pack hangouts left in the desert, The Purple Room at Club Trinidad is time-honored favorite. The swinging supper club features a revived menu (short ribs, brussel sprout salad and seared scallops) to enjoy while watching the local entertainment. If only Ol’ Blue Eyes could walk in the door…
19. Republique – Los Angeles
This mid-city space has a lot going for it. Owned by Chef Walter Manzke and Chef Margarita Manzke along with their partner, restaurateur Bill Chait, République lives in a classic building, originally erected in 1929 by Charlie Chaplin and later transformed into the iconic La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant. The French-inspired menu created daily by the chefs can be enjoyed at the casual bar, the bistro in the front or the formal dining area in the back.
20. Sur – West Hollywood
If you watch the Bravo show, “Vanderpump Rules,” then you will already be familiar with Sur (or at least the drama that goes on behind its doors). If you’re not a reality TV connoisseur, then prepare yourself for the seduction of a rather eclectic selection of Mediterranean-Californian bites (and attractive wait staff).
21. Tropicale – Palm Springs
Mid-century modern with a 21st century twist—it’s an apt description for Tropicale. Featuring a dining room with plush high-backed semicircular banquettes, the restaurant goes for a light, exotic feel with an emphasis on Pacific Rim specialties, from Chilean Sea Bass baked in Banana Leaves or Kahlua-Barbecued Pork Chops to all sorts of tasty tapas, salads, wood-fired pizzas, and desserts. When you’re finished? Head to the Coral Seas Lounge, a hip bar lined with sexy black leather bar-stools a la “Mad Men.”
22. Vitello’s – Studio City
You can’t get any more old school than meatballs and music, and that pretty much sums up the offerings at Vitello’s Italian Restaurant. Tucked away in the quaint Tujunga Village of Studio City for more than 50 years, Vitello’s has been a local favorite among celebrities who come for the spaghetti and live music in the piano bar. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.