5 Restaurants to Make You Hungry in LA

Guest Blogger: www.imhungryinla.com

These restaurants will offer more than casual conversation for a first date. You’ll be so busy talking about the food and ambiance of the restaurant that you’ll quickly slip into comfort with one another. Cheers to that!

The Independence

205 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

If I had to pick a place to eat near the 3rd street Promenade, it would be The Independence Tavern. Replacing Buddha’s Belly on the corner of 2nd and Broadway, the Independence is a welcoming, casual, yet cool place to meet up with friends over great food and great drinks.

Chef Tom Block helms the kitchen and creates beautiful dishes like grilled octopus with pickled chili, an addicting blue crab and shrimp ceviche, or a rack of lamb with Thai red curry rub. The Independence showcases creative thoughtfulness and is more than the burgers and fries you expect at a gastropub; although they make an ambitious angus burger with french onion soup onions, gruyere, and herb aioli.

The crowd is mixed with visitors, locals, and professionals on their lunch break. At night it gets loud, lively, and energetic. The head barman, Vincenzo Marianella, who also works for the sister location just a few doors down at Copa D’Oro, mixes incredible drinks named after local places in LA like the Sawtelle, Ocean Park, and Laurel Canyon. Vincenzo’s warm and welcoming personality and ability to create amazing drinks, gives you a great reason to visit The Independence. While that may get you through the door, you’ll be sure to stay because of the outstanding food.

Michael’s Santa Monica

1147 3rd St, Santa Monica, CA 90403
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Before the Santa Monica mall, before Starbucks opened on every corner of 3rd Street, before Father’s Office on Montana, and Huckleberry on Wilshire, there was Michael’s Santa Monica. For over 35 years, Michael’s has been a staple on the Westside, serving fine food and wine. The atmosphere of the restaurant is welcoming and you immediately feel that you are about to experience a great night, and that’s probably because Michael McCarty is the ultimate host. “Great food, great people, great party, ” that’s Michael’s philosophy, and I had the chance to experience that last week.
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The evening began with drinks and small bites at the bar. Happy Hour is Monday through Saturday from 5PM to close! We shared plates of Shitake Mushroom Pizza, Braised Pork Belly Tacos, Halibut Crudo, Skirt Steak with salsa verde, and some very addictive Truffle Fries. The front half of the restaurant is a great place to get food and drinks and hang out for the evening.However, we were also there for dinner. We sat in the picturesque outdoor patio – it was a perfect California night. Michael himself welcomed us and spent time talking with us. He is one of the best hosts I have come across, making you feel right at home. The food was perfect. The Steak Frites were perfectly complimented by Michael’s own Pinot Noir from The Malibu Vineyard.I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Michael’s when I’m in Santa Monica. The fact that happy hour runs all night is great. The restaurant has recently evolved with the times and you can find loyal regulars as well as new locals enjoying great food.

Ashland Hill

2807 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
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As a kid it was my favorite place on Main Street. There was sawdust on the floor, pizza by the slice, and a run-down patio to sit and enjoy a cheap lunch. That was Wildflower Pizza, and that was then. Today I can say, this is still my favorite place on Main Street, in part for the nostalgia of the location, but even more so because of Ashland Hill.
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The environment is super casual, in that you order at the bar/counter inside. You take a seat on the patio strung with lights, sipping your wine or local craft beer, all while enjoying a perfect Santa Monica night. By sunset, the place is buzzing with locals and the patio is like a fun gathering at a friend’s large backyard.
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The food is so good. Chef Bradley Miller was very thoughtful in creating a menu that has delicious offerings that compliment the feel of the place. Everything has a unique taste and influence of flavor to it. It is different from your average gastropub fare.
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The avocado toast is complex in flavor with the addition of roasted tomato, goat cheese and Thai chile. The crispy cauliflower is a game changer. I once called cauliflower the styrofoam of vegetables, I just never had it prepared with so much flavor like at Ashland Hill. The meatballs, made with a blend of lamb and pork and topped with a savory tomato sauce, are perfect.The true standout for me, is the burger. The patty is ground a bit coarse, so it crumbles with every bite. And for the first time, in a long time,  it was cooked to a perfect medium. I can’t tell you how many times I get a burger cooked well-done when I request medium, even at the most burger-snobbish places, but I digress. This burger was amazing. The red onion bacon jam and the sharp white cheddar with the upgraded greens of watercress, made every bite taste so good.The kid part of me will miss the memories of that old pizza joint on Main, but the current me loves what replaced it. Ashland Hill offers delicious food, and you can’t beat that back patio.

Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

39 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
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There’s no shortage of sports bars, gastropubs, and your average lunch spots in Hermosa Beach. Being a local myself, I’ve been to these spots in the past, but it’s nice to know that I can get my foodie fix in a more upscale environment close to home. In this relaxed and casual beach town, I’m glad that Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is near by.
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It’s located by the pier, just a few steps from the water. The space and design are impressive. The exotic Spanish style, yet warm and friendly environment by the beach, make it a perfect setting for a date night. It’s not just Palmilla’s style that’s impressive, but also the homestyle-Mexican cuisine from Chef Christina Cipres. Everything is made fresh, including their hand made tortillas that are served with two kinds of salsas and a side of honey butter.
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Theres a choice of four guacamoles like Strawberry and papaya, Dungeness crab, chorizo,   and of course, a traditional one. Since we couldn’t decide on just one, we ordered a guacamole tasting of three. The same goes for the ceviche. I ordered the Ceviche Tres Maneras which gave me the chance to try three types of their fresh ceviches.
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The Mrs. always goes for carne asada, so she ordered the cilantro lime skirt steak with rice and an elote –  which is a street style corn on the cob, but Palmilla elevates it with a chipotle aioli – so good! I ordered the filet, perfectly cooked,   and at the recommendation of the chef, had it with a short rib taquito, chicken enchilada, and the best chile relleno I’ve had in a while – don’t tell my mom I said that.
Palmilla, is without a doubt, a great place for fresh and delicious Mexican cuisine. They stay true to the authenticity and tastes of the culture, while adding their own signature to each dish.

Flores and The Ladies’ Gunboat Society

2024 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
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It’s dinner time and the perfect place I can think of to eat, drink, enjoy, and stay for a while, is on Sawtelle Blvd.
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The space is dimly lit and feels warm and welcoming. It looks rustic, but modern, and the fire on the patio invites you to stay. The walls are lined with repurposed wood and food is served on colonial style china, cast iron skillets, and wooden boards. It’s a unique space. A space that once showcased the metal artwork of Gene Flores in 1969. That space is now utilized by Gene’s son, Amal, who opened the restaurant, Flores and the Ladies’ Gunboat Society.
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At the helm is Chef Dave McMillen who brings flavorful, country-comfort dishes to the Ladies’s Gunboat Society. He’s the main reason why my visit was one of the most memorable dinners I’ve had this year.
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To start, we had the warm, buttery and fluffy, sea salted potato yeast rolls with maple butter. I can say with confidence, these are the best rolls I have ever eaten. Hey @SaraBearClaw, I can never give up carbs now that I know these exist!
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Our first plates included the roasted beet salad, which was a perfect example of the farmers market driven dishes that are expected at Flores. The grilled fanny bay oysters with chorizo and caramelized onions were incredibly good! The oysters were savory, and well seasoned from the chorizo, oregano and aioli. I could have easily eaten a dozen. The Baked Hen Egg which is served in a skillet with chanterelle, bacon, chives, breadcrumbs and truffle was so good and so comforting. Truffle and bacon, you just can’t go wrong with that.
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Everything at this point was delicious and it was elevated when I tried the next three dishes: the grilled and fried brussel sprouts with bacon marmalade, the pan fried trout, and the grilled ribeye. The trout, served whole, was perfectly crispy but remained moist and flaky. The butternut squash, roasted pecans, and sage were an excellent companion to the fish. It was the comfort dish I’ve been looking for this Fall/Winter. The ribeye was cooked to a perfect medium-medium/rare. It was so tender, and flavorful, in part because of the chanterelle, pearl onions, and blue cheese butter that topped the steak. I’m honestly getting hungry thinking about it again.
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Flores and the Ladies’ Gunboat Society has won me over. Everything from the ambiance, to the people, to the amazingly delicious food, has me ready to go back again.