L.A.'s Favorite Spots: Fairfax

The holidays mean we’re all headed to The Grove to absorb a little holiday cheer. But between lines to see Santa and the hustle of last-minute shopping, you’re going to get hungry.

If you’re looking for some hearty fare that’s a little more upscale than what they serve at the Farmer’s Market, here are the best spots along Fairfax to unwind with an excellent cocktail and some of the best bites LA has to offer.

Earlier this year, prolific restaurateur Stephane Bombet teamed with James Beard Award-winning chef Scott Conant to create what may be the year’s most celebrated new restaurant. The team includes acclaimed executive chef Freddy Vargas and master mixologist Ryan Wainwright, who heads up the bar program.

Parisian designer Mar Ange redesigned the space of Bombet’s Terrine, which formerly occupied the location. The result? A casually elegant indoor/outdoor Italian dining experience that is all the rage.

The dishes include a brief list of pizzas and pastas fit for a mafia godfather. The pasta al pomodoro is a perfectly executed classic. But for something a bit more exotic, try the Mushroom-and-Prosciutto Ravioli, with Fontina and toasted breadcrumbs — and while it’s a little heftier on your bill, it’s really only complete with Burgundy truffles. Do come hungry because the antipasti menu is filled with undeniable indulgences.

Pastas fit for a mafia godfather
Pastas fit for a mafia godfather

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that Wainwright is my favorite bartender in town. Ever since the first time I tasted his famed Milk Punch, I’ve been a fan. His latest seasonally inspired cocktail menu confirms his place on the Mount Rushmore of L.A. bar programmers. The Sailor Gary is the latest pleasant surprise that has everyone (literally) buzzing.

A cocktail list that lives up to the buzz
A cocktail list that lives up to the buzz

Ever since being named “One of the best restaurants of 2011” by Esquire magazine, Ray’s has been a reliable go-to dining locale on Fairfax.

Located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ray’s — a glass jewel box of a restaurant — is itself a work of art. It’s patio invites cool breezes even on a warm Indian summer evening. The patio is just steps away from Stark Bar, one of the ideal outdoor drinking establishments in town. It’s cocktails are as modern as anything in the museum, and it’s the perfect place to bring a date or meet up with friends.

Both the restaurant and the bar make use of a variety of herbs from the garden, right behind the restaurant, enhancing both food and drink.

Start with the wood-fired heirloom cauliflowers, coupled with celeriac and coconut cream, fregola sarda, butternut squash and sage. If you’re eating light, dive into the lobster salad, topped with apples and capers. Heartier fare includes the half-pound Kobe cheeseburger or the hanger steak.

Across the street from the CBS Studios is one of the best burger joints in town. And while beloved chef Ernesto Uchimura isn’t behind the grill anymore, his spirit — and his culinary creations — are alive and well Plan Check Kitchen + Bar.

For those who aren’t familiar with the mini-chain, Plan Check is comfort food at its finest, from pastrami fries in gravy to baked mac ‘n’ cheese. The namesake burger, known by regulars as the PCB is an enduring staple, showcasing Americanized Dashi cheese, Schmaltz onions, pickles, and Uchimura’s now-famous ketchup leather.

Plan Check is comfort food at its finest
Plan Check is comfort food at its finest

Plan Check also features one of the most resurgent items on menus in the last few years: fried chicken. The crispy Jidori chicken sandwich includes duck breast ham, spicy green pimento cheese, and pickles. The chicken is also available as an entree called the Southern Fry, served with smoked milk gravy, yam preserves, and spicy pickled okra.

The menu is accompanied by a robust selection of craft beers and creative cocktails, and sports are always playing on the TVs, making Plan Check a great location to gather with friends — carnivorous friends who don’t drink stuff with the word “skinny” in the title.

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