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    La-La Land: City of Foodie Angels

    By David Landis–

    There’s always been a healthy rivalry between our city and that Southern California metropolis a few hundred miles to our south. Truth be told, I’ve always had enjoyable times in La-La Land. What’s emerging besides the good times is also some great food, as a recent trip helped The Gay Gourmet discover. So, pack your bags, and head to LA for a fun-filled weekend!


    At the top of a list of newcomers is Grandmaster Recorders in Hollywood, a “modern rooftop, restaurant, and bar that transformed the original Grandmaster Recorders recording studio from 1971.” The experience begins at the entrance, where a display case of vintage records made here features the likes of such stars as David Bowie, Ringo Starr, Janis Joplin, Johnny Mathis, Bonnie Raitt, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Kanye West.

    I’d recommend starting your evening at the balmy rooftop bar, where you have a view of Hollywood (including both the historic Hollywood sign and the architecturally-significant Capitol Records building). Creative cocktails include the aptly California-named “Go With The Flow,” with gin, limoncello, thyme, and a splash of sparkling water; or the “Sweet Escape,” with Grey Goose vodka, strawberry, balsamic, Campari, and prosecco. You can also order small bites of everything from pizza to caviar.

    Downstairs is the main event in a sweeping, warehouse-style space with an open kitchen and soaring ceilings just made for people-watching. The owners call the cuisine “modern Italian-Australian.” I’m not really sure what that means, other than “delicious.” I’d recommend starting with “caviar cannoli,” one of the most inventive dishes I’ve ever tasted. It’s caviar and crème fraîche, all wrapped in a crispy cannoli shell that melts in your mouth.

    But save room for more! The homemade focaccia with balsamic butter could be a meal in itself. The pineapple, nduja, porchetta, and mozzarella pizza is a tasty mid-course winner to share. The broccolini Caesar sported shaved hard-boiled egg, croutons, and a heftier complexity than the traditional salad. The scallop carpaccio is paper-thin and makes for an arty presentation, topped with jalapeños, finger lime, rosemary, and nasturtium. The star of the evening was slow-cooked pork neck (who knew it could be this tender and delicious?) with shaved puntarella, preserved parsnip, and caramelized pear. The side dish of potato fritti with crème fraîche and chives (a modern take on tater tots) disappeared immediately from our table.

    For dessert, I’d recommend both the Grandmasters Tiramisu (more dense than usual) as well as the sgroppino, a dessert drink made to order in a flamboyant tableside demonstration, with nitro sgroppino, Meyer lemon, Grey Goose vodka, and prosecco. The presentation is everything! On your way out, stop by downstairs at the restaurant’s 71 Studio and Bar for a nightcap.

    Some other great spots to dine are several mainstays that I’ve loved over the years, and a few new places. These include:

    Nate ‘n Al’s: It’s an old-timey, authentic, and historic Jewish delicatessen in Beverly Hills. It’s still the same, with the wisecracking waitstaff and the juicy, paper-thin, piled-high corned beef sandwiches. Former talk show host Larry King used to eat breakfast here every day. One of the last times I was there, my dining pal Brianne literally ran into figure skating champion Tara Lipinski.

    It’s not cheap, but The Ivy on Robertson in Los Angeles is also great for lunchtime celebrity-spotting (and a great venue to “power lunch”). Be sure to sit on the attractive, flower-filled patio. In recent years, I thought the restaurant was resting on its laurels, but now it’s back to its former glory. When we visited, it was white truffle season, so my husband ordered the excellent homemade pasta with white truffles. A great lunch standby (and a personal favorite) is their famous Cobb salad (enough for a family of 4). It’s filled with Nueske’s bacon, roasted free-range turkey breast, Point Reyes blue cheese, avocado, and more. Topping off the experience is the spectacular service, where every need is anticipated without being intrusive. To make the most of the meal, invite entertaining friends, and while away the day with Whispering Angel rosè all day.

    One of the best tried-and-true steakhouses (since 1919) is Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood. Think red leather, mahogany-lined booths, strong martinis, professional service, and delicious filet mignon. It’s a great old-school kind of place that’s both retro and yummy.

    A first for me this trip was an excursion to The Magic Castle. It’s quite an event. You can only attend if you’re a friend of a professional magician and/or stay at their hotel. It was my niece Jessica’s 40th birthday and she booked at the property (which she deemed “mid-century modern and lovely”), so we were in. The place is a movie-set quality wonderland for all things magical: numerous performance spaces, bars where magicians pop up, and a real theatre with Vegas-style entertainment. The real surprise is the restaurant. The Castle requires that you have dinner in their dining room, so I was expecting the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised: the menu leans toward the Continental offerings of yesteryear (think Beef Wellington and all the trimmings), but everything is prepared with care, served with aplomb, and—best of all—delicious.

    I haven’t been yet, but the Bay Area’s own Alice Waters has opened LuLu in the open-air courtyard at the Hammer Museum on Wilshire in Westwood. It looks promising. A recent 3-course prix fixe $45 lunch included gem salad with roasted beets; fish and shellfish stew; and a lemon meringue pot de crème.

    California restaurateur Hoyul Steven Choi has expanded his brunch empire throughout the state with the official opening of Sweet Maple Santa Monica. The longstanding San Francisco brunch eatery is now bringing its signature “Millionaire’s Bacon” to foodies in Southern California. The new 4,000+ square-feet locale at the corner of Olympic and Ocean features contemporary California fare with savory flavors from the Korean kitchen.


    The Abbey has been the go-to LGBTQ+ bar in West Hollywood (WeHo) for ages and is fine if you’re looking for a scene. But if you’d like something a bit more peaceful and upscale, try The OR Bar WeHo. It’s the beguiling new West Hollywood LGBTQ+ bar further east on Santa Monica, and is worth a visit. There’s some kind of entertainment most nights and the vibe is reminiscent of a smaller Mecca, the luxe San Francisco gathering spot of yesteryear. The drinks are strong, the bartenders adorable, and the night we were there we were treated to the captivating talents of drag artist Jonnie Reinhart, who sings with their own full-on voice.

    For a chic respite from the hubbub of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, try the Tower Bar and Restaurant at the Sunset Tower Hotel, self-described as a “cozy rendezvous inspired by early Hollywood.” Hollywood producers and fashionistas gather at this “elegant haven for the discerning.” In the evening, cocktails are served in a New York-style bar and lounge with live music. During the day, casual poolside dining offers sweeping views of the city.

    We were also lucky that our friend Ben is a member at the Soho House West Hollywood. Its very SoCal rooftop bar is another place to “see and be seen,” with great cocktails and munchies overlooking the West Hollywood hills right above Sunset Boulevard.

    Other Great Places to Visit

    Thanks go once again to my pal and fellow San Francisco Bay Times columnist Jan Wahl. She introduced us to The Hollywood Museum, located in the old Max Factor building on Highland smack dab in the middle of Hollywood. It has the self-proclaimed “most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world.” We were fortunate enough to have a personal tour from the dynamic President Donelle Dadigan and saw firsthand Marilyn Monroe’s million-dollar dress, Elvis’ personal bathrobe, Lucy’s make-up room, and the first-floor recreated dungeon with the jail cell from Silence of the Lambs. Don’t miss this delightful slice of old (and new) Hollywood’s glamorous film and television industry. It’s way better than the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wilshire, which, in my humble opinion, you can skip.

    I’m never at a loss when I visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The sprawling Wilshire Boulevard campus has something for everyone and rotating blockbuster exhibits, plus you can visit the famous tar pits right next door as well. My favorite might just be David Hockney’s iconic Mulholland Drive: The Road to The Studio, an expansive colorful masterpiece on permanent display from the famous Southern California artist.

    Places to Stay

    Our favorite place to stay is L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. It’s quiet, intimate, and within walking distance to the Robertson Avenue and Rodeo Drive shops and restaurants. All the rooms are spacious and elegant, and the establishment is home to the upscale California dining eatery L’ Restaurant (with both indoor and outdoor dining).

    Another new entry that I’d like to try is The Georgian in Santa Monica. Steps away from the Santa Monica Pier, The Georgian first opened in 1933 and became one of Los Angeles’ most iconic hotels. The Georgian relaunched in 2023, offering a rare glimpse into old Hollywood and nostalgic California history, with interiors by London and Los Angeles-based boutique design firm, Fettle. Now a part of the Leading Hotels of the World, The Georgian has 84 guest rooms, including 28 suites. The property also has an ocean view terrace restaurant, lobby bar, and a basement speakeasy restaurant/bar.

    Bits and Bites

    PR guru Andrew Freeman, along with his company af&co. and Carbonate, have just released their Hospitality Trend Report for 2024. Among the top trends? Cross-cultural cooking, culinary cocktails, clarified cocktails, and the Caprese martini. According to Freeman, “This year we’re seeing chefs explore deeply personal menus, combining familiar foods that might once have been foreign but have now entered the American mainstream. We’re seeing bartenders get wildly creative, borrowing ingredients from the kitchen, and creating seriously savory cocktails—and the martini is a favored format for everything from the MSG martini to the Caprese martini. Maximalism is big as we look for more (and more!) when we go out: more design, more creativity, more surprise! Top foods include mortadella and uni, the new luxury must-order add-on.” 

    Happy New Year to all and here’s to 2024!

    Grandmaster Recorders:
    Nate ‘n Al’s:
    The Ivy on Robertson:
    Musso and Frank Grill:
    The Magic Castle:
    Hammer Museum:
    Sweet Maple Santa Monica:
    The Abbey:
    OR Bar WeHo:
    Tower Bar and Restaurant at the Sunset Tower Hotel:
    SoHo House West Hollywood:
    The Hollywood Museum:
    Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
    The Georgian:
    af&co. and Carbonate Hospitality Trend Report:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at:

    Or visit him online at:

    The Gay Gourmet
    Published on December 21, 2023