When Hancock Park was developed in the 1920s, the intention was to create a suburban oasis. It worked, but then the city grew all around it, creating this pocket of elegant condos and really enormous mansions stuck in between the could-not-be-more-urban Koreatown and Hollywood. Larchmont Boulevard is the commercial and social center of the neighborhood (strolling there on Saturdays, farmers' market day, is called "having a yupday" or "yupping"), and it's near there that the most interesting restaurants reside.
Mario's Peruvian: For many Angelenos, this is their only exposure to Peruvian food. And if you've been here once, you've probably been here a bazillion times. The thing to get here is lomo saltado, a stir-fry of beef and French fries. A million people have ordered it, looked down at their plate, and thought "huh. There must be a lot of Asian influence in Peruvian cuisine." Delicious and educational.
5786 Melrose Ave., 323-466-4181
Pizzeria Mozza: When L.A. food royalty Nancy Silverton opened Mozza in late 2006, she changed L.A.'s food scene. She'd done it before with La Brea Bakery, and this was another home run, one that proved that really excellent food could -- and should -- be made in neighborhood joints with only slightly elevated prices. And of course all the other European-style restaurants started serving pudding and calling it budino. (But her butterscotch version is still the best.) The restaurant hasn't been around that long, but it's been an L.A. classic since day one.
641 N. Highland Ave., 323-297-0101
Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese: This place could make a killing on weekends, but they're sticking to the weekday lunch crowd. Because, while it is ostensibly as gourmet goods shop, with wine, rare beers, and candy that's hard to find outside of Europe, it's the sandwich counter here that makes customers go wild with desire. Anyone who works in the area has braved the line out the door for the baguette or focaccia layered with fancy cheeses and deli meats, topped with oil and vinegar, onions and cornichons on the side. Even the local high school kids know what's up.
223 N Larchmont Blvd., 323-856-8699
Cafe Gratitude: I'm not saying Cafe Gratitude is changing our lives culinarily. But I do think there's something interesting about its reputation as an "only-in-L.A." kind of restaurant: it is vegan and cult-affiliated and you have to order by affirmation. Because the first locations were in the Bay Area, so it's actually a Northern California invention. But seems to be succeeding far better in SoCal. And Larchmont really is the perfect location for it, since Cafe Gratitude isn't just a restaurant. It's a lifestyle.
639 N Larchmont Blvd., 323-580-6383
Providence: Given its location vis-a-vis the ocean, Los Angeles doesn't really have that many seafood restaurants. So it's like Providence had to pick up everyone's slack and become just about the best seafood-focused fine dining experience in the world. That might be overstating it just a tiny bit, but the restaurant is just about perfect. And it was brave, opening in its location well before anything else high-caliber was in the neighborhood. For mid-city folks, it is the ultimate special-occasion restaurant.
5955 Melrose Ave., 323-460-4170