California Venues Top Eater’s List of 38 Essential Restaurants

Los Angeles and the Bay Area made multiple appearances in this year’s honors.

Of the “38 Essential Restaurants” in America named by Eater’s national food critic Bill Addison, nearly 20% are located in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. One of these, Benu in San Francisco, has made the list each of the five years it’s appeared on the respected dining website. Here are few California standouts from the roster:

Atelier Crenn

San Francisco

“With an artist’s sense of constant reinvention, Dominique Crenn has been bending flavors and meditating on design since her flagship restaurant’s 2011 debut. More masterfully than ever, Crenn and her team (including pastry chef Juan Contreras) mine the middle ground between intellect and emotion, between heady presentation and flat-out deliciousness. Crenn focuses the modernist kitchen on seafood and vegetables, using impeccable Bay Area ingredients while musing over her upbringing in Brittany, France, for inspiration. Stunning black-walnut tables, part of the dining room’s 2017 renovation, show off swirling wood grains that resemble turbulent cloud patterns; the effect is mirrored in tableside theatrics like platters of billowing dry ice that soon reveal tiny geoduck tarts.”

3125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA, 415-440-0460,

Here’s Looking at You

Los Angeles

“Jonathan Whitener, the chef who owns HLAY with front-of-house ace Lien Ta, is arguably the country’s most creatively energized practitioner of the ‘global plates’ aesthetic. Salsa negra, smoked beef tongue, nam jim, carrot curry, blood cake, almond dukkah, sprouted broccoli, New Zealand cockles: All have a place on his menu; all make sense in his electric, eclectic compositions; all reflect Los Angeles’s wondrous pluralism. The cocktail menu takes cues from Tiki culture but spirals off in similarly wild and amazingly cohesive directions.”

3901 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 213-568-3573,

Koi Palace

Daly City

“Dim sum is among my favorite meals; I took a particularly obsessive deep dive through the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles this past year while researching the Eater Guide to California. A Sunday jaunt to the original Koi Palace (the flagship of its three locations) reminded me why it’s the indispensable cornerstone among the region’s many stellar dim sum options. Once you wade through the chaotic crowds, a euphoric whirlwind of food and service awaits. In a blur of dumplings, noodles, congees, sweet and savory cakes, piled greens, and crisp-skinned meats, a through-line of freshness and craftsmanship gives the feast cohesion. Finish with the last dregs of tea and the custardy fritters called ‘Sugar Egg Puffs.’”

365 Gellert Boulevard, Daly City, CA, 650-992-9000,

Get Addison’s full list of culinary hotspots here.

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