Johanna Grønneberg Mesa
Food & wine
Ten super cozy restaurants in Los Angeles
"The nightlife in Los Angeles is trendy, cozy, and always changing," says Johanna Grønneberg Mesa. There is one place in particular where she feels she can "stay forever." Here are the best warm and cozy restaurants in LA.
The culinary scene in Los Angeles is as diverse, exotic, and glamorous as the place itself. The Californian city on the west coast city of the US boasts everything from Mexican tacos, beef, chilli cheese dogs, buffalo wings, and hamburgers, to trendy spots serving plant-based dishes. The city has something for everyone, which also makes it a bit challenging to navigate.
Although L.A. also has a lovely climate, the temperatures also drop here sometimes - which is the perfect time to seek something warm and cosy. But where should you go to eat out in a city that has absolutely everything?
We asked journalist, TV personality, and LA transplant Johanna Grønneberg Mesa what the cosiest restaurants are right now.
Conducted nightlife in Los Angeles
She describes the nightlife in the glamour and film city as trendy, pleasant, and ever-changing.
"I think what characterises the nightlife best here is how each club and eatery manages to create a strong and consistent theme, while at the same time continuously renewing itself within that theme - so you never feel like you're in an outdated place," says Johanna.
Johannna was born and raised in Oslo, Norway, but later moved to the United States to study and work in television and ended up marrying an American. Despite her busy life full of courses, various projects in the media industry, and two children, she is up to date on the nightlife. Right now, Johanna resides in Orange County, which has further expanded her food and beverage options. We are looking for her insider tips on restaurants that are extra cosy. Johanna is clear about what this should entail:
"A meal served with good service in an inviting place, where each table has its own atmosphere, is important.
"The food should of course be tempting, but there should also be plenty of it! Fancy shouldn't have to mean very small portions, but the era of huge American meals is also almost over, thankfully.
"There should be a good mix of enough food, but not too much, and there should be something for everyone on the menu," she concludes.
We've found the warmest and cosiest restaurants in Los Angeles, based on Johanna's favourites and tips from friends and acquaintances who live in the cool city.
Here are ten restaurants worth a visit:
Carmelitas i Laguna Beach
Where: 217 Broadway St, Laguna Beach
Pretty much no matter where you're going in Los Angeles, you have to climb into your car. Luckily, you get used to it, and there are good roads and parking is often easy to find (valet parking). It therefore won't feel far to head to Laguna Beach - it will take you just over 40 minutes to get to Carmelitas from downtown L.A.
Carmelitas is a boutique restaurant offering authentic Mexican cuisine.
"I feel like you have to include a Mexican restaurant on any list for L.A./O.C. I could recommend Carmelitas for the Margaritas alone, but there's a lot more there, too," says Johanna, adding:
"The people who work here somehow manage to create a feeling that they know you already, like we're all locals and come here all the time. The fantastic food and drinks make us happy to come again and again.
The menu includes traditional tacos, enchiladas, taquitos, and vegetables and seafood in season.
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Cucina Enoteca Irvine
Where: 532 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, Los Angeles
The restaurant is inspired by Italian cuisine, blending traditional flavours with fresh ingredients from Southern California. The place is actually a wine shop and restaurant in one. You will find over 200 types of wine, with a strong focus on wine from California and Italy, naturally.
"A modern kitchen, with a fantastic atmosphere," says Johanna, pointing out that she loves that as a guest you never really know whether you're sitting outside or inside.
The restaurant has an open kitchen, large outdoor terraces, communal seating and a spacious bar area.
"It's like being at a wine tasting in someone's garden at the same time as you are in a restaurant. The sign at the entrance reads: 'If you were looking for a sign to have a glass of wine, here it is'," says Johanna with a laugh.
This place is the epitome of warm and cozy.
Where: 7617 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
This recent addition to the restaurant scene on Sunset Boulevard has become a talking point and hotspot in a short space of time. This is not Johanna's tip, but a number of media outlets and blogs describe Horses as a place with very good food and a cosy and vibrant atmosphere.
The restaurant was previously named Ye Coach & Horses and was known as a spot where one often found celebrities such as The Doors vocalist Jim Morrison back in the day. The stars still come here, but these days you might glimpse celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles, according to the New York Times.
Horses has a lot to live up to when it comes to the coolness factor, but both the food and the atmosphere are well taken care of. The restaurant has three dining rooms and serves drinks outside on Sunset Boulevard. Married couple Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian are both owners and chefs.
The interior is in warm earthy tones, with bright yellow booths, and plenty of art and flowers. The menu includes everything from cheeseburgers to wild hen (not to mention tasty desserts like cheesecake).
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Where: 115 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles
A stone's throw from the famous Farmers Market and The Grove, lies the hotel and restaurant Short Stories. This is Picolo's own recommendation. But can a restaurant be warm and cosy even if it is located outdoors? The answer is yes! Here, the staff is skilled, and the service is very good. There are lots of green plants, lamps strung up in trees, and music being spun by live DJs. You get a good feeling as soon as you walk in the door.
The original property dates back to 1962. The hotel's current owner Leo Grifka has given the place a new lease on life. He is passionate about bringing old-fashioned hospitality back into the hotel industry. In other words, no apps — you are handed the menu on paper and your server follow-ups up with you in person.
The restaurant and bar (in bright pink) take advantage of the location and source fresh produce from the nearby farmer's market. The menu is therefore based on seasonal availability, and offers a mix of dishes from California, Latin America, and the Mediterranean.
Where: 544 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles
"There are branches of this restaurant in both L.A. and O.C. Here, you get the best seafood you can imagine," says Johanna.
She points out that Watergrill is very 'upscale', but incredibly cosy.
"There might be something about the light there, I think, but I just want to sit there forever.
Although you will also find meat on the menu, this is the place to go for fish, tuna, salmon, perch, or scampi, from the oven or the grill.
Where: 1496 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles
This is a small and intimate neighbourhood restaurant with cosy lighting. The menu matches the friendly atmosphere, with food that is good for sharing. This place is perfect for a romantic date.
A reviewer on OpenTable sums up the experience as follows:
"This is a gem in Eagle Rock that needs to be tried. I loved the authentic cabin atmosphere, which is a backdrop for great drinks and good food. Professional service, yet casual."
At Little Beast, you can eat, or rather, share with your date, tasty homemade pasta, short ribs, lamb ragu, and chocolate pudding.
Where: 8565 Melrose Av. West Hollywood
The café has several locations in Los Angeles. Just as there are plenty of burgers and steaks to be had in this big city, there is an equal focus on organic food, and vegan and gluten-free options. Urth Caffé is European-inspired and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, where the focus is on organic ingredients.
The café offers healthy food and sources its produce from family-run farms and uses sustainable ingredients. It is renowned for its baked goods and desserts, including Oreo cheesecake, wide variety of cookies, and apple pie.
The café started 30 years ago, with Jilla and Shallom Berkman's passion for coffee and produce. Urth Caffé is the place to go for a really cosy experience with a long history and to enjoy a coffee that is a minor work of art in itself.
Where: 448 S Hill St, Los Angeles
You'll find many great restaurants, art museums, and bars in downtown Los Angeles. The area is also very friendly and not that touristy. Downtown comprises smaller neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and the Arts District.
This is also where you will find Perch, a French-inspired bistro with a fantastic roof terrace. Groups of intimate tables, small sofas, large plants, careful lighting, and heat lamps make this a really cosy place. Not to mention the cool views! This is the place to go on a date or to have a proper party with a group of friends.
Where: 2518 Main St, Santa Monica
Unsurprisingly, considering its name, Manchego is a Spanish tapas restaurant, serving Spanish wine, Mimosa, and Sangria. The culinary focus is on delicate snacks and the décor ensures a warm atmosphere.
This neighbourhood restaurant is located in Santa Monica and also has a small outdoor dining area. It's a good option for dining with a few friends or for a more everyday dinner. The place has a good reputation for being a quiet place where it’s possible to hold a conversation and for not being touristy.
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Where: 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd, Corona Del Mar
We end our list with Farmhouse, which is Johanna's absolute favourite.
The restaurant strives to serve locally sourced food and cooperates closely with local producers, from farmers and fishermen to winemakers. The menu consists of simple, but creative and tasty dishes - with fresh ingredients. Here, you will find everything from burgers and pizzas to salads and more. You might find the recipe for your favourite dish on the restaurant's website.
"Farmhouse has been voted best outdoor seating time and time again," says Johanna:
"They have managed to create a fantastic cosy feeling outside, with potted plants and greenery. The food is incredibly good and locally sourced. The prices are a bit high, but the overall experience makes it worth it."