The Guide to "Top Chef" Restaurants in Los Angeles

Wontons in Chili Oil at Ms Chi Cafe

Wontons in Chili Oil at Ms Chi Cafe | Photo: Ms Chi Cafe

Top Chef, Bravo’s competitive cooking show that’s hosted by legendary judges like Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and Emeril Lagasse, has built quite a legacy. L.A. alone has fielded a wealth of culinary talent in the show’s 16 seasons, including four champions: Ilan Hall, Michael Voltaggio, Mei Lin, and Brooke Williamson. In total, 14 Top Chef “cheftestants” currently run kitchens at 27 Los Angeles restaurants. Several other chefs are between gigs, successful caterers, moved on from L.A., or no longer cook. This accomplished crew doesn’t even include the 11 L.A. chefs who competed on sister shows Top Chef Masters and Top Chef: Just Desserts, further contributing to the impact. Discover where to find your favorite chefs from the high-drama show.

Meatballs with garlic crisp and basil at Black Market Liquor Bar

Meatballs with garlic crisp and basil at Black Market Liquor Bar | Photo: @blackmarketliquorbar, Instagram

Antonia Lofaso: Black Market Liquor Bar

Antonia Lofaso, Season 4 and Season 8 All-Stars competitor, has become a breakout star. The Cutthroat Kitchen judge now contributes mightily to LA’s culinary landscape along with Mario Guddemi and Sal Aurora. In 2011, they debuted Black Market Liquor Bar in the former Studio City home of the Victory Motorcycle Co., complete with an L-shaped bar, arched brick ceiling and reclaimed wood accents. Share-friendly plates might consist of meatballs with garlic crisp and basil, peel & eat lemon pepper shrimp, Sriracha-spiked shrimp toast, and deep-fried Fluffernutter sandwiches.

Lamb chops at DAMA

Lamb chops at DAMA | Photo: @damafashiondistrict, Instagram

Antonio Lofaso: DAMA

In 2018, Lofaso teamed with Guddemi, Aurora and talented bartenders Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix on DAMA at City Market South in the DTLA Fashion District. The former industrial space now features exposed wood rafters, a quintessential SoCal patio, and incorporates fetching floral elements into the design. Lofaso’s cooking leans a bit more towards the Mediterranean and Mexico than her other projects. Some of DAMA’s most compelling share-friendly dishes consist of lamb chops slathered with olive salsa verde and an herbaceous bowl of clams and chorizo lavished with butter and Spanish cider. Go big with plates starring proteins like whole snapper and crispy pork shank.

T-bone steak at Scopa Italian Roots

T-bone steak at Scopa Italian Roots

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Antonia Lofaso: Scopa Italian Roots

In 2013, Lofaso initially partnered with the same four people on Scopa Italian Roots, a perpetually mobbed Italian restaurant in Marina del Rey with brick walls, marble tables, communal wood tables, and a backlit bar. Favorite bites from Scopa’s sprawling menu include a meatball hero with orbs crafted from chuck and tenderloin, house-made pastas like linguini with clams, and a stupendous 24-ounce T-bone steak loaded with Katarina’s oil, garlic and parsley. Food-friendly cocktails like the Bullock’s Wilshire and Mezcal Watermelon Margarita are impeccable.

"Crack" Bacon Carbonara at Grub

"Crack" Bacon Carbonara at Grub | Photo: @grubinhollywood, Instagram

Betty Fraser: Grub

Chef Betty Fraser, Season 2 competitor, runs a consciously kitschy restaurant with Denise DeCarlo on a Hollywood side street near studios and post-production houses. Signs sport sayings like, “If you're smoking in my'd better be on FIRE!" The menu is pure comfort. Think cayenne-spiked mac & cheese, carnitas pozole verde, and “Crack” Bacon Carbonara with fusilli, Parmesan sauce and peas. The Fosse cookie, named for legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, incorporates potato chips and chocolate chips.

Hamachi Poké Bowl at Da Kikokiko

Hamachi Poké Bowl at Da Kikokiko

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Brooke Williamson: Da Kikokiko

Season 14 champion and Season 10 runner up, Brooke Williamson has built a successful restaurant group called Company For Dinner with chef/husband Nick Roberts. Da Kikokiko is their Hawaiian inspired, fast casual café at The Runway in Playa Vista featuring sea blue tiles, communal seating, and a living wall. Build your own poké bowl from a deep ingredient list or opt for signature bowls like hamachi balanced with lilikoi ponzu, pickled ginger, cucumber, scallion, Maui onion, cilantro, radish sprouts, toasted garlic, and yuzu tobiko. An array of musubi includes slabs of SPAM and yuzu kosho salmon. For dessert, overflowing shave ice comes drizzled with colorful syrups like yuzu, passion fruit, and matcha on coconut ice cream from sister business Small Batch.

Kale grit fritters at Hudson House

Kale grit fritters at Hudson House

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Brooke Williamson: Hudson House

Hudson House was the couple’s inaugural effort, a 10-year-old business they named for their son, who’s now depicted snorkeling on a mural out front, trident in hand. The interior underwent a light and bright refresh in 2018. Now guests at the L-shaped bar and tables will find market-driven, Asian-influenced small plates like ginger-brined chicken with colorful “unicorn” noodle salad; cheesy filled meatballs with black vinegar honey, quinoa crunchies, and hot sauce; Brussels sprouts with cashew creamed parsnips, candied cashews, and pickled Pink Lady apple vinaigrette. Old school favorites like brown sugar pork ribs and the Hudson pretzel burger are still available off-menu.

Broiled sardines at Playa Provisions

Broiled sardines at Playa Provisions

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Brooke Williamson: Playa Provisions

Playa Provisions houses four different concepts under one roof in Playa del Rey. Up front, King Beach Café and Small Batch Ice cream parlor sport sleek wood design, sea blue and bright green furniture. Dockside restaurant faces the water, and Grain whisky bar resides in back, complete with bourbon barrel shelving. King Beach primarily features breakfast and lunch, including biscuits with dulce de leche and sea salt; and a breakfast sandwich with turkey-bacon sausage, Gruyere, fried egg, vinegar cooked collards and avocado with house pickled habanero hot sauce on ciabatta. Lunch brings sandwiches like the patty melt and one with fried sand dabs. At dinner, the couple serves seasonal California fare like broiled sardines with melted lardo, sorrel chimichurri, and pomegranate seeds; or perhaps grilled pork porterhouse doused in sharp blue cheese garlic citrus butter. Kristin Feuer contributes fun desserts like choco tacos.

Peaches & Cream Sugar Cone at Small Batch Ice Cream

Peaches & Cream Sugar Cone at Small Batch Ice Cream

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Brooke Williamson: Small Batch Ice Cream

Williamson and Roberts run a retro ice cream shop called Small Batch within their Playa Provisions compound and added a standalone outpost in Mar Vista in 2017. Hudson once again makes an appearance in a mural that depicts him in sunglasses, hanging with a rabbit and frog, kicking his feet up on a beach ball with an ice cream cone. The small space features a marble counter lined with pedestals for cookies and brownies, and a freezer for popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Distinct ice cream flavors change seasonally, but may include peaches & cream, sweet corn, or banana cream pie. They serve scoops in classic cones or sugar cones bedazzled with chocolate and sprinkles around the rim. Small Batch also offers soft serve in flavors like coconut.

Chicken Waterzooi at The Tripel

Chicken Waterzooi at The Tripel

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Brooke Williamson: The Tripel

The Tripel is a Playa del Rey gastropub with exposed wood rafters, communal tables, and a wood wall inlaid with the recipe for the first beer from Sumeria’s “Hymn to Ninkasi.” Yes, the couple encourages social “Lubrication,” as proven by the sign above the bar and the healthy craft beer selection. The diverse menu includes red curry biscuits slathered with sesame honey butter and a classic Belgian stew called waterzooi starring chicken, fenugreek, gremolata and vegetables. You’ll also find comforting burgers and sandwiches, strawberry burrata salad with walnut pesto, and squid ink spaghetti with ground shrimp, chiles and bottarga. In back, Williamson and Roberts now run a culinary shop called Tripli-Kit, with a pastel green and white color scheme and views out back of adjacent Ballona Wetlands.

Yuzu Salmon Bowl at Sweetfin Poké

Yuzu Salmon Bowl | Photo: Sweetfin Poké, Facebook

Dakota Weiss: Sweetfin Poke

Season 9 stalwart Dakota Weiss partnered with Seth Cohen, Brett Nestadt, and Alan Nathan on Sweetfin, a fast casual poké concept that now has nine SoCal outposts. The Santa Monica original touts spiral tabletops, geometric designs carved into counters, potted succulents, and a system of lights and piping that combine to resemble a circuit board. Build your own poké bowl or consider thoughtful Sweetfin prescriptions. For example, yuzu salmon features piquant yuzu kosho sauce, edamame, and lime. Spicy tuna incorporates creamy togarashi, hijiki, and avocado. Be sure to grab a container of Weiss’ signature matcha popcorn by the register.

Banana cream pie with dulce de leche at Cassell's Hamburgers in Koreatown

Banana cream pie with dulce de leche at Cassell's Hamburgers in Koreatown | Photo: @thediningdolls, Instagram

Elia Aboumrad: Cassell’s Hamburgers

Elia Aboumrad appeared on Top Chef Season 2 and Season 8 Top Chef All-Stars, where she competed against Marcel Vigneron and other repeat participants. She previously focused on the savory side with Gorge on the Sunset Strip, particularly charcuterie. Now Aboumrad fills a rotating pie case at Cassell’s Hamburgers at the base of Hotel Normandie in Koreatown, at a new branch in DTLA, and at LAX, where she works alongside chef/husband Christian Page. Depending on the day, her sweet repertoire might include tangerine custard pie; banana cream pie with dulce de leche and whipped cream; and mixed berry pie with a classic double crust.

Mei Lin: Nightshade

Mei Lin left her post as Michael Voltaggio’s sous chef at ink. to compete on Top Chef Season 12, emerged as champion, and spent several years post-victory building her unique vision. Nightshade is a modern Chinese restaurant in the DTLA Arts District that debuted to start 2019. Her airy space features white brick walls, aqua cushioned banquettes, and 10 seats facing a bustling open kitchen. Lin has already minted signature dishes like mapo tofu “lasagna” blanketed with pork ragu, tofu cream, and prickly ash; a Thai play on Outback Steakhouse’s bloomin’ onion called tom yum onion, served with coconut dip; and Szechuan hot quail, a Nashville hot chicken riff served atop Japanese milk bread with house-made pickles.

Cheeseburger Potstickers at Ms Chi Cafe in Culver City

Cheeseburger Potstickers at Ms Chi Cafe | Photo: Pork Belly Studio, Ms Chi Cafe 

Shirley Chung: Ms Chi Cafe

Shirley Chung was a finalist on Top Chef Season 14 in Seattle, and ran the kitchen at Twenty-Eight in Irvine before she headed north. Chung runs a full-service Ms Chi Cafe in Downtown Culver City on America’s shortest Main Street. Her menu features Chinese comfort food with a twist, including sizzling cheeseburger potstickers with crispy cheese and tomato bacon jam. Bao, steamed buns made with milk bread, also cradle atypical fillings. Yes, that’s a Kosher hot dog bao and a hedgehog-shaped bao filled with molten dark chocolate. Lunch showcases scallion pancake sandwiches like Mr. Chi, featuring Chinese-spiced pastrami, hazelnut pesto, and Beijing mustard vinaigrette. The ambitious restaurant also serves breakfast items like breakfast wontons with sage sausage, scrambled eggs, and chili ketchup; and mocha donuts sporting glazes like matcha and black sesame.

Shrimp & Pork Wontons by Ms Chi at The Fields LA

Shrimp & Pork Wontons by Ms Chi at The Fields LA | Photo: @thefieldsla, Instagram

Shirley Chung: Ms Chi at The Fields LA

Shirley Chung also runs a fast casual stand at The Fields LA, a food hall next to Bank of California Stadium at Exposition Park. A much simpler menu includes a small selection of steamed dumplings, plus pan-fried beef and sweet carrot potstickers and rice plates piled with vegan mapo tofu or Hong Kong-style mixed beef gravy studded with corn. Cheese tea, featuring savory foam atop iced oolong tea, is a comforting finish.

Lobster tacos at Cascabel

Lobster tacos at Cascabel

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Alex Eusebio: Cascabel

Season 5 competitor Alex Eusebio situated his chile-inspired Mexican restaurant between a dentist's office and the 134 freeway. The Toluca Lake space features a rattlesnake mural and fenced-in back patio with strings of lights. Cascabel makes three types of guacamole, including O.G., Smoked Bacon, and Charred Pineapple. More ambitious dishes include hard-shell lobster tacos with crème fraiche and caviar; yellowtail tiradito spiked with tequila; and short rib mole with lime-accented black beans.

Shrimp Po' Boy at Sweetsalt Food Shop in Toluca Lake

Shrimp Po' Boy at Sweetsalt Food Shop

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Alex Eusebio: Sweetsalt Food Shop

Eusebio's sandwich shop, Sweetsalt, resides right down Riverside Drive. The chef’s first space features wood floors, picnic tables out front, and grey walls with framed drawings of vintage utensils. Sandwiches are especially popular, particularly lavender duck confit, braised short rib, or an untraditional - but still righteous - shrimp po’ boy with shrimp, chimichurri, crumbled potato chips and spicy aioli on ciabatta. Eusebio was smart to have customers order at the counter, since that plants them before a tempting pastry case.

Eggs & Grains Bowl at The Jeremy Hotel

Eggs & Grains Bowl at 1 Hotel West Hollywood | Photo: @caprilikethepants, Instagram

Chris Crary: 1 Hotel West Hollywood

Season 9 cheftestant Chris Crary participated in Top Chef at Sea ocean voyages with Celebrity Cruises and previously worked down the Sunset Strip at Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails. In his role with 1 Hotel West Hollywood, formerly the Jeremy Hotel, in West Hollywood, he constructed a seasonal, California inspired in-room dining menu that runs 24/7 and spans from breakfast through “all day” and beyond. Tempting early options include brioche French toast with spice-roasted apples and a breakfast burrito with bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, Oaxacan cheese, and tomatillo salsa. Crave-worthy bites later in the day involve a BLTA sandwich with herb aioli on sourdough, and a signature burger piled with avocado, Cheddar cheese, baby kale, tomato, and mustard seed on a toasted bun. Crary also developed food for poolgoers, banquets and events. 

Ramen Hood at Grand Central Market

Ramen Hood at Grand Central Market | Photo: Ramen Hood

Ilan Hall: Ramen Hood

Season 2 champion, Ilan Hall shifted The Gorbals to Brooklyn, and resurfaced in L.A. in 2015 with his vegan Ramen Hood at Downtown LA’s prestigious Grand Central Market. Instead of using eggs, Hall and his on-site chef, Rahul Khopkar, craft whites with GMO-free soymilk set with agar, and yolks starring spherified nutritional yeast and black salt. They’ve created a bold broth with sunflower seeds instead of pork tonkotsu, and char siu is reimagined as King oyster mushrooms. Sides include banh mi poutine with hoisin gravy, fried broccoli with soy chile glaze, and tofu al pastor.

Chef's Cut Tomahawk at The Nixon Steakhouse

Chef's Cut Tomahawk | Photo: The Nixon Steakhouse

Katsuji Tanabe: The Nixon Steakhouse

Chef Katsuji Tanabe grew up in Mexico City and was best known as a Chopped champion before competing on Top Chef Season 12 and Season 14, in addition to Top Chef Mexico. He previously helmed Mexikosher in Beverlywood and teamed with Inspired Dining Group in 2017 on The Nixon Steakhouse, a more upscale concept in Uptown Whittier. Richard Nixon lived in Whittier for many years, attended Whittier College, and practiced law there - thus the name. Meat is the main draw, which could mean a 32-ounce Chef’s Cut Tomahawk, 16-ounce New York strip, or confit pig’s head for two. Tanabe’s childhood flavors also factor into the menu with sides like corn esquites and seafood preparations like broiled lobster with chipotle butter and beans.

Blackened Salmon Sandwich at Voltaggio STRFSH

Blackened Salmon Sandwich at Voltaggio STRFSH

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Michael Voltaggio: Voltaggio STRFSH

Season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio teamed with finalist brother Bryan on Voltaggio STRFSH, a fast casual fish sandwich shop on the second floor of Santa Monica’s Gallery Food Hall that demonstrates a strong distaste for vowels. The menu touts sustainably sourced swordfish and salmon that are rubbed with options like jerk and Old Bay, grilled, and teamed with condiments like cucumber mint yogurt and yuzu kosho mayo on toasted potato rolls, gluten-free tostadas, or mixed green salad. Build your own sandwich by selecting the spice (seasoning), smear (condiment), and stack (toppings). Each brother has a signature sandwich, but the experience is anything goes. STRFSH also serves thick-cut, skin-on French fries that cook in peanut oil and come dusted with sea salt.

Tasting menu at Scratch | Bar & Kitchen

Photo: Scratch | Bar & Kitchen, Facebook

Phillip Frankland Lee: Scratch | Bar & Kitchen

Scratch | Bar & Kitchen is the Valley’s most ambitious restaurant, an impressive tasting experience from Top Chef Season 13 competitor Phillip Frankland Lee and pastry chef/wife Margarita Kallas-Lee that’s part of a three-concept compound on Encino Place’s second floor. The menu spans 21 courses, costs $185 per person (not including wine pairings, and leaves plenty to the imagination. Listings are limited to words like spot prawn, squash, and venison, but convey so much more. Proceedings start with savory snacks and cocktail pairings in a small bar and continue in a 24-seat dining room with booths and a counter overlooking an open kitchen with a wood-burning hearth. During an early dinner, courses included a charcoal-roasted leek smeared with basil and bone marrow sabayon; grilled quail breast plated over a carrot and black truffle puree, topped with brown butter curry and pickled walnuts; and striking bone marrow custard topped custard pine meringue, pickled grapes, and parsley chips.

Phillip Frankland Lee: Sushi | Bar

Phillip Frankland Lee and wife Margarita Kallas-Lee added sushi to the mix at their ever-evolving compound on Encino Place’s second floor. Sushi l Bar is an intimate eight-seat bar that resides behind Woodley Proper and showcases California ingredients in a 17-course, $110 menu. Don’t look for chopsticks and soy sauce, since they’re absent. Guests eat atypical dishes by hand. That could mean wild caught Russian king crab, caramelized with red beet mustard, served with lemon and puffed quinoa; or seared albacore cinched with a sake-soaked nori belt, served with wasabi, crispy onions, and scallions. Roasted bone marrow and aged sirloin are also in play. Sushi l Bar serves market supplements like wild jellyfish or Japanese mitten lobster if guests want to extend their experience. Kallas-Lee keeps pace for dessert with dishes like soy-soaked avocado rolled in puffed rice and served with uni and lemongrass marshmallow.

Firebird at The Crack Shack, Westfield Century City

Firebird at The Crack Shack, Westfield Century City | Photo: @cuisinewithdean, Instagram

Richard Blais: The Crack Shack

San Diego based chef Richard Blais, who competed on Top Chef Season 4 and won Top Chef: All-Stars, initially partnered with Michael Rosen on The Crack Shack in their hometown. The duo expanded their chicken and egg concept to Westfield Century City and Old Pasadena in 2018. The sprawling Century City branch resides upstairs, overlooking mallgoers and surrounding office towers, and specializes in fried chicken sandwiches. Firebird features a spicy fried thigh, cool ranch, crispy onions, and pickles on a potato roll. Double Clucker isn’t fried, but does pack punch, piling two ground chicken patties on to a potato roll with Cheddar, bacon, smashed avocado, burger sauce, pickles, and fried onions. Fried chicken is also available on the bone or in a singular plate of fried oysters plated with “taco stand pickles,” cotija, and cilantro.