The Kindest Cuts: Bastide, The Buggy Whip and More

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Have you sent your nominations for The Kindest Cuts? The deadline is December 15, at which point I’ll descend to the workshop to build the polls you so richly deserve.

As a reminder — it can be any restaurant, store or chef, whether it opened this year or a decade before, as long as it represents a eating experience that enriches your life and generally makes your planet a better place. I’ve asked local food figures to provide their lists, which I’ll be posting in the coming days.

Case in point: Here’s 10 places, in no particular order, from restaurant producer Jerry Prendergast — including, yes, some that he had a hand in creating, but I told him that was OK. But as you’ll see, his selections range all over the place.

Leave your nominees in the comments or email them to dana.harris@variety.com. And now, Mr. Prendergast — take it away.

1. LAX Burritos on Arbor Vitae. This is a truly one-of-a-kind place. It offers not only the ones we know dearly (and better than most), it offer things like stewed goat with green chillis, pigs’ brains, cabeza and some of the best pork that I have ever had. It’s always full and the lines for lunches from the workers in the area go on the whole day.

2. The Buggy Whip, Latiera Blvd. It has been here forever; so has the staff. Peter at the piano has played here for two decades. The steaks are very good –not CUT, but good — but it’s the atmosphere. It is where your parents took you on special occasions. And they still make GREEN GODDESS dressing. The wine list is terrible, but who cares; bring you own. The martinis are great. And when you are bored and sitting in the large back dining room, you can read old Gourmet magazines in hardbound yearbooks. The other night, I read a review of one of my first project. 1983, Auntie Yuan, Sam Lapata’s first restaurant (he was the Dodd Mitchell and Tomas Schus of NY in the 80’s).

3. Melisse. This is one of mine, but I still think it is the best of the fine dining rooms in town. Josiah strives everyday to be better and succeeds. When I was first introduced to Andre Soltner when I was 19, he said something I will never forget: A truly great restaurant does not need to be cutting edge, nor does it have to give you Nirvana. It has to, though, be consummately professional and consistent and use the best possible ingredients every time. And that is what Melisse does.

4. Wilshire. It has taken a hip social scene and given it good, solid food. Chris had put together a menu that lets the local Black Dress crowd hang at the bar. and the foodies gape over the organic and fresh produce, cheese and meats.  The scene is a scene and the door staff can be total jerks, but the food is good and the TS design seems to work. I hope it doesn’t get stale or the front door scares too many people away.

5. Bastide. Mine also. A city like LA needs, needs to have a project like this, that holds nothing back. Atmosphere, food, wine, service and at a price that is downright cheap for what you get. It will be a hard road for it here, where the food is almost always secondary to the crowd. In a place that seats only 40, how do you even have a crowd?

6. The Lobster. A city by the ocean should have a restaurant you want to go to and Lobster beats Gladstone’s for that. Even sitting at the bar makes you look at the ocean and dream. The food is good and consistent and it is a perfect place to take an out-of-towner to see the beach.

7. Phillipe’s. How can you not count it? The lines, the women behind the counter. It seems like a city here, and it feels like one. The french dip has not changed in a hundred year (and should not) and the draft beer and pickled eggs are classic. It is old LA and needs to stay.

8. Tam O’Shanter. Lawry’s is what everyone thinks about, but they opened this one before they opened Lawry’s and it is still going strong. The outfits are strange and the space is out of the way, but the food is classic, the beef just as good and the feeling homey.

9. CUT. This is the best steakhouse in town. The wines are put together to match the food and Lee has put together a menu unlike any steakhouse in town, maybe anywhere. The bar scene is wonderful and the setting is completely unique. Sit at the bar and meet almost anyone or dine and taste some of the best food in the world.

10 In-N-Out Burger. There is no fast-food operation that can compete. I so hope that there will be some way the family can continue it without having to sell out. It would be a shame for it to go the way of McDonald’s..

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