Themed cafeterias, elusive speak-easies and innovative morning meals grace the ranks of fun places to eat in Southern California. Everyone will find something to enjoy at one of these wild, fancy or oddball eateries. Check out these unique places for food and beverages in SoCal’s favorite cities, San Diego and Los Angeles.
The Magic Castle – Hollywood, Los Angeles
Granted, a campy name like The Magic Castle might not conjure an image of an exclusive Los Angeles eatery, but this private clubhouse inside a Victorian mansion requires an invite from a member of the club and The Academy of Magical Arts. A mix between a Donna Tartt novel and an Agatha Christie mystery, The Magic Castle features a myriad magic shows among interior decoration scattered with rare memorabilia. It’s also home to a full-service dining room and experimental bars that cater to a wide range of palettes.
Metl – The Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Locals used to avoid the hordes of tourists traipsing about the Gaslamp Quarter, but it’s no coincidence that all of the San Diegan eateries on this list are based in this neighborhood. Metl’s spicy southern food and boozy desserts demand to be consumed. The comfort food takes classic southern meals and puts a San Diegan spin on them. Devour dishes like chicken-fried steak and poutine, but save room for the crowd pleasing desserts.
Metl serves over 40 rotating flavors of ice cream drenched in alcohol, including Slam Diego (Templeton rye, peanuts, Cracker Jack and pretzels). If you’re too full from dinner, take home a pint of ice cream, also available in scoops, cones, ice cream sandwiches and push-pops. Unlike traditional southern food, Metl has plenty of vegan-friendly options
Cicada Restaurant and Club – Downtown, Los Angeles
Scheduled to return this summer, the Cicada Restaurant and Club embodies golden age Hollywood nightlife with the grandeur of the Art Deco Oviatt building. It breathes 20th century entertainment and it features dance orchestras and more. Originally founded as an exceptional haberdashery in 1928, The Cicada Restaurant and Club is still decked out in the French designs of the time. The vast main floor has dining and dancing. You might feel like you’ve stumbled into the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” especially given the strict dress code that demands elegant, vintage attire.
Breakfast Company – Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Now transforming into a hot spot for more than just nightlife, the Gaslamp Quarter has developed morning attractions like Breakfast Company. Recently opened in 2019, Breakfast Company starts your morning off right with hearty meals. They firmly espouse the widely held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From sweet S’mores waffles and savory French toast to egg-based dishes and fun cocktails, Breakfast Company wants all types of breakfast-lovers to enjoy their morning. They also offer veggie-inspired drinks and a variety of nonalcoholic libations.
Totoraku – Pico Ave, Los Angeles
The most exclusive and secretive restaurant in Los Angeles is a tiny Japanese eatery tucked behind an unremarkable storefront on Pico Avenue. Some consider Totoraku (Secret Beef) a myth, but foodies have emerged to tell the tale. If the chef himself has invited you, then bring along a rich wine and prepare for an expensive carnivorous meal. The stakes (or steaks, if you will) are high when it comes to bringing the best alcohol. Impress the chef with your cuisine knowledge or your wine selection and you might get another invitation.
Trailer Park After Dark – Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Sounds a little sketch? Don’t worry, Trailer Park After Dark is family friendly. Created as a bar to celebrate the “grit and glitter of trailer park life,” they offer entertainment, comfort food and cocktails meant to evoke a hot night spent with a motley crew in a trailer park. Reserve a themed trailer for a group night out post-pandemic. Trailer Park After Dark is 21 and up after 11 p.m. when all the kids go to bed.
Scratch Bar & Kitchen – Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles
True to its name, Scratch Bar & Kitchen’s “from scratch” philosophy produces a mouthwatering menu featuring exclusively handmade food. Chefs Phillip Franklin Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee aspired to create concept restaurants focused on artisanal dishes. Everything at Scratch, even the butter in the bread, is made by them. They serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday by appointment only.
Wolvesmouth – various locations, Los Angeles
This experimental roaming restaurant includes art, food and event production. In order to garner an invitation you must join a mailing list to snag a seat. Usually hosted in an Eastside Los Angeles home, Wolvesmouth provides a tasting menu of whatever dishes the chefs choose that night. Pay what you can, or what you feel the food and the experience was worth. Let a friend tag along and be sure to bring a bottle of wine – just don’t go cheap.
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