Hollywood's Top 25 Power Lunch Spots 2016

6:00 AM 5/19/2016

by Gary Baum, Alison Brower, and Degen Pener

THR's fourth annual restaurant ranking reveals the hotspots where deals (but rarely desserts) go down, as Soho House stays on top ("I get business done just walking up the stairs"), the  Polo  Lounge regains its luster post-boycott and 200 industry insiders highlight the top tables, best dishes and sharpest service in town.

Courtesy of Subject

Written by Seth Abramovitch, Gary Baum, Andy Lewis, Michael O’Connell, Degen Pener and Brian Porreca

Power Lunch icon - Hollywood's Top 25 Power Lunch Spots 2016 (see ranking below)

Dark grey - Hollywood Power Lunch Spots 2016: 5 That Just Missed the List

Light grey - Hollywood Power Lunch Spots 2016: 10 Newcomers to Check Out

  1. 25
    25

    Sushi Sasabune

    9162 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Ami Shinuchi/Sushi Sasabune

    Rounding out the list is a first-time ranker with "maybe the best sushi in L.A.," says Roar's Will Ward. Chef Ei Hiroyoshi, a disciple of founder Nobi Kusuhara, says the chain (other outlets are in West L.A. and Glendale) engages in little promotion because it doesn't want to attract "unnecessary attention." Such circumspection is what has regulars fighting for 38 seats at the nondescript Beverly Hills strip-mall location when the lunch crowd peaks at about 1 p.m., making reservations a must. "Just order the omakase Sasabune lunch special and focus on your meeting," advises WGN America and Tribune Studios' Tom Huffman. "Half the time I don't even know what I'm eating, but it's always delicious."

    *New to the list

  2. 24
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    Spago

    176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Spago

    Wolfgang Puck's venerable L.A. institution continues to impress 34 years on from its 1982 opening, drawing patrons from Barbara Davis to Jimmy Kimmel. "Wolfgang! Gelila! The patio! OMG, the food and the service!" says PR maven Marilyn Heston of its virtues. (For husband Fraser, "It's the schnitzel!"). Although one wag describes the scene as "old-school moguls and trophy wives" (and tartly cautions, "Prepare to pay homage to someone in a wheelchair"), Paula Wagner honors it with the highest Hollywood praise: "Classic!"

    TOP DISHES Tandoori chicken salad and house-cured salmon pizza.

    *Down from No. 16 in 2015

  3. 23
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    Republique

    624 S. La Brea Ave.

    @republiquela/Instagram

    The upscale casual (food is ordered at the counter but delivered by servers) joint's arrival in 2014 was a key moment in the La Brea lunch renaissance, which also includes No. 22 The Sycamore Kitchen and a branch of No. 11 Sugarfish. "Delicious food," says Film Independent chief Stephanie Allain. Adds entertainment marketing and PR pro Todd Beck, "If you're going to eat bread, you might as well eat the best." Other fans praise the "incredible pastries" and the "best cheeseburger in town." Breakfast items remain popular all day, says GM Melissa Koujakian — particularly the egg-topped kimchi fried rice.

    POWER TABLES Communal tables in the center provide a "fun front-row seat," says Koujakian, to what's happening in the open kitchen — but those seeking private powwows prefer tables in the nook off the bar.

    *New to the list

  4. 22
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    The Sycamore Kitchen

    143 S. La Brea Ave.

    Courtesy of Subject

    "You know a place is good when you see off-duty chefs eating there," says TV Land's Dana Tuinier of the 4-year-old counter-service joint (one of few such spots acceptable for a Hollywood business lunch) with the "best sandwiches and perfect lattes" in town. Other fans praise the "no-fuss vibe" and spacious patio ("I can bring my dog," enthuses ID PR's Harlan Gulko). Breakfast also bustles, with Boom Studios' Stephen Christy calling it his "favorite place to start the day." The dearth of convenient parking hasn't deterred such stars as Katharine McPhee, Don Cheadle and Taye Diggs.

    TOP DISHES The Mediterranean gem and Italian chopped salads; the Brussels sprouts are "everything," says producer Jonas Bell Pasht. And of course, the desserts.

    *New to the list

  5. 21
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    Fig & Olive

    8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood

    Earl Gibson III/WireImage/Getty Images

    After a year in "just missed the list" purgatory, the Mediterranean spot is back in favor with THR's respondents, who cite its "beautiful atmosphere" (Brillstein Partners' Andrea Pett-Joseph), "lovely staff" (RCA Records' Mika El-Baz) and proximity to great shopping. Stars who've dropped in include Ryan Gosling, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Aniston and husband Justin Theroux.

    *Back on the list: Down from No. 14 in 2014

  6. 20
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    Cafe Gratitude

    639 N. Larchmont Blvd.

    Courtesy of Cafe Gratitude

    The validating vegan venue (known for such dishes as "I Am Whole" and "I Am Humble") makes its first appearance on THR's list amid criticism (and even death threats) directed at owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart: In late April, vegans everywhere discovered the couple has been raising and slaughtering animals on their Northern California farm. Controversy aside, the "genuinely tasty" plates cleaned at the Hancock Park spot keep power lunchers moving: "Greens, greens and more greens — doesn't bog me down for the afternoon," says BWR publicist Brett Ruttenberg. Entertainment Tonight reporter Carly Steel is relieved that "it's one of the few places you don't have to make embarrassing special requests." And you can still get your sweet kick, says Geffen Playhouse executive director Gil Cates Jr.: "There's a dairy-free mint chocolate chip ice cream shake. Do I have to say more?"

    *New to the list

  7. 19
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    South Beverly Grill

    122 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Michael Weschler/South Beverly Grill

    "Not every business lunch needs to break the bank," says an anonymous respondent of this central spot's hearty, well-priced menu. Dark ambience and booths make it more "private," say others. "The nicest serving staff of any restaurant in town," says Brillstein Partners' Lee Kernis. And additional THR reporting — among assistants to high-powered lunchers — established this straightforward staple as the "safest bet" when scheduling for their boss.

    *Down from No. 14 in 2015

  8. 18
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    Mr Chow

    344 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Mr Chow

    Survey-takers say the classic joint, in business since 1974, is a place for "celebration" and to have a "cheat day" (and because "the maitre d' always gets me in," says Holly Robinson Peete). Friendly Films' David T. Friendly went there to celebrate the pickup of USA's upcoming Queen of the South. Says producer-manager Will Ward, "Amazing food, but I can't eat there too often. Otherwise I would have heart disease."

    *Down from No. 10 in 2015

  9. 17
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    Joan's on Third

    8350 W. Third St. and 12059 Ventura Place, Studio City

    Courtesy of Joan's on Third

    It's not the pastries that draw lunchers to the 21-year-old staple. For most it's a place to be for people-watching, and to show their love for chef/owner Joan McNamara. "I love Joan! I also love supporting a female-run business," says The Art of Elysium founder Jennifer Howell. McNamara needed the support of her fan club, which includes Will Ferrell and Katy Perry, during a legal food fight against her majority-holding business partners at the once-affiliated 11-month-old Santa Monica location: She was sued for breach of contract and other claims in August after her investors' attorneys claimed she was unreasonably difficult, but Joan's fans tagged the Santa Monica spot as an "imposter." According to court documents, the parties agreed to an undisclosed settlement in April, and the beat goes on at the original Joan's (top industry attorney Neville Johnson admires its "Berkeley vibe") and its authorized Studio City sibling — "a godsend," says one Studio City-based exec, adding, "Also, I've seen more celebrities here than anywhere else in L.A."

    TOP DISHES The mac and cheese made headlines during the legal battle, but the chicken salad is lunchers' fave.

    *Down from No. 12 in 2015

  10. 16
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    The Terrace

    8358 Sunset Blvd.

    Courtesy of The Terrace

    Amazingly this marks the first time the celebrity-packed cantina at the decade-old, stunning art deco Sunset Tower Hotel has made THR's Power Lunch roster. Its cozy, wood-paneled Tower Bar already was a dinner must among such A-listers as CAA's Kevin Huvane and George and Amal Clooney (who celebrated their one-year anniversary there), but it wasn't until the adjoining pool terrace was renovated recently that it began drawing regulars (including Seth Meyers when he's in town) for the midday meal. "I love how quiet it is during lunch," says producer Beau Flynn (San Andreas), who notes the "amazing views" that give the spot a vacation vibe cited by several respondents. "Great place to plan," adds one. "I never remember what I eat here, but I always experience productivity."

    TOP DISHES Flynn and awards consultant Lisa Taback swear by the $34 lobster Cobb salad.

    *New to the list

  11. 15
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    Pizzeria Mozza

    641 N. Highland Ave.

    Courtesy of Pizzaria Mozza

    Ideally located at the corner of Highland and Melrose for "a busy scarf near Paramount," says writer Heather Thomas Brittenham, the casual cousin of Osteria Mozza serves some of the city's best wood-fired pies, with the squash blossom and bianca varieties winning raves from several respondents. (Says one anonymous aficionado, "The only downside is someone is going to talk about carbs at some point during the meal.")

    TOP DISHES "The tricolore chopped salad is my favorite in the city," says producer Danielle Gelber. "And I never miss the chance to bring a caramel budino home for our daughter."

    *Up from No. 24 in 2015

  12. 14
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    Gjelina

    1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

    Courtesy of Gjelina

    An open kitchen and rustic everything — from furniture ("You really feel PC in all that reclaimed wood," says top business manager John McIlwee) to sandwiches to hair on the servers' faces — are what's on offer, alongside a wide assortment of small plates and wood-fired pizzas. The spot is a little off the beaten path for power-lunching but a default choice "if I must go west of La Cienega," says director Fraser C. Heston (son of Charles), with many other respondents echoing.

    TOP DISHES Stylist and personal shopper Nicole Pollard Bayme has a monthly meeting with a particular client that revolves around the mushroom toast and butterscotch pudding.

    *New to the list

  13. 13
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    Freds

    9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

    The industry was thrown for a bagel-shaped loop when Barney Greengrass shuttered its doors and reconfigured into the swankier Freds in October 2014. But there's no indication the former power loxery atop Barneys New York has lost any allure under chef Mark Strausman, who keeps the menu market-fresh and varied enough for every high-maintenance diet (a vegan eggless frittata runs $25). Comedian David Steinberg and 20th Century Fox's Mark Roybal have been by lately.

    RETAIL THERAPY Nearly all of THR's survey respondents said they go shopping at Barneys in lieu of dessert. As WGN America and Tribune Studios' Tom Huffman says, "When I spill coffee on myself at lunch, I can buy a new shirt."

    *Up from No. 21 in 2015

  14. 12
    25

    A.O.C.

    8700 W. Third St.

    After nine nominations, co-owner Suzanne Goin finally won outstanding chef at the James Beard Awards in early May. That adds a degree of heat to A.O.C., which among Goin's quartet of humming L.A. dining spots remains a power-lunching perennial (Academy heads Dawn Hudson and Cheryl Boone Isaacs were in recently) thanks to the California-by-way-of-the-Mediterranean cuisine and a perfect dining environment for Hollywood dealmaking: upscale yet unfussy, with a stunning patio featuring nonflowering olive trees. "The hanger steak is phenomenal," says actor Mark Feuerstein. Adds RCA Records' Mika El-Baz, "The indoor/outdoor feel is fantastic."

    *Down from No. 9 in 2015

  15. 11
    25

    Sugarfish Beverly Hills

    212 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Sugarfish Beverly Hills

    With 10 locations and counting, Sugarfish is flirting with becoming the Chipotle of hand rolls — but what the sushi stalwart lacks in individuality, it more than makes up for in consistency. "How is their sushi always spectacular every time, no matter which location you go to?" says producer Danielle Gelber. "It's magic." Chef/co-owner Kazunori Nozawa is not a fan of massive Americanized concoctions, so head elsewhere if you're hankering for a Philadelphia roll — or if you aren't willing to wait (Sugarfish doesn't take reservations). "Great pacing of the food," says producer David Jargowsky. "No decisions to make."

    TOP DISH Says Gelber, "I always look forward to the blue crab hand roll."

    *Up from No. 17 in 2015

  16. 10
    25

    Hinoki & The Bird

    10 W. Century Drive, Century City

    Courtesy of Hinoki & The Bird

    The 3-year-old Asian bistro/de facto CAA commissary rarely has an open seat from noon to 2 p.m. Its mix of agents, nearby Fox-lot staffers and stars — Jennifer Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Seth Rogen, Lady Gaga and The Birth of a Nation filmmaker Nate Parker have dined there this year — draws a packed lunch and popular bar scene after punching the clock. TV Land exec Dana Tuinier calls the lush back patio a "beautiful little oasis" (she adds, "The drinks are delicious if you can sneak one in!").

    TOP DISH Praised for portion size (if not always the service), Hinoki favorites include the salmon with brown rice or atop a kale salad. The butter lobster ramen ($28) is a specialty.

    *Up from No. 13 in 2015

  17. 9
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    Chateau Marmont

    8221 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

    Courtesy of Chateau Marmont

    Stars, like captive pandas being encouraged to procreate, often are on edge when put on display — and few venues put them more at ease than this restaurant and its namesake hotel. "This is one of my go-tos when I need a place to crash for a quick brainstorming session," says Underground and Straight Outta Compton actor Aldis Hodge. "I can get work done without being distracted." Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Smith, Dakota Johnson, Jack Huston and Minka Kelly recently lunched here. Evangelists will praise the patio before the menu, but the concise offerings have fans as well.

    *Down from No. 4 in 2015

  18. 8
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    The Palm

    267 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of The Palm

    The revived Palm seems to have lost little of its nostalgic charm in its 2014 upgrade and move to Canon Drive. Owner Bruce Bozzi Jr. — Palm Restaurant Group executive vp and partner to CAA's Bryan Lourd — is a constant presence among an agent crowd that naturally leans heavily toward CAA, though UTA, WME and Gersh are well represented. Brad Grey is a fixture, and execs Ted Sarandos, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Nevins make frequent appearances. (Although star power is lower, it is not uncommon, with Michael B. Jordan among recent sightings.) As E! and Esquire Network president Adam Stotsky puts it, "The environment and clientele remind me why I love working in Hollywood."

    *Up from No. 11 in 2015

  19. 7
    25

    La Scala

    434 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of La Scala

    If this chopped salad had ears, they'd be ringing. No single menu item got more mentions on THR's survey than the Italian eatery's signature insalata and its semisecret bolognese alternative. "It's not on the menu, but it's one of the things that makes a terrible day bearable," says Sony vp creative production Matthew Milam. At 60, La Scala is the oldest continually operating restaurant on the list and draws an agent-heavy crowd with UTA, Paradigm and Gersh within walking distance. But with no reservations, it is a destination best suggested only to your most punctual dining companions. "Best salad in town, worst place to be if your lunch meeting is running late," says WGN America and Tribune Studios unscripted topper Tom Huffman. "You've got to just stand there awkwardly in front of the entire restaurant until your guest arrives."

    *Up from No. 8 in 2015

  20. 6
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    The Polo Lounge

    9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Subject

    "It's back," says WME's Richard Weitz of the "constantly packed" Beverly Hills Hotel haunt, which had dropped way down (but never off) the list in the wake of a boycott led by the Human Rights Campaign after the hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei, instituted anti-gay policies in his country. The shunning was short-lived. By last year, visitors who are either out or maintain close ties to the LGBTQ community had returned to the hotel, including Megan Ellison, Miley Cyrus and Dita Von Teese. Now the lovefest once again is on for what awards consultant Lisa Taback calls the "iconic" patio and what reality TV producer Arthur Smith describes as "an hour of vacation in the middle of the day." Though some still steer clear. "I miss it," says the Environmental Media Association's Debbie Levin. Vice's Danny Gabai, like many, is sentimental about the spot's only-in-Hollywood charm: "I once spotted Buzz Aldrin and Gore Vidal coyly observing a group of Russian prostitutes."

    *Up from No. 22 in 2015

  21. 5
    25

    e. baldi

    375 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of e. baldi

    It's impossible not to notice who's sitting at Table 1: the biggest in the house and right by the entrance. On any given day, the likes of Bob Daly, Steve Tisch and Brian Grazer are holding court over mixed seafood grill (a favorite of attorney Craig Jacobson), pappardelle (actor Mark Feuerstein) or off-the-menu lasagna (producer Dana Brunetti). "But don't go if you don't want others to hear your conversation, since the tables are on top of each other," warns WME's Richard Weitz, who praises the "amazing food." There's a loyalty to chef-owner Edoardo Baldi, who's in the kitchen every day and whose late father founded beloved Santa Monica restaurant Giorgio Baldi. Says attorney Neville Johnson, "It's a classic Italian power spot that gets a lot of heavy hitters." Star sightings include Ryan Reynolds, Al Pacino, Mark Wahlberg and Common (with Grazer).

    *Up from No. 6 in 2015

  22. 4
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    The Grill on the Alley

    9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of The Grill on the Alley

    "My commissary for 20 years," says producer David T. Friendly. After 32 years at the same address, it's one of the town's most legit old-school spots, with fans from producers Steve Tisch and Keri Selig to Roar founding partner Will Ward and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn, who says, "My family has been going there for years." Everyone loves — and wants to charm — maitre d' Pamela Gonyea, with the coveted horseshoe of booths in highest demand. (Booths 104, 105, 103, 129 and 131 are preferred by Brad Grey, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ari Emanuel, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Kopelson, respectively.) "The food and the crowd are always stellar, as is the legendary Pamela, who makes everyone feel special," says Greenberg Traurig attorney Mathew Rosengart. Vice executive creative director Danny Gabai's favorite menu item: liver and onions. How's that for old school?

    *Down from No. 2 in 2015

  23. 3
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    Cecconi's

    8764 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood

    Courtesy of Subject

    Owned by Soho House — way to grab two out of the top three Power Lunch spots, Brits — Cecconi's hits its highest-ever rank on the list this year, thanks to the fast (and free!) valet, relatively affordable menu and central location, especially since Ammo closed on Highland last year. "It's a good halfway point between the Westside and the Valley," says Amblin Partners head of communications Sue Fleishman. And, says entertainment lawyer Dina LaPolt, "It's right next to the West Hollywood Recovery Center, so I can hit an AA meeting first!" Business manager John McIlwee recommends the patio, where "you feel like you're in a European city."

    MAJOR SIGHTING In February, Taylor Swift celebrated her Grammy wins over lunch there the day after the show.

    *Up from No. 7 in 2015

  24. 2
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    Bouchon

    235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills

    Courtesy of Deborah Jones

    Partisans don't go to Thomas Keller's 6-year-old bistro to mingle. It's a place for business talk without intrusion, thanks to the low-decibel room where "tables are not too close to each other," says Environmental Media Association president Debbie Levin. Adds Starz executive vp communications Theano Apostolou, "You know that deals are taking place." Its food also outshines Soho with fans calling out dishes they crave: "Perfect chicken," sighs awards consultant Lisa Taback, while entertainment attorney Craig Jacobson tips his hat to the french fries. "It's feed-bag day. You might need to skip dinner," says The Fall Guy star turned writer Heather Thomas Brittenham. Investors Ryan Seacrest and Adam Berkowitz of CAA (the agency reps Keller) often are in the room, as are the likes of Justin Bieber, Robert Downey Jr. and Reese Witherspoon (who's lunched with Lena Dunham).

    PREFERRED SEATING Some favor the patio tables. "It's so lovely there that I could get along with Trump for an hour," says TV Land exec Dana Tuinier.

    *Up from No. 3 in 2015

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    Soho House

    9200 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

    Courtesy of Subject

    Success breeds success at Soho House, which continues its reign atop the Power Lunch list for the fourth year. "I get business done just walking up the stairs," says Women in Film executive director Kirsten Schaffer. Adds Fox Broadcasting executive vp drama development and programming Terence Carter: "You can't go more than 20 feet within running into five people you know." Other draws: staff discretion (cherished by such star visitors as Taylor Swift, James Corden and the Beckhams) and the 14-story views. While the food still divides regulars — Brillstein Entertainment Partners manager Andrea Pett-Joseph calls it "delicious" while TV exec Garth Ancier says it's "always, uh, OK" — the salad-bar table and new Mediterranean canteen Nava on the 13th floor ("It's really healthy for the no-carb-obsessed like me," says the Gotham Group's Ellen Goldsmith-Vein) get high marks. This summer, the club will take its dominance to Malibu when it opens in Larry Ellison's short-lived Nikita space.

    SWEET SPOT This is one of the few places where diners fessed up to ordering dessert. Jackal Group president Joe Earley is a fan of the Eton mess (strawberries, meringue and cream).

    *Unchanged from 2015

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