This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
514 W. 7th St.
Chef-owner Ricardo Zarate, whose critically acclaimed fine-dining den Picca opened on the Westside last year, has moved his original, more casual Peruvian concept from its humble market stall near USC to an expanded, sit-down space along the neighborhood's burgeoning Restaurant Row. The menu is an exploration of slightly tweaked and elevated genre standards: lamb shank with cilantro beer sauce; lomo saltado with Kennebec fries; "hamburguesa" featuring an alpaca-and-lamb patty.
852 S. Broadway
Forget the burgers. Although impressive, you can feast on them at any of the rapidly proliferating Umami outposts around town. Focus on the nouveau-deli fare (supersmooth liver, a highly worthy thick-cut pastrami on rye). Or, courtesy of noted San Francisco toque Chris Cosentino, the pork-a-palooza proffered at the P!GG counter. Order the dishes that sound like a dare: whipped lardo in a can, crispy pig's ear with "brainnaise" and Iberico de Bellota crudo (that's right: pork sashimi).
Blue Cow Kitchen
350 S. Grand Ave.
The flagship project from Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero, the folks behind L.A.'s upmarket Mendocino Farms sandwich shops, this mod-farmhouse charmer with a hardcore organic bent in the financial district hopscotches globally on a whimsy high. Appetizers include pork belly banh xeo (which is to say, crepe tacos) and beet-marinated deviled eggs with candied jalapenos, while the tandoori-style turkey club on naan is dressed in cucumber-mint raita.
408 S. Main St.
At this high-energy Historic Core neighborhood hangout run by chef-owner Josef Centeno -- who previously ran the kitchen at the buzzed-about Lazy Ox gastropub nearby in Little Tokyo -- the namesake gyro-taco hybrid of his own invention called "the baco" is king. The pan-ethnic sandwich features iterations like crispy shrimp with sriracha sauce and beef tongue schnitzel with harissa. Wash it down with the house-made sodas, which run from persimmon and ginger to lime-chile and pear.