The top al fresco spots where insiders from Bill Hader to Jay-Z dine and deal: best tables, lightest dishes, insider tips and more.
Ever since chef Michael McCarty opened his eponymous Santa Monica spot in 1979, the patio has been a magnet for the entertainment community. One of the progenitors of gourmet-fresh California cuisine, Michael's (sister restaurant to the media-favored one in midtown Manhattan) has been re-energized since the arrival in 2016 of 30-year-old chef Miles Thompson, who sparked a new global direction with more cerebral fare like the duck confit with cucumber nectarine and Vietnamese mint. Known for its sunken patio with wall-to-wall tropical foliage, the still-hot spot has seen such recent power diners as Leslie Moonves, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr., who prefers to sit tucked away in a private corner outside.
"People always fight for the garden," says Chas McCarty, Michael's son and current general manager. "The best in the house is table 62 at the edge of the terrace. You hover over the scene, digging it but you're in your own world and can concentrate on the food and the company."
Present company includes the minds behind HBO's Barry — co-creators Alex Berg and Bill Hader (also the show's lead), with star Henry Winkler — who on a recent afternoon were seated on the patio trading memories about how food and restaurants impact the business of Hollywood. Berg even filmed a scene of Curb Your Enthusiasm at Michael's when he was a writer and exec producer on that show.
Tucking into mixed baby lettuces with herbs, seeds and red wine vinaigrette, Hader reminisced about how the idea for the comedy series — about a depressed hitman who begins taking acting classes — was hatched over a meal. The actor would meet Berg for breakfast once a week at Culver City's S & W Diner to brainstorm ideas for projects. "Our power breakfast was how Barry came about," recalls Hader.
Once Winkler was cast as the hitman's acting teacher, the Arrested Development actor invited Hader for a get-to-know-you lunch at Westside mainstay Toscana. "He had salmon. I always have the Bolognese. It was a warm, wonderful lunch," says Winkler. Hader says that during that lunch, Toscana was so thick with executives that "you could throw your script up in the air at 1 p.m. and it will fall on someone's table who can get it made. I just went and [HBO president of programming] Casey Bloys was there."
Berg recently lunched at new brasserie The Henry on Robertson (featuring an attractive outdoor area), which Hader will always recall fondly as the former site of the Newsroom Cafe: He was eating there with a former manager when he got the call in 2005 that he'd been cast on Saturday Night Live and had to be in NYC the next day. "I've walked past with my kids and gone, 'See that right there? The reason you guys get to go to good schools and have the nice house is that Daddy got a phone call right there that totally changed my life.' "
While Winkler is a foodie — he raves about the sweet-corn agnolotti at Beverly Hills' e.baldi ("Those little pillows of corn, oh my gosh," he says) — Hader finds little joy in meals these days. "For the show, I have to look like I'm a Marine, so I have to eat super healthy. Alec will bring in these delicious things on Fridays for the table, like a chocolate Bundt cake, and I'm like, 'I can't have any of this stuff. If you brought in just the clippings from your yard, I can eat that.' " Hader mentions how he and Ant-Man Paul Rudd have commiserated over their diets: "You get a cheat meal — not a cheat day, a meal [each week]. I was talking with Paul and his [diet] is way worse because he has to look like a superhero. He says, 'The only way I can stay on it is knowing that there's that meal — I can have pancakes with my kids on Sunday.' And that can kind of help you get through it."
But when it comes to the most potent Hollywood food memory, Winkler takes the cake. The former Happy Days star recalls breaking up a brawl, mere feet from where he, Hader and Berg were lunching: "Thirty years ago, I stopped a fight at Michael's between an agent — somebody told me afterwards he was an agent — and a woman in a linen, A-frame skirt. She said something, he was fiery, he went after her. I grabbed him and whispered in his ear: 'You don't want to do this.' Honest to God," says the actor, wonderingly. "And I remember, my wife loved the steak."
Singular among L.A.'s outdoor-dining spaces for the views and sound of crashing waves at one's feet, this power outpost draws such regulars as Bradley Cooper, David Geffen, Larry David, Kris Jenner and Zoe Saldana — and also offers Nobu Matsuhisa's famous yellowtail with jalapeno. The gorgeously designed, all-wood "setting cannot be beat. Sitting on the patio listening to the waves feels like you're at a friend's home on the beach," says CAA's Nikki Reiss.
This location has some special dishes not available at the other outposts of the New York-founded chain, including the shaved artichoke salad. "Pricey, but worth every penny — and the traffic — in my humble opinion," Reiss adds.
Global Branded Entertainment agent Rory Platt recommends the toro tuna tartare with a Casamigos spicy margarita. "It's great to take clients on a Friday and then head over to Soho Malibu," he adds.
It didn't take long for the crowds (which have included the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jimmy Iovine and Mariah Carey) to descend — or ascend, as it were — to this lush-garden expanse with pool area on the 13th floor of the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
"It's impossible to get a table with a poor view from the rooftop," says hotel managing director Peter Bowling. From the bar area, diners can see the Los Angeles Country Club golf course and as far as Century City. Equidistant to Century City and Beverly Hills' Golden Triangle, it's been a hit since opening a year ago, a sophisticated, laid-back outdoor space with a panoramic perspective that's perfect for midday lunches and meetings.
"Always great views, great food and it's convenient to the Westside," says Lionsgate Television Group president Sandra Stern. "The rooftop feels like a vacation."
The menu, by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, to whom the restaurant's name refers, twists around Latin American and Southeast Asian flavors, with lobster burgers, sunflower seed hummus and tuna tartare as favorites.
"I feel that even the staff is in on the dealmaking nature of the place," says Pulse Films CEO Thomas Benski, who, of course, prefers to sit at one of the booths on the patio where all the real action happens. Even the waiters, he says, "pick the appropriate moments and the right tone every time one engages with them — helping key conversations unfold naturally."
General manager Edward Mady says the most popular patio tables for such clientele as Tony Blair, Sherry Lansing, Jennifer Lopez and Keanu Reeves are the booths — tables 85, 93 and 95 offer the most privacy. The McCarthy Salad still reigns supreme as the most popular item, Mady adds, with more than 600 sold every week.
The secret sauce to being Hollywood's most powerful alfresco spot? Not the iconic Beverly Hills palm-green-and-pink decor or such Hollywood lore as Marlene Dietrich strolling in wearing pants in public for the first time, or director Richard Attenborough celebrating his Oscar wins for Gandhi among cheering diners. The ace in the deck — which has helped bring back customers after Hollywood's 2016 boycott of owner Sultan of Brunei's homophobic Sharia law in his home country — is the service: "Most of our employees have been here for decades," says Mady. "This, combined with our uncompromised privacy and discretion, makes it the perfect power dining spot." UTA co-president Jay Sures adds that "it's one of the few places in town that will make you anything you want, whether it's on or off the menu."
With a recent art deco redesign, the expanded Tower Bar and Terrace is swankier — and shadier — for poolside drinks shared by such insiders as Bob Greenblatt, Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm and Lady Gaga.
"Hotelier Jeff Klein and everyone's favorite maitre d' Dimitri Dimitrov craft a[n] unforgettable experience," says producer Greg Berlanti of the indoor-outdoor space that provides sweeping views down the WeHo hillside and a hopping nightlife.
"The most popular cocktail is the tequila-based Tower Bar Smash," says hotel general manager Troy Pade, to go along with such summer classic dishes as Cobb salad, tuna tartare and avocado toast.
The half-indoor, half-outdoor setup makes the roofed Soho House sibling the perfect shaded meeting spot for the likes of Dana Walden, Gary Newman and Ellen DeGeneres. Several outdoor tables offer privacy for discreet dealmaking, yet enough of an eyeline to see who else is there. Some days can be a who's who of the music world — everyone from Jay-Z and Beyonce to Sam Smith and The Weeknd has dined here; favorite dishes include green eggs and kale pesto. Having originated in London, Cecconi's acts as a magnet for anyone from England.
"Great atmosphere. Great food. Great service," says So You Think You Can Dance executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. "What else could anybody ask for at a great restaurant?"
Located across the street from Century City offices, the Silk Road-inspired Hinoki & the Bird is practically the CAA commissary. Anything near the fire feature or along the banquettes, surrounded by tangles of greenery cascading from the slatted ceiling, are prime spots. Showtime’s David Nevins and Spyglass founder Gary Barber have been spotted in the outdoor space, as has Katheryn Bigelow, screenwriter Eric Roth, and American Horror Story’s Evan Peters with their CAA hosts.
Dining on the patio at Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills flagship still holds a lot of cachet, even after 20-plus years. The handmade agnolotti, lobster salad, and smoked salmon pizza are as storied as table visits from Puck himself. Lunch can be a veritable who’s who of Hollywood, with everyone from Sidney Poitier to Amy Adams and Hyde Park Entertainment’s Ashok Amritraj sitting around the tree-lined space.
Covert meet-ups on the hidden patio in the West Hollywood hills are a rite of passage in this town. UTA’s global head of music David Zedeck with clients, Kristen Stewart with musician St. Vincent and January Jones, producer Scott Stuber, Lady Gaga, and Mitch and Kelly Glazer are just a few fans. Plates of little gem lettuces with poached salmon, crudites, ancient grain salads are de rigueur.
8700 3rd St.
“The patio is like a Mediterranean oasis in the middle of the city,” says UTA partner Keya Khayatian of Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s Beverly Grove walled-outdoor space with fireplace, olive trees and herb gardens. Styne says the tiled alcove round patio tables closest to the kitchen are the most in demand since they allow famous faces and boldface names (among them, Leslie Moonves and Netflix’s Scott Stuber) to pull off quiet exits.
9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd.
Dining alfresco at The Peninsula Hotel’s luxe restaurant is a natural for CAA and APA agents hailing from Century City and Beverly Hills, says hotel managing director Offer Nissenbaum. The power-privacy spot is table 75, a round table next to the fireplace; and the charred Caesar salad and Dover sole are the most requested dishes. Young Hollywood flocks to the newly refreshed patio for weekly happy hour specials. (Valet is free for all Terrace Hour guests on Thursdays.)
300 S. Doheny Drive
When it comes to clandestine outdoor breakfast, lunch and dinner for such insiders as Donna Langley, J.J. Abrams, Cindy Holland and Al Pacino, the garden oasis at the Four Seasons restaurant boasts a light menu featuring spinach-shaved fennel salad and branzino with artichokes and asparagus. “There is one table on our patio that serves as an L.A. office for some of the top players,” says general manager Allen Artcliff-Cronrod. “It’s closest to our waterfall and provides a great level of privacy.”
8905 Melrose Ave.
Anyone who enjoys vegan — including Paul McCartney and Maggie Gyllenhaal — has dined at the Scott Schrader-designed WeHo patio. “They love to dine in a corner under the bamboo pergola and vines,” says director of operations Raina Lewis. The plant-based Mexican menu could fool a carnivore with flavorful dishes like sweet potato flautas, barbecued jackfruit carnitas tacos and a Purista margarita. Says Lewis: “Jay-Z prefers his with smoky mezcal.”
This story first appeared in the July 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.