Hot Restaurants

in California


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Los Angeles Area

San Diego Area

San Francisco Area

Interested in restaurants featuring counter/bar dining? Click: eating at the bar

Interested in restaurants featuring communal table dining? Click: eating with others

Sooner or later, EVERYONE — business and pleasure travelers, singles, those divorced or widowed, very-marrieds whose spouses are on the road, harried moms and dads, etc. — faces the challenge of eating out alone!

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THE How-to Booklet of Solo Dining Tips & Strategies:

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Los Angeles Area

Asia de Cuba & Seabar - Mondrian Hotel
— (323) 848-6000; 8440 Sunset Boulevard., Los Angeles, California

Amenities: Five years after opening, Seabar, the sushi bar located in the Sunset Strip hotel's lobby, still sets the standard for communal grazing and "gazing." This sexy Philippe Starck designed underlit alabaster table (32 ringside seats), serving innovative sushi nightly, is ideal for solo diners and those wishing to socialize with other Seabarites.

The convivial atmosphere is due in part to an extremely helpful and well-versed staff. AND to an engaging selection of specialty sakes showcased in square wooden boxes. (Offering a neighboring diner a pour of your bottle of yahiorino junmai koshu — aged eight years, a slight hint of strawberry — is an elegant conversation starter!)

A famed celebrity haunt, Asia de Cuba draws its share of the celebrated. Recent sightings include: Samuel Jackson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Alicia Silverstone, Randy Jackson, Will Ferrell, Cedric the Entertainer and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Alicia, a vegan, noshed on a Tofu Tasting and Wok Sauteed Vegetables, while Cedric chowed on Char Beef Short Ribs.)

Asia de Cuba at Mondrian's sumptuous dining experience is matched by its surroundings. With its phenomenal patio and white-on-white interior palette, by day Asia de Cuba at Mondrian embodies the quintessential California lifestyle. But by night, the celebrated restaurant at the Mondrian is transformed into a sensuous soiree showcasing cross-cultural cuisine illuminated by views of the city.

Cuisine: Innovative Asian-Latin

Neighborhood: Sunset Strip

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CineSpace — (323) 817-3456; 6356 Hollywood Boulevard, Second Level, Hollywood, California

Amenities: Movie-lovers/fine cuisine connoisseurs rejoice! Destined to be a "must-visit" for solo business travelers, not to mention locals, CineSpace offers a glorious synthesis of restaurant, bar and screening room (A convivial cozy bar/lounge is an aprés screening magnet!) — showcasing independent films, classics, documentaries, animation, music videos, short films, DJs and live video artists nightly.

The CineSpace concept, reminiscent of "dinner theater," was inspired in great part because of co-owner Kimberly Herrmann's exposure to San Francisco's Foreign Cinema. In discussing the two dining/cinematic experiences, she mentioned that films screened at Foreign Cinema served primarily as ambiance, whereas "viewing" was of paramount importance at CineSpace. According to Herrmann, their seating was focused on the screen and that, indeed, the room was rearranged every night in response to the reservation book.

Cuisine: Contemporary American

Neighborhood: Conveniently located one block west of the Pantages Theater (Dinner available on the patio Tuesday - Sunday, starting at 6:00pm.)

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San Diego Area

Hob Nob Hill — (619) 239-8176; 2271 First Avenue, San Diego, California

Amenities: Hobnobbing has been part of the scene since HNH opened in 1944, but it occurred only at the counter until the restaurant expanded. And friendly, informal chatting continued in force even when the original curving 14 seater gave way to a scaled down six seat version, and a hearty helping of booths and tables.

During the weekly lunch crunch, the counter is home for a fast-lunch solo bunch — mostly secretaries and lawyers. In the evening, the tenor of its guests changes and the tempo slows. The solo "mature set" settles into favorite booths, some with books in hand, and all looking forward to chatting with favorite waitresses.
"It's a growing city, but I pretty much know all the faces. A different one means they're from out of town." You can bank on Alex Ramirez’ word. He began working here in 1985 when he was 17 years old. He notices and knows the regulars — the ones who appear every single day or every other day — and those who never miss a Saturday. He also recognizes the out-of-town regulars from places as far flung as Florida, Washington, D.C. and New York, the fabulous fallout from a '97 Gourmet magazine article that mentioned HNH.

Cuisine: "All American" Filling Food

Neighborhood: Downtown — First & Juniper

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San Francisco Area

Boulevard — (415) 543-6084; One Mission Street, San Francisco, California

Amenities: Among Esquire Magazine's (1997) 20 best places in the U.S. for solo diners, Boulevard is located in one of the few structures spared from the 1906 earthquake and fire and is one steeped in stories. A favorite is the one about the former Bulkhead Coffee Parlor's saloon keeper who held off firemen ready to dynamite to halt the spread of fire during the quake. In order to save the building, he promised them two quarts of whiskey apiece and a firehouse cart full of wine!

A favorite of the local financial crowd, counter seating (12 seats) allows guests to watch the activity in the exhibition kitchen with its wood-burning ovens. (Another seating option — the 20 seat-bar.)

Cuisine: Classical French sensibilities and fresh ingredients form the backbone of a seasonal and modern American menu.

Neighborhood: Embarcadero Waterfront

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Farallon — (415) 956-6969; 450 Post St., San Francisco, California

"Just read your write-up in the 'Via' magazine [AAA Club of Northern California], and wanted to tell you about a very nice experience I had eating solo.

I live in San Francisco, where we have 4200 restaurants, and I enjoy eating out often. Usually I go with friends or my husband, although he is NOT crazy about the more expensive ones.

A few years ago, on my birthday, I wanted to try 'Farallon's' fine restaurant. Most of my friends had already been there, but I made a luncheon reservation for two anyway, thinking I would find a companion. I didn't. But I went, by my self, anyway. I told the two YOUNG hostesses, that I wanted to try the restaurant, but 'my friend had become ill.' but I decided to come anyway."

They were so VERY NICE. Gave me a WONDERFUL table overlooking an open part of their kitchen, where I could watch the preparation, when not eating.

The service was excellent, and the food was also. I had a DELIGHTFUL time by myself.

When I left, the same two hostesses wanted to make sure I had enjoyed my experience, and I assured them I had. Nice that they remembered me, as the restaurant is large, and was busy. Naturally I have recommended it to all who would listen." Marilyn

Amenities: A table for two in the Pool Room (main restaurant), with its open kitchen and lots of action, is THE favorite seating of solo diners (primarily out-of-towners, gender-balanced, 75% walk-in — 25% reservation).

Another fun and far more social option is the Jelly Fish Bar (10 barstools and six tables for two). No reservations are required; parties of all sizes are accommodated. (Steer clear of the balcony. More private, it's perfect for couples.)

Cuisine: Coastal Cuisine, with an emphasis on local farm produce

Neighborhood: One block east of Union Square

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Zuni Cafe — (415) 552-2522; 1658 Market Street, San Francisco, California

Amenities: thanks Beverly Wilson who tells it like it is!

Great solo dining restaurant! I have visited between two and ten times a year for the last fifteen. Here are the reasons why I return:

(1) They actually have two tables for one, both well-placed, i.e. not smack in the middle of the room OR next to the kitchen door. Those tables for one greatly improve your chances of getting a reservation!

(2) I've always found the servers to be attentive and friendly without being intrusive. This is very nice when you're dining solo.

(3) I like to read while I eat at a leisurely pace. This feels fine at Zuni, unlike many other good restaurants.

(4) I've never felt like I was being rushed to vacate my table, although the place is always full."

Cuisine: Simple Mediterranean — Southern French and Northern Italian Ingredients

Neighborhood: Civic Center

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