Los Angeles: Mid-Range Dining Is the New Upscale

imageTons of Los Angeles bars and restaurants are running various deals that make light of the economic downturn, and we can get behind that. The cheeky discounts get pretty complicated, too, with algorithms and whatnot utilized in the name of savings: Luau and Il Sole now price their drinks according to daily changes in the Dow. It’s mathy. But a good number of chefs who traditionally do upscale are opening mid-range restaurants, changing their existing restaurants, or joining up with less expensive venues. That is to say, they’re making some permanent changes pretty much independent of the economy. Mid-range is hip, y’all.

All’Angelo, upscale since day one, has transformed from ristorante to trattoria. That just means cheaper food and no tablecloths. Could be worse. Wunderkind Andre Guerrero has turned his classic, fusiontastic Max into a bistro with beer. In this he’s much like Govind Armstrong, who has done fine dining in the past, but with 8 oz. is venturing into burgers and beers — with fancy ingredients, of course. Guerrero’s also signed on with the upcoming Boho, the new pizza/sandwich place soon to be appearing next to the Arclight theaters. And best of all, Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide, is now head chef at Church & State, turning out the same quality food for about $100 less per plate. And he’s still gonna blow your culinary mind. The man makes tasty food. That’s the combo more restaurants are adopting: fine-dining chefs cooking good-quality nosh for the masses. It’s almost as if — gasp! — they want people to eat their food.

Los Angeles: Top 10 Burgers

image1. Irv’s Burgers (West Hollywood) – Juicy, fantastic burgers since 1958, responsible for Rowlands and Cassavetes’ nourishment. 2. Tommy’s (Echo Park) – Open 24 hours, long line goes fast with occasional flashes of high-speed chasing and ghetto bird sightings along the Blvd. 3. Father’s Office (Santa Monica) – Award-winning gourmet burgers and microbrews in a crowded cubicle of wood and way too much inhumanity.

4. Pete’s Café and Bar (Downtown) – Watch City Hall heavyweights power-munch on sublime Helman burgers with bleu-cheese fries. 5. 25 Degrees (Hollywood) – Like Arnold’s Diner given a Rat Pack makeover, with fancy clientele casting Fonzie the evil eye. 6. Apple Pan (Westwood) – Possibly as old as the men serving hickory burgers or slightly different Apple Pan burgers to the gathering of Westside school kids, families, and faraway fans. 7. The Counter (Santa Monica) – Liberating and fantastic build-your-own-burger from veggie to Ferdinand. 8. 8 oz (Hollywood) – The atmosphere’s chill, the burgers fancy, the drinks and dessert equally fun. 9. Lucky Devil’s (Hollywood) – Crank up the Stones, cuz we run out of sympathy when Diet Coke ad-man Lucky Vanous charges $16 for his “kobe” beef burger, when sides are the thing to get. 10. The Oinkster (Eagle Rock/Eastside) – Upscale burgers, fries, and shakes in a roadside, Americana-plus setting.

Short Stack: Openings

New York

PetalBelle: The team behind Lombardi’s opens a charming Soho shop specializing in Belgian Liege waffles.

Botanica: New Red Hook bar serves up classic cocktails and, for beer snobs, a 25-ounce brew for $35.

Whiskey Tavern: New Chinatown bar — a re-incarnation of the former Baxter Pub – boasts cheap beer, an outdoor garden, and a bar menu which includes Hostess cupcakes.

Williamsburger: Despite its cheesy mantra (“beefing up hipsters”), this new burger joint promises to be a welcome addition to Williamsburg.

Los Angeles

8 oz.: Celebrity chef Govind Armstrong transforms his former restaurant, Table 8, into an upscale burger bar.

Panini Cafe: This local chain, serving casual Italian fare, recently opened its newest location in South Park.

Suede Bar & Lounge: A chic new lounge is open at the Westin Bonaventure in the Financial District.