I *love* flying into LAX. You’d think the warm sun, sandy shores, or palm-lined streets would be first on my Los Angeles menu. But, really, these things are a bonus; my dessert, per se. For me, the mouth-watering main course is the food-factor. I’m addicted to L.A.‘s food scene, to the point of salivating before my flight even touches down. While City of Angels is always aflutter over new, it restaurants, here are the local cafes I keep biting into, visit after heavenly visit.

Venice

Gjelina is always my first stop out of the gate. It’s become my LA tradition. Once I get my rental car, I peel out of the parking lot with pizza on my mind. Just 10 minutes away in Venice, this corner, neighborhood eatery serves up savory and sweet eats in side-by-side take away and sit-down spaces. Unless you go at an off-peak time like 3 p.m., you’ll likely encounter a line. Take heart; the wait is worth it for the pomodoro crudo pizza and tuscan kale salad alone. Eating it atop brick floors at the French Country-industrial bar is the icing on the cake. And while you’re in the area stop by Intelligentsia Coffee, a lab-like ode to the art and science of brewing good joe.

Gjelina Take Away

DowntownIn case it’s been a while since your last visit to L.A., downtown is more of an entertainment and food hotspot than a collection of skyscrapers. Case in point: My go-to resto-bar-patisserie-market, Bottega Louie. Filled with Parisian bistro tables and enough macarons to cover the Eiffel Tower, the white marble-clad space is so Euro-beautiful, I’m content just to sit here for hours. Open from dawn until dusk, the pastries and treats are so gorgeous you’ll feel bad biting in. You can also order a full score of Italian staples (pasta, pizza, etx.), but I live more by the “eat dessert first” motto.

Arts District

Planted between warehouses, lofts, and factories, Handsome Coffee is a minimalist espresso emporium worthy of its buzz. Hard-core about coffee, the mustache-adorned brew-ristas only serve three beverages: espresso, espresso with milk, and coffee. No sugar, no soy, no foam, no decaf, no extras. On weekend mornings and weekday afternoons, get a heaping cup ‘o fun when the Egg Slut Truck stops by with a dose of protein. This famous food truck has a naughty name but fabulous food. I suggest breakfast by mason jar: whipped potatoes and a coddled egg showered in course salt and chives. Dunk a crisped piece of bread for maximum effect (and taste).

Egg Slut Truck

Silver Lake

A few years ago my friend implored me to visit LAMILL Coffee. Bless her heart. Situated in a cool stretch of clothing and houseware shops amid hills of homes in LA’s buzzy Silver Lake, LAMILL is so much more than their artisan coffee – which can be extracted for you one of seven ways. Do yourself a foodie favor and order dessert for breakfast: Crumble a Valrhona chocolate cookie into a Madagascar vanilla latte and chase it with an egg, bacon, and gruyere breakfast sandwich, and a side of the cafe’s famed warm brioche donuts.

Viewfinder Tip: Juicing is a huge craze in L.A. right now; be sure to sample as many fresh concoctions as you can.

At this point, you might be counting calories. Don’t. You can always work it off hiking in the Hollywood Hills or running along Malibu’s beach (I’ve done both).

Stay

While gastro-jaunting through L.A,. you’ll need a bed to rest your belly. One-upping a standard-issue hotel room, I recommend the urban pied-a-terre, the Palihouse, for three reasons. First, it’s centrally located, allowing for max munchability. Second, it’s an all-suite hotel, so if you need to take an eating break, you can store some green-hued health juices in the fridge. Third, it’s hip, like the cafes I’ve chosen. You’re welcome.

 

What cities exemplify the notion of, “come hungry, leave happy,” to you?