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Dec 13, 2009 03:25 PM

RESULTS: Ultimate Los Angeles Restaurants 2009: The Top 25 [Post #1 of 2]

This year, by the barest of margins, pastrami trumped lobster and Macarthur Park trumped Melrose.

For the eighth year, Los Angeles Chowhounders have expressed their opinions about what constitutes “the ultimate Los Angeles restaurant”, following the dictum established by the poll’s founder, Mr. Grub: "The concept is simple: everyone is asked to list, in rank order, your five top restaurants in Los Angeles County that you would recommend to houndly out-of-town visitors or to Chowfriends for a special occasion. Since we worship at the altar of deliciousness, your ranking should be based 75% on food and 25% on everything else."

For the last three years, the world-class seafood emporium Providence has owned the top spot in the Los Angeles Ultimate Chowhound. Last year, for the first time I ran two polls, one for restaurants in the category of over $25 per person for food, and the other in the category of $25 or less for food. Langer’s, home to what even the most chauvinist New York deli partisans will concede is the best pastrami sandwich in the U.S., received no votes in the 2007 poll. Last year, it rocketed to second place. This year, Langer’s has beat Providence by two points.

Partisans of Michael Cimarusti and his shrine to piscine glory have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of; the point difference is so tiny as to constitute a virtual tie. But consider that a restaurant in a questionable part of town that closes at 4 pm and on Sundays can be considered by Chowhounders in the same company as a Michelin-two-star emporium on Melrose. The result points to the depth and breadth of Chowhounders’ tastes, and demonstrates why Chowhounders are eager to participate in this site and this poll.

Chowhounders increased their participation by 26% over last year (due probably in part to a longer voting period as well as a larger base):

2009: 100 total voters, 343 restaurants

2008: 79 total voters, 300 restaurants

2007: 76 voters, 135 restaurants

2006: 95 voters, 147 restaurants

2005: 104 voters, 214 restaurants

Voters were asked to vote for up to ten restaurants, five in each of two categories. Their first-place choices got points equal to the number of restaurants they voted for; second-place got one vote less, and so forth. So, those who voted for five restaurants gave five points for their first choice, four for their second, three for their third, two for their fourth and one for their fifth choice.


Voting in the Over $25 poll: 94
Voting in the $25 and Under poll: 96

Total voters: 100


Restaurants cited - Over $25 poll: 122
Restaurants cited - $25 and Under poll: 221

Total restaurants cited: 343, including the 12 that were cited in both polls


THE TOP 25 OVERALL (both polls):

For the rankings below, the number immediately after the colon is the total points, the first number in square brackets is the total voters, and the number after the slash is the total voters, if any, who gave it five points. The numbers in curly brackets are the 2008 overall rankings, if any. So for example, Langer's received 120 points from 32 voters, of whom 16 gave it five points.

And here, without further ado …

1. Langer's Deli: 120 [32/16] {2
}2. Providence: 118 [31/12] {1}
3. The Bazaar by José Andrés: 83 [23/8] {81}
4. Pizzeria Mozza: 75 [29/4] {3}
5. Spago: 68 [23/3] {5}
6. Church & State: 68 [20/4] NEW
7. Urasawa: 63 [15/11] {4}
8. Animal: 56 [18/5] {41}
9. Jitlada: 56 [17/4] {6}
10. Osteria Mozza: 51 [17/3] {8}
11. Bay Cities Deli: 49 [15/1] {9}
12. Melisse: 49 [14/6] {9}
13. Umami Burger: 47 [14/5] NEW
14. Mariscos Chente: 44 [16/2] NEW
15. Father’s Office: 42 [13/3] {9}
16. Lucques: 36 [12/3] {30}
17. Gjelina: 34 [11/3] {252}
18. Santouka Ramen: 31 [10/3] {17}
19. Park's BBQ: 28 [9/2] {72}
20. Mastro's Steakhouse: 27 [9/2] {29}
21. Westside Tavern: 27 [7/1] NEW
22. Phillippe The French Dip: 25 [9/1] {39}
23. Jar: 24 [8/2] {37}
____Torihei: 24 [8/2] NEW
25. AOC: 21 [6/2] {15}

Of the top 25 restaurants, thirteen were cited in the Over $25 poll, seven in the $25 and Under poll, and five in both polls. (There was some controversy as to the over-vs-under ranking of places such as Park’s BBQ, that just barely made it into the over-$25 after being a $25-and-under last year. A majority of the places that get votes in both polls are sushi bars, izakayas and dim sum palaces, where checks can vary widely by the a-la-carte nature of the menu and the customer’s hunger.)

Twelve restaurants are new to the Top 25 from last year. The Bazaar by José Andrés (to cite its full name) had just opened last year, and this year rocketed from #81 place to #3. Gjelina wins for the biggest improvement (from #252 to #17). Other improvements in overall rankings include Animal (up from #41 to #8) and Park’s BBQ (from #72 to #19).

The top-ranked newly-opened restaurant is Church and State; Umami Burger, Mariscos Chente, Westside Tavern and Torihei are the other newbies in the Top 25. The most precipitate declines from the 2008 overalls are Craft which went from #7 last year to only one vote this year, and last year’s #19 Comme Ça which received no votes. Clementine went from #17 to #91 and Sona went from #13 to #40. I can’t stress too strongly that these declines can be attributed at least as much to sampling variance than to any decline in restaurant quality.

I could be wrong about this, but I saw no RIP votes for restaurants that closed since the last poll (excepting Hatfield’s which will re-open very soon.) I disallowed a vote for Doughboys since it had closed before the 2008 poll.


I will separately post the complete over-$25 and $25-and-under results and link them as a comment to this post.

Orange County restaurant fans, please don’t forget to participate in OCAnn’s 2009 Ultimate OC Restaurants Poll, which will be soliciting your votes until the end of the year:

Thank you all for your participation and support. Life permitting, I look forward to counting your votes again next year!

8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Father's Office
1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Park's BBQ
955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Pizzeria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

5955 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Urasawa Restaurant
218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Jar Restaurant
8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

Langer's Delicatessen
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

Mastro's Steakhouse
246 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Melisse Restaurant
1104 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

Bay Cities Italian Deli
1517 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Santouka Ramen
21515 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501

8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

Father's Office
3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034

435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Mariscos Chente
10020 Inglewood Ave, Lennox, CA 90304

Mariscos Chente
4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

The Bazaar by José Andrés
465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048

Umami Burger
850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Church & State
1850 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

Westside Tavern
10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Mastro's Steakhouse
633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Umami Burger
4655 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

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  1. Here are the complete results in the over-$25 and $25-and-under categories:

    1 Reply
    1. re: maxzook

      Very interesting. Thanks for putting it together.

    2. Max, thanks for doing a hell of a lot of work. But please know that it was worth it to me. When I think of these results compared with those of certain guide books and magazines, there's really no comparison. This is legitimate. For a variety of reasons I'm not sure I can really articulate, I find the under $25 category the more meaningful. This is not meant to slight the Overs. I just get the sense the votes for the Unders are more informed by more visits to the restaurants generally. Is there anything we learned this year that could lead to further refinements of the poll? If staff were available, could there be a continuous "poll" updated daily and at the top of the board? Should there be 3 categories? Maybe one for $100 and over? Or maybe one for $10 and under? Should there be a category for wine bars and restaurants that respect wine? Play on. Again, thanks.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mc michael

        And thank you for your support.

        Mr. Grub used to suggest that you shouldn't vote for a restaurant unless you'd been there at least three times in the previous year. Given the state of the economy I wonder what that would do to Providence and Urasawa's point totals ... heck, I wonder what it would do to Langer's points given its location and hours.

        I should stress that I am strictly a volunteer and that this poll is not an official or sanctioned function of Chowhound or CBS Interactive. I'm not sure the CH Powers That Be would be interested in making it official and devoting staff to it. I don't want to put words in their mouths, but they might see an Official CH Poll as scaring off potential advertisers.

        Since one of my duties is to look up obscure entries to make sure they're in LA County, this year I toyed with the idea of posting a Zagat-style list of the Top 5 choices sorted by categories, cuisines and geographical areas. But I simply ran out of time.

        1. re: maxzook

          Dude, you did a lot. Take the night off.

          1. re: mc michael

            More like the next 11 months off ;)

          2. re: maxzook

            This is really great. Thanks so much Max, I can't wait to see what it looks like next year. :)

        2. No time to rest, Max. We need to prepare to "collect data" for the 2010 list.

          1 Reply
          1. re: badvlad

            Maybe next year I'll just ask the Huffington Post to do it for me:


          2. OK, most would agree Langer's is a one dish place (the Pastrami).

            Does a Langer's pastrami make your top 10 dishes in LA? Your top 25?

            1 Reply
            1. re: declan

              That might actually be a more meaningful poll ... "The Ultimate Los Angeles Dishes of 2010"

            2. I wish I had known about this poll. I would have voted Taco Zone taco truck (Alvarado north of Sunset) as the best under-$25 food joint in L.A. You just cannot beat their carne asada. Don't even try.

              Spitz, Jitlada, Crown of India, Grub and Garage Pizza would also have made my list.