Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential LA Restaurants, 2005-2011

Providence restaurant, LA : tuna

[pictured: tuna from Providence, an Essential LA Restaurant “All-Star,” listed every year since 2005]

A spreadsheet of all the restaurants by year is embedded in the bottom of this post. Scroll down!

Every year when the LA Weekly publishes The 99 (wait, which 99? there is no other 99), I schedule a Date Night.


Jonathan Gold.

A bottle – or *ahem* three – of sparkling wine, in bed for a little bit of…noneofyourbusiness.

Ok, so it’s a date night with myself, but this is my blog and I can spin my little fantasy however I want.

I settle into the giant, fluffy folds of my bed, grab my multi-color set of ultra-fine point Sharpies with ad-hoc-ly matched mini post-its and listgeek-out that are beyond inappropriate and, in some counties, might be considered suspicious or even illegal.

Jonathan Gold’s (mostly) annual list of 99 Essential Restaurants is a set of data to me. And a current list combined with previous years’ lists? It is data over time. I can hardly contain myself when I think about it. I count, I record, I double-back and marvel at the stupid things I’ve figured out that are totally irrelevant to the point of the list, but are fascinating enough to me waste my time doing it. Like, wow, there are 22 restaurants that have been listed every year since JGold started compiling these lists!

Wow, there are 28 restaurants on the list that weren’t there the year before in 2010!

Wow, five of those 28 were actually on the list in years previously, but not 2010!

Wow, Who. Fucking. Cares?

Probably no one but me. And this year (last night, in fact), I have out-listgeeked myself by consolidating everything I have into a single spreadsheet. The spreadsheet tracks every restaurant listed in any version of a “99 ___ ” by JGold, in which years, and cross-referenced with that other list, the 99 Things to Eat Before You Die. I have no idea why this would be important to anyone but me, but whatever. If I die tomorrow, at least I will have made my one big contribution to the world!

That no one will ever look at again.

Maybe I need a new hobby. Or therapy.

Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential LA Restaurants, 2005 – 2011

Here is how to read this mess of a spreadsheet (if you’re so inclined).

Restaurants Listed down the Side

Restaurants are listed alphabetically down the side, and includes all restaurants that have appeared on any “99” list in any year, including the list of 99 Things to Eat in LA Before You Die. This means that there are some restaurants that have never been an Essential restaurant, but do have some food that you’ve got to eat, e.g. Kiyokawa has never been an essential restaurant, but it is on this spreadsheet because its sashimi is something you should eat. Soon. Because you never know when you’re going to go.

Ok! So that’s not morbid or anything. Shut up, Sarah.

Years and Other Stuff Across the Top of the Spreadsheet

Years 2005 through 2011 across the top. If the restaurant was “essential” that year, it has that year’s number in the column. Ignore the “TDL” column; that’s just a note to myself that I’ve eaten there. “EBYD” is “Eat Before You Die.” A restaurant’s dish is listed there. If you only want to see 2011’s list, use the filters at the top of the “11” column and only “show 11.”

Essential Evolution

This year, 28 restaurants fell off the list to make room for 28 more. Some, like Beacon and Bistro LQ, were due to natural causes, though I’m sure there is nothing “natural” about a restaurant’s closing, and others were just straight up booted off (and made me laugh because I kind of had to wonder: “What took so long?”).

Of the 28 restaurants added, five of the restaurants had actually made previous appearances, but not in 2010, so they were considered “new” from the prior year. Lots of the newly listed restaurants are also actually new, doors open for the first time in 2011. I haven’t counted those yet.

If you scroll all the way down the spreadsheet, there are numbers across the bottom, which are totals. There are 293 restaurants listed over the seven years period, but the numbers don’t always add up to 99 each year. This irreconciliation makes me itch like you wouldn’t believe, but I guess I just have to deal with it or something.

28 LA Restaurants ADDED to JGold’s Essential List

Antojitos Carmen
Attari (prev: 06, 07)
Bottega Louie (prev: 09)
Church & State (prev 09)
Dae Bok
Din Tai Fung
Fab Dogs (prev: 09)
Le Comptoir at Tiara
Mother Dough
Night + Market
Pollo alla Brasa (prev:
Red Medicine
Sea Harbour
Son of a Gun
Spice Table

28 LA Restaurants DROPPED from JGold’s Essential List

Big Mista’s BBQ
Bistro LQ
Chaya Downtown
Flame Persian
Giang Nan
Golden Triangle
Grill on the Alley
Kogi Tacos
Krua Thai
LA Mill
Pho Minh
Square One
Test Kitchen
Tirupathi Bimas
Zelo Gourmet Pizzeria

Essential Restaurant All-Stars

Like I noted above, 22 restaurants have made JGold’s list every year since the list came into existence in 2005. I wonder about some of these, but I will wonder them to myself because my Mama always told me if I have nothing nice to say, don’t say it anything but a private message.

Ok, so I will take this ONE and ONLY opportunity to delicately express my opinion about Campanile, whose food, the last few times I’ve gone, has, for lack of a more fitting word, sucked. (What? That wasn’t delicate?) However, I am not saying it sucked just because it sucked. I am saying “it sucked” in the most loving, constructively critical way possible to a restaurant that I love and have associated with LA since the first time I dined there, which might have been within the first month of my moving here after college, and that was a long-ass time ago.

Campanile, please get you shit together. You’ve been doing it for like, 20 years or something. You can do this. I want to come back and sit down in the dining room courtyard and love it. I want to have a place that has an LA vibe that makes it ok for me to wear a leather halter and 6″ stilettos on a date, or a Laura Ashley on the Prairie dress for dinner with my parents. I want tablecloths and Emily Post flatware settings and big, fluffy, expensive centerpieces and personal space and 42 servers per table.

Then again, maybe I just need to get over it and move on. To community tables and taco trucks.


JGold’s Essential “All-Stars”

Angeli Caffe
Angelini Osteria
Border Grill
Casa Bianca
Chichen Itza
Euro Pane
Hungry Cat
Meals by Genet
Musso & Frank
Sapp Coffee Shop
Tacos Baja Ensenada

A few notes on this spreadsheet

  • It is public and shareable, and available for download directly from here: Feel free to share the link, download the spreadsheet and share the info. Credit to me for the tedious task of typing this all in would be nice, but you don’t have. I’ve worked in corporate before. I’m used to people’s snatching credit for work I’ve done.
  • It might have errors because I’m not perfect (despite the rumors). If you notice anything that’s missing, inaccurate, etc. just let me know. I’ll fix it. (Thanks for the help, Aaron!)
  • If you scroll to the right, other information like address, telephone, hours, are listed, but not for everything. That’s what yelp is for (!)
  • I am currently working on cross-referencing this spreadsheet with a list of LA Restaurant CORKAGE FEES, which I started a few years ago, but haven’t updated since 2009. If you have info (or want to help), hit me on email or in the comments :)

I’m not sharing my “deck” of pie and bar charts that illustrate the percentage breakdowns by cuisine, geographic location, price points, and parking situations. Graphed over time. A girl’s gotta have some dignity, you know. And thank god the LAWeekly already googlemapped it.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim November 10, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I think if you use the embed from gdocs itself it should embed with a link to the spreadsheet for the rest of us :)


2 Sarah J. Gim November 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm

the spreadsheet is embedded directly from googledocs, so … i wonder where the link would be on it? it’s ok, i don’t mind sending it manually :)


3 Without Bacon November 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

Love your blog, and reading about all that you eat.  I’m on the other coast, doing something similar on my blog, , reviewing high end restaurants in New York City.  My niche is that I focus on the vegetarian options at highly rated places like Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, etc.  I thought you (and your readers) might find my blog interesting — would love any comments/feedback, or if you even saw fit to mention in one of your blog posts!


4 Geoff November 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Very nice work!  Note that the following are closed:

Pho Minh (closed Nov 2010)
Max (closed Aug 2009)
New Concept (closed 2007)
Tre Venezie (closed Oct 2011)
Uzbekistan (closed 2008)


5 Sarah J. Gim November 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm

thank you, geoff! and you know the month and year on some of these restaurants closings? i love that! made the edits…


6 JustSomeGuy November 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

8 oz. Burger Bar and Beechwood are also closed.


7 Natalie James November 14, 2011 at 12:27 am

I am super impressed and glad someone else did all the work I had been thinking about. You totally RULE!


8 Bigmista November 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Dang! I wonder what we have to do to get back on?


9 MidwestLAgirl November 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Oh my. This is the most amazing thing ever. I thought the map was good, but this is a whole ‘nother level of good. Definitely going to share on Thank you!


10 Josh K-sky November 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Just yesterday I was wondering if anyone had kept a list of changes in the 99. And today I found this. Thank you for doing this. You have done an awesome thing, from which I will infer that you are an awesome person.


11 jraltadena November 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Angels are not only in heaven!  I can now replace my own, much cruder, version that was stolen along with a laptop.  It was the one thing I missed more than all of my work and financial documents. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Comforting to know someone else does this too. 


12 PatGuy November 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Can you please send me a link to the spreadsheet? I can’t find the one you can download. Thanks! This is wonderful!!


13 Sarah J. Gim November 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm

hey patguy! sure! just email me and i’ll send you the link! the email address is spelled out in the post :)


14 Joe MacLeod November 17, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Hello, killer chart! The ref here: “Every year when the LA Weekly publishes The 99” is missing the colon after “http” so it’s not linking. Cheers.


15 Sarah J. Gim November 18, 2011 at 12:17 am

joe! thank you for the heads up! not sure how that broken link happened…for some reason, the html doesn’t show it, so when i finally looked at the visual editor, it showed the error. made the correction! thanks again!


16 Anonymous November 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I wonder why Urasawa hasn’t been on the list for the past two years. 


17 Jessica November 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Awesome points awarded to you, Sarah, for consolidating all this info and actually making a
spreadsheet fascinating. This effort makes the
neighborhood index of ‘Counter Intelligence’ I made back in 2000 seem beyond


18 jgold November 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I am just generally in awe. Hats off, Ms. Gim.

(And Jessica: I was equally awed by what you did for Counter Intelligence a decade ago – the biggest complaint about the book was its (wholly intentional) lack of a neighborhood index, and I must have given the URL to almost a thousand people.)


19 iLyma November 21, 2011 at 12:31 am

You deserve your own Pulitzer.


20 L. Lopez November 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Here is the link for anyone interested in saving as Excel spreadsheet:

Right below the title, “Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential LA Restaurants”

Click on File > Download As > Excel


21 danyul November 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thanks so much for this!  I’d appreciate a copy.


22 Sarah J. Gim November 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

email me for the link!


23 Stumbleandleap November 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

This makes my nerd heart and my foodie heart go wild with joy. I don’t even know you and I want to give you a huge hug. Amazing. Thank you.


24 Joyce January 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

What the hell, this is amazing.


25 Sydney Nichols May 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm

This is amazing. I’m working my way through the 2011 list, and writing a blog about it, Eating the 99. But really, that is nothing. This is awesome!


26 Sarah J. Gim May 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Sydney: the direct link to the downloadable spreadsheet is in the NOTES section at the bottom of the post!


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