We live in a city with endless restaurant offerings and work with a team that's fair to call food-obsessed, so it's only natural that half (or more) of our office conversations eventually find their way back to food—what we're eating, cooking, and craving. Suffice it to say that poring over menus does not feel like a chore to us, and often feels more like a choose-your-own-adventure story. Yet, we recently discovered that there are some menu items each of us can't resist ordering. Sometimes it's a way to test if the chef is talented enough to master a basic burger, and other times, it's simply because it's one of our favorite foods. We thought it would be fun to share some of our team's "can't skip" or "must eat" menu items—and hear yours!
Emily: If there's a Caesar salad on the menu, chances are I'm ordering it. And while I do have an appreciation for gourmet versions - with artisanal croutons and spicy, homemade dressings - I really don't discriminate. I'll just as happily eat a dry, fully-packaged option from an office cafeteria. Other things I rarely pass up: anything with burrata on top, if there's a dessert that takes extra time (i.e. a chocolate lava cake), and I'm a sucker for anything deemed a "signature dish."
Leslie: Because Jonah's mom frequently travels to L.A. for work, one of our favorite traditions is to visit a new restaurant at the end of her work days. As a result, we've amassed an ongoing list of "menu trigger words," or items we know are irresistible to each other. "Oh, I know what [enter name here] is going to order!" is a frequent sentiment when looking over any menu. Over the past few years, some of the trendier words have gone out of style (RIP "farm fresh" anything), but most of my "can't-skip" menu items revolve around adjectives (charred bitter lettuce, seared fish, buttered English peas). And as a rule of thumb, I always order something if I can't imagine what it will look like served. It leads to a motley table, but I can't not know! Maybe that's why Prune in New York is my all-time favorite restaurant—the menu reads like a playground of adjectives and dishes, like "braised lamb tongue," "milk-poached cod," and "warm asparagus salad."
Hannah: It's a running joke in my family that my Mom and I only go to restaurants for the side dishes, and honestly, it's true. The first thing I look at on a menu is always the appetizers and sides, because I just think it's so much more fun to share a few things with your table than to order one entree. (Food FOMO is real.) As a result, my must-order's are all sides: anything with crispy brussels sprouts, cauliflower any style, and french fries, always. Also, I'm not a big chicken wing fan, but I will forever order anything buffalo-flavored. Something about the slightly spicy, buttery sauce makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Marilynn: I prize novelty over almost any other virtue or pursuit so it's common knowledge amongst my close group of friends that I rarely go to the same restaurant twice. The sheer number of restaurants opening everyday in L.A. makes me anxious-excited because it means that even if I try a new restaurant every day until the end of time, I'll never be able to eat at every single one (empirical fact). Which meant it was a little difficult for me to figure out what my go-to menu items are, but I truly never skip three things if it's available: 1) An avocado cocktail - I love avocado on its own and it's never disappointed me when mixed with a spirit because it lends an amazingly creamy texture to said cocktail. 2) Truffle fries - fries (or let's face it, potatoes in any format) make my knees weak but if you throw truffles and parmesan on skinny strings of fried potato, all my willpower vanishes. 3) Butterscotch or salted caramel flavored dessert. Enough said about that one. (P.S. If you're looking to try a great avocado cocktail, head to Tallula's in Santa Monica for their Avo-colado)
Geoffrey: If there's a grilled octopus appetizer, it's an automatic order. I don't recall when I started making this a mandatory thing, but it's a dish that is easy to mess up and hard to perfect, so I use it as a gauge for the entire meal. Artichokes are another go-to, simply because they are kind of a pain to make, so if the restaurant is offering them, I figured they've accepted the hassle and are confident in their skills to create something delicious. This isn't always the case, but usually, the results are great.
We'd love to hear—what are some of your "can't skip" menu items?