Los Angeles

It’s a movable feast on so many of levels. A city that attracts immigrants, transients and Hollywood-hopefuls who move in, move around, move out or stay, depending on how fate is served to them. It’s a movable feast of traffic jams and a sprawling spaghetti tangle of highway hassle that stretches over mountains, through canyons and along the ocean, constantly moving people from A to B. Most importantly, it’s an actual movable feast, a culinary party propelled as much by cutting-edge gastronomy, as by squeaky-clean health trends, ethnic cuisines and food truck experimentation.

Sure, Los Angeles didn’t invent the food truck craze, “lonchero” catering trucks and chuck wagons have been around for ages, the film industry’s on-location craft services made them ubiquitous, but it was here that America’s roving kitchen trend really took off. Roy Choi, aided by the nascent phenomenon of Twitter, careened onto the scene with his Kogi BBQ-mobile, spurting out his location in 140 characters and luring gastromads to a Korean-Mexican cloverleaf junction; kimchi quesadillas and short rib burritos were radical in 2008. Before you knew it there was a whole newfangled food truck fiesta going on in Downtown, or DTLA, as we know it.

“LA is 72 suburbs in search of a city”, scoffed Dorothy Parker. We couldn’t be more grateful, as it’s created a chopped salad of ethnic enclaves; Teherangeles, Koreatown, Little Armenia and many others make this a vortex of colorful cuisines as well as a breeding ground for cross-pollinated eating. Second generation immigrant-chefs are mining their heritages and stuffing mom’s pork buns with California sunshine.

Surprisingly, getting a reservation at that new, hyped dining counter that only seats twelve is a breeze here compared to other cities where you have to plan your culinary outings far in advance and pray to the Resy Gods for a seat. It’s not that Angelenos are less interested, it has more to do with the vastness of the city, there seem to be fewer people per square mile vying for said seat.

Also unique to LA: strip mall dining, aka palate parkour. At the intersection of ghetto and gastronomy you’ll find intriguingly innovative eateries and classic, neon-lit haunts that are tucked between sagging muffler shops and dubious massage parlors. But be advised, they close early, most of them by 10 pm, late night gluttony is not the modus operandi of this health-conscious town. Instead, the City of [early riser] Angels likes to eat out for breakfast; hearty, wholesome meals to start the day much like we’re guessing Tallulah Bankhead never did.

But don’t think that Tinseltown has turned full-on kale juice-righteous, it’s still precisely as decadent as it always was. It’s a movable feast of full-flavored entertainment, albeit one that is just a bit more free-range and grass-fed these days.

12forward by White Guide lists 12 eateries in each chosen city that represent the very forefront of gastronomy.