13 women-helmed restaurants that push LA’s culinary envelope

A collage of women chefs in LA

Women have been dominating LA’s culinary scene for decades. Two Julia Child Award-winning chefs recognized by a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian, another building on the legacy of her family’s 68-year-old Mexican restaurant, and two sisters flying the flag for their long-beloved Thai destination.

Despite these exemplary leaders in LA, women in the industry are still underrepresented when it comes to some of the top jobs in restaurants, and they tend to earn less on average than their male colleagues. So for Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting 13 women-helmed restaurants that continue to push LA’s culinary scene forward in exciting ways. 

Read on for a full list of pioneers and newcomers making the industry a better place.

Caldo Verde (DTLA)
Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne, chef and restaurateur respectively

Suzanne Goin and Carolyne Styne have made Caldo Verde LA’s go-to destination for refined Portuguese food since its opening in 2021. Photo credit: Caldo Verde

One of the few restaurants in LA spotlighting Portuguese food, Caldo Verde (named after a traditional stew) is where you want to go for a refined Portuguese meal from restaurant vets and longstanding partners Suzanne Goin and Carolyne Styne. James Beard Award-winner Goin turns out elegant spins on classics like piri piri chicken and patatas bravas, all a reflection of her long dedication to Portuguese and Spanish flavors. On March 14, the restaurant is also hosting a dinner with Rose Previte, the owner of DC’s MICHELIN-starred Maydān. Ten percent of the dinner proceeds will go to the nonprofit Re: Her.

Jewel (Silver Lake)
Sharky McGee, chef and owner

Jewel might just be one of the coolest vegan restaurants in the city thanks to dishes like its coconut-meat tacos and Brussels sprouts with housemade gochujang, but its mission makes it really next-level. After years of working in the industry and seeing the food waste at restaurants, chef and owner Sharky McGee wanted to flip the script. Aside from limiting waste at Jewel, which opened in 2018, the restaurant also uplifts other plant-based chefs by hosting pop-ups and has previously donated proceeds from its merchandise to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

All Day Baby (Silver Lake)
Lien Ta, restaurateur

Restaurant Lien Ta ensures her restaurant All Day Baby always hits the comfort food high notes. Photo credit: OpenTable

Restaurateur Lien Ta’s sunny all-day restaurant in Silver Lake hits all the comfort food high notes: There are biscuit sandwiches and hotcakes for breakfast, fried chicken sandwiches for lunch, and meatloaf and double smash burgers for dinner. Take it from the expert: Los Angeles Times critic Bill Addison says of the biscuits that he “can hardly think of a better weekend morning indulgence,” in his most recent 101 Best Restaurants list.   

Ayara Thai (Westchester)
Cathy and Vanda Asapahu, chefs and co-owners

Cathy (left) handles desserts while Vanda is on the savory side

One of the most beloved Thai restaurants in town has been run for decades by the Asapahu family, and the homey vibes have earned it a legion of loyal Angelenos. These days sisters Vanda and Cathy Asapahu are flying the family flag, with Vanda handling the savory side of the menu (think: blue crab fried rice) and Cathy on desserts like Thai tea flan with bitter caramel.

Casa Vega (Sherman Oaks)
Christy Vega, owner

Christy Vega is ensuring the legacy of this James Beard America’s Classics winner endures. Photo credit: Dave Schwep

It’s always a party at this iconic family-run Mexican restaurant in Sherman Oaks, where the margaritas are strong and the portions of lobster enchiladas are large. Christy Vega now runs the rollicking, celebrity favorite spot (Charlize Theron, Sandra Bullock, and Jane Fonda have all eaten here) that her dad Rafael “Ray” Vega opened in 1956. She’s ensuring his legacy endures, one that was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as an America’s Classics winner in 2022. 

Guelaguetza (Koreatown)
Bricia and Paulina Lopez, co-owners

Sisters Bricia (left) and Paulina Lopez are now leading the charge at their family’s restaurant Guelaguetza. Photo credit: Guelaguetza

Big groups love Koreatown’s Guelaguetza for its rich Oaxacan moles, colorful dining room, and live mariachi bands. Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio laid the foundation for this gem in 1993, and today their children Bricia, Paulina, and Fernando Lopez Jr. are making sure it thrives for years to come; the siblings now run a boutique at the restaurant (and online) to sell moles and michelada mixes around the country.

(abeautifullife) Jamaican Kitchen (Little Tokyo and DTLA)
Aja Dawson, owner and chef

The owner of Los Angeles restaurant abeautifullife Jamaican Kitchen standing in a black dress at her restaurant

Big, bold flavors and homestyle Jamaican fare are the draw at this restaurant that does top-notch jerk chicken and oxtail mac and cheese. Owner Aja Dawson is an Angeleno by birth, but blends her Jamaican mother’s love of fusing cuisines into the restaurant’s ever-changing menu.

GASOLINA cafe (Woodland Hills)
Sandra Cordero, chef and owner

Sandra Cordero has won raves for deft skills with Spanish cooking. Photo credit: Stan Lee

Those in search of a taste of Spain need look no further than Gasolina Cafe in Woodland Hills, where a huge list of conservas, Spanish wines, and housemade paellas make every meal feel like an event. Her deft hand with Spanish flavors has made Amsterdam-born chef-owner Sandra Cordero a respected force in Los Angeles restaurants. Cordero keeps going from strength to strength and recently opened Xuntos, a stylish tapas bar in Santa Monica.

Socalo (Santa Monica)
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, co-owners and co-chefs

Socalo is among the newer restaurants in chefs and restaurateurs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s LA restaurant empire. Photo credit: Shilah Montiel

Santa Monica locals flock to Socalo for an excellent taco Tuesday menu and modern Mexican food with fresh, seasonal California influences. It’s the crown jewel in the restaurant empire of Julia Child Award-winning chefs and owners Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, who have opened some of the best Mexican restaurants in the city together over the past 40 years.

Osteria Mozza (Hollywood)
Nancy Silverton, chef and owner

Nancy Silverton
Nancy Silverton always changes the menu at Osteria Mozza but never gets rid of classics. Photo credit: Courtesy Nancy Silverton

Since the mid-2000s, Hollywood’s Osteria Mozza has been known for some of the best handmade pastas in the city and one of the chicest bars as well. Although classic dishes like the beloved orecchiette and sausage never leave the menu, iconic, James Beard Award-winning chef-owner Nancy Silverton constantly tweaks the offerings and personally selects all of the products in the small attached Italian marketplace.

Jar (Hollywood) 
Suzanne Tracht, chef and owner

Famed chef Suzanne Tracht’s Jar has been a Los Angeles staple for decades. Photo credit: Anne Fishbein

Jar has been on the forefront of contemporary American cuisine in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, serving its signature updates on steakhouse food in a modern, supperclub-like dining room in Hollywood. Known for her signature pot roast served with carrots and caramelized onions, chef-owner Suzanne Tracht has been named to countless best-of lists, and has appeared on shows like Top Chef Masters and Hell’s Kitchen to boot. 

Love & Salt (Manhattan Beach)
Sylvie Gabriele, co-owner

Sylvie Gabriele helped her father transform his French restaurant into the beloved Love & Salt 10 years ago. Photo credit: Cara Harman

After a walk on the Manhattan Beach pier, head a couple of blocks up the hill to Love & Salt for excellent seasonal antipasti, wood-fired pizzas, and house-made pastas. Owner Slyvie Gabriele and her father Guy Gabriele transformed his iconic French restaurant Cafe Gabriele into its current iteration as a love letter to Italian food in 2014, and it still doesn’t miss a beat a decade on. Love & Salt is also hosting a Middle Eastern dinner on March 21, 10% percent of proceeds from which will benefit the non-profit Gabriele helped co-found, Re: Her.

Guerrilla Tacos (Arts District)
Brittney Valles, owner

Since it opened in the Arts District in 2012, Guerrilla Tacos has been known for its elevated, chef-driven take on tacos (imagine combos like sweet potatoes with almond and cashew chile or wild boar picadillo with potatoes, peas, and carrots). Since she took the helm in 2020, owner Brittney Valles carries on the restaurant’s legacy of culinary innovation and gives back to the community as a founding member of the women-led nonprofit RE:Her.

Karen Palmer is a pizza- and pasta-obsessed food writer based in Los Angeles. She is the former editorial director of Tasting Table, and her work has appeared in Eater, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and many other publications. Follow her on Instagram at @karenlpalmer.

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