The best time to partake in our city’s most excellent culinary scene is all the time, but the even better best time is this May, when the month-long LA Food Bowl will see almost two hundred special events pop up all over the city to tantalize your taste buds. With happenings like special tasting menus, walking tours, food-related film screenings, cookbook signings, fundraising events, and so much more, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in the culinary color L.A. has to offer. Here are our top picks, and note that it’s best to get tickets ahead of time, as events do sell out.
L.A. Times Food Bowl Presents: Mesamérica L.A. & DFiesta
To kick off a month packed full of food events around Los Angeles, famed Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera brings his celebrated symposium to downtown’s Million Dollar Theater and Grand Central Market. The program explores the culinary and cultural interconnectedness of Mexico and L.A. through art, architecture, and tacos. After talks, video, and song in the theater, the market opens for the celebration, featuring chef collaborations, roving mariachi bands, and more. Tickets are $35 for Mesamérica or $85 for both the talks and DFiesta. Tuesday, April 30; Million Dollar Theater, 307 South Broadway; 6–11:30 p.m
Cocktails and Canapés at 71Above
The views at 71Above are some of the best in town, stretching from the mountains to the ocean, and a seat at the cocktail bar means you’re not relegated to a full tasting menu in the dining room. Throughout the month of May, new chef Javier Lopez is offering a mini tasting with three canapés and one cocktail ($32) for bar patrons to be enjoyed from 6–8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, the perfect time for watching the sun go down. Sundays through Thursdays in May; 71Above, 633 West 5th Street, 71st Floor; 6–8 p.m.
Agave: The Spirit of a Nation Screening + Tequila Tasting
The art of growing and distilling agave has been mastered by generations of families in Mexico so the world can enjoy the smooth and potent taste of tequila and mezcal. This 79-minute documentary takes a deep dive into the cultural legacy that’s instilled in producing the spirits in Jalisco and Oaxaca, following three producers all carrying on their father’s legacy. Enjoy a tasting of tequila and mezcal before the show. Tickets are $25 per person. Thursday, May 2; Arena Cinelounge, 6464 Sunset Boulevard; 6 p.m. tasting + 7:15 p.m. screening
Cinco de Mayo Weekend at Border Grill
Some “holidays” deserve an entire weekend. The downtown restaurant from chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Miliken will have menu specials, like carnitas tacos, ceviche, empanadas, churros, and margaritas all weekend long, plus a special brunch with bottomless mimosas, micheladas, and Bloody Marys during Saturday brunch, and mariachis and DJs on the patio for Sunday brunch. Times and prices vary. Friday, May 3–Sunday, May 5; Border Grill, 445 South Figueroa Street
If there was ever something that deserved a multi-day celebration, it’s champagne. Effervescence features a slew of events, from a walk-around food and bubbly tasting to a grand gala dinner with celebrity chefs Suzanne Tracht, Dominique Crenn, Nancy Silverton, and Dahlia Narvaez at Jar restaurant. There are smaller tastings with renowned champagne houses on Saturday, and a Bubbles and Brunch at Hedley & Bennett downtown on Sunday. Most other events take place at The Line hotel in Koreatown. Tickets range from $125 to $500. Friday, May 3–Sunday, May 5; various locations
Orange You Glad: A Helpful Harvest With Food Forward
Volunteer with Food Forward to harvest citrus from the gorgeous historical orchard in lovely San Marino, home to the Huntington Gardens. Instead of going to waste, all of the fruit will be donated to local hunger-relief agencies. The family-friendly event takes place early, so you can do good and go about your day later. Plus, it’s all outside. The event is free but reserving a spot is recommended. Saturday, May 4.; Huntington Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; 9–11 a.m.
The Peruvian Table at Now Serving
Join chefs Virgilio Martínez (Lima’s Central) and Ricardo Zarate (Rosaline) as they meet up for a casual conversation at the culinary-focused bookshop, Now Serving, in Chinatown. Martinez is known for using local ingredients and cooking practices with modern technique in his native Peru, while Zarate is considered the godfather of Peruvian cuisine in L.A. It will certainly make you hungry—good thing there are a lot of amazing restaurants right there in the Far East Plaza. Saturday, May 4; Now Serving, 727 North Broadway #133; 2–3:30 p.m.
Six-Taste Walking Food Tour of Koreatown
Get a personal tour of one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in L.A. with the Six Taste crew. Starting at Hotel Normandie, you’ll walk within three blocks for tastes of traditional abalone rice porridge, Korean-style black bean noodles, bibimbap and braised stews, Korean BBQ, fried chicken wings and rice cakes, and other street food. The tour lasts about three hours, so wear comfortable shoes. Tickets are $90. Saturday, May 4; departs from Hotel Normandie, 605 Normandie Avenue; 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Taste of the Nation
The annual and very delicious fundraiser for No Kid Hungry, which helps children get the food they need locally and across America, once again takes place at Media Park in Culver City. Culinary stars from Baltaire, Border Grill, Gwen, Jitlada, Salazar, Sweetfin, Tesse, The Bazaar, Valerie, and so many more will serve favorite bites, with beer, wine, and cocktails on hand to keep you cool. Tickets are $115 for adults, $25 for kids between 6-13, and free for the 5 and under set. Saturday, May 4; Media Park, 9091 Culver Boulevard, Culver City; 1–4 p.m.
Roy Choi’s Broken Bread Premiere
Roy Choi has made our city more delicious with his Kogi tacos, Chego rice bowls, ono grinds at A-Frame, hot pots, and more. Now the L.A. son, social activist, restaurateur and chef hosts a new television series, Broken Bread, which debuts on KCET on May 15. Get a sneak peek of the first episode, plus a panel discussion and after party at the historic Wiltern theater in Koreatown. This is a free community event, but reservations are probably a good idea. Sunday, May 5; The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Boulevard; 5:30–8:30 p.m.
Chengdu Street Food Party
The late, great Jonathan Gold appreciated a good bowl of dan dan noodles in the San Gabriel Valley, and Sichuan Impression serves some of the best. For the Food Bowl, the restaurant is having a party in Gold’s honor. The evening includes six different street foods, all served party-style. Drinks are not included, but you’ll need them to cool down. Tickets are $60. Monday, May 6; Sichuan Impression, 1900 West Valley Boulevard, Alhambra; 6–9 p.m.
Pasadena Restaurant Week
During Pasadena Restaurant Week, you’ll enjoy special prix-fixe menus at some of the city’s most popular restaurants. Revisit an old favorite like Celestino Ristorante, spend the day at the Langham Huntington Hotel, or discover a new favorite bone broth at Bone Kettle. There’s lots to choose from. Monday, May 6–Friday, May 10; Pasadena; 7–11 p.m.
L.A. Food Bowl Night Market Opening Night
Here’s one way to kick off the Food Bowl Market: amazing collaborations from the city’s top restaurants, plus culinary superstars from around the world. Chefs from Bavel, Kismet, and Ciya from Istanbul; Shibumi and Spago; Scratch Bar and Ari Taymor; Fiona and Cicatriz from Mexico City; Chengdu Taste; The Bazaar and Otono; and Timothy Hollingsworth and Edras Ochoa. Tickets are $75, and includes all food and drink. Wednesday, May 8; Grand Park, 200 North Grand Avenue; 6–9 p.m.
L.A. Food Bowl Night Market
No worries if you didn’t make it to opening night; you’ve got four more days to make up for it. Each night features dozens of vendors, pop-ups, chef collaborations, chef installations, and live music. Admission is free, but you have to pay for your food and beverages. Don’t miss the special ticketed areas featuring tacos (May 9); fried chicken (May 10); burgers and dumplings, noodles and rice (May 11); and BBQ (May 12). Wednesday, May 8–Sunday, May 12; Grand Park, 200 North Grand Avenue; 5–10 p.m.
Connie & Ted’s Shell-ebration
Michael Cimarusti’s seafood shack-inspired spot in West Hollywood is known for its East Coast specialties, everything from chowder to stuffed clams and chilled seafood towers. This all-out party takes it to the next level with oyster shucking demos, an open raw bar, crab and lobster rolls, ice cream carts, and cotton candy, plus games and prizes. Beer, wine, and soft drinks are included in the ticket price ($95 online, $110 at the door). Tuesday, May 14; Connie & Ted’s, 8171 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood; 5–10 p.m.
Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy Screening + Talk
Go inside the world of the wonderful, vibrant, and feisty Diana Kennedy, the preeminent expert on regional Mexican cooking and author of nearly a dozen groundbreaking cookbooks. This preview screening of the documentary, Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy, includes an in-person conversation with Kennedy herself. Map out where you’ll be getting tacos or carnitas after—you’ll be craving them. Tuesday, May 14; Paley Center, 465 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; 7–10 p.m.
Chihuo China Dinner
Travel through five regions of China without ever having to leave Los Angeles at this exclusive Food Bowl dinner. Restaurants including Chang’an, Chengdu Impression, Chili House, Noodology, and Qin West serve several signature regional dishes to showcase the subtle differences of different Chinese cuisines from Sichuan to Shanghai. Tickets are $99 per person. Sunday, May 19; Onepiece Work, 631 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica; 6:30–9:30 p.m.