I once had a friend in Paris who assiduously followed neighborhood bistros' plats du jour (daily specials) around town. And when I first moved into the arrondissement, he presented me with a scribbled crib sheet of his favorite dishes, which night they were served and, most important, where. For someone very much on a budget, it was a wonderful gift. In Los Angeles, a number of restaurants have a schedule of plates of the day. Sometimes it's printed. Sometimes it's scrawled on a blackboard. And since many of them are real bargains, it's worth making your own chart of dishes and restaurants. If it's Friday, it's stinco (roasted veal shank) at Angelini Osteria, short-rib mole tacos at BLD or whole roasted fish at Comme Ça.
BLD Short for breakfast, lunch and dinner, BLD draws a hungry crowd for Neal Fraser's straight-ahead American breakfast and lunch. I'm there for ricotta blueberry pancakes or three-bean huevos rancheros. At dinner, though, Fraser offers well-priced daily specials, just $15 on weeknights. Mondays, come in for house-smoked brisket, Tuesdays for country fried chicken, Fridays for short-rib mole tacos. Thursdays, it's tweet-a-dish — when fans tweet in a suggestion and Fraser picks one as that night's special. Last week it was fried catfish and cheesy Anson Mills grits.
7450 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 930-9744, http://www.bldrestaurant.com. Plats du jour, $15 weeknights only.
Wilshire Restaurant Nyesha Arrington (ex-Caché and "Top Chef" Season 9 contestant) at Wilshire re-introduced the Daily White Plate Dinner at the bar last week. In the midst of this glorious — what to call it? Indian winter? — nab a seat at the bar in the back garden. Just $16 buys you one of Arrington's favorite casual dishes, including a beer, glass of red or white, or the daily cocktail. Mondays, twirl carbonara pasta with bacon and pea tendrils on your fork. Tuesdays, it's chef de cuisine Sal Garcia's tacos with salsa verde and crisp plantain chips; Wednesdays, it's fried chicken; Thursdays, duck confit pot pie (mark that one down) and on Fridays, moules frites — that's steamed mussels in spicy tomato sauce with Kennebec fries.
2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 586-1707, wilshirerestaurant.com. White Plate Special, Monday through Friday, $16.
Pizzeria Mozza Newport Beach At the new Mozza, few diners make it past the antipasti and pizza selections. But on a third or fourth visit, say, you might want to check out the piatto del giorno — dish of the day, especially on Monday for a classic eggplant Parmigiana or on Tuesday for crispy duck leg (basically confit) with earthy Umbrian lentils. I appreciate the mix of dishes, including Wednesday's baccalá (salt cod) baked with chickpeas, tomato and rosemary, and Friday's lamb stracotto (basically a stew) with golden polenta and salsa verde, or, on Sunday night, a luxurious lasagne baked in the wood-burning oven. Don't forget an anchovy-dressed insalata tricolore to start things off. And, oh, maybe a pizza with stinging nettles and Gentile salame.
800 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, (949) 945-1126, http://www.pizzeriamozza.com. Piatto del giorno, $18 to $26.
Comme Ça David Myers' West Hollywood bistro gets a suitably chic design and industry crowd, especially at lunch, when the Comme Ça burger is the big draw, closely followed by a manly quiche. At dinner, you can look forward to daily specials. Stumped about what to eat on Monday? Chef Kuniko Yagi proposes a whole roast chicken. Why not? Tuesdays, it's braised short rib, duck breast on Wednesday. Stop in for lamb steak on Thursdays and reserve for whole roasted fish to celebrate Friday. Saturday brings a heritage pork chop, and Sunday splurge on a huge prime bone-in New York strip, one that the late restaurant PR maven Joan Luther would thoroughly appreciate.
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 782-1104, http://www.commecarestaurant.com. Plats du jour, most $28, Sunday's New York strip, $55.
Angelini Osteria On Fridays, when the waiter sails toward a table bearing a wooden platter with the piatto del giorno, a giant stinco — veal shank roasted in the wood-burning oven — all eyes are riveted as he carves the meat tableside and lays vegetables alongside. On Wednesdays chef-owner Gino Angelini makes Roman-style oxtail alla vaccinara, braised in red wine and tomatoes. And on Saturdays, it's a massive porchetta, leg of pork stuffed with herbs and roasted in the oven, and, of course, carved tableside with all the drama the Italian waiters can muster. And if I'm ever feeling peckish for fegato alla Veneziana — calves' liver with onions — on Thursdays, the long-running and beloved Angelini Osteria is the place.
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 297-0070, http://www.angeliniosteria.com. Piatto del giorno (weekly specials), $20 to $34.