The Eater Information to Eating in Los Angeles
Hollywood, the beaches, the hills, the valleys, and the wide boulevards chock-full of traffic-mired cars — it’s all part of LA’s charming concrete jungle. This urban expanse of light, street art, towering skyscrapers, palm trees, and celebrity mansions plays host to a vibrant restaurant scene — arguably the country’s best. This guide will make it easy to navigate it all.
Los Angeles is anything and everything for the first time visitor. It’s the center of celebrity culture. It’s a mecca for arts, creativity, fashion, and entertainment. And it’s also one of the greatest places to eat in America, not only for its endless varieties of cuisines, but also for its incredible produce and talented chefs and restaurateurs.
For a quintessentially LA day of dining, start with beef birria tacos at Teddy’s in Venice, then venture east to Republique for a relaxing lunch of shakshuka and amazing pastries. Bump over to Historic Filipinotown for creative rice dishes at Porridge & Puffs, or try some fantastic Thai dishes at Noree in Beverly Grove. For dinner, there’s polished steakhouse fare at American Beauty in Venice, elevated Italian cooking at Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza, and understated excellence of Kali along Melrose Avenue. Then, if there’s possibly any room for any more, get some Tijuana-style tacos from Tacos 1986.
Eater has a plethora of maps to guide one through the city’s dining and drinking scene. Here we gather the most useful ones to narrow down the field.
St Honore dessert at Bon Temps
Wonho Frank Lee
Hottest restaurant: Bon Temps does everything from incredible morning pastries to an elegant fine dining-style dinner in Arts District, while Pasjoli in Santa Monica prepares polished French bistro fare just steps from the ocean. Onda is already a difficult table to get in Santa Monica while Yang’s Kitchen is bringing in food lovers from across the city to the SGV. For a full breakdown of LA’s hottest restaurants, mapped out according to location, check out the Eater LA Heatmap.
Essential restaurant: Felix continues to wow Westside crowds with amazing pasta and pizza while Mizlala in Sherman Oaks might be the best bang-for-your-buck creative Mediterranean restaurant in LA. Nightshade continues to deliver the city’s best Asian-inspired food from Eater Young Gun (and Top Chef winner) Mei Lin. Every three months, Eater LA releases the Essential 38, a collection of important restaurants around the city.
Sushi: Sushi Note executes a wonderful omakase with fantastic wine pairings under the direction of chef Kiminobu Saito, while Nozawa Bar is the best sushi splurge in Beverly Hills. For a full map of essential sushi restaurants, check out this map.
Tacos: Tacos 1986 is a white-hot addition to LA’s street taco scene, serving Tijuana-style carne asada and adobada (a regional name for al pastor) from a trompo. They’re set up in Koreatown at 611 South Western Avenue most nights of the week. Teddy’s Red Tacos leads the charge in the stewed beef birria taco rage that’s going all around town. There are numerous taco stands around town and most of them are quite good.
Pizza: Pizzana serves the best Neapolitan-style pizza in Brentwood, while Superfine makes quite possibly the best New York City-style, thin crust pizza from a take out window in Downtown’s Fashion District. For LA’s essential pizzas, check out this map.
Burger: The Apple Pan’s classic burgers represent both history and quality, with Pie N’ Burger coming in a close second. For a great vegan alternative, Monty’s Good Burger draws long lines in Koreatown. Here’s a full listing of both iconic and essential burgers in Los Angeles.
Beer: Hop heads can venture anywhere in the city for locally-made brew, but the focus continues to be on the South Bay, where the likes of Smog City, Monkish, Brouwerij West, and Beachwood brew up some of the best Southern California craft beer. For a great all-around beer bar, it’s hard to beat Father’s Office.
Cocktail Bar: Employees Only in West Hollywood serves as the New York City bar’s West Coast branch, and it excels above the original with a sumptuous interior and well-executed drinks, from the classic to new school. Musso & Frank continues to be the best place for a classic gin martini in Hollywood. Go here for LA’s essential cocktails, and hottest new cocktail spots.
Fine Dining: Auburn is the city’s new shining star when it comes to ambitious fine dining experiences. Somni is another fantastic destination for anyone looking for a truly world-class dining experience, while Hayato’s seven-seat kaiseki counter is one of the toughest reservations in town — for a good reason.
Vegetarian/Vegan: Hasiba serves an excellent array of Middle Eastern sandwiches and light fare in Pico-Robertson (it’s kosher too). Tal Ronnen elevates vegan fare to an art form at his upscale Crossroads restaurant. And over in Silver Lake, Bulan Thai shows how a meat-free menu doesn’t detract from good flavor. For a complete list of LA’s essential vegetarian and vegan restaurants, check out this guide.
Korean: Kobawoo and Seongbukdong serve terrific renditions of traditional Korean food, while Park’s is unquestionably the top destination for tabletop barbecue. For a full guide to Korean barbecue restaurants, check out this map.
Chinese: Joy in Highland Park prepares classic Taiwanese comforts, from spicy shrimp wontons to dan dan noodles to sautéed greens sourced from the owner’s family farm. Sichuan Impression is a delightful second-story find in West LA. And for unabashed flavor and spice, there’s Chengdu Taste for their incredible stir-fried dishes like toothpick lamb.
Japanese: Tsujita makes some of the best ramen in the city, if not the country. They have three various outlets, all along Sawtelle Boulevard: Tsujita Artisan Noodle for hearty Hakata-style bowls; Annex for Jiro-style garlic-bomb ramen bowls; and Killer Noodle for spicy tantanmen. Anyone looking for the best of the best, nab a table at n/naka, a California kaiseki from one of LA’s most talented chefs.
Thai: For standout Thai cuisine, look no further than Night + Market’s three locations (West Hollywood, Venice, and Silver Lake). For something more casual, try the jade noodles at Sapp Coffee Shop in Thai Town. The spicy Southern Thai cuisine at Luv2eat Thai Bistro in Hollywood is also firing on all cylinders at the moment.
Breakfast: SQIRL is ground zero for toasts and grain bowls on the east side of town, while Huckleberry’s more classic American breakfast and pastries in Santa Monica will make anyone swoon. And in Downtown, there’s always the classic Original Pantry Cafe for pancakes and slabs of griddled ham. Here’s a guide to LA’s best breakfast spots.
Brunch: Freedman’s serves a Jewish deli-inspired brunch from bagels and lox to an incredible chocolate babka slice. Republique draws massive lines for brunch, with crowds looking for some of the city’s best pastries and breads.
Steak: American Beauty is a fantastic retro-style steakhouse in Venice while Gwen slices the most impressive Australian wagyu chops in LA. For the most jaw-dropping steak experience, get the massive bistecca alla fiorentina at Chi Spacca.
Coffee: Go Get Em Tiger has successfully redesigned the craft coffee experience, while Paramount Coffee Project does very good espresso — thanks to its variety of roasted beans from around the country. There are a ridiculous number of high-quality coffee shops, so check out this helpful map.
Marinara pizza with anchovies at Ronan
Wonho Frank Lee
Ice Cream: McConnell’s and Sweet Rose Creamery make classic and creative ice cream flavors using California’s bountiful produce.
Donuts: Sidecar Donuts makes some of the best yeast and cake donuts in the city, with fresh fritters coming out hourly. Meanwhile, Trejo’s is preparing some very good artisanal donuts in Hollywood while Donut Friend continues to draw lines in Highland Park.
Classic: Three spots to know about: Dan Tana’s for its epic chicken parmesan, Lawry’s The Prime Rib for its fantastic prime rib dinners, and Cielito Lindo for crispy rolled tacos.
Late Night: Sun Nong Dan in Koreatown serves hearty braised short ribs and soups all night while 101 Coffee Shop offers retro-cool diner fare in Hollywood. For all the best late night dining in LA, check this map.
Los Angeles is big, really big. With 469 square miles, LA dwarfs cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York in size and breadth. Traversing to and from various neighborhoods is an exercise in patience, especially with all the traffic. But rest assured, there is always a delicious payoff at the end. Here is a guide to LA’s 14 best dining neighborhoods, from west to east.
One of Los Angeles’ priciest neighborhoods, Santa Monica is filled with tech money, tourists, and those looking to live close to the water. It’s also a relatively diverse dining area teeming with old school bars, upscale bistros, and beachy cheap eats. First-timers make it a point to hit Italian deli favorite Bay Cities for the iconic Godmother sandwich, while in-the-know types head to Jeremy Fox’s Birdie G’s, which celebrates Midwestern flavors. Dave Beran’s ode to polished French bistro fare, Pasjoli, is already a difficult reservation to nab while Uovo and Colapasta jockey for the Westside’s best casual pasta dishes.
A little bohemian and a touch upscale, Venice boasts an enviable laid back vibe like no other. Abbot Kinney, which is the neighborhood’s main vein, is lined with hip coffee shops, doughnut spots, and jam-packed restaurants. Also find genre-bending baked goods at sister restaurant Gjusta, tailored Italian fare at The Tasting Kitchen, and some of L.A.’s best Cal-Italian food at The Rose. Try Felix for quality Italian on the block, or American Beauty for robust steaks and more. Casual diners can flock over to Teddy’s for incredible beef birria tacos.
With a thriving downtown core surrounded by wide boulevards and kid-friendly side streets, Culver City is a destination for families and those wanting a more central Los Angeles lifestyle. Amacita is Josef Centeno’s new ode to Tex-Mex in Culver City while Kogi Taqueria does affordable Korean-Mexican tacos from Roy Choi. Hatchet Hall makes fantastic Southern fare in a vintage-looking space while Dear John’s celebrates midcentury dining in a tiny, but bustling room. For more, here are the nine best things to eat in Culver City.
With its famous name and recognizable locals, Beverly Hills is a tony destination for tourists looking to score a selfie on Rodeo Drive. Experience the high-end rotating menus at Maude, owned by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, or a comfortable dinner at the timeless Spago. Tuck into some of the city’s best steak at CUT or throw it back to the ‘90s perfection that is Matsuhisa, the Nobu chef’s namesake La Cienega flagship Japanese restaurant. Even more casual diners will find a lot to love, including a killer burger, at Honor Bar, though Michelin-seekers are advised to plan ahead if trying to book a table at the gorgeous Somni.
West Hollywood is often the first place transplants and visitors check out. Go old school at Dan Tana’s after a show at the iconic Troubadour or walk down Santa Monica Boulevard for a fun-filled evening in Boystown, the center of LA’s gay nightlife. Keep the party going at the standalone city’s many club-ish spots like Catch or The Nice Guy, or hit the rooftop at E.P. & L.P. after an extravagant dinner at Sushi Ginza Onodera downstairs. For a nightcap head east to Jones or, across the street, the completely remodeled Formosa Cafe.
Beverly Grove/Fairfax District
This neighborhood is home to beloved LA restaurants like Republique, AOC, and Animal. The corner of Melrose and Highland boasts excellent tasting menu spots Trois Mec and Auburn, as well as a trio of terrific Italian restaurants from Nancy Silverton: Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, and Pizzeria Mozza. On the higher end, San Francisco import Angler is the best place to splurge with grilled seafood and meats. For excellent Korean-inspired comfort fare and beautiful desserts, try Spoon by H. There’s awesome Indian cooking at Badmaash on Fairfax, casual Italian fare at tucked-away Ronan, and Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar does all things sweet over on Melrose.
This mega-touristy district happens to have quite a few culinary finds, especially in Thai Town and and East Hollywood. Start at Musso & Frank for a strong martini, or opt for the meaty Gwen on Sunset instead. Farther east, Thai Town offers excellent, affordable bites from Sapp Coffee Shop and Armenian classics at Carousel, and just to the south it’s all about wine and seafood at Found Oyster, which happens to sit across the street from all-day Brooklyn import Five Leaves, with its already-impossibly-cool bar scene.
Koreatown is a bustling dining corridor in the heart of LA, with hundreds of Korean restaurants, of course, as well as Salvadoran, Oaxacan (like the iconic Guelaguetza), and Bangladeshi eateries. The top Korean barbecue spot is Park’s BBQ, though Soot Bull Jeep remains a charcoal-focused classic. The fare at traditional Korean restaurants like Jun Won and Kobawoo taste like grandma’s cooking, while the late-night drinking specialties at Dan Sung Sa are better for late night. For a different take all together, head to Here’s Looking At You for some of LA’s best all-over-the-map cooking.
Silver Lake/Echo Park/Los Feliz
Find some of the best culinary offerings in LA in this part of town. Head to Alimento for Italian or Night + Market for Thai, or Pine & Crane for Chinese-Taiwanese flavors. Folks looking to consume a hearty amount of greens can stop at Kismet, Botanica, or the hip sidewalk cafe Mh Zh for their fix, or opt for late night bites at Freedman’s or the redone Brite Spot diner after cocktails at Bar Henry or the new Bar Flores.
Greater Downtown has it all. There are tiny taco spots like Sonoratown and Tacos 1986 hours-long lines for hot chicken at Howlin’ Ray’s, plus the Michelin-worthy tasting menu at Orsa & Winston. Head to the Arts District for Mei Lin’s Nightshade or burgers and cocktails from ERB. Don’t forget Grand Central Market, the century-old open air market, or the timeless Yang Chow and My Dung sandwich shop in Chinatown. Just past that is Majordomo, home to David Chang’s inventive Korean-inspired cooking.
Tucked between Downtown, Silver Lake/Echo Park, and Pasadena, is LA’s sprawling Northeast. In Highland Park, it’s all about Otoño for LA’s best Spanish food, or Roman slices and wine at Triple Beam Pizza. Nearby, the Avenue 26 taco stand still does booming weekend business, as do the other vendors (many of them vegan) that swarm along York at night. Eagle Rock still has some classic Filipino spots to know and love, though it’s hard to pass up a red sauce night at 69-year-old Casa Bianca.
The sleepy sister city to booming Los Angeles, Pasadena is a more subdued mini-metropolis to the east. Tourists and shoppers flock to Old Pasadena for clothing stores and big chain retailers (including busy ice cream chain Salt & Straw), but just off the beaten path are where the high quality eats are. Find breakfast-heavy Copa Vida serving some of the city’s best coffee, and incredibly crispy jianbing at Me + Crepe next door. A stone’s throw away is an array of Chinese restaurants specializing in hot pot and beyond, plus staples like Union for Italian food and Maestro for Mexican food. Just up in Altadena is Lincoln, a pretty-as-can-be spot for casual breakfast and lunch.
San Gabriel Valley
As Los Angeles’ Chinese food mecca, the San Gabriel Valley is a sprawling home to hundreds of thousands of first and second-generation Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese immigrants. Though restaurants of all stripes abound, the SGV is best known for its noodles, dumplings, and dim sum. Sea Harbour and Elite lead the dim sum pack, while the original U.S. location of Din Tai Fung in Arcadia still produces some of the booming chain’s best food. Don’t forget banh mi sandwiches, Beijing meat pies, and plenty of hot pot that thrive in all corners of this massive area east of Downtown, including the hot new Taiwanese destination Yang’s Kitchen or the old-school hard-shelled tacos from Taco Lita.
The South Bay’s chief culinary specialty is Japanese food. For izakaya fare, try Izakaya Hachi in Torrance. For sushi bars, check out the very reasonably priced Chitose in Redondo Beach. Yakitori is very good at Koshiji. Manhattan Beach in particular sports some fine restaurants like M.B. Post or dive bar (with a burger) Ercoles for a post-beach meal. The Arthur J serves some of LA’s best steaks in a clubby, midcentury modern space, while Love & Salt prepares Cali-Italian classics in a boisterous dining room. More inland, Painter’s Tape in Gardena offers modern Japanese twists on comfort dishes.
San Fernando Valley
Occupying a wide swath of greater Los Angeles County, the larger San Fernando Valley — also called The Valley by locals — is a mostly suburban-industrial mix of single family homes punctuated by commercial stretches. Ventura Boulevard is the most well-known dining hub, playing host to some of the city’s best hidden sushi gems, as well as French bistro Petit Trois and classics like Casa Vega. Find some of the city’s best Lebanese shawarma at FurnSaj Bakery, one of LA’s best Jewish delis is Brent’s, and one of the best old-school stands at Bill’s Burgers in Van Nuys. For something truly unique, try Wat Thai Temple for Thai street food served in a parking lot, or the giant outdoor bar at LA’s first location of Pitfire Pizza. Head to one of several El Venado stands around the area for late night tacos.
South LA is larger than the entire island of Manhattan. Within its borders, spot everything from drive-thru restaurants to longstanding sit-down establishments like Hawkins House of Burgers or Harold & Belle’s in Jefferson Park for Creole classics. Options like Orleans & York offer po’boys and a variety of other Southern staples, but don’t forget the community’s thriving Mexican, Jamaican, and Central American heritage either, whether on street corners like the Tire Shop Taqueria, off trucks like Tamales Elena, or in restaurants like Ackee Bamboo. Plus there’s a whole crop of new dining options in and around West Adams, including the lauded Alta and busy Middle Eastern spot Mizlala.
Tacos al pastor: marinated pork packed onto a spit, called a trompo, and carefully sliced onto a tortilla. Pineapple is optional. Found in various taco trucks and shops around town. Try to get them at a place that are selling briskly. Don’t get tacos al pastor from a neglected trompo.
Trompo at Tacos 1986
Tsukemen: A particular style of ramen that involves dipping chewy noodles into an intensely porky broth.
Smash burgers: What’s old is new again, as heavily-seared, thin-pattied burgers are all the rage in Los Angeles, popping up at restaurants from the Rose in Venice to busy Burgers Never Say Die in Silver Lake — including at a lot of street stands.
Cannabis consumption lounge: West Hollywood aims to be the worldwide center of cannabis consumption and acceptance, with this year’s Original Cannabis Cafe (formerly known as Lowell Cafe) being the first-ever restaurant in America to allow cannabis smoking and edible consumption alongside non-cannabis food. More of these consumption lounges are on the way, with some slated for 2020 openings.
Congee: Mostly known as a staple porridge dish throughout Asia, congee of late has become something much cooler. Find upscale but still homey versions at Nightshade, Mei Lin’s Arts District restaurant, or at Porridge + Puffs in Historic Filipinotown.
Birria: One of the hottest new Mexican street food trends is birria, a slowly braised meat usually done as goat (chivo) or beef (res). Hotspots like Tacos y Birria La Unica and Teddy’s Red Tacos are making the best versions, served with a side of rich broth known as consomme for dipping.
Hot chicken: Beyond Howlin’ Ray’s, there is a whole ecosystem of hot (literally) new fried chicken start ups operating in San Fernando Valley parking lots and off the street across the city, thanks in no small part to the guys who made it good, Dave’s Hot Chicken. For a different spicy style, try national chain Gus’s.
Xiao long bao: Small “soup” dumplings filled with meat and broth, sporting thin skins and served at dim sum and dumpling houses around San Gabriel Valley. One of the best places to get them is at Din Tai Fung in Glendale and Arcadia.
Meats grilling at Magal BBQ in Koreatown
Wonho Frank Lee
Korean barbecue: Thinly sliced meats, beef, pork, and chicken, but also duck, seafood, and lamb, grilled tabletop and served with a variety of banchan (palate-cleansing snacks). Premium barbecue spots tend to get most of the glory, but the reasonably priced all-you-can-eat variety are numerous in Koreatown and cost less than $20 per person.
Pupusa: A thin Salvadoran pancake stuffed with cheese, a unique green vegetable slaw called loroco, and various meats. Best when topped with a fermented cabbage slaw called curtido.
Foodminati: The so-called “food illuminati” is an influential group of mostly black South Los Angeles chefs like Keith Garrett from All Flavor No Grease who have been cooking up delicious food for their neighborhoods for the past half-decade, first as street only operations and now as full-fledged restaurants like Court Cafe, drawing in crowds from across the country.
La Mexicana pupusa from LA Pupusa Urban Eatery
Wonho Frank Lee
French dip: A meat-filled sandwich with crusty bread served with a side of jus. Purportedly invented at Philippe the Original in Chinatown, but also claimed by Cole’s in Downtown.
Margarita Manzke: With multiple James Beard Foundation Award nominations, a cookbook, and legions of followers, “Marge” Manzke may be the most popular baker in recent memory. Stop by Republique to catch her case in action, or experience her Filipino savory side at Sari Sari Store inside Grand Central Market.
Evan Funke: Longtime chef Evan Funke is the mammoth man behind Felix, the impossible-to-get-into pasta operation in Venice. Look for off-hour reservations or try to snag a seat at the bar, all while peeking in on the hand-rolling pasta laboratory that sits in the middle of the dining room.
Nancy Silverton: Founder of La Brea Bakery, as well as Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, and Chi Spacca, Silverton represents LA’s emergence as an artisanal food hub, as well as its current status as refined purveyor of modern California-Italian cuisine.
Jessica Koslow: Sqirl might be LA’s most popular daytime restaurant, thanks to Jessica Koslow, who opened the tiny breakfast and lunch spot serving ricotta toast, sorrel pesto rice bowls, and pastries. Koslow’s attention to detail and laid back aesthetic has created one of the most rabid and passionate followings in Los Angeles.
Jon & Vinny: Short for Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, chefs who know exactly how to make the kind of food everyone wants to eat. First came Animal, a palace of meaty delights, then they opened Son of a Gun, a seafood shack. They partnered with Ludo Lefevre to open Trois Mec, Petit Trois, and Trois Familia — three of the trendiest places in town. And they debuted their signature Jon & Vinny’s on Fairfax, offering comforting Italian-American fare in a slick dining room. Oh, and they brought home a James Beard Award in 2016 to top it all off.
Jazz Singsanong: The affable owner of Jitlada, an iconic Thai restaurant in Hollywood popular with food lovers and celebrities. Jazz, along with her late brother Tui, helped bring regional Thai cuisine to LA’s greater consciousness. Jitlada’s dedication to southern Thai cooking, with its aggressive spice and delirious blend of sweet and savory flavors, makes it one of the most significant restaurants in LA.
Reservations to Make in Advance
Thankfully, restaurants in Los Angeles don’t tend to be too difficult to book, especially compared to other large cities. However, there are small handful of places where reservations are strongly recommended or even required (via tickets). Think ahead for Pasjoli, Auburn, Bon Temps, Majordomo, Maude, Somni, Hayato, N/Naka, and Felix.
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