clock menu more-arrow no yes
Downtown LA skyline from Griffith Park with Griffith Observatory
Downtown LA skyline from Griffith Park with Griffith Observatory
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Filed under:

An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles

Unofficial, highly-opinionated information about the City of Angels

If you buy something from an Eater link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics policy.

Hollywood, the beaches, the hills, the valleys, and the wide boulevards chock-full of traffic-mired cars — it’s all part of LA’s sun-baked concrete jungle. This urban expanse of hazy light, long sunsets, vivid street art, towering skyscrapers, swaying palm trees, and celebrity mansions also boasts what some consider the country’s most vibrant restaurant scene. This guide will make it easy to navigate it all.

Welcome to the Land of Endless Culinary Possibility

Los Angeles is anything and everything for the first time visitor. It’s the center of celebrity culture. It’s a hub of arts, design, creativity, and entertainment. 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 fresh produce and talented and entrepreneurial chefs. Over the past year, the challenges for restaurants have been immense, with numerous beloved places either laying dormant or closing outright. However, it looks like many restaurants and bars are finally back at full capacity.

For a quintessential LA day of dining, start with breakfast at Birrieria Gonzalez, a truck and storefront duo in East LA, which serves fantastic stewed birria de res and chivo, or enjoy classic diner fare like pancakes and eggs at the iconic Pann’s. For lunch, venture to Big Boi for stellar Filipino comfort classics or sit down to a gorgeous array of Ethiopian cuisine at Lalibela. Finally, for dinner, order up a storm of grilled meats at Park’s BBQ in Koreatown, or explore the California-French dishes at Republique in Mid-Wilshire. Then for late night, hit up Tacos Tamix or Tacos Los Palomos for some of the city’s top tacos al pastor.


Where to Start on Eater LA’s Top Maps

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.

Onion tarte with goat cheese at Bicyclette Bistro in West LA, California.
Onion tarte with goat cheese at Bicyclette Bistro
Wonho Frank Lee

Must-try restaurant: Mírame in Beverly Hills is cooking some spectacular modern Mexican fare while Ospi has fantastic Italian pasta and pizza in Venice. Bicyclette, the follow up restaurant from Margarita and Walter Manzke, is an ode to Parisian bistros in Pico-Robertson. For a full breakdown of LA’s most exciting restaurants to try right now, mapped out according to location, check out this Eater LA guide.

Standout restaurant: Alta in West Adams pushes California soul food while Pasjoli prepares stellar upscale French in Santa Monica. Tamales Elena is a top-notch Mexican spot with amazing namesake tamales and other prepared dishes. Republique and Jon and Vinny’s remain two of the city’s most reliable places to eat. Every three months, Eater LA releases the Essential 38, a collection of important restaurants around the city.

Sushi: Nozawa Bar is the most impressive omakase at the moment that still offers seating in front of the chef. Sherman Oaks’s Sushi Note and Atwater’s Morihiro represent fantastic mid-range sushi from two masters of the craft. For a full map of essential sushi restaurants, check out this map.

Tacos: For morning, there’s Birrieria Gonzalez, Teddy’s Red Tacos, or La Unica for Tijuana-style birria de res. Midday, the tacos de camaron from Mariscos Jalisco or the mushroom tacos from Tacos 1986 are always excellent. At night, try the tacos al pastor from Los Palomos, Tamix, or Leo’s, all prepared by indigenous taqueros hailing from Oaxaca. And for wood-licked carne asada from Sinaloa, there’s Tacos La Carreta in Long Beach. There are numerous taco stands around town and most of them are quite good.

Pizza: Pizza has exploded in popularity this year, particularly the square pies from DTown in West Hollywood and Quarter Sheets in Glendale. Don’t sleep on staples like Prime Pizza on Fairfax or Cosa Buona in Echo Park either, though. Little Coyote is LA’s best new pizza place, serving amazing New York-style pies. For LA’s essential pizzas, check out this map.

Burger: The Apple Pan’s classic burgers represent both history and quality, but these days it’s all about the smash burger at places like Burgers Never Say Die and Goldburger. Those going meatless can enjoy Monty’s Good Burger and the Say It Ain’t So pop-up in Historic Filipinotown. Here’s a full list of essential burgers in Los Angeles.

Beer: Beer lovers flock to LA’s South Bay, where the likes of Smog City and Monkish brew up some of the best Southern California craft beer, though lately fans have found great drinks in Downtown LA at Boomtown and Mumford as well. For a great all-around beer bar, it’s hard to beat Father’s Office or Boneyard Bistro in the Valley.

Cocktail Bar: Some of New York City’s most acclaimed bars, from Employees Only to Death & Co., have made their way to LA in recent years, but locals still favor the classics like Musso & Frank or the Dresden. In terms of newer spots, Thunderbolt in Historic Filipinotown is the talk of the LA cocktail world right now. Go here for LA’s essential cocktails and hottest new cocktail spots.

Fine Dining: Angler could be one of the best restaurants in town if money is no option, with everything from dry-aged steaks and pristine seafood to whole Alaskan king crab. Kato offers an inventive Taiwanese tasting menu in an unexpectedly humble West LA space. N/Naka’s modern California kaiseki restaurant in Palms could be the luxurious dinner in town.

Vegetarian/Vegan/Plant-Based: Plant-based chefs in Los Angeles are some of the world’s innovators, with a large number of Thai, Ethiopian, Indian, or Vietnamese restaurants that have been serving vegan dishes for decades. Ten years ago, Crossroads Kitchen chef Tal Ronnen built a creative menu to shift the perception of vegan food, complete with a white table cloth, full bar, and choice wine selection. In Silver Lake, V Tree brings its soul food game to plant-based with vegan cinnamon rolls and a West African peanut butter stew.

Korean: Kobawoo, Soban, and Seongbukdong serve terrific renditions of traditional Korean food, while Park’s is unquestionably the top destination for tabletop barbecue. Surawon has amazing silken tofu stew, plus fantastic pan-fried fish combos. 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. Shaanxi Garden does highly seasoned hand-pulled noodles while Chengdu Taste is known for incredible stir-fried dishes like toothpick lamb.

Dish from Kato
Dish from Kato
Wonho Frank Lee

Japanese: Tokyo import Afuri serves impeccable yuzu-chitan ramen in the Arts District with noodles extruded on the premises. Kotohira is a classic comfort food restaurant in Gardena with reasonably priced sets while Kappo Osen serves a little bit of everything — from nigiri to kushiyaki — to the dinner crowd in Santa Monica.

Thai: For standout Thai cuisine, look no further than Night + Market’s multiple locations (including one in Las Vegas now) or the always-busy Luv2eat Thai Bistro, Sapp Coffee Shop and Pa Ord. Thai Town buzzes with its own energy thanks to Jitlada and late night stops like Ruen Pair, but there’s likely no busier spot for LA-style Thai food than Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks.

Breakfast: While Huckleberry’s more classic American breakfast and sweets in Santa Monica will make brunch lover swoon, it’s all about staples like Nick’s Cafe and the Original Pantry Cafe for those in Downtown. Don’t sleep on LA’s many Instagram bakeries doing cakes and pastries, either. Here’s a guide to LA’s best breakfast spots.

Brunch: Republique has always drawn lines for its popular brunch along La Brea, though Sycamore Kitchen across the street is a solid alternative. In Venice, there’s the spacious Rose Cafe with its irresistible radiatore carbonara by chef Jason Neroni, while in Long Beach it’s all about Wide Eyes Open Palms, which serves grain bowls, toasts, and coffee.

Wine Bar: Esters is the place for Westside wine nerds to gather, Wally’s caters to the see-and-be-seen-on-Instagram crowd in Beverly Hills, and Augustine in Sherman Oaks boasts incredible vintage bottles and selections by the glass. Finally, Tabula Rasa in Thai Town is the longtime destination for funky natural wines.

Steak: The Arthur J remains the most reliable steakhouse in LA, though it’s tucked away in Manhattan Beach. In Hollywood, Gwen butchers its own meat in house while Del Frisco’s Double Eagle in Century City is the place to go big with tomahawks. Here’s the complete guide to steakhouses in LA.

Coffee: Go Get Em Tiger has successfully redesigned the craft coffee experience with numerous locations across LA, while Dayglow has mastered the multi-roaster approach in Silver Lake. There are a ridiculous number of high-quality coffee shops, so check out this helpful map.

Ice cream from Wanderlust Creamery on cones.
Ice cream from Wanderlust Creamery
Wanderlust

Ice Cream: Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream, Sweet Rose Creamery, Wanderlust Creamery, and Scoops make some of the best local ice cream in LA. For more places to get ice cream in town, here’s a helpful guide.

Donuts: Sidecar Donuts makes some of the best yeast and cake donuts in the city, with fresh fritters (including gluten-free and vegan options) coming out hourly. Meanwhile classics like the Donut Man and Randy’s are expanding wildly across the Southland, as is staple Primo’s, known for its old fashioneds.

Classic: Three spots to know about: Dan Tana’s for its epic chicken parmesan, Musso & Frank for timeless American grilled food and stiff drinks, and Casa Vega for late night classic Mexican fare in the Valley.

Late Night: Sun Nong Dan in Koreatown serves hearty braised short ribs covered in blistered mozzarella cheese and spicy soups all night, while Canter’s Deli offers wonderful ‘60s-era LA vibes with tasty pastrami sandwiches on Fairfax. For all the best late night dining in LA, check this map.

A Guide to LA’s Dining Neighborhoods

Los Angeles is big — really big. With 469 square miles, LA eclipses 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 city’s storied traffic. But rest assured, there is always a delicious payoff at the end. Here is a guide to LA’s various neighborhoods, from west to east.

A grassy outside patio looks towards a famous Venice dive bar named Hinano Cafe.
Outdoor patio at Hinano Cafe in Venice
Wonho Frank Lee

Santa Monica

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 those looking for an upscale dinner can try Citrin, a fine dining bastion from Josiah Citrin. Dave Beran’s ode to polished French bistro fare, Pasjoli, has become a Main Street institution since opening two years ago, while Uovo boasts fantastic handmade pasta imported from Italy.

Venice

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 Ospi for even more in the way of pasta and pizza, or settle into the excellent dive bar ambience of Hinano Cafe. Great White captures the essential daytime vibe of Venice with its salads and light brunch fare while casual diners can flock over to Teddy’s for excellent beef birria tacos.

Culver City/Palms

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. Honey’s Kettle continues to make some of the best fried chicken in LA, while Tito’s fries up crunchy tacos like they have for over 60 years. Pasta Sisters brings in the crowds with affordable fresh pasta plates, Roberta’s does nicely blistered pizzas in the industrial-chic Platform, and Lodge Bread makes terrific sourdough down Washington Boulevard. Hatchet Hall serves fantastic Southern fare in a vintage-looking space and Dear John’s celebrates mid-century dining in a tiny, but bustling room, at least until it closes in spring 2022.

Beverly Hills

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 daytime delights at Pie Room by Gwen from celebrity chef Curtis Stone inside the former Maude, or a ritzy dinner at the timeless Spago from Wolfgang Puck. Tuck into some of the city’s best steak at CUT or throw it back to the ‘90s Peruvian-Japanese fare that is Matsuhisa, the Nobu chef’s flagship restaurant. Mírame from talented Baja chef Joshua Gil is the hottest modern Mexican restaurant this side of Downtown.

West Hollywood

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. Upscale places like Olivetta, Soulmate, and Ardor bring the camera-ready crowds while E.P. & L.P. gives a two-fer of sit-down dinner and rooftop lounge. For a nightcap head to the completely remodeled Formosa Cafe.

Escala, Koreatown
Koreatown, Los Angeles
Matthew Kang

Beverly Grove/Fairfax District

This neighborhood is home to beloved LA restaurants like Republique, AOC, and Jon & Vinny’s. On the higher end, San Francisco import Angler is a great place to splurge with grilled seafood and meats, while Jar continues to grill amazing steaks on Beverly Boulevard. Newcomer La Morra Pizzeria has some of the finest Neapolitan-style pizza in the city along West Third Street. And finally, there’s awesome Indian cooking at Badmaash on Fairfax, casual Italian fare at tucked-away Ronan, while Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar does all things sweet over on Melrose. Farther south, Little Ethiopia remains one of the city’s star dining enclaves, with excellent vegan places and colorful shops to explore.

Hollywood/East Hollywood

This mega-touristy district happens to have quite a few culinary finds, especially in Thai Town and East Hollywood. For a strong start, opt for some tacos or a sandwich at the E Stretto / Flaco combo shop on Hollywood Boulevard, or hit Hollywood Burger across from the Pantages. From there it’s all about dinner spots like APL or L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, home to one of the city’s best patios. Don’t forget about the region’s robust Armenian food (Marouch is great), the stellar wine and seafood at Found Oyster, or the always busy first restaurant location of Dave’s Hot Chicken.

Koreatown

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 Soban, Seongbukdong, and Kobawoo taste like grandma’s cooking, while the late-night drinking specialties at Dan Sung Sa are better for late night. Knife-cut noodles are also popular right now with MDK Noodles, Hyesung, and Hangari serving some of the best in town.

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, Pine & Crane for Chinese-Taiwanese flavors, or score plenty of greens at Kismet, Botanica, or Honey Hi. Valerie has dessert and brunch covered, Dayglow is an ideal multi-roaster coffee spot, and Playita works for fresh Mexican seafood tostadas. Spoon and Pork has gorgeous modern Filipino bowls while Tsubaki and Osen Izakaya serve excellent upscale Japanese izakaya fare.

Downtown/Chinatown/Arts District

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 inventive Italian from Bestia or stylish modern Middle Eastern at Bavel. 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.

Northeast LA/Pasadena

LA’s sprawling Northeast is a haven for small, family-run restaurants and street food spots. Tucked between Downtown, Silver Lake/Echo Park, and the Angeles National Forest, this wide-ranging area includes hip Highland Park and its many restaurants, from Civil Coffee and Joy to Hippo and Huarache Azteca. Nearby, the Avenue 26 taco stand still does booming weekend business in Lincoln Heights alongside newcomers like Gamboge, and Eagle Rock still offers several classic Filipino spots to know and love, plus decades-old Italian restaurant Casa Bianca. Pasadena offers its own staples like Union for Italian food, Roma Market for grocery staples and sandwiches, and the always incredibly crispy jianbing at Me + Crepe.

A dive bar lit up in neon with an old wooden sign above the bar.
Ercoles in Manhattan Beach
Wonho Frank Lee

West LA/Sawtelle/Brentwood

This somewhat underrated area in between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica has plenty of food gems, from the classic Apple Pan burger spot to the ambitious Kato, serving a Taiwanese-inspired tasting menu. Longtime Oaxacan restaurant Monte Alban holds court in a strip mall while Sawtelle bustles with numerous Asian restaurants, from the excellent Big Boi/B Sweet for Filipino flavors to the trio of Tsujita ramen shops. Westwood sports some delightful Persian restaurants like Attari Sandwich Shop and Taste of Tehran while over in Brentwood, Pizzana has stellar new school Neapolitan pizza. The second branch of Jon & Vinny’s continues to be a place to see and be seen in Brentwood, as well as the newly opened A.O.C. inside the former Tavern space.

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 Xiang La Hui is the most impressive new Sichuan restaurant in the area. Don’t forget banh mi sandwiches, Beijing meat pies, and plenty of hot pot spots 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.

South Bay

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, mid-century modern space, while Love & Salt prepares Cali-Italian classics in a boisterous dining room. More inland, Gardena’s classic Kotohira serves everyday Japanese seto meals while Gardena Bowl’s coffee shop has Hawaiian-influenced comfort dishes. For something guaranteed to generate likes on Instagram, pick up a plate of loaded fries from Mr. Fries Man.

San Fernando Valley

Occupying a wide swath of greater Los Angeles County, the larger San Fernando Valley — of just The Valley to 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, like Shin Sushi and Brothers, as well as French bistro Petit Trois and classics like Casa Vega. North of Ventura Boulevard there’s Bill’s Burgers in Van Nuys and Wat Thai Temple for food. If you need a break from all the eating, check out the old menus, booths, and neon signs from bygone restaurants at the popular Valley Relics Museum — then stick around the area for a nightcap at a beloved dive bar like the Rabbit Hole.

South LA

South LA is larger than the entire island of Manhattan. Within its borders, there is room for everything from drive-thrus like Astro Burger, Mizlala, and Mexican favorite Coni’Seafood. Cafe culture has shifted tremendously in the last three years, with Inglewood’s Sip & Sonder, plus two locations for Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen. Hilltop owners Yonnie Hagos and Ajay Relan’s vision was to transform South LA’s mostly chain coffee experience into cozy spaces with sandwiches, espressos, beignets, and salads. Gregory and Terry Dulan hold the crown for one of LA’s most celebrated and oldest restaurants, Dulan’s Soul Food. With locations in Inglewood, Gramercy Park, and Crenshaw, the brothers maintain a strong presence in South Los Angeles, with some of the city’s best soul food.

A Los Angeles Dining Glossary

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 consomé for dipping.

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.

Hot chicken: Beyond Howlin’ Ray’s and Hotville, there is a whole ecosystem of hot (literally) new fried chicken startups operating in San Fernando Valley parking lots and off the street across the city, though Dave’s Hot Chicken took its initial success to a massive multi-state expansion. For a different spicy style, try national chain Gus’s.

Mariscos El Paradero in Bellflower, Los Angeles, Sinaloan Seafood
Mariscos El Paradero in Bellflower, Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

Instagram Pop-Ups: The biggest story of LA’s food scene over the past year (beyond the devastation from the pandemic) has been the emergence of Instagram-facing pop-ups that offer all kinds of meals, from square pan pizzas to Balinese specialities, from cakes and pastries to smash burgers and pretzels. This is street food for the modern age, with underground vendors selling on the sly from the digital boulevard.

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.

Mariscos: Fresh Mexican and Central American seafood reigns in Los Angeles, from chopped ceviches to loaded tostadas in East LA, Boyle Heights, and even into Fontana. Though various regions from Nayarit to Jalisco have excellent takes on mariscos, perhaps no region takes the format of fresh seafood to heights like Sinaloa, evident at places like Mariscos Los Sitios and Mariscos El Paradero.

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.

Trompo at Tacos Los Palomos in Canoga Park.
Trompo at Tacos Los Palomos in Canoga Park
Matthew Kang

Tacos al pastor: Marinated pork packed onto a spit, called a trompo, and carefully sliced onto a tortilla. Pineapple is optional (but should be had). Found in various taco trucks and shops around town. Try to get them at a place that is selling briskly. Don’t get tacos al pastor from a neglected trompo.

Tsukemen: A particular style of ramen that involves dipping chewy noodles into an intensely porky broth.

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.

626/SGV: The San Gabriel Valley, or its area code of 626, which represents cities like Alhambra, San Gabriel, El Monte, Temple City, Pasadena, Arcadia, Rosemead, and more.

Get in Touch

LA Guides

A Guide to Hanukkah 2021 in Los Angeles

Comebacks

How Downtown Wine Bar Garçons de Café Brings a Slice of Paris to Los Angeles

AM Intel

Food Workers are Striking at LAX on the Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Los Angeles newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world