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Strands of udon noodles freshly made.
Scratch-made udon noodles at Marugame Monzo.
Cathy Chaplin

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7 Delicious Things to Eat in Little Tokyo

Eater editors’ favorite dishes in LA’s 135-year-old neighborhood

Welcome to a new series about the best dishes to eat in various neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Today we’re heading to Little Tokyo, a deeply historic neighborhood that’s as relevant today as it was at its founding over a hundred years ago. From traditional Japanese sweets to hearty Hawaiian fare, here now are Eater editors’ favorites in the neighborhood.


Mochi at Fugetsu-Do

Seasonal sakura mochi, sweet rice filled with red bean paste and delicately wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf.
Mochi at Fugetsu-Do
[Official Photo]

Established in 1903, this jewel box of a store continues to thrive and gain new followers with its too-pretty-to-eat Japanese mochi and manju. While the selection of flavors and fillings is mostly in line with tradition, peanut butter-filled and chocolate-flavored mochi have joined the lineup in recent years to meet the changing tastes of local clientele. The flower-shaped kiku mochi is unique to the shop and is comprised of pink and white mochi with a white bean center. The seasonal sakura mochi, sweet rice filled with red bean paste and delicately wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf, is one to look out for during the warmer months. 315 East 1st St., Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Udon at Marugame Monzo

Freshly made udon noodles in a basket.
Udon at Marugame Monzo
Cathy Chaplin

There has been a big push for more udon around Los Angeles as of late, but it’s hard to find a place more committed to the craft than Marugame Monzo. The Little Tokyo specialist even treats the noodle-making like a show, tossing long strands of the stuff from behind a glass wall for all to see. The real adventure is in the bowl though, as diners chow down on $10-ish bowls of hot or cold udon all day long. Expect a line and expect lots of nearby tables to be tackling the signature miso carbonara udon. Other restaurants on the same block may get more shine, but few places are as dollar-for-dollar delicious as Monzo. 329 E 1st St., Little Tokyo. —Farley Elliott

Porky omurice at Jist Cafe

A server waiting at the pass for dishes at Jist Cafe.
Jist Cafe
[Official Photo]

Every neighborhood needs a charming breakfast spot, and Jist Cafe from Glen Ishii, whose family has retained the space for over 70 years, fits the bill perfectly for Little Tokyo. Sporting a cute interior and a sunny outdoor patio, Jist serves approachable and easy going all-day fare, from eggs and pancakes in the morning to sandwiches and salads at lunchtime. Everything is well-executed, but the best thing to eat is the porky omurice with smoked hickory ham and a millimeter-thin omelette draped over a humble mountain of ketchup-flavored fried rice. The kitchen drowns the whole thing in a rich demi-glace, making it a hefty breakfast or lunch that you should share. 116 Judge John Aliso Street, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

Breakfast burrito at Cafe Demitasse

Cross sections of breakfast burritos.
Breakfast burrito at Cafe Demitasse
[Official Photo]

Cafe Demitasse has been holding down its triangular corner space for years, anchoring the busy neighborhood with lattes, drip coffee, and pastries aplenty. More recently the restaurant has turned to a Japanese-inspired brunch menu, meaning rich egg salad sandwiches and a surprising breakfast burrito. It’s far from a classic LA interpretation, but with matsutake mushrooms, summer squash, and plenty of jack cheese, it’s certainly one of the city’s most flavorful and unique. In a neighborhood as dense as this, standing out matters even after all this time. 135 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo. —Farley Elliott

Loco moco at Aloha Cafe

Rice, burger patty, and eggs drenched in gravy.
Loco moco at Aloha Cafe
[Official Photo]

Born in 1996, Aloha Cafe is Little Tokyo’s casual Hawaiian standout in a sea of Japanese restaurants. The sashimi platters are amazing here, but when the mood calls for hearty Hawaiian fare, it’s time to get busy with the loco moco. The dish begins with a house-made burger topped with two eggs prepared any style, a bit of caramelized onions and rice, and finished with a healthy pour of gravy that covers just about everything. There’s debate over which egg preparation works best with this dish, and Aloha Cafe’s servers always suggest that personal preference is key. The default fried egg is fabulous, as is scrambled or over-easy, but one thing is for certain, the addition of drippy egg yolks pushes this already decadent dish over the edge, and so does the small scoop of tangy macaroni salad. 410 E 2nd St., Little Tokyo. —Mona Holmes

Yakatori at Izakaya Honda-Ya

The facade of Izakaya Honda-Ya  in Little Tokyo.
Izakaya Honda-Ya
Photo: KayOne73/Eater LA Flickr Pool

Honda-Ya is a true Little Tokyo staple. Tucked away inside the multi-story shopping center off Alameda, the izakaya keeps late night hours Thursday through Saturday and offers a fun place for locals, tourists, and everyone else to dive into sake and meat skewers galore. Smoky sticks of chicken come out from the dim kitchen fast and often, making for a meal that can last (with drinks) as long as one cares to hang out in good company. At Honda-Ya, everyone is hanging out and having a great time. 333 S. Alameda St., Little Tokyo. —Farley Elliott

Gyozas at Daikokuya

A raft of pan-fried Japanese dumplings with scallions.
Gyozas at Daikokuya
Cathy Chaplin

Head to Daikokuya’s Little Tokyo outlet for one of LA’s most beloved bowls of tonkotsu ramen and a few plates of equally-matched gyoza. Here at this perpetually busy and buzzing den, Japanese dumplings are stuffed with ground pork and vegetables, wrapped in the thinnest of papers, and are pan-fried until crisp-golden in a raft-like mass. Paired with Daikokuya’s signature ramen, this noodle and dumpling meal makes for a deeply rich combination that never fails to satisfy. 327 East 1st St., Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

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