What defines a hidden gem? Most of the time, it’s a beloved neighborhood spot that serves the community without really drawing much attention to itself. Maybe the place is actually physically hard to find, or maybe it doesn’t really advertise itself from signage or other means beyond the simple name. Otherwise, a hidden gem is just a place of discovery, either hiding in plain sight or away from the main road but serving truly special things on the plate. You’ll be greatly rewarded for finding these 17 hidden gem restaurants across Los Angeles.Read More
17 Hidden Gem Restaurants in Los Angeles
From hefty, shareable Oaxacan tlayudas to homestyle Vietnamese finds, these are tough-to-find but destination-worthy places to eat in LA
Kurrypinch | Sri Lankan Cuisine
Sri Lankan food is far from abundant in greater Los Angeles, which makes Kurrypinch in Van Nuys all the more special. The simple storefront turns out excellent rice flour dishes like string hopper pilau, grilled meats, curries in a bowl, and lots more for those eager to sample a taste of Sri Lanka.
Nestled into the San Gabriel Mountains above Pasadena, this charming neighborhood market gained new ownership in 2017, with Heather Morrison and Jenny Kay preserving the cottage-size diner’s classic American menu. Check out the fresh pastries and order up a bagel with lox or a plate of eggs Benedict.
Couched into the corner of one of Glendale’s many strip malls, Vernatoun turns compelling Armenian fare featuring lule kebabs grilled over charcoal with a side of fries, eggplant caviar, beef borscht, and preserved beef ghavurma, a traditional fat-laden chilled meat appetizer not easily found even in Los Angeles.
Also featured in:
Chongqing Special Noodles
San Gabriel Valley’s unsung noodle specialist sits in a strip mall with not much else going on along a sleepy stretch of Las Tunas. Even the parking lot isn’t that easy to drive into, but once inside, this restaurant packs a real punch with its extensive set of Sichuan-flavored noodles.
Oi Asian Fusion
Another semi-hidden strip mall find, this Los Feliz-adjacent casual bowl spot incorporates Japanese, Hawaiian, and Filipino ingredients into reasonably priced wonders. Try the chicken loganisa or moco loco burger bowl laced with umami gravy. After originally opening in LA, this chainlet now has eight locations across Southern California, including a few in San Diego as well.
Tlayuda L.A. Restaurant
Blink and you might miss one of LA’s more popular Oaxacan restaurants along Santa Monica Boulevard. With a difficult-to-read sign and a storefront that blends in with the rest of the building, it’s easy to overlook Tlayuda LA. The namesake tlayudas are one reason to check it out, loaded with traditional tasajo, cecina, and chorizo, but the expansive menu has something for almost everyone, from mole negro enchiladas to hefty tortas oaxaqueñas.
El Churrasco Chapin
Guatemalan cuisine rarely gets the spotlight in Los Angeles, even though the Central American country has a major demographic presence in Southern California. The Sixth and Bonnie Brae night market is the place to get incredible street food while this humble, but excellent strip mall restaurant highlights homestyle Guatemalan fare, from cheesy dobladas to carne guisada plates.
Singapore's Banana Leaf
Singapore’s Banana Leaf is a staple at the Original Farmers Market. While fans know the outdoor dining marketplace for its produce, its doughnuts, and its history, it’s the grilled meat satay skewers, laksa curry soups, and pan-fried noodles that really help to make this one of the best places for a bite anywhere in Los Angeles.
Also featured in:
Pho Ever - Alhambra
Hidden on the other end of a Circle K convenience store parking lot and surrounded by a small makeshift garden, the third outlet of this Vietnamese restaurant opened in Alhambra serving oxtail pho and shrimp rolls, but adds some more creative fare from owner Hanli Su’s mother, Lani Nguyen. Nguyen adds everything from crispy mushroom tempura to a periwinkle blue sticky rice platter studded with boiled egg, Chinese sausage slivers, and mushrooms.
Look around this Chinese food court in Rosemead and there’s a sneaky-good Cantonese spot worth checking out. Harlam’s Kitchen has all the classics, from chow fun and wonton soup to rice rolls and preserved egg congee. A place that’s sure to pack in flavor at a fantastic, approachable price.
Also featured in:
Danny Boy's Famous Original Pizza
Daniel Holzman, who founded the Meatball Shop in NYC, has refocused his culinary efforts to New York-style pizza, salads, and sandwiches. The slices — wide, pliable, and packed with toppings — are about as good as one can expect in LA. Getting here is a trek for those who have to venture here from elsewhere. Pro-tip is to park downstairs in the 20-minute food hall-only parking, grab a few slices, and head out before the higher parking rates kick in.
Years ago, Boyle Heights was an enclave for Japanese immigrants. One of the few reminders of this is Otomisan, a family-run restaurant with comfort food classics and affordable sushi. After decades of business, it’s still beloved by the community. Try the fantastic tonkatsu curry plate.
Sonoritas Prime Tacos
Sawtelle is not the first place one thinks of for great tacos. Mostly the block has incredible Asian food, from Filipino and Japanese to Korean and Chinese. But Sonoritas prepares some of the best carne asada using actual steak cuts, something one would see in Mexicali and other places in Sonora. So yes, when someone is looking for great carne asada, this is the first place to look.
NOLA Cajun and Creole
Kieven Cross opened this ode to his family’s Louisiana roots in a shared space at the very cool BLVD MRKT in Montebello. The flavors are spot-on, with intensely spiced jambalaya, gumbo, and even shrimp po’boys packed with fresh ingredients. It’s really one of the best Southern/Creole/Cajun spots in town, hiding away in this Montebello food hall.
Kyndra McCrary’s Swift Cafe serves up a health-focused menu on a busy stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard. The cooking finds inspiration from Indian, Thai, Caribbean, plus Central and South American cuisines. Expect a sweet potato and cashew cheese ricotta ravioli in sage “butter,” coconut chickpea curry, and a jerk chicken bowl.
Banadir Somali Restaurant
Banadir in Inglewood, the only Somali restaurant in LA, is a hub for the area’s Somali community. For breakfast, there’s anjera, a fermented sorghum flour pancake similar to Ethiopian injera. The anjera is served with chicken suqar, a type of stir-fry. For lunch and dinner, find large rice platters with either goat, chicken, or fish. Both rice and spaghetti meals are served with bananas meant to be eaten with the meal.
Dong Nae Gil
Gardena restaurant Dong Nae Gil is an unassuming Korean restaurant on a block chock full of very good places (including the excellent Old Time Noodle, Village Tofu, and Yuk Dae Jang). But Dong Nae Gil is the most traditional, and possibly the most remarkable, serving time-honored classics like godeungeo joorim and all sorts of jjigae with supreme confidence.