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
Blink and you might pass by these great little strip mall finds and restaurants tucked into small spaces
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. Try the surf-and-turf burrito for one of the best burritos in town.
The Valley has plenty of gems tucked into bland strip malls that completely belie the flavors packed onto plates. One prime example is Kobee Factory, a Syrian kebabs specialist in Van Nuys that serves grilled meat skewers and fried kobee as well as stuffed lamb’s intestines for the adventurous types.
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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.
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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.
This low-key Taiwanese, Shanghainese, and Cantonese restaurant down in Lomita has quietly been serving some of the South Bay’s best Chinese fare, from crisp, peppery fried fish filets to easy $6 bowls of lu rou fan. The special chow mein noodles comes studded with strips of chicken and whole shrimp while a plate of flash-fried string beans puts some green on the table. The prices are affordable and the parking is easy, but drive too quickly and one will miss the strip mall completely.
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.
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.
Step into this laid-back portal of agrarian Korean vibes to get a set tasting menu of more than a dozen kinds of banchan, barley rice, and a few soups to accompany. Borit Gogae serves the most impressive kind of boribap, or traditional barley rice with banchan that’s become popular in cosmopolitan Seoul as a way to recall simpler, more rustic times.
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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 numerous locations across Southern California.
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.
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Though it’s not too difficult to find, this tiny shack of a Cajun restaurant amidst Downtown’s Historic Core serves some of the best gumbo and other Louisiana specialties at very approachable prices. Founded by four siblings from Baton Rouge, Gumbo Boys is the best kind of gem in bustling Downtown.
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.
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Without very much fanfare, Sesame Dinette serves some of Long Beach’s most polished Vietnamese food with some fusion touches in a lonely strip mall. While the beef pho would impress any noodle fan, the pho French dip banh mi served on Persian bread is a dish worth remembering.
This tiny restaurant got some big waves when the LA Times reviewed it recently, but check in on a weekday and the place is pretty sleepy during lunch. The highlights include dumpling soup and a huge place of braised pork belly with steamed rice and pickles. You’ll need to check your GPS a few times to make sure this is the right spot.
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.
XiAn Biang Biang Noodle
With no signage that really points out to busy Valley Boulevard, this new Shaanxi-style restaurant in San Gabriel has a fairly wide, barely used dining room serving classics like hand-pulled biang biang noodles and big platters of thinner wheat noodles swimming in spicy broth.
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.