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Noodles, sliced beef, and cold chicken at Chongqing special noodles
Noodles and more from Chongqing Special Noodles
Matthew Kang

17 Hidden Gem Restaurants in LA

Classic Italian-American, traditional Korean favorites, and drenched tortas

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Noodles and more from Chongqing Special Noodles
| Matthew Kang

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 hard to find, or maybe it doesn’t really advertise itself from signage or other means beyond the simple name. Or other times, a hidden gem is truly a place to discover, either hiding in plain sight or away from the main road but serving truly special things on the plate. We think you’ll be greatly rewarded from finding these 17 hidden gem restaurants across Los Angeles.

Removed: Holbox, Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara, Joseph’s Bakery, Mambo, Viet Huong, Dai Ho, El Ruso, Chunju Hanilkwan, Flor de Yucatan, Bachan’s Takeout

Added: Mediterranean Cafe (Pasadena), Roro’s Chicken, Dong Nae Gil, Surawon, Giuliano’s Deli, Sabores Oaxaqueños, Kurrypinch, Sonoritas Prime, Chongqing Special Noodles, Singapore’s Banana Leaf

A number of LA restaurants have resumed dine-in service. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Los Angeles Public Health website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kurrypinch

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6159 Van Nuys Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 646-0126
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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.

2. Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe

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273 Shoppers Ln
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 793-8844
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Brother and sister-owned Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe is situated on Shopper’s Lane, a backalley situation facing away from busy Lake Avenue. But don’t let that difficult to spot location deter you, this place has some of Pasadena’s best kebabs and other Mediterranean fare at very approachable prices.

3. Chongqing Special Noodles

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708 E Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 374-1849
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SGV’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 expansive set of Sichuan-inflected noodles.

Dan dan noodles from Chongqing Special Noodles in SGV
Dan dan noodles
Matthew Kang

4. RoRo's Chicken

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6660 Sunset Blvd ste c
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 461-9999
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Lebanese casual restaurant RoRo’s chicken has been serving Hollywood for years, especially with its rotisserie chicken and excellent hummus. You just have to be sure to look in the right strip mall for it.

roros

5. Singapore's Banana Leaf

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6333 W 3rd St #122
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-4627
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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.

6. Sabores Oaxaqueños Restaurant

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3337 1/2 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 427-3508
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LA has a multitude of amazing Oaxacan food, so it’s hard to just put one place on here. It’s perhaps really unexpected to find an incredible Oaxacan place hidden away along busy 8th street, serving plates like grilled anafres, or meats with vegetables laid out on a platter, or other traditional fare like tlayudas and moles. Stalwart Guelaguetza is indeed a great destination for Oaxacan food, but don’t skimp over this smaller family-owned place nearby.

Anafres, a mix of grilled vegetables at Sabores Oaxaqueños.
Anafres, a mix of grilled vegetables at Sabores Oaxaqueños
Wonho Frank Lee

7. Surawon Tofu House

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2833 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 383-7317

Koreatown’s tofu stew scene took a hit when longtime originator Beverly Soontofu closed last year. Just down the street, Surawon continues the legacy with stellar house-made soondubu (which is a rarity since most tofu is purchased already made), along with other excellent Korean dishes in a space you’ll more likely than not just drive past along Olympic Boulevard.

Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown.
Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo
Matthew Kang

8. RiceBox

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541 S Spring St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 988-7395
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The Hong Kong-style roast meat over rice spot sits well inside the cavernous Spring Street Arcade. Traditionalists might cry foul at RiceBox’s methods — the char siu is held sous-vide, and the roast pork is more akin to porchetta — but there’s no denying the results. As simple rice-and-meat experiences go, it’s tough to beat.

A barbecued pork rice bowl.
RiceBox
Ariel Ip

9. Otomisan Restaurant

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2506 1/2 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 526-1150

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.

10. Sonoritas Prime Tacos

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2004 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 444-9100
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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 quality 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.

Sonoritas Prime Tacos
Sonoritas Prime Tacos
Instagram

11. Sabor A Malibu

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31242 CA-1
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 482-0832
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A trip to Malibu wouldn’t be complete without a bite to eat. Enter Sabor a Malibu, a mellow blue-camo food truck that parks often near Zuma Beach, selling a mix of staples like burritos, quesadillas, and tacos, plus hot dogs, burgers, breakfast burritos, and even tri tip sandwiches when they feel like it. They’re daytime only, so no sunset eats sadly, just make sure to grab a bite for those daytime beach needs.

12. Vito Restaurant

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2807 Ocean Park Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 450-4999
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Longtime Santa Monica locals will know where to get classic Italian-American dishes along Ocean Park Avenue, but others newer to the area might not immediately see what’s going on here. Opened for 41 years, this legendary place is known for its veal preparations, especially veal parmesan, as well as its well-executed pastas.

Vito Exterior Vito Restaurant

13. Swift Cafe

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4279 1/2 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008
(323) 815-4418
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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. Open for takeout and delivery.

14. Banadir Somali Restaurant

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137 Arbor Vitae St
Inglewood, CA 90301
(310) 419-9900
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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 choice of meat (goat, chicken, or fish). Both rice and spaghetti meals are served with bananas meant to be eaten with the meal. 

15. Dong Nae Gil

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15116 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90249
(310) 327-7155

Local 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 jjigae with confidence.

Mackerel joorim from Dong Nae Gil
Mackerel joorim from Dong Nae Gil
Matthew Kang

16. Giuliano's Delicatessen

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1138 W Gardena Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 323-6990
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Want a little taste of that East Coast Italian deli vibe but along a quieter section of Gardena? Check out Giuliano’s, a neighborhood establishment serving sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and grocery items to the area with big portions and friendly prices.

For the classic small town Italian deli experience in Gardena: Giuliano’s.
Chicken parm sandwich at Giuliano’s
Matthew Kang

17. Tortas Ahogadas La China

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324 E Anaheim St
Wilmington, CA 90744

A delicious destination for spicy tortas ahogadas, this soaked sandwich from veteran tortero Rigoberto Escobedo has a hefty, crusty bread with tender pork meat served at a handy street stand in Wilmington.

A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China.
Torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China
Matthew Kang

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1. Kurrypinch

6159 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

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.

6159 Van Nuys Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91401

2. Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe

273 Shoppers Ln, Pasadena, CA 91101

Brother and sister-owned Koko’s Mediterranean Cafe is situated on Shopper’s Lane, a backalley situation facing away from busy Lake Avenue. But don’t let that difficult to spot location deter you, this place has some of Pasadena’s best kebabs and other Mediterranean fare at very approachable prices.

273 Shoppers Ln
Pasadena, CA 91101

3. Chongqing Special Noodles

708 E Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Dan dan noodles from Chongqing Special Noodles in SGV
Dan dan noodles
Matthew Kang

SGV’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 expansive set of Sichuan-inflected noodles.

708 E Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

4. RoRo's Chicken

6660 Sunset Blvd ste c, Los Angeles, CA 90028
roros

Lebanese casual restaurant RoRo’s chicken has been serving Hollywood for years, especially with its rotisserie chicken and excellent hummus. You just have to be sure to look in the right strip mall for it.

6660 Sunset Blvd ste c
Los Angeles, CA 90028

5. Singapore's Banana Leaf

6333 W 3rd St #122, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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.

6333 W 3rd St #122
Los Angeles, CA 90036

6. Sabores Oaxaqueños Restaurant

3337 1/2 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Anafres, a mix of grilled vegetables at Sabores Oaxaqueños.
Anafres, a mix of grilled vegetables at Sabores Oaxaqueños
Wonho Frank Lee

LA has a multitude of amazing Oaxacan food, so it’s hard to just put one place on here. It’s perhaps really unexpected to find an incredible Oaxacan place hidden away along busy 8th street, serving plates like grilled anafres, or meats with vegetables laid out on a platter, or other traditional fare like tlayudas and moles. Stalwart Guelaguetza is indeed a great destination for Oaxacan food, but don’t skimp over this smaller family-owned place nearby.

3337 1/2 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005

7. Surawon Tofu House

2833 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo at Surawon in Koreatown.
Soontdubu and fried mackerel combo
Matthew Kang

Koreatown’s tofu stew scene took a hit when longtime originator Beverly Soontofu closed last year. Just down the street, Surawon continues the legacy with stellar house-made soondubu (which is a rarity since most tofu is purchased already made), along with other excellent Korean dishes in a space you’ll more likely than not just drive past along Olympic Boulevard.

2833 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006

8. RiceBox

541 S Spring St #131, Los Angeles, CA 90013
A barbecued pork rice bowl.
RiceBox
Ariel Ip

The Hong Kong-style roast meat over rice spot sits well inside the cavernous Spring Street Arcade. Traditionalists might cry foul at RiceBox’s methods — the char siu is held sous-vide, and the roast pork is more akin to porchetta — but there’s no denying the results. As simple rice-and-meat experiences go, it’s tough to beat.

541 S Spring St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90013

9. Otomisan Restaurant

2506 1/2 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

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.

2506 1/2 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90033

10. Sonoritas Prime Tacos

2004 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Sonoritas Prime Tacos
Sonoritas Prime Tacos
Instagram

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 quality 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.

2004 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

11. Sabor A Malibu

31242 CA-1, Malibu, CA 90265

A trip to Malibu wouldn’t be complete without a bite to eat. Enter Sabor a Malibu, a mellow blue-camo food truck that parks often near Zuma Beach, selling a mix of staples like burritos, quesadillas, and tacos, plus hot dogs, burgers, breakfast burritos, and even tri tip sandwiches when they feel like it. They’re daytime only, so no sunset eats sadly, just make sure to grab a bite for those daytime beach needs.

31242 CA-1
Malibu, CA 90265

12. Vito Restaurant

2807 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
Vito Exterior Vito Restaurant

Longtime Santa Monica locals will know where to get classic Italian-American dishes along Ocean Park Avenue, but others newer to the area might not immediately see what’s going on here. Opened for 41 years, this legendary place is known for its veal preparations, especially veal parmesan, as well as its well-executed pastas.

2807 Ocean Park Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405

13. Swift Cafe

4279 1/2 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008

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. Open for takeout and delivery.

4279 1/2 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008

14. Banadir Somali Restaurant

137 Arbor Vitae St, Inglewood, CA 90301

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 choice of meat (goat, chicken, or fish). Both rice and spaghetti meals are served with bananas meant to be eaten with the meal. 

137 Arbor Vitae St
Inglewood, CA 90301

15. Dong Nae Gil

15116 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90249
Mackerel joorim from Dong Nae Gil
Mackerel joorim from Dong Nae Gil
Matthew Kang

Local 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 jjigae with confidence.

15116 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90249

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16. Giuliano's Delicatessen

1138 W Gardena Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247
For the classic small town Italian deli experience in Gardena: Giuliano’s.
Chicken parm sandwich at Giuliano’s
Matthew Kang

Want a little taste of that East Coast Italian deli vibe but along a quieter section of Gardena? Check out Giuliano’s, a neighborhood establishment serving sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and grocery items to the area with big portions and friendly prices.

1138 W Gardena Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247

17. Tortas Ahogadas La China

324 E Anaheim St, Wilmington, CA 90744
A torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China.
Torta ahogada with two tacos dorados from La China
Matthew Kang

A delicious destination for spicy tortas ahogadas, this soaked sandwich from veteran tortero Rigoberto Escobedo has a hefty, crusty bread with tender pork meat served at a handy street stand in Wilmington.

324 E Anaheim St
Wilmington, CA 90744

Related Maps