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Bun mang vit, duck and bamboo noodle soup with herbs and sauce at Pho Ga
Pho Ga District
Wonho Frank Lee

12 Underrated Restaurants to Try in Los Angeles

Giving the city’s best gems their time to shine

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Pho Ga District
| Wonho Frank Lee

Underrated restaurants abound in Los Angeles, thanks to its urban sprawl and neighborhood density. Many, many deserving places get overlooked simply because a portion of the population isn’t willing to drive to them regularly, while still others hop aboard the hype train to lots of early fanfare before settling down into a quieter cruising speed. Thankfully, communities exist around these individual restaurants to keep them propped up and thriving on their own terms, year after year. With that, here are 12 underrated spots to eat across Southern California, from North Hollywood to Gardena and beyond, presented from north to south.

Added: Banadir Somali Restaurant, Division 3 Hollywood, Dumpling Monster, El Barrio, L.A. Super Torta, Me + Crepe, Pho Ga District, Salsa & Beer, Wood Spoon, Thai Gourmet by Sri Maya, Yup Dae Jang

Removed: Ackee Bamboo, Aliki’s Greek Taverna, Berlins, Cilantro Mexican Grill, Fox’s, Izakaya Hachi, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Kim Hoa Hue Food To Go, Lal Mirch, Lonzo’s Bakery, Mario’s Italian Deli, New York Chicken & Gyro, Red Rock

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Salsa & Beer

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11669 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
(818) 503-1220
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Either arrive early, or expect to wait during mealtimes at this North Hollywood spot, where the kitchen cranks out food from Jerez, Mexico. Salsa & Beer’s large plates hold traditional enchiladas, tacos, tortas, and burritos. And as expected with a name like Salsa & Beer, the beer selection is stellar, along with the salsa bar.

Exterior shot of Salsa & Beer in North Hollywood, California
Salsa & Beer
Salsa & Beer website

2. Me + Crepe

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89 E Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 345-5291
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This Vancouver-based jianbing purveyor is a Pasadena gem that’s tucked away from the busy stretch of Colorado Boulevard in Old Town. Their incredible crepes can be customized, but trust the menu for some amazing flavor combinations. Me + Crepe’s Peking duck specialty is worth it with coriander, hoisin, cucumbers, and chopped duck.

Cooks making jian bing at Me + Crepe
Me + Crepe
Euno Lee

3. Division 3 Hollywood

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5907 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 745-0007
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Chef/owner Matthew Dickson’s daytime spot holds locations in Glassell Park and Hollywood, where biscuits are the specialty. The fried chicken biscuit with spices and honey is a key item, but don’t skip on Dickson’s coffee-braised brisket grilled cheese sandwich, a delicious remix on a classic dish.

4. Dumpling Monster

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7318 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 60
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 450-9790
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Phorage chef Perry Cheung’s dug in his heels at Dumpling Monster, where he makes handmade xiao long bao and pan-fried pork dumplings from a West Hollywood kitchen. The entire menu is festive and delicious, but order the pork and Dungeness crab soup dumplings right away.

5. Pho Ga District

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#, 3119 N San Gabriel Blvd J
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 872-0878

Pho Ga District owner/chef Phan Tran learned everything by watching her parents during her childhood. The Rosemead restaurant opened in 2017, and its namesake recipe is one of many from her father, a slightly tweaked pho ga recipe with an incredibly clean broth that fills the soul.

Bun mang vit, duck and bamboo noodle soup with herbs and sauce at Pho Ga
Pho Ga
Wonho Frank Lee

6. Olympic Restaurant

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2528 W Olympic Blvd #104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 480-1107

Koreatown’s Olympic restaurant is a lesson in keeping the classics, well, classic. The old-school spot does homey Korean fare for throngs of local fans, all while flying under the radar of more prominent K-town spots. Try the panfried fish and spicy pork barbecue as well as the restaurant’s namesake (in its Korean name) cheonggukjang, or fermented soybean stew.

Spread at Olympic Cheonggukjang
Olympic
Matthew Kang

7. L.A. Super Torta

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1908 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(323) 261-8384

This Boyle Heights staple is steps away from Mariachi Plaza. Formerly Super Tortas Luisitos, the name is the only thing that’s recently changed. Tortas are the house specialty, but the menu also includes fresh juices, burritos, and a chicken soup that rivals any restaurant in the city.

8. WOODSPOON

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107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 629-1765
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Brazilian born Natalia Pereira opened Wood Spoon on the edge of the Fashion District in 2007. In one of Downtown’s tiniest kitchens, she makes Brazilian croquettes, a traditional fish soup, and a pot pie with a twist from her home country, it’s full with chicken, hearts of palm, potatoes, olives and roasted corn.

9. Big Boi

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2027 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 963-9769
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Los Angeles is laced with Filipino spots, though many of them play directly to their immediate community. At Big Boi on Sawtelle, the idea is to make Filipino food for everyone by offering big, colorful (and highly photographable) plates and desserts.

An overhead shot of Big Boi food, Filipino classics with roast meat and rice and drinks.
Big Boi
Wonho Frank Lee

10. Banadir Somali Restaurant

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137 Arbor Vitae St
Inglewood, CA 90301
(310) 419-9900
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Somali menus are built on saucy halal meats and huge portions, which means it’s best to land at Banadir Somali Restaurant with a group. Or opt for a to-go container while feasting on the traditional goat or lamb. It’s marinated, then slow oven-roasted for three hours before served with a side of basmati rice, a delightful and simple salad, and bas bas sauce with basil, jalapeño, and cilantro.

A plate of Somalian food with rice, meat, and a side salad. Mona Holmes

11. Yuk Dae Jang Gardena

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15420 S Western Ave ste b
Gardena, CA 90249
(310) 400-7743

Arguably Gardena’s favorite Korean restaurant, this packed chainlet offers yukgaejang, or spicy Korean noodle soup, with a hearty bone broth and optionally with knife-cut wheat noodles. The menu offers other specialties like army base stew (for three people) and bossam platters. Anyone living in the South Bay can skip the trek to Koreatown now.

Yuk Dae Jang’s yookgaejang kalguksu, a spicy beef noodle soup with knife cut noodles
Yuk Dae Jang’s yookgaejang kalguksu, a spicy beef noodle soup with knife cut noodles
Matthew Kang

12. El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos

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1505 Aviation Blvd
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
(310) 921-8620
Visit Website

South Bay native and chef Ulises Pineda-Alfaro uses family recipes for Redondo Beach’s El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos. Everything on the menu is non-GMO, with meats free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, along with hand made corn tortillas for tacos and mulitas stuffed with choice of birria de res, nopales, and Baja-style fried fish.

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1. Salsa & Beer

11669 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Exterior shot of Salsa & Beer in North Hollywood, California
Salsa & Beer
Salsa & Beer website

Either arrive early, or expect to wait during mealtimes at this North Hollywood spot, where the kitchen cranks out food from Jerez, Mexico. Salsa & Beer’s large plates hold traditional enchiladas, tacos, tortas, and burritos. And as expected with a name like Salsa & Beer, the beer selection is stellar, along with the salsa bar.

11669 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605

2. Me + Crepe

89 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105
Cooks making jian bing at Me + Crepe
Me + Crepe
Euno Lee

This Vancouver-based jianbing purveyor is a Pasadena gem that’s tucked away from the busy stretch of Colorado Boulevard in Old Town. Their incredible crepes can be customized, but trust the menu for some amazing flavor combinations. Me + Crepe’s Peking duck specialty is worth it with coriander, hoisin, cucumbers, and chopped duck.

89 E Green St
Pasadena, CA 91105

3. Division 3 Hollywood

5907 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Chef/owner Matthew Dickson’s daytime spot holds locations in Glassell Park and Hollywood, where biscuits are the specialty. The fried chicken biscuit with spices and honey is a key item, but don’t skip on Dickson’s coffee-braised brisket grilled cheese sandwich, a delicious remix on a classic dish.

5907 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

4. Dumpling Monster

7318 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 60, West Hollywood, CA 90046

Phorage chef Perry Cheung’s dug in his heels at Dumpling Monster, where he makes handmade xiao long bao and pan-fried pork dumplings from a West Hollywood kitchen. The entire menu is festive and delicious, but order the pork and Dungeness crab soup dumplings right away.

7318 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 60
West Hollywood, CA 90046

5. Pho Ga District

#, 3119 N San Gabriel Blvd J, Rosemead, CA 91770
Bun mang vit, duck and bamboo noodle soup with herbs and sauce at Pho Ga
Pho Ga
Wonho Frank Lee

Pho Ga District owner/chef Phan Tran learned everything by watching her parents during her childhood. The Rosemead restaurant opened in 2017, and its namesake recipe is one of many from her father, a slightly tweaked pho ga recipe with an incredibly clean broth that fills the soul.

#, 3119 N San Gabriel Blvd J
Rosemead, CA 91770

6. Olympic Restaurant

2528 W Olympic Blvd #104, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Spread at Olympic Cheonggukjang
Olympic
Matthew Kang

Koreatown’s Olympic restaurant is a lesson in keeping the classics, well, classic. The old-school spot does homey Korean fare for throngs of local fans, all while flying under the radar of more prominent K-town spots. Try the panfried fish and spicy pork barbecue as well as the restaurant’s namesake (in its Korean name) cheonggukjang, or fermented soybean stew.

2528 W Olympic Blvd #104
Los Angeles, CA 90006

7. L.A. Super Torta

1908 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033

This Boyle Heights staple is steps away from Mariachi Plaza. Formerly Super Tortas Luisitos, the name is the only thing that’s recently changed. Tortas are the house specialty, but the menu also includes fresh juices, burritos, and a chicken soup that rivals any restaurant in the city.

1908 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90033

8. WOODSPOON

107 W 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Brazilian born Natalia Pereira opened Wood Spoon on the edge of the Fashion District in 2007. In one of Downtown’s tiniest kitchens, she makes Brazilian croquettes, a traditional fish soup, and a pot pie with a twist from her home country, it’s full with chicken, hearts of palm, potatoes, olives and roasted corn.

107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

9. Big Boi

2027 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
An overhead shot of Big Boi food, Filipino classics with roast meat and rice and drinks.
Big Boi
Wonho Frank Lee

Los Angeles is laced with Filipino spots, though many of them play directly to their immediate community. At Big Boi on Sawtelle, the idea is to make Filipino food for everyone by offering big, colorful (and highly photographable) plates and desserts.

2027 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

10. Banadir Somali Restaurant

137 Arbor Vitae St, Inglewood, CA 90301
A plate of Somalian food with rice, meat, and a side salad. Mona Holmes

Somali menus are built on saucy halal meats and huge portions, which means it’s best to land at Banadir Somali Restaurant with a group. Or opt for a to-go container while feasting on the traditional goat or lamb. It’s marinated, then slow oven-roasted for three hours before served with a side of basmati rice, a delightful and simple salad, and bas bas sauce with basil, jalapeño, and cilantro.

137 Arbor Vitae St
Inglewood, CA 90301

11. Yuk Dae Jang Gardena

15420 S Western Ave ste b, Gardena, CA 90249
Yuk Dae Jang’s yookgaejang kalguksu, a spicy beef noodle soup with knife cut noodles
Yuk Dae Jang’s yookgaejang kalguksu, a spicy beef noodle soup with knife cut noodles
Matthew Kang

Arguably Gardena’s favorite Korean restaurant, this packed chainlet offers yukgaejang, or spicy Korean noodle soup, with a hearty bone broth and optionally with knife-cut wheat noodles. The menu offers other specialties like army base stew (for three people) and bossam platters. Anyone living in the South Bay can skip the trek to Koreatown now.

15420 S Western Ave ste b
Gardena, CA 90249

12. El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos

1505 Aviation Blvd, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

South Bay native and chef Ulises Pineda-Alfaro uses family recipes for Redondo Beach’s El Barrio Neighborhood Tacos. Everything on the menu is non-GMO, with meats free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, along with hand made corn tortillas for tacos and mulitas stuffed with choice of birria de res, nopales, and Baja-style fried fish.

1505 Aviation Blvd
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

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