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Tlayudas with tasajo and moronga from Poncho’s in a paper box.
Tlayuda from Poncho’s Tlayudas.
Matthew Kang

LA's 18 Most Iconic Restaurant Dishes

Signature dishes, from grilled tlayudas and coconut fried chicken to bouncy soba noodles

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Tlayuda from Poncho’s Tlayudas.
| Matthew Kang

With dynamic new restaurants opening every day all over the greater Southland, it’s common for in-the-know diners to seek the latest and greatest, leaving behind the beloved institutions that have paved the way. Consider this rundown a friendly PSA to support the dependable establishments that have fueled Los Angeles over the years. From charcoal-grilled Oaxacan tlayudas to incredible coconut fried chicken, here are the 18 most iconic dishes in Los Angeles.

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Dry-aged Black Sea Bream at Anajak Thai Cuisine

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Dry-aged whole fish is a trending dish in Los Angeles, thanks largely to the Valley’s seafood shop the Joint. Anajak Thai takes full advantage of this technique with an incredible nam jim-tinted black sea bream, perhaps the must-order item at a dinner at one of LA’s most impressive Thai restaurants. Expect to fight over the last bits of the grilled fish, with tender, flakey meat wading in the savory Thai sauce.

Dry-aged black sea bream with nam jim seafood sauce from Anajak Thai.
Dry-aged black sea bream with nam jim seafood sauce from Anajak Thai.
Matthew Kang

Kebabs at Mini Kabob

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There are many wonderful places to get kebabs in Los Angeles, but Mini Kabob’s plate is truly sensational, featuring buttery rice, sliced onions, and some of the incredible grilled Armenian meats anywhere. The lule, in particular, will be among the best in the city.

Kebabs plate at Mini Kabob
Mini Kabob.
Farley Elliott

Prime Rib Plate at Tam O'Shanter

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Lawry’s might be the more famous prime rib restaurant, but Tam O’Shanter is an equally good, if not more relaxed place for rib roast with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed spinach. The bone-in Prince Charlie cut is a feast any day of the week, with tender, well-roasted beef and ample au jus.

Bone-in prime rib from Tam O’Shanter in Atwater Village.
Bone-in prime rib from Tam O’Shanter in Atwater Village.
Matthew Kang

Cha Gio at Golden Deli

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Chances are good that you’ll have to wait for a table at Golden Deli, but persevere because the pork- and mushroom-stuffed cha gio (Vietnamese deep-fried spring rolls) are blistered-golden and well worth the inconvenience. Pluck some herbs and lettuce from the communal platter for garnishing and wrapping.

Salmon Roe on Burnt Everything Bagel at Courage Bagels

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Courage Bagels has become one of the most popular places to eat in Virgil Village thanks to well-crafted bagels prepared in the Montreal style, which gives it a lighter crumb and more aggressive crust compared to the New York version. The burnt everything bagel is a special treat, especially when topped generously with fresh salmon roe, fresh dill, red onion, and a hefty smear of cream cheese. Expect tremendous waits on weekends.

Salmon roe bagel at Courage.
Salmon roe bagel at Courage.
Matthew Kang

Miso Black Cod at Matsuhisa

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Without question, one of the most imitated dishes in the world today is miso-glazed black cod, originally prepared by Nobu Matsuhisa at his Beverly Hills Peruvian-Japanese restaurant. Today, the specialty has versions across countless restaurants, retaining its popularity due to a perfect balance of sweet-savory flavors, a slight tinge of gentle char, and pristine, meaty black cod to keep it all together.

Matsuhisa
Miso black cod from Matsuhisa.
Matthew Kang

Smoked Salmon Pizza at Spago

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One of the original California pizzas, Wolfgang Puck put smoked salmon with cream cheese on its pizzas at Spago, becoming an instant classic. A garnish of chopped chives and caviar completes this must-try LA icon.

A closeup of a pizza topped with smoked salmon.
Smoked salmon pizza at Spago.
Spago

Number 19 at Langer's Delicatessen

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The #19 may very well be Los Angeles’s most iconic sandwich, complete with a hand-sliced stack of pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on twice-baked rye.

Spicy Korean Chicken at Mapo Dak Galbi

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Koreatown’s longtime chicken specialist basically serves one dish: a whopping feast of chopped chicken thighs served with cabbage, onions, gochujang sauce, rice cakes, and perilla leaves, cooked over a cast iron skillet right at the table. Basically, every table opts for the fried rice finish. A hearty, satisfying chicken dinner with flavor through the roof.

Dak galbi from Mapo in Koreatown in a steel pan.
Dak galbi from Mapo in Koreatown.
Matthew Kang

Chile Relleno Bean and Cheese Burrito at Al & Bea's Mexican Food

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Bean and cheese burritos are perhaps the most famous dish in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and East LA, emerging in the early-to-mid 20th century from the likes of El Tepeyac, El Arco Iris, Lupe’s, and Al & Bea’s. The bean and cheese burritos from Al & Beas are even better with the addition of a whole chile relleno, fried with cheese and egg, retaining an excellent balance in every bite.

Bean and cheese burrito with chile relleno from Al & Bea’s.
Bean and cheese burrito with chile relleno from Al & Bea’s.
Matthew Kang

Hickory Burger at the Apple Pan

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Not all burgers are created equal, which is why the Apple Pan’s hickory burger continues to stand the test of time thanks to well-griddled patties, crisp lettuce, and gooey cheddar cheese. Rich and served with a touch of zip thanks to a proprietary barbecue sauce blend, this burger from a West LA institution is a must-do for anyone passing through the city.

Burger from Apple Pan.
Burger from Apple Pan.
Matthew Kang

Shrimp Taco at Mariscos Jalisco

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While there is no shortage of outstanding taco trucks in Los Angeles, Mariscos Jaliscos may very well be the most beloved of all thanks to Raul Ortega and his crispy shrimp tacos. The wonderful textural interplay of the crunchy shell and shrimp filling topped with avocado-studded salsa can’t be beat.

Chili dogs at Earle's On Crenshaw

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Virtually any hot dog at Earle’s on Crenshaw could garner iconic status. The busy South LA institution from brothers Cary and Duane Earle has gained legions of fans over the decades for well-grilled and well-assembled hot dogs. Try the spicy beef chili cheese dog with pickled onions for the fullest experience, but get any hot dog that suits one’s tastes.

Chili-slathered hot dog with pickled onions on a slate gray background at Earle’s on Crenshaw.
Chili dog with pickled onions at Earle’s on Crenshaw.
Farley Elliott

Coconut Fried Chicken from Cha Cha Chicken

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For many decades, this Santa Monica restaurant held its own among award-winning and pricey neighboring restaurants. The always-packed spot showcases pan-Caribbean food with an excellent jerk chicken and a savory ropa vieja stew, but the coconut fried chicken is what defines Cha Cha Chicken. Whether at the original or the Northridge location, dip this crispy, slightly sweet chicken into the mango or jerk dipping sauce for an iconic bite.

Tlayuda at Poncho's Tlayudas

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Grilled over charcoal and smeared inside with lard, cabbage, cheese, and beans, the stuffed tlayudas from Poncho’s are exemplary. Served with tasago, chorizo, moronga, and salsa, Indigenous chef Alfonso “Poncho” Martinez makes some of the best tlayudas outside of Oaxaca on Friday evenings in South Central LA. Check social media for hours.

Tlayudas with tasajo and moronga from Poncho’s in a paper box.
Tlayudas with tasajo and moronga from Poncho’s Tlayudas.
Matthew Kang

Fried Chicken at Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen

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The fried chicken, smothered or not, at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in Inglewood is often cited as one of the best examples of homestyle comfort food in Los Angeles. With a special blend of spices and coated in flour before frying, this is soul food perfection in LA.

Smothered fried chicken with mac and cheese, greens, cornbread, and sweet potatoes at Dulan’s Soul Food in Inglewood, California.
Smothered fried chicken at Dulan’s Soul Food.
Mona Holmes

Pescado Zaradeado at Coni' Seafood

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The legendary pescado zarandeado at Sinaloan specialist Coni’ Seafood is an amazing snook that’s butterflied then grilled with precision. Served with tortillas and a savory onion salsa, it’s one of the most spectacular shareable seafood dishes in the city. Also available at Coni’Seafood’s Culver City location.

Grilled snook at Coni’Seafood.
Grilled snook at Coni’Seafood.
Cathy Chaplin

Soba at Otafuku Restaurant

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It’s hard to think of the best dishes at Otafuku, easily one of the best traditional Japanese restaurants in the LA area, but the soba, made on the premises and served with 100 percent buckwheat noodles in limited quantities every day, always satisfies.

Soba from Otafuku in Gardena.
Soba from Otafuku in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Dry-aged Black Sea Bream at Anajak Thai Cuisine

Dry-aged whole fish is a trending dish in Los Angeles, thanks largely to the Valley’s seafood shop the Joint. Anajak Thai takes full advantage of this technique with an incredible nam jim-tinted black sea bream, perhaps the must-order item at a dinner at one of LA’s most impressive Thai restaurants. Expect to fight over the last bits of the grilled fish, with tender, flakey meat wading in the savory Thai sauce.

Dry-aged black sea bream with nam jim seafood sauce from Anajak Thai.
Dry-aged black sea bream with nam jim seafood sauce from Anajak Thai.
Matthew Kang

Kebabs at Mini Kabob

There are many wonderful places to get kebabs in Los Angeles, but Mini Kabob’s plate is truly sensational, featuring buttery rice, sliced onions, and some of the incredible grilled Armenian meats anywhere. The lule, in particular, will be among the best in the city.

Kebabs plate at Mini Kabob
Mini Kabob.
Farley Elliott

Prime Rib Plate at Tam O'Shanter

Lawry’s might be the more famous prime rib restaurant, but Tam O’Shanter is an equally good, if not more relaxed place for rib roast with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and creamed spinach. The bone-in Prince Charlie cut is a feast any day of the week, with tender, well-roasted beef and ample au jus.

Bone-in prime rib from Tam O’Shanter in Atwater Village.
Bone-in prime rib from Tam O’Shanter in Atwater Village.
Matthew Kang

Cha Gio at Golden Deli

Chances are good that you’ll have to wait for a table at Golden Deli, but persevere because the pork- and mushroom-stuffed cha gio (Vietnamese deep-fried spring rolls) are blistered-golden and well worth the inconvenience. Pluck some herbs and lettuce from the communal platter for garnishing and wrapping.

Salmon Roe on Burnt Everything Bagel at Courage Bagels

Courage Bagels has become one of the most popular places to eat in Virgil Village thanks to well-crafted bagels prepared in the Montreal style, which gives it a lighter crumb and more aggressive crust compared to the New York version. The burnt everything bagel is a special treat, especially when topped generously with fresh salmon roe, fresh dill, red onion, and a hefty smear of cream cheese. Expect tremendous waits on weekends.

Salmon roe bagel at Courage.
Salmon roe bagel at Courage.
Matthew Kang

Miso Black Cod at Matsuhisa

Without question, one of the most imitated dishes in the world today is miso-glazed black cod, originally prepared by Nobu Matsuhisa at his Beverly Hills Peruvian-Japanese restaurant. Today, the specialty has versions across countless restaurants, retaining its popularity due to a perfect balance of sweet-savory flavors, a slight tinge of gentle char, and pristine, meaty black cod to keep it all together.

Matsuhisa
Miso black cod from Matsuhisa.
Matthew Kang

Smoked Salmon Pizza at Spago

One of the original California pizzas, Wolfgang Puck put smoked salmon with cream cheese on its pizzas at Spago, becoming an instant classic. A garnish of chopped chives and caviar completes this must-try LA icon.

A closeup of a pizza topped with smoked salmon.
Smoked salmon pizza at Spago.
Spago

Number 19 at Langer's Delicatessen

The #19 may very well be Los Angeles’s most iconic sandwich, complete with a hand-sliced stack of pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on twice-baked rye.

Spicy Korean Chicken at Mapo Dak Galbi

Koreatown’s longtime chicken specialist basically serves one dish: a whopping feast of chopped chicken thighs served with cabbage, onions, gochujang sauce, rice cakes, and perilla leaves, cooked over a cast iron skillet right at the table. Basically, every table opts for the fried rice finish. A hearty, satisfying chicken dinner with flavor through the roof.

Dak galbi from Mapo in Koreatown in a steel pan.
Dak galbi from Mapo in Koreatown.
Matthew Kang

Chile Relleno Bean and Cheese Burrito at Al & Bea's Mexican Food

Bean and cheese burritos are perhaps the most famous dish in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and East LA, emerging in the early-to-mid 20th century from the likes of El Tepeyac, El Arco Iris, Lupe’s, and Al & Bea’s. The bean and cheese burritos from Al & Beas are even better with the addition of a whole chile relleno, fried with cheese and egg, retaining an excellent balance in every bite.

Bean and cheese burrito with chile relleno from Al & Bea’s.
Bean and cheese burrito with chile relleno from Al & Bea’s.
Matthew Kang

Hickory Burger at the Apple Pan

Not all burgers are created equal, which is why the Apple Pan’s hickory burger continues to stand the test of time thanks to well-griddled patties, crisp lettuce, and gooey cheddar cheese. Rich and served with a touch of zip thanks to a proprietary barbecue sauce blend, this burger from a West LA institution is a must-do for anyone passing through the city.

Burger from Apple Pan.
Burger from Apple Pan.
Matthew Kang

Shrimp Taco at Mariscos Jalisco

While there is no shortage of outstanding taco trucks in Los Angeles, Mariscos Jaliscos may very well be the most beloved of all thanks to Raul Ortega and his crispy shrimp tacos. The wonderful textural interplay of the crunchy shell and shrimp filling topped with avocado-studded salsa can’t be beat.

Chili dogs at Earle's On Crenshaw

Virtually any hot dog at Earle’s on Crenshaw could garner iconic status. The busy South LA institution from brothers Cary and Duane Earle has gained legions of fans over the decades for well-grilled and well-assembled hot dogs. Try the spicy beef chili cheese dog with pickled onions for the fullest experience, but get any hot dog that suits one’s tastes.

Chili-slathered hot dog with pickled onions on a slate gray background at Earle’s on Crenshaw.
Chili dog with pickled onions at Earle’s on Crenshaw.
Farley Elliott

Coconut Fried Chicken from Cha Cha Chicken

For many decades, this Santa Monica restaurant held its own among award-winning and pricey neighboring restaurants. The always-packed spot showcases pan-Caribbean food with an excellent jerk chicken and a savory ropa vieja stew, but the coconut fried chicken is what defines Cha Cha Chicken. Whether at the original or the Northridge location, dip this crispy, slightly sweet chicken into the mango or jerk dipping sauce for an iconic bite.

Tlayuda at Poncho's Tlayudas

Grilled over charcoal and smeared inside with lard, cabbage, cheese, and beans, the stuffed tlayudas from Poncho’s are exemplary. Served with tasago, chorizo, moronga, and salsa, Indigenous chef Alfonso “Poncho” Martinez makes some of the best tlayudas outside of Oaxaca on Friday evenings in South Central LA. Check social media for hours.

Tlayudas with tasajo and moronga from Poncho’s in a paper box.
Tlayudas with tasajo and moronga from Poncho’s Tlayudas.
Matthew Kang

Related Maps

Fried Chicken at Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen

The fried chicken, smothered or not, at Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen in Inglewood is often cited as one of the best examples of homestyle comfort food in Los Angeles. With a special blend of spices and coated in flour before frying, this is soul food perfection in LA.

Smothered fried chicken with mac and cheese, greens, cornbread, and sweet potatoes at Dulan’s Soul Food in Inglewood, California.
Smothered fried chicken at Dulan’s Soul Food.
Mona Holmes

Pescado Zaradeado at Coni' Seafood

The legendary pescado zarandeado at Sinaloan specialist Coni’ Seafood is an amazing snook that’s butterflied then grilled with precision. Served with tortillas and a savory onion salsa, it’s one of the most spectacular shareable seafood dishes in the city. Also available at Coni’Seafood’s Culver City location.

Grilled snook at Coni’Seafood.
Grilled snook at Coni’Seafood.
Cathy Chaplin

Soba at Otafuku Restaurant

It’s hard to think of the best dishes at Otafuku, easily one of the best traditional Japanese restaurants in the LA area, but the soba, made on the premises and served with 100 percent buckwheat noodles in limited quantities every day, always satisfies.

Soba from Otafuku in Gardena.
Soba from Otafuku in Gardena.
Matthew Kang

Related Maps