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 an intricate duck preparation rarely seen in the U.S. to incredible Nashville-style hot chicken, here are the 17 most iconic dishes in Los Angeles.Read More
LA's 17 Most Iconic Restaurant Dishes
Signature dishes, from fried chicken and burgers to smoked salmon pizza
1. 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.
2. 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 best-cooked grilled Armenian meats anywhere.
3. Prime Rib Plate at Tam O'Shanter
Lawry’s is the more famous prime rib restaurant, but Tam O’Shanter is an equally good, if not more low-key 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.
4. 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. FYI: Golden Deli will be closed for two weeks in mid-January for Tet.
5. 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.
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6. Barbecue Platter at Moo's Craft Barbecue
Moo’s Craft Barbecue has been serving in Los Angeles for many years, but its recently opened permanent location in Lincoln Heights is a smoked meat miracle for Texas barbecue fans. The platter of sausages, brisket, ribs, and sides all retain a tint of LA flavor, like the side of esquites, but the tender, juicy meat offers some of the ‘cue in the city.
7. 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.
8. 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, and coleslaw on twice-baked rye.
9. Rice Rolls at Elite Restaurant
Dim sum basics like shu mai, har gow, and stewed tripe are executed very well at Elite, but best of all are the rice noodle rolls with a crunchy fried doughnut filling that contrasts brilliantly with the velvety noodle sheets. Soy sauce ties everything together with a subtle and welcomed sweetness.
10. 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.
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11. Fruit Doughnuts at The Donut Man
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Springtime strawberry and summertime peach-filled doughnuts are a sweet confection from the Glendora’s Donut Man, one of Southern California’s most iconic shops, which now has a location inside Grand Central Market in Downtown.
12. 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. 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.
13. Dirty Chicken at Citrin
The roast chicken coated with bread crumbs at Citrin was a longtime preparation at Josiah Citrin’s Mélisse. Now he’s serving it with buttery potatoes and seasonal sides like morel mushrooms for some of the juiciest, most delicious roast chicken in the city. It’s big enough for two or even three to share.
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14. 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 can’t be beat.
15. Nashville-Style Hot Chicken at Hotville Chicken
Kim Prince brought her legendary family’s mentality toward Nashville Hot Chicken and brought it to the heart of Los Angeles. With a terrific, crisp exterior and deeply flavored, incredibly spicy seasonings, there’s a reason why Hotville is among the best examples of hot chicken anywhere in LA.
16. Pressed Duck at Pasjoli
Dave Beran’s Michelin-starred French restaurant has had to evolve over the years, but the menu has continued to prepare one of the most elaborate French dishes in the cuisine: pressed duck. Originating from the chef’s time at Next in Chicago, this tableside preparation involves pressing the innards to create a sauce to be spooned over the rare-roasted duck breast. During the pandemic, the tableside show has unfortunately moved to the kitchen, but here’s to hoping it will return to the dining room someday. There might not be a more delicious duck preparation in LA.
17. 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 an onion salsa, it’s one of the most spectacular seafood dishes in the city. Also available at Coni’Seafood’s Culver City location.