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.Read More
LA's 18 Most Iconic Restaurant Dishes
Signature dishes, from grilled tlayudas and coconut fried chicken to bouncy soba noodles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.