clock menu more-arrow no yes

LA's 20 Most Underrated Restaurants, 2017 Edition

Giving the city's best gems their time to shine

View as Map
Spring
| 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. Here then are 20 of the city's best, most underrated eateries, presented in no particular order.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

Copy Link
1025 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019

It isn’t often that a new restaurant sets up shop in Little Ethiopia. The newest addition to the stretch of Fairfax is family-run gem Lalibela, where tangy injera is plentiful and you’re sure to leave stuffed with beautifully spiced Ethiopian stews.

2. Luv2eat Thai Bistro

Copy Link
6660 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 498-5835
Visit Website

Located in a rundown Hollywood strip mall with a name that recalls the biggest texting taboos, Luv2eat isn’t a likely place to get some of the best Thai food in the city. However, Phuket natives Noree Pla and Fern Kaewtathip have been turning out blazing hot, masochistically delicious curries and noodles that have been a low key favorite of Thai connoisseurs for quite some time now. Do order the ferociously hot crab curry and heed the spice warning signs.

3. Baran's 2239

Copy Link
502 Pacific Coast Hwy
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(424) 247-8468
Visit Website

This Hermosa Beach strip mall restaurant is as unassuming as they come, but it's already been well received by locals looking for an adult dinner destination with well curated drinks and house-crafted plates. The menu ranges New American with some Italian and Asian influence, but any way you go, you're going to enjoy the food.

4. I-naba restaurant

Copy Link
20920 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503
(310) 371-6675
Visit Website

This low-key Japanese restaurant has well executed cuisine from sushi to noodles to hot and cold small plates, but the best thing here is the incredible tempura kaiseki, which won't be the best ever (like the super spendy one at Tempura Endo in Beverly Hills), but for under $50, it's a great experience for anyone who's never had fried tempura to order at a bar.

5. Commerson

Copy Link
788 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 813-3000
Visit Website

One of LA's newer hidden gems sits almost on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea, just down from heavy hitters Republique and Odys + Penelope. The place is all its own though, working a casual California menu from a sleek, simple space. Sit at the bar for a drink or grab a patio table — no matter what, you can't go wrong.

6. Kato

Copy Link
11925 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(424) 535-3041
Visit Website

West LA hit Kato is a critic's darling and much-beloved among chef types, but still needs a boost to reach critical mass with the dining public. Maybe its young chef Jon Yao's quiet nature or the hidden strip mall quality of the place, but there continues to be something special about one of 2016's most surprising new restaurants. Go, go go.

7. Kura Sushi

Copy Link
8162 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 656-6347

It’s not always easy to break out of the Sugarfish safezone when looking for an affordable sushi meal. Thankfully there’s Kura, a Sunset Boulevard strip mall standout that satisfies sushi cravings without forcing you to drop half a paycheck. Look out for the lunch specials, where you can get your roll and tempura fix for just over ten bucks.

8. Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill

Copy Link
2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 102
Lomita, CA 90717

Lomita is short on press but long on Japanese fare, including the smoky barbecue options you'll find yourself grilling at Hikari. The strip mall dining den is slick and inviting for dinner, with a lively atmosphere that feels like a party in all the right ways. Go ahead, get a little meaty.

9. Ariana Restaurant

Copy Link
19321 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356
(818) 457-4545

Perhaps the most compelling Afghan restaurant in the Southland, this humble strip mall spot has delicious aushak, tender dumplings topped with diced vegetables and ground meat, to a burger-like meat patty called chapli kabob served on a dense bread.

10. Tumanyan Khinkali Factory

Copy Link
113 N Maryland Ave
Glendale, CA 91206
(818) 649-1015
Visit Website

This Georgian-Armenian restaurant just past the Americana in Glendale is a true hidden gem, tucked into an open courtyard between businesses. Once inside, dine to your heart's content on giant, knobby dumplings pleated by hand and perfect for passing among friends. Add on an array of Armenian side dishes and you've got a lingering meal perfect for a weekend evening in.

11. Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie

Copy Link
29281 Agoura Rd
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
(818) 477-4566
Visit Website

Agoura Hills quietly maintains one of the greater Valley's best secrets in Ladyface Alehouse. Known in wider craft beer circles thanks to owner Cyrena Nouzille, the brasserie side offers a patio with great views of the hillside, and plenty of quality French comfort food for traveling Malibu-ites to fill up on.

12. Spread Mediterranean Kitchen

Copy Link
334 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 537-0284
Visit Website

Downtown's Spread Mediterranean Kitchen is a casual, inexpensive option that's surprisingly in high demand along bustling Main Street. With a full bar and array of choose-your-own-adventure Mediterranean fare (including some killer flatbread sandwiches), the place is a star for those in the know who live nearby.

13. Lao Tao

Copy Link
727 N Broadway Ste 207
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Chinatown is still on the come up, even at bustling Far East Plaza. It's maddening that upstairs tenant Lao Tao Taiwanese Street Food doesn't get the love (or the foot traffic) it deserves, as the place not only hits on some of the most pertinent flavors of the moment, but also prepares food daily from scratch at a workable price point — and there's outside seating to boot.

14. Shaanxi Garden

Copy Link
529 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Shaanxi style cuisine had a moment a few years ago before the waves of Sichuan restaurant invaded San Gabriel Valley. This restaurant straddles the intensity of a place like Shaanxi Gourmet with the more humble Xi'An Kitchen out in City of Industry. The execution of the hand-pulled noodles is slightly better here, with a more developed flavor. If you're looking for quality Shaanxi cuisine, look no further.

15. Claudine Kitchen and Bakeshop

Copy Link
16350 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91436
(818) 616-3838

There can never be enough all-day type spots for a nice, casual meal on the go. Claudine is just that sort of place for Valley denizens, with reliably delicious answers to cravings for a light salad or sandwich alongside a great breakfast and brunch menu. Of course, there’s that gorgeous pastry counter with everything from housemade pop tarts to that whimsical brown butter rice krispie treat that you’ll probably take home “for the kids.”

16. Spring

Copy Link
257 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 372-5189
Visit Website

How is it that Tony Esnault manages to fly below the radar in Downtown, with one of the most beautiful restaurants anywhere in the city? It's a crime his seasonal, produce-driven French food doesn't get more play, particularly when enjoyed inside the soaring, light-filled atrium that is his restaurant Spring.

17. Inotheke

Copy Link
606 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-3366
Visit Website

This small plates Mediterranean restaurant tucked into a new Santa Monica building is one of the few places in town to get more refined, modern Greek cooking in the city. Everyone raves about the lamb orzo, but you can nibble on everything from octopus to sardines.

18. Papilles

Copy Link
6221 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 871-2026
Visit Website

A fixture on underrated restaurant lists, Papilles is a strip mall gem in the truest sense. Restaurateur Santos Uy and chef Jordan Rosas offer compelling three-course prix fixe-menus for the unbelievable price of $38.

19. Elf Cafe

Copy Link
2135 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-6829
Visit Website

Now closing in on a decade of business, Echo Park’s Elf has always had a quiet sort of fame. The all-vegetable menu and tiny location don’t do much to speak up for it either, but that’s OK — more seats for the locals.

20. Wood Spoon

Copy Link
107 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 629-1765
Visit Website

A mostly quiet Brazilian spot with one seriously mean chicken pot pie, Wood Spoon somehow remains relevant even years after Downtown has overturned around it.

Loading comments...

1. Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

1025 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019

It isn’t often that a new restaurant sets up shop in Little Ethiopia. The newest addition to the stretch of Fairfax is family-run gem Lalibela, where tangy injera is plentiful and you’re sure to leave stuffed with beautifully spiced Ethiopian stews.

1025 S Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019

2. Luv2eat Thai Bistro

6660 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Located in a rundown Hollywood strip mall with a name that recalls the biggest texting taboos, Luv2eat isn’t a likely place to get some of the best Thai food in the city. However, Phuket natives Noree Pla and Fern Kaewtathip have been turning out blazing hot, masochistically delicious curries and noodles that have been a low key favorite of Thai connoisseurs for quite some time now. Do order the ferociously hot crab curry and heed the spice warning signs.

6660 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

3. Baran's 2239

502 Pacific Coast Hwy, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

This Hermosa Beach strip mall restaurant is as unassuming as they come, but it's already been well received by locals looking for an adult dinner destination with well curated drinks and house-crafted plates. The menu ranges New American with some Italian and Asian influence, but any way you go, you're going to enjoy the food.

502 Pacific Coast Hwy
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

4. I-naba restaurant

20920 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90503

This low-key Japanese restaurant has well executed cuisine from sushi to noodles to hot and cold small plates, but the best thing here is the incredible tempura kaiseki, which won't be the best ever (like the super spendy one at Tempura Endo in Beverly Hills), but for under $50, it's a great experience for anyone who's never had fried tempura to order at a bar.

20920 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90503

5. Commerson

788 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

One of LA's newer hidden gems sits almost on the corner of Wilshire and La Brea, just down from heavy hitters Republique and Odys + Penelope. The place is all its own though, working a casual California menu from a sleek, simple space. Sit at the bar for a drink or grab a patio table — no matter what, you can't go wrong.

788 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

6. Kato

11925 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

West LA hit Kato is a critic's darling and much-beloved among chef types, but still needs a boost to reach critical mass with the dining public. Maybe its young chef Jon Yao's quiet nature or the hidden strip mall quality of the place, but there continues to be something special about one of 2016's most surprising new restaurants. Go, go go.

11925 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

7. Kura Sushi

8162 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

It’s not always easy to break out of the Sugarfish safezone when looking for an affordable sushi meal. Thankfully there’s Kura, a Sunset Boulevard strip mall standout that satisfies sushi cravings without forcing you to drop half a paycheck. Look out for the lunch specials, where you can get your roll and tempura fix for just over ten bucks.

8162 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046

8. Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill

2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 102, Lomita, CA 90717

Lomita is short on press but long on Japanese fare, including the smoky barbecue options you'll find yourself grilling at Hikari. The strip mall dining den is slick and inviting for dinner, with a lively atmosphere that feels like a party in all the right ways. Go ahead, get a little meaty.

2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 102
Lomita, CA 90717

9. Ariana Restaurant

19321 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356

Perhaps the most compelling Afghan restaurant in the Southland, this humble strip mall spot has delicious aushak, tender dumplings topped with diced vegetables and ground meat, to a burger-like meat patty called chapli kabob served on a dense bread.

19321 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91356

10. Tumanyan Khinkali Factory

113 N Maryland Ave, Glendale, CA 91206

This Georgian-Armenian restaurant just past the Americana in Glendale is a true hidden gem, tucked into an open courtyard between businesses. Once inside, dine to your heart's content on giant, knobby dumplings pleated by hand and perfect for passing among friends. Add on an array of Armenian side dishes and you've got a lingering meal perfect for a weekend evening in.

113 N Maryland Ave
Glendale, CA 91206

11. Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie

29281 Agoura Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301

Agoura Hills quietly maintains one of the greater Valley's best secrets in Ladyface Alehouse. Known in wider craft beer circles thanks to owner Cyrena Nouzille, the brasserie side offers a patio with great views of the hillside, and plenty of quality French comfort food for traveling Malibu-ites to fill up on.

29281 Agoura Rd
Agoura Hills, CA 91301

12. Spread Mediterranean Kitchen

334 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Downtown's Spread Mediterranean Kitchen is a casual, inexpensive option that's surprisingly in high demand along bustling Main Street. With a full bar and array of choose-your-own-adventure Mediterranean fare (including some killer flatbread sandwiches), the place is a star for those in the know who live nearby.

334 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

13. Lao Tao

727 N Broadway Ste 207, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Chinatown is still on the come up, even at bustling Far East Plaza. It's maddening that upstairs tenant Lao Tao Taiwanese Street Food doesn't get the love (or the foot traffic) it deserves, as the place not only hits on some of the most pertinent flavors of the moment, but also prepares food daily from scratch at a workable price point — and there's outside seating to boot.

727 N Broadway Ste 207
Los Angeles, CA 90012

14. Shaanxi Garden

529 E Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

Shaanxi style cuisine had a moment a few years ago before the waves of Sichuan restaurant invaded San Gabriel Valley. This restaurant straddles the intensity of a place like Shaanxi Gourmet with the more humble Xi'An Kitchen out in City of Industry. The execution of the hand-pulled noodles is slightly better here, with a more developed flavor. If you're looking for quality Shaanxi cuisine, look no further.

529 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

15. Claudine Kitchen and Bakeshop

16350 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91436

There can never be enough all-day type spots for a nice, casual meal on the go. Claudine is just that sort of place for Valley denizens, with reliably delicious answers to cravings for a light salad or sandwich alongside a great breakfast and brunch menu. Of course, there’s that gorgeous pastry counter with everything from housemade pop tarts to that whimsical brown butter rice krispie treat that you’ll probably take home “for the kids.”

16350 Ventura Blvd
Encino, CA 91436

Related Maps

16. Spring

257 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA

How is it that Tony Esnault manages to fly below the radar in Downtown, with one of the most beautiful restaurants anywhere in the city? It's a crime his seasonal, produce-driven French food doesn't get more play, particularly when enjoyed inside the soaring, light-filled atrium that is his restaurant Spring.

257 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA

17. Inotheke

606 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

This small plates Mediterranean restaurant tucked into a new Santa Monica building is one of the few places in town to get more refined, modern Greek cooking in the city. Everyone raves about the lamb orzo, but you can nibble on everything from octopus to sardines.

606 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

18. Papilles

6221 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028

A fixture on underrated restaurant lists, Papilles is a strip mall gem in the truest sense. Restaurateur Santos Uy and chef Jordan Rosas offer compelling three-course prix fixe-menus for the unbelievable price of $38.

6221 Franklin Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028

19. Elf Cafe

2135 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Now closing in on a decade of business, Echo Park’s Elf has always had a quiet sort of fame. The all-vegetable menu and tiny location don’t do much to speak up for it either, but that’s OK — more seats for the locals.

2135 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026

20. Wood Spoon

107 E 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

A mostly quiet Brazilian spot with one seriously mean chicken pot pie, Wood Spoon somehow remains relevant even years after Downtown has overturned around it.

107 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Related Maps