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
LA's 20 Most Underrated Restaurants, 2017 Edition
Giving the city's best gems their time to shine
1. Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
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
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
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
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.
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.
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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
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.
8. Hikari Japanese BBQ and Grill
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
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.
10. Tumanyan Khinkali Factory
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.
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11. Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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.