Escape LA Without Leaving Town at These 9 Restaurants

If you’re not ready to catch a flight, explore the city’s gastronomy instead.

One of the things that makes LA truly great is that, as a city full of transplants, it has no shortage of restaurants and bars that offer truly transportive experiences. In a time when travel has been drastically limited and we’ve stretched the boundaries of what it means to make the best of being at home, that aspect of the city has never been more valuable. We’ve got endless options that can make us feel like we’re across the country, across the pond, across the seven seas, or across the universe. Here are 9 culinary experiences that will make you feel like you’re exploring the world while staying close to home.

Issima

West Hollywood

Still bummed that you weren’t able to charter a yacht and party in Ibiza over the summer? Located in the LaPeer Hotel, Issima can help you relive those vibes with a colorful, pool-adjacent environment that’s inspired by European beach holidays. The menu features wood-fired fare and fresh seafood dishes with fresh California ingredients, like avocado toast that’s heaped with jumbo lump crab on crispy toasted ciabatta bread, and grilled Sonoma lamb ribs with cucumber garlic yogurt. The cocktail list takes similar inspiration, with each drink named after a different destination. How does a trip to Cannes with Lillet Blanc, elderflower, malfy grapefruit, rose, Perrier Jouet, and Champagne sound?
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book online.

Available for Reservations
LA Cha Cha Cha
Photo by Wonho Frank Lee, courtesy of LA Cha Cha Cha

LA Cha Cha Cha

Little Tokyo

This expansive downtown rooftop has some serious Mexico City inspiration—but with a sister restaurant in CDMX, how could it not? The lush plants and Instagram-worthy decor of this restaurant would be worth a visit alone. Add to-die-for ceviche and cocktails like the mezcal-based Oaxacan Zombie and you’ve got the kind of place it’s worth putting in the extra work for one of their highly-in-demand tables. As if that wasn’t enough, Cha Cha Cha recently opened the speakeasy-inspired La Barra, an interior bar with extended hours, a separate alleyway entrance (look for the illuminated lime), and different drink and food menus.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book here.

Available for Reservations

Soko

Santa Monica

It might be located inside one of the most chichi hotels in Santa Monica, but Soko’s heart is in Japan. Chef Masa Shimakawa draws inspiration from his native Hokkaido for the menu, which delves back thousands of years to the origins of sushi for a totally unique culinary experience. Translating to “storeroom,” Soko not only refers to what the restaurant space served as before it was transformed into an intimate, eight-seat sushi den, but also pays homage to the way fish was preserved in pre-refrigeration times. Pro tip: Ask for the off-menu secret roll for a gorgeous, gold-encrusted creation of toro, avocado, uni, salmon roe, and caviar.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book online.

Available for Reservations
Bar Hermanito
Photo courtesy of Hermanito

Hermanito

Sawtelle

This restaurant and bar brings Baja California to Sawtelle, with a dash of Japanese influence from the surrounding neighborhood. Think Baja-style fish tacos battered in panko and togarashi, veggie tacos with maitake mushrooms, and ponzu sprouts, all paired with a killer spirits list, including impressive Japanese whiskey and mezcal offerings and a bartender’s choice “omakase.” Facing the street is a white patio deck with hanging plants that feels like you’ve cozied up on a friend’s shaded porch, while further back is another outdoor patio with astroturf, a netted roof for shade, and potted plants. The intimate interior is outfitted in sleek woods and boasts a different vibe altogether.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book online.

Available for Reservations

A low-key pub that opened this spring, the Auld Chip Shop is serving some of the best Irish food you’ll find in LA, especially the pies, which come in varieties like Irish Lamb Stew, Shepherds and Veggie Shepherds, with chips or mushy peas, just like Her Majesty intended. With large windows that face Riverside Drive and a simple interior with slate blue accents and deep mahogany wood, the diner offers a bright interpretation of your classic Irish bar.
How to book: No reservations.

Sant’olina

Beverly Hills

This Mediterranean hotspot on top of the Beverly Hilton Hotel is worth visiting purely for the celebrity sightings alone — but the food on the Israeli-inspired menu is also very, very good, with plenty of shareable dips alongside kebabs, crudo, and larger plates like braised lamb shank and chicken schnitzel. You can either take in the sights of the Hollywood Hills from the rooftop, or close your eyes and pretend you’re dining on the shores of the Mediterranean.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book here.

Venice may be a surfer’s paradise, but at this boardwalk restaurant, you’ll feel like you’re in another: Australia’s Bondi Beach. Here, the vibes are so chill that you can’t help feel like you’re on vacation, especially with tropical frozen drinks at the ready and lawn games to play. The restaurant is so surf-friendly that there’s even an area to store your board if you’re walking in fresh from the water.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

There are two ways to approach this Farmer’s Market mainstay. You can fill a bag with pate, fromage, fleur de sel and a baguette or two and turn your dining table into a French feast, or you can sit down at one of the gourmet grocery’s tables and let them do the cooking for you. The bistro serves proper European fondue, steak frites, and wine and cheese flights, while the seafood market is purely a raw bar experience. From your white tableclothed perch within the bustling Farmer’s Market, you’ll feel transported to a French alleyway—pop in headphones with Edith Piaf to complete the vibe.
How to book: No reservations.

Yamashiro

Hollywood Hills

Even the winding drive to this hilltop restaurant feels worlds away from Los Angeles. And yes, you’ll be treated to some of the best city views once you make it to the top, but with peaceful gardens, a courtyard with koi ponds, and a 600-year-old Japanese pagoda that holds distinction as being the oldest structure in California, Yamashiro feels like it exists outside of the city as well as our current times. The wide-ranging menu also offers a global experience, with sushi, rice and noodle dishes, mains like Chilean sea bass and NY steak, plus a ishi-yaki cooking stone experience where American Wagyu beef is grilled tableside on a hot lava rock.
How to book: Reservations recommended. Book online.

Available for Reservations
Julie Tremaine is an award-winning food and travel writer who’s road tripping — and tasting — her way across the country. Her work appears in outlets like VultureTravel + LeisureCNN Travel and Glamour, and she’s the Disneyland editor for SFGate, covering California theme parks. Read her work at Travel-Sip-Repeat.com.