The Most Exciting New Restaurants in LA

LA's best new restaurants are diverse and fun, from high-end omakase to creative fusion tacos and more.

budonoki moody interior in virgil village
Photo by Dylan James Ho, courtesy of Budonoki
Photo by Dylan James Ho, courtesy of Budonoki

Writing about the best new restaurants in LA can feel a little predatory, youth obsessed like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. And yet there is no denying it—exciting new restaurants continue to open, and the chefs and teams behind them continue to blow us away with their creativity and execution. There are fantastic options across all categories, from taquerias to omakase sushi, casual izakayas to elegant Lebanese restaurants, regional Chinese cooking to Atlantic coast seafood and so much more.

2023 was yet another tough year for the industry across LA, with big closures from Chinatown to Orange County and Silver Lake to the Palisades, but into their shoes steps a whole new crop of great restaurants. This city is a tough place to run a restaurant, but thankfully our brave and talented chefs and restaurateurs never stop. Which is all to say, if you like a restaurant, make sure you support it. And if you're looking for some new favorites, check out this list of the most exciting new restaurants in LA.

fish sandwiches and vegetables at little fish in echo park
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

The best restaurants on the unofficial Eastside of Los Angeles

Echo Park
The transition from pop-up to brick-and-mortar can be difficult, and when the weekly sprint of a pop-up turns into a daily marathon some of the magic can get lost. Not so at Little Fish, pandemic heroes who started serving fish and chips out of their Echo Park backyard in 2020 and grew into a fried fish sandwich sensation, and who have now moved into a prestigious spot in a busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard. The food has been on point from the jump; the fried fish sandwich remains a star-making dish, but the kitchen has a way with vegetables too, a lean towards bitter and salty that is unusual and refreshing. And if you can make it before they end breakfast at 11 am, the congee is one of the best versions in town, either with fish or mushroom as the protein.

tacos at mideast tacos in silver lake
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

Silver Lake
There is a new mural on the wall at Sunset and Maltman, a jaunty aqua color painted over the bricks facing the 99 Cent Store, decorated with alternating symbols, Armenian kerkhach and traditional Mexican weaving patterns. It is a fitting work of art for the outside of MidEast Tacos, not only because it literally represents the fusion of Armenian and Mexican cooking at hand in Armen Martirosyan and Aram Kavoukjian’s new brick-and-mortar restaurant, but also because it is carefully thought out, bright and lovely and fun. That’s exactly the right way to describe their food too, a pairing of tacos and khorovats that only sounds weird if it’s your first time in LA. The combination just works, flour tortillas from Mejorado wrapped around marinated steak, toum infused with chile de arbol, all dusted with sumac and a sprinkle of Thai basil. The falafel are an early highlight, served in a corn tortilla with avocado salsa, a lovely crunchy-smushy rich-herby contrast.

tacos at 5 cazuelas in frogtown
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

The flyby section of Riverside that runs parallel to the 5 freeway just east of Fletcher is an unlikely place for a taco truck. There’s limited foot traffic, few nearby businesses or offices, and except for short-ish rush hour windows most of the cars zip by too fast to really take their signage in. Maybe that’s why they’re not insanely crowded—because that’s about the only reason that comes to mind. Their tacos de guisado are excellent, perfect for a chilly afternoon, built with pretty flourishes of pickled onions and radish sprouts on sturdy blue corn tortillas. The Cochinita Pibil is rich and complex as the best of them, accompanied by a bright habanero salsa, and the Rajas are creamy and smoky in equal measure. The location can only keep them hidden for so long.

naem sausage and beer at budonoki in virgil village
Photo by Dylan James Ho, courtesy of Budonoki

Virgil Village
Some of the most exciting restaurants in town evade clear description, and so you end up talking about them by smushing together half-formed thoughts like ‘high-energy casual and also stylish neighborhood drinking snacks’ or ‘dimly lit party vibes with thumping music but the food is awesome too.’ It may not really make sense, but that’s kind of the point; Budonoki, Virgil Village’s new-ish izakaya-ish restaurant, is just such a place. There’s great pressed sushi and a unique take on gnocchi, awesome negima yakitori skewers and a stunningly great version of the Thai sausage naem. The creative shochu and amaro-based cocktails come in giant novelty mugs and the beer comes in tiny glasses, both of which somehow enhance the experience, whether sipping a Girl’s Night Out cocktail through a straw or knocking back rounds of Orion. However you want to describe it, one thing comes first—this place is fun as hell.

noodles at poltergeist in echo park
Photo by Shahab Gozarkhah, courtesy of Poltergeist

Echo Park
If you’ve been following the LA pop-up food scene over the last couple of years, odds are you’ve heard of Estrano, the far-out pasta pop-up from chef Diego Argoti. Estrano events trend toward chaos in the best way, with long lines that wind down barely-lit alleyways, thumping music, last-minute surprises, and a menu of inspired insanity centered on handmade noodles with a feral edge. For his next project, the new Poltergeist, Argoti has stepped indoors to the fun and boldly experimental retro-style bar arcade Button Mash. Armed with a real kitchen instead of a couple of burners on the street, Argoti already has Poltergeist feeling tight, maybe not focused, per se, but cohesive in its eccentricity. There is a Parker House Roll with Miso Honey, Furikake Duqqa, and Fresno Chile Butter that pulls apart just so; the noodles in the Yellow Curry Bucatino are as good as you’ll find anywhere and come coated in a slick curry that zips with tomatillo zhoug; and the Coconut Curry Chochoyotes turn out to be a wild flip on fondue, complete with mushrooms three ways and a fondue fork for dipping. Argoti has a penchant for unusual cuts of meat, which dot the menu, but this is also a place where vegetarians and the squeamish can happily eat. And you can always put a beer in their hand and send them over to play Virtua Tennis at the arcade when the Lamb Neck hits the table.

nigiri at sushi note omakase in beverly hills
Photo by Michael Aguilar, courtesy of Sushi Note Omakase

The best new restaurants on the westside of Los Angeles

Beverly Hills
It takes a lot to make an impact on the LA sushi scene, which is already chock full of beloved itamae and iconic sushi restaurants. But Chefs Kiminobu Saito and Earl Aguilar are doing just that from their tiny sushi-ya, a little jewel box tucked into a parking garage right on Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills. The omakase-only sushi experience trends traditional and technical, pieces of nigiri set in front of you one after another in a parade of perfect bites. That’s not to say it’s purely traditional, of course; there are plenty of modern flourishes, from a dry-aged fish series to a generous spoonful of caviar. And there is the signature Sushi Note addition—wine pairings. It’s a rare thing to find sushi paired expertly with wine, but it is undeniably special when the right combination hits, and beverage director Ian Lokey and the team hit more often than anywhere else.

ladyhawk interior at kimpton la peer in west hollywood
Photo by Steve Legato, courtesy of Ladyhawk

West Hollywood
The talent it takes to be a Top Chef on TV is sometimes different from the talent it takes to be an excellent chef in a restaurant; inspiration under pressure is a different thing than repeated execution and steady improvement over time. But at the new Ladyhawk in West Hollywood, Chef Charbel Hayek is proving he can do both. Fans of Top Chef will recognize Hayek as the winner of Top Chef Middle East and a breakout favorite of Top Chef All-Stars, but Ladyhawk is not a gimmick or a slapdash way to capitalize on celebrity. Hayek is in the kitchen and touching tables almost every night, putting out excellent versions of modern Lebanese food. The mezze are familiar dishes done exceedingly well, from the light and salty falafel with a perfect fry to the babaganoush that is charred over a wood fire until it’s deeply smoky. The creative dishes may work even better, including a shawarma-spiced skirt steak that is fragrant enough to pull attention as it travels through the dining room, and a truly show stopping Za’atar Man’oushe built on long-fermented dough with dozens of little kisses of labneh, tomato, and chili oil. Cocktails are clever too, especially the intensely anise-infused Mamara & Black, and the wine list is long and thoughtful. There are a lot of great Lebanese restaurants in LA, but very few occupying this sort of stylish, high-end space.

chef yoshitaka mitsue at UKA in hollywood
Photo courtesy of Japan House Los Angeles

The best new restaurants in Hollywood and central LA

No honorable Angeleno would send a person they cared about to Hollywood and Highland without a damn good reason. It is a garish and overstimulating jumble of tourists, fast fashion, bad stores, lousy food, and worse vibes. But it is more than worth braving the madness for the special meal above it—UKA, the new restaurant at Japan House on the complex’s top floor, is an absolute marvel. The elegant kaiseki menu from chef Yoshitaka Mitsue and chef Shingo Kato covers nine thrilling courses, ranging from subtle to muscular and classic to modern. There is delicate Ainame fish sliced in the intricate honegiri style, cooked in dashi, and perfumed with sansho leaves. There is also a bright and fun Teriyaki Hamachi served with French-inspired asparagus cream. The beverage pairing includes both sake and wine, with creative choices that pair in clever and unexpected ways, and the space is absolutely pristine, with gorgeous views that stretch from downtown to the ocean. It is an extraordinary experience, and it’s easy to forget the imposter Avengers posing for pictures with sunburnt tourists, only five short stories below.

food from meteora in los angeles
Photo by Irina Logra, courtesy of Meteora

Chef Jordan Kahn’s otherworldly restaurant Meteora has been open for a while now, but in their still-recent switch to a tasting menu format, Kahn and the team seem to have found their real stride; the procession of courses has focused the chef’s wild instincts without caging his imagination. But make no mistake, this is still a far-out, utterly unique experience. Influences come from across the globe, both backward and forward in time, and ingredients are transformed using elemental techniques like hot rocks and lots of live fire. A “ceviche” of compressed melon is topped with a melon seed leche de tigre, then served with an aged spruce tip which is meant to be torn and added by hand; the combination is unusual and alchemical, sharp, and creamy with a hit of high-toned spruce resin that lingers on your fingertips. A scallop topped with longanisa-spiced oil, pineapple, habanero ash, and lime hits almost like al pastor, but a burnt yam topped with smoked trout roe, grilled hazelnuts, papaya, and a butter emulsion is like nothing else. Wine pairings are clever and fun, focusing on natural wine from volcanic soil, and cocktails are complex and unfamiliar in the best way. In the early days, the menu was expansive and beguiling—for better and for worse—but now it feels curated, directed. It is a guided walk through an alien garden instead of bushwacking through primitive forest.

shrimp tacos from correas
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

The best new restaurants in Northeast Los Angeles

Lincoln Heights
Correa’s Market had an outstanding two-decade run as an essential carniceria in Lincoln Heights, and was in the midst of a new burst of enthusiasm after Edgar Nava, the market owner’s nephew, opened a mariscos pop-up inside the market a few years ago. But that run was cut short due to a large rent increase last year, which forced the market to close. Thankfully, though, Nava has carried the name—and his mariscos—forward at Correa’s Mariscos & Cocina, a small marisqueria just a few blocks away from the original carniceria, and right across from the back entrance of LA County Hospital. All of Nava’s essential bangers are there, from classic Aguachiles and the unorthodox but beloved Shrimp Po’Boy to the Fried Shrimp Tacos, which legitimately rival those from the legendary Mariscos Jalisco a couple miles away. The additional dedicated kitchen space has given Nava room to expand the menu a bit too, adding vegetarian tacos with Mushroom or Potato, and also tacos featuring Grilled Mahi-Mahi or Jalisco-style Birria de Res from a family recipe.

queen street raw bar in highland park
Photo courtesy of Queen Street

Highland Park
The seafood cuisine of Charleston, South Carolina is the inspiration for the new Queen Street, and executive chef Ari Kolender and the booming Last Word Hospitality group have leaned all the way into the motif. There are photographs of Atlantic seascapes on the wall, a wood-paneled U-shaped bar that feels like an old boat, and custom stained-glass windows overhead. The menu is full of lovely takes on Low Country dishes like a rich She Crab Soup smoothed with a tableside pour of sherry right into the bowl; the Anchovy & Tomato Bread Pudding is an early highlight, a smushy delight of caramelized tomato with little mines of fishy umami laid over the top. The smell of wood smoke drifts from the kitchen to settle gently into your hair, and you sip something from the clever wine list or maybe a glass of brisk Spanish vermouth over ice. You look around the dining room, full from the moment they open with happy, stylish folks from all over town, and it’s suddenly clear—Queen Street may be a Charleston-themed restaurant, but this is precisely how Angelenos want to eat right now.

Highland Park
It may be tucked into the corner of a big strip mall south of the happening stretch of Figueroa, but the new brick-and-mortar location of Villa’s Tacos is still easy to find—just follow the smell of mesquite smoke. Superstar taquero Victor Villa’s voice booms joyously over the crowd of people, greeting the long line of friends, neighbors, and customers, many of whom fall into all three of those categories, and he has good reason to be enthusiastic. His new location is a hit. They’ve seamlessly jumped from a pop-up stand on York with limited hours into a stationary restaurant open every Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 9 pm. The meats are still perfumed with mesquite smoke and chopped to crumbly bits, the salsas still slap with just the right balance of salt and acid, and the cheese crust still flares out in a jagged halo around the edges of the handmade blue corn tortillas. Does the easy availability dampen the magic? For clout-chasers out there, perhaps—and so much the better for the rest of us.

biang biang noodles at zhenwei kitchen in alhambra
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

The best new restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley

Zhenwei Kitchen

It’s a reasonably good rule of thumb that if a restaurant lists their specialties as “sushi and” you should run the opposite direction. Sushi is generally too purpose-driven and intense to allow space for a kitchen to do it properly and also cook other things. But rules are meant to be broken, and the new Zhenwei Kitchen is testament. Not only is it a “sushi and” restaurant, it’s a particularly unusual combination—sushi and Shaanxi cuisine. But against all odds, it works. The sushi is solid, thanks to the chef’s time in front of the board at a dedicated sushi restaurant, but it really shines with those Shaanxi specialties. There are outstanding Biang Biang Noodles, translated here as Special Hot Oil Style Noodles, with just the right touch of oil and chili and the dish’s signature prodigious chew. There are also Xi'an-style classics like Roujiamo, also known as Chinese Hamburgers, and an array of other noodles, but the Xian Wonton Soup is as emblematic as any—the clear, savory broth is infused with flecks of herbs and seaweed, and its delicious simplicity tells of the chef’s deft touch, which spans cuisines.

Colette is not technically a new opening; the restaurant has been around with the same name in the same location since 2016. But it recently flipped into a totally new concept, morphing from a breezy New American brunch spot into its current shape, a thrilling modern Cantonese restaurant. Chef Peter Lai cooked elevated Cantonese classics at Embassy Kitchen in San Gabriel, and a similar theme runs through the menu here. There are top-tier versions of Braised Tofu with Mushroom, Curry Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken. And there are also some stunners that are a little harder to come by—a Cantonese Beef Stew served with crispy fried vermicelli noodles, Lobster with Sticky Rice, and a true showstopper in Crispy Stuffed Chicken, deboned and air-dried chicken that’s filled with shrimp paste then cooked until the outside is shatteringly crisp. The space retains its light and airy feel with a lovely outdoor patio, like a perfect brunch spot, but this food is exponentially more interesting.

food at saucy chick x goat mafia in pasadena
Photo by Steve Pineda, courtesy of Saucy Chick x The Goat Mafia

In the internet age, no single word generates more hype than “collab.” Some collaborations don’t live up to the excitement they generate, but the Saucy Chick x The Goat Mafia restaurant absolutely does. The new spot is a brick-and-mortar collaboration between two former pop-ups, both Smorgasburg veterans who’ve teamed up to bring their collective talents to East Pasadena. That means you can get Rhea and Marcel Michel’s Indian-Mexican rotisserie chicken, Juan Garcia and Ivan Flores’ Jalisco-style birria from a century-old family recipe, and a crisp local craft beer all in the same place. The Pollo Pibil and Charred Haldi Cauliflower are particularly lovely, and they make an incredible pair with a couple of those resplendent birria tacos. The space is bright and stylish with plenty of parking, and they do pickup and delivery orders online for a perfect quick lunch.

tacos at los cholos in huntington park
Photo by Ben Mesirow for Thrillist

Best new restaurants in South Los Angeles

Huntington Park
The first thing that hits you when you walk into Tacos Los Cholos in Huntington Park is the smoke. The smell of mesquite and charred meat hovers in the room like it does at the very best neighborhood cookouts. Then you look around, clock the size of the space, the brash black and red color scheme, and the massive, flaming Santa Maria-style grill that pops and crackles and powers the whole operation. It is an impressive foray into LA county for the OC favorites, fresh off a thrilling win at LA Taco’s Taco Madness this year. The tacos are also impressive, and the perfect showcase for all the immaculate, smoky, and salty protein from that grill, from the sleeper hit mushrooms to USDA Prime-grade filet mignon. Salsas are good if maybe a bit of an afterthought, and if you’re feeling wild, they have a range of more extravagant creations too, like the Cholo Pizza (an overstuffed layered quesadilla with tons of salsas) and the Papa Loka (an overstuffed layered baked potato with tons of cheese).

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Ben Mesirow is Thrillist's LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.