24 Downtown LA Restaurants You Need to Try Right Now
From Arts District stalwarts like Bestia and Bavel to Fashion District newcomers spanning Italian, French, Taiwanese cuisines and more.
If there’s been a darling of any LA revitalization discussion in recent years, it’s Downtown LA. Over the last two decades, more than $30 billion has been invested in development of the area, leading to world-class cultural institutions likeThe Broad and Walt Disney Concert Hall, entertainment projects like L.A. LIVE, the makeover of Grand Park; the construction of millions of square feet of office and residential space, and a slew of shiny new hotel options.
And then of course, there’s the red-hot restaurant scene. A good chunk of the city’s most acclaimed eateries suddenly planted their flags Downtown, many of them in the burgeoning and edgy Arts District, which became home to buzzy James Beard nominees like Bavel, Nightshade, Hayato, and Bon Temps, all helping draw diners back to the city center.
And then came COVID-19.
Restaurant owners and workers in this neighborhood faced a double whammy: The hospitality industry got especially hammered as restaurants were forced to shutter for parts of the pandemic, while Downtown became one of the areas hit hardest by the COVID fallout in all of Los Angeles. Even when restaurants were given the clear to open for dine-in or takeout, Downtown often felt like a ghost town as its tens of thousands of office workers stopped coming to work, sporting events and concerts were canceled, theaters and museums remained dark, and Angelenos stayed home.
Sadly, we lost several Downtown titans to the pandemic, from newbies like M. Georgina by Melissa Perello and Mei Lin’s Nightshade, to earlier pioneers like Josef Centeno’s Baco Mercat and Ray Garcia’s Broken Spanish.
But an unlikely phoenix seems to be rising as LA opened back up in full: The Downtown restaurant scene is not only back but is seemingly more exciting than ever. Just as before, many of the notable new openings are centered around the Arts District, which finally unveiled the long-in-the-works At Mateo Project, where Spotify’s uber-attractive new headquarters are located, and a $2 billion mixed-use project, set to include a hotel, is on the horizon. Walk by Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat or the brand-new Camphor any evening and you’ll likely spot a full dining room and a crowd milling about out front, a happily harsh contrast to two years ago. There’s more to come, of course. Culinary bigwig José Andrés has announced plans to open a whopping three new dining concepts Downtown and pizza master Chris Bianco (who had some short-lived projects here a couple of years ago) will return with California’s first Pizzeria Bianco this year. And esteemed local chef Ray Garcia just bounced back with asterid, a new concept at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Here are 24 picks, new and old, to check out and support right now. Because as much as you’ve missed Downtown, Downtown has missed you even more.
This new, all-day deli from chefs Katianna and John Hong (spouses who met during stints at Santa Monica fine dining staple Mélisse) has taken over the former Bon Temps space in the Arts District, bringing Angelenos unique Korean-American deli fare. Think pork belly-based Kimchi Pozole, honey-walnut carrots, and a Seasoned Kale and Chicken Salad, plus plays on Jewish deli classics like sliced Dry-Aged Roast Ribeye and Hot Smoked Ocean Trout. Grab your grub—and a milk crate seat—and enjoy it under an umbrella in the tranquil alley courtyard.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Brought to you by a couple of Alain Ducasse alums, it's easy to forget that Camphor occupies the former Nightshade space, as it's been transformed into a lighter, brighter restaurant with a French bistro feel. The menu follows suit, with nods to simple ingredients and French dishes that are given an extra punch with South Asian flavors. It’s a perfect date spot, but going with a group will let you sample a whole lot more, like small plates of Glazed Vegetables with Truffle, Clams in garlic-parsley butter, and crispy Crab Barbajuans (kind of like the French version of a mini empanada), as well as entrees (most sauced tableside) of tender chicken accompanied by a chicken jus, a hearty Mushroom dish topped with rice and madeira, and a sliced Lobster with Coral Bisque, all of which pair perfectly with killer Pommes Frites (ask for all the sauces). The cocktails taste as good as they look and the list of wines by the glass is full of interesting finds.
Stephanie Izard’s second foray into Downtown LA comes via a Peruvian-inspired rooftop eatery perched on top of the Hoxton Hotel where you can take in the views from a loungey seat on the completely open-air patio and bar, or take a table in the dining room with a retractable roof, both offering killer views. The menu features shareables of colorful crudos and ceviche sitting atop leche de tigre, salads, and larger plates including a Wood-Fired Skirt Steak and Sweet-and-Sour Whole Branzino. And don’t forget cocktails like a Pisco Sour and the tequila-pomegranate LA Dreamin’.
Janet Zuccarini of Felix fame is all about creative, veggie-heavy dishes, many incorporating hemp and terpenes, at her new “plant-forward” restaurant in Downtown’s Historic Core. Expect signatures like Sourdough Puffed Pita with hemp heart za’atar and smoked baba ghanoush and a Kale Caesar with spiced chickpeas and creamy avocado sauce, plus impressive pasta (obvs), including the outstanding Gnocchetti with beet greens, goat cheese, and hazelnut. Zuccarini was the first woman in Canada to become an AVPN-certified Pizzaiola, and her pizzas—many topped with nut cheeses and flavor-packed market veggies—do not disappoint, so don’t dare leave without ordering one. The eatery is omnivore-friendly, and Zuccarini has added some sustainably raised fish, poultry, and beef dishes to the menu as well, all served beneath a custom-built greenhouse enclosure.
This Taiwanese omakase concept by Jon Yao moved from a strip mall in West LA to the light-filled space that was formerly occupied by M. Georgina at Row DTLA, a more convenient location for dedicated diners who’ve been making the trek from San Gabriel Valley. The seafood-heavy tasting menu highlights dishes inspired by Taiwanese and Asian-American flavors and ingredients, with an optional wine flight add-on, as well as the option to make it a flight of exclusively vintage pours. You’ll feel right at home as General Manager Nikki Reginaldo infuses the restaurant with her warm hospitality and habit of greeting each guest. Westside diners need not despair, as Yao is planning another concept to fill the gap left by Kato.
De La Nonna
The guys behind this new pizzeria in the wide-open space that previously housed past pizza spot Lupetti’s, have resumes that include stints in the kitchen at Tartine and running the bar at Felix, which means you can expect excellent pizza and drinks, all surrounded by a high-energy scene (this is the Arts District, after all). The pies focus on thick-but-airy Sicilian-style crusts, with classic toppings like Margherita and Pepperoni, plus custom creations including roasted mushrooms and garlic cream sauce, or pesto with Japanese sweet potato. Look for a selection of salads and an always-changing market-inspired veggie plate, plus a surprisingly solid raw bar offering (hello, Calabrian grilled oysters!), a menu of natural wines by the glass, and cocktails ranging from an Amaro high ball to a Salty Dog.
Good Clean Fun
This natural wine shop and bar has been doling out a solid dinner menu that’s heavy on interesting shareable small plates, including Red Roasted Carrots paired with cilantro yogurt, “Magic Myrna” potatoes topped with a decadent cheddar mornay sauce and crushed pepitas, Baked Oysters with a breadcrumb crust, and a few larger dishes like a Cacio e Pepe Bucatini and a Spicy Grilled Cheese. Hit happy hour—which runs from 3 pm to 6 pm daily—for discounted beer, wine, spritzes, and snacks, including $2 oysters. And check the calendar for more eponymous good clean fun like wine flight nights, meet the winemaker events, and themed dinners.
The historic Hotel Figueroa’s new coastal Italian eatery is set within its sexy covered patio, flanked by a dramatic wrought-iron bar, original fireplace, and vintage chandeliers. Here, co-executive chefs Jan Claudio and AJ McCloud—who spent time in Italy to prepare for Sparrow’s opening—shine with fresh seafood dishes like the Bluefin Tuna Tartare with truffle ponzu and a deconstructed Grilled Octopus with baby potatoes over a garlic crema. You’ll also find classic pastas (from Puttanesca to Pomodoro), pizzas (including a Wagyu Alla Vodka version!), and mains like Chicken Parm and Grilled Branzino. The cocktail list features drinks named after Mediterranean destinations, with dramatic tableside presentations.
How to book: via Sevenrooms.
At the new Downtown LA Proper Hotel, James Beard award-winning chef Suzanne Goin and restaurateur Caroline Styne of A.O.C fame have blended Portuguese style with California-inspired fare to create an all-day, market-driven menu with something for everyone. The mural-covered ground-floor restaurant offers bright salads and veggie plates like blood orange and cara cara, kale and farro, and a “mess” of local greens sauteed with garlic and chile. Or you can go heavier with Piri Piri Chicken plated with crispy fries and emerald arugula, or bold Beef Cheeks over creamy avocado, topped with green chile, crema, and radishes. If you’ve got an appetite and are dining with a group, you’ll want to try the signature Caldo Verde seafood stew overflowing with mussels, local rock crab, grilled linguiça sausage, kale, and potatoes. The wine list sticks with the restaurant’s roots with offerings from California, Spain, and Portugal, including a few sweet ports.
Brazilian chefs Rodrigo Oliveira and Victor Vasconcellos and renowned restaurateur Bill Chait have completely transformed the old Church and State (one of the OGs of the Arts District) into an industrial-feeling space complete with splashy murals, particle board tables, and a mix of communal seating. We’ll admit that sometimes dishes at blazing-hot new spots can overlap a bit (we had four different kampachi crudos last week alone), but this modern Brazilian restaurant’s vibrant menu will keep you on your toes. The kitchen emphasizes plays on classics like Crispy Tapioca Fries, Braised Pork Shank with corn couscous, and a vegan take on a Brazilian stew replete with meaty hearts of palm, plantains, and cashew fruit. (Turns out there is a kampachi ceviche here, too, and it’s totally worth getting.) Pair everything with one of the many variations of Brazil’s refreshing national cocktail, the Caipirinha.
Girl & The Goat
After several pandemic-induced delays, Top Chef and James Beard award-winning chef Stephanie Izard opened the highly anticipated LA outpost of her fabled Chicago restaurant last summer. The beautiful and bright, brick-covered space within the Arts District’s new At Mateo complex is everything we wanted it to be: a neighborhood hangout you can pop into for a delicious cocktail and small plate at the bar, and an impressive venue worthy of a big-deal dinner for a group with its bustling open kitchen (and often Izard herself) in the background. Her global cuisine and ode to the wide world of California produce are the stars here. Don’t miss fluffy House-made Naan paired with tofu tahini and carrot hummus, rotating seasonal salads (right now it's Shrimp and Crispy Greens with Satsumas and pickled veggies), and, of course, a few namesake dishes, including Goat Curry with house-made masa chips.
LA Cha Cha Cha
Another LA sibling to a Mexico City original, this expansive rooftop spot’s menu is centered around classic Mexican staples as well as chef Paco Moran’s family recipes, with added influence from the California coast. Tostadas feature fresh seafood like Baja California-sourced bluefin tuna and Mayan octopus, while a ceviche showcases cured shrimp plated with refreshing cucumber and bright beets. Notable mains include the Pescado Cha Cha Cha, with charcoal-grilled Huanchinango, and a vegetarian Pipian Rojo Con Col with a red pipian sauce, red cabbage, and epazote rice. On the interior, you’ll find the lively La Barra, a late-night option with an expanded list of cocktails and a truncated food menu.
Renowned Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera of Pujol fame blends Mexican cuisine with seasonal California produce, along with a dash of whimsy at this Arts District beauty. The outcome is heavy on both veggie-and-seafood-centric dishes like Smoked Clams with chili seed shoyu and cucumber, a Blue Shrimp Gordita topped with avocado-shiso salsa; and Celery Root with Mole Blanco, served in the sleek dining room and on the lush, plant-lined patio.
Bestia was one of the first restaurants to open as part of the revitalization of the Arts District, and kinda started it all when it comes to fine dining downtown. Translated to ‘Beast’ in Italian, the restaurant pays homage to its name with decor that includes meat-hook chandeliers and wallpaper that’s patterned with bar-fight weapons. It also touts a modern Italian menu full of standouts like a Peruvian Scallop Crudo and Roasted Marrow Bone with spinach gnocchetti and crispy breadcrumbs, plus noteworthy pizzas and pastas, and large-format Secondi dishes like Slow Roasted Lamb Neck with a smoked anchovy creme fraiche and a 32-ounce Wagyu Ribeye. Save room for dessert and pair your selections with a craft cocktail, beer, or a glass of wine from the ever-changing list.
Poppy + Rose
The daytime eatery (its name is a nod to Downtown’s fabled flower market across the street) is a great go-to when you’re in the mood for hit-the-spot comfort food. Expect Southern-inspired dishes like signature Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles drenched in honey syrup, Shrimp and Grits done with pimento-pepper shellfish sauce, and Pulled Pork Hash and Eggs, plus stacked burgers and breakfast sandos. The third-floor rooftop “Poppy Patio” that launched mid-pandemic is covered in emerald Astroturf, potted succulents, and umbrella-shaded picnic tables, and open Friday through Sunday, serving as the perfect place to park yourself for a boozy brunch.
Chef Natalia Pereira shares the rustic Brazilian fare that she grew up with in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil in this quaint cafe near the Flower District. Small plates include Brazilian staples like Yucca Fries, Potato Croquettes, and Portuguese Dumplings with shrimp and coconut, but it’s favorites like Almondegas, ground beef meatballs in a house-made tomato sauce with collard greens, and a Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie with juicy hearts of palm, olives, and corn, that earned the restaurant its recent Bib Gourmand designation from the Michelin Guide. Whatever you order, definitely wash it down with a glass of Pereira’s signature white or red sangria.
How to book: via Tock.
The 30,000-square-foot food hall has been around for over a century, offering just about every type of cuisine you can imagine, with long-term tenants like Tacos Tumbras and China Cafe, alongside tantalizing newcomers like restaurateur Maria Petulla’s Knead, boba tea and sandwich shop Moon Rabbit, and fried chicken connoisseur Lucky Bird. You can also get fresh oysters and champagne from The Oyster Gourmet, pull up to Golden Road’s counter for a fresh brew, get some creamy scoops of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, then finish it off with a photo souvenir at the vintage-inspired Photomatica booth.
How to order: Walk up.
Hard to believe it’s been four years since the duo behind Downtown’s beloved Bestia opened this stunner of a space that honors their family roots with a menu of modern Middle Eastern dishes. There are flavor-packed powerhouses like slow-roasted Lamb Neck Shawarma and Moroccan carrots with whipped feta, but the real showstoppers are the couldn’t-be-creamier spreads, including a duck-laced hummus and smoky baba ghanoush. Bavel was one of the first to debut a dining room with suspended gardens and even though that trend has become as commonplace as the 2022 espresso martini, this one is still a jawdropper.
Many David Chang fans were fearful that this hotspot on the outskirts of Chinatown might never (gasp!) reopen after it remained closed for nearly a year after the start of the pandemic, but thankfully, the legendary Momofuku man re-emerged last year. The ever-changing menu still highlights a mix of Asian and American styles and certain specialties have stayed staples since opening, including the array of bing breads (try the egg-and-smoked roe), along with large-format plates, including a massive Short Rib with Beef Rice that serves five to six people.
You’d never know that this bright and elegant space once housed clergymen (though the adjacent cathedral-turned-event-space Vibiana might give it away). Inside, longtime LA chef Neal Fraser and restaurateur Amy Knoll Fraser have created a menu of refined modern-American comfort food, with dishes like Dayboat Scallops with sunchokes and Celery Root and Ricotta Cavatelli in a wild boar sugo. In addition to the main dining room with its retractable roof and intimate front lounge, the restaurant added additional (and rather romantic) seating in the Redbird Garden during the pandemic that still remains. If you can make it Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday from 5 pm to 7 pm, you’ll find an excellent bar-only happy hour with $10 bites and discounted signature cocktails, beer, and wine.
In addition to looking the "LA sushi joint" part with its windowless strip mall location and line out the front door, this long-standing Little Tokyo restaurant never disappoints with some of the freshest fish in town. A lineup of serious sushi chefs slice up no-frills nigiri and sashimi, plus lunch and dinner combo options—including Salmon Teriyaki, Freshwater Eel, and a variety of tempuras—are always a great deal.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
This massive, rustic Italian mainstay in the Fashion District quietly does some of the best fresh pastas in town, with standouts like a Tagliatelle Bolognese; swiss chard-and-ricotta-stuffed Tortellini, and the signature Minestra Nel Sacco, pillowy parmigiano dumplings floating in broth. Make sure you try the ridiculously good eggplant with tomato sugo that’s been on the menu since the beginning. The front courtyard patio is a lovely option, but for some of the best seats in the house inside, ask to dine at the bar surrounding the open kitchen where you can watch chefs grill enormous ribeyes and dry-aged orata, and put the finishing touches on those beautiful bowls of pasta.
After spending six years as one of the most beloved food trucks in town, Wes Avila’s Guerilla Tacos parked the truck and found success at this brick-and-mortar Arts District spot he and business partner Brittney Valles opened in 2018. Avila has since moved on to other projects, so Valles is running the show, with chef Jason Beberman in the kitchen, offering specialty tacos stuffed with the likes of Korean-fried fish, Sweet Potatoes with Almond-Cashew Chile, and Octopus and Sunchoke Tostones, plus the hard-shelled Puffy Pocho and snacks like raw and grilled oysters and Scallop Aguachile. There’s also the brilliant option to add Santa Barbara uni to any dish for $5.
Before you head inside to The Broad, take a moment to admire this Bunker Hill beauty from across the sprawling plaza out front: It's a spectacular standalone, steel-glass-and-wood structure that sits in the shadow of the museum. The space itself feels wine-country contemporary with its salvaged woods, olive tree-surrounded patio, and dramatic open kitchen centered around a wood-burning oven—not all that surprising, since chef Timothy Hollingsworth spent more than a decade in Napa, including a stint at French Laundry. Here he’s doing seasonal, contemporary-rustic fare with highlights including a smokey wood oven-roasted cabbage, a delicate Ora King Salmon Tartare plated with Tamaki rice, a Beef Short Rib with root vegetables, and an egg-topped Spinach Bucatini in a creamy clam sauce.
How to book: via the restaurant’s website.