Food & Drink

The Definitive Westwood Dining Guide

Published On 04/09/2016 Published On 04/09/2016
bella pita, falafel, falafel sandwich
Courtesy of Bella Pita, Inc (edited)
courtesy of Hamasaku

Best strip-mall sushi: Hamasaku

11043 Santa Monica Blvd

Some of LA’s best sushi restaurants, like Hamasaku, are hidden away in strip malls. This nondescript spot -- which is surprisingly spacious inside -- has a solid sashimi selection, in addition to several non-traditional rolls and shareable starters.

Best non-taco-truck tacos: Tacos Tu Madre

1945 1/2 Westwood Blvd

No more chasing down your favorite taco truck after a night out; this colorful takeout window is tiny, but stays put. Plus, it specializes in unique taco offerings, like Korean barbeque or duck mole, breakfast burritos, and mouthwatering red velvet churros.

Best semi-secret café: Ammo

10899 Wilshire Blvd

Museum cafés usually try to stick you with overpriced, underwhelming food. But Ammo, tucked inside the Hammer Museum, is a tranquil courtyard oasis that serves stuff like fried egg/prosciutto sammies, farmers market fruit bread pudding, and ginger pear bellinis.

Courtesy of Scott Stewart

Best pizza: 800 Degrees

10889 Lindbrook Dr

Don’t expect sturdy pies that hold up perfectly as you’re eating at this build-your-own-pizza spot. 800 Degrees is known for slippery, piping hot, fresh Neapolitan-style pizza submerged in sauce and quality toppings.

Best place to watch sports: Palomino

10877 Wilshire Blvd Suite #150

The area doesn’t hurt for crowded sports bars, but Palomino scores thanks to plentiful overhead TVs and a killer daily happy hour that includes food specials, too. Pro tip: order the addictively good crab artichoke dip.

Best ice cream: Saffron & Rose

1387 Westwood Blvd

Even during one of LA’s wettest winters, there’s still a line at this Persian ice cream joint. Two things to expect: fragrant flavors (like pistachio-studded saffron or white rose), and an impossibly thick, gooey consistency that’ll make anything else seem a little too plain.

Courtesy of TLT Food

Best food-truck-turned-restaurant: TLT Food

1116 Westwood Blvd

The explosive flavors here -- Mexican-Asian fusion with a distinct Cali twist -- are all over the place in the best way possible. Nosh on braised pork belly nachos, cotija cheese-topped fries, and ahi tuna tacos with chipotle-honey slaw.

Best sandwich spot: Ike’s Place

1151 Westwood Blvd

Ike’s, a Bay Area fixture, boasts a massive number of sandwich options at its LA location. Whatever you order -- whether it’s the Hella Fat Bastard (ham, bacon, mozz sticks) or Menage A Trois (BBQ halal chicken, Swiss, and honey mustard) -- definitely request it with their popular Dutch crunch bread.

Best meal for when you’re sick of college student food: Ramayani

1777 Westwood Blvd

This authentic Indonesian gem gives you a tasty respite from the area’s chain restaurants. Adventurous palates will enjoy the soto madura (traditional soup with beef tripe and coconut milk) and ikan belado (fried-to-a-crisp whole fish smothered in a kicky sauce).

Courtesy of Fundamental LA

Best date spot: Fundamental LA

1303 Westwood Blvd

Fundamental’s sandwich-heavy lunch menu would be a contender for the neighborhood’s best hoagies. But by night, the restaurant’s intimate, no-frills space and locally sourced, artistically plated dishes make it perfect date-night material.

Best burger: In-N-Out

922 Gayley Ave

There aren’t many In-N-Outs on the Westside, so this outpost -- serving up the chain’s tasty double-doubles and animal-style fries -- is the area’s fast-food unicorn.

Best kabobs: Shamshiri Grill

1712 Westwood Blvd

South Westwood Blvd is often referred to as Little Tehran, so most of the Persian restaurants along the street know how to whip up a mean kabob. Shamshiri’s ground lamb koobideh skewers, though, are particularly juicy, tender, and flavor-packed.

Courtesy of Bella Pita, Inc

Best late-night food: Bella Pita

960 Gayley Ave

Night owls in Westwood have their pick of burgers, pizzas, tacos, and other greasy late-night eats around here, but Bella Pita’s probably the only spot that serves a satisfying falafel-loaded pita covered in veggies, hummus, and tzatziki sauce -- until 2am daily.

Best for vegetarians: Sunnin Lebanese Cafe

1776 Westwood Blvd

Westwood’s full of vegetarian-friendly options like Veggie Grill and Native Foods Cafe, but if you’re not in the mood for a kale salad or quinoa bowl, try this Lebanese spot’s baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant seasoned in lemon juice), fatayer (a flavorful hand pie glutted with spinach, onions, and pine nuts), and other specialties.

Best fancy restaurant for when you’re not paying: STK

930 Hilgard Ave

Though their porterhouse steak and jalapeño cheddar grits are revelatory, half the reason you’re going to this restaurant in the W Hotel is the sleek, stylish vibe, designed to make you feel like Vegas in Westwood.

Courtesy of Sync Marketing

Best brunch: Soleil Westwood

1386 Westwood Blvd

Brunch isn’t really Westwood’s strong suit, but this charming French-Canadian bistro lures locals with pleasant fare -- like light-as-air quiches and crepes -- and a great deal on bottomless champagne or mimosas on weekends.

Best cheap eats: Diddy Riese

926 Broxton Ave

Even if some say Diddy Riese’s famous stuffed ice cream cookie sandwiches don’t count as “real” eats (we’d beg to differ though), at two bucks a pop, they certainly qualify as cheap.

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1. Hamasaku 11043 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (Westwood)

This Westwood sushi spot combines sophisticated and traditional Japanese flavors with Californian twists in an elegant and welcoming space. Tucked in the corner of a strip mall is this beloved roll-zone, as noted for its celebrity clientele as it is for its food. The rolls are deliciously over-the-top (The Lourd: spicy tuna, avocado, tempura flakes, spicy rice, mango and Jalapeño sauce. Tell me that doesn’t sound good.), and the chef takes his omakase very, very seriously.

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2. Tacos Tu Madre 1945 1/2 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025 (Westwood)

No more chasing down your favorite taco truck after a night out; this colorful takeout window is tiny, but stays put. Most customers get their Mexican creations to-go, but if it’s sit-down you’re seeking, the dining room seats 16, so prepared to get up close and personal with your date. Tacos Tu Madre specializes in unique taco offerings, like Korean barbeque or duck mole, breakfast burritos (definitely the best bang for your buck), and mouthwatering red velvet churros. Non-taco options include sides like Mexican street corn and house-made tortilla chips and guac.

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3. AMMO at the Hammer 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Museum cafés usually try to stick you with overpriced, underwhelming food. But Ammo, tucked inside the Hammer Museum, is a tranquil courtyard oasis that serves stuff like fried egg/prosciutto sammies, farmers market fruit bread pudding, and ginger pear bellinis.

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4. 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria 10889 Lindbrook Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90024

The restaurant group that brought us Umami Burger is behind this fast-casual pizza chain with locations all around the world. 800 Degrees is kind of like the Chipotle for pizza -- you choose the ingredients for your pizza at an assembly-line counter, then the pie is cooked under two minutes in an insanely hot (800 degrees!) oven. The pies are satisfying, the service fast, and the ingredients top-notch. Speciality pies and gluten-free crust is also available, so really, the choice is yours.

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5. Palomino 10877 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

A Westwood outpost of the popular and upscale chain, Palomino is serving up classic Italian dishes, such as rigatoni bolognese, chicken marsala, and asiago- & almond-encrusted scallops, plus artisan pizzas, like the must-try Sopressata, made with Italian Salumi, marinara, house-made mozzarella, caramelized Onions, roasted peppers, and green olive. Though there are plenty of cozy brown booths and white-clothed tables here, you might want to grab a seat at the bar. Why? Palomino is famous for its all-day, every-day happy hour, during which food and drink specials are served exclusively in the bar area.

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6. Saffron & Rose Ice Cream 1385 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Ice cream is more than just a sweet treat at this Westwood parlor - it’s an experience. Using traditional Persian methods by adding ground orchid root to their batches, Saffron & Rose creates ice cream that is lusciously creamy, rich, and slightly thicker in texture than your average American creams. The flavor offerings are nuanced and aroma-obsessed, with menu highlights including orange blossom, cucumber, and lavender. Don’t let the line deter you – these fragrant fro-yos are worth the wait.

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7. TLT Food 1116 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

After winning The Great Food Truck Race, the dudes behind The Lime Truck opened up this brick-and-mortar counter-serve in Westwood (they also have another location in Irvine). They're still serving their vaguely Mexican menu of sandwiches, tacos, and fried food, and everything tastes wonderfully satisfying. On the weekend, the menu takes a turn for bottomless mimosa brunch with breakfast versions of tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos.

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9. Ramayani 1777 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

This authentic Indonesian gem gives you a tasty respite from the area’s chain restaurants. Adventurous palates will enjoy the soto madura (traditional soup with beef tripe and coconut milk) and ikan belado (fried-to-a-crisp whole fish smothered in a kicky sauce).

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10. Fundamental LA 1303 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Fundamental LA is an American-style sandwich shop and restaurant in Westwood with minimalist decor. At lunch, sandwiches are elevated versions of American favorites, like grilled cheese with caramelized onions and crispy shallots, and a fried chicken sandwich with honey mustard aioli and apple cider slaw. The potato chips are fried to order and the potato salad is “dirty,” loaded with bacon, egg, dill, and mustard. At dinner, California-influenced cuisine takes flight with dishes like a kale market salad, roasted root vegetables with grapes and spiced honey, and, naturally, a burger with American cheese. As for beverage, wine is king, with fortified wine and wine-based cocktails to support the extensive list.

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11. In-N-Out Burger 922 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

What is In-N-Out if not the best fast-food chain on the West Coast? The California-based burger, fries, and milkshake purveyor is known for its super-simple menu that features only three burger styles -- hamburger, cheeseburger, and the double-double. It doesn't take much (literally, just ask the person taking your order) to find out the secret menu, which is where you'll find triple and quadruple-stacked patties, grilled cheese, and the trademarked Animal Style burger topped with grilled onions. You'll have to wait a bit longer for your order than you would at say, McDonald's, because the heat lamp-free establishment cooks patties fresh-to-order and slices potatoes in-stores.

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12. Shamshiri Grill 1712 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

South Westwood Blvd is often referred to as Little Tehran, so most of the Persian restaurants along the street know how to whip up a mean kabob. Shamshiri’s ground lamb koobideh skewers, though, are particularly juicy, tender, and flavor-packed.

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13. Bella Pita 960 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Night owls in Westwood have their pick of burgers, pizzas, tacos, and other greasy late-night eats around here, but Bella Pita’s probably the only spot that serves a satisfying falafel-loaded pita covered in veggies, hummus, and tzatziki sauce -- until 2am daily.

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14. Sunnin Lebanese Cafe 1776 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Westwood’s Sunnin Lebanese Cafe is the place to go when you’re craving popular and reliable Middle Eastern food like baba ghanouj, falafel, labneh, and, above all, juicy kefta kebabs. The skewers are made with succulent, just-chewy-enough lamb, beef, or chicken, and from the accompanying piles of rice and crispy romaine salad, you’ll quickly learn that Sunnin delivers on both value and flavor. Whatever you do, don’t skip out on dessert; in addition to baklava, Sunnin offers ashta, or clotted cream prepared with rosewater, orange blossom water, honey, and pistachios.

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15. STK Los Angeles 930 Hilgard Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

STK is a posh steakhouse in the W Hotel in Westwood, with a sleek design and DJ beats to make you feel like you're in Vegas. Your meal will certainly vie with the sultry aesthetic for your attention: the menu of market salads, starters, raw selections, entrees, steaks, and sides plates exquisitely composed dishes like beef carpaccio with pickled mustard, garlic chips, and walnut oil, seared tuna with shiitake brown butter, ponzu, and roasted baby turnips, and roasted pork chop with maple sweet potato and apple marmalade. Steaks can be ordered in small, medium, and large varieties and can be topped with a pat of truffle butter, shrimp, or a hunk of king crab or lobster.

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16. Soleil Westwood 1386 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Soleil is a unicorn for UCLA students, as the Westwood joint is equally suited for either boozy brunch or a classy dinner, or both, really. Not only can you and your crew throw back the insanely reasonable $15 bottomless mimosas and gorge yourselves on French toast and eggs benny, but you can also chow down on a Québécois-meets-LA dinner. The orange exterior awning is the opening act for the golden stucco walls inside, making Soleil live up to its name as a sunny, cheerful restaurant. Once you’re inside, opt for pumpkin ravioli or escargots Provençale; they’re cult favorites.

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17. Diddy Riese 926 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood)

Choose your own adventure at this magical ice cream sandwich emporium, where you can mix-and-match ANY of the ice cream and cookie varieties for a sweet sandwich. At two bucks a pop, the hearty desserts are certainly affordable.

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