Food & Drink

20 Essential Restaurants in Westwood

Ramayani
Ramayani | Ramayani
Ramayani | Ramayani

People usually don’t make the trek to Westwood solely for the purpose of enjoying a great meal -- but they should. The area is firmly Bruin territory, so of course you’ll find lots of on-the-go, affordable eats catering to UCLA frat types and Anderson grads. That said, you’ll also discover second-to-none Persian food (the neighborhood occasionally goes by the nickname “Tehrangeles”) and plenty of creative kitchens putting their own spin on culinary concepts. Here are 20 restaurants and eateries to try in Westwood.

Best build-your-own bowl: Cava

1073 Broxton Avenue
If you scoff at the idea of yet another build-your-own sandwich/bowl/salad spot, you haven’t tried Cava. First of all, the offerings lean Mediterranean, so you get to choose from saffron basmati rice or black lentils, spicy lamb meatballs or falafel, lemon herb tahini or Sriracha Greek yogurt, and the list goes on. Secondly, the ingredients taste unbelievably fresh -- and you’re allowed to choose as many dressings and toppings (like cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh, pickled onions, and crumbled feta) as you wish.

Best date spot: Double Take

10740 Wilshire Boulevard
By day, Hotel Palomar’s Double Take is a solid spot for breakfast or brunch where you can fuel up on fluffy coconut pancakes and sourdough waffles. By night, though, this restaurant/bar/lounge serves up a BLT wedge salad, a beet Reuben sandwich made with Emmental cheese, and grilled flatiron steak with chimichurri. After you scarf it all down, grab a craft cocktail (often made with fresh herbs and produce sourced from local farmers markets) and head to the interconnected game room that has Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, and pool. Date night accomplished.

Best meal you can have without a reservation: KazuNori

1110 Gayley Avenue
KazuNori doesn’t take reservations, so there’s bound to be a bit of a wait, but few other places offer food of this caliber in such a quick, casual setting. The restaurant’s hand roll concept comes from the folks behind Sugarfish, so you can expect the same signature warm rice and super-fresh fish all wrapped up in a crisp nori sheet.

Best lunch spot: Attari Sandwich Shop

1388 Westwood Boulevard
You’ll never suffer from sad-desk-lunch syndrome again after ordering a legendary tongue sandwich at this Tehrangeles eatery. What you’ll find is chunks of tender beef tongue piled into fresh, crusty bread (think of a banh mi loaf and you’ll get the picture), complemented by just the right amount of pickles, lettuce, and tomato.

Hamasaku, sushi
courtesy of Hamasaku

Best strip-mall sushi: Hamasaku

11043 Santa Monica Boulevard
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. Look out for seasonal specials like this summer’s cold noodle dish: a cluster of pork chashu, scallions, and key lime slices sitting in a refreshing scallop clam broth.

Best healthy food that doesn't taste healthy: Necco

1929 Westwood Boulevard
“Necco” means “root” in Japanese, and that’s exactly what this restaurant specializes in. While it’s easy to knock a menu peppered with stuff like daikon, ginger, or burdock, Necco’s actually preparing these healthy ingredients in an innovative way. Lotus root is lightly fried in panko, yielding a soft-yet-crunchy texture that’s surprisingly delicious, while daikon and yam are sliced into crisp “chips” as an appetizer. The menu’s got plenty of non-root-related bites too, like miso-marinated salmon belly and tasty wagyu beef; for lunch, definitely get one of the beautifully presented bento boxes, which gives you a taste of everything.

Best for vegetarians: Veggie Grill

10916 Lindbrook Drive
Veggie Grill’s where you go when you feel like having a burrito or burger or hot dog... but you’re meeting your vegetarian or vegan friend for dinner. That’s because VG’s spicy Sicilian sausage sandwich comes with a grilled patty from Beyond Meat (for the uninitiated, that’s a company making plant-based meats that taste like the real thing) alongside truffle cheese sauce and roasted mushrooms, and their all-day breakfast burrito is stuffed with soy chorizo, vegan cheese, fire-roasted salsa, beans, and Just Egg (for the uninitiated, that’s a plant-based egg made from mung bean that scrambles like the real thing). You’ll hardly be able to tell the difference, so even the carnivores will be happy.

Best non-taco-truck tacos: Tacos Tu Madre

1945 1/2 Westwood Boulevard
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 barbecue, cactus, and fried chicken), breakfast burritos, and mouthwatering red velvet churros.

800 Degrees, Westwood pizza
Courtesy of Scott Stewart

Best pizza: 800 Degrees

10889 Lindbrook Drive
Don’t expect sturdy pies that hold up perfectly while you eat them 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 -- the mess, in other words, is a part of the fun. Keep it basic with a pepperoni or sausage and peppers pie, or go wild with a genre-topping custom masterpiece.

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

930 Hilgard Avenue
Though their porterhouse steak and lobster ravioli are revelatory, half the reason you’re going to this restaurant in the W Hotel is its sleek, stylish vibe, designed to make you feel like Vegas has come to Westwood (there’s a lounge area with a DJ, if you feel like making a night of it). Though you’ll be paying a pretty penny for succulent wagyu and Alaskan red king crab, STK’s also got a weekday social hour from 4-6:30pm where drinks are half-off, oysters go for $2 a pop, and jalapeno Cheddar grits croquettes and tuna tartare tacos are just $8. For a slightly different vibe, reserve a table at The Hideout -- STK’s newer poolside dining area at the W -- where you can enjoy oysters, lobster BLTs, and craft cocktails by night or truffle-Cheddar grits, short rib hash, and croque madames for brunch by day.

Best ice cream: Saffron & Rose

1387 Westwood Boulevard
At this Persian ice cream joint, there’s almost always a line of people (though it moves quickly) -- all waiting for a scoop of irresistible ice cream that owes its thick, gooey consistency to organic whole milk and ground orchid root (called salep). Newcomers should definitely pick up a quart of faloodeh (squiggly rice noodles in mouthwatering ice cream)  golo bol bol (the shop’s namesake pistachio-studded saffron and rose, which, thankfully, don’t taste anything like perfume), and other delightful flavors like cucumber or orange blossom (designed to make you rethink every other ice cream you’ve ever encountered).

TLT Food, grilled cheese
Courtesy of TLT Food

Best food truck turned restaurant: TLT Food

1116 Westwood Boulevard
The explosive flavors here -- Mexican-Asian fusion with a distinct Cali twist -- are all over the place, in the best way possible. Exhibit A: orange chicken tacos. This hodgepodge of taste and texture, which is new to the menu, consists of fried chicken covered in orange sauce and tossed with juicy mandarin slices, wontons, and a crunchy Asian slaw. Don’t leave without also gorging on braised pork belly nachos, cotija cheese-topped carnitas fries, and ahi tuna tacos with chipotle-honey slaw.

Best sandwich spot: Ike’s Place

1151 Westwood Boulevard
Ike’s, a Bay Area fixture, boasts a massive number of sandwich options at its LA location. Whatever you order -- whether it’s the Menage A Trois (BBQ halal chicken, Swiss, and honey mustard) or the Kenny Washington (wild salmon with havarti) -- definitely request it with Dutch crunch bread. It’s a dense, chewy loaf with a crisped-up top (that’s the “crunch”) and is arguably one of the best parts about eating an Ike’s sandwich.

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

1777 Westwood Boulevard
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 balado (fried-to-a-crisp whole fish smothered in a kicky sauce).

Fundamental LA, Westwood date spots
Courtesy of Fundamental LA

Best lunch special: Fundamental LA

1303 Westwood Boulevard
Fundamental’s sandwich-heavy lunch menu is definitely among the neighborhood’s best. The go-to move here is the longstanding $14 power lunch special, which includes a sandwich or salad with a side AND a cookie (not one that’s an afterthought, mind you, but a marriage of perfectly crisp and chewy textures in one baked treat). If you’re in the area for dinner, the evening menu of locally sourced, artistically plated dishes is a must-try too.

Best fast food: In-N-Out

922 Gayley Avenue
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. Pull up the not-so-secret menu, and drench those not-so-great fries in secret sauce.

Best kabobs: Shamshiri Grill

1712 Westwood Boulevard
South Westwood Boulevard 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 -- the perfect complement to dishes like shirin polo (fragrant basmati rice speckled with saffron, orange peels, pistachios, and almonds), or tahdig, which is basically the crispy, crackly layer of rice at the bottom of the pot topped with stew.

Bella Pita, falafel sandwich
Courtesy of Bella Pita, Inc

Best late-night food: Bella Pita

960 Gayley Avenue
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 3am daily. The dough for their pitas and famous “wowshis” (think of a Mediterranean-inspired Hot Pocket, where warm, melty fillings are baked inside) is made in house, oftentimes right in front of you.

Best introduction to Middle Eastern food: Sunnin Lebanese Cafe

1776 Westwood Boulevard
Fantastic Middle Eastern restaurants abound in Westwood -- too many to even include in this guide -- but if you’re not familiar with the cuisine, beloved Sunnin’s Lebanese specialties are a good place to try a little of everything. Start with lemony baba ghanouj, tangy labneh cheese, and fatayer (a flavorful hand pie glutted with spinach and onion), then move onto falafel with a soft center and crisp exterior, juicy chicken shawarma, or kibbeh bil sanieh (minced beef and pine nuts layered between ground beef).

Best cheap eats: Diddy Riese

926 Broxton Avenue
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 $2.50 a pop, they certainly qualify as cheap. Customize your own from a dozen ice cream flavors (strawberry cheesecake chunk, cookie dough, espresso chip, the list goes on) and 10 different cookie varieties (ranging from decadent candy chocolate chip to the simple pleasures of sugar cinnamon), all made from scratch and baked fresh daily.

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Tiffany Tse is a freelance contributor at Thrillist and believes ice cream cookie sandwiches are a main food group. Follow her adventures around town at @twinksy.