33 Quintessential LA Foods and Dining Experiences
You can’t call yourself an Angeleno until you’ve tried all of these.
While the virus-that-shall-not-be-named has restricted our dining options indefinitely, LA is still flush with food experiences that transcend time and place. Whether it’s a 360-view of DTLA paired with a French-style brunch or a too-spicy elote purchased straight from a vendor’s cart, this list is proof that even in the midst of a pandemic, LA still retains its star power.
Here are 33 of the city’s most essential foods and dining experiences.
LA’s danger dogs (the name says it all) can’t compare to a juicy NY hot dog, but Brooklyn natives Cary and Duane Earle sought to recreate this delicacy when they started selling hot dogs on Venice Beach in the mid-80s. In 1992, they sated public demand for their dogs with the opening of their first brick-and-mortar in the Crenshaw District. Their menu has since expanded and now the family-owned storefront cranks out an array of links, including vegan options.
How to order: Call for takeout or get free delivery on your first order through Grubhub.
Is it our fault that former President Barack Obama had good taste? The Obama Special, or #9 for the OGs, is the perfect introduction to the LA chain that put fried chicken and waffles on the map. The Obama Special comes with three chicken wings and a waffle, potato salad, or french fries (as if it’s even a choice). Add a #22 (mac and cheese, collard greens, and cornbread) or #23 (candied yams, collard greens, and cornbread) to make your order extra Presidential.
How to order: Call for pickup or order delivery through Postmates, UberEats, GrubHub, and Doordash.
With so many Meditteranean options around the city, the title of Best Falafel can be a contentious topic. While we leave the final vote up to your taste buds, we strongly suggest you enter Joe’s Falafel in the running. This small, unassuming restaurant is tucked away in a strip mall off Ventura Blvd, a location that makes it ideal for a comfortable patio dining experience. Try the falafel to see how the restaurant got its name.
How to order: Call for takeout or order delivery via Grubhub.
Across the street from LA’s Original Flower Market is the aptly named Poppy & Rose, a country-inspired kitchen serving up your favorite comfort foods. It’s the perfect treat after waking up early and braving the surprisingly-still-chaotic Flower Market. The menu is filled with brunch staples; try the lox bagel sandwich topped with well-smoked salmon or the steak breakfast burrito if you’re powering up for a long day.
How to order: Curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery available through ChowNow.
Back in the old days of 2019, oysters and mimosas from The Oyster Gourmet were practically included in the ticket price of a stroll through DTLA’s then-burgeoning Museum Row. Housed in the historic Grand Central Market, you’ll have an assortment of food and drink stands available in the event that you get a second (or third) craving. While nearby museums like The Broad and MOCA are still closed for in-person visits, you can take your oysters to Grand Park, which sits adjacent to the market. Afterwards, head to the Lower Station of Angel’s Flight railway for a cheap thrill ($1 each way or 50 cents if you’re using your Tap card) and take in the architecture of DTLA.
How to order: Order online for pickup
Renowned for being Jim Morrison’s favorite Venice haunt, Hinano Cafe has been serving up burgers and brews since 1962. The no-frills shoreside hut is cash only and open from 8am to 2am every day of the year excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stroll up and order a world famous Hinano cheeseburger with a beer, cider or wine and enjoy it in their newly converted patio (aka their former parking lot, which means you’ll have to brave street parking).
How to order: Walk-ins welcome for patio dining; pickup and delivery via Doordash; delivery also available through UberEats.
If you’ve worked an office job in LA, then you know the giddy joy that one experiences when coming into work in the morning (hopefully on a Monday!) and seeing that one of your coworkers has surprised the office with an assortment of baked goods from Porto’s. The family-run business specializes in Cuban pastries, with the papas rellenas (potato balls), empanadas, and Refugiados (guava and cheese pastries) being must-try items. While the flagship Glendale location is still going strong, the brand has boomed in recent years, with locations springing up all over the LA Metro area. The bakery offers nationwide doorstep delivery if you prefer to skip the notorious wait times and bake the treats yourself.
How to order: Pickup and bake-at-home delivery through Porto’s.
We’re approaching our version of sweater weather so make sure you’ve got LA’s favorite ramen spot on your speed dial (or download the appropriate delivery app, whatever). Tatsu Ramen stands out with their never-rushed preparation that pays homage to the dish’s roots; before the restaurant opened, they flew in ramen experts for Japan to help maximize their menu. Unlike many ramen spots, Tatsu make their dishes easy to customize for those who prefer chicken, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options to the classic pork-based broth.
How to order: Melrose: pickup and delivery via Postmates; Sawtelle: delivery via Toast Tab; Pasadena: pickup and delivery via DoorDash.
Here’s a little secret that true Jamaican foodies know to be true: minor inconveniences that would act as a red flag at most restaurants are in fact proof of authenticity for Jamaican cuisine. Does the cashier seem impatient or flustered? Is there a 30-minute wait on oxtail? Congratulations, you’ve found the best Jamaican food in the city. Ackee Bamboo has an all-day dinner menu that you can literally close your eyes and point at; there’s no going wrong with this Leimert Park institution.
How to order: Call the restaurant for takeout and delivery.
It doesn’t get better than Gracias Madre when it comes to traditional, plant-based Mexican cuisine. Executive chefs Mario Alberto and Alan Sanz make all of their dishes from scratch with local, organic ingredients and all of their spirits are diffuser-free and agave-based, with an emphasis on independent producers and small-batch distillers in Mexico. Order the raspado, sangria, or michelada if you’re looking to take it slow, or the negroni, Oaxaca old fashioned, or mezcal martini if you’re looking for a drink that packs a punch. All of the starters are worth a try, but the macadamia ricotta enchilada is a must for your main dish.
How to order: Reservations can be made on OpenTable; pickup and delivery for both locations via Toast Tab.
Perhaps it’s because LA’s downtown area is recently revitalized, but there’s something about dining on Perch’s French-inspired rooftop that makes you feel transported not just to another locale, but a completely different era. With a weekend brunch that lasts from 10am–4pm, you’ll have plenty of time to down multiple Sangria pitchers, or why not order a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to share with the table? At just $40 per person, the prix fixe brunch is a steal and comes complete with your choice of hors d’oeuvre, one main dish, and a chef’s selection to be shared by the table.
How to order: Reservations can be made on OpenTable; pickup and delivery through Postmates.
Try strip mall sushi and live to tell the taleVarious locations
While tourists might scoff, LA sushi lovers know that some of the city’s best and freshest rolls are found in nondescript strip malls, especially if you’re searching for an all-you-can-eat or lunch special. Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo is your best bet for lunch specials, while Echigo in Santa Monica delivers ultra-fresh fish at moderate prices. You have your choice of Sushi Ike, Sushi Q, and LemonFish Sushi in Hollywood alone, or head to hidden Sushi Park in WeHo for your best bet at a celebrity sighting (though beware that the menu also features celebrity pricing).
How to order: Check with specific restaurants for more information on patio dining, takeout, and delivery.
Your favorite meet-in-the-middle brunch spot since 2017, Met Her At A Bar specializes in authentic Belgian waffles and La Colombe coffees, but brags enough vegan and gluten-free options that even your pickiest pal will find themselves puzzling over the array of choices. If you’re looking for something stronger than coffee, the neighborhood cafe has a full wine and beer menu, with mimosas costing just $12 and $9 for each refill.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome for patio dining (pro-tip: join the waitlist via Yelp); delivery and pickup via Postmates and GrubHub.
Grab an elote and watch the ducks swim at Echo Park LakeEcho Park
There are a handful of LA meals that are best bought from a street vendor and enjoyed on the spot; elotes—Mexican street corn that’s slathered in mayo and topped with cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime—fit that bill. With modern Mexican cuisine taking over the city, there are plenty of places you can find chef-prepared elotes, but if you want to save some bucks and eat it the traditional way, do a lap around Echo Park Lake until you find an elote vendor. Beware that the spicy-meter is not adjusted to gringo standards—do yourself a favor and order bottled water on the side.
How to order: Wear a mask, walk up, and order.
Get lost in the sauce at Boyle Heights taco rowBoyle Heights
Given LA’s proximity to the Mexican border and our sizable Latinx community, it’s no surprise that we have a similarly lively street food scene. While several notable chefs have brought authentic Mexican cuisine to your favorite LA kitchens, the best place to grab a traditional street taco remains, well, the street. So why not head down to Boyle Heights taco row and make a feast of it? Whether it’s birria, barbacoa, al pastor, camaron, or tacos arabe you’re craving, you’re sure to find it here. Begin your sojourn at Pepe’s Red Tacos and continue down E. Olympic Blvd until you reach Mariscos Jalisco.
How to order: Walk-ins are welcome or call ahead for pickup if you have somewhere specific in mind.
Compare the French dips at Philippe’s and Cole’sDTLA
Classic LA diners Philippe the Original and Cole’s have each claimed themselves as the originator of the French dip sandwich and you’re not a real Angeleno until you’ve tasted both for yourself. Cole’s might have a perceived leg up since they hold the title of LA’s oldest bar—they claim the sandwich was made at their restaurant nine to ten years before it was even a twinkle in Philippe’s eyes—but most of their evidence is hearsay while Philippe’s original owner Philippe Mathieu went on record with his version of events in the LA Times in 1951. With no personal stakes in the rivalry, you’re free to enjoy both sandwiches in peace.
How to order: For Philippe’s, walk-ins welcome for patio dining, nationwide delivery is available through GoldBelly, and local delivery through Chownow and Postmates; For Cole’s, walk-ins welcome for patio dining or call for takeout.
What Jonathan Gold dubbed “the best Oaxacan restaurant in the country,” Guelaguetza is a family-run establishment that’s been churning out rich mole sauces in Koreatown since 1994. During that time they’ve not only popularized traditional Oaxacan cuisine, but co-owner Bricia Lopez is credited with the rise of mezcal across the United States. So storied is their mole sauce that they now make their paste in three flavors and ship it to all 50 states. Go big with the Botana Oaxaquena family-style platter so you don’t have to debate which of their all-star dishes to try first. The restaurant just launched a new patio so you can once again admire their colorful Oaxacan decor in person.
How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made on Yelp; takeout and delivery via Toast Tab.
Southern California is bursting with burger history and the oldest remaining Big Boy’s in America, built in 1949, and home of the original double-decker hamburger, can be found in the grassy suburb of Burbank, easily spotted by its retro exterior, not to mention the huge neon “Bob’s” sign that sits out front. In 1993, owners began restoring the drive-thru diner to its former glory with an exterior patio, a weekend car hop service, and a Classic Car Show every Friday night. The Original Big Boy combo is their classic dish and comes topped with two never-frozen burger patties, lettuce, cheese, mayo, and the chain’s special red relish, plus fries and a drink. It’s the best 24-hour diner you’ll find in the area, plus the huge Bob out front is totally Insta-worthy.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome for patio dining, drive-thru is open, or call for takeout.
Here’s a little equation that every Angeleno knows: the more terrifying and windy the drive (bonus points if it’s a too-narrow two-way street), the greater the payoff when you make it to your destination. Yamashiro is a prime example of this, with verdant gardens, a tranquil koi pond, stunning architecture, and unobstructed views of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Hills awaiting you at the top, not to mention a Cal-Asian menu that makes it perfect for sushi lovers and those with pickier palates. The restaurant’s new menu features the fresh, made-to-order sushi rolls they’re known for plus premium steak options.
How to order: Reservations can be made on Resy, pickup and delivery through Caviar, or delivery through Postmates and Doordash.
Los Angeles is a melting pot of a city, and one thing that sets our food scene apart is the abundance of authentic cuisine from all over the globe. When you’re in the mood for down-home New Orleans Creole cooking, look no further than Harold & Belle’s, a family-run restaurant that’s served the community for more than 50 years. With dark roux, ground sassafras, shrimp, sausage, ham, blue crab, and chicken, a pot of file gumbo is a must for special occasions, while the po’boy sandwiches are great for wolfing down on the go.
How to order: Pickup and delivery available through ChowNow.
Family-owned La Mascota has been serving the Boyle Heights community for 65 years, dishing out their famous tamales, pan dulces, flans, tarts, and other Mexican desserts alongside a savory menu that includes Mexican breakfast staples and a variety of torta options, plus a hot drink menu that pairs perfectly with their sweets. The obvious choice is to stop by on a Tuesday for tamales that are just $1.75 a piece, and while you’re there, snag whatever delicacies are fresh out of the oven. Tamales are a typical Christmas dish for many Latinx cultures so make sure you order in advance if it’s during the holiday season.
How to order: Call for pickup; delivery through UberEats.
Badmaash means naughty and mischievous in Hindi, which the father-and-two-son team named their restaurant in honor of their non-traditional take on Indian food inspired by their Toronto upbringing with dishes like chicken tikka poutine; a piping hot heap of masala fries doused in beef gravy with cheese curds and topped with tandoori chicken tikka and cilantro. Badmaash also features traditional Indian dishes like their 24-hour slow-cooked dal that’s made with black lentils and kidney beans, and butter chicken that sits in a 48-hour marinade of yogurt and spices before its charred in the tandoor and finished in a creamy tomato curry flavored with fenugreek.
How to order: Reservations can be made on their website; pickup and delivery through DoorDash.
Two-Michelin starred chef and native Angeleno Josiah Citrin sought to reflect the bounty of California’s land and sea at his second story terrace restaurant at the Line Hotel, an endeavor we feel confident saying he’s successfully pulled off. Openaire features a greenhouse design with lush plant life throughout and string lights draped across the patios. The seasonal menu reflects the diversity of the city and scoffs at any specific categorization; you’ll find Asian- and Latin-inspired choices rotating alongside traditional main courses, with most dishes intended to be shared. Enjoy discounted food and drink menus when you dine poolside between 2:30-9pm Monday through Friday.
How to order: Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
Take advantage of all-you-can-eat Korean BBQMultiple Locations
A densely populated neighborhood in Central LA, Koreatown is home to one of the largest Korean immigrant communities in the country, meaning there are few places stateside that are better for Korean food, and bar none when it comes to Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ refers to a communal, DIY-style of preparing meat on gas or charcoal grills that are built into dining tables. Locals can never agree on the best KBBQ in the city (and it will depend on factors like quality and types of meat, wait times, and cost) so check out our roundup of the best spots in the city and find one that fits your needs.
How to order: Call your preferred restaurant for dining, pickup, and delivery options.
Saffron & Rose owner Ali Kashani- Rafye first began making ice cream in Tehran, Iran over 75 years ago and brought his unique, Persian-style ice cream with him when he relocated to Southern California in the 1970s. Kashani-Rafye’s family still runs the Westside ice cream joint, which is a great option for your vegan and dairy-free friends—their menu includes a long list of fruity, floral, and nutty flavors, with Saffron & Pistachio being their signature choice, alongside standouts like Fig & Cranberry, Poppy Seed Slush, and Lavender.
How to order: Walk-ins are welcome.
A Chinatown fixture since 1929, family-owned Eastside Market remains one of your best options for an authentic Italian deli experience in LA. The Hot Roast Beef & Pastrami sandwich is their most popular, but the Italian Meatball trails close behind and you can’t beat their Lasagna with Meatballs when you’re in the mood for stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. The rich, ricotta-stuffed cannolis with powdered sugar, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and pistachio on the ends will have you serenading the city with “That’s amore.”
How to order: Order pickup through their website.
Outside of the city, but still in LA county, beachside dining in Malibu is a beloved rite of passage that will immediately quell any doubts you might have about silly things like cost of living and bumper-to-bumper traffic—it’s all obviously worth it when you take in the view from Malibu Pier. Malibu Farm has expanded wildly in only a few years of business (the farm has additional locations in Newport Beach, Cabo, Lanai, Miami, Montecito, New York, and Tokyo), and you can choose to dine at the original Malibu Farm Cafe at the end of the pier that overlooks the ocean if you prefer a casual cafe experience, or Malibu Farm Restaurant at the beginning of the pier if you’re coming for weekend brunch or dinner and drinks. Both the cafe and restaurant menus feature simple, seasonal ingredients with fresh-picked produce and sustainably sourced meats; we like the smoked salmon hash with their rainbow mimosa selection (orange, kale apple, and watermelon) for brunch and the lobster mac and cheese for dinner.
How to order: Walk-ins welcome at Malibu Farm Cafe. Reservations for Malibu Farm Restaurant can be made on Yelp; pickup and delivery through Toast Tab.
“Hail Mary, full of taste,” goes the tagline at this Atwater pizza parlor, renowned for their charred yet fluffy, flaky crusts that are handmade daily with organic, California-grown wheat and grains, and cold-fermented. The menu rotates based on seasonal ingredients and their simple marinara pie that’s topped with just tomato sauce, garlic, and oregano will have you reconsidering cheese as a necessary pizza topping. While pies are the clear draw here, their starter and salad menus, which include dishes like Pork Belly and Beef Meatballs and a Beets and Burrata Salad, are also worth your attention. The pizza joint also has a full wine and beer menu that’s available to-go.
How to order: Order pickup via Toast Tab.
When Frank Sinatra urges you to leave your Hollywood career behind and open a piano bar, you don’t think twice, you just do. Or at least that’s what Johnny Harlowe did in 1962 when his pal Frank urged him to open his haunt near Sony Studios. The rest is history—one that you can be a part of since award-winning chefs and restaurateurs Hans Röckenwagner and Josiah Citrin teamed up to reopen Dear John’s in April of 2019, updating the menu to include old-school cocktails and your steakhouse favorites.
How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made on Resy; order pickup through Toast Tab.
Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo bring their Trois Mec experience to this laid-back American-Italian eatery that’s named in their honor, impressing with bubbly, charred crusts and chewy-on-the-inside pies that are topped with unexpected ingredients, like Salad Days, which is decked out with little gem lettuce, red onion, caciocavallo, sungold tomatoes, and creamy Italian dressing with a thick tomato sauce underneath. Their legendary fusilli alla vodka rivals any OG versions you’ll find at NYC’s best Italian spots.
How to order: Make reservations or order takeout and delivery through their website.
Walk by one of Zankou’s many Southern California locations and you’ll be hard-pressed to understand why Angelenos go crazy over this fast-casual Meditteranean chain. However, all of those doubts will be immediately vanquished as soon as their secret garlic sauce makes contact with your mouth. All of their meats (tri-tip shawarma, chicken tarna, rotisserie chicken, and kabobs) are mouth-wateringly juicy and likely to tempt you into eating your meal fresh out of the box in the Zankou parking lot (don’t worry, you won’t be the only one with this idea). Make sure you order plenty of pickled turnips on the side as well as extra garlic sauce.
How to order: Choose a location in order to find the pickup and delivery options near you.
Don’t let the strip mall location fool you, Michelin-starred Jitlada is your go-to option for affordable, fast, and flavorful Thai food with none of the fuss. Be mindful that their “medium spicy” food label requires a glass of water on-hand and that enduring their spicy challenge just might permanently sear your taste buds. The green mussels curry is the standout dish.
How to order: Call 323-667-9809 for takeout; delivery through UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Mama Lu’s, a Taiwanese food specialist, has two Monterey Park locations just in case the line at your first choice proves too long. Order the juicy pork dumplings and you’ll see why there’s frequently a line out the door. Other popular items include the Green Onion Fried Pancake, the Shanghai-style Chow Mein and the House Stir-Fried Udon. Mama Lu’s now sells their dumplings frozen so you can make them at home.
How to order: Takeout and delivery via Doordash for the location on E. Garvey Ave; only takeout available via DoorDash for the location on W. Garvey Ave.
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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.