The 36 Most Essential LA Food Experiences

From regional Mexican to oyster happy hours and more, you can’t call yourself an Angeleno until you’ve tried all of these.

It is a rite of passage for every Angeleno to be badgered by visiting friends, relatives, friends of relatives, relatives of friends, and sometimes by random strangers on the internet who demand to know where to eat on their trip to LA. Honestly, we understand the impulse—LA is teeming with exciting food, and styles that become popular here often pave the way for major culinary trends that bounce around the country. Over the last three years, it’s been these standout dishes—ranging from regional Thai specialties to strip mall sushi, seafood by the seaside, and more—that reminded us of all that is good about this city and the world at large. Here are 36 of our city’s most essential food and dining experiences:

Lucky Boy Restaurant
Lucky Boy Restaurant

Turn your night around with a breakfast burrito from Lucky Boy

Pasadena
There are plenty of good breakfast burritos in LA, but there are a lot fewer breakfast burritos that are available until midnight 363 days per year, and none that have as much clarity of purpose as the one at Lucky Boy. The Lucky Boy breakfast burrito is not innovative or elevated, it’s just a properly executed delivery method for an absolute pile of breakfast food—a mound of potatoes with some crispy edges, two generous fistfuls of bacon, a carton of eggs scrambled hard, and a pile of cheese that is sometimes only half melted, but in a good way. You can get it with avocado (you should), and it comes with a cup or three of weird salsa the color of which swings between a deep olive green and the muddy brown of a High Sierra lakebed, depending on the day. When it’s all rolled up together it creates a rough-and-ready masterpiece, a meal to cure a hangover, a bad mood, or just plain old hunger.
How to order: Walk-ins accepted, and they sometimes take phone orders at 626-793-0120, depending on how the day’s going and who’s answering.

Throw a carne asada cookout

In LA, we don’t really need an excuse to get outside, grill carne asada, and drink beer earlier in the day than might be technically acceptable; the weather is the only justification necessary. Pick up some cans from one of your favorite local breweries, then snag carne asada and fixins from a local carniceria, a supermarket like Vallarta, or go big with the USDA prime ranchera preparada from La Carniceria. Set up in the backyard, the driveway, a park, or find someone with a pool and just show up; if you bring beer and carne asada, they’ll be happy to see you. And if it happens to be football season, so much the better—throw your grill, some red plastic cups, and maybe a ping-pong ball or two in the back of the car and head to Inglewood, downtown, or the most beautiful stadium in America.
How to order: Walk into your local carniceria, and some breweries accept online orders or do delivery.

Sichuan Impression
Sichuan Impression

Numb your gums with Sichuan peppercorns

Multiple locations
Out of the many regional Chinese cuisines represented in the San Gabriel Valley, Sichuanese is the one that has seen the largest citywide surge in recent years. The cuisine is known for its intensity, powered by the generous usage of chilis and the unique flavor combination of ma la, numbing and spicy, brought by the Sichuan peppercorn. But numb does not at all mean bland—the electric floral zing of the peppercorns is like biting into a nine-volt battery, and the thrill is addictive. These days you don’t need to trek out to the SGV to get your fix, with great options like Mian expanding to West Adams, Sichuan Impression in West LA, or Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine in the South Bay. That said, it’s hard to beat the SGV’s legion of ma la hotspots like Chengdu Taste, Chong Qing Special Noodles, and Xiang La Hui.
How to order: Walk-ins and phone orders accepted everywhere, and some are available via services like GrubHub, DoorDash, or Postmates.

The Monta Factory
The Monta Factory

Get stuffed on Armenian baked goods

Glendale
Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian population in the US, and food from across the Armenian diaspora is woven into the city’s restaurant landscape. Some of the best, most affordable meals come from Levantine-Armenian bakeries in the form of lahmajune, little flatbread discs topped with a tomato-pepper spread and ground meat like an Armenian tlayuda, which pour from massive ovens in an endless stream at the small bakery chain Sasoun. There are also manaish, which crackle with fresh za’atar, and the hearty stuffed turnovers called borek, and from other specialists there are yogurt and tomato-coated mante dumplings, the green herb-stuffed wraps called zhengyalov hatz, and so much more.
How to order: Walk-ins are welcome, and many places take phone orders as well.

Beachwood Blendery
Beachwood Blendery

Pucker up with a local sour beer

Multiple locations
Sour beers are not new—intentionally sour beers have been brewed and blended in Belgium since the 1700s or earlier—but for a long time it was hard to get a good one in LA. But lately, IPA fatigue has taken hold and local breweries have been leaning into sours. We’ve finally reached a critical mass of breweries skillfully manipulating wild yeast like brettanomyces and bacteria like lactobacillus, dialing in their additions of fruit and herbs, and refining their blending techniques in the image of the Belgian legends, who mix various years of spontaneously fermented beers to find the right balance of sourness, carbonation, and funk. In Long Beach, the mad scientists at Beachwood Blendery are creating a local version of classic Belgian Gueuze. In the Valley, the experts at Cellador infuse their farmhouse ales with subtle hits of herbs. Bright, tart, and funky options abound from the Inland Empire to the South Bay and everywhere in between. With all that acid, though, don’t forget to pack your Tums.
How to order: Walk into your local brewery, bottle shop, or beer bar, and many also take online orders.

ramen hood
Grand Central Market

Downtown LA
First opened in 1917, Grand Central Market represents LA’s largest and oldest public market, with 40 food stalls that showcase the diverse communities that have historically shaped our city, including legacy vendors like China Cafe who have been serving customers on their 22-seat counter since 1959. In recent years the market has become an incubator for exciting new food concepts like the now world-famous breakfast spot Eggslut, pasta at Knead from restaurateur Maria Petulla (Union, U Street Pizza), and coffee from G&B, the bar that launched a local empire. Whether your craving leads you to woodfired pizzas, vegan ramen bowls, pupusas, carnitas, or a decked-out PB&J sando, Grand Central Market is the perfect place to fuel up before or after your Downtown adventures.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar
Rappahannock Oyster Bar | Photo courtesy of ROW DTLA

Multiple locations
As you might imagine based on our location along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, LA is a killer seafood destination, with eye-catching raw bar displays that are among our favorite restaurant centerpieces. Dive into the trend with a half- or full-dozen order of oysters—Pacific oysters are the most common variety you’ll find, but there are also briny Kusshis, nutty Kumamotos, creamy Lunas, sweet and layered Olympias, and even sea-salt crisp Atlantic oysters at places like Rappahannock Oyster Bar, The Oyster Gourmet, The Jolly Oyster, Found Oyster, Broad Street Oyster Co, and Dudley Market. For a fine-dining experience, make a reservation at L&E Oyster Bar in Silver Lake or Water Grill’s Santa Monica or Downtown location. Or keep things casual with $1 oysters at ETA or Mexican-style oyster shooters at Mariscos El Faro.

Courtesy of Oste

Compare Chicago, Brooklyn, Detroit, and even Roman-style pizzas

All over
LA is a town full of transplants, and as those transplants have made our city into their permanent home, they’ve brought with them their most nostalgic dishes and ingredients, meaning that we never have to travel far to experience global food trends. Take pizza, for example. While Chicago and NYC duke it out over whose style reigns supreme, we can enjoy the lively debate from the sidelines while alternating between biting into chunky deep dish and thin, wide slices meant for folding. Bring your appetite to Masa in Echo Park for Chicago-style, deep-dish pies, or visit Prime Pizza for thin, crispy NY-style pies with house-made dough, Wisconsin cheese, and sauce made from local California tomatoes. You can taste Detroit’s signature chewy, rectangle pies at Apollonia's, or place an order at Quarter Sheets to try the “least authentic” Detroit-style pizza in town. Bite into Roman-style pinsas at Oste, one of LA’s best new restaurants and one of just a few in the entire state that’s firing up these light and crunchy pies that are not only more digestible, but offer 50% less sugar, 85% less fat, and 100% less cholesterol than your typical ‘za.
How to book: Visit individual websites for information on how to order or book a reservation.

All over
If there’s one trend that LA feels comfortable claiming, it’s the transformation of brunch from a midday meal to a veritable verb that brings with it visions of bottomless bevys and indulgent plates that can easily encompass two meals. The best brunch menus make their appearances on the weekend, but there’s something about putting on your Sunday best and clinking glasses under the bright noon rays that makes Sunday stand out as the day of choice. Plus, you can wrap up by mid-afternoon, take a leisurely nap, and wake up just in time to catch your fave streaming shows, then go to bed at a completely reasonable hour. To make things even easier, we compiled a list of our favorite brunch spots in the city
How to book: Visit individual websites for information on how to order or book a reservation.

Guelaguetza
Guelaguetza

Sample the best of regional Mexican cuisine

Multiple Locations
Just as we shouldn’t limit the definitions of American cuisine to one region, we shouldn’t assume that Mexican food begins and ends with carne asada burritos; the cuisine is deeply nuanced and full of regional specialties. Luckily, here in LA we can easily tour the country’s vibrant dishes without booking a flight. Try birria inspired by Jalisco or Zacatecas, complex Oaxacan moles from Guelaguetza or Rocio’s, bright and spicy Sinaloan seafood from El Paradero, sizeable Sonoran flour tortillas at El Ruso, the slow-roasted Yucatecan pork dish cochinita pibil at Chichen Itza, Tijuana-style tacos cooked hot and fast over mesquite charcoal at El Viejon or Tire Shop Taqueria, and the elevated Mexican-American cooking at Guerrilla Tacos or Taco Maria.

Phoenix Food Boutique
Phoenix Food Boutique

Chinatown
This Chinatown stalwart has been serving up a satisfying mix of Cantonese homestyle dishes and modern Chinese-American staples since 1965, and has since expanded to 12 locations across Southern California. The food menu runs the gamut from deli meats and salads to seafood and other meat dishes, hot pots, porridges, fried rice, and noodle options, plus impressively long beverage and dessert lists— the red bean taro delight and coconut mango rolls are a must. Rather than twiddle over the endless options, go with a group and indulge in a family-style banquet that allows you to try all their greatest hits—just make sure you place an order of sticky-sweet tangerine chicken and roasted Peking duck with a 1,000-year-old egg. 

How to book: Walk-ins are welcome or call your preferred location for pickup.

Impress carnivorous friends with plant-based eating

Multiple Locations
Ok, fine, this is one where the stereotypes might be accurate—LA is an outstanding city for vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based food. Not only are we privy to a vast array of locally grown produce that’s available year-round, but many chefs have created stunning plant-based versions of their favorite meat-and-dairy dishes. For example, Crossroads Kitchen’s excellent spring menu features artichoke oysters, a wedge salad with shiitake pancetta, and mushrooms done up like Scallops Rockefeller. Or for something casual, check out one of LA’s plentiful plant-based pop-ups like B’Ivrit for Cauliflower Shawarma, the wild loaded egg rolls at Vegan AF, or Chef Denise Vallejo’s Mesoamerican Plant Magick (mushroom al pastor or wheat-based carne asada) at Alchemy Organica. For a vegan morning, there are the baked goods and breakfast dishes at Just What I Kneaded or the marvelous vegan viennoiserie at Baker’s Bench. For even more can’t-believe-it’s-not-meat meals, check out our fave vegan and vegetarian spots in the city.

Nobu Restaurants
Nobu Restaurants

Eat like (and perhaps next to) a celebrity

Multiple Locations
Maybe this entry is speaking more to the tourists among us, but wouldn’t it be great to have a list at the ready when a starstruck friend inquires how many celebrities you’ve seen? And even though you’re not guaranteed a sighting at these spots, sometimes it’s nice to go out and feel like a celeb yourself. While the days of spotting stars on The Ivy’s vine-strewn, street-front patio on Robertson Blvd are long gone, you might get lucky with a reality show taping or have the opportunity to photobomb an influencer while you dip into $17 guac and chips. If not, try your luck at Catch LA, a stunning West Hollywood rooftop with whimsical floral details that lend it a fairy tale glow, plus a seafood-focused menu that might distract you from the Hollywood crowd—especially the signature Truffle Sashimi. Other places to add to your star tour include French bistro La Poubelle in Franklin Village, Harriet’s Rooftop on the 1 Hotel in West Hollywood, Nobu’s Japanese-Peruvian fare in Malibu, Mr. Chow’s in Beverly Hills, and Gigi’s or Mother Wolf in Hollywood’sbuzzy Vinyl District for an opulent evening you won’t soon forget.

Hollywood
Another prime spot for people-watching, family-owned Musso & Frank’s has been serving Hollywood’s elite for over a century, including the likes of screen legends like Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Marilyn Monroe. Throw on your snazziest get up and pull up a stool at the ornate bar or slide into a white-tableclothed booth and prepare to be wowed by waiters outfitted in red tuxedo jackets, plus classic cocktails that pack a Prohibition-just-ended punch. The menu tends towards steaks and other filling dishes; if you really want to time travel, try Chaplin’s go-to order of roasted lamb kidneys. Is a steak dinner not your thing? There are plenty more
old-school restaurants to enjoy in LA if you’re feeling nostalgic. 
How to book: via Opentable.

Slide into a vinyl booth at the legendary Swingers Diner

Hollywood
Haven’t we all missed ending our nights in a well-worn diner booth and preventing tomorrow’s hangover with a generous helping of greasy griddled food? The future of classic LA diner Swingers hung in the balance for a bit, but thanks to the efforts of longtime GM Stephanie Wilson, the iconic eatery lives on (as seen in such films as Knocked Up). A bounty of vegan and vegetarian options makes Swingers distinct from other diners, plus the all-too-recognizable googie-inspired design on the exterior and kitschy plaid swinging stools and booths inside. We’ve also got newcomer Clark Street Diner, which took over the former 101 Coffee Shop space and now offers house-made pastries and bread.

Earle's on Crenshaw
Earle's on Crenshaw

Crenshaw
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.
 

Multiple locations
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. It comes with three Southern fried chicken wings and a buttermilk waffle, plus potato salad or french fries (as if that’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.

Poppy + Rose
Poppy + Rose

Downtown LA
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 chaotic Flower Market. The menu is filled with brunch staples: try the waffle fried chicken sandwich that drizzles maple syrup and housemade hot sauce over a crispy chicken thigh and sunny side up egg before sealing them in between two fluffy waffles, and if you still have room, order a side of their crispy, housemade brick hash to finish off your meal. Obviously you’ll want to wash it all down with Poppy’s Margarita, made with a house margarita mix and agave wine.
How to order: Curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery available through ChowNow.

Chomp cheeseburgers at Hinano Cafe

Venice
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 off the Venice Boardwalk is cash only and open from 8am to midnight or later 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 inside with pool tables or outside on the converted patio parklet.

Cole's, Originators of the French Dip
Cole's, Originators of the French Dip

Compare the French dips at Philippe’s and Cole’s 

Downtown LA
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 pickup via Chownow. For Cole’s, walk-ins are welcome for indoor and patio dining or call 213-622-4090 for takeout.

Burbank 
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.

Yamashiro Hollywood
Yamashiro Hollywood

Hollywood Hills
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 via ChowNow

Jefferson Park 
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: Call 323-735-9023 for indoor and outdoor dining reservations. Pickup and delivery available through ChowNow.

La Mascota Bakery
La Mascota Bakery

Boyle Heights
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 Latino cultures so make sure you order in advance if it’s during the holiday season. 
How to order: Pre-order online via Chownow. Delivery through UberEats.

Downtown LA and West Hollywood 
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. The result is dishes like chicken tikka poutine, a piping hot heap of masala fries doused in beef gravy with cheese curds and topped with spicy tandoori chicken tikka and cilantro. Vegetarians will want to try the channa masala poutine, which smothers masala fries with mashed Punjabi chickpeas, cheese curds, pickled onions and cilantro—ask for it without the cheese curds if you prefer non-dairy. 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

Openaire Los Angeles
Openaire Los Angeles

Koreatown 
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. The beverage menu takes similar inspiration, featuring simple herbaceous cocktails and a lengthy wine list. 
How to order: Reservations can be made on OpenTable

Take advantage of all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ 

Multiple 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 and find one that fits your needs.
How to order: Call your preferred restaurant for dining, pickup, and delivery options. 

Saffron & Rose Ice Cream
Saffron & Rose Ice Cream

Westwood
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.
 

Chinatown
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.

Malibu
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

Culver City 
When Frank Sinatra urges you to leave your Hollywood career behind and open a piano bar, you don’t think twice, you just do it. Or at least that’s what Johnny Harlowe did in 1962 when his pal Frank urged him to open this 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 all your steakhouse favorites. 
How to order: Reservations for patio dining can be made on Resy; order pickup through Toast Tab.

Jon & Vinny's Restaurant
Jon & Vinny's Restaurant

Fairfax and Brentwood 
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 a reservation or order takeout and delivery through their website.

Take a crash course in taco studies on Olympic in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights
You can zip all over LA and get a full education in regional Mexican cuisine (as discussed above), but if you want a blast of taco knowledge like Keanu learning Kung Fu there’s no better spot than the dense stretch of Olympic affectionately known as taco row. Start at Pepe’s Red Tacos just East of Soto for rich beef birria, then cruise southeast on Olympic for Zacatecano burritos, tacos de canasta, more birria, the most famous shrimp tacos in town, carnitas, smoky Tijuana-style carne asada, and anywhere else that looks good until you hit legendary Los Originales Tacos Arabes de Puebla.

Zankou Chicken
Zankou Chicken

Scarf down Zankou Chicken straight from the takeout box

Multiple Locations
We’re mostly a pretty chill group of people, but if you want to see an Angeleno angry insult their neighborhood, the Dodgers, or Zankou chicken. The Armenian fast-casual chain is a local icon, and though it may look run-of-the-mill on the surface, it is a foundational meal for many Angelenos. The spit-roasted meats are a marvel, powerfully seasoned with just the right textural balance of juicy pieces and crunchy bits, and the shawarma wraps are the perfect quick lunch, ripe for ripping into as soon as you walk out the door. Just make sure you don’t have a date with Debra later—their proprietary version of the garlic sauce toum is pungent as hell, the kind of thing that sticks on your tongue and leaks from your pores well into the next morning.

East Hollywood
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. Chef/owner Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong has built a cult following since she and her brother took over the restaurant in 2006, specializing in comforting Southern Thai dishes that remind them of home. 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 are a standout dish, and the super-spicy, lettuce-wrapped burger that finally got added to the menu after years of being a by-request-only dish is one of the best in LA.
How to order: Walk-ins only for dine-in. Call 323-667-9809 for takeout; delivery through UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.

Head to the SGV for a self-guided dumpling tour

Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel
The San Gabriel Valley is a mecca for Asian cuisine, thanks to a large Asian immigrant and Asian-American community. So the next time that dumpling craving strikes, head east and take your pick from options like Cantonese hargow, shengjianbao hailing from Shanghai, and silky Sichuan chaoshou, that you’ll find steamed, boiled, fried, or a combination of all three. Try Mama Lu’s guotie, with pan-fried bottoms that add a pleasant crunch to softly steamed dumplings. Or put in an order at You Kitchen for soup dumplings that burst with broth. Whatever kind of dumpling you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in SGV.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.
Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA TimesLitroMcSweeney’s Internet TendencyLos Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.