Where to Eat and Drink Near LA Live and Crypto.Com Arena
Basketball and hockey are back, and it looks like you may need some comfort food and strong drinks to watch the Lakers, Clippers, or Kings.
The massive complex at LA Live is a destination for concerts, movies, ice skating, and bowling, among other things. It is a hub for the convention center, a Downtown landmark, and a tourist destination. But for many Angelenos, it is mostly the dense square of development that sprung up around what used to be the Staples Center, recently renamed to Crypto.com Arena.
And now, with basketball season off and running, Crypto.com Arena is at the forefront of Angeleno angst all over again. The clanging of the Lakers’ missed three-pointersechoe across town, and the Clippers’ injury concerns couldn’t wait even one single game before they became an issue. But for all the stress the teams cause in this city, we just can’t seem to quit showing up for them—the shared insanity of sports fandom is too deeply ingrained, too essential, and too much fun.
So to help us all arrive at the courts with the optimism instilled by a good meal, or to settle us after another stomach-churning loss, here are the best places to eat and drink around LA Live. And if you’re looking for even more dining ideas in Downtown LA, we’ve got a guide for that, too.
The second location of this soul food stalwart from former Sacramento Mayor and NBA All Star Kevin Johnson stands out for well-executed takes that are hearty and fun, from the Oxtails to the long-brined Fried Chicken, which you can get on its own, smothered in gravy, or with waffles. There’s also a vegan menu, a full bar, and plenty of good vibes to go around.
It is fitting that Sonoratown is just a brisk walk from Crypto—they may be the Lakers of the taqueria world. Their tacos are fun and always in the news, with a championship tradition, famousfans, and the city’s undying loyalty. Also like the Lakers, Sonoratown is a family business, a labor of love from Teodoro Diaz-Rodriguez and Jennifer Feltham. Since its inception in 2016, they have been knocking out killer tacos, burritos, and chivichangas in the style of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, all served on some of the city’s very best flour tortillas.
How to book: Walk in or pickup and delivery available through Uber Eats.
Pine and Crane
For casually elegant Taiwanese food, it’s hard to beat Vivian Ku’s Pine and Crane. This second location is in an ideal spot, just four short blocks from LA Live in the ground floor of a gleaming new development, with a simple, modern design and big, sunny patio. It is the perfect place to grab a plate of dumplings, a bowl of noodles, and maybe some punchy sauteed greens or an order of Ku’s celebrated Three Cup Chicken. There are also vegan takes on Mapo Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles, a rare treat for plant-based eaters. The cocktails are creative, with a lovely selection of whisky from the excellent Taiwanese distillery Kavalan, and if tea is more your speed their choices are well-worth exploring.
How to book: Takeout available on Toast.
If you’re going to an afternoon event at LA Live, you’ve got a golden opportunity to visit an LA icon at Langer’s Deli. Their Jewish classics are uniformly excellent, and if you like beef tongue or chopped liver they are definitely worth a try, as is their underrated Patty Melt. But the reason to come, of course, is the legendary pastrami sandwich. You will probably be advised to get the #19 with pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing, and that’s all well and good, but all of those toppings are also gilding the lily—what you really need is a simple pastrami sandwich on their superior rye bread, with a swipe of mustard if you’re so inclined. There may not be a better sandwich in town.
How to book: Order for pickup through Ritual or over the phone at 213-483-8050.
It is an empire now, occupying a dozen parking spots and restaurants from Compton to Las Vegas, but Birrieria Gonzalez started with a single truck outside a barber shop just south of the 10-110 freeway interchange. That original location is just minutes from LA Live, and they still serve some of the city’s best birria de res, wrapped in tacos, crunchy vampiros, or gooey quesatacos in immaculate Tijuana style, with styrofoam cups of rich, heavily spiced consomé on the side for sipping and dipping. It doesn’t have the typical trappings of a luxurious celebration, but these antojitos are as restorative and festive as you could want for a big game.
How to book: Walk-up only.
For an elevated pre-game dinner downtown, the perpetual pop-up machine at Abernethy’s is a uniquely compelling choice. The restaurant at the Music Center hosts a rotating series of up-and-coming chefs from around LA County, turning the whole menu and concept over every couple of months. It’s designed for pre-show dinners, so their hours are short and they’re used to people on a strict schedule, but that doesn’t hinder the cooking at all. Right now Chef Geter Atienza is at the helm, with a bold menu of classic Filipino dishes seen through the eyes of a chef trained in fine dining.
How to book: Reservations available on OpenTable.
Poppy + Rose
The brunch destination near the Flower Market is Downtown’s essential spot for Southern comfort food while the sun is up, especially with their pandemic-born rooftop patio. There are classics like Chicken and Waffles, Shrimp and Grits, and Biscuits and Gravy, but don’t miss their more inventive Southern-meets-SoCal dishes either. Items like a Breakfast Burrito with house-smoked steak and barbecue sauce, Pulled Pork Hash, and the wild mashup of grains, greens, pickles, meat, and eggs that they call their Kitchen Sink Bowl.
How to book: Reservations available through their website.
Chef Leo Lee was born and raised in Mexicali and trained in elevated French technique, but at the Downtown restaurant he owns and operates with his wife Lydia Lee, the focus is squarely on Cantonese barbecue, the kind both husband and wife grew up eating. The menu is built around rice boxes, and you choose your protein from several fun options. There are familiar flavors like Char Siu, Braised Brisket inspired by Lee’s grandma’s stew, or Soy Sauce Chicken, and there are also modern takes like a seven-spiced, triple-roasted Porchetta, or a vegetarian option of eggplant and shiitake braised and spiced like Mapo Tofu, and on Saturdays they break out their signature Roasted Duck, served with a seasonal chutney.
How to book: Delivery available on all the apps, choose your favorite through their website.
The Hotel Figueroa is a Downtown landmark, with its three columns of recently renovated rooms looming over the LA Live complex, and its restaurants have become mainstays too. Sparrow Italia in particular has gained a following for chef AJ McCloud’s elevated coastal Italian cooking in a grown-up atmosphere, and new executive chef Joana Cruz has the kitchen buzzing. There are house-made pastas in interesting shapes like mafaldine and radiatore, there is duck prosciutto on the charcuterie board, and the wood-fired oven kicks out everything from pizzas to vegetables and large-format proteins. Don’t miss the cocktails either, which lean into Italian-style amari.
How to book: Reservations available through their website.
The original Sonoritas on Sawtelle won acclaim for its high-quality cuts of carne asada cooked on a mesquite grill and served on handmade tortillas, a clear recipe for success. When they expanded to downtown in the summer of 2021 they added one missing piece—a full bar. Now they have the same excellent carne asada but you can pair it with a selection of margaritas in varieties like Strawberry Basil, Hibiscus, and Spicy, in addition to other fun cocktails and an ever-expanding selection of boutique mezcales.
How to book: Walk in or order for pickup through their website.
For a quick street food pregame meal there’s the Guatemalan Night Market, a loose collection of vendors who set up stands at Bonnie Brae and 6th Street nightly. There are all sorts of Guatemalan antojitos, tostadas, tamales, and the empanada-esque dobladas, plus tons of meat cooking on charcoal grills. With such a vast array of food on offer, that quick pregame meal could easily melt into a long progressive dinner at a half-dozen stands.
How to book: Walk-up only.
Larger than the contiguous U.S. and with almost 121 million more people, Brazilian cuisine is diverse and vast. The specific perspective of Woodspoon’s Natalia Pereira is rarer still—Woodspoon is focused on the multicultural influences of Brazil’s Minas Gerais region. That makes her menu a melting pot of African, European, and Amazonian influences, among others, which yields dishes like Potato Croquettes, a beloved Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie, and the chicken and okra stew Frango Com Quiabo. The atmosphere is warm and casual, which may be aided by generous pours of the delicious house sangria.
How to book: Takeout available through Caviar.
If events at LA Live—or on the court inside Crypto Arena—have you stressed out, take a deep breath and try to stay above it all. And then you can literally get above it all at Cara Cara, the rooftop restaurant from chef Suzanne Goin at the Downtown LA Proper Hotel. The eclectic all-day menu features seasonal California cuisine with global influences in classic Goin style, with a particular nod to Portugal and Spain, much like sister restaurant Caldo Verde downstairs. There are tacos, loaded focaccia, tons of vegetables, and large-format proteins coming from the grill, and there are also fun cocktails and a wine list composed almost exclusively of bottles from the Iberian peninsula.
Every weekday around noon, thousands of business-casual office workers descend from their Downtown towers in search of a simple lunch. There are scores of restaurants designed to sate their hunger, but in this crowded field Z Falafel stands out. Chef/owner Tony Zablah forms and fries falafel to order, and he makes all of his sauces and salads in house too. There is fresh-baked pita pulled from a powerful clay oven, and the hot bread elevates their plates of shawarma and kebabs to a special treat, whether you’re heading to a hockey game or back to work.
How to book: Walk in or order over the phone at 323-977-2255.
Perhaps the right night cap for your evening at Crypto.Com Arena is yet another show—though one with a little more whimsy than the basketball teams can provide. Lilly Rose is the speakeasy-style cocktail bar and venue underneath The Wayfarer Hotel, where the decor is like a Parisian cafe on the other side of the looking glass and the long, creative cocktail list is the atmosphere’s equal. There are comedy shows, DJ sets, and trivia nights, and their special Mad Hatter-esque High Tea and Highballs runs through the end of October.