Food & Drink

The 21 Most Underrated Restaurants in LA

Jeff Miller Published On 07/28/2015 Published On 07/28/2015
Jonathan Bookallil (Eveleigh)

By last count, there are approximately a zillion bagillion restaurants in LA. And yet, despite there being plenty (PLENTY) of really, really good ones, the same handful end up on basically every single "Best Of" list. Well not today, Los Angeles. Today we're going to lay out the 21 most underrated restaurants in LA, none of which appear on LA Weekly's 99 Essential Restaurants in LA, Jonathan Gold's most recent LA Times 101 Best Restaurants in LA, or Eater's most recent 38 Essential Restaurants in LA

Go. Now. Go now.

Mohawk Bend

Mohawk Bend

Echo Park
What you're getting: Buffalo-style cauliflower and a beer
It's so easy to take this Echo Park gastropub for granted: if you live in the neighborhood, you've been here, like, dozens of times; if you've dated someone in the neighborhood, you've been there, like, half dozens of times; and if you've eaten in the neighborhood, like, twice, it's likely that at least one of those times was at Mohawk Bend. Why? The great beer selection, for one; the veggie-friendly-but-also-there's-meat food menu, for two; and that back patio, for three (... four, five, six, seven, and eight).
 

Las Fuentes

Reseda
What you're getting: Burrito Pollo Con Rajas... Gringo Style
You're gonna get a giant burrito, covered in ranchera sauce, topped with ooey-gooey cheese, and you're gonna wonder "Why haven't I been here before?"

Jeff Miller/Thrillist

Bill's Hamburgers

Van Nuys
What you're getting: A double cheeseburger
This tiny ramshackle shack in an alleyway on Oxnard serves burgers that almost make you forget about that In-N-Out place (almost guys, just almost). This place is a lot like beloved burger joint Irv's (which made the LA Weekly list), with Bill actually cooking 'em up... until he's done for the day, whenever that is.
 

Taylor's Steakhouse

Koreatown
What you're getting: Dinner Culotte
A while ago, we called Taylor's the best steakhouse in LA, and we'll stand by that: the meat is as tender and juicy as anything at, say, Mastro's, for half the cost, plus there's the added benefit of a dark-lit, Rat Pack-y classic interior. So if we ranked it so high, why are we still calling it underrated? 'Cause it didn't make a single damn one of the city's best "Best Of" lists.

Flickr/Ron Dollette

Sushi Kimagure Ike

Pasadena
What you're getting: Omakase
We've said it before, and we'll say it again (and again [AND AGAIN]): this hidden-away Pasadena gem does the most amazing sushi in LA, for about half the price of competitors like Q (which, unsurprisingly, made some of the "Best in LA" lists). Chef Ike is a master, and the last time we were there the Japanese tourists sitting at the sushi bar with us said they've never had better sushi... anywhere. Including Tokyo. Believe.
 

Gloria's Cafe

Palms
What you're getting: Carne Adobada
Blink and you'll miss this teeny-tiny Venice Blvd family-owned favorite, which breaks out not just tried-and-true Mexican faves, but also killer Salvadoran eats as well (F yeah, pupusas).

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar

Koreatown
What you're getting: Seafood tower
EMC has been holding court on a Koreatown corner for a few years now, blasting out high-endish raw bar seafood like oysters and clams, as well as cooked fare like crab cakes. And YET, it somehow hasn't gotten any of the critical acclaim of similar spots like (the very deserving) Fishing with Dynamite. That doesn't stop it from hour-long waits for tables, though, nor does it mean anything less than A-level food.

Courtesy of Eveleigh

Eveleigh

West Hollywood
What you're getting: Lamb meatballs, oysters, and, like, eight orders of bread
It's kind of extraordinary that Eveleigh is constantly forgotten on "Best Of" lists: not only is it one of the only worthwhile places to eat on the Sunset Strip (and a purveyor of outstanding drinks), but its food is consistently exceptional. The dinner -- which includes plenty of farm-to-table goodness like prime hangar steak with buttered trumpet mushrooms -- is only part of the equation: it's got a weekend brunch with a Scotch egg-topped short rib that's killer, and just launched lunch with a crab salad sandwich on perfectly buttered brioche. And that country bread? Oh. My. God.
 

The Griddle Cage

Hollywood
What you're getting: Pancakes with, like, 40 toppings
Are you upset that The Griddle is on this list because its weekend line is interminable? Okay, we get that, we really do, but it shouldn't stop folks from recognizing that you won't find a better pancake in LA.

Taye Hansberry/La Poubelle

La Poubelle Bistro

Franklin Village
What you're getting: Steak frites
Is there a neighborhood hang that's more, uh, neighborhood-hang-y in LA? Probably not. Also: the steak here is exceptional.
 

Maria's Ramada

Hollywood
What you're getting: Any combination plate
You've probably driven by this Mexican restaurant -- which, from the outside, is so nondescript it could be a storage facility -- countless times. Next time, go inside: it's full of colorful kitsch and a friendly staff that'll serve you delicious tacos, enchiladas, and more.

Jason Clark Foto/Thrillist

The Overland Cafe

Palms
What you're getting: Just about anything from its breakfast menu
This neighborhood no-brainer has lines out the door literally every weekend for its breakfasts, but doesn't get the love of similar spots like Square One or Hugo's. The time for that to change is right... now.
 

My Two Cents

West LA
What you're getting: Shrimp & grits
This tiny, chef-owned, ultra-casual Southern restaurant absolutely delivers on its promise of down-home cooking, with fried chicken, shrimp & grits, and gumbo that are all as legit as they come. Don't pass up the cobbler, either.

Flickr/Marc Brown

Hama Sushi

Little Tokyo
What you're getting: Toro nigiri
This miniscule traditional sushi spot in Little Tokyo is one of those places you just can't believe is as good as it is, every time. And guys, the toro (sliced perfectly, with a perfectly textured fat-to-muscle ratio) -- is the standout amid many, many standouts.

Flickr/Julian

Bigmista's Barbecue

Long Beach
What you're getting: Pulled pork
The longtime farmers market standby opened a brick and mortar in a Long Beach minimall, where it's serving up some of the best 'cue anywhere in LA.The only downside? Just a couple'a tables, which means you're probably gonna take it to go, which means the chance of it actually making it to your house where you have more napkins is slim to unbelievably slim.
 

Oo-Kook Korean BBQ

Koreatown
What you're getting: Black Angus prime steak. And brisket. And...
Any LA "Best Of" list worth its weight has some Korean BBQ on it -- and though both Park's and Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong are both totally deserving, so is Oo-Kook. Oh and by the way, only one of the three is all-you-can-eat. Guess which one.

The Anchor

The Anchor

Venice
What you're getting: Truffle-topped lobster roll
We've told you about this year-old place before, and we're gonna keep telling you about it, 'cause it's that good, and apparently no one else will: the lobster roll's among the best in the city, and The Anchor's unusual take on chicken & waffles (the chicken is FRIED IN WAFFLE BATTER AND TOPPED WITH MAPLE SYRUP) are just two of the can't-go-wrong choices on its menu.

Flickr/Jason Lam

Paru's

Silverlake
What you're getting: Punjab Glory
First thing's first: if you've never been to this Indian restaurant on the border of Silverlake and East Hollywood before, be prepared to be confused and possibly concerned when you roll up to the iron security gate that doubles as the entrance. Once you're inside, though, you'll be in a lush outdoor garden eating the best damn veggie Indian food you've ever had. Yes, we said veggie. That takes a lot of courage. You won't be disappointed.

Firefly Studio City

Firefly

Studio City
What you're getting: Maine lobster ravioli
If you live in the East Valley, and you've never been on a date here, you're living in the East Valley all wrong. Period.
 

Kushiyu

Tarzana
What you're getting: Salmon skewer
If you live in the West Valley, and you've never been on a date here, you're living in the West Valley all wrong. Period.
 

Osteria La Buca

Hollywood
What you're getting: Bucatini carbonara
If you live in the middle of the city, and you've never been on a date here... you get the idea.

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Jeff Miller will cut you off at the pass by saying, yes, he did grow up in LA, and yes, he knows he missed your favorite, and yes, he knows he's a horrible person. You can still tell him all these things at @thrillistla on Twitter or @jeffmillerla on Instagram, though.

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1. Mohawk Bend 2141 W Sunset, Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Echo Park)

From the guys behind Tony's Darts Away, Mohawk Bend is a "craft everything" brewpub in Echo Park. The space is divided into five areas: a cozy dining cathedral (complete with fireplace), a pub room with a communal concrete table; two separate bars; and a covered patio. Drink options include more than 60 beers and a few wines (all from California) on tap, plus a cocktail program boasting 100 spirits from the Golden State. Menus change seasonally here but the selection of upscale, wood-fired pizzas like the Pig Newton topped with Serrano ham, goat cheese, fig, and rosemary tapenade are always guaranteed to stave off a rumbling stomach.

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2. Las Fuentes 18415 Vanowen St, Reseda, CA 91335

You're gonna walk in to this casual, under-the-radar Mexican joint, sit down, order a giant burrito, covered in ranchera sauce, topped with ooey-gooey cheese, and wonder "why haven't I been here before, again?"

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3. Bill's Hamburgers 14742 Oxnard St, , CA 91411

Bill Elwell has been cooking up burgers for 50 years in this unassuming shack, and they're almost good enough to make you forget all about that In-N-Out place. Treat yourself with one of Bill's bacon, pastrami, and four cheese hamburgers, and you'll never look back.

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4. Taylor's Prime Steak House 3361 West 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

Everything about Taylor's, which has been doling out steaks and chops in Koreatown since 1953, is classic. The menu is surf and turf perfection with hits like the char-broiled culotte, lobster tail, and London broil, plus classic sides (the best thing about the creamed spinach is that it's more cream than spinach). The restaurant interior is typical mid-century Rat Pack with leather booths, white tablecloths, and dark wood walls. Taylor's tender and juicy meats and affordable prices make it one of the best, and possibly underrated, steakhouses in LA.

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5. Sushi Kimagure Ike 220 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105 (Pasadena)

The namesake of the equally excellent Sushi Ike in Hollywood is now found behind the bar here, which is what pushes it to elite status: Ike-san's take on his signature seared salmon right away and grilled octopus are always worth getting from the man himself.

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6. Gloria's Cafe 10227 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

Blink and you'll miss this teeny-tiny Venice Blvd family-owned favorite. They serve up not just tried-and-true Mexican faves but killer Salvadorian eats as well (oh yeah, we're talkin' pupusas).

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7. EMC Seafood & Raw Bar 3500 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90010

EMC holds court on a Koreatown corner blasting out high-endish raw-bar seafood like oysters and clams, as well as cooked fare like crab cakes. This place has yet to get the recognition it deserves, but It'll be an hour wait for a table regardless.

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8. Eveleigh 8752 W Sunset, Hollywood, CA 90028

This rustic space has a reclaimed, wood-laden indoor/outdoor dining room with a communal table and sofa-like seating. Their outdoor patio is the real draw, where you'll feel as though you've entered a gorgeous garden party, surrounded by homegrown herbs and vegetables. From land (lamb meatballs) to sea (wild Pacific yellowtail), every dish on Eveleigh's delectable menu is market-fresh and crafted with care.

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9. The Griddle Cafe 7916 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90046 (West Hollywood)

The Griddle Cafe has some of the best pancakes in LA. Sure, the line is obnoxious, but we're talking about red velvet pancakes and chocolate chip cookie crusted french toast. And so, you will get in that line and you will wait.

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10. La Poubelle Bistro 5907 Franklin, , CA 90068 (Hollywood)

From the art deco posters on the red walls to the sidewalk seating to the classic bistro fare, La Poubelle is French to the core and a mainstay in the heart of Hollywood. Traditional plates like coq au vin, moules frites, and confit de canard fill the menu, as does a solid list of cocktails, wine, and beer. This romantic spot also has a private event space, The Gold Room, that can be rented for birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, bridal & baby showers, and holiday events.

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11. Maria's Ramada 1064 N Kingsley Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (Hollywood)

You've probably driven by this majorly nondescript Mexican restaurant countless times, but inside it's full of colorful kitsch and a friendly staff that'll serve you delicious tacos, enchiladas, and more.

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12. Overland Cafe 3601 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

Overland Cafe has lines out the door every single weekend -- literally anything off their breakfast menu is amazing, plus unlimited champagne before 3:30. But they're also open late for dinner, so forget the line and come by at night for a craft beer and a burger.

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13. My Two Cents 5583 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019 (Mid Wilshire)

It's easy to drive past this no-frills, neighborhood mini mall spot with a genre-less name and not look twice; that is also a mistake. Chef/owner Alisa Reynolds' food is infused with deep-South joy, which makes its way into everything from the pumpkin pie to the perfectly creamy, perfectly savory shrimp & grits.

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14. Hama Sushi 347 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

This tiny, nondescript joint serves up ridiculously good fish fresh from the market, creating a menu that defies its hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and makes it a gem in the Downtown area.

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15. Bigmista's Barbecue & Sammich Shop 3444 N Los Coyotes Diagonal , Long Beach, CA 90808 (Long Beach)

The first brick-and-mortar from Neil Strawder, aka Bigmista, is cranking out not just the classics (though you'd be hard-pressed to find better pulled pork in town), but next-level dishes as well, like superlatively smoked pastrami and specialty Q-Buns -- rolls with brisket cooked inside.

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16. OO-KOOK Korean BBQ 3385 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

This bustling, two-story Korean barbecue favorite in Koreatown is first and foremost, all you can eat. Not only does Oo-Kook offer grill-ables like seafood, duck breast, and pork belly three ways, but it serves up high-quality beef like premium brisket, tongue, and short ribs, plus more banchan than you've likely ever seen. Resist your urge to order one of everything -- they charge for leftovers.

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17. The Anchor 235 Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90291 (Venice)

The Anchor is a cozy, Main St eatery where you can satisfy your cravings for East Coast-style seafood favorites (their lobster roll, with barely-there mayo on toasted King's Hawaiian rolls, may be the best in the city) along with an intensely curated beer list.

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18. Paru's 5140 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (Silverlake)

When you first roll up to this Indian restaurant on the border of Silverlake and East Hollywood, you may be concerned by the iron security gate that doubles as the entrance. Do not be deterred. Step inside and you'll find a deceptively large dining room and a lush outdoor garden, where you can nosh on the best damn veggie Indian food. You'll want to check out the combos, which come with chickpea curry, coconut chutney, and plenty of hearty flavor. And here you thought you could only get bargain tires in this part of town.

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19. Firefly Studio City 11720 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

This laid-back, Studio City bar is most famous for stirring up its very own infused alcohols (think jalapeño-pineapple tequila, apple-vanilla-cinnamon bourbon), which the bartenders happily use to concoct custom cocktails. Dinner eats include gussied up American classics, like free-range chicken with bacon and honey dates.

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20. Kushiyu 18713 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356

Located in Tarzana, Kushiyu specializes in sushi and kushiyaki (which is Japanese-style charbroiled & skewered items) in addition to a large selection of appetizers.

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21. Osteria La Buca 5210 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038 (Hollywood)

Date-friendly atmosphere? Check. Top-notch Italian food? Check. Melrose-facing windows? Check. There's not a whole lot this restaurant doesn't have, which makes it that warm, ambient Italian joint that everyone should have in their life but that so few people do.

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