Food & Drink

50 LA Things You Need to Eat Before You Die

Published On 06/17/2015 Published On 06/17/2015
Jeff Miller/Thrillist

1. Chorizo breakfast burrito

Cofax Coffee Shop

Address and Info

Mid-Wilshire

It may only be less than a year old, but this small coffee shop's chips-and-smoked-potato-laden breakfast burrito has become a defining member of the city's hand-held tortilla-wrapped community.

2. #19

Langer's Delicatessen

Address and Info

MacArthur Park

The most iconic pastrami sandwich in the city is also its most delicious. Yep, we said it.

Flickr/Kevin Ly

3. Tonkotsu ramen

Daikokuya

Address and Info

Little Tokyo (& Other Locations)

By far the most well-known Japanese noodle-and-broth combo in the city, and even with the city's ramen explosion, it's still one of the most delicious.

4. Crispy rice salad

Sqirl

Address and Info

Silver Lake

Yeah, it's got the word "salad" in the name, but you can get this unctuous dish with an egg and sausage. Which you will. And you will be very happy you did.

5. Seared Salmon Right Away

Sushi Ike

Address and Info

Hollywood

Available only at the bar at this raw-fish institution, the Seared Salmon Right Away melts on your tongue and makes you truly wonder why you've ever eaten second-rate sushi before.

6. Squid ink garganelli

Union

Address and Info

Pasadena

This hole-in-the-wall Pasadena farm-to-table restaurant has rapidly become one of the city's go-to tables, and this dish -- with lobster, fennel, and truffle butter -- is its shining-est star.

Courtesy of Chianina Steakhouse

7. Chianina steak

Chianina Steakhouse

Address and Info

Long Beach

It's worth exploring Long Beach to end up at this classy steakhouse, which grows and butchers its own meat, serving up limited servings of each cut that'll clean out your wallet in the most delicious way possible.

8. BBQ pork belly sandwich

Animal 

Address and Info

Mid-Wilshire

These slider-sized morsels have become the signature dish at Jon & Vinny's signature restaurant -- the rest of the menu changes around them, but a meal there without these fatty blasts would be sacrilege.

10. Omelette

Petit Trois

Address and Info

Hollywood

It's simply called an "Omelette," but this perfectly buttered, Boursin cheese-stuffed fluffy egg dish is much more than that: it's Ludo Lefebvre's way of saying "I'm not just a TV-star gimmick." And after one bite, you'll agree.

11. Short rib

Odys & Penelope

Address and Info

Mid-Wilshire

This dinosaur-sized bone-in hunka-hunka-delicious meat isn't just one of the best BBQ dishes in the city, it's one of the best dishes in the city, period.

Wikimedia Commons

12. Hickory burger

Apple Pan

Address and Info

West LA

Thankfully, nothing at this WLA burger institution has changed since 1947: the space-wasting counter-only set-up, the old-school servers, and this burger -- legendary for its smoky, classic flavor.

Flickr/Chris Goldberg

13. Pork xiao long bao (aka soup dumplings)

Din Tai Fung

Address and Info

Arcadia (& Other Locations)

That first bite, when your teeth puncture the surface of these perfect, thinly doughed pockets of soup and meatball, and the broth hits your upper lip, burning it ever-so-slightly in the process? Nirvana.

14. Chicharron quesadilla

Oaxacan Quesadilla Cart

Address and Info

Echo Park

You may have a hard time finding this woman, but you NEED TO FIND THIS WOMAN, who hand-makes blue-corn tortillas stuffed with chicharrones, cheese, and some sort of magic insanity that makes you go "where the hell have you been my whole life???"

Flickr/Daremoshiranai

15. Strawberry donuts

Donut Man

Address and Info

Glendora

"But, it's like a pie filling made from fresh strawberries stuffed inside a donut," say haters. To which you'll say, "DUDE IT'S LIKE A PIE FILLING MADE FROM FRESH STRAWBERRIES STUFFED INSIDE A DONUT!!!!"

16. Baseball Steak

Pacific Dining Car

Address and Info

Downtown and Santa Monica

Is this the best steak in the city? It is not. Is this the best steak in the city at 3am inside a relic from the 1950s where you're treated like Frank Sinatra in his prime? Yes. It is most certainly that.

Paul Bartunek

18. Shrimp taco

Mariscos Jalisco

Address and Info

Downtown

One bite of the shrimp taco and you'll understand why this truck is one of the most lauded cheap bites in the city.

19. Uni Dynamite

POT

Address and Info

Koreatown

The dirty secret of Roy Choi's excellent Korean menu is that the best stuff is actually NOT in the pots -- rather it's side dishes like this gooey, savory, creamy uni-and-rice dish.

20. Chicken kafta plate with eggplant salad, hummus, and baba ganoush

Pita Kitchen

Address and Info

Van Nuys

Anyone who's lived in The Valley is either a Pita Kitchen disciple or has wondered what the hell the out-the-door lines on Van Nuys Blvd are all about. Well, here's the thing: they're about these spiced chicken patties, this mushy, flavorful eggplant, and this perfectly oily hummus. Two pro tips, though: pay the extra $1 for a third side (baba ghanouj!) instead of stomach-filling rice, and avoid, at all costs, the same-named ripoff restaurant on Wilshire.

21. Half-chicken

Zankou Chicken

Address and Info

West Lost Angeles (& Other Locations)

There are a lot of things you don't know about this beloved Middle Eastern chain, but here's one thing you do: its chicken (and ohGodthat garlic sauce) are absurd.

22. Half-chicken

Dino's Chicken and Burgers

Address and Info

Pico Union (& Other Locations)

Another half-chicken? Yep. But Dino's -- a series of roadside cafes that look about as nondescript as possible -- couldn't be more different than Zankou; its deep-red Mexi-ish bird is covered in a vinegar sauce that makes it truly moist all the way through. Pro tip: order extra sauce and let it seep into the fries or rice below for an insane carb-bomb side.

Zach Brooks/Thrillist

23. Tsukemen ramen

Tsujita Annex

Address and Info

West LA

Why not get the frothy, thick tonkotsu ramen? Because the dippable tsukemen gives you the ability to have as much -- or as little -- broth on your noodles as you want, plus the inevitable leftovers travel better.

24. Chinese chicken salad

Chin Chin

Address and Info

Studio City (& Other Locations)

The Chinese chicken salad is one of LA's defining dishes, and the version at the gentrified Chinese chain Chin Chin is one of its defining variations, thanks to a gingery dressing, an abundance of nuts, and -- oh yeah -- not one, but TWO types of crispy fried noodles.

25. Hoecake

Barrel and Ashes

Address and Info

Studio City

Its BBQ meats may be divisive, but no one who's been to this new-ish meat-centric spot can deny the buttery, gooey hoecake, which is essentially a cornbread if cornbread were made of dreams instead of corn.

Courtesy of Spago

26. Smoked salmon pizza

Spago

Address and Info

Beverly Hills

Its glory-est days may be behind it, but Wolfgang Puck's flagship restaurant is still an emblem of Hollywood decadence, and this now off-menu signature dish was once the height of LA's food scene -- and one bite in, you'll understand why.

27. Bacon breakfast burrito

Lucky Boy

Address and Info

Pasadena

As notable for the fact that you'll get yelled at as you try to order it as it is for the monster amounts of crazy-good bacon that the guy yelling at you will eventually stuff into it. Mmmm.

Flickr/DaBruins07

28. Godmother

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

Address and Info

Santa Monica

This is pretty universally considered one-of-if-not-the best sandwich in all of the LA area. If you haven't had this meat monster yet, what have you been waiting for? Really, WHAT?

29. Smoked fish platter

Wexler's Deli

Address and Info

Downtown LA

There are so many things we could recommend at the Grand Central Market, but this platter of freshly smoked fish hits the soul in the same way as Eggslut -- without the line.

Flickr/EileenRose

31. French dip

Cole's

Address and Info

Downtown

Is Cole's or Phillipe's the best French dip in the city? That's a debate we don't want to take a side in.

32. French dip

Philippe the Original 

Address and Info

Downtown

Told you.

Diddy Riese

33. Ice cream sandwich

Diddy Riese

Address and Info

Westwood

It's a rite of passage to stand in line for an hour at this nearby-to-UCLA spot, asking the entire time you're in line if it's really worth all that standing around for a $2 ice cream sandwich. And then you take a bite, and, yep, it totally is.

34. Albacore belly

Sugarfish

Address and Info

Downtown (& Other Locations)

What, you've only ordered the set sushi meals? Then you've missed out on the real treat: this absurdly flavorful bite, which has to be ordered separately. It's worth it. Completely.

35. Office Burger

Father's Office

Address and Info

Culver City/Santa Monica

Love it or hate it, Sang Yoon's defining dish set the stage for LA's reputation as a burger mecca, and still stands as one of the best ground meatwiches in the city.

Jeff Miller/Thrillist

36. Chicken and waffles

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

Address and Info

Hollywood (& Other Locations)

There are a ton of variations of this dish all over the city, but Roscoe's is definitive, and still stands out for crispiness, balance, and being open late on Friday and Sat. Which never hurts. (And usually helps.)

37. All the salads

Hummus Bar 

Address and Info

Tarzana

It's worth the drive to this strip mall for two things: the skewers of meat at Kushiyu, and this Mediterranean restaurant's salads, which come with any entree order and fill the table with everything from eggplant to chopped liver, all dippable with their piping-hot homemade bread, which is sort of a mix between lavash and pita. It's outstanding.

Flickr/Raul

38. Short Rib Tacos

Kogi

Address and Info

The truck that started the nationwide food-truck trend still serves their signature dish, which melds Korean shortrib with mexican flavors for a perfect blast of conflicting, complementary bites. You can still chase their trucks down, or you can get the dish at their new-ish taqueria in Palms, where they're also doing magic like carnitas-and-kimchi-loaded fries. Your call. 

39. Whole Snook (pescado Zarandeado)

Coni'Seafood

Address and Info

Inglewood

The family that once ran Mariscos Chente and brought this dish to LA from Sinaloa has split in two, with the original chef at Inglewood's Coni Seafood and other members of his team keeping the tradition going at the original West LA location. No matter which one you end up at, you're going to want the whole snook -- a massive (bring friends), splayed-open, perfectly roasted fish, served with stewed onions, lime and homemade tortillas for build-your-own-fish-tacos that are singularly delicious.

40. Fish dip

Son of a Gun

Address and Info

Mid-Wilshire

When they opened Son of a Gun, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo wanted to recreate the flavors they remembered from fish shacks in Florida, and they knocked it out of the park with this fish dip, going so far as to import the crackers they use to give it a hit of salty authenticity. Pro tip: even if you don't love Tabasco, it adds a killer vinegar extra to the already-great flavors.

41. Charcuterie platter

Bestia

Address and Info

Downtown

So many spots in the city offer platters of cured meats, but Bestia's is all made in-house, which means the process is carefully curated, and the meats are that much better for it.

42. BBQ chicken pizza

Mulberry St Pizzeria

Address and Info

Beverly Hills (& Other Locations)

Some people may complain that the pizza here is too floppy, and yeah, it kinda is. But the ingredients in its BBQ chicken variation are top-notch, and the serving size is massive, and once it's in your mouth, who cares about that flop anyways?

Courtesy of Joe Philipson

43. Chili cheeseburger

Original Tommy's Hamburgers

Address and Info

East Hollywood

You could go to any of the Tommy's locations and leave happy, but if you hit the original-original-really-guys-we-mean-the-original spot, you'll be super-duper-double happy. (Until about five hours later.)

44. Mole negro

Gueleguetza

Address and Info

Koreatown

This sort of formerly under-the-radar Oaxacan spot just won a James Beard Award for having killer mole. Seriously, if that doesn't get you in the door, what does?

Courtesy of Republique

45. Kimchi fried rice

Republique

Address and Info

Mid-Wilshire

Walter Manske's gorgeous restaurant has gotten praise for its dinners, but the real move is to go for brunch: the pastries are insane, and you can order this monstrous bowl of egg-topped, short rib-laden spicy rice and then... nap. You're definitely gonna nap.

46. Garlic knots

C&O Trattoria 

Address and Info

Venice

Going to C&O for a big-group dinner is unavoidable, and surely someone will complain in the comments below that the massive pasta plates are not up to snuff with other Italian joints in the city. Who cares? The free garlic knots -- which come both with every dinner and for whomever is waiting outside for a table as well -- are, like, insanely, insanely great. 

47. Lasagna

Dan Tana's

Address and Info

West Hollywood

That said, if you do want Italian, and you don't mind dropping some dough, classic Italian steakhouse Dan Tana's still satisfies, especially when you're ordering something as classic as meat-stuffed lasagna. 

48. Fried chicken

Honey's Kettle

Address and Info

Culver City

It's the #1 fried chicken in the city according to the most expert of experts. Do you really need another reason?

Flickr/TheDeliciousLife

49. Green mussels curry

Jitlada Thai Restaurant

Address and Info

Thaitown

You put one of these in your mouth and it explodes with spice and flavor. Then you repeat. Then you repeat again. Then you sip some Singha. Then you repeat again.