The Best Lunch Spot in 38 LA Neighborhoods
There are a million-billion-trillion lunch options in LA, but somehow you always (ALWAYS) end up eating a soggy salad at Trimana. Well that super-sad cycle ends today, because today we give you the best lunch option in 38 (THIRTY-EIGHT!) LA neighborhoods.
Bread Lounge (address and info)
What you’re getting: Kalamata olive stick with za’tar
When you're finally ready to ditch the whole paleo thing, this is where your first blowout lunch should be. The kalamata olive stick with za'tar is a must-get, but there’s also the Balkan-style boreks, pizza-like focaccia, and sandwiches, all of which’re you-should-also-gets.
Dune (address and info)
What you’re getting: Falafel sandwich
What do you get when you combine house-made grilled flatbread, perfectly herbed falafel, hummus, organic pickles, and a smattering of fried potato sticks? The best falafel sandwich in LA, that's what. It's from the people behind Echo Park vegan favorite Elf Cafe, but don't let that deter you -- they also make an excellent lamb meatball sandwich.
Paninoteca by Scarpetta (address and info)
What you’re getting: House-made pastrami sandwich
This takeout sandwich counter from Scarpetta would be great no matter where it was, but in Beverly Hills it's a godsend. Go with the porchetta sandwich with broccoli rabe pesto and a fried egg, or the chicken Parm with burrata, or the house-made roast beef, or the house-made pastrami, or pretty much anything on the menu because it's all freakin' delicious.
Mariscos Jalisco (address and info)
What you’re getting: Shrimp dorado taco
There's a reason this legendary taco vendor has won all the taco awards there are to win. The deep-fried shrimp taco dorado is like nothing you've ever had (unless you grew up in San Juan de Los Lagos). The whole taco gets fried with the shrimp filling inside of it, making for a supremely crunchy handheld with a barely cooked moist interior. It's taco perfection.
Far East Plaza (address and info)
What you’re getting: A smorgasbord of Asian dishes
Roy Choi (the Kogi/Chego dude), Andy Ricker (the Pok Pok dude), Alvin Cailin (the Egg Slut/Ramen Champ dude), and Scoops Ice Cream, all under one roof... err... technically it's a two-story open-air mall with no roof, but whatever. Just shut up and go.
Tito's Tacos (address and info)
What you’re getting: Tacos. Duh.
Guerrilla Tacos only parks in front of Cogniscenti Coffee in Culver City on Wednesdays. And Father's Office is only open for lunch Friday through Sunday. So that leaves... Tito's! And before you get all pissed about “authenticity,” there’s this: if you're one of those people who don't like Tito's, then you clearly just don't like delicious-tasting, shredded beef-filled hard-shell tacos topped with radioactive-looking yellow cheese.
It's safe to say the transformation of this 100-year-old market/food court has been a slam dunk. Nothing says LA more than fancy egg sandwiches, pour-over coffee, and papaya salad alongside (or in some cases on top of) carnitas tacos and pupusas.
The Oinkster (address and info)
What you’re getting: Pastrami burger
Putting pastrami on a burger may not have been invented at this Eagle Rock spot -- but it's very, very possible it may have been perfected here.
Wah's Golden Hen (address and info)
What you’re getting: The lunch combo
If by some miracle the line at Sqirl is less than 50 people long, by all means, go to Sqirl (the crispy rice salad is The Best). But if you don’t have the time for all that, head right across the street to Wah’s, where you can eat chow mein, pork fried rice, egg foo young, and sweet & sour chicken, all for $5.
La Caridad (address and info)
What you’re getting: On a Wed or Sat, rabo encendido (spicy beef oxtail); any other day, anything with moros
This may sound like heresy, but Versailles and Porto's will be dead to you once you check out this family-run Echo Park Cuban restaurant. The moros (mixed black beans and rice) are the move, as is the melt-in-your-mouth Wednesday and Saturday oxtail.
Prime Pizza (address and info)
What you’re getting: The “Way It Should Be” lunch combo
Still whining that there's no good pizza in Los Angeles? Then you probably haven't been to this new-ish slice joint on Fairfax from the guys who own Golden State. Important note: during lunchtime it does a “two slices of cheese and a soda” deal for $6, aka the "Way It Should Be."
Din Tai Fung (address and info)
What you’re getting: Like, 50 orders of soup dumplings
It used to be that you had to drive to Alhambra for the best soup dumplings in the entire US. Now you can just go to Americana at Brand for the Glendale branch of this worldwide chain.Sadly it's not a secret, and the mall doesn't have a food court -- so expect super-long waits. Super-long worth-it waits.
Mariscos El Faro (address and info)
what you’re getting: Sea bass tostada
This great mariscos truck will make you rethink your views on eating raw seafood from a truck. Order the sea bass tostada and you'll be treated to thickly sliced cuts of wild fish that’re on the same level as those at your favorite sushi bar.
Murakami (address and info)
What you’re getting: A chirashi bowl
This build-your-own sushi bowl institution moved from the heart of Hollywood to Melrose almost two years ago, but nothing's changed. It's still ridiculously good for the price (generally under $20), and it's still the best lunch in Tinseltown.
Coni'Seafood (address and info)
What you’re getting: Marlin tacos (and if you have enough people with you, the whole snook)
Being asked for a ride to or from LAX around lunchtime used to be a friendship deal-breaker. But after trying Coni'Seafood you'll be begging to be your buddies' Uber replacement. And the more the merrier at this tiny Sinaloan seafood joint, so you can order the marlin tacos, raw shrimp aguachile, AND the gigantic whole grilled fish. Minds will be blown.
Kobawoo (address and info)
What you’re getting: Pork belly bossam
K-Town at lunchtime is a deal seeker's wet dream, with every restaurant trying to outdo its neighbor by offering more and more for less and less. Believe it or not, $10 is actually on the higher end of things, but it's worth it for Kobawoo's signature pork belly bossam (especially when a dinner order will run you anywhere from $17 to $35).
Sushi Gen (address and info)
What you’re getting: Sashimi lunch special
Sushi lunch specials don't get much better than the $15 sashimi plate at this insanely popular Little Tokyo spot. Just make sure you get there early or you might be waiting until dinner to eat.
Ricky's Fish Tacos (address and info)
What you’re getting: Hopefully, lobster tacos. If not, fish’ll do.
This legendary Virgil street stand-turned-food truck is the closest you're getting to a real-deal Ensenada-style fish taco without a passport. And if there's lobster tacos as a special, don't think too hard. Just order one. (Or five.)
Marina del Rey
Catch & Release (address and info)
What you’re getting: Fried oyster po-boy
Deciding between Mendo Farms for the 17th time or HoJo-style clam strips made by the original chef dude behind Superba Snack Bar isn't any choice at all. The fried oyster po-boy is a good option too, or you can go full baller with the lobster roll on fresh-baked Parker House rolls.
Mitsuwa Marketplace (address and info)
What you’re getting: Tempura bowl
Remember a time when Santouka was considered the best ramen in all of Los Angeles? Those days are long gone thanks to your Daikokuyas and Tsujitas, but the food court inside Mitsuwa Market is still one of the best lunches in West LA. Ramen is still a great bet, or you can get one of the best tempura bowls in the city at Hannosuke.
Top Round (address and info)
What you’re getting: Any of the sandwiches
This place is what Arby's would taste like if its roast beef was actually roast beef and the curly fries were made from real potatoes. In other words: actually good. Also, there's horseradish. And frozen custard.
Panda Express Innovation Kitchen (address and info)
What you’re getting: Uh, the burrito. For sure.
For those who think this might be a joke, we've got three words for you: Panda. Express. Burrito. Imagine your favorite Panda combo (chow mein and all) wrapped in a scallion pancake, with papaya salad or pickled cucumbers and crunchy things. It's heaven in a wrap, and we would eat 100 of them over anything in Old Town.
Kabab Mahaleh (address and info)
What you’re getting: Whatever you’re getting, just make sure to also get sangak.
If you've never had the full-on glory that is fresh-baked sangak, a Persian sourdough flatbread the size of a small surfboard, stop reading now and head to this Kosher Corridor bakery/lunch spot. The kebabs, rice, and rotisserie chicken are all good, but make no mistake about it... you're there for the bread.
Playa del Rey
Playa Provisions (address and info)
What you’re getting: Patty melt
It's safe to say Playa del Rey was a bring-your-own-lunch situation until Top Chef runner-up Brooke Williamson opened this sunny beachside hangout. You can't go wrong with any of the sandwiches (sand dabs FTW) or the excellent patty melt.
Sweetfin Poke (address and info)
What you’re getting: Any poke bowl
A year from now, once the poke craze dies down a bit, Bay Cities can go back to being everybody's go-to Santa Monica lunch spot. but for now, it's all about that shoyu-tossed raw fish topped with avocado, fish eggs, wasabi-toasted coconut, and edamame. (Even if the guy who invented poke in Hawaii is rolling over in his grave.)
Night + Market Song (address and info)
What you’re getting: Fried chicken sandwich
Remember when Night + Market Song started serving that secret off-menu fried chicken sandwich and everybody freaked out? You don’t? Well, don’t bemoan your short-term memory loss too much: it's actually now an on-the-menu item at lunchtime, along with a Thai boxing chicken and crispy rice salad that will put an end to your whining about how the only good Thai food is in Thai Town.
Ichimi Ann Bamboo Garden (address and info)
What you’re getting: Cold soba
If you ever find yourself in Torrance, or anywhere that is anywhere near Torrance, you'll want to hit up this tiny soba specialist. Hot or cold, and with more topping options than you could possibly even imagine, the lightly speckled soba is worth going out of your way for.
South Los Angeles
Carnitas El Momo (address and info)
What you’re getting: Carnitas. It’s right there in the name.
You haven't had carnitas until you've tried the carnitas from this South LA truck. Deep-fried in giant copper pots, all the pig parts end up perfectly tender -- especially the skin, which makes this carnitas the opposite of dry.
Barrel & Ashes (address and info)
What you’re getting: Some sort of meat, and the ho-cake -- for sure the ho-cake.
We dream of a day when you can get Barrel & Ashes' sweet, sweet ho-cake in every shopping center in every city in the country, but for now, you can just get it at the small, rustic-feeling outpost in Studio City, which is why you need to go there, like, immediately (the brisket and rib tips are pretty epic, too).
Sapp Coffee Shop (address and info)
What you’re getting: Beef blood soup (seriously)
There are those who will swear that Jitlada is the best restaurant in Thai Town, but for lunch our money goes to Sapp Coffee Shop. It's quick, cheap, and serves a bowl of beef blood soup so good you won't care that you're slurping down beef blood soup. Don't feel like going Team Edward? The duck-, pork-, and crab-topped jade noodles are something everyone can love.
Joe's Falafel (address and info)
What you’re getting: Falafel sandwich
Remember when In-N-Out was the only decent thing to eat within a mile of CityWalk? That is no longer the case since Joe's Falafel opened up a few years back. A great falafel sandwich starts with great bread -- and this place's fresh-baked laffa is great bread (if you def need meat, the chicken shawarma is also great).
Bill & Hiroko's aka Bill’s Burgers (address and info)
What you’re getting: Double burger
When the burger craving hits, there are few places with enough juice to pull us away from a Double-Double Animal Style. This decades-old burger stand -- one of our most underrated restaurants in LA -- is one of them.
Gjusta (address and info)
What you’re getting: Porchetta melt
Deli? Bakery? Cafe? Gentrifying devil? Call this place whatever you want, we call it freakin' good. The minute the porchetta melt (or the prime rib, or the pastrami, or the chicken Parm) touches your lips you'll feel yourself quickly forget you spent $15 on such a small sandwich (and the fact that you’re eating it while sitting on a milk crate).
Alexander's Greek Kitchen (address and info)
What you’re getting: Gyro sandwich
If you’re a gyro connoisseur, you will be excited to discover this little gem down in Vernon, where the pork gyro is cut off a rotating meat spit that's made in-house every day instead of being delivered from a factory. Order it as a sandwich on pita bread, and you can even get it stuffed with French fries. OPA!
Guisados (address and info)
What you’re getting: The sampler
Every lunch place should give you a sampler option like the one at this beloved tacostaurant, which specializes in Mexican braises. With four locations now, this place could have won best of Echo Park, Downtown, or Boyle Heights, but nowhere should it be appreciated more than in West Hollywood. Pro tip: swap out the chicharron taco for the quesadilla taco, which is basically just a melted cheese taco.
Tsujita/Tsujita Annex/Tsujita Sushi (address and info)
What you’re getting: Ramen/chirashi
When they write the bible of Sawtelle Japantown's history it will be divided into two sections: "Before Tsujita" and "After Tsujita." And it's not just the original ramen/tsukemen shop, which still attracts a crowd every single day. It's got the whole street fortified, with the pork fat bowl of death being served at the Annex across the street and the too-good-to-be-true $15 chirashi bowls being served at Tsujita Sushi during lunch.
Hummus Bar (address and info)
What you’re getting: Anything, so long as it comes with the salads
Hummus Bar Express is definitely one of the better lunches in Santa Monica, but the original location in Tarzana offers the added bonus of AYCE pickles and salads, which get served like banchan in a Korean restaurant.
800 Degrees (address and info)
What you’re getting: The pizza of the day
Just when you thought LA's best pizza deal couldn't get better, this place went and added a feature called "pizza of the day" to its Instagram. Every day it posts a photo of a pie, which is available for half off -- usually under $5. Part of the fun’s in the randomness: one day you might get a margherita with meatballs and arugula, another it might be a bianca with chicken and roasted garlic. But no matter how you slice it (wokka wokka?) one thing’s for sure -- you're not finding a better pizza for the price in all of LA.
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Zach Brooks just ate a huge lunch, but if you've got a good suggestion he will always be up for a bang bang. He's also the founder of MidtownLunch.com and the host of the Food Is the New Rock podcast; you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @midtownlunchla.