An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles (2024)

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Table of Contents

- Welcome to the City of Angels
- Where to start on Eater’s best maps
- Neighborhoods to know
- Los Angeles dining glossary
- Reservations to make in advance
- Follow the stars
- Get in touch

Hollywood, the beaches, the Hills, the Valleys, and the wide boulevards chock-full of cars — it’s all part of LA’s sun-baked concrete charm. This urban expanse of hazy light, long sunsets, vivid street art, towering skyscrapers, swaying palm trees, and ritzy mansions also boasts what some consider to be the country’s most vibrant restaurants. This guide will make it easy to navigate it all.

Los Angeles is anything and everything for first-time visitors. It’s the center of celebrity and influencer culture. It’s an international hub of arts, design, creativity, and entertainment. It’s also one of the greatest places to eat in the country, not only for its endless varieties of cuisines but also for its incredible produce and talented chefs.

An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles (1)

Welcome to the City of Angels

Geographically Los Angeles is big — really big. Part city, part county, part region, the landscape covers 469 square miles and fits over 10 million people in just the county, not including outer regions like Orange, Riverside, and Ventura counties. LA itself far eclipses cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York in size and breadth.

One can easily traverse dozens of miles in a quest to eat well. Breakfast can take place at a Hong Kong-style cafe or a dim sum hall in the San Gabriel Valley. Not to mention the plethora of family-owned neighborhood doughnut shops and a popular bagel spot that boasts a winding line daily. Lunch options are just as varied, with pizza and sandwich options aplenty, but head to a rooftop or inviting patio to soak in the midday sunshine. Dinner can occur around a feast of flame-licked kebabs, a splurgy omakase meal, or streetside downing tacos. LA’s restaurant scene, complex and varied as it is, caters to every kind of diner.

The Eater Guide to LA

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From home to Hollywood, Eater’s got you covered.

The Eater Guide to Los Angeles is the perfect companion for a trip to the city of Angels. Find the best places to eat all across the city, like world-class tacos, the top Korean barbecue spots, and the fanciest fine dining destinations.

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Where to start on Eater’s best maps

Eater publishes numerous maps to keep restaurant-goers on top of the latest and greatest in LA. Eater editors constantly traverse the city’s tangle of freeways to make sure that these guides are up-to-date and representative of the city’s geographic and cultural breadth. Here are the ones our readers turn to most.

LA’s 38 essential restaurants

The “Eater 38” is our shortlist of the city’s must-visit restaurants. We’ve visited these spots time and again — they have to be open for at least six months before they merit inclusion — and we update the list quarterly to keep things fresh. In this endless metropolis, there are both new and decades-old street food stands, a cornucopia of cuisines that reflect the city’s diasporic communities, and a bounty of Southern California produce so immense you’ll find it everywhere from fine dining institutions to mom-and-pop operations.

An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles (4) Wonho Frank Lee

Hottest restaurants

The Heatmap has existed for nearly two decades to answer the age-old question: “What’s new and notable in Los Angeles?” Though the local dining scene has endured tremendous challenges over the past few years, the city’s spirit of breaking ground and exploring new cuisines continues with every month of openings. The restaurants featured on this list are typically less than six months old and give a sense of what’s hot and happening around town.

Tacos

The taco scene in Los Angeles is as vibrant today as it has ever been, thanks to a new crop of Instagram-ready street stars and the usual collection of dedicated classics sprinkled throughout the city. From birria to carne asada, Los Angeles (considered by some to be the “second-largest” Mexican city in the world) is rife with amazing vendors doing what they love. Try Tacos Leo for tacos al pastor and the Sinaloan-style carne asada from Tacos La Carreta.

Burgers

Los Angeles is at the center of America’s burger obsession. It’s no wonder that burgers appear on so many menus across the city. The Apple Pan serves an iconic version, while For the Win has drawn smash burger fans to its Hollywood and Downtown outlets. The Father’s Office burger could be considered the first-ever “gourmet” burger, a French onion-soup-inspired creation using dry-aged ground beef, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and arugula in a sandwich bun.

Brunch

There’s never been a shortage of great brunch options in Los Angeles, including traditional American favorites, classic French fare, and some of the best modern Mexican food in the country. Republique’s French-ish approach with dashes of international ingredients also features swoon-worthy pastries made on the premises daily. All Day Baby in Silver Lake prepares updated diner classics, while Great White in Venice offers an Aussie-style brunch featuring grain bowls and avocado toast.

Steakhouses

Richly marbled, perfectly cooked steaks are one of life’s greatest pleasures. Los Angeles has no shortage of fantastic steakhouses, top-tier restaurants serving solid co*cktails and tasty sides in addition to all the glorious grilled red meat. Chi Spacca’s towering bistecca and costata alla fiorentina rank among the best in town, while Gwen butchers and dry-ages its meat in-house.

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Pizzas

It’s incredible to see how LA’s unique pizza culture has developed over the decades. It likely started in the early ’80s with Wolfgang Puck’s innovative smoked salmon pizza at Spago. Recently, Los Angeles has seen a notable rise in non-California styles, including New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and Neapolitan, appearing everywhere. Pizzeria Sei’s Neapolitan by way of Tokyo draws some of the highest praise for its wood-fired pies, while Pizzeria Bianco serves some of the best neo-Neapolitan pizza in Los Angeles. For great slices, try Apollonia, Quarter Sheets, and LaSorted’s.

Breakfast burritos

There are few more satisfying starts to the day than a delicious breakfast burrito, LA’s favorite morning dish. Laced with eggs, (usually, but not always) meat, and add-ins like cheese, avocado, salsa, and more. The tightly packed one at Baran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach is worth the trek, though has the most fans. The Rooster’s Rico Suave could be the best in the town.

Ice cream

Ice cream eating is a year-round pleasure in Los Angeles. The city is spoiled for choice when it comes to all that’s cold and creamy, with scoop shops parked in every corner of town including the Westside, the SGV, the Valley, and the South Bay. Soft serve lovers swear by the swirly cones at Magpie’s in Tarzana, Silver Lake, and Highland Park, while the rose-scented scoops at Mashti Malone’s and Saffron & Rose can be served between two crisp wafers.

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Coffee

Los Angeles’s coffee scene is as distinct as its 75 miles of coastline and majestic mountains. Operators obsessed with sourcing the finest coffee beans and mastering roasting and brewing techniques mean that the city’s caffeine culture will continue to thrive. Add in Southern California’s multitude of cultures and the results are excellent pour-overs, espresso drinks, cold brews, Mexican mochas, and cà phê trứng (Vietnamese egg coffee).

co*cktails

Unlike a lot of co*cktail towns, Los Angeles is not beholden to any traditions. From the early days of Hollywood to the more recent craft co*cktail renaissance, LA is the place for daring drinking made possible by this freedom and out-of-the-box thinking. Quintessential spots to seek out include the Varnish, a speakeasy in Downtown, and Accomplice Bar in Mar Vista. Peruse the Hottest co*cktail map for newer places to check out around town.

Sushi

LA’s sushi scene combines a more traditional approach served at sleek counters helmed by world-class chefs with a more casual spirit as exemplified by the fun-loving roll scene in the San Fernando Valley. There’s great sushi almost anywhere in America, but from top to bottom, it’s hard to argue that the incredible quality — and tradition — of Los Angeles’s sushi is unmatched. Some of the best new spots in town include Sushi Sonagi in Gardena, Mori Nozomi in West LA, 715 in Arts District, and Sushi Note Omakase in Beverly Hills.

Budget-friendly

Los Angeles can be an expensive city to live in, let alone to dine in. But even as restaurant operating costs continue to rise, the city offers flavorful and satisfying meals at affordable prices. From bold Sri Lankan flavors at Baja Subs to homey Indonesian cooking at Medan Kitchen and flaky, buttery pastries at Borekas, dining well without having to break the bank is one of LA’s specialties.

Hidden gems

Locating a hidden gem restaurant is similar to a scavenger hunt because LA County is the biggest in the country. There are plenty of corners to explore across the Southland with the reward of something delicious found at the end, including regional Chinese noodles at XiAn Bian Biang Noodle in San Gabriel and classic Japanese comforts at Otomisan in Boyle Heights.

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Iconic dishes

It’s tempting to stick to the newest and trendiest restaurants in LA, but local diners understand the importance of the age-old institutions that paved the way. Remarkable dishes from long-running LA restaurants, including the Armenian kebabs from Mini Kabob and the juicy shrimp tacos from the iconic food truck Mariscos Jalisco, give diners a better sense of the vastness and depth of LA’s dining scene.

Outdoor dining

One of the many perks of Los Angeles living is the possibility of year-long al fresco dining. During the cooler months of the year, heaters are on hand to keep diners toasty without having to reach for a scarf or sweater. The best spots in town boast daytime shade, evening warmth, and all-day vibes.

Vegetarian and vegan

Los Angeles’s vegetarian and vegan dining scene is as diverse as it is delicious, with a mix of restaurants serving up a range of cuisines. The city’s wave of casual, plant-based restaurants keeps expanding in surprising ways, turning heads and changing the minds of anyone who thinks this genre is far from innovative.

Splurge

Head to the swanky restaurants on this list for exquisite culinary experiences paired with thoughtful service and sumptuous environs. Advanced reservations, and sometimes even monetary deposits, are required at most of these restaurants, so plan ahead for a night of revelry.

Thai

If Thai food is anything, it is colorful and vibrant — especially in Los Angeles, home to the largest population of Thais outside of Thailand and the unofficial 77th province of the “land of smiles.” Jade green noodles topped with juicy char siu, warm and comforting yellow curry, and red hot tom yum can all be found across LA. Chao Krung consistently serves some of the best Thai food in Fairfax District, while Jitlada in Thai Town retains the title of most revered Southern Thai specialist. Check out At Siam night market on the weekends in Hollywood for one of the coolest street food scenes in LA.

An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles (8) Wonho Frank Lee

Chinese

Los Angeles’s tremendous Chinese food scene keeps getting better, with upscale places like Array 36 and Bistro Na’s serving some of the highest-end Chinese food in the U.S. Additionally, there is a wealth of reasonably priced strip mall finds in Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Rowland Heights. Try the versatile Shanghainese spot Jiang Nan Spring or reliable Cantonese fare at Chef Tony.

Sandwiches

Skipping over the city’s legendary sandwiches would be a huge mistake. If craving a sandwich from a classic deli, head to Langer’s and order the #19 pastrami or pick just about anything from Bay Cities in Santa Monica.

Oaxacan

No region of Mexico garners more attention than Oaxaca. Here in Oaxacalifornia, the moniker for Southern California’s Oaxacan community, Zapotecos from the Valles Centrales region have been opening restaurants since the early 1990s, primarily in the neighborhoods of Koreatown, Hollywood, Arlington Heights, and West LA. Now, there are backyard comedores like Comedor Tenchita and pit-roasted lamb barbacoa at Antontonilco El Grande Barbacoa Estilo Hidalgo. And that’s not to overlook classics like Gish Bac, Guelaguetza, Madre, and Poncho’s Tlayudas. There’s a strong case for Los Angeles as Oaxaca’s unofficial ninth region.

Neighborhoods to know

Traveling around Los Angeles is best understood as an exercise in patience, and the best way to dine through the city is with transit, walking, cars, and rideshare. There’s pretty much traffic everywhere all the time, or at least it’ll seem that way. The best strategy is to stick to a part of town — the Westside, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, South LA, Pasadena, or Silver Lake, and check places out in that area until traffic subsides in the evening. Account for travel time or get to neighborhoods early and roam around. There’s always a tasty reward waiting.

Arts District

Since the opening of Church & State more than a decade ago, Downtown’s Arts District has undergone an incredible transformation. What was once largely an urban industrial zone has developed into one of the most sought-after and vibrant neighborhoods in the city.

Chinatown

Like many historic Chinatowns across the U.S., LA’s Chinatown is going through a transformation as a result of gentrification, shifting demographics, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. With its mix of newcomers and old-school standbys, the neighborhood remains one of LA’s most dynamic dining destinations.

Disneyland

Disneyland Resort, a theme park practically known as much for its food as for its rides, ensures its visitors won’t go hungry. Nostalgic childhood favorites like massive turkey legs and chocolatey Mickey Mouse ice cream bars still reign supreme, but delectable surprises are hiding in plain sight across Disney’s theme parks and hotels. Following this guide guarantees you won’t struggle hunting down a powdery Mickey-shaped beignet or that viral dish you saw on TikTok.

Downtown

Downtown Los Angeles is divided into 13 districts including Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Arts District, and South Park. An amalgam of new and old, Downtown Los Angeles is a constantly evolving microcosm of the Southland’s cuisine. Dining options include the upscale Kato helmed by chef Jon Yao, the historic Cole’s French Dip and Philippe The Original which both opened in 1908, and chef José Andrés’s San Laurel.

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Koreatown

Los Angeles’s Koreatown is without question the mecca of Korean cuisine in America. The meals served in this vibrant neighborhood, full of neon lights and late nights, are so stellar that even food obsessives visiting from Seoul marvel at the sheer quality and quantity that is available. While most diners are quick to limit Korean food to all-you-can-eat barbecue feasts, there are a tremendous number of regional specialties worth seeking out in and beyond Koreatown. Find galbi jjim at all hours of the night at 24-hour restaurant Sun Nong Dan, spicy cold jjolmyeon at MDK, as well as a rustic feast based around barley rice at Borit Gogae.

Palm Springs

A popular getaway for Los Angeles residents since 1938, Palm Springs attracts visitors who can discover far more than food and poolside fun. The mid-century architecture, tiki bars, outdoor museum installations, and shopping are also major draws. The Coachella Valley is also a fairly brief and stunning drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Whatever the adventure, a meal is always required at spots like the always-popular Towne Bagels (be sure to get there early), or California fare at Alice B. by famed chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

Pasadena

Historically, Pasadena is better known for its idyllic suburban neighborhoods and annual Rose Parade than its culinary offerings. But with a slew of new openings over the past few years — including Eater’s 2023 Restaurant of the Year Bar Chelou — and always-busy standbys scattered around town, like Pie ‘N Burger, the City of Roses has become one of LA’s most diverse and notable dining scenes.

An Eater’s Guide to Los Angeles (10) Wonho Frank Lee

San Fernando Valley

Colloquially known as the Valley, the San Fernando Valley is a 260-square-mile basin north of Downtown Los Angeles. The largely suburban region is made up of 34 distinct neighborhoods and has been immortalized in films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Boogie Nights. As for the food, the Valley is home to classic restaurants including Anajak Thai, Brent’s Deli, and Casa Vega, as well as newer destinations like the Brothers Sushi and OyBar.

San Gabriel Valley

The San Gabriel Valley, just east of Downtown Los Angeles, is a trove of incredible Asian dining destinations. The expansive area that includes cities like Arcadia, Alhambra, Monterey Park, and San Gabriel contains some of the best Asian restaurants in Southern California, including significant Sichuan, Cantonese, and Vietnamese food scenes. Chengdu Impression could be the best Sichuanese, while Golden Deli still draws long lines daily for pho and crispy egg rolls.

Santa Monica

Famous for its iconic pier and walkable Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica has something for everyone when it comes to restaurants. While there are plenty of tourist traps to watch out for and many places that don’t necessarily stand out, the city is chock-full of hidden gems and noteworthy destinations, too. Historic steakhouse Golden Bull Restaurant is still at the top of its game more than 70 years in, while newcomer Bar Monette offers a refined seaside tapas experience. For an upscale dinner, Citrin and Pasjoli continue to impress.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake has gained a reputation for being a dining destination in Los Angeles for good reason. From the busy Sunset Boulevard stretch to the small, deeply connected restaurants around the reservoir, this neighborhood punches well above its weight when it comes to eating well. Find Italian staples at longstanding Alimento, outstanding Thai food at the Silver Lake House, LA-style slices at La Sorted’s, and much more around one of Los Angeles’s best neighborhoods to eat in.

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South Bay

The South Bay is a massive area incorporating Torrance, Gardena, Carson, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Manhattan Beach, San Pedro, and Lomita, among other municipalities. The part of town features beachy vibes and culturally diversity with wide swaths of pure suburbia. Formerly home to three Japanese car companies, the area still hosts a bevy of excellent Japanese restaurants, as well as excellent Korean, Brazilian, and Hawaiian food. Try weekend brunch at M.B. Post, izakaya skewers and noodles at Otaf*cku, or moles and mezcal co*cktails at Madre.

South LA

From old-school spots in Inglewood, Compton, and Lynwood to newer restaurants in View Park-Windsor Hills, and everything in between, it’s possible to dine well on dozens of different cuisines within these vibrant communities. Meander through long boulevards and land at major sports destinations like BMO Stadium to the east and SoFi Stadium to the west toward LAX. In between, go for the stacked burgers at Hawkin’s, the rib-sticking soul food at one of two locations of Dulan’s, and the crispy escovitch fish at Country Style Jamaican.

Venice

While Venice may neighbor Santa Monica, it has its own slate of impressive restaurants to offer. The neighborhood has undergone dramatic changes in the last few decades, transforming from a community for artists to somewhere that is not cheap to live (or dine) in. Even so, there is something for everyone including the breezy French bar Coucou, the iconic Hinano Cafe, or Panamian hot spot, Si! Mon.

West Hollywood

Though West Hollywood is best known for its glitzy celebrity hotspots, there is far more beneath the surface. Find Lanzhou-style beef noodle soup at LAN Noodle and a cannabis lounge with food at Pleasure Med. For an old-school burger head to Irv’s Burgers, while Michael Ciramusti’s outstanding seafood spot Connie and Ted’s is still serving up its top-tier lobster roll.

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Los Angeles dining glossary

Angeleno: A native Los Angeles resident or a longtime transplant.

California roll: A popular sushi roll consisting of imitation crab, avocado, and cucumber. Also, a term for when California drivers don’t stop entirely at stop signs.

Carne asada: Grilled marinated beef, ideally over charcoal, though also over gas or a flattop. The most common styles in Los Angeles originated from Tijuana and Sinaloa.

Street dogs: Bacon-wrapped hot dogs topped with griddled onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos, then garnished with ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. Vendors selling street dogs emerge across the city beginning at sundown, and especially around popular concert venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Wiltern, or Palladium.

The Eastside: An official region that includes East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and El Sereno, according to the Los Angeles Times. Not to be confused with the eastside (note: lowercase ‘e’), which can include all neighborhoods east of Downtown.

French dip: A meat-filled sandwich (roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey, pastrami, or ham) with crusty bread served with a side of jus. Purportedly invented at Philippe the Original in Chinatown, but also claimed by Cole’s in Downtown.

Korean barbecue: Thinly sliced meats, beef, pork, and chicken, but also duck, seafood, and lamb, grilled tabletop and served with a variety of banchan (palate-cleansing snacks). From premium barbecue spots to reasonably priced all-you-can-eat places, there are a variety of barbecuing options in Koreatown.

Juice: In Los Angeles, juice doesn’t refer to what is purchased at a grocery store in a plastic bottle. Instead, it’s usually the freshly cold-pressed stuff that often contains a mix of fruits and vegetables, and priced at least $10, and usually more.

Natural wine: At wine bars and shops across Los Angeles, natural wine features heavily on the menu. The term denotes wines that are made using low-intervention methods without additives, though there are no formal requirements on what makes a wine natural.

Pupusa: A Salvadoran cornmeal griddle cake filled simply with cheese or more elaborately with meats and even loroco blossoms. Hot sauce and curtido, a fermented cabbage slaw, make for fine accompaniments.

SGV or 626: Shorthand for the San Gabriel Valley, an area east of Downtown Los Angeles that spans almost 300 square miles.

The Southland: Shorthand for the massive metropolitan region in and around greater Los Angeles, including the Inland Empire and Orange County.

Tacos arabes/tacos al pastor: Tacos arabes consist of pork cooked shawarma-style on a trompo (vertical spit) before being served on a flour tortilla. The tacos came about as a result of an influx of Lebanese immigrants to the region in the early 1900s, and have now made their way to the Southland. Also called tacos al pastor, this marinated style is prepared in every Mexican region but was popularized in Los Angeles by Indigenous taqueros who trained in Mexico City.

Tlayuda: A thin, wide Oaxacan tortilla slathered with asiento (unrefined lard), beans, cabbage, salsa, avocado, and wisps of stringy cheese then grilled over charcoal or gas. Meats can also be added on top, such as tasajo (dried beef), moronga (blood sausage), chorizo, or cecina (thin, salted meat).

The Valley: Shorthand for the San Fernando Valley, a vast region located north of the Los Angeles Basin spanning over 200 square miles and divided into 34 neighborhoods.

The Westside: An official region that includes 23 neighborhoods, stretching from Pacific Palisades to Marina del Rey to the west and Beverly Crest to Ladera Heights to the east, according to the Los Angeles Times. Often used colloquially to describe any neighborhood west of the 405 freeway.

Reservations to make in advance

While the casual mom-and-pop restaurants scattered in neighborhoods like Koreatown, Thai Town, and the San Gabriel Valley serve stellar food without much advance notice required, some of the city’s hottest tables often book out within minutes, sometimes weeks in advance. The following places are worth snagging a reservation ahead of time: Pijja Palace, Damian, Anajak, Bar Chelou, , Saffy’s, Here’s Looking At You, Providence, Antico Nuovo, Poltergeist at Button Mash, Ototo, Kato, and Sushi Sonagi.

Head out of town

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Every major city has a one- to two-hour getaway from its city center. Los Angeles is blessed with many that can place one in landscapes found in no other part of the country. Santa Barbara’s stucco buildings, cafes, and quaint shops can be accessed by a scenic train ride or a two-hour drive. The Santa Ynez Valley’s flowing green hills and wine-filled landscape are 125 miles north. Speeding down a ski slope during winter or paddling in a canoe during the summer is entirely possible in Big Bear. Getting to Palm Springs can be half the fun before landing at the Coachella Valley’s most popular desert destination. Las Vegas, a year-round destination for Southern California residents with its extraordinary culinary scene, is a short one-hour flight away or a four-to-six-hour road trip through the Mojave desert.

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