From celebrity chefs to timeless burger joints, lively Los Angeles has a wide range of dishes to impress you; here are the top 10 things to try
Rubbing elbows with celebrities at cutting-edge restaurants or munching down on some West Coast favourites at a classic diner, trendy Los Angeles has got you covered. Eating healthy is also easy – as the epicentre of health-conscious living, LA boasts an abundance of vegan-friendly restaurants and organic farmers’ markets.
In 1982, Wolfgang Puck opened Spago in Los Angeles, serving hand-rolled pasta with the best of California’s produce. It became an instant hit and has remained a firm favourite among A-listers ever since. Other celebrity chefs have also joined Puck to offer the best of farm-to-table New American fare in LA. As a result, there is a fantastic string of fine-dining restaurants that you can go to for a splurge-worthy meal.
LA restaurants by celebrity chefs
- Chef Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills (176 N Canon Dr)
- Chef Curtis Stone’s Maude (212 S Beverly Dr)
- Chef Michael Cimarusti’s Providence (5955 Melrose Ave)
- Chef Tom Colicchio’s Craft Los Angeles (10100 Constellation Blvd)
On the opposite end of celeb-spotting fine-dining are American-style greasy spoons. These timeless diners often feature friendly servers bringing big plates of pancakes and soda floats to customers in booths. The portion is always generous, coffee is bottomless, and the décor is largely no-fuss – think tables with Formica tops, or if they are really battered, the waitress will spread out a chequered tablecloth to hide all sins.
Classic diners were hugely popular in the 1950s, but today, only a few exist in selected neighbourhoods where people from all walks can come and enjoy comfort food.
Classic diners in LA
- Barney’s Beanery (various locations, including one on 8447 Santa Monica Blvd)
- The Original Pantry Café (877 S Figueroa St)
Burger and fries
There is no denying that a juicy hamburger is part of the American national identity, and therefore, it’d be a shame not to devour a grilled beef patty on a bun while you’re in LA.
In-N-Out Burger, which enjoys an almost cult-like status, was founded in Baldwin Park, about 16km (10m) east of downtown LA in 1948. Today, there are more than a dozen outlets serving the greater LA area, all offering the limited menu (featuring hamburger, cheeseburger, double-double, and fries) just like when it first opened. Then there are the six ‘variations’ of hamburgers on the supposedly secret menu – ok, they aren’t top secrets now, but they still add a mysterious edge to the brand’s fame.
Where to try burger & fries in LA
- Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers (Unit 117, 727 N Broadway)
- Cassell’s Hamburgers (3600 W 6th St)
- Daglas Drive-In (20036 Vanowen St, Canoga Park)
- In-N-Out Burger (various locations)
- The Tripel (333 Culver Blvd, Playa Del Rey)
With about 70 thousand Japanese immigrants living in LA and an entire district dubbed “Little Tokyo”, it is hardly surprising that California roll (an LA invention) and its more traditional sushi cousins continue to attract customers who have a penchant for fresh fish and vinegared rice.
Where to try sushi in LA
- For authentic sushi in unpretentious surroundings, check out Sushi Go 55 (Unit 317, 333 Alameda St) or Sushi Gen (442 E 2nd St).
- For neatly decorated sushi topped with expensive ingredients like abalone and sea urchin, visit Nobu (903 N La Cienega Blvd), Sugarfish (various locations, including one on Sunset Blvd, Hollywood), or Q (521 W 7th St).
- For the ultimate sushi experience (and a mega bill that may send a chill down your spine), Urasawa (218 N Rodeo Dr) is the answer.
French dip sandwich
The lip-smacking French dip sandwich – thinly sliced meat stuffed inside a gravy-dipped baguette – was said to be the accidental creation of LA restaurant owner Philippe Mathieu in 1918. But another version had the sandwich invented by LA chef Jack Garlinghouse who provided a side of beef juice to soften the sandwich for a customer with sore gums.
Since foodies can’t decide who actually invented this sandwich, our advice is to try the creation at both places. After all, they are just 2.2km (1.4m) apart from each other.
Where to try French dip sandwich in LA
- Philippe the Original (1001 N Alameda St)
- Cole’s, Originators of the French Dip (118 E 6th St)
Whether it’s a warm burrito served from a taco truck or chargrilled carne asada (steak) from a sit-down restaurant, Mexican food has been delighting Californians for decades now. Some restaurants have a modern take on Mexican street food, while others still honour the recipes passed down by their grandmothers.
Where to try Mexican food in LA
- Taco truck options: El Chato Taco Truck (5300 W Olympic Blvd) and Leo’s Tacos Truck (various locations, including one on 5525 Sunset Blvd).
- Moderate eats: CaCao Mexicantessen (1576 Colorado Blvd) and El Cholo (various locations, including the original 1923 gem on 1121 S Western Ave).
- Expensive restaurants: Javier’s (various locations, including one on 10250 Santa Monica Blvd) and Polanco (14400 Hindry Ave, Ayres Hotel Manhattan Beach)
Veganism is no longer the sole right of hippies and oddballs but is wholeheartedly embraced by people who care about sustainability. Accordingly, F&B operators in Los Angeles are staying on-trend and offering plant-based alternatives to keep up with consumers’ food choices.
Where to find vegan food in LA
- Compton Vegan (11419 Santa Monica Blvd)
- Flore Vegan (2943 Sunset Blvd)
- Tocaya (various locations, including one on 6550 Sunset Blvd)
- If you’re ready to splurge, head to Crossroads Kitchen (8284 Melrose Ave) – their multi-course tasting menu is worth every penny.
We’d never heard of ricotta toast until we saw their pretty pictures start to trend on social media in 2017, posted by breakfast cafés in Los Angeles. Fast forward to 2021, the popularity of ricotta toast continues to increase and spread globally. Even the avocado toast enthusiasts, it seems, are eager to catch up with the fancy toast trend by replacing the not-so-attractive mashed green/brown fruit with creamy soft cheese (or faux tofu) that looks like a layer of pristine snow.
Where to try ricotta toast in LA
République (624 S La Brea Ave) is the place to go for ricotta toast.
Once upon a time, LA was lagging behind San Diego and San Francisco when it comes to the hip and hoppy craft brewing culture. Happily though, things have improved significantly following the opening of several microbreweries in recent years.
Where to try craft beer in LA
- Brabara’s at the Brewery (620 Moulton Ave)
- Eagle Rock Brewery (3056 Roswell St)
- Father’s Office (3229 Helms Ave, Culver City)
- Highland Park Brewery (1220 N Spring St)
- MacLeod Ale Brewing Co (14741 Calvert St, Van Nuys, which is about 18m north of downtown LA)
With approximately 637,000 acres (257,785 hectares) of vineyards, the sun-soaked California is America’s number 1 wine producer, turning out 81% of US wine sales. In LA, you don’t have to travel far to visit a vineyard – Moraga vineyard is in Bel Air (1970 Moraga Dr) while Malibu Wine Safaris (32111 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu) lies just 68km (42m) from downtown LA.
If you have time, we highly recommend you check out the Temecula Valley Wine Country, about 145km (90m) south of LA. Despite the fact that it is close to the California desert, the area is actually a rather diverse growing region thanks to the unique microclimate. Accordingly, you can expect everything from delicate Chardonnay to powerful Grenache from about 50 wineries here. Following the De Portola Wine Trail is highly recommended.
This post was updated in August 2021.