L.A. is known for a lot of things: the bright lights of Tinsel Town, the legacies of beloved sports franchises like the Lakers and the Dodgers, and the excitement of being able to experience mountains, deserts, beaches, and metropoles all within a short drive. It’s the food, though, that really gives L.A. its identity. Los Angeles is among the most culturally diverse cities on the planet, and so the food scene is truly like no other. From spicy noodles to wood-fired pizzas, and from organic vegan curries to juicy street tacos, L.A. is a Mecca of wondrous cuisine. If you’re looking to truly absorb the authentic L.A. experience, pay a visit to the following iconic eateries.
Located in the heart of L.A.’s historic South Bay, Mr. Fries Man is as authentically Los Angeles as it gets. This beloved local establishment offers superbly prepared fries in dozens of unique arrangements, and the phenomenon has even gone viral. The restaurant’s Instagram page has more than 100 thousand followers, and this small hole-in-the-wall establishment regularly sees long lines of people who are eager to sample chef Craig Batiste’s latest offerings.
Fresh seafood is essential to the L.A. dining experience, and so it’s no surprise that the most popular menu item is the lemon garlic shrimp fries. This irresistible plate consists of crispy french fries topped with lemon garlic sauce and real sauteed shrimp. Also popular are the lemon lobster and steak fries, the pastrami fries, and the chili cheese pastrami fries. By combining delicious toppings like lemon garlic sauce, sweet Buffalo ranch dressing, and spicy Sriracha chili sauce, Batiste is able to bring a classic side dish to life in new and satisfying ways.
Cheezus was created with one simple goal in mind: to raise the bar for grilled cheese. Originally from Portland, Oregon, the restaurant’s founder was dissatisfied with the traditional “American cheese and white bread” approach to grilled cheese. With that in mind, he set out to make his mark in the L.A. foodie scene with a grilled cheese like no other. To appease the discriminating tastes of Angelenos, the cooks at Cheezus opt for fresh, locally sourced ingredients like black truffle mustard and saffron-infused honey. That may be why the Cheezus team is such a popular fixture at the local L.A. farmers’ markets. Every sandwich is made with organic Country Loaf Sourdough Bread and fully cooked to order.
The most popular sandwich is the Incredible Hulk. This fan favorite is prepared with aged gouda, smoked bacon, chili lime sea salt and fresh avocado, all topped with a fried egg. Visitors also rave about the Mrs. Potato Head, made with reading raclette cheese and Japanese sweet potato. For those who love a sandwich with a bit of a bite to it, the Screaming Jesus on a Ferris Wheel is sure to please. It’s made with manchego cheese, fresh chorizo, peppadew peppers, and the ever-popular saffron honey.
Barbecue lovers can do no better than Stoked California BBQ, as it’s exactly what the name suggests. This down-home joint is known for serving up “California-style BBQ,” with juicy meats cooked on an iron grill with a hand crank. The crank lifts and lowers the grill over red oak for a distinctive smoky taste. Their beef tri-tip is the talk of the town, as the artisans at Stoked have mastered the art of barbecuing the perfect steak at medium rare. And because this is L.A., meats are served with sides that include pinto beans, bread, salsa, corn, and a refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade.
Their medium-rare tri-tip is second to none, grilled over the ideal heat and seasoned with the restaurant’s signature rub. This place is also known for their spicy hot links and their smoked candied pork belly. The garlic cheesy bread is always a hit, as is the sweet strawberry side salad.
FrankieLucy Bakeshop is one of L.A’s favorite sweet spots, known for its creamy custards and its delicious baked goods like lemon bars, brownies, and cookies. The coffee is always served hot, and the guests are always greeted with a smile. This cafe took off when the owner of Found Coffee and the owners of Crème Caramel LA (two LA institutions) decided to go into business together and combine their respective talents. The rest is history.
For those who love ube (that inimitable purple yam), FrankieLucy is the place to go in L.A. The ube flan is popular with the locals, as are the ube upside-down pies. There’s even an ube banana upside-down pie that’s extremely delicious. For those seeking a more conventional baked good, the brookie is sure to please; it’s a brownie-cookie hybrid that’s sweet and flaky. When the need should arise for a morning pick-me-up, the 2 Dirty Oo-Chata is a perennial favorite. It combines ube and horchata with a shot of espresso.
The vegan community is alive and well—even thriving—in L.A., and there exists an abundance of great eateries that cater to this growing population. One of the best vegan-friendly joints is by CHLOE. This establishment was started by celebrity chef Chloe Corscarelli, author of Chloe’s Kitchen and the first vegan chef ever to win a televised culinary competition. In her case, the competition was Cupcake Wars, but the cupcakes aren’t the only amazing offerings at by CHLOE.
This fast-casual restaurant is renowned for its flavorful quinoa taco salad, prepared with fresh quinoa, sweet corn, black beans, tomato, and avocado, topped with a tangy agave-lime vinaigrette. Customers often marvel at the pesto meatball entree, which tastes like the real deal but is completely meat-free. It’s made with portobello meatballs, sweet peppers, vegan Parmigiana, and zesty marinara sauce. Make sure to try the signature cupcakes before leaving.
New York and Chicago often argue over who has the best hot dogs, but Vicious Dogs in North Hollywood can give both of those cities a run for their money. All hot dogs are made to order and served with both traditional and innovative ingredients. Customers also love the location. Vicious Dogs is located right on Lankershim Boulevard, just miles from Universal Studios Hollywood and all the excitement of Hollywood & Highland.
For hot dog aficionados, the big winner is the Sweet and Spicy Dog. It’s the eatery’s signature dog on a poppy seed bun, made with a sweet and spicy glaze and topped with grilled peppers and onions. For lovers of spicy food, the Devil Dog is a popular choice; it’s a bacon-wrapped Louisiana link with mustard, ketchup, mayo, jalapenos, onions, and Monterey Jack cheese, all baked to perfection. The Maki Fries are another must-try offering, consisting of crispy french fries topped with pollo asado, carne asada, or pastrami. The meat is combined with nacho cheese, pico de gallo, and barbecue sauce.
Opened in 2017, TeaShot is a newcomer to the L.A. scene, but it’s already making quite a splash. This cozy tea shop uses organic, all-natural ingredients to create delicious coffees and teas. All drinks are made to order, the friendly service adds a warm touch to an already inviting atmosphere. Upon entering, most people notice that the TeaShot has a young, hip vibe, and this trendiness is even reflected in the types of ingredients commonly found on the menu, including honey boba, chia seeds, and aloe vera bits.
TeaShot is home to the organic chia boba, which, as the name suggests, is an organic boba tea made with chia seeds. Guests can build their own tea drink with their choice of four kinds of organic milk: Strauss milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk. These milks can be mixed with a variety of delicious teas including jasmine green tea, lavender tea, apple tea, Earl Grey, or cherry blossom tea. Coffee lovers can indulge in the refreshing nitro coffee and espresso shots, and no visit is complete without a delicious cookie shot: a cookie in the shape of a shot glass filled with delicious organic milk.
Church & State is the brainchild of chef Tony Esnault, and over the past decade, it has become a culinary staple of the Downtown area. Located in the original Nabisco Bakery building that was established in 1925, Church & State specializes in traditional French bistro fare and uses only fresh, seasonal ingredients. All products come from organic farms where animals are raised compassionately and without antibiotics or hormones. The restaurant offers a full bar with delicious cocktails and an impressive all-French wine list.
Their signature menu item is their steak frites: grass-fed flat iron steak served with a classic béarnaise sauce. Their roasted bone marrow is another popular choice that the locals can’t get enough of. The Jarret d’Agneau is a lamb shank with rosemary jus and a medley of vegetables that includes pearl onions, snow peas, and carrots. Finally, there’s the ever-popular steak tartare, made with juicy grass-fed beef. When it comes to sides, their french fries with aioli are a must-try item.
As the name suggests, this place is known for serving up donuts and croissants. More specifically, they’re the premier spot in L.A. for the popular “cronut,” a decadent donut-croissant hybrid. For trademark purposes, they refer to their cronut as the “SKronut,” but it’s every bit as good as the original cronut that’s popular in New York City. This place looks small and unassuming from the outside, but once you step inside, it’s pure magic. The sweet scent of baked goods wafts through the establishment, and on display is a selection of delicately prepared donuts with ingredients like fresh fruit and Nutella.
People line up early for the SKronuts, especially the strawberry Nutella SKronut. There’s also a deep-fried Oreo donut that’s guaranteed to please. For those who just want a traditional donut, SK has a number of classic favorites to choose from, including jelly donuts and bear claws. For the lunch crowd, there are sandwiches made with buttery croissants.
Billed as “your neighborhood lobster joint,” Lobster & Beer provides counter service with a smile. The restaurant serves up delicious seafood at affordable prices and is known for its expansive list of draught beers. In addition to the great food, guests enjoy a cozy bar atmosphere with the occasional live music set featuring up-and-coming artists from across California’s southland.
Lobster & Beer can perhaps be summed up in four words: lobster mac and cheese. This irresistible dish is prepared with three kinds of cheese and authentic Maine lobster, topped with flaky panko and optionally served with truffle oil. The place is also known for their rich selection of lobster rolls. The Maine Roll is made with Chilled Maine lobster and thin slices of celery topped with green onions and drizzled with a tangy lemon herb mayo. The eatery also serves up lobster tacos, lobster grilled cheese, and poke bowls.
Anyone passing through the Temple City area should pay a visit to Pokelicious. A countless number of L.A. dining establishments are capitalizing on the current poke craze, but this is one of the best around. Like Subway and Chipotle, they serve their food assembly-line-style along the counter, but the quality of ingredients is on another level. Build your own burrito, salad, or poke bowl using fresh, local ingredients, and enjoy ample portion sizes starting at three full scoops of fish.
Fish options include delicious salmon, yellowtail, tuna, spicy tuna, and albacore, but it’s the sauces that set this place apart. Their Chubbster sweet mayo is a favorite among the regulars, and the Kray Kray sriracha mayo has just the right amount of spice. There’s also the Legend garlic chili sauce, which provides a cornucopia of rich flavors. Each bowl and burrito can be enhanced with add-ons like fresh fried garlic, crab meat, and avocado.
Also known as The Milk Shop, Milk is a fast-growing L.A. institution that serves up ice cream, cupcakes, cakes, and shakes. They have locations in L.A. and Silverlake, but the Beverly Blvd. location is their flagship shop and home to some of the best baked goods the city has to offer. The place is wildly popular for their macaron ice cream sandwiches. The flavors for these sandwiches are constantly changing, but you may be lucky enough to arrive on a day when Froot Loop, Grasshopper, Pumpkin Pie, or Black Sesame is available.
The Ooey Gooey Double Chocolate Chip Cookie is another item that’s constantly in demand. If these items don’t strike your fancy, Milk also serves peanut butter cookies, coconut macaroons, moonpies, and red velvet cupcakes. For espresso fans, Milk serves espresso a la mode: double espresso served on two scoops of vanilla ice cream, topped off with sweet whipped cream, chocolate sauce, hazelnut, and decorative chocolate pearls. Ice cream lovers will want to try The Blondie, a white chocolate cookie with vanilla ice cream that’s sweetened with butterscotch and whipped cream and topped with candied pecans and a cherry.
Amazebowls may be the ultimate healthy breakfast joint, and Angelenos are hooked. Rather than slinging your traditional diner breakfast of messy egg yolks and cholesterol-laden fried bacon, Amazebowls serves great-tasting meals with ingredients like organic acai, blueberries, hemp seeds, goji berries, chia seeds, mint, and agave. It’s unlike any breakfast place you’ll find, and the signature bowls even have clever names like “Fresh Prince of Bowl Air,” “Dragon Bowl Z,” and “Shaquille Oat’Meal.”
Customers are invited to choose one of these signature bowls or build one of their own. Each bowl starts with a base—either acai, mint, or pitaya—and can be customized with two fresh fruits and an additional topping like chia seeds or homemade tajin. The Amazebowl with acai is the most popular dish, featuring an acai base and topped with vanilla granola, kiwi, agave, pineapple, blueberries, and hemp milk. This eatery also offers a unique selection of drinks including kombucha tea, coconut water, and waiakea water, which is alkaline volcanic water from Hawaii.
Located along Little Tokyo near Pershing Square and Grand Central Market, KazuNori is where Angelenos go for casual sushi. The restaurant emphasizes fresh fish, signature sauces, and specially harvested nori seaweed. They don’t just serve up hand rolls, though; there is a precise science to their preparation. The owners actually devised specialized rice cookers to rapidly create large quantities of perfect, melt-in-your-mouth rice. These rice cookers aren’t found anywhere else,
KazuNori specializes in hand rolls, those delicious oversized sushi rolls wrapped in seaweed. Hand rolls can be ordered in sets of 3, 4, 5, or 6. The toro roll is especially popular, as are the lobster and yellowtail rolls. KazuNori also serves snapper, blue crab, salmon, bay scallop, and more, so there’s something for everyone. For those who like to enjoy a drink with their fresh fish, KazuNori offers authentic sake.
Los Angeles is a rich tapestry of cultures and influences where every type of cuisine can readily be found. French baked goods are no exception. Pitchoun Bakery was started by a real French couple, Frédéric and Fabienne Souliès, both of whom come from long lines of cooks and bakers. At their downtown bakery and cafe, Frédéric and Fabienne serve up fresh baguettes, sourdough bread, croissants, choquettes, and other traditional favorites. The eatery has a great ambiance to match their savory food, as guests can enjoy outdoor seating and truly indulge in the French bistro experience.
For breakfast, customers love the morning tartine. It’s made with a half-baguette or country bread, flavored with unsalted butter and your choice of housemade jam or acacia honey. For lunch, it’s all about the creole. This sandwich is made with creole chicken, fresh curry, cream cheese with cumin, and a vegetable medley of butter lettuce, tomatoes, and pineapple, all served on a baguette. When it comes to drinks, Pitchoun is known for their incredible cappuccinos, espresso, and herbal teas. Finish off your meal with some delicious chocolate mousse.
From wood-fired pizzas to bakery-inspired breakfasts to fresh baked goods, Milo and Olive is the place to go for comfort food in Los Angeles. You might think of it as the missing link between the bakery and the pizzeria, but they’re also known for their carefully curated wine and beer list and their regionally sourced menu items. The offerings are constantly changing as the owners regular circulate new off-menu pizzas. And rather than sticking with the same old pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms, Milo and Olive specializes in pies with non-traditional ingredients like squash blossoms, kale, broccoli, and rosemary cream. It’s like eating a pizza for the first time.
One of their signature pizzas—and an item that customers can’t get enough of—is the pork belly sausage pizza served with mozzarella, tomato cream, kale, and savory braised garlic. Their most popular pasta dish is the fresh tagliarini bolognese, made with parmesan, parsley, and clover cream, all mixed up in a hearty meat sauce. Milo and Olive even serves a breakfast pizza made with juicy sausage, diced potato, farm eggs, pickled chili, and rosemary cream. Make sure to bring your appetite.
Howlin’ Ray’s is every bit as fun as it sounds. Founded by husband-and-wife chefs Johnny and Amanda, this restaurant may just serve the best chicken in Los Angeles. Johnny has worked under such esteemed chefs as Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller, and it shows in the quality of the food. This restaurant serves up authentic Nashville hot chicken in Southern California. The couple even spent time in Nashville to learn the secret to making Nashville-style chicken to perfection. Howlin’ Rays started as a food truck, but it now has a permanent home in L.A.’s historic Chinatown.
Customers love the signature hot chicken sando, made with pickles and soaked in hot-and-spicy comeback sauce. The sandwich is served on a butter bun with a side of coleslaw. In addition to their signature sandwiches, they also offer hot chicken and waffles served with butter and maple syrup. Their hot shake fries are out of this world, and the peach lemonade makes the perfect beverage to accompany the Southern-style food.
Tacos are quintessentially L.A., as much so as the Dodgers and the Walk of Fame. Located in North Hollywood, Tacos el Venado is the spot for Mexican street food like burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. This unassuming sidewalk stand is known for attracting lines that wrap around the block, and for good reason. The food is both amazing and amazingly affordable. Street tacos are available for just $1, and burritos are available for $5.
Whether you opt for a quesadilla, a taco, or any other menu item, the locals agree that the avocado salsa is an essential topping. It’s sweet and spicy, and it instantly brings out the flavor of the meat. In addition to serving delicious asada beef, chicken, and pork, Tacos el Venado also offers traditional Mexican favorites like tripas (beef intestines), cabeza (beef head), and cueritos (pork skin). Lovers of authentic Mexican food will rejoice at the selection, but there’s still plenty to satisfy those who prefer American-style Mexican fare. The asada street tacos are irresistible, with sides like onions, cilantro, lime, and fresh pico de gallo.
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