Think Los Angeles is a one-industry town? Not so. Last year, Baroo, a bare-bones, fermentation-focused restaurant landed at #5 on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants list and the city garnered a record number of James Beard Awards. With L.A.’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic, Jonathan Gold, describing the city as “less of a melting pot—more of a glittering mosaic,” we’re seeing L.A.’s vast palate show up on the plate. From the micro-Seoul of Koreatown to unexpected fusion (take Chinese-Mexican, for one), let our tastemakers be your guide as you dig into one of the world’s most exciting food towns.
There is nothing quite like a local expert to share the less-traveled, hidden gems of a place you experience for the first time. In their footsteps, you can taste the town as they do - that's the dream, right? So, a collection of chefs, restaurateurs, and tastemakers lend their perspective to what makes the Los Angeles culinary scene unique. Step inside.
Here’s Looking at You owner Lien Ta wanted to open a chef-driven restaurant. In her eyes, that chef could only be Jonathan Whitener.Read about Lien ›
Getting the Dirt with Abbott Kinney Up-and-Comer Scott WinegardRead about Scott ›
Reinventing Chicken Wings in Culver CityRead about Akasha ›
Vegan Mexican Food Was This Chef’s Lifelong Dream—Now It’s an A-List HotspotRead about Chandra ›
Dining in an 1876 Cathedral with Neal FraserRead about Neal ›
Waking Up A Tired Stretch of Melrose with New Wave Riviera CuisineRead about Stephen ›
Queen of the ChopRead about Suzanne ›
Turning Mealtime Into a CareerRead about Gillian ›
Seating the Stars at an Old-School Hollywood InstitutionRead about Christian ›
Los Angeles stretches far and wide, and its neighborhoods are destinations unto themselves. Each neighborhood is unmistakably L.A., yet each has its own defining characteristics and culture. Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or you’re eager to explore a part of town you might have missed before, here are some of our favorites worth sampling. Visit a neighborhood.
Ask a group of Angelenos which is the best taco truck (or lonchero) in the city, and you’ve struck a match. These mobile microenterprises are a polarizing concept here in L.A., but they’re also the city's lifeblood. We’re plotting our lunch breaks around them, lining up behind them after the bars let out, and pointing our iPhones at what delights arrive on those glorious foam plates. Needless to say, picking the city’s best taco truck is like making the perfect mix tape. Take La Oaxaqueña, parked on Lincoln and Rose in Venice. It serves a guacamole so tasty, Jonathan Gold once wrote, “you may be tempted to lick it off your flip-flops.” Or El Chato, on the corner of Olympic and La Brea, where the secret’s in the sauce, er, al pastor marinade. The carne asada here is also a favorite, and if you can’t commit, just go for a fleet of the $1, gone-in-three-bites tacos. Kogi arrived back in 2008 – godfather of food trucks – with its head-on collision of Korean and Mexican flavors. Get the short rib tacos here. Shrimp tacos and seafood cocktails rendered in the style of “San Juan de Los Lagos” from Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights are the ultimate refreshment on a hot summer day. And because this is L.A., we had to include a vegan taco truck – Highland Park’s Plant Food for the People. The operators of this bright blue beacon of jackfruit “shredded pork” carnitas credits its success to their authentic Mexican cooking techniques and being raised in the barrios of Los Angeles. Get out there and try them all. Oh, and remember: always bring cash.
“Taco trucks are legitimately some of the best food in the city.”
Sure, L.A. has its main attractions. But what about all of the delicious gems in between? Let’s say you’re touching down for one day and want a true Angeleno experience. Well, be prepared to start early and go late, with ample time to sample in between. Your game plan: start the morning in Venice, with a walk on the beach and a quintessential L.A. breakfast: an acai bowl or breakfast burrito from Flake. Cut over to Griffith Park and take a 1.5-mile hike on the East Observatory Trail for a stunning view (and souvenir selfie). Just down the hill in Los Feliz is Little Pine, where you can indulge in vegan croissants and elevated comfort food. After lunch, head to Highland Park and cruise Sunbeam Vintage and the many vinyl shops on Figueroa Boulevard. This is a district full of pick-me-ups: The Juice (for fresh-pressed juices), Donut Friend (rings of delight with creative toppings galore) or Civil Coffee (boutique roaster with a gorgeous Mexican tile floor). Book a 5pm lane at the stunningly restored Highland Park Bowl, then zip downtown for dinner at any of the restaurants in Josef Centeno’s Japanese-Italian empire: there are five now, and his newest, the plant-forward palace called PYT, is the current critic’s darling. Go a few rounds of pinball or Ms. Pacman at Eighty-Two (with full cocktail bar, of course), and finish your day with the ultimate nightcap: the just-opened Sky Lounge at 71 Above. As the name suggests, you’ll soar 71 stories above Los Angeles with views all the way to Century City, Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign. It’ll make you feel like the city is yours, even for a night.
Los Angeles has its main attractions. But the city’s delicious gems in between are to be savored, too.
Angelenos seeking refuge from the city have long popped over to Santa Barbara or Los Olivos, both known for their idyllic, wine country charms. But over the past couple years, little-known Los Alamos is poised to be California’s answer to Marfa, Texas. Just two and a half hours northeast, it’s a one-horse, half-mile block that has burgeoned into a veritable food and dining scene. The draw is due to transplants like Bob Oswaks, owner of Bob’s Well Bread – a man who hung up his Valentino suits as an executive at Sony and now stands behind the counter in a former 1920s gas station, hawking his exceptionally-made croque madames and avocado toast smothered with pumpkin seeds. A few doors down is Pico, a destination restaurant inside the old Los Alamos General Store. Its chef, Drew Terp, made his name at barMASA in Las Vegas before running Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, and when he talks about ingredients – like the shallots, maitake mushrooms and tomatoes that make up his tangy pappardelle – he refers to them as color, as though his cooking is actually painting. Rounding out a memorable experience in Los Alamos is a stop into Casa Dumetz wines – it’s the kind of place where you can drop in and see a former actor doing a live read of some O.Henry while Sonya, the proprietor, pours out tastings for friends and family (that now includes you). Mid-morning, order a take-out picnic lunch from Bell Street Farms, ideally enjoyed on the beach after the two-mile hike at Gaviota State Park. Climb this peak and meditate inside one of the wind caves, then go home to nap, write or read in one of the two cottages next to Bob’s Well Bread. Bob’s top-notch brand of baking carried over into these chic shacks, outfitted with luxurious linens, charming barn doors and Scrabble boards.
“For me, Los Alamos has been a vortex of love and possibility. It’s not easy having a business in such a small town even though we are seconds off the 101. We earn every customer who walks through our doors and we treat them with intense respect and gratitude.”