13 Restaurants To Take Tourists That Won’t Make You Hate Yourself
Not all touristy LA restaurants are terrible.
It’s exciting when people from out of town visit you in LA. You get to show off our endless sunshine, hike Runyon Canyon so they can see people who call themselves influencers in real life, and take them to all your favorite restaurants. There’s just one problem - sometimes your visiting friends and family aren’t interested in going to your “weird” LA restaurants. They’d prefer the spot that’s close to the hotel and has a kids menu, or to a restaurant that’s had a few Bravo! cameos. If that’s the case, meet them halfway with a place that’s potentially cheesy and TV famous, but not terrible either. All of the spots on this guide will make tourists happy, and you’ll have a good time too.
There’s a decent chance that whoever you’re picking up from the airport isn’t going to greet you with a hello, but instead, “Can we go to that Gjusta place?” And honestly, we get it. This seminal Venice bakery/cafe is perpetually busy and always chaotic, but there’s no denying it’s home to some of the best sandwiches, salads, bagels, and pastries in the city. Plus, if you don’t live on the Westside, LAX might be the closest you’ve been to it in years. So head straight there. Order the reuben, tuna conserva, and the smoked fish platter, and then find a seat on their sunny back patio. Your friend will marvel at the tranquility and deliciousness of it all, and ask if this is what every day is like in LA. You’ll lie, and say yes.
Musso & Frank Grill
Musso & Frank has been open for a century and is one of the only restaurants in town where fanny-packed tourists and old men complaining about Eisenhower’s foreign policy live in complete harmony. This legendary Hollywood steakhouse is one of the most bizarre restaurants in LA, and while you don’t need to rush to eat any of the steaks or sides, sitting at the bar and drinking a martini is a quintessential LA experience—for you, your guests, and anyone else with a keen admiration of Hollywood history. Stirred and served with a sidecar on chilled ice, it’s a technically perfect martini that’s been served the same way for decades, and makes gravity wonky after just a few sips.
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The Original Farmers Market
The Original Farmers Market is the most misunderstood place in LA. Yes, the sprawling outdoor market is attached to The Grove, an outdoor hell-mall filled with bumbling tourists riding fake trolleys and taking selfies in front of a fountain timed to “Uptown Funk.” Sure, on weekends, the market is nearly as packed as the Sahara Tent during a Kygo set. But there’s still real magic to be found at this 90-year-old landmark that’s home to cheese shops, butchers, florists, and tons of excellent restaurant stalls. Our favorite vendors include Singapore’s Banana Leaf, one of the few places in LA serving traditional Singaporean cuisine, Pampas Churrascaria, and Michelina, a great place to grab some coffee and some pastries in the morning, and watch the market come to life.
Lawry's The Prime Rib
Although it’s best known for seasoning salt that you can find on every spice rack in America, Lawry’s is also an essential restaurant in Beverly Hills. Eating at this 80-year-old steakhouse is like eating an extravagant meal on a cruise ship. You’ll understand what we mean once you ascend the grand staircase up from the valet stand and make your way into the ballroom filled with giant booths, opulent chandeliers, and gleaming golden carts of prime rib on wheels. The night will finally come to an end when you wave over your waitress, Mrs. Collinsworth, because you can’t eat any more of your tremendous prime rib dinner.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Philippe The Original
LA is the birthplace of several important inventions - the electric guitar, the tiki bar, and showing up to Friendsgiving with a salad. But one invention that goes largely unnoticed is the French dip sandwich. There are a few places around town that claim to be its true inventor, but it doesn’t matter because Philippe The Original is the best of them all. This classic deli in Chinatown has been open since 1908 and, while they have solid food across the board (get the mac salad as a side), you’re here for the double dip beef. Also, if you don’t douse it in the spicy mustard they put on the tables, you probably shouldn’t have come here.
If eating dinner in an over-the-top replica of a Japanese palace complete with courtyards, a 600-year-old garden pagoda, and giant fishbowl cocktails sounds like something you’d be interested in, it’s time for you to pay a visit to Yamashiro. This Hollywood classic has been around since the dawn of time and it doesn’t even matter that the pricey Japanese menu of rolls and fried things isn’t anything to write home about. You’re here for the unparalleled views, the kamikaze martinis, and one night where you get to convince yourself you’re an iconic 1960s celebrity.
If you have family visiting in town, there’s a 90% chance that they’ll be staying in Santa Monica. There’s a 100% chance that they won’t know what to do except walk back and forth between the Pier and the Promenade. Go rescue them and take them to Bay Cities. This classic Italian deli/grocery has good food across the board, but the reason you and everyone else is here is for the Godmother sandwich. This massive Italian sub comes topped with capicola, prosciutto, ham, salami, provolone, hot peppers. Wait times are long every day, so be sure to call and order ahead.
This high-end sushi palace in Malibu needs little introduction. Nobu is one of LA’s most celebrity-filled patios in LA, and because of that, everybody else is trying to score a table too. Sure, you’ll probably have to dip into savings to cover the tab, but there’s no denying that both the fish and the ocean views are incredible. If you’re looking for a throw-down dinner where nothing matters except the experience, Nobu is a must.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
The first thing you teach visitors about LA is that celebrities aren’t where Access Hollywood says they are. They aren’t on Hollywood Blvd. or hanging out at CityWalk, they’re at home on their couch, shopping at Gelson’s, and most likely, eating at Spago. Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills is one of those places that seems like it couldn’t possibly still be good, but it is. The move is to go mostly off-menu and get the salmon pizza, spicy tuna cones, and wiener schnitzel. Your cousin might take issue with eating pizza with smoked fish on it, but it doesn’t matter. They just spotted Julia Garner guzzling wine in the corner and they’re freaking.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Katsu-Ya is one of the largest sushi brands in the world, with locations from LA Live to Dubai. Most of those locations, however, are owned by a global nightlife corporation and cater to a stiletto-wearing club crowd. That’s not the case at the original location in Studio City. This strip mall spot is independently-owned, which means prices are lower, quality is higher, and the low-key space is filled with people who are actually there to eat good sushi. You should order the crispy rice with spicy tuna and a few baked crab hand rolls, but always flip the menu over to see what’s recommended that day. If you sit at the bar, ask for Chef Patrick. He’s a sushi wizard.
photo credit: Yasara Gunawardena
The Malibu coastline is lined with mothball-infested tourist traps luring you in with the promise of great views and old celebrities who definitely aren’t there. Resist all that and go to Neptune’s Net instead. This landmark seafood shack might not have the best seafood on the coast (that award goes to Malibu Seafood), but when you’re with people looking for a quintessential Malibu coast experience, you’ve got to go to Neptune’s. The people-watching is second to none (it’s a big biker spot) and the clam chowder is one of our favorites in town.
Whether it’s The Grove, Santa Monica Place, or The Americana, tourists love visiting at least one mall in LA. While you should definitely prepare to take your childhood friend to at least one of those while they’re here, make sure you go to Eataly as well. Located inside the massive Westfield mall in Century City, this Italian food emporium has three different restaurants, a full market, and classrooms where you can make your own pasta (your friend is going to want to do that). The food is good at every vendor, and now that crowds have subsided, you won’t have to stiff-arm a family of four to get the last burrata.
The Cheesecake Factory
Yes, as in that Cheesecake Factory. We’ve included this national chain not because of its encyclopedic menu and caravans of screaming children - those are always part of the experience. We’ve included it because the Marina Del Rey location is unlike any in the world. It has a long history (it’s the second oldest location) and there’s a semi-private beach on a secluded inlet of the marina. You probably aren’t going to throw your swimsuit on after housing a plate of fettuccine alfredo, but it’s fun to know that option is available. And all your out-of-towner friends and family will agree.