Welcome to Los Angeles’s Greatest Hits List.
You’re obviously very familiar with the concept of a “greatest hits” album, but unlike Mambo Mambo: Best of Lou Bega, this is one you actually need in your life. The Greatest Hits is a short and carefully-selected collection of the places in Los Angeles that you should hit first if you’re new to town - restaurants that are essential to LA dining, from world-class sushi on the beach to late-night Korean BBQ.
Just like you wouldn’t introduce your niece to Michael Jackson by throwing on History: Vol 1 and skipping right to “Heal The World,” we wouldn’t send someone unfamiliar with Los Angeles to a new Weho hotspot without telling them to go to these restaurants first. And you shouldn’t either.
Added on 12/18/17: Porto’s, Salazar, Dan Tana’s, Rustic Canyon, Malibu Seafood, Alimento, Mariscos Jalisco, Chengdu Taste.
LA’s kale salad and green juice love affair plotline is wholeheartedly deserved. But it’s also not the only plotline. Exhibit A: Animal. This dime-sized restaurant in Fairfax Village is the holy grail for everything meat, and one of the finest meals you can have in the city. No, Animal is not your once-a-week neighborhood drop-in spot. Animal is your roll-up-your-sleeves, ball-out-hard destination experience. You’re going to eat pork belly and pig ears and oxtail and rabbit lard and an entire leg of turkey simply because you can. And your green juice will simply have to deal with it.
If you’ve ever wanted to eat lunch at a church in France, but don’t have the funds, now you can do it on La Brea. Republique’s space alone is incredible, but it’s the food that puts this more-casual-than-you-think French spot among our (and everyone else’s) favorite LA places. Republique’s dinner remains one of the best date nights in LA, although their daily order-at-the-counter lunch/brunch extravaganza has become their real bread and butter. We could make a stupid French food joke here, but we’re better than that. And so is Republique.
Welcome to Los Angeles’s lovechild: a local LA kid opens up his own Thai restaurant attached to his parents’ old place on Sunset and launches an empire. In a city with the best Thai food scene in the country, Night + Market is top of the class. Aside from the food, which is Thai classics with modern twists, both the Weho and Silver Lake locations are straight-up parties with some of the most fun restaurant settings in town. Beer towers or bust.
Drive 10 miles east of DTLA and you’ll hit the San Gabriel Valley - a sprawling collection of suburbs where you’ll find some of the best Asian food in the country. If you’re looking for the best, head immediately to Chengdu Taste. This family-run operation in Alhambra serves classic Szechuan dishes involving insane flavor, tons of spice, and a peppercorn that will make your mouth go numb. Go try some cumin lamb, mapo tofu, and the best dan dan noodles in existence.
Jon & Vinny’s is one of those rare restaurants that felt like a classic from the second it opened. Owned and operated by the Animal guys (which it sits across from on Fairfax), Jon and Vinny’s is casual, affordable, and despite still being crowded, very accessible. You’re going to want the meatballs and the bucatini and burrata-covered LA Woman pizza, but you should also know that breakfast here is excellent. Bottom line - when you want to show an out-of-town friend the coolest restaurant in the city, you take them to Jon & Vinny’s.
Dan Tana’s is one of the most famous restaurants in LA, but it’ll never be the place your out-of-town friends beg you to take them when they’re visiting. Instead, this classic Italian restaurant in Weho is where you bring them to prove how very little ancient grain bowls and liquid metabolic boosts have to do with this city. Does Dan Tana’s have the best Italian food you’ve ever had in your life? No. But it also doesn’t matter. The chicken parm is a special kind of magic, the wine never stops flowing, and you’re low-key sitting next to your favorite actor who’s having just as good of a time as you.
We have no idea why there aren’t more entirely-outdoor restaurants in this city where it never rains and temperatures don’t dip below the 60s. Possibly because none could compete with Salazar. This Mexican spot in Frogtown is the newest restaurant on this list, but from the second it opened, we knew this place was here to stay. That has a lot to do with the sprawling outdoor space, but the setting would also be irrelevant if the food wasn’t fantastic. Everything from the mesquite-grilled hangar steak to the al pastor tacos to the cocktails will have you plotting your next visit back even before you get to dessert.
Plain and simple, Sushi Park is life-changing. It’s not every day you’re going to want to spend $200 on omakase in a bare-bones sushi bar on the second floor of a random strip mall on Sunset, but when that day comes, your first choice should be Sushi Park. You will absolutely see a major celebrity by themselves here in flip flops.
This is the completely made-up term for the building that houses three of the greatest Italian restaurants in the city – Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Chi Spacca. From the casual but still fantastic food at the Pizzeria (which you can get until 12am), to the traditional, fancy pasta at Osteria, to the meat parade from god over at Chi Spacca, if you want Italian, Melrose and Highland is simply where you go.
If you ever need a reminder of why you put up with terrible traffic, more pollution than is good for you, and way too many people who think they can heal you with their hands, Malibu Seafood is it. All you need to do is jump in your car, cruise along PCH with all your windows down, and end up at this eternally-busy seafood shack. Get the squid and fries or the peel-your-own shrimp, sit at a table overlooking the ocean, and wonder why you’d live anywhere else.
Your New Yorker-who-just-moved-to-LA friend might complain about the lack of neighborhood Italian restaurants in this town, but really, they’re just not looking hard enough. Alimento is not just one of LA’s best neighborhood Italian spots - it’s one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, period. This is the kind of place where you can point at three random dishes on the menu and they’ll be some of the greatest things you’ve eaten all year. Especially if one of them is the chicken milanese.
If you eat out in LA, you’ve spent plenty of time in places that only serve persimmons for three days a year and list every farm they’ve ever bought herbs from on the menu. But Rustic Canyon is better than almost all of them. This is one of LA’s original farm-to-table restaurants (they’ve been open for over 10 years), and has only gotten better with age. The interesting wine list, helpful service, and menu full of hits (like the beets and berries and the pozole verde) make this our Westside go-to for every slightly-special dinner, whether it’s a meal with the parents or a casually impressive date.
Taking up an entire three square miles, Koreatown is an integral part of LA’s food (and karaoke) culture. And while you could go to a different Korean BBQ spot once a day for three months and not hit them all, our go-to is Park’s. Plain and simple, this is the highest-quality meat in Koreatown, and though that means higher prices, you get what you pay for. It’s also surprisingly easy to get a table, and you won’t have to deal with drunk teenagers bonging sake while you eat either.
Every single person who arrives in LA has the exact same goal in mind: find the best Mexican food in town. And while we will always condone such a plan, the reality is there is no such thing. Our Mexican food scene is too large, too varied, and too good to ever crown an official king. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a favorite. El Compadre in Hollywood is the kind-of-raucous, old-school Mexican joint you could go to once a week for the rest of your life. The food is sloppy and excellent, the energy is always right, and two of those flaming margaritas will put you under the table before you can even reach for more unlimited chips and salsa.
One thing that never fits into the common stereotype of LA is just how good our deli scene is. We have a handful of delicatessens we confidently know could go toe-to-toe with the best in America, but Langer’s is our undoubted leader. Their #19 pastrami sandwich is the stuff of legend. The best part of Langer’s, though? Its Westlake location leaves it utterly devoid of the brochure tourists and Instagramming lifestyle bloggers that ruin other places like this. Go enjoy an unadulterated classic.
Great. Another overpriced, health-oriented sidewalk cafe full of bland grain bowls that only make us hungrier. Think again. Sqirl opened a few years back on a forgotten section of Virgil and actually changed how people thought about consuming healthy food. No, we’re not running any calorie counts on that brioche toast anytime soon, but for the most part Sqirl serves locally-sourced, sustainable, and whatever-other-buzzword-you-choose healthy food. And it’s great. Eating at Sqirl is like eating from the arms of Mother Nature herself (who, btw, really knows her sh*t). It’s worth the unavoidable line.
Ask 20 people what the best taco is in Los Angeles and you’ll get 20 different answers. So let us help you - it’s Mariscos Jaliscos. The Boyle Heights Mexican food truck has fantastic food across the board, but if you come here without eating at least one of their tacos dorado de cameron, you’re living a lesser life. Fresh shrimp, deep-fried to a golden brown, and covered in creamy avocados and housemade red salsa - it’s about as close to taco perfection as you get. Beware: there are tons of imitators with very similar names in the area trying to lure you in the wrong direction.
This city has no shortage of sushi empires. But anytime we’re asked where someone should go for their first bite of sushi in LA, we undoubtedly answer Sugarfish. The casual, prix-fixe menu spot from the legendary Chef Nozawa has completely taken over this city, and if you think it’s done growing, you’re sorely mistaken. But what’s most impressive about Sugarfish is that despite the rapid expansion, the product on the table hasn’t slipped a notch.
Porto’s is one of those LA institutions that only people in LA seem know about. And that makes it even more special. This classic Cuban bakery and cafe first opened in Echo Park in the 1960’s, and now operates out of three massive and always-crowded locations in Glendale, Burbank, and Downey. If there’s a better way to start your day than with their guava pastry and a Cubano, we don’t know it.
Jones Hollywood is what we call an ace restaurant. Pull this casual Italian Weho spot out for any occasion or group of people that presents itself to you and Jones will get the job done and more. The menu is full of Italian staples, so expect your margherita pizzas and spaghetti and meatballs. And expect them to be excellent. The atmosphere inside is sexy and cool, but not in the way that makes your bones hurt - in the way that makes you glad you’re at this retro spot and nowhere else. Choose to skip that apple pie at the end and we no longer can be friends.
Guelaguetza is the Ktown institution and the place largely credited for bringing Oaxacan food into the American mainstream. A meal here involves multiple types of mole and big plates of meat perfect for sharing, and all of it is phenomenal. With a massive space, live mariachi music, and a never-ending mezcal menu, you won’t find many better big group dinner spots than Guelaguetza.
If Night + Market is the hot prince that everybody wants to f*ck, Jitlada is the old Queen who knows exactly what it takes to rule a city. This Thai Town stripmall legend serves the kind of Southern Thai food that separates the men from the boys. How? Spice. And more of it than anywhere else in town. Oh, but just ask them to make it less spicy, right? DON’T TELL A QUEEN WHAT TO DO. Dining-in at their kitschy Sunset location is a must, but their take-out operation is also serious.
Located on a side street off the 405 in Lawndale, Al-Noor is the best Indian food in LA by a mile and the only proof you need to believe that LA’s best food is always in strip-malls. But let’s rewind for a second. What did we just say to you? Lawndale? Did we lose a bet? No, we didn’t. In fact, we feel like we won the lottery. Because six minutes from LAX is this no-frills restaurant that’s worth the drive whether you’re catching a flight or not. All other garlic naan from here on out is ruined.
If you haven’t heard the name Nobu by now, we’re not sure what rock you’ve been hiding under, but our apologies, that thing must’ve been big. There are few names in the food world as recognizable as Nobu, and LA claims him as their own. And while the landmark Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills was a game-changer for the entire sushi industry, it’s the jaw-dropping space out in Malibu that has become the flagship location for the entire empire. With views of the ocean and some of the highest-quality sushi in the world, Nobu Malibu is where you go to remind yourself that life in Los Angeles can be pretty incredible.
Larchmont Wine + Cheese is a lesson in simplicity. Each sandwich at the back counter of this upscale wine shop doesn’t have more than five different ingredients a piece and yet, each ingredient is of the highest quality. There’s nothing flashy about this tiny shop on a charming and uncomfortably suburban Larchmont corridor, and that’s exactly what makes it so essential. Simple food, quality ingredients, and the most well-executed sandwiches in the city. Our order is the #5, but this is a menu stacked with excellent choices.
Fishing With Dynamite is basically a neighborhood oyster shack, but is worth braving all of that hellacious 405 traffic to get to. The place is miniature, with maybe 12 tables to go around, so come during peak dinner hours and you’re definitely looking at a hefty wait. But sneak in early or swing by for lunch or just bite the bullet and wait it out like an adult, and you’re in for one of the greatest seafood meals in LA. After dinner, feel free to walk the two blocks down to the water and thank the ocean for what you just experienced.
Proving once and for all that French = sex, A.O.C. is one of the most romantic restaurants we have. It’s also one with a French/California menu that will never leave you disappointed. If you spend an entire date night in that back courtyard with those ivy-laced Juliet balconies and a bottle of Cabernet and don’t have romantic success, it’s time to start asking yourself the tough questions. A.O.C. is beautiful and fancy and your go-to meal when it’s time to seal the deal. Don’t miss the brunch either.
Bay Cities is a 90-year-old Italian grocer. And inside said grocer is a deli with one of the greatest sandwiches in existence - The Godmother. Prosciutto, mortadella, genoa salami, and provolone cheese all on the freshest Italian bread this side of the Jersey turnpike. The lines at this Santa Monica staple are extreme, so call it in ahead of time and bypass the plebeians. Also, if you don’t get “the works” put on top, you can’t actually say you’ve eaten it. Rules are rules.
Sushi Gen is an LA sushi classic. But while this stripmall spot in Little Tokyo has great raw fish across the board, you’re here for one thing - the sashimi platter. At $32 for lunch and $38 for dinner, this a legendary LA sushi order, and Sushi Gen knows it. Lines start forming well before they even open and there’s a designated part of the restaurant for people only there to order the thing. And that’s a brand of discrimination we can get behind.