LAGuide

The Best Restaurants On Sawtelle Boulevard

19 spots that confirm Sawtelle is one the best streets for eating in LA.
The Best Restaurants On Sawtelle Boulevard image

Dining on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA can feel like you’re at a crowded food festival with terrible parking. And we mean that in the best way. Located right off the 405 in West LA, this street (a.k.a. Sawtelle Japantown) is lined with some of the city’s best Japanese restaurants, as well as amazing Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Mexican, and Chinese options to try. You’ll probably have an intense showdown over a parking spot and, yes, prepare to stand in a line, but don’t worry about struggling to find a great restaurant. Here’s our guide to where to eat on Sawtelle.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Tsujita LA

Japanese

West LA

$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloEating At The BarLunch
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Tsujita is the undisputed star of Sawtelle, and its perpetual lines are for one thing: tsukemen. This “dip” style ramen consists of cold noodles with a side of rich, pork-based broth and it’s your job to put these delicious things together. There’s also another location, Tsujita Annex, right across the street, which serves traditional ramen with a richer pork broth, complete with spots of flat floating at the surface––both are great, so opt for whichever has the shorter wait.

Like the Jonas Brothers, there’s a third Tsujita restaurant that people don’t talk about as much. That’s Sushi Tsujita, and it’s also the easiest one to get into. This sushi bar is great if you want an omakase on the cheaper side without sacrificing quality. They offer three omakase options—$49, $69, and $89—which include appetizers like fried scallops with mango dressing and a salmon sashimi cocktail. We recommend the priciest tier (the Tokyo), which includes a toro hand roll, eight pieces of nigiri, and buttery wagyu torched in front of you. An a la carte menu is also available, but unless you eat three pieces of nigiri and call it a night, you’re not getting much of a deal.

Chichikurin is a prime example of what makes Sawtelle special—a highly specific restaurant serving one dish: Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. On paper, this “savory pancake” reads like you dumped the entire contents of your fridge into some batter, with cabbage, meat, seafood, mayo, scrambled eggs, and grilled yakisoba noodles that get crispy on the teppan grill. It’s great for sharing–if you feel inclined to do so–but it’s even better with cold Sapporo and a cup of barley tea. 

Sawtelle is home to some of the biggest power players in LA ramen—Tsujita, Daikokuya, Shen-Sen-Gumi—with long lines to match. If you’re craving something different, though, go to Menya Tigre instead. This tiny quick-service noodle shop offers a unique Japanese curry ramen, made with a rich curry stock, chewy noodles, and topped with braised pork chashu, bean sprouts, and green onions. It's an expertly made bowl that hits on a day when rain clouds threaten to ruin your energy. Be sure to try the equally flavorful Keema, too, a dry curry noodle garnished with pico de gallo, corn, and chili threads.

Sonoritas is a casual Northern Mexican spot that serves some of the best flour tortillas in town, but the real draw is what they do with them. Not every taco on the menu is created equal, but the Sonoran-style asada is the best, whether it’s their smoky beef rib or premium beef cuts like lengua. And if you show up during the lunch rush, you’ll see people eating mega-sized versions of those chewy tortillas wrapped as burritos, with protein options your local Chipotle could never pull off: spicy shrimp, grilled salmon, and even filet mignon.

The specialty at Mogu Mogu is mazemen, a brothless ramen that (here at least) comes with extremely specific eating instructions. To create their signature sauce, you mix the noodles with a variety of toppings (like poached eggs, green onions, and spicy minced pork) for “about 30 seconds,” add their “umami vinegar” midway through. Is it a lot of work, bordering on meticulous? Sure. But when you’re working your way through a bowl of thick noodles, each evenly coated with sauce, you’ll have no one to thank but yourself. Well, and the chef who actually, you know, made it. It’s a collaboration.

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

Yakitoriya is one of our favorite low-key date spots in the entire city. It's a husband-and-wife-run yakitori spot with skewers that range from simple things like eggplant and chicken thigh to more fun stuff, like gizzards, hearts, and skin. Their gyoza and other appetizers are great as well. Just know that there is a five-skewer minimum per person and, given that the dining room is fairly small, you’ll probably smell like smoky meats afterward.

There are a few Korean options in West LA, but Tofuya will always be Old Faithful. The “spicy” tofu soup here is more like a “medium” when compared to Koreatown spice levels, but comes loaded with soft, jiggly tofu that soaks up the piping hot beef broth and kimchi funk. Make sure to tack on some sweet bulgogi to your soondubu combo, which comes on a sizzling skillet of onions that will rubberneck any passerby who catches a whiff. The only potential downside to Tofuya is the brutal lighting and lack of alcohol. However, there’s always Seoul House of Tofu down the street that serves a similar (albeit not as good) version of this meal, plus beer and soju.

​​A longtime favorite of UCLA kids on a budget, this traditional spot offers a calm, serene environment,  affordable prices, and dependably solid sushi. The menu is filled with different sashimi and sushi platters under $30—all of which are a much better bet than the gimmicky conveyor belt sushi spots nearby. The fish will be of higher quality and not much more expensive. Stop by the ATM first though, they’re cash only.

Tokyo Kalbi is a little far away from the action on Sawtelle Blvd, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact it’s the best yakiniku option in the neighborhood. Apart from its gaudy Louis Vuitton x USDA Prime Beef wallpaper, there’s nothing super unique about this Japanese BBQ spot–it just serves high-quality cuts at an attractive price. For under $40, you can get a kalbi combo with marbled slices of short rib, skirt steak, and buttery rib eye that get dipped into a light shio sauce. And make sure to tack on the housemade gyoza and massive daikon and nori salad drizzled with kewpie mayo to your order.

photo credit: Team Infatuation

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If you need a post-work cocktail option that’s sceney enough to feel like you’re out-out (and not just killing time until 405 traffic dies down), head to Hermanito. This Mexican-Japanese fusion bar plays your favorite pop tracks from the early 2000s and has a spacious patio for you to stretch your legs with a Japanese whiskey cocktail and delicious snacky things, like octopus yakitori brushed with shiso salsa verde and tiny birria quesatacos stained red with smoky consommé.

Even in a neighborhood known for Japanese restaurants, Nanbankan stands out. Their dining room feels like a portal straight to Tokyo: everyone is sipping sake, kabuki art hangs from the walls, and in the center are two giant yakitori grills enveloped in smoke. This grilled skewer house serves almost anything on a skewer, from pork loin delicately wrapped in shiso leaves to salty quail eggs, plus other options like sunomono and grilled onigiri. But the real action is on the chalkboard, where you’ll find a rotating list of specials like live scallops, black cod, and wagyu beef. Snag a seat at the bar if you can.

Furaibo is one of Sawtelle’s old-guard restaurants, but it still holds its own among the newer openings that have cropped up around it. This dark and moody izakaya space involves separate tatami rooms, beer and sake glasses that never go empty, and bite-size snacky foods to keep the Asahi from going straight to your head. Furaibo is big and full of tables, so gather the crew, order multiple rounds of their signature tebasaki-style wings, and generally cut loose.

Between their chorizo burger, pork belly bánh mì, and roasted pork shank, this Filipino restaurant (originally from Silver Lake) goes the whole hog on, well, hog. The pork shines differently in every dish, like lechon kawali fried to a crisp, or pork belly adobo slow-cooked with soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic. The star of the show, and Spoon & Pork’s signature dish, is the deep-fried patita, a massive hunk of meat glazed in garlic vinegar and served over jasmine rice. It’s big enough for two—even if that “two” is just you and yourself.

Standing in line to eat is a fact of life on Sawtelle, and Marugame Udon is no exception. (If you’re in a rush, it’s best to hit this spot outside prime lunch hours.) This udon restaurant is set up cafeteria-style, where you wait in a theme park-style line before picking your bowl of udon—we like the one with sweet braised beef—and then slide your tray down the counter to grab your choice of crispy tempura. It’s affordable, filling, and a great quick meal in a pinch.

On a chilly 72-degree day in LA, few things beat a bowl of pho at Nong La. With locations in Sawtelle and La Brea, this modern Vietnamese cafe has built a large following around its fast service and excellent Vietnamese comfort foods, like crackly chai gio filled with minced pork and shrimp. The sesame steak banh mi and pork noodle salad are other must-orders for when you come back by yourself tomorrow.

Tucked away behind shabu-shabu spot Mizu 212 is Anzu, a tiny window where you can order very good Japanese fried chicken. The golden brown, panko-crusted poultry comes hot off the fryer and in a number of styles, including over rice with a sriracha aioli or inside a burger with creamy tartar sauce. We prefer the karaage-curry combo that comes with sticky rice, a fried egg, and a big portion of savory Japanese curry to drizzle over your chicken.  

Between spots selling matcha soft serve, mango pudding, and cream puffs, there are more dessert options on Sawtelle than grains of sand at the beach. But if we had to pick one, it would be Artelice Patisserie. This upscale bakeshop (with another location in Burbank) specializes in elaborate and glossy French pastries that look straight out of an art gallery, from delicate caramel napoleons to mango eclairs and passionate fruit croissants. Everything here tastes as good as it looks for the most part, but if you want something small for a post-meal nibble, their multiple-colored selection of macarons is a good bet.

Killer Noodle is another ramen spot from the noodle experts at Tsujita, but here they serve tantanmen, Japan’s version of dan dan noodles. Choose from a handful of styles, like the creamy Tokyo with peanut butter and sesame oil, and the Downtown, which has a vinegary kick. You can also personalize the spice and mala numbing levels of your bowl on a scale from one to six, with a level three falling into the spicy-enough territory.

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