When it comes to Thai food, no city in America has it better than Los Angeles. After all, Southern California is home to the largest Thai population outside of Thailand and East Hollywood’s Thai Town is the only officially designated neighborhood of its kind in the country. Though the six-block area will always be the epicenter of Thai food in LA, incredible restaurants can be found in most corners of the city.
From party spots on the Sunset Strip to 30-year-old Valley landmarks, the bar for Thai food is set so high in LA, it’s overwhelming. Here are the spots you need to be prioritizing.
Jitlada isn’t just the heart and soul of LA’s Thai food scene, it’s one of this city’s essential dining experiences, full stop. The Sunset Blvd. space is cramped and kitschy, and while you’ll probably spot a few celebrities, the real star of the show is Jazz, the legendary owner who still goes around to every table asking if you loved your meal. Don’t worry, your answer will always be a resounding “Yes.” With over 400 items, the menu is objectively overwhelming, so our tip is to steer clear of the dishes you can find at any other Thai restaurant, and go all-in on the ones that make Jitlada the gold standard for LA: the crispy catfish salad, full Dungeness crab with garlic, taepo curry, or the secret off-menu Jazz Burger.
Dinner at Anajak is a full-blown party. Tables have been set up in the alleyway and covered in white cloth, R&B blasts from the speakers, and at the center of it all is Justin Pichetrungsi - the current chef and owner putting on a show for the lucky people who scored a ticket to his 14-course Thai omakase. The 40-year-old Sherman Oaks restaurant also has a great ala carte menu, filled with Thai fried chicken, Northern-style meatballs, and a creamy curry custard that tastes like a spicy dessert, plus an excellent wine program curated by the chef himself. The whole experience feels like a mix of magic show, fine dining, and wedding reception with your rowdiest family members - and now’s the time to go.
Whenever people ask what the absolute best restaurant in LA is, it’s our natural reflex to blurt out Luv2Eat. So sometimes it’s hard for us to branch out and go to new places, because this Southern Thai spot has a way of luring us in. Everything about Luv2Eat looks and feels like any other strip mall restaurant in the city, but the food and the warm service stand out. Its greatness lies in the Chef’s Special section of the menu, a mixed bag of dishes that showcases the two chefs’ family recipes from Phuket. The Phuket-style crab curry, for instance, when combined with the fatty crab meat bathing at the bottom, takes sweet, salty, and sour to euphoric levels. Even the moo-ping, a simple grilled pork skewer appetizer, is marinated and charred so perfectly that it should really be rebranded as candy-on-a-stick.
We’re not going to mince words here: Holy Basil is making some of the most exciting Thai food in LA right now. Located in a Downtown food court, this tiny takeout window’s menu is filled with things like pad thai, green curry, and tom yum soup. While these are dishes you’ve likely eaten on countless occasions, at Holy Basil, it feels like you’re eating them all for the first time. Get the tom yum soup, which is a whirlwind of flavors and textures including oyster mushrooms, roasted chili jam, lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal, and cilantro. And make sure to come hungry and order as much as you possibly can - there’s not a single weak spot on the menu.
The tiny East Hollywood cafe (there are about five tables total) is home to some of the most herbaceous, sinuses-clearing food in the city, and the kind of place you’ll visit for lunch - then go right back after work for dinner. Sure, you might have to eat your food pressed up against a window next to a stack of old newspapers, but that’s just part of the fun here. The sweet, vibrantly orange khao soi is among our favorite versions in LA and the spicy jackfruit salad actually makes eating a salad at lunch not feel sad. That said, no meal here is complete without at least one order of the sai oua, a spicy pork sausage that’ll stay on your mind - and lips - for the rest of the day.
Don’t be misled by the name: although Sapp Coffee Shop does serve caffeinated drinks, you’re here for the boat noodle soup. This magical bowl is the stuff of legend, on par with the Loch Ness Monster or finding the perfect work/life balance - it’s funky, sour, spicy, and sweet; filled with silky noodles and sliced beef. We also like the jade noodles (mostly because there’s a mound of duck, pork, and dried crab on top) and sen chan pad pu, an excellent fish dish that’s heavy on the tamarind and more pungent than other versions around town.
Prael has been open for over 20 years, but isn’t quite as well-known as some of the bigger names in nearby Thai Town. Consider this your chance to remedy that, because this Melrose Hill spot is serving some of the spiciest and most memorable Thai food anywhere in LA. Similarly to Jitlada, Prael has a large menu filled with dishes you can find on menus across town. Also similarly, you want to order the dishes that you can’t . Take the gang pah, an herbaceous, clear broth curry packed with bamboo, eggplant, and chili, or the kanom jeen numya, a rice noodle dish topped with a sweet, bright yellow fish curry. We also love the earthy, gelatinous gravy of the lard na, and the fried shrimp rolls, which come with a perfectly-crunchy exterior, yet a spongy interior that pops with each bite. Prael has a well-oiled takeout situation, but spending a meal eating inside their charming dining room adorned with portraits of Thai royalty and muay Thai posters is definitely worth your time.
Greetings from LA’s best and most important Thai restaurant you’ve maybe never heard of before. Located up in the outer fringes of North Hollywood, Sri Siam has been around for over 30 years and is royalty when it comes to its influence over this city. The crispy rice salad that blew your mind over at Night + Market? Sri Siam’s been doing it since the ’80s. Also, don’t be surprised if your server (i.e. the owner) pulls up a chair next to you and starts chatting - that’s just how things are done here. The creamy khao soi and sweet and salty chicken wings are both knock-outs, but the best thing here are the off-the-menu radish cakes. Drop what you’re doing and go get them now.
Editor’s note: the Silver Lake location is temporarily closed due to a kitchen fire.
A kid takes over his parents’ family Thai restaurant on the Sunset Strip and turns it into one of the greatest Thai restaurants in Los Angeles, and expands to Venice, Silver Lake, and Las Vegas, NV. Tale as old as time, right? Hardly. Kris Yenbamroong and his wife, Sarah St. Lifer run the only party restaurants in town that we also shortlist for takeout. We like all three Night + Market locations in LA, but Venice currently has our hearts. It’s cramped and loud in a way that forces you to let loose, and even though they don’t have hard liquor (like they do in West Hollywood), the wine list always introduces us to something new. Make sure some form of larb, fried chicken, and noodles are on your table, and you’re in for a great time.
Much like Anajak, Ayara is a long-standing spot that’s enjoying a massive renaissance thanks to the original owner’s kid taking the reins. Chef Vanda Asapahu, the owner’s daughter, is now running the show and over the past few years has turned this Westchester staple into one of our favorite Thai restaurants on the Westside. It’s still technically a to-go only operation, but there’s a good-sized patio out front if you just landed at LAX and need to eat immediately. The menu is tremendous across-the-board, but the plump, savory kai jeaw omelet and Ayara’s toast, which come shaped like little elephants and topped with a buttery shrimp and pork spread, are standouts.
Ruen Pair may no longer stay open until 4am (they now close at 11), but we still like to come here in the non-witching hours when we’ve got one friend in the mood for pad thai, and another in the mood for rabbit feet. When you walk in, you’ll be hit with the aroma of herbs and spice - always a good sign. The menu at this East Hollywood spot is expansive, and no matter how much experience you have eating Thai food, you’ll probably find something you’ve never tried before. Just make sure to order the salty egg and turnip omelette and the pork jerky for the table. We’ve never had better versions elsewhere.
When you don’t want the night to end quite yet, but you’re done drinking, the answer is always Sanamluang. Sure, there are other Thai spots in East Hollywood that stay open even later (Sanamluang is currently operating till 1am), but the food here doesn’t sacrifice quality for convenience. Sit in the strip mall parking lot under the glow of neon lights, and order tender duck curry, lard nah, and a huge portions of tom yum in the wee hours of the morning. The meat in every dish, especially the noodles, is always juicy, the vegetables vibrant, and the service fast. We also are firm believers that the Sanamluang noodle soup cures your hangovers before they have a chance to hit.
We appreciate a restaurant that calls it like it is, and at Spicy BBQ, you’re going to eat Thai-style BBQ and it’s going to be spicy. But this six-table strip mall spot at Normandie and Santa Monica has much more than just a few excellent plates of BBQ pork. The equally spicy jackfruit salad, the savory pork patties, and the chili dips are all delicious, and the khao soi is worth braving even the worst East Hollywood rush hour traffic to eat. The broth is rich and gravy-like, with silky tofu (we usually order this over meat) that provides the dish some much-needed lightness.
Besides nepotism, Otus Thai remains one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets. The star of the show here is the kai-kata, an excellent breakfast set that comes with grilled bread, orange juice, and a little metal tin of ground pork, sweet sausages, and two eggs over easy. It’s the perfect midday pick-me-up, especially whenever you’re reminded of your outstanding parking tickets or the fact you’ll never be Zoey Deutch.
This tiny strip mall spot in Koreatown specializes in food primarily from Isaan, a region located in the northeast part of Thailand. While we absolutely love the namesake sausage, which here gets deep-fried and stuffed with fermented pork, every meal at Isaan Station needs to start with their som tum. Topped with pickled blue crab, this fresh papaya salad is sweet and immensely spicy, but balanced out perfectly with the sourness of the crab. From there, head for the pungent larb moo with spicy minced pork and the charcoal-grilled chicken that’s been marinated in turmeric. Isaan is a favorite quick-lunch spot of ours and that’s not just because of the excellent food. There’s a front parking lot with ample space - seven words you never hear in a row in Ktown.
Amidst the pulsating crowds of Grand Central Market, you might miss Sticky Rice at first. But keep a lookout, because this food stall in the center of the market has a fantastic secret: The best beef panang curry in the city. The rest of the menu is still quite good, but it’s the sweet, creamy, and profoundly savory panang that pushes us into a dream-like state every time we eat it. If you can’t make it Downtown, they now have locations in both Echo Park and Highland Park.
Pa Ord has two locations, both within only a few blocks of each other in East Hollywood. To make matters more complicated, the menus are slightly different at each location. So we’ll help narrow things for you - go to the original at Sunset and Hobart, because that’s where you’ll find their legendary soup menu in its entirety. This is the best tom yum in town, filled with both BBQ and ground pork, pork ball, liver, dried shrimp, and your choice of noodle. We like the small rice noodle, so not to overpower the light, citrusy broth. If you aren’t in the mood for a hot bowl of soup today though, don’t worry. There’s an extensive menu filled with excellent curries, salads, and stir-fried meats.
Open since 1969, Chao Krung is one of the oldest Thai restaurants in the entire city. But it wasn’t until a recent revamp of both the menu and the Fairfax space itself that this family-run spot went from being a neighborhood standby to a place you seek out. While Chao Krung’s menu is littered with great dishes, the strength of the place lies in its curries. The kaeng ped yang (red duck curry with pineapple) is a perfect balance of sweet and savory and the kaeng hung-ley with sweet pork belly and pork shoulder is fatty, aromatic, and a dish we can’t go more than a week without eating. Plus, with its revamped space - complete with a wraparound bar, a few TVs, and big windows looking out at CBS Studios - it’s a good option for a casual midweek date as well.
You could drive past this tiny Thai Town spot 100 times and not notice it, but don’t let that happen - they serve a khao soi we’d rank among the most essential dishes in the city. What makes Pailin’s version so good is the unabashed brightness of the broth itself. It’s buttery and sweet, with huge punches of citrus even before you squeeze the lime over it. And for that reason, you’ll always find us hanging out their colorful, kitschy dining room anytime we’re in need of a quick lunch or a simple pick-me-up after a bad week.
If you live in Northridge, you probably already know you don’t have to drive to East Hollywood to get tremendous Thai food - you can just go Lum-Ka-Naad. For everyone else, it’s time to drive to Northridge. They have a big menu, but you’re narrowing it down to two sections: “Northern Cuisine” and “Southern Cuisine.” These are the dishes specifically from the owner’s home regions, and they are incredible. Start with the turmeric fish soup from the South and work your way up to the kang ho, which are pan-fried vegetables and vermicelli in a curry rub, and khao soi in the North. Delicious food and a geography lesson? Everyone wins.
Same Same is our favorite Thai restaurant in Silver Lake not named Night + Market. The menu isn’t large, but it’s filled with standout dishes like sweet and creamy khao soi, slightly sour sai kork esan, and a rich, thick panang curry that everyone at the table will ask for a bite of. But what makes this casual spot so special - and useful - is their wine situation. Same Same is just as much a wine bar as it is a Thai restaurant, with an always-rotating list of excellent American and European biodynamic wines. It’s the kind of place you can come by yourself on a quiet Wednesday night, hang at the bar, and sip unfiltered Slovenian wine in peace or roll in on Friday with friends and power through bottles of chilled Gamay like its alkaline water. Another plus is they don’t take reservations, making it a great option if you forgot that it was your turn to plan date night and everywhere else is booked up.
We love Hoy-Ka not only for their excellent food, but for having a fun space right in Hollywood that’s great for everything from a team lunch to a midweek hang with friends. The wood-covered interior feels kind of like a tavern, and with plenty of TVs playing sports, you won’t have any trouble finding a reason to drink. The crispy pork ka prao, with its chili and basil-topped tower of white rice, definitely needs to hit the table.
Noree Thai is from the same people who run Luv2Eat, and that alone should get you through the door. Their menu is fairly similar to the original Hollywood spot (including the tremendous jade noodles), plus a few new items like massaman lamb chops and ko-lae chicken which has been herb-rubbed in a sweet and sour sauce that should be on your table. The casual space is small, but you can still come here with a group, and there’s a tiny front patio if you feel like watching people spend $300 on groceries at Erewhon across the street. Tip: Leave some extra time for parking, it can get tricky.
Bhan Kanom isn’t a restaurant. It’s a market/bake shop in Thai Town and home to our favorite collection of Thai desserts in the city. This is the place you stop at on the way home from work and pick up some mini crispy crepes and baked taro custard or a bag of imported Thai candy to eat in your bed later. Or if you’re grabbing dinner at Thai Patio or Crispy Pork Gang (all located in the same strip mall), skip the mango sticky rice at the end and come get it here instead. It’s much better.
Rodded is an all-around solid Thai restaurant, but if you aren’t ordering the duck noodle soup here, you’re doing yourself a disservice. This rich, savory bowl of soup comes filled with your choice of noodle (we recommend the thick egg noodles that slowly absorb the broth as you eat), plus generous portions of perfectly-stewed and slightly sweet duck. It’s an extremely simple, well-executed dish and one of our favorites in all of Thai Town.