Downtown LA is like that kid everyone avoided in high school, only to discover years later that he’s now a high-profile model/actor/influencer. In the span of a decade, DTLA’s restaurant scene went from non-existent to completely saturated with great spots. Now it’s so crowded with places to eat that you forget it hasn’t always been that way.
Whether you work downtown and want to switch up your usual dinner plans or you’re looking for a place to eat after an hours-long photoshoot in front of the angel wings mural, your restaurant options are overwhelming. Which is why we’ve narrowed them down for you. Here are our favorite places for everything from after-work snacks to an anniversary dinner.
DTLA restaurants have a well-earned reputation for being productions: long waits, aggressive themes, dress codes, and mandatory valet. Then there’s Badmaash, the fantastic Indian restaurant on the north end of downtown that’s as low-maintenance as they come. The food is affordable, the modern space is easy to get in and out of, and its slightly remote location makes street parking a possible reality. Ordering the tikka masala poutine is a non-negotiable.
When you finally realize that waiting six weeks to get a 10:45pm reservation at the bar at Bestia isn’t worth it, go to Factory Kitchen. The criminally-overlooked Italian restaurant has been around for about 100 years in Arts District time (it opened in 2013) and serves pasta that’s every bit as good as its famous neighbor. The converted warehouse space is upscale, but it still feels local and low-key. Get their prosciutto or don’t bother telling people you came here.
As far as we’re concerned, there is no big group dinner spot downtown better than ERB. This casual bar/restaurant not only has one of the best patios in the city, but also an excellent bar food menu that will give even your pickiest friend a reason to be happy in public. Get the burger, the hamachi tostada, and a margarita, and enjoy a place that makes getting everything right look incredibly easy.
Broken Spanish serves traditional Mexican dishes with a modern, locally-sourced bent. Translation: lamb neck tamales, squid stuffed with green chorizo, and chicharrones topped with microgreens and garlic, all of which are among the best of their kind in LA. The space is welcoming and casual, but upscale enough that it works great for a date or a laid-back cocktails and small plates situation. Broken Spanish is pricey, but once you’ve loaded up a fresh tortilla with whipped pork butter and taken your first bite of the life-changing chicharrones, you’ll gladly give them your money.
If Broken Spanish is the classy lawyer of the family, BS Taqueria is the sister who went to Musical Theater school and knows how to have a good time on a budget. This colorful cantina in the middle of downtown serves some of the best affordable Mexican food in LA, and its laid-back setup is ideal for when you said you’d make a reservation but forgot. Focus on the chicken chicharrones, the cauliflower al pastor, and any of the tacos.
Rossoblu might be one of the newest restaurants downtown, but it’s already one of the best. Opened by the Sotto people in a new development in the Fashion District, Rossoblu takes some effort to get to, but once you’re there, it’s more than worth it. Is it expensive? Yes. But if you’re looking to throw down or impress somebody important, this is where you do it. The food is excellent (get the charcuterie and pork chop belly), the space is beautiful, and the wine list will get everybody in a good mood.
It’s true: eating at Bestia involves a lot of patience, with a not-unlikely wait for your table even though you made your 9pm reservation eight weeks ago. But this is some of the best Italian food in the city, so you should do it at least once. The menu is enormous (and kind of overwhelming) and is best tackled by letting the waitstaff guide you in the right direction. Which should always involve the charcuterie and the bone marrow.
LA has never been a beacon of great Tex-Mex food, but Bar Ama is doing its job to make up for the rest of the city. Bar Ama is laid-back, easy to get into, and the kind of place you stroll in with a few friends after work and end up staying till 10pm. You’re going to want the queso, lots of vegetable stuff, and the off-menu puffy tacos.
Open since 2008, Church & State wins the award for being the first real destination restaurant in the Arts District. But even after a decade, this French restaurant is still a great choice for any downtown date night. While the space is fun and modern, the menu is refreshingly traditional. Think steak-frites, giant bowls of French onion soup, and a bouillabaisse (fish stew) you’ll be thinking about for a while.
LA has its fair share of affordable sushi joints, and Sushi Gen is one of our very best. Lines start forming here before it’s even open - and though most people are waiting for their famous sashimi platter ($38 for an enormous plate of sushi), cruising right up to the bar and letting the daily specials be your guide is also a worthy strategy. And despite the crowds, it’s good for big groups too (you can make reservations).
Lasa is technically in Chinatown, but it’s worth the extra couple minutes in the car (and trips around the block looking for a parking spot) for their excellent modern Filipino food. The restaurant itself, in the same building as Howlin’ Rays, is pretty bare bones, but the excellent service makes you feel like you’re part of the family that runs this place. And while it’s casual enough for a group dinner, you’re not going to get dumped for bringing a date here either. Especially if you order the condensed milk ice cream for dessert.
If you’re downtown to see a show at The Ahmanson or Walt Disney Music Hall or want to impress your parents with how well you’re (pretending) to have your sh*t together, Redbird should be at the top of your list. Its Bunker Hill location is a quick walk to all the major theaters and museums, the large space (that used to be a church) is stunning, and though it can get pricey, the menu is huge and ideal for people who never know what they want.
While you were busy ramen-crawling your way through Little Tokyo, another spot opened up down on S. Broadway and is every bit as good as your old go-to’s. At DTLA Ramen, you order at the front hostess and then go sit in its big, open dining room where you get to watch the ramen being made. Prices are affordable, the vibe is slightly less chaotic than the popular Little Tokyo spots, and they have a soy-sauce injected egg that is an essential add-on. Their vegan ramen is pretty good too.
PYT is a mostly-vegetarian restaurant that will make you feel healthier just by looking at the menu of vegetable-based cocktails. We like it here less for the health factor, and more because it’s a neighborhood hangout that works just as well for a solo dinner at the bar as it does for a birthday dinner with six friends. And in case vegetables aren’t going to cut it - there’s always a giant piece of meat on the menu.
The phrase “hotel restaurant” might make you think of overpriced salads and businessmen drinking too much syrah in the corner, but it’s also not 1996 anymore. The Exchange is at the bottom of a new hotel in the Historic Core, and is a great spot for a casual but cool dinner in the area. The food is mostly Israeli, with small plates like grated tomato with tahini, an excellent hummus, and an Israeli seafood stew, but there’s also a burger. It is still a hotel after all.
It’s 8:45pm, you just finished work, and you know there are exactly zero things to eat at home. Stop in at Shibumi on your way home, and grab a seat at the bar instead. It’s the best way to experience this Japanese spot, and they’ll help you pick the perfect sake to make you forget that you spent your day trying to figure out how to make a pivot table in Excel. The food is like what you’d actually eat in Japan, with delicate flavors and constantly-changing seasonal dishes. And if you need to apologize for too many late nights at the office, all the dark lighting and sharing-sized plates make this a great date night option too.
Being 71 floors above LA’s sprawl make you feel like you’re in this place for something important. If you’re dining at 71Above, you probably should be - it’s an experience too expensive to waste on an event that isn’t either celebratory or corporate. That said, the food, a choose-your-own prix-fixe, is delicious. Get their egg and sausage appetizer and the prime ribeye main, but know the menu changes regularly and pretty much everything on it will be great. If you’re looking for somewhere to do a special occasion, or your boss needs somewhere to take a new client, 71Above is your best bet.
DTLA is the land of big-deal destination restaurants and Barcito is definitely not one of them. This bright, Argentinian spot sits at the bottom of a new mixed-user over by Staples, and if you weren’t looking for it, you probably wouldn’t find it. But you should, because the food is solid (and affordable), you can always get a table, and its daily apertivo hour (5 - 7pm) is the ideal pre-game before a concert or basketball game. Don’t leave without getting the churros.
The Stocking Frame is a huge space that used to be an old clothing factory, and its high ceilings, industrial design, and cozy booths make it an excellent date spot. The food won’t change your life, but it’s good and perfect for sharing (get the bone marrow). The place is so big that you’ll get some alone time far away from the bar, where TVs are showing whatever game is on and people are there to watch. If your date goes south quickly, you can always head over there for a change of atmosphere without having to follow your date out of the building.
Back in the day when not a whole lot of new restaurants were opening in DTLA (2006), Wood Spoon arrived to give the neighborhood a casual Brazilian spot. Fast forward to now: 9th and Main is in the center of the action, and Wood Spoon is as reliable as ever. It’s not a big place, so reservations are a good idea, but you won’t find many better low-key date spots than this place. Order the pot pie.