LA’s reputation for being a city full of tacky, see-and-be-seen restaurants packed with celebrities nobody cares about is well-earned. But to assume this city is void of those dependable neighborhood spots where you always know you can get a good meal is entirely incorrect. From Silver Lake to Studio City to Malibu, we have no shortage great local spots that are (actually) filled with locals - you just need to know where to find them. Like right here.
We’ve put together a guide to some of our all-time favorite neighborhood restaurants, presented in partnership with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Get outside your own neighborhood and go try these spots (and if you pay with a Premier Rewards Gold Card, you’ll earn 2X Membership Rewards points at US Restaurants).
There are a few blockbuster Los Angeles Italian restaurants that seem to get all the glory. But LA is also home to some fantastic neighborhood Italian places - and Osteria La Buca is one of them. The lively spot along Melrose by Paramount Studios doesn’t have the absolute best Italian food in town, but it’s pretty damn good and hits the spot every time. This is the kind of restaurant where you can just as easily take a first date or a rowdy group of friends as you can a client for a Wednesday power lunch. Definitely order the carbonara.
Vietnamese food isn’t the first thing you expect to find at the same place where you pick up your laundry detergent and solo cups, but that’s just part of the beauty of ASAP Phorage. Located in the back of a convenience store in Playa Del Rey, this tiny counter seems like the kind of place your instincts tell you to avoid, but in reality, it’s serving some of the best pho you’ll find in LA. The crowd is always a mix of barefoot surfers, teenagers who peaced out of school early, and businesspeople on their way to LAX who are in on the secret that is ASAP Phorage.
Located on Silver Lake Blvd., a hefty unicycle ride away from the chaos of Sunset Junction, L&E Oyster Bar somehow avoids the hordes of obnoxious tourists looking for matcha and Jon Hamm and provides the neighborhood with the cool, relaxing spot it needs. L&E’s space is actually split between two separate levels: the laid-back upstairs ideal for grabbing some oysters and a drink before seeing a concert, and the slightly more formal downstairs perfect for some date night glory. Also, don’t skip out on brunch, it’s fantastic.
Josephine & Napoleon is one of those places you pass by while shopping on Melrose and wonder what actually happens inside. We’ll tell you - really delicious, traditional Corsican food in a setting not seen since you and your family cleaned out your grandma’s attic in the 90’s. There are top hats for lampshades, dolls in the bathroom, and the menu is one giant placard they bring to your table. This place is unlike anywhere else and the perfect summation of this stretch of Melrose.
Culver City has many great neighborhood restaurants, but nothing quite matches the atmosphere of Jackson Market. This grocery/marketplace/deli exists in the middle of an entirely residential neighborhood and if you didn’t look closely you’d probably assume it was just another house on the block. Order any of their excellent sandwiches or fresh pressed juices at the counter, head to the lovely back patio (there’s an actual pond), pull out a good book, and pretend you’re Diane Keaton in a late-in-life romance movie.
As you drive out to Malibu, one of the first things you notice (or fail to notice) on PCH is a tiny little blue shack that looks like a bait shop abandoned since the 80’s. That’s Cholada, and it’s home to the best Thai food on the beach. In an area largely dominated by musty seafood restaurants and overpriced chains catering to wandering tourists, Cholada is a total original and your one and only spot for a solid plate of pad se ew after a day in the sand.
There are a lot reasons to love Manhattan Beach - great beaches, a fun bar scene, and beautiful houses you’ll never be able to afford. As for restaurants that feel truly local? There’s less to be excited about. But not if you know about FishBar. The low-key seafood bar/restaurant is a few minutes drive north of the tourist-clogged downtown and that means the place is largely left to the people who actually live down here. The whole space just got a big renovation, but the fun atmosphere (and very delicious bar food) remain. The lobster mac and cheese is a must-order.
For most people, the Cahuenga Pass is the traffic apocalypse you submit yourself to only if you have to get yourself from Hollywood to The Valley on a weekday. But there’s actually a good reason to stop and take a breather here: Joe’s Falafel. The tiny stripmall spot is serving some of the best falafel in the entire city. Lines get long during lunch hour, but luckily their service is quick and efficient, getting you back to your death cubicle on time.
Amongst the dime-a-dozen sports bars and chain restaurants around the Staples Center sits Barcito, the fun Argentinian restaurant that feels like it’s been in the neighborhood for years. The Buenos Aires streetscapes plastered all over the walls aren’t exactly a case study in subtlety, but the vibe and aesthetic here grows on you as the food (get the octopus) starts to hit the table and all those Campari cocktails start making their way to your liver. If you’re looking to catch a bite to eat before a show or simply want a quick drink after work with co-workers, Barcito is your spot.
A lot of people live in Venice, but you wouldn’t know it when you’re sitting in half the restaurants along Abbot Kinney next to food tourists from New Zealand losing their mind over some mushroom toast. This is definitely not the case at Chez Tex, a wine bar and restaurant on Main Street that’s filled with people who actually live around here. The staff will greet you like old friends, let you try every wine on the menu before you pick one, and bring you lots of excellent, simple bistro food.
More than a few restaurants have opened in Highland Park in the past couple of years, which makes Good Girl Dinette, a Vietnamese-American diner, practically ancient. They opened in 2009, and the neighborhood has stayed very loyal. The space feels diner-y, but the menu is full of Vietnamese classics like pho, rice noodle salads, and banh mis. Until you get to the pie section that is. The pot pies will make any terrible day better, and the daily-changing dessert pie is a must-order.
West LA is a part of town so weird that no one has felt the need to give it a real name. But at least it has John O’Groats. This all-day breakfast and lunch spot feels like it belongs in a small town where the server calls you “hon” and knows your high school GPA. O’Groats is where you need to be when it’s Thursday morning and only pancakes (with a side of their Biscuits from Heaven) are going to get you through the day.
Santa Monica is another part of Los Angeles where invaders from the planet tourist have taken over, especially as you get closer and closer to the black hole that is the Santa Monica Pier. But the true exception to all of this is Cha Cha Chicken. It’s practically on the beach and BYOB, but it’s somehow not overrun by out-of-towners. We don’t understand how that’s the case, but we will gladly take it. It doesn’t get much more fun than sitting outside, eating jerk chicken, and drinking beer you picked up on the way there.
Even if you don’t live in Los Feliz, you’ve had Italian from Little Dom’s. What you probably haven’t had is Italian from Farfalla, the nearby spot that Los Feliz people don’t want to tell you about. Things are definitely more low-key here (there won’t be celebrities hiding in the corner), but that’s just the way we like it. We also like the ravioli here. A lot.
There are plenty of restaurants in Brentwood filled with locals - but most of them are average Italian spots that people only go to out of habit. There’s only one Belle Vie though, and no one is going there because they couldn’t think of anything better. This French bistro on the outskirts of Brentwood is always slammed - partly because of the food, partly because of the wine, but we suspect mostly because they remember your name and you probably invited them to your wedding.
Remember when Larchmont was kind of sleepy, you could always get a parking spot, and there were no artisanal coffee shops in sight? Yeah, we don’t either. But Larchmont Wine And Cheese is like stepping into the bunker from Blast From The Past - no $8 matcha lattes, just delicious Italian style-sandwiches (and who knows, maybe Brendan Fraser too). Be warned though - when they’re out of bread, they are out of bread, and you’ll be forced to go get a matcha latte instead.