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 of great local spots that are (actually) filled with locals - you just need to know where to find them. Like right here.
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.
ASAP Phorage is permanently closed
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.
L&E Oyster Bar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.