You only need to spend 20 minutes on York or Figueroa in Highland Park to realize you’re in one of the most exciting areas of the city. Whether it’s outdoor beer gardens, old-school music venues, or the greatest bowling alley in the history of mankind, there’s no shortage of things to do here. Add in new bars and restaurants opening weekly, plus neighborhood institutions that’ve been here for years, and this is somewhere you should be hanging out. Here are the 24 best places to eat while you’re there.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Hippo is a kind-of-Italian spot in Highland Park that has a lot of qualities you see in most nice LA restaurants these days - high ceilings, graphic floral designs on the walls (unfortunately no hippos, the place is named after the Highland Park Post Office), and a menu full of crudos, pastas, and big plates of meat. But Hippo mashes all those familiar elements up in a way that feels exciting. The crudos and pastas are all excellent, and it’s also a great spot for a few drinks before heading out to all the other bars along Figueroa.
This Peruvian restaurant on Figueroa has only been open since 2018, and yet, it feels like it’s been part of the neighborhood for decades. Run by chef Maritza Gomez, who lives nearby, Rosty’s menu is filled with dishes like sweet and zesty pollo a la brasa and lomo saltado with sirloin beef strips, sauteed vegetables, and fries. The dish that always ends up on our table here, though, is la copa nostra. This massive glass goblet of mixed ceviche is filled with an array of both raw and sauteed seafood in a properly spicy tigre de leche.
Starting out as a pop-up in Silver Lake in 2019, Goldburger moved to Highland Park in 2020 and has since exploded in popularity. These are the most substantial burgers in LA’s oversaturated smash scene. From their namesake “Goldburger,” which comes topped with american cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and their special garlic-mustard aioli, to the “LA Special,” loaded with thick cuts of pastrami, these are smashburgers that’ll keep you full well past dinner and possibly into breakfast the next day. Also, their properly seasoned and slightly spicy curly fries are not to be missed.
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Joy is an order-at-the-counter Taiwanese restaurant that’s exactly what you need when you have 30 minutes for lunch and would rather eat popcorn kernels off the floor of your car than do drive-thru. Owned by the same people as another order-at-the-counter spot, Pine & Crane, Joy’s menu is small, but has a ton of variety. They serve daily cold appetizers, a few different soups, noodle and rice sections (we love the salty, savory chiayi chicken rice), and fantastic sandwiches made with their homemade scallion sesame bread. Almost everything falls under $10, and even when it’s crowded, you can be in and out in 25 minutes.
Jeff’s Table isn’t the first deli hidden behind a liquor store in Highland Park - they’re not even the first one to occupy the space they’re in. But hidden or not, this is one of our favorite places to get a sandwich in the neighborhood. If you’re really hungry, get the “Jeff’s Special” - hot pastrami, sauerkraut, and what’s basically a big parmesan crisp on rye - or the “Dirty Baby,” which is a turkey salad sandwich that involves housemade chili crisp, two kinds of smoked cheese, and pickled onions. Get a side of the spicy, creamy Thai peanut mac salad to balance everything all out.
If you take one bite into a taco from Villas Tacos and think to yourself, “I’ve never really had anything like this before,” it’s because you probably haven’t. This Highland Park pop-up is home to what’s called “the seven-layer taco,” an idea that owner Victor Villa came up with based on his upbringing on LA’s Eastside. It starts with Dodger-blue corn tortillas (a nod to Villa’s affection for the team) and crispy cheese griddled into the side. From there, each taco is filled with creamy refried beans, diced onions, cilantro, crema, cotija, fresh guacamole, and the mesquite-grilled protein of your choice. It’s impossible to have a wrong order here, but the spicy, smoky chorizo is a must. Give them on follow on Instagram for their latest hours of operation.
This graffiti-adorned Spanish restaurant on Figueroa is a great place to celebrate an exciting life event and, in the process, find out what goat anchovy butter is (hint: it’s good). The tapas are better than the larger dishes here, so grab a seat at the bar, snack on gambas a la plancha and ham croquetas, and then go all-in on their excellent cocktails. The gin and tonics are all dangerously drinkable and the rioja sour will make you realize you don’t actually hate whiskey.
Amigas Amores is an Italian/Mexican pop-up that’s been doing various stints around town for a while, but as of April 2021, has planted permanent roots on York Blvd. Right now, the experience happens in a discreet parking lot (you get directions once you RSVP) decorated with string lights, papel picado, and a front row seat of Chef Danielle Duran-Zecca’s cooking. The menu changes weekly, but you can generally expect dishes like pillowy soft elote agnolotti, lobster black ink fettuccine topped with epazote breadcrumbs, and a calzone filled with perfectly-cooked pork carnitas and mozzarella and Oaxacan cheese. Oh, and a lot of wine. There are plans to open permanently in the adjacent building by fall, but in the meantime, make a reservation for their Friday dinner service or Sunday brunch and get ready for one of the most delicious - and personalized - dining experiences in LA.
La Fuente, which recently relocated from Monte Vista St. to Figueroa, is the kind of old-school Mexican restaurant that heals your soul as soon as you walk through the door. The new space is pretty big, but between the friendly waitstaff and the plates of food larger than your torso, you feel right at home immediately. Order the El Rey burrito and have enough food for three separate meals.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Ichijiku is that affordable, neighborhood sushi spot you should put directly into your monthly - and weekly - rotation. Almost all rolls and nigiri cost under $10, and our recommendation is to stick mostly to the nigiri section (the $6 branzino is a standout) with a few yellowtail and habanero rolls thrown in as well. Be sure to also check out their creative and delicious vegan options as well. There’s a beet- and tofu cream-filled roll as well as a roll with roasted red peppers and crispy lotus root that are not to be missed. The big shaded back patio is also a great place to hang out with friends and drink some wine and sake.
Belle’s Bagels, a takeout-only spot on York Blvd., makes double-fermented bagels with a yeasty aroma that sets them apart from other bagels in LA. It’s also a big part of the reason why their breakfast sandwiches are so good. If you’re in the mood for a classic breakfast sandwich, we recommend the “BECA,” which comes with eggs, bacon, cheese, and avocado spread. Otherwise, go for the “L.E.O.” with sauteed lox, pickled fennel, onions, hard scrambled egg, and their house “shalom sauce,” that resembles a garlic herb aioli. You get to choose your bagel, and for the L.E.O, we recommend the salty bagel which brings out the flavors of the sauteed lox even more.
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If you’ve ever eaten at the original HomeState in Los Feliz, you know one thing - you’re going to wait at least an hour before getting your mouth around those breakfast tacos. Here’s the good news: HomeState’s second location in Highland Park is twice the size with half the crowd. And the menu is nearly identical to the original, which means you get the same great egg-filled tacos, migas, and Frito pie.
Triple Beam Pizza
From the outside, Triple Beam looks like a random pizza-by-the-slice joint along Figueroa. But then you walk in and quickly realize there’s much more going on here. First off, the pizza is from the crew behind Pizzeria Mozza, and it’s some of the best you’ll find on the Eastside. Every slice is priced by the ounce, and if that type of math gives you anxiety, just know you can pretty much order the whole menu for under $30. Don’t assume that because this place is order-at-the-counter you’ll be eating your pizza on the curb - there’s a fantastic patio in the back for that.
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Mason’s Dumpling Shop
Lines at this strip mall dumpling spot are long. And if you come on a weekend, they’re even longer. But people are here for a reason - these are the best dumplings you’ll find outside of the San Gabriel Valley. Though you might have to wait on the sidewalk for a bit to get a table, once you’re inside, this order-at-the-counter spot has quick service, affordable prices (8 dumplings for $13), and a hanger steak bao you’re definitely going to want to get involved with. They also have a serious to-go operation if you’re looking to stay on your couch tonight.
The Silver Lake-based ice cream shop is arguably the most popular soft serve spot in LA with locations now in Tarzana and York Blvd. in Highland Park. And this creamy, silky, soft serve is worth the wait on those sweltering summer days. If it’s your first time at Magpies, start with the sweet cream flavor as your base, and take full advantage of their excellent daily toppings that range from brown sugar oats to honeycomb to graham streusel. Don’t stress if you’re dairy-free - they have several vegan options made from oat milk on the menu as well.
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Some days, all we really have time for is a quick takeout sandwich or a box of chicken tenders in the front seat of our Toyota Corolla. When that moment hits, we go to Holdaak. Originally from Fullerton, this Korean fried chicken specialist now has a quick, order-at-the-counter location right on York Blvd. Go for the original chicken sandwich, which comes with two crunchy, crackly-skinned chicken tenders topped with caramelized onion ketchup and daikon slaw. The whole thing tastes sweet, acidic, and is surprisingly light. And the five-piece spicy chicken tender box with fries and two different sauces is easily the best $10 lunch in the neighborhood.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
If it just hasn’t been your day (your week, your month, or even your year), head straight to Cafe Birdie. The neighborhood spot on Figueroa is serving some of the best comfort food on the Eastside, in a relaxed space that’s great for a low-key night with friends in (or by yourself, contemplating life at bar). Get the Moroccan spiced chicken and pork cheek ragu, and definitely a cocktail or three.
Burgerlords opened in Chinatown in 2015 as a walk-up window serving both regular and vegan burgers. Fast forward to present day, and the family-owned spot has transitioned into a 100% vegan operation with a second location in Highland Park. Here the space looks and feels more like a retro diner you’d find off of a freeway exit with a large dining room and a makeshift front patio as well. The namesake cheeseburger with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles is certainly tasty, but we usually get the “Brainburner.” It comes with their housemade vegan patty topped with jalapeño chips, chopped chilies, garlic aioli, and vegan provolone. It’s spicy, crunchy, and very filling. Skip the fries and order the thick, crispy tofu nuggets with a side of the housemade sunburn hot sauce.
The donuts from this all-vegan shop on York Blvd. are what a car salesman would describe as fully loaded: piled with fillings and toppings. Due to ongoing COVID-19 protocols, they aren’t doing their famous customized donuts right now, but don’t get too bummed out. There’s still a fantastic regular menu filled with everything from coffee-infused cake donuts to the “Green Teagan And Sara,” which comes with matcha tea glaze, toasted black sesame seeds, and raspberry dust. These are some of our favorite donuts in LA.
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We love Silver Lake Ramen, but we’ve also waited in that massive line to get in. Here’s the great news - they have a second location in Highland Park with an almost identical menu and zero wait to get a seat. That means you can get the same fantastic tonkotsu ramen before you spiral into a tornado of hunger pains. Don’t miss their rice bowls either - the salmon poke is the freshest fish in the neighborhood.
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photo credit: Jakob Layman
El Huarache Azteca
The 25-year-old Mexican spot on York Blvd. in Highland Park has a fantastic menu filled with everything from tortas to tostadas, but our favorite dish here is the namesake huarache. It’s a long piece of fried masa dough with smashed pinto beans in the middle and topped with grated cheese, a slightly bitter cream, and your choice of meat. We particularly love the buttery carne asada, but you frankly can’t go wrong with any choice here.
In July 2021, the popular Thai food stall inside Grand Central Market expanded to Highland Park, taking over the walk-up window outside The Goldfish on York Blvd. The menu is closer to the one you’d find at the Echo Park location, which is to say, it’s fairly expansive with everything from boat noodle soup to tom yum salad to their perfectly sweet and savory panang curry we rank among our favorite versions in town. Right now, the window is open Tuesday through Sunday, 6pm to “whenever,” making it a great late-night option.
Dos Murejes is a grill that sets up shop nightly from 8pm-2am along a quiet strip of York Blvd., and it’s where you’ll find some of our favorite tacos in the neighborhood. We love their mesquite-grilled carne asada and al pastor, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything when it’s wrapped in those amazing handmade tortillas. Don’t forget to put their avocado sauce on top.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
If you’re in need of vegan or vegetarian brunch-and-lunch type foods in the area, this is the place to get them. There’s everything from breakfast tacos and chilaquiles to a big breakfast sandwich with optional tempeh bacon. But really, the thing to order is the house pancakes - oat, buckwheat, and cornflour pancakes topped with coconut and maple syrup.