In Los Angeles, you spend more time in your car than on your couch, or at your office, or in your bed. Which means the second thing you think about after you get in said car (after “How can I avoid the 405 today?”) is “What’s the parking situation where I’m going?”
Yes, this is the city of valet, but you don’t always want to pay $12 for someone else to take your keys and leave your car exactly where you put it. These are our favorite restaurants with easy parking, meaning everything from strip mall lots to metered street spots to residential areas that won’t tow you after 6pm.
Downtown LA is an extremely difficult place to park, so a meal there usually requires either an Uber, a Metro ride, or worse - paying to valet. But Bäco Mercat, the Mediterranean-ish spot just at the edge of the Historic Core, is different. One block east, towards the Arts District, is a mostly-deserted stretch of Los Angeles Street that always has spots available. The meters are $2 per hour, unlike other parts of DTLA where you’ll end up spending $20 at a meter to park for an afternoon, and it’s free after 8pm.
This casual spot is a great place for a weeknight meal - it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the Taiwanese menu, but we would circle many blocks just to eat their house-baked scallion bread. But we don’t have to, because of how easy parking is in Highland Park. It’s free (and easy to find) on residential streets throughout most of the neighborhood. And in busier areas - off York or Figueroa - there are plenty of parking lots, which cost 50 cents an hour, so we have more money for dan dan noodles.
Los Feliz is definitely not known for having plentiful parking. So we’re not sure why there are always spots open near All Time. We won’t question it, though, because we would walk much, much farther than half a block for one of the best restaurants on the Eastside. There are usually spots on Hillhurst (especially across the street, by the Albertsons), and the surrounding residential neighborhood doesn’t have any parking restrictions.
There are a lot of things to hate about the area surrounding the Third Street Promenade. Tumbi, a great Indian spot, is not one of them. And, surprisingly, neither is its parking situation. There are huge public lots throughout Downtown Santa Monica that never fill up, and are free for 90 minutes (and $2 for the first two hours). They also have normal-sized parking spaces, so you won’t add to the mural of scratches on your front bumper pulling into them.
Just like that time someone told us they saw Tom Cruise at Vons, when we heard Margot offered free valet, we didn’t believe it (Tom seems like more of an Erewhon guy) - but it’s true. The rooftop restaurant at the Platform validates your parking, though maybe it’s not such a smart idea to drive, because in addition to some good pasta, this Culver City spot has some of the best cocktails on the Westside.
Given that Grand Central Market is the seventh circle of tourist-infested hell, it’s a bit weird that the parking situation is so good. There’s a multi-level lot above the market that’s cheaper than the place down the street with the $5 parking sign (you know, the one that actually charges you $5 for every 15 minutes), but beware - the GCM lot involves tight corners and some very small spaces that would only fit a car in theory. Maybe leave your giant SUV at home.
Kato is a fantastic (and relatively inexpensive) Taiwanese tasting menu restaurant in a tiny space in a West LA strip mall. It also doesn’t yet have a liquor license, so you’re probably going to drive there. You can try your luck in the parking lot out front, but there’s also plenty of metered street parking nearby.
The original Pasta Sisters in Pico-Arlington is almost perfect, except that getting a spot in the tiny strip mall parking lot can lead to a battle royale-style showdown. But they’ve opened a second location in the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City with a parking situation that changes that. There’s plenty of inexpensive street parking you can generally drive right into, as well as a couple of lots. Turn into Hutchison Ave. from Washington and you’ll find the small free one inside the complex.
The Arts District is home to endless circling around the block and overpriced parking lots once you give up, but its next-door neighbor (the Fashion District) has a dream parking situation. It’s a part of Downtown that almost completely empties out at night, so when you’re eating at Rossoblu you’ll be able to get a street spot and put the money you saved towards an extra bowl of pasta. That’s a win-win.
Guelaguetza does have a parking lot behind the restaurant, although it’s one of those valet lots where you pay someone too much money to park your car in a space five feet away. But Guelaguetza also has that rarest of things - easy street parking in Koreatown. Just turn off of Olympic and onto one of the side streets (try Irolo), and you should be able to find a spot easily before making the quick walk towards the best mole in town.
You may already know that parking on this part of La Cienega in West Hollywood is pretty easy, with drive-in metered spots often available right out the front of Sushi Fumi (and you only have to pay until 8pm). But there is another option - the secret lot in the back. Just turn into the alley next to the strip club two doors down (identifiable by the “Girls Girls Girls” sign), and you’ll find a bunch of free spots that no one seems to know about. If only we could say the same thing about Fumi itself.
Strip mall parking lots are good in theory, but in practice are always full and/or impossible to get in and out of. The strip mall that’s home to Luv2Eat is neither of those things. Which means you can pull in, park, and be at a table ordering your jade noodles and papaya salad in record time.
Salt’s Cure is a Hollywood go-to, mostly because eating here is just easy. Most nights of the week you can walk in and grab a table, and eat some fantastic food without having to deal with any hassle. Even better, there’s almost always street parking on Highland, or you can go down one of the side streets where there are no time or permit restrictions.
Commerson’s location in a huge mixed-user at La Brea and Wilshire has its downsides. Mostly, the subway construction and the terrible traffic it causes. Also, there’s only so much personality a restaurant in a giant mixed-user can have. But Commerson has upsides, too - the mostly seafood menu includes a shrimp and chorizo burger that’s worth the trip, and they’ll validate your parking for the garage in the building.
You’ll inevitably drive straight past ASAP Phorage on your first visit. It’s hidden at the back of a convenience store, so you might reach the ocean at the end of the street while you search for it. Turn around, look for the sign that says Gordon’s Market, and turn straight into the lot. If there aren’t any available seats inside, you have our permission to eat your noodle soup in your car.