The Eastside Dinner Guide
Last time we counted, there were more restaurants on LA’s Eastside than angel-wing wall murals in the entire city. That’s a lot of restaurants (also, there are too many angel-wing wall murals, but that’s an argument for another day). The neighborhoods roughly north of Downtown, west of Pasadena, and east of Hollywood have so many good dinner choices that by the time you actually decide on a place, it’s the next morning and now you need to figure out where to get breakfast.
So we’ve narrowed them down for you. Here’s our list of the best places to grab dinner on LA’s Eastside.
Freedman’s serves fantastic modern versions of Jewish deli food, just slightly different from classics you may have tried before. But this isn’t a Jewish deli by any means - NWA is playing, and the wallpaper looks like it fell out of a Gucci ad. The menu is short but overwhelming, and your (very well-made) martini won’t help you narrow things down. So the main things you should know about are the pastrami sandwich and the trout roe popovers. And, if you come with a few other people (or you’re feeling particularly ambitious), order the brisket, which they’ll cut tableside with an electric knife.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
The patio at All Time is one of the best places on the Eastside to bring your snobby New Yorker friend who thinks Red Hook is the center of the universe. It feels fancy because there’s an excellent wine selection and a dry-aged ribeye on the menu, but not so fancy that you can’t show up wearing shorts and Tevas. The dishes change weekly, and you may need to break out your flashlight to read the handwritten menu under the hanging lights on their patio. It’s hard to have a bad time here, but ordering the Good Ass Salad and the burrata and tomato-smothered focaccia will instantly convince your friend that LA does actually have culture.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Salazar is an outdoor Mexican restaurant/hideaway in Frogtown that’s a perfect escape from whatever you need to get away from this evening. After a couple of palomas and al pastor tacos, you’ll never want to leave. Salazar is the kind of place you can bring anyone - you’ll see plenty of families, dates, and friends grabbing after-work drinks or dinner before catching a show next door at Zebulon.
This tiny spot on a quiet stretch of Hyperion is an excellent addition to your Eastside date night rotation. The menu is small, but features some really interesting takes on raw fish, from a more traditional striped bass ceviche with xni-pec (habanero salsa), to an experimental yellowfin tostada with habanero sorbet on top. It’s tough to go wrong - unless you don’t order the scallop shooters, which come with pomegranate and serrano, and are the kind of shots we plan on doing the most this summer.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
If you want a picnic in Highland Park, you could either pick up some pre-made salads and go sit in a park by the 110 or you could go to Triple Beam on Figueroa. They have some of the best pizza-by-the-slice in LA and an extremely pleasant patio/parking lot in the back. And like all the best picnics, wine here comes served in plastic cups. We promise it tastes best that way.
Bar Caló is permanently closed
Bar Caló isn’t exactly a restaurant, but it is a place where you’ll walk in for a cocktail and walk out stuffed with outstanding Mexican-inspired bar food. The lounge-style couches are first-come, first-served, but the food is so good that you won’t complain about sharing table real estate with a couple wearing matching floral jumpers. Just make sure your eating partner is someone you’re comfortable with, because we suspect even Paul Rudd would struggle to look good while eating mole-covered hot chicken and Caesar-style elotes. Order all of it anyway.
You definitely didn’t forget that it was your best friend’s birthday today, and you definitely already made a restaurant reservation. Right? For the ultimate last-minute dinner that totally looks planned, book a table at Alimento. This Italian restaurant is right by the Silver Lake reservoir, and from the outside looks like a charming neighborhood standby. But it’s actually a more upscale place, with an excellent wine list and a menu full of phenomenal Italian food. It has so much going for it that your best friend will assume you spent ages looking for the perfect restaurant for her. Which you definitely did.
Otoño feels a bit like Highland Park’s grown-up restaurant. But this is Highland Park, so while there is a sort-of formal dining space, there’s also a pretty lively bar up front. This Spanish spot on Figueroa is a great spot for celebrating a promotion, and in the process finding out what goat anchovy butter is (hint: it’s good). The tapas here are better than the larger dishes, so it’s best to stick with the small plates to go along with your cocktails. And these cocktails are fantastic, especially the gin and tonic, which will make you forget why you ever stopped drinking gin.
Second dates are tricky - you like the person enough to at least see them again, but there’s also a good chance this person will casually bring up their belief in chemtrails and you’ll need to cut the night short. So if you’re ever planning an early-in-the-game date, go to Same Same. This Silver Lake spot is the wine bar/Thai restaurant mashup ideal for casual dates - you can start out at the bar drinking wine, and if things go well, you can move to a table and share some khao soi. But if a plane flies overhead and your date holds their breath, you can easily down your wine and leave without any mention of getting food.
Hippo hasn’t been open very long, but it’s already become a Highland Park neighborhood hangout. You’ll find people popping in for a drink or solo meal at the bar, families from Pasadena seeing what’s going on a little closer to LA proper, and a bunch of people who just bought a fixer-upper down the street catching up with friends over pasta. The menu is long, so you’ll probably order too much, but the servers will tell you when you’re being over-the-top and help you cut things down (as long as you get the sweet corn cappelacci).
Someone in your company made a small error in a calculation, and your client just found out that their new cost-saving program is saving $20 instead of $20,000. That person was you. Before you start rewriting your resume, wash down the shame with a burrito from El Fuente. This Highland Park classic has been around forever, and their giant servings of Mexican food are especially good when you need comfort food. The space is also casual enough that you can show up in sweats, and probably cry quietly at your table.
Pine and Crane is one of those places that works for almost any dinner, from a Friday night meal with out of town friends that just landed, to a solo weekday meal because there are only pickles in your fridge. The Taiwanese/Chinese food is delicious and affordable (the most expensive menu item is $14), and it’s the kind of place you’ll want to keep hanging out in for a while after you finish your second order of mapo tofu.
Raffi’s in Glendale serves some of our favorite kabobs in the city, in portions so huge that they either need to be shared or taken home and eaten every day for a week. Order the barg (thinly-sliced filet mignon). The space has a French bistro-ish theme, with white tablecloths, wicker chairs, and striped awnings, and also there’s a tree in the middle of the restaurant, if that’s the kind of thing that makes you excited.
If you’ve been tasked with finding a place for your team’s bonding dinner, take them to Cosa Buona. This casual pizzeria in Echo Park feels like the kind of welcoming neighborhood spot you always see in sitcoms, without the servers making snide remarks that no human being would actually say. Also, the pizza is great, and we would come here just for the mozzarella sticks. So if you get along with your coworkers already, you’ll have great food and beer to catch up over. And if things are still awkward, you’ll be glad to have cheese to stuff into your mouth.
Ostrich Farm is permanently closed
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Your parents are in town, and your mom has reminded you for the fifth time that your dad refuses to eat anything he hasn’t heard of before. Take them to Ostrich Farm. The kinda-fancy American restaurant in Echo Park serves all the staples - meatballs, caesar salad, grilled meats - but they all have something extra that will make your parents feel adventurous because their caesar salad was charred. Baby steps.
L&E is a more than acceptable choice for pretty much any kind of semi-casual dinner. The modern spot has great oysters, along with a lot of other solid, shareable plates. You can eat downstairs in the full restaurant, or, for a drinks-and-a-light-bite situation, head upstairs to their more lounge-y bar area.
A nice thing about living in LA is that your out-of-town friends end up visiting a lot for work. Another nice thing is that they usually get to put their meals on the company card. If your college friend is in the city, rescue them from whatever expo they’re at, take them to Kismet, then convince them to pretend you’re a client and order the $80 rabbit for two.
This woodsy-themed restaurant in Los Feliz serves solid comfort food, and is a good place to go when you need to eat something familiar. The space is huge, so you can usually find a table quickly - try to get a spot out on the patio, where there’s a fire pit. You can pretend you’re glamping while you eat mac-n-cheese and ribs.
Cafe Birdie is permanently closed
photo credit: Jakob Layman
So you misread those five parking signs by your work again and got another ticket. You might need a drink before dinner. If you’re in Highland Park, grab a cocktail at Good Housekeeping, the speakeasy attached to Cafe Birdie (tell the bartender what kind of drink you like, and they’ll make you something unique). Then head back into the restaurant for some big plates of solid, familiar food.
You spent five hours smiling and nodding at strangers at a work conference today, and you’re pretty much done having conversations. Spend some quality alone time at the bar at Tsubaki, the modern izakaya in Echo Park. This spot is arguably better experienced by yourself - when you sit at the bar, the chefs will pour you sake without you even asking, tell you stories, and generally make every part of this already-great izakaya even better.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
If you want pasta on the Eastside and you don’t want to exert any effort to get it, go to Farfalla. The Los Feliz restaurant is a casual space with lots of tables full of locals. It’s clearly meant to be the place you wander into, still in your work clothes, and consume some really excellent gnocchi with pesto.