The Best Restaurants In Downtown LA
Our go-to spots when we're hungry in Downtown.
Since its latest re-boom in the 2010s, Downtown has remained one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the city to grab a meal—a melting pot of innovative newcomers, neighborhood staples, and a French dip sandwich lore that’s scandalous enough to fill an entire HBO miniseries. Here are the spots we prioritize first when eating in DTLA.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Pine & Crane DTLA
In a perfect world, we’d eat at this all-day Taiwanese spot once a week. And if you regularly hang out near DTLA, please live out this dream for us. The beauty of this open-air hangout is that you can eat, drink, and peruse at your own pace. Starting at 8am, head to the counter for a thousand-layer pancake wrap with more flaky, buttery layers than a Kardashian-Jenner's makeup routine. After 11am, the brunch menu expands with more noodle dishes, dumplings, and cocktails you can enjoy on their massive covered patio. No dish is more than $15, plus most of the items are easy to share. Keep DTLA’s Pine & Crane in mind for your lazy lunches, dates, and other meetups with ambiguous end times.
Fixins Soul Kitchen
Located next door to The Novo theater, Fixin’s Soul Kitchen serves the best soul food in DTLA. The dining room feels like one big sports bar, but there’s also a side patio for anyone who prefers peace and quiet while eating deep-fried comfort food. Come to this massive corner restaurant for dishes like shrimp and grits, black-eyed peas, and pork chops smothered in roux brown gravy and pickled onions. Be sure to make a reservation for brunch if you don’t want to wait an hour for your table.
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Vegan Hooligans DTLA
Everything about Vegan Hooligans, a tiny takeout window inside a Downtown food court, will remind you of some fast food joint you likely grew up on. There’s a “Filet No Fish Burger,” carne asada fries, and even a “crunchwrap” filled with ground soyrizo. All of the plant-based remakes rival their fast food originals, and we consistently leave here wanting to tell everyone we know about it. Drop by the next time you need a solid lunch spot downtown, or check their Instagram to find out where their food truck will be parking next.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Badmaash opened downtown over a decade ago and is still the most popular Indian restaurant in the neighborhood. And it’s no mystery why—the food is fantastic. With a menu that features dishes like chicken tikka poutine, chili cheese naan, and masala potato fries, this isn’t strictly traditional Indian food, but it’s also pretty different than anything else you can get around town. Plus, the Historic Core dining room is fun, breezy, and a great spot for a casual pre-show dinner.
photo credit: Edomae Sushi
Reservations at Sawa are rare and competitive, and finding the actual restaurant (which is more like a secret eight-seat sushi vault inside of a Little Tokyo parking structure) takes some serious problem-solving skills. But once seated, you’ll feel like a pampered poodle as you eat your way through the 18-piece omakase. And while the mostly traditional Edomae-style nigiri are very good, the real highlights are the cocktails, or rather, the cocktail pairing option. For $45 you can pick any three from the menu and let the masters behind the bar course them out alongside the omakase. Sawa is technically a more casual offshoot of its pricier sibling, Sushi Kaneyoshi, but with drinks you’ll still end up dropping close to $500 on dinner for two.
photo credit: Afuri Ramen
Ramen can be therapeutic on a cold winter day, but Afuri’s signature yuzu shio broth hits the spot year-round. This citrusy noodle soup isn’t going to knock you out like porky tonkotsu (which is also on the menu, if that’s your thing). The flavors here are more subtle, with hints of chicken fat, seafood, and seaweed clinging to thin noodles. And everything else about this roomy industrial feels just as light and refreshing, from the big windows pouring in light to the cocktail offerings, including a sparkling brandy highball with apricot liqueur. Small plates like gingery, perfectly crisp gyoza and donburi bowls topped with spicy kaarage are worth ordering as hearty snacks for the table, or just something warm and delicious to go with a cold beer at the bar.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Phoenix’s Pizzeria Bianco has established itself as one of the most respected names in fancy American pizza. But regardless of the hype surrounding this place (and how impossible it is to get a dinner reservation here) Bianco’s location at the Row DTLA is a laid-back spot for one of life’s great pleasures: sipping wine and eating very good pizza. The 18-hour fermented dough creates the perfect yeasty and chewy vehicle for Bianco’s tart marinara, but their best pie might be the Rosa, with salty parmesan, rosemary, crushed pistachios, and sliced red onions that nearly caramelize in the hot oven. If you can’t snag a table at dinner, come during lunchtime to grab a NY-ish style at the walk-up window, including the delicious “green slice” with a salty spinach-cream sauce.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
After one dinner at Camphor—a French and occasionally Southeast Asian restaurant in the Arts District—we texted a friend and described the restaurant as "shiny, expensive, and nice." Which about sums it up. You'll spend a lot of money, drink excellent cocktails, and dine on pungent cheeses and wonderful, creamy lamb and lentils. The Southeast Asian dishes, inspired by the two chefs' respective upbringings, are our favorites, like beef tartare and deep-fried tempura shiso leaves, or bright orange gunpowder shrimp coated in dried chilis. Don't miss the incredible duck fat burger served at the bar, either. If you want someone to know you're trying to impress them, this is the place to do it.
Where To Eat & Drink In The Arts District
Although Damian has a few famous siblings (the chef also runs Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in NYC), where this upscale Mexican restaurant shines isn’t in comparison to them—it’s a star in its own right. It’s located in a pristine half-jungle, half-futuristic concrete slab in the Arts District where you’ll be treated to uni tostadas, quesadillas filled with Swiss cheese, and the creamiest guacamole we’ve ever had. Damian is the perfect place to come with a couple of friends, sip cocktails infused with dill and absinthe, and celebrate over bowls of rockfish ceviche.
Ordering at this upscale Korean-American spot in the Arts District used to involve picking dishes at the counter, deli-style, but these days Yangban has evolved into a dinner-only destination with full table service and a bar/market upstairs serving canned cocktails. Through all the changes, however, the food has remained consistently fantastic, from twice-fried wings tossed in a sticky, sweet soy-garlic glaze and chilled acorn noodles in shirodashi vinaigrette, to the flaky, comforting congee pot pie. If you're with a decent-sized group, consider ordering the family-style tasting menu, which covers most of the restaurant's popular dishes.
Art galleries are intimidating. What is the appropriate amount of time to look at a painting? And is it fine to admit modern art confuses you? At Manuela, those existential questions disappear. Although housed within the Hauser & Wirth gallery in the Arts District, this Southern-ish restaurant is breezy and approachable—a cool place to sip negronis and chill, whether flooding your brain with culture or not. Dinner here is just OK (and expensive), but Manuela shines brightest for brunch when you can lounge in the courtyard with creamy shrimp and grits, barbequed oysters with smoky green chili butter, and as many fluffy cream biscuits as you can eat.
photo credit: Stan Lee
Blame it on the pleasant weather or the fact that everyone—and we mean everyone—looks good outside during golden hour, but this city has a ton of rooftop bars. Wondering where to start? Cabra. Located above the Hoxton Hotel in Downtown LA, this sprawling space checks every box: skyline views, a pool that someone will fall into, and a semi-rowdy crowd wearing tube tops and questionable hat choices. But unlike other rooftop bars, Cabra's food is notably good. Created by the chef from nearby Girl & The Goat, the menu is filled with tangerine salads, salmon ceviches topped with pistachio, and tuna tiradito. They're light, shareable plates and great for big groups looking to pre-game.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Dama Fashion District
A dinner on Dama’s massive patio feels like you hopped on a plane, flew to the Caribbean, and are currently partaking in the beach vacation of your dreams. In reality, you’re in the middle of the Fashion District in Downtown, but Dama’s indoor/outdoor space is designed like a colonial-era mansion in Havana, making it seem like you’re a thousand miles away. As far as the food, expect Latin American-inspired dishes that are both fantastic and perfect for sharing with big groups. Be sure to get the whipped beans, crispy pork shank, and the banana sundae for dessert.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Welcome to one of LA’s great sushi institutions. This Little Tokyo strip mall spot has lines down the block every day before it even opens, and everybody’s generally waiting for one thing: the sashimi lunch special. With soup, salad, and over nine massive cuts of premium fish, this $23 plate is one of the best deals in the city and so popular you have to sit in a specific area of the restaurant to get it.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Located in a Downtown food court (the same one as Vegan Hooligans), the menu at this casual Thai takeout counter is filled with classics like pad kee mao, gra pow curry, and panang curry. You've likely eaten these dishes before, but Holy Basil prepares them with bright and bold flavors that make them taste like you're eating them again for the first time. If you're looking for a good place to start, get the tom yum soup, which is a whirlwind of flavor and texture set off with roasted chili jam, lemongrass, and galangal. On weekend evenings, you'll also find street-food-style seafood dishes served with natural wine and sake in their outdoor dining area.
photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto
LA Cha Cha Chá
Stepping onto the rooftop patio of this Arts District Mexican spot feels like you’re ascending into an ethereal garden of bliss. You’ll find lush alcoves filled with secret booths, a massive standalone bar decked out in shiny green marble, and unparalleled views of Downtown. That said, Cha Cha Cha is more than pretty aesthetics—the food and cocktails are great too. We love the earthy hongos tacos, and the steak pa’taquear is essentially a build-your-own taco station filled with NY strip steak, charred tomatoes and nopales, and blue jean-colored corn tortillas.
De La Nonna
De La Nonna in Arts District feels like a pizza dinner on the verge of turning into a full-blown dance party. Its string-lit patio is full of big groups, clinking glasses, and a DJ spinning house tracks if you care to dance in between rounds of pizza. The Sicilian-style pan pies come with a light, airy crust sprinkled with flaky salt, and while they don’t overload it with toppings, you still get plenty of flavor from them. Some of our favorites include the white pie, with roasted fennel, mozzarella, and dabs of pesto, and the Market pie, with a super-herbaceous cream sauce and crispy parmesan. If you want to keep the night going, head next door to De La Nonna’s Italian disco club for some kitschy, retro debauchery.
It’s a competitive field when it comes to Downtown tacos (or tacos anywhere in LA, for that matter), but Sonoratown has managed to take a tiny space on Los Angeles St. and turn it into a full-out institution. Their legendary house-made flour tortillas melt in your mouth, and their charred grilled steak is smokey, sweet, and the exact right level of salty. You can certainly go for their regular tacos, but our move is the Caramelo, which is about double the size and comes topped with salsa roja, avocado, and cabbage.
Everson Royce Bar
Everson Royce Bar is one of those places that makes doing everything right look easy. The small interior of this Arts District spot is dark and intimate (ideal for some date night extracurriculars), and the back patio is the setting for a party you'll never want to end. The food menu doesn't look too different from any other bar menu around town, but don't let that fool you—it's excellent. And that burger is one of the best you'll find in LA. We’d live here if we could.
photo credit: Jayme Burrows
With vaulted ceilings, mismatched chairs, and old framed photos hanging on the walls, Wood Spoon looks a lot like that Parisian flat we fantasize about while stuck in traffic on the 110. The Brazilian menu, made up of traditional dishes from the state of Minas Gerais like seafood stew in a coconut sauce and our favorite chicken pot pie in the entire world, feels like true home cooking. Whether you’re by yourself for a quick lunch or catching up with an old friend on a Wednesday night, you might forget you’re at a restaurant altogether.
This Arts District pioneer opened in 2012 (practically a lifetime in this part of town), but it's just as busy as it was on day one. For the most part, things at Bestia haven't changed much, with crowd favorites like the spicy lamb sausage pizza and cavatelli still on the menu. Does Bestia have steeper competition today for great Italian than a decade ago? Absolutely. But a meal at this buzzy Italian spot is still never an in-and-out affair——odds are you'll be at your table for a couple of hours, eating delicious pasta and taking in one of the busiest dining rooms in the city.
Bavel is a broadly Middle Eastern spot in the Arts District from the same people as Bestia, and if for some reason you thought that this younger sibling would be any less popular, then you probably don’t understand sibling dynamics. Between their idyllic outdoor patio shaded by a grove of trees, tables filled with duck ’nduja hummus, lamb neck shawarma, and freshly baked pita, and the strong chance you’ll see someone sorta famous here, a meal at Bavel is one of the most consistently great dining experiences you can have in DTLA, bar none.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Sari Sari Store LA
This Filipino rice bowl counter towards the Hill St. side of the market is from the Republique people, and it’s the kind of place that gets you excited about lunch. Sure, it’s 10:30am and you should be working on that finance report that’s due tomorrow, but instead you’re thinking about whether you should get the ribs or chicken. All the food at Sari Sari Store is fantastic, so you can’t really go wrong. Sit at the counter, have the lechon manok bowl with chicken and garlic rice, and whatever you do, save room for the buko pie, described on the menu as “coconut, coconut, coconut,” and by us as “freaking delicious.”
Azay is a half-French, half-Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo that is one of the few places to serve Japanese breakfast in the LA area. Their rendition of the meal is quite understated—nothing but a tray of broiled fish, tamago, tofu, miso soup, and a side of rice, plus a few pickles. The broiled fish comes with a flaky top and charred bottom, but completely moist meat in the middle. Bright yellow eggs taste slightly sweet and resemble the shape and size of an elementary school kid’s eraser. Plus, the portions are perfect–not too big, not too small, and you can walk away feeling full, without needing to undo a button on your pants.
photo credit: Yusei Kanda
This omakase-only spot in the Arts District is $300 per person (before tax and tip), which is a financial undertaking for just about anyone. But if you’re in the market for a splurge-y evening or celebrating a Powerball win, 715 Sushi is an exciting place to do it. For starters, the sushi is exceptional. The menu changes regularly, but you can generally expect about ten meticulously assembled pieces of nigiri and ten small plates ranging from belt fish tempura to surf clams in a creamy miso sauce. Run by a young chef from Osaka, we appreciate that an upbeat meal at 715 feels less like you’re at a stern omakase temple and more like hanging out with a group of friends who happen to have a stunning sushi bar in their apartment.