The Best Restaurants In Downtown LA
photo credit: Stan Lee
Since its latest boom in the 2010s, Downtown has remained one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the city to grab a meal—a melting pot of newcomers, neighborhood staples, and 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
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 costs 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.
photo credit: Nikko Duren
Meals at Kinjiro come with a side of overwhelming peacefulness. The intimate dining room probably helps, and so does the reservation-only policy. This quiet izakaya in Little Tokyo offers just two nightly seatings via email request, so every table is filled with people who planned weeks ahead to eat here. Book a spot to see spoons scooping uni risotto in slow-mo, steaming agedashi tofu ladled into ceramic bowls, and thick slices of beef tongue disappearing like Houdini. Half of the room will greet the head chef as a friend and order at least one dish from every section of the menu. Follow their lead with a good mix of sushi, sake, and small plates like grilled onigiri and oysters in ponzu.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
The original Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix makes some of our favorite pizzas anywhere in the country, and the restaurant's DTLA location follows suit. Despite the hype surrounding this place, the restaurant manages to still feel like a relaxed supper club serving wine and very good pizza. The 18-hour fermented dough works as a yeasty, chewy vehicle for Bianco’s tart marinara. Their best pie is the Rosa, with salty parmesan, rosemary, crushed pistachios, and sliced red onions that almost caramelize in the hot oven. And if you're looking for a great lunchtime option, head around the corner to their daytime-only spin-off Pane Bianco and eat the “green slice” with a salty spinach-cream sauce.
Although Damian has a few famous siblings (the chef also runs Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in NYC), this upscale Mexican restaurant is 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 down 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 something over rockfish ceviche.
photo credit: Suehiro Cafe
After more than 50 years in Little Tokyo, Suehiro Cafe relocated to this larger location on Main Street in DTLA. Much like a classic diner, the menu is long. You might even get a little overwhelmed flipping through pages of sushi rolls, donburi, ramen, and cold soba. But when in doubt, get the okonomi plate. It's a choose-your-own-adventure with this three-item combo tray, but we always order the broiled mackerel, crispy gyozas, and cold tofu. Since they close at midnight on weekends, keep Suehiro in mind for a sit-down Japanese meal after bar-hopping near downtown.
When it comes to Downtown tacos, the field is competitive. But Sonoratown has managed to take a tiny space on Los Angeles St. and turn it into an institution. Their house-made flour tortillas melt in your mouth, and their charred grilled steak is smoky, sweet, and the exact right level of salty. You can certainly order their regular tacos and be happy, but our move is to stick with the caramelo, which is about double the size and comes topped with salsa roja, avocado, and cabbage.
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 cuts of premium fish, this $23 plate is one of the best deals in the city. It's so popular you have to sit in a specific area of the restaurant to get it.
photo credit: Wonho Lee
Downtown has no lack of flashy, high-end restaurants jostling to get you to spend a lot of money in one sitting. Baroo is the most exciting one of the bunch. This Korean restaurant first opened in 2015 as a fermentation-focused lunch counter in East Hollywood. Now, they're cooking out of a polished, industrial space in the Arts District that's very Baroo All Grown Up. The only option at dinner is an eight-course tasting menu for $110, designed to be paired with their interesting list of wines and Korean spirits. We do miss the hearty bowls and kimchi toasts of past menus, but dishes at new Baroo—like red-yeast rice squares topped with 'nduja and pichuberry, fried fermented soft-shell crab, and chamoe panna cotta—are just as special as anything at the original.
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. On weekend evenings, you'll also find street-food-esque seafood served with natural wine and sake in their outdoor dining area.
photo credit: Sushi Takeda
If you're looking for a fancy dinner that won't completely blow out your bank account, try this very good sushi spot located on Weller Court's third floor. The omakase costs $280 per person, but they also offer a $140 sushi-only option and a lunch omakase for $110. Expect the sushi chef to shape and plop pieces of seabream, saba, and otoro onto the stone in front of you with the rhythm of a metronome. You'll eat pristine cuts of fish, as well as signature dishes like the iwashi maki, or soy paper-wrapped sardines rolls, and bowls topped with ikura and uni.
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 works well for a casual pre-show dinner.
The Best Restaurants & Bars In The Arts District
photo credit: Jakob Layman
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 mansion in Havana, making it seem like you’re a thousand miles away. As far as the food, expect well-made Latin dishes that are perfect for sharing. Be sure to get the whipped beans, crispy pork shank, and the banana sundae for dessert.
photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto
Stepping onto the rooftop patio of this Arts District Mexican spot is not unlike ascending into an ethereal garden. You’ll find secret-looking booths in lush alcoves, 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 that essentially functions as a build-your-own taco station filled with NY strip steak, charred tomatoes, nopales, and blue jean-colored corn tortillas.
Everson Royce Bar makes doing everything right look easy. The small interior of this Arts District spot is dark and intimate (ideal for 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's 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: Peking Tavern
This Little Tokyo bar is on the ground floor of an apartment complex, which isn’t the sexiest setting for post-work drinks. But, it is one of the best options in the neighborhood for when you want a great cocktail and delicious snacks under the same roof. The drinks feature Chinese ingredients in clever ways, like a chrysanthemum-infused martini that glows the color of jade and a smooth, tart hibiscus punch with baijiu. Pair those with the chili-dusted popcorn chicken and crispy scallion beef rolls, and consider your night sorted.
This Arts District pioneer opened in 2012 (practically a lifetime ago in this part of town) and it still gets just as busy as it did 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 odds are you'll still be at your table for a couple of fun hours, eating delicious Italian food 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 who run 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, fresh 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.
The Best Restaurants In Little Tokyo
photo credit: Jakob Layman
This Filipino rice bowl spot towards the Hill St. side of the market hails from the Republique people, and it’s the kind of place that'll get 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’ll be 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, order 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 in Little Tokyo serves one of the few Japanese breakfasts in the LA area. It'll arrive with 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 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.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
This omakase-only spot in the Arts District will cost you $350 per person (before tax and tip), which is a financial undertaking for just about anyone. But if you’re in the market for a splurgy evening (or celebrating a Powerball win), 715 Sushi is an exciting place to do it. For starters, the sushi is exceptional. 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.