We might have a subway to Santa Monica now, and Justin Bieber’s neighbors might’ve finally got him evicted from Calabasas, but LA’s true success story is most certainly the rebirth of downtown. Not even ten years ago, Downtown was that place you went to only for a Lakers game and ran to your car immediately afterwards. Now, it’s one of the coolest areas in the whole city. From the Arts District to Little Tokyo to the Historic Core, there are fantastic restaurants absolutely covering DTLA. Here are the 17 best.
If you only have one night in LA and ask us where to eat, chances are we’re going to tell you Bestia. The Arts District pioneer may have been open since 2012 (practically a lifetime in this part of town), but it’s just as busy as it was on day one. The Italian food is simple but fantastic - and the pastas are as good as it gets in this town. Meals here aren’t an in and out affair - odds are you’ll be at your table for a couple of hours, losing your mind as each dish hits the table. If we could subsist solely on the chicken liver pate toast, we would. Unfortunately, our cardiologist says otherwise.
There’s more top-notch Mexican food in this city than frankly anyone knows to do with. But one trip to Broken Spanish will confirm - it doesn’t get much better than this. The cool, upscale spot a block from Staples is certainly not where you get rowdy on some margs and wet burritos. You’re going to order diver scallop crudo and lamb neck tamale and chicharron and order lots and lots of really good wine. There are restaurants where throwing down feels good, and Broken Spanish is straight-up euphoric.
In the span of just five years, Grand Central Market has become an essential LA food experience. There are plenty of tourists who’ve figured this out, but don’t let that stop you - GCM is always worth your time. There’s a mix of old-school tenants who’ve been there for years (China Cafe and their wonton soup, carnitas at Tacos Tumbras A Tomas), the new kids on the block (the best falafel in town at Madcapra, vegan ramen at Ramenhood), and just plain deliciousness (Sticky Rice’s penang curry, everything at Eggslut). Do not enter in any state other than ravenous.
When we were all too busy losing our minds over Broken Spanish, the same exact people opened up a casual taqueria version down the street, and it’s every bit as good as its big sister. This order-at-the-counter cantina is one of the best quick lunches in the city. And even as it goes full service at night, the relaxed vibes remain the same. Yes, their clams and lardo tacos are $14, but the good news is they’re worth every penny. The even better news? So is everything else.
Welcome to one of LA’s great sushi institutions. This Little Tokyo strip-mall joint has lines down the block everyday before it even opens, and everybody’s generally waiting for one thing - the sashimi platter. With soup, salad, and over nine massive cuts of premium fish, this $17 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.
The fried chicken onslaught in this city has officially reached manic levels, so let’s just make things easy on everybody - go right to Howlin’ Ray’s in Chinatown because it’s the best in the city. Are the hours a little weird? Yes. Will there be a long line? Guaranteed. But once you take your first bite of that Nashville hot (and we mean REALLY hot) chicken, it’ll all make sense. Just make sure you refill your water for the ride home.
Like that annoyingly perfect girl in high school you were very jealous of, Redbird is the whole package. Located in a totally remodeled old church, the restaurant is both huge and gorgeous, especially that cathedral-ceiling main dining room. But Redbird doesn’t rely only her looks - the food here is consistently good and often great. The menu is large but everything is designed for sharing, so make sure you bring a bunch of friends and go to town.
Bäco Mercat would deserve a place on this list just for being the first in what we assume is Josef Centeno’s master plan to take over this particular corner of DTLA. The guy has three entries on this list, and that’s not even all the spots he owns on the one street. But Bäco is a great restaurant on its own, serving up small plates and their signature taco-sandwich hybrid, the bäco. Just as good for a weekday lunch as it is for a Saturday dinner date, Bäco has become our downtown old reliable.
The serious and sexy older sister of the Centano restaurant family, Orsa & Winston has fast become a DTLA must-hit. The six-course tasting menu is the thing here, but it avoids the stuffy formality that normally comes to mind when you think of set menus. The dining room is pretty minimal, but somehow warm and inviting, making the whole experience feel like the best dinner party you’ve ever been to.
Rice Bar is a place you could walk past a thousand times and never once think to go in - but that would be a massive mistake. This dime-sized, order-at-the-register joint in the heart of downtown is serving the kind of Filipino comfort food you never knew you needed so badly. Think rice bowls topped with sweet and spicy sausage, pickled vegetables, and fried eggs. It’s affordable, fast, and everything your midweek lunch hour could want.
Sometimes you know a game changer when you see one, and 71Above is just that. LA is certainly no stranger to opulent restaurants, but this place takes it to a completely different level. For one, it encompasses the entirety of the 71st floor of the US Bank building, giving people a view most of us only get while flying out of LAX. But more importantly, the food is every bit as excellent. If you’re looking to go big in this city, 71Above is the new standard-bearer.
In a part of town that loves eating their pasta in converted factories, The Factory Kitchen is still one of our favorites. The place itself was among the first to open in the Arts District, and remains a slightly more casual option than some of the other bigger production operations in the neighborhood (read: Bestia). Come in for a quick drink with coworkers after a long day, or go all out for sexy date night. Just make sure you get some prosciutto - it might be the best in LA.
Philippe’s is one of those rare tourist traps that’s actually worth every second. Known most famously as (maybe) the originator of the French dip sandwich, this 110-year-old Chinatown deli is a straight-up LA institution, and a must-stop for anybody making their way around downtown. The double-dip beef sandwich is the obvious move, but don’t forget to grab some macaroni salad either. Just go easy with the at-table mustard - its horseradish levels aren’t for the faint of heart.
Bar Àma is definitely one of those places you heard a lot more about a few years ago, but we’re here to tell you - it remains one of downtown’s best. Located in a part of town only getting more and more upscale, Bar Àma is the fun, casual spot the area desperately needs. Oh, and it’s still serving some of the best Tex-Mex food in town. You really can’t go wrong, but if you don’t order the queso and (off-menu) puffy tacos, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Back when opening a restaurant in DTLA was considered gutsy (2006), a tiny Brazilian-tinged spot opened up on 9th, and gave the neighborhood the reliable, go-to spot they never had. Fast forward 10 years (and a lot of gentrification later), Wood Spoon is still one of the area’s best. With a casual, romantic vibe, sneaky good sangria, and an affordable menu, Wood Spoon is the under-the-radar date night spot of your dreams. Get the pot pie.
One of the newer players in the blood sport that is Los Angeles sushi, Q is more than up to the challenge. This omakase-only spot flies in the bulk of their fish from Japan, and the restaurant feels like it might have been imported in one piece as well. It’s definitely pricey, but the fish varieties aren’t what you normally see, and the attention to detail is second to none. When you’ve got the money to splurge, Q is a stellar way to do it.