Downtown LA knows its way around lunch. Long before DTLA became one of the city’s fastest-developing areas, office workers all over the Financial District needed places to get a midday meal. And that left a ton of good places to stop in and eat lunch before sprinting back to the office as fast as possible.
Today, Downtown is home to some of the best new restaurants in Los Angeles. And most are open for lunch. So whether you’re high-rolling with the boss, or decompressing by yourself at a taco truck, this guide has you covered.
They’ve only been around since 2020, but Amboy Quality Meats has already claimed its spot as one of LA’s best burger places. Located in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza, this is a great place to sit by yourself, read a book, and get lost in the pages until your boss texts you “Uh, where are you?” Get the classic double (which comes with two smashed patties between a perfectly seeded bun) and a few orders of gloriously crispy French fries.
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Are the creations served at Angry Egret Dinette tortas? Maybe, but they’re also so much more than that. Made by the former chef and brain behind Guerilla Tacos, these Mexican sandwiches come served on a white, fluffy bun and are packed with pretty much anything your brain can think up. Deep-fried Baja shrimp? Yes. Pork shoulders rolled in a deboned pig’s foot then slathered with habanero mustard? Mhm. What about fatty duck eggs or luxurious shaved black truffles? Yes and yes! Grab a seat on their colorful outdoor patio and consider trying one of each.
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Eastside Market Italian Deli
If you’ve been re-watching The Sopranos lately, then you’ll understand why Eastside Market Italian Deli is such a big deal to us. The 85-year-old sandwich shop is one of the area’s sole places to find a good, old-fashioned red-sauce meal, plus everything on the menu hovers around the $9-12 mark. Our favorite is the #7, which comes with roast beef, pastrami, and cheese, and makes for a very hefty sandwich.
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Part Cajun deli, part full-blown market, nothing quite soothes the corporate soul quite like a lunch break at Little Jewel of New Orleans. The menu is packed with fantastic NOLA specialties, like beignets covered in a snow mound of powdered sugar, blackened shrimp salad, and a massive po’boy filled with oysters and catfish. Maybe save a little bit for later, to eat secretly in the bathroom.
A quick mindfulness exercise at lunch might be nice, but what’s even better for high stress is a beautiful tropical vacation. In other words, a trip to Holbox. Located inside Mercardo La Paloma, this Mexican food stall serves seafood that’ll make you question all the other seafood you’ve ever eaten. There are raw oysters by the dozen, scallop aguachile that comes bathed in a spicy, bright-green sauce, and crispy tostadas topped with super-fresh kanpachi and dollops of uni. The best part? You don’t even have to use any vacation hours.
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Holy Basil is making the most exciting Thai food in LA right now. Located in a Downtown food court, their menu is filled with classics like pad thai, green curry, and tom yum soup. While they’re dishes you’ve likely eaten on countless occasions, at Holy Basil, it feels like you’re eating them all for the first time ever. Get the tom yum soup, which is a whirlwind of flavors and textures including oyster mushrooms, roasted chili jam, lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal, and cilantro. And make sure to come hungry and order as much as you possibly can - there’s not a single weak spot on the menu.
Rappahannock is an ideal lunch option because eating oysters in the middle of the day while the sun is out is our preferred state of human existence. It’s located at Row DTLA (a.k.a. the warehouses where the old American Apparel factories used to be), and sitting on the big patio feels like you’re weekending in a historic town on the East Coast. The oysters are flown in fresh every day from Virginia and they taste like it, but definitely concentrate on their trout dip, lobster roll, and oyster po’boy as well.
From sweet and savory dried shrimp (otherwise known as myulchi saewoo bokkeum) to various regional styles of kimchi, Shiku’s Grand Central Market stall is a hub for creativity and experimentation. This makes sense, considering at owners Kwang Uh and Mina Park’s past restaurants (Baroo and Baroo Canteen) fermentation is woven right into their DNA. You’ll find both recognizable comfort dishes, like galbi jjim and marinated chicken, as well hard-to-find banchan, like spicy kimchi corn or japchae made with seaweed. Get a mix of both to enjoy while you work from home, where no one will judge you for eating it straight out of the container.
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E Stretto, a spot connected to Bar Clacson in DTLA, makes big, flavorful sandwiches. The “Ill Papa” is their version of Bay Cities’ “Godmother.” It comes on ciabatta with manchego, chorizo, and mortadella, and we recommend adding some calabrian chili spread. The roast beef is another great bet, pressed with pepper jack cheese, and accompanied by a fondue-like cheese dip that you’ll want to scrape every last drop of out of the jar.
The art of eating pizza by the slice at lunch isn’t as celebrated in LA as it is in other cities, but that shouldn’t stop you - especially if you work in close proximity to Pizzanista. This grungy Arts District spot serves good pies across the board, but their white pizza takes the cake for us. The slices are huge, so you only need one or two to fill up, and they have a tiny interior with a few booths if you want to sit and relax for a bit. They do a mac and cheese pizza on Sundays.
You know you’re going to be eating lunch at your desk today, so you better find something good to shove into your mouth while you finish that project. That’s where Dune comes in. Sure, the downtown space is bright and friendly enough to make for a good break from the office, but Dune has an ideal takeout situation. That includes huge portions of some of the best Mediterranean food in the city, particularly the falafel and the hummus lamb plate, that’s also kind of healthy.
You already know to stick to Grand Central Market on weekdays when the crowds don’t resemble the merch lines at a Taylor Swift concert. Still, coming here during the downtown lunch rush can scare away even the bravest of lunch warriors. But if you’re looking for something different and are willing to fend off the bussed-in tourists, head to Sari Sari Store, the casual Filipino stand from the people behind Republique. Get the lechon manok bowl that’s composed of garlicky rice with excellent roast chicken, and do not leave without trying the buko pie.
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You had one too many margaritas at your company Happy Hour last night, and now you need something to get you through the rest of the day. Head to DTLA Ramen, the casual spot serving better ramen than most other places nearby. Order the spicy miso ramen with the soy sauce egg, find a table, then let the warm broth and noodles nurse you back to health before your 1pm meeting.
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If you don’t have a whole lot of time for lunch, head to Chinatown’s Far East plaza and order some popcorn chicken and beef banmian from Lao Tao. The street food stall is fast, affordable, and cooks up some of our favorite Taiwanese food around. And despite the fact that the best dishes here are fried, meat-heavy, or both, the food is not super filling. But even if you still manage to fall asleep at your desk, you’ll probably dream about the popcorn chicken you just ate.
While daytime lines curl around the entire Far East Plaza for Howlin’ Rays, the wait is worth infuriating your boss. You’re getting the best fried chicken in town, and you’re bringing some back for the floor (and your boss).
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Sonoratown isn’t going to jump out at you from the street, nor is its Fashion District location the easiest to get to, but you should go out of your way for these tacos. The housemade tortillas actually melt in your mouth and the meat itself is fantastic. Also, it feels good to eat an excellent $2 taco.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Sushi Gen hardly needs an introduction. But it bears repeating that the best sushi deal in town is still as great as ever. Come to this Little Tokyo strip mall spot at lunch, and for $23 get the most glorious sashimi platter in the city. Just remember that get sushi this good always comes with a crowd, so you might have to wait a bit.
KazuNori Hand Roll Bar
This casual hand roll-only sushi concept has been around for a few years, but because of the Sugarfish name and its high-quality sushi, Kazu Nori is as popular as ever. Come any day of the week and you’ll find long lines of people waiting to eat the best-priced sushi Downtown. The service is quick and efficient, ensuring you’ll get back to the office in time for whatever meeting is on your calendar.
Philippe The Original
Philippe’s is a culinary and cultural icon and (arguably) home to the original French Dip sandwich. Lines are going to be massive any day of the week, but this century-old deli is a well-oiled machine that will get you in and out and on your way to French dip nirvana in no time.
You might have to cross the 10 Freeway to get to Mexicali Taco on the edge of Chinatown, but it’s a close jaunt from the FiDi, and all those stressed-out financial consultants are well aware. At lunchtime, people line up for damn delicious Baja-style Mexican food. The Vampiro taco gets all the press, but we’re partial to just about everything on the menu.