Downtown LA knows its way around lunch. Long before DTLA became the city’s trendiest neighborhood, office workers all over the Financial District needed places to get a midday meal. And that left a rich tradition of good places to stop in and eat lunch before sprinting back to the office as fast as possible.
Today, DTLA also has some of the best new restaurants in Los Angeles. And smartly, 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.
You know you’re going to be eating lunch at your desk today, so you at least want to shove something good into your mouth while you finish up that deck. That’s where Dune comes in. This tiny cafe serves some of the best Mediterranean food in the city, and while the bright space makes for a nice break from the office, the food also works well in takeout form. Everything comes in huge portions, but somehow still feels kind of healthy. Get the falafel or the hummus lamb plate.
You already know to stick to Grand Central Market on a weekday, when the crowds don’t resemble the line for merch at a Taylor Swift concert. Still, coming here during the downtown lunch rush can be overwhelming, so you might be tempted to hit up your usual spots. But if you’re looking for something different, head to Sari Sari Store, the new Filipino stand by the people behind Republique. Get the lechon manok bowl, which is garlicky rice with their excellent roast chicken, and do not leave without the buko pie.
The Mighty is a new all-day spot from the people behind Sycamore Kitchen and Odys + Penelope. Like Sycamore Kitchen, The Mighty has lots of salads and sandwiches, and also some pasta dishes thrown into the mix. The setup is great for lunch - you order at the counter and then get full table service, and dishes come out fast. Order the fennel sausage sandwich.
Chinatown’s Far East plaza is a never-ending list of great lunch spots. One of our favorites on that list is Lasa, a Filipino restaurant that serves traditional dishes in a friendly, casual setting. Come here for a lunch with coworkers that’s way more fun than the sandwich place next to your office where the turkey is always suspiciously warm. Order the drunken noodles from the window outside, then find a seat in the colorful dining room.
You might imagine that a restaurant in a contemporary art gallery would be aggressively modern and/or overpriced, and probably involve syringes filled with vegetable foam. Not Manuela. This modern Southern restaurant in the Hauser and Wirth gallery doesn’t have any of the pretension you might expect, but it does have a charming courtyard. It’s a great choice for a work lunch if your team is celebrating something. And if you don’t have meetings you need to be awake for in the afternoon, you should order the pulled pork sandwich.
Located in that odd part of Downtown that’s mostly court buildings, Badmaash is a great call if you need lunch while on jury duty. But it’s also worth going out of your way for if you’re looking to mix up your workday lunch routine. The space is colorful and there’s usually a movie being projected on one of the walls, so even if you’re alone you’ll be entertained. As for the food, expect traditional Indian dishes as well as modern Indian/American fusion. You can get a solid masala - but we especially love the chicken tikka poutine. Which is exactly what it sounds like.
You had one too many margaritas at your company happy hour last night, and you need something to get you through the rest of the day. Head to DTLA Ramen, the casual spot serving some of the better ramen around. Order the spicy miso ramen with the soy sauce egg, find a table, then let the warm broth and noodles slowly nurse you back to health before your 1pm meeting.
When you start looking up prices for those UV light therapy machines, it might be time to start getting more sunlight during the week. Grab some friends and sit down for a long lunch on the patio at So Long, Hi, a new Thai place that already fits right in with the city’s best. Order the khao soi and the Crying Tiger (rare steak with a spicy dipping sauce) and get your vitamin D intake while you play some Connect-4.
Cento Pasta Bar128 E 6th St
Inside Mignon Wine Bar is Cento, a pasta place that only serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday. The chef changes the menu constantly, so you might find yourself eating uni spaghetti, or ricotta gnocchi, or whatever he wants to make that day. Seating is limited to a small bar, with the chef in the middle cooking and chatting with guests, so this is an ideal solo lunch spot. Although maybe bring a friend, because you’re going to want to order everything on the menu.
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 ban mian (a noodle soup) from Lao Tao. The street food stall is fast, affordable, and some of our favorite Taiwanese food around. And despite the fact that the best dishes here are fried, or meat-heavy, or both, it’s not as filling as it sounds, so you’re not going to be falling asleep at your desk. And if you did, you’d probably dream about the popcorn chicken you just ate.
Howlin’ Rays is the kind of place that’s so good it makes other spots seem like they’re playing for pride. So what’s the deal here? Fried chicken. Very, very hot fried chicken. And while daytime lines at its Chinatown location aren’t always conducive to shortened lunch hours, tell your boss to chill out. You’re getting the best fried chicken in town, and you’re bringing some back for the floor. Everybody wins.
Sonoratown isn’t going to jump out at you from the street, nor is its Fashion District location the easiest to get to, but these tacos are worth it. The housemade tortillas actually melt in your mouth, making just about everything on this concise menu worth ordering. Also, it feels good to eat an excellent $2 taco.
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 a mere $17 get the sashimi platter of your dreams. Just show up early or you might be waiting - sushi this good always comes with a crowd.
It’s not every day you crave falafel after getting reamed out by your boss, but when you do, make sure to head to Madcapra inside Grand Central Market. Is it the most authentic falafel in town? Probably not. But when you watch them hand roll your green falafel inside a housemade pita and top it with cauliflower and pickled fennel, you’re not going to be complaining. Also, the sumac-beet soda might sound like a nightmare, but you’re going to order it.
B.S. Taqueria has a lot of things going for it – unbelievable Mexican food, strong cocktails, and a fun atmosphere. Order a couple of chorizo and papas tacos at the counter, then find a seat and soak in the happy, colorful space before you have to head back to your gray cubicle.
This Historic Core standby is famous for its signature flatbread sandwich (the “bäco”) and vegetables that have no business tasting as good as they do. Guess what? These things work even better during the daytime. Swing by Bäco Mercat on your lunch hour, scarf down a Toron Bäco out on their sidewalk patio, and head back to the office with your head held high.
Rice Bar has become a mainstay in the DTLA lunch scene thanks to its get-in-and-get-out setup. This Filipino comfort food joint is only open till 5pm, has about seven seats, and is the ideal place to eat when you have zero time to do so. Text in your pick-up order and skip the hefty lines when you get there.
The Sugarfish team went and dropped an all-out blockbuster in the Historic Core with this casual, hand roll-only sushi concept. The Sugarfish name alone will bring in the crowds, but with top-rate, affordable sushi ideal for an on-the-go situation, KazuNori has positioned itself as a lunchtime staple. The 16-piece set menu for $14 is your order.
You come to Bar Ama for some of the best Tex-Mex in the city. You stay for the casual, cantina vibe, moderately-priced menu, and queso so good you’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it.
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 107-year-old deli is a well-oiled machine that will get you in and out and on your way to old-school French dip nirvana in no time.
Mexicali Taco might be across the 10 Freeway in Chinatown, but it’s a deceptively close trip from the Financial District, and all those stressed-out financial consultants are well aware. Lunchtime is crowded here, but those people are waiting for dirt cheap and damn delicious Baja-style Mexican food. The Vampiro Taco gets all the attention, but you really can’t go wrong with anything here.
LA has a pretty incredible Jewish deli scene, and Wexler’s is one of its stars. It may have two other locations in the city now, but its original in Grand Central Market is the ideal to-go lunch when you want meat and bread done right. While everything here is good, we always get the Reuben.
Faith and Flower isn’t your everyday grab-and-go lunch spot. However, if you want to sugar up the boss before your yearly performance review, this is your place to do it. The food at Faith and Flower is strong, and despite what you might assume about the prices, everything on the lunch menu is under $20.
This is what you call an underrated restaurant. Wood Spoon is one of those classic spots that lives blissfully in the shadows, cranking out great food on a daily basis while flying under the radar. This place serves delicious Brazilian food in a comfortable, homey space perfect for anything from a quick solo meal to a lunch meeting. The pot pie and pork burger are the standouts here.
Roy Choi’s Chinatown outpost is a lunchtime staple - and one of the best meals under $10 in DTLA. Inside Far East Plaza, Chego serves the kind of rice bowls you can eat while walking back to work. The Chubby Belly Bowl is what you’re ordering but if you have time to sit and eat, the Ooey Gooey Fries are guaranteed to improve your outlook on life.
Yet another GCM entry on this list is a butcher shop from San Francisco. Belcampo Meat Co.’s California takeover is well underway, and its slick stall inside Grand Central Market might be the most useful location of the franchise yet. Stop in on your lunch hour, order the fantastic burger off their short-and-sweet daytime menu, and be on your way.
Good tacos are pretty easy to find in Los Angeles. Truly great ones take a bit more work, so we’ve done it for you: Guerrilla Tacos. This food truck parked outside a coffee shop in the Arts District serves some incredible tacos, as well as seafood crudos made with everything from oysters to sea urchin. Lines do get long during the day, but this food is well worth the wait.