Downtown LA knows its way around lunch. Long before the area’s revitalization hit full throttle, office workers in the Financial District had been bringing massive lunch traffic every day to what was otherwise a completely desolate part of town. And that’s 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, downtown has every single one of your lunch needs covered. Here’s the updated guide on how to navigate it.
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.
There’s no shortage of great tacos downtown, but we’ll never say no to another one. Sonoratown isn’t going to jump out at you from the street, nor is its Fashion District location the easiest to get to, but hot damn are those tacos worth it. The housemade tortillas actually melt in your mouth, making just about everything on this concise menu worth ordering. Also, it just 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 a bit - sushi this good always comes with a crowd.
It’s not everyday you crave falafel after getting reemed 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. Though it pains us to dish out $14 for a taco, their clam and lardo one is unlike anything else. Get on it.
This Historic Core gem is famous for its signature flatbread sandwich (the “bäco”) and veggies 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 office with your head held high.
Rice Bar might be one of the newer entries on this list, but it’s safe to say it 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 just went and dropped an all-out blockbuster in the Historic Core with this casual, handroll-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 already positioned itself as a lunchtime staple. The 16-piece set menu for $14 is your obvious move.
LA Chapter serves as the all-day cafe for the so-hip-it-hurts Ace Hotel. Weekends get busy around these parts, but during the week the space remains largely quiet and a fun spot to grab lunch with a cooler-than-you coworker. They also serve breakfast all day which means you can order those ricotta pancakes anytime.
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. And that should be music to your lunch crew’s ears.
No introduction needed here. 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 FiDi, and all those stressed-out financial consultants are well aware. Lunchtime proves to be a crowded one at Mexicali, but those people are waiting for dirt cheap and d*mn delicious baja-style Mexican food. The Vampiro Taco gets all the press but we’re partial to just about everything on the menu.
LA’s incredible Jewish deli scene just got a bit more crowded at the top. Located inside Grand Central Market, Wexler’s Deli hasn’t been open for long, but it’s already soaring up the ranks as one of the finest delicatessens in the entire city. Everything at Wexler’s is good, but our move is always the reuben. Dine solo or grab a crew because at GCM, everyone walks away happy.
Faith and Flower isn’t your 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 remains excellent and despite what you might think, everything on the lunch menu is under $20.
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 is what you call an underrated restaurant. Wood Spoon serves delicious Brazilian food (that won’t put you in a food coma) in a comfortable, rustic 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 perhaps the best meal under $10 in DTLA. Inside the suddenly-happening Far East Plaza, Chego serves rice bowls of the kind you can eat/walk with back to work. The Chubby Belly Bowl is the must-order at Chego, but if you have time to sit and eat, the Ooey Gooey Fries will make the workday routine way less painful.
POWER LUNCH ALERT. Drago Centro is a downtown landmark and one of the finer dining institutions in the city. Needless to say, this isn’t your everyday sandwich counter. Drago is where CEOs go to make deals with Chinese businessmen and eat really good Italian food as they do it. The space is downright beautiful, and the whole operation just feels important. If you’re looking to make a lunch statement, Drago is where you go to do it.
The other GCM entry on this list is a cult-favorite butcher shop from San Francisco. Belcampo Meat Co.’s California takeover is well underway, and its slick new 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. Go now. This food truck parked outside a coffee shop in the Arts District serves up some incredible modern tacos, as well as seafood crudos made with everything from oysters to sea urchin. Lines do get long during the day, but these tacos are well worth the wait.
Admittedly, its Arts District locale isn’t the easiest to get to, but if you have some extra time to kill or are hanging around the warehouse yoga circuit one afternoon, Zinc is your perfect midday oasis. Its interior park-like courtyard is the perfect place to kick back with your iced coffee and think about how much people pay to live down here.