The Downtown LA Lunch Guide
The DTLA lunch scene is strong. Here’s how to navigate it.
As much as we like to picture ourselves hanging out on some quaint streetside patio leisurely enjoying a latté and a sandwich, lunch in Downtown LA is more often than not a matter of necessity: you work one of those tall buildings, you just got assigned jury duty, or you're looking for a bite after getting lost in that weird City Target on Figueroa. The good news is that DTLA has enough great lunch options for any occasion—you just need to know where to look. This guide has you covered.
photo credit: Afuri Ramen
If you're feeling ramen for lunch but don't want rich tonkotsu broth to lull you to sleep at 2pm, head to Afuri in the Arts District. Everything about a meal here feels light and refreshing, from the big windows pouring tons of natural light into the industrial space to the yuzu-infused shio ramen with lemony notes cutting through salty chicken stock. The thin noodles are springy, the chashu melts away, and the entire bowl is light enough to leave room for their great small plates, like gingery gyoza fused in a crispy dumpling skirt and donburi bowls topped with spicy kaarage.
photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Lunch at Pizzeria Bianco feels like a hack. Located inside the Row DTLA, this popular pizzeria is notoriously a tough reservation to snag, but getting your hands on Bianco's pies is much easier at their lunchtime walk-up window, which serves NY-ish-style pizza by the slice. These aren't the same Neapolitan-style whole pies that do at dinner, but the chewy, 18-hour-fermented crust is the same, and they come topped with things like big slices of Calabrese salami, salty spinach-cream sauce, or Bianco's tart marinara. And if you're in the mood for a sandwich, they also offer Italian cold-cut sandwiches on warm housemade bread.
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photo credit: Jessie Clapp
Pine & Crane DTLA
Pine & Crane's DTLA location is the rare casual spot that makes you want to stick around for a long sit-down meal. Not only does this breezy open-air space have one of our favorite patios in LA, but it also serves a wide range of cozy Taiwanese dishes, most of which cost less than $15 and arrive in a matter of minutes. We especially love the steaming bowls of wonton noodle soup with chewy housemade noodles, beef rolls with salty-sweet hoisin sauce, and doughy pan-fried pork buns. You could hypothetically be in and out of Pine & Crane within the hour, but we suggest lazy lunches with ambiguous end times to fully enjoy the great all-day menu and refreshing cocktails.
Fixins Soul Kitchen
LA Live is less chaotic during the daytime, but good food options here are still far and few in between (unless you're into overpriced bar burgers). Consider Fixins Soul Kitchen to be a major exception. Located next door to The Novo theater, this Southern spot serves some of the best soul food in LA, with comforting dishes like shrimp and grits, black-eyed peas, and pork chops smothered in gravy and pickled onions. And although this spacious corner restaurant has the look of a big, loud sports bar, there's a secluded side patio for anyone needing peace and quiet.
Vegan Hooligans DTLA
This tiny takeout window will remind you of the fast food joint you likely grew up on, except no cows were harmed in the making your lunchtime burger. Located inside a Downtood food court, Vegan Hooligans does vegan remakes of fast food classics that rival their originals, like a stacked bacon cheeseburger with beyond patties and chipotle mayo, and a "crunchwrap" stuffed with ground soyrizo and "not-cho" cheese. Drop by the next time you need a fantastic plant-based lunch.
photo credit: Garrett Snyder
Full disclosure: you won't casually stumble upon this Arts District taco window because it's concealed by a parking lot, foreboding gates, and dusty industrial lots. But when you do find Ditroit, you'll get a quick, standout lunch full of super elevated (albeit pricey) taqueria staples. There's crispy "daily catch" fish flautas, cochinita pibil tacos that ooze with citrusy juice, and a palo santo-cucumber-yuzu agua fresca that you'd want to sip poolside. A lunch of all these delicious things will run you close to $30, but oof, it's good.
photo credit: Taylor Bescoby
Gumbo Boys is a walk-up window that serves every Cajun-Creole comfort food you can think of. And while their forearm-sized po'boys come bursting with fried shrimp and soft shell crab should be your first order, it's nearly impossible not to tack on more delicious fried things to your order: baskets of hush puppies, okra, and pillowy beignets capped in mounds of powdered sugar. If you've got room, make sure to get a side order of their andouille sausage gumbo—it's smoky, full of snappy sausage, and a lot spicier than you might think.
There's usually a line outside Little Tokyo udon specialist Marugame Monzo during the lunch rush, but once you try their thick, bouncy housemade noodles, you'll understand why. The famous dish here is the uni cream udon, made with just enough sea urchin to give it an ocean-y punch, but you can't go wrong with any of the cream-based udon (the miso carbonara one taste like a warm hug) or the cold udon with shiso and ume. Fill out your lunch with a side of tempura as you watch the kitchen cut and roll every massive noodle by hand behind the counter.
Located in the same Fashion District food court as Vegan Hooligans, this Thai takeout counter is a solid option for a quick to-go curry. The menu is full of classics you've probably had before, like pad kee mao, gra pow curry, and panang curry, but Holy Basil prepares them with bright and bold flavors that make these staples taste like you're eating them for the first time. If you're looking for a good place to start, get the tom yum soup, which is a whirlwind of flavor and texture set off with roasted chili jam, lemongrass, and galangal.
Rappahannock Oyster Bar
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 weekend-ing 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.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Shiku in Grand Central Market is a Korean spot from the couple behind Baroo that serves a good mix of recognizable comfort dishes, like kimchi pork belly and doenjang-marinated chicken, and creative banchan, like spicy kimchi corn or japchae made with seaweed. The best way to try a little of everything is to order their dosirak (rice boxes) that come with sides of that day's banchan, but don't overlook the Korean fried chicken or crispy mandu—you might need that extra snack when you get called in for jury duty downtown.
Danny Boy’s Famous Original
Danny Boy’s is a New York-style pizza spot on the ground floor of a giant Downtown skyscraper filled with busy-looking people in suits. If you don’t work in the building, parking can be brutal—there’s valet but it costs $15 even if you’re there for pick-up. If that doesn’t phase you, you’ll be treated to some respectable New York-style slices. Our favorite is the meatball with creamy ricotta—complemented by a thin, foldable crust. They also have gluten-free options, as well as a salad and hero sandwich menu sections as well. This isn’t a pizza place to plan a special trip around, but if you’re walking near the Financial District and in need of a quick lunch, Danny Boy’s is a good option.
If you know you'll be eating lunch at your desk today, you better find something good to shove into your mouth while you sweat that deadline. That's where Dune comes in. The tiny Mediterranean cafe in the Fashion District offers a few tables to eat some of LA's best falafel curbside, but it also has a well-oiled takeout operation. Everything from the enormous falafel sandwiches to the hummus plates with tender lamb, flatbread, and marinated cabbage are excellent, but our go-to is the chermoula-drenched fried chicken shawarma sandwich. It's one of our favorites, even if some would quibble if it's a wrap rather than a sandwich.
Sari Sari Store LA
Yes, the crowds at Grand Central Market can resemble the merch lines at a Taylor Swift concert. But Sari Sari Store makes every claustrophobic second feel worth it. This casual Filipino stand from the Republique team specializes in garlic rice bowls topped with fried eggs, pickled vegetables, and various charred meats, from crispy pork belly to minced pig's head and fall-off-the-bone tender pork ribs that get slathered in a sweet-tangy BBQ sauce. These hearty bowls are the perfect size for one, but whatever you do, save room for a slice of the decadent buko pie.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Broken Mouth is located in the middle of the chaotic Fashion District, but it’s the kind of calm, high-quality lunch spot this part of downtown could use more of. You’re coming here for fantastic Hawaiian and Filipino food: the garlic shrimp plate is simple, buttery goodness, the teri chicken sandwich is huge and juicy, and the bread pudding is worth saving room for. Plus, everything falls at or below the $15 mark, so you won’t even feel guilty when you tack on a Spam musubi. Broken Mouth offers full sit-down service, but the place is quite small, so full team lunch outing this isn't—use it for takeout or a solo meal.
The parking situation near Sonoratown isn't great, but walking a few extra blocks for the legendary housemade flour tortillas is worth it. These buttery tortillas melt in your mouth, and the smoky carne asada tucked inside these tacos is tender with the right saltiness. The standard asada tacos always hit the spot, but our move is the caramelo, which is about double the size and comes topped with pinto beans, jack cheese, salsa roja, avocado, and diced cabbage.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Bargain-hunting for great lunchtime sushi is not for the faint of heart (or hangry). We'll make it easier for you: go to Sushi Gen. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything about this Little Tokyo institution you'll dislike, but if you go for lunch and don't get the $23 sashimi platter, you're doing it wrong. Just get there early—lines from well before opening.
photo credit: 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, KazuNori 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.