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 rich tradition 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 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.
Rappahanock is an ideal lunch option because eating oysters in the middle of the day while the sun is out is a preferred state of human existence. It’s located in the slowly-filling-up Row DTLA development (a.k.a. the old American Apparel factories), and sitting on the big patio feels like you’re weekending in a historic town on the East Coast - not milking your lunch hour downtown. 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.
A new sandwich spot connected to Bar Clacson in DTLA, E Stretto 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. E Stretto is open until 11pm daily, so if you’re drinking Downtown and want a mid-bar night snack, this is where to go.
Your boss is taking a four-day weekend which means it’s your civic duty to drink during your Thursday lunch hour. Nomad is the newest rooftop bar downtown and while it does have great views and a nice pool to stare at longingly, it also has something other rooftop bars don’t - Nomad cocktails. Their massive drink menu has a condensed section of cocktails from the downstairs bar, a bunch of new pool-only cocktails, and a frozen drinks section. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better drinks served at a pool in the city. Their food menu is small, but very good. Get the burger and fava bean hummus.
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 pizza 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.
Your terrifying CEO with penciled-in eyebrows is in town from Germany and just grunted that she wants to do lunch. Take her to 71Above. Located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Building, 71Above is the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi and it’s flat-out impressive. Their lunch menu is two courses of your choosing (things like gazpacho, steak tartare, and pappardelle) for $35, plus an optional $24 wine pairing menu.
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 deck. 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, with huge portions of some of the best Mediterranean food in the city that’s somehow kind of healthy. We like the falafel and the hummus lamb plate.
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 (garlicky rice with excellent roast chicken) and do not leave without trying the buko pie.
Inside Mignon Wine Bar is Cento, a pasta place that only serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday. Let’s just say if you’re feeling like a bowl of pasta for lunch, you should get it here. The chef changes the menu constantly, so you might find yourself eating uni spaghetti, ricotta gnocchi, or whatever he’s in the mood to make that day. Seating is limited to a small bar, where the chef cooks and chats with guests, so this is an ideal solo lunch spot. That being said, you’re going to want to order everything on the menu, so bringing a friend isn’t a bad idea.
Located in that odd part of Downtown near the courthouse, Badmaash is a great call if you need lunch while on jury duty or are looking to mix up your workday lunch routine. The space is colorful and there’s usually a movie projected on one of the walls, so you’ll be entertained even if you’re dining solo. As for the food, expect traditional Indian dishes as well and modern mash-ups too. You can get a solid masala - but we especially love the chicken tikka poutine.
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.
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 (noodle soup) 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 as filling as it sounds. But even if you still manage to fall asleep at your desk, you’ll probably dream about the popcorn chicken you just ate.
Howlin’ Ray’s is the kind of place that’s so good it makes other spots seem like they’re kidding. Fried chicken is the name of the game here, and while daytime lines curl around the entire Far East Plaza, 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). 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 the extra hike. The housemade tortillas actually melt in your mouth and the meat itself is fresh and fantastic. 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 $19.50 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.
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 complain. Also, the sumac-beet soda might sound like a nightmare, but after one sip, you’ll buy another one for the walk back to the office.
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 the sidewalk patio, and head back to the office with your head held high.
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 in downtown. The service is quick and efficient, ensuring you’ll get back to the office in time for that 1pm meeting. The 16-piece set menu for $14.50 is your obvious move.
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 old-school 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 lunch time, people line up for dirt cheap and damn delicious baja-style Mexican food. The Vampiro Taco gets all the press, but we’re partial to just about everything on the menu.
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.