Visiting LA for the first time? Obviously we have some opinions. Firstly, do not stay in Hollywood, even if your Aunt Peggy says the motel she stayed at last year was "perfectly fine." In no way could it ever be fine. Secondly, be prepared to be on very familiar terms with Uber. Thirdly, maybe don't do anything else but eat?
What you see before you isn’t meant to be a definitive list of this city’s best restaurants – it’s just what we’d do if we were in your shoes, with a weekend in front of us and a whole lot of options to sort through. Other than those two “meetings” you have on the calendar, we all know the main business at hand is to eat as much as possible in a 72-hour period.
Let this UPDATED guide lead you.
This classic and legendary Jewish deli counter either serves the best pastrami sandwich in LA, or the best pastrami sandwich in the world. Or maybe it’s both. You decide.
You already know LA sushi is a thing, but what about Thai? It's definitely a thing. And while pretty much anything you stumble into in Thai Town will be good, you should not pass up what’s happening at Night + Market. The casual joint on the Sunset Strip (there's one in Silver Lake as well) isn’t just the best Thai restaurant in the city, it’s one of the greatest overall restaurants in LA. Order some papaya salad, some chicken wings, and a tower of Chang beer with friends - your Friday night is on.
Want a snapshot of the food scene in LA? Just take a lap around Grand Central Market and you'll get the idea. The past five years have seen an influx of new vendors, but the market has managed to keep much of its original charm. On your first visit, we definitely recommend going for the carnitas tacos at Tacos Tumbras A Tomas, but most everything is good here - we would drive across town for the falafel at Madcapra or the pastrami at Wexler's. For the full breakdown, consult our Grand Central Market Guide while you’re waiting in line, and see how many places you can hit before you have to call a time out.
You know why we love Animal? Besides the fact that the food is incredible? We love it because it flies in the face of everything that Angelenos hold dear. Most meals at Animal go something like, “Oh, you had a green juice today? That’s wonderful. Here’s this pig ear salad.” Make this your number one dinner destination.
Still worried about eating that pig ear salad and what it might do for you waistline? Good. Now, here’s some pizza and pasta to go with it. The folks over at Animal opened up this modern Italian spot across the street, and it is glorious. Yes, the interior looks more like thermal spa in Reykjavik than a legit Italian restaurant, but rest assured, you're in very safe hands here. Order the meatballs and the cavatelli and the LA Woman pizza - you’re one of us now.
Yes, we are telling you to go to an Italian deli in Santa Monica for a sandwich, knowing full well that you may be reading this from New York or half Italian or both. Here’s the deal though – neither of those things make you an expert, and any self-respecting LA resident will tell you that eating a Godmother from Bay Cities is a rite of passage.
Most of the truly authentic Chinese food in Los Angeles isn’t actually in LA - it’s in the San Gabriel Valley which, unless you’re in town for a while, is way too far to travel. But Glendale is closer, and that's where you'll find some very good soup dumplings. Specifically, at Din Tai Fung. It’s become a worldwide empire, but LA was one of their first international outposts and this outlet is always worth a visit.
Disclaimer: If you are considering a visit to Sqirl on a weekend, don’t. Unless you get there at 8am, you’re going to be waiting for the entire day for a piece of toast. If you are reading this on or planning a breakfast for a Tuesday morning, proceed. Sqirl is best known for the things they do over a piece of bread, and inside a rice bowl, but the small cafe has other excellent things to start your day with as well. And on a weekday, you might actually get in.
No trip to LA is truly complete without a jaunt up PCH to Malibu. You’re here to catch a wave, track down Cher’s (completely incorrect) home address, and eat a lot of seafood. And while there are several great seafood shacks dotting the coast, your first move is always Neptune’s Net. The Malibu landmark is a PCH road trip fixture and has the lines to prove it. But its good seafood, great ocean views, and unparalleled 1950’s Americana vibes make it all worth it.
Langer’s might take the cake for best pastrami in town (and probably the world), but Canter’s isn’t too far behind. Plus, it’s open 24/7, meaning you can eat that beautiful pastrami whenever your heart desires. And by that we mean when you’re hammered drunk on a Saturday night and their pastrami reuben is your destiny. In a city that lacks quality late night food, Canter’s more than makes up for it. See you there.
Operating from the back counter of a small wine and grocery store, Larchmont Wine and Cheese has one of the smallest but mightiest sandwich menus in Los Angeles. You pick a meat, they take it from there. You want to go baguette, and you probably want to go prosciutto. Don't ask. Just obey.
Let’s face it - LA is never going to be a pizza town. But that doesn’t mean we’re completely lacking great options either. Pizzeria Mozza is an LA classic for the simple fact that it’s never tried to copy anyone else. This is razor thin, LA-style (yep, we're making that a thing) pizza with toppings that range from braised fennel and prosciutto to goat cheese and bacon. And everything else on the menu is just as affordable and delicious.
Yea, you’ve heard of In-N-Out. Maybe you’ve even been to one, in Vegas or (god forbid) Arizona. But you haven’t really had an In-N-Out burger until you’ve had one in LA. Pick any location you can find, say “double double, animal style” to anyone wearing a paper hat that will listen, and prepare for burger heaven.
The original Guisados is in Boyle Heights, but if you can't make it all the way out there on your first LA trip, head for their Echo Park location. You'll still bask in the very same chicken tinga taco goodness that made them famous in the first place.
One of LA’s all-time greatest restaurants, and one that played a significant part in the rapid development of the currently booming downtown Art’s District. Just know that a meal at Bestia is not a casual or quick occasion. Make a reservation way in advance, set aside two hours and a few hundred bucks and do it correctly.
Father’s Office in Santa Monica is home to one of the most polarizing burgers in LA. Some love the dry-aged beef, onion, and bleu cheese creation, and others hate the fact that you can’t make any substitutions to it (they won't even give you ketchup). We fall strongly on the side of “love” on this one, and even if you don’t share our beliefs, it’s an experience worth having.
There is a sign outside of Sushi Park, hanging near the door. It lists some things that you best not be expecting if you plan on eating there, including “NO Trendy Sushi, NO Takeout, and NO Spicy Tuna Roll." So what do you get? An expensive but excellent omakase that might include a few pieces of fish you’ve never seen/tasted before. Just don’t plan on documenting your experience. NO pictures are allowed either.
Fish tacos are really more of a San Diego thing, but Ricky’s are as good as you'll find in LA. Hit up this famous truck for a quick lunch, or a pre-dinner snack before having a sit-down dinner somewhere on the east side.
Joan's might always be mobbed with celebrities, people who think they are celebrities, and those who like to move their Chinese Chicken Salad around the bowl instead of actually eating it, but the real secret of Joan’s is that the food is great. That salad is a winner, but so are the sandwiches (Chicken Milanese forever), and the desserts, and the cheese, and basically everything else you can put in your mouth. We love Joan’s and we don’t care who knows it. Hit it for lunch with a side of prime people watching any day of the week.
People line up for Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo thanks to excellent sushi and a $17 lunch deal that gets you a bowl of excellent sashimi and a miso soup. But don’t be afraid to drop some dollar on the omakase. It’s worth the spend.
Home of the original French Dip sandwich. Be prepared to fight anyone you meet that tries to tell you that title belongs to Phillipe’s sort-of rival Cole’s. This is where the real magic happens, a perfect roast beef sandwich on a perfect bun, perfect for dipping into beef juice. Don’t bother ordering anything else. Hit it before you head to Dodger Stadium.
Absolutely insist on seeing a celebrity while you’re in LA? Head straight for Chateau Marmont, ask for a table in the courtyard, and be prepared for an Olsen sighting. Once you’ve checked that off your list, you’ll find that the food is way better than it needs to be, and that the big patio is the perfect place to while away an afternoon, preferably sipping rosé. Just don’t try for a photo opp with any of those stars - you’ll be asked to leave faster than the paparazzi are able to sniff out a Kardashian.
Malibu Farm is basically the place that’s going to make you hate wherever you live. Situated at the end of the Malibu Sport Fishing Pier, this little health food counter does healthy breakfast and lunch that you can eat in the sun while watching the waves crash. It does not suck.
If more traditional Korean BBQ is what you’re after, then Kang Ho-Dong Baekjong is the classic spot in LA to get it. Prepare to eat way too much food and to smell like cooked meat for the next two hours.
Dan Tana’s makes this list simply because it’s a truly classic Hollywood spot, complete with perfectly adequate Italian food, red and white checkered tablecloths, and waiters in formal attire. It’s also still good for a celebrity sighting or two, assuming you consider that guy from My Two Dads a celebrity. Paul Reiser. It’s Paul Reiser.
You’re going to want to go to Abbot Kinney, the main drag of Venice with all the shopping and restaurants and cool people. And the most important thing for you to do on Abbot Kinney is eat at Gjelina. This place is f*cking teeming with people who are sure they are the coolest people in LA, and you’ll be happy to let them think that – because you are eating an insanely tasty plate of beets and burrata and an incredible pizza. With your sunglasses on. Inside. Look what this town has done to you.
No trip to LA is complete without eating sushi, and Sugarfish is a perfect place to start. Started by the man who created the legendary Sushi Nozawa, Sugarfish now has eight locations across the city, each serving incredibly high-quality sushi that you’ll pay far below market for. As a matter of fact, at $30 for seven different pieces ($25 at lunch), this is the best deal in town, and one you have to cross off your list.