Aside from that one time Obama drove through Brentwood on his way to lunch at Canter’s in 2014, no LA neighborhood has received more attention over the last decade than the Arts District. And for good reason, 10 years ago the sprawling LA river-adjacent neighborhood was full of empty warehouses, food processing centers, and actual artists. Nowadays, it’s home to some of the city’s best restaurants, a palpable nightlife situation, and some actual art. It’s one of the most rapidly-changing neighborhoods in the city, so here’s the guide to make sure you’re eating and drinking at all the right places.
It’s no secret that most of the good restaurants in the Arts District are upscale destination spots that require long-standing reservations and heavy wallets to get in the door. Everson Royce Bar stands in direct contrast to all those spots and that’s exactly what makes it so special. The casual bar/restaurant is a true neighborhood spot with one of our favorite big group patios in LA, excellent cocktails, a never-ending wine list, and bar food that you drive across the city for. Order the burger and the biscuits.
If you don’t live near the Arts District, Bavel is a good reason for you to come - if you book a reservation in advance. Ever since this massive, vine-covered Mediterranean restaurant opened in 2018, it’s been nearly impossible to get in the door. Once you try the food, you’ll understand. Between the duck ’nduja hummus, oyster mushroom kebabs, and lamb neck shawarma, Bavel’s menu is a filled with delicious food that’s comforting yet unlike anything else you’ll find in other restaurants in town.
Bestia opened in 2012 and has been a supreme being of Los Angeles ever since. This Italian spot was one of the first sceney destinations to move into the Arts District, and now it has established itself as the seminal restaurant of the last decade. They serve fantastic pizza, perfectly-made pasta, and gigantic plates of charcuterie in a massive industrial warehouse that feels just as exciting as it did in 2012.
Being an Italian restaurant in the same neighborhood as Bestia is a tough gig, but Factory Kitchen has made it work. This traditional Italian restaurant is objectively upscale, but still feels far more accessible than its famous neighbor. Despite being in a similar industrial setting, Factory Kitchen’s space is small, laidback, and you can usually get a table day-of - so it’s a great option when you can’t get into Bestia. Also, the food is tremendous. They have our favorite plate of prosciutto in town, the pesto mandili is what we imagine angels in heaven sleep on, and you can’t leave without ordering the cannolis.
If you’re anything like us, you spent many years tracking the Guerrilla Taco truck location and deciding whether or not you have enough time to make it there on your lunch break. Those days are over now that they’ve landed in a permanent brick and mortar in the AD, and it’s even better than the truck. There are some familiar characters on the menu (sweet potato tacos, excellent seafood tostadas), but plenty of new options too (quesadillas, even more taco options, booze). It’s a quick and casual, order-at-the-counter operation, and they won’t mind if you hang out for a while until you feel ready to order a second round.
Open since 2008, Church & State is the elder statesman of the Arts District, but even as bigger and prettier spots have moved in, this casual French restaurant has remained an old standby. The dining room is bright and industrial, but still feels like a sidewalk cafe in Paris. The traditional menu is always there for you when you want French staples like steak-frites, big bowls of french onion soup, or bouillabaisse.
Ask anyone who’s spent a significant about of time in San Francisco about Tartine Manufactory and their eyes will probably turn into glowing saucers. The all-day bakery/food emporium is one of our favorite spots in SF, and now, they’ve moved into a multi-concept space inside The Row, adjacent to the Arts District. There’s a pastry window, a bar where you can have pizza and wine, a marketplace, and a full restaurant - Tartine Bianco. It’s sensory overload, but with bread this good, at least it’s the right kind of sensories. You don’t need to drive across the city to eat here, but it’s a great place to check out if you’re exploring the Row.
We love Wurstkuche because, in a neighborhood where restaurants tend to be fussy, it’s nice to have a spot you can stumble into at midnight with a bunch of friends, order your weight in sausages and french fries, and hang out in the dining hall for several hours without being bothered. Come weekends, this place definitely gets rowdy and a DJ will probably be inexplicably playing in the corner, but at the end of the day, your grapefruit IPA and rattlesnake & rabbit sausage taste too good together to care.
Just like the original location on Fairfax, PCP on the edge of the Arts District is an excellent cafe where you’ll find a big mid-week lunch crowd. The space in DTLA’s Row is big and airy, with large windows that open up onto the street so that you can spy on all the start-up employees walking around. The entirely new menu is a good mix of breakfast-y stuff like coconut oats and sweet or savory dutch babies, and lunch options like a tea leaf salad, a classic Australian sausage roll, and uni toast. Whatever time of day you’re here, make room for the breakfast sandwich with curried egg salad and house-cured ham and a flat white.
Walking into Nightshade feels like you’ve stepped into a 2019 restaurant design generator with hanging green vines, exposed pipes, and gold accents everywhere you look. But if you get past the generic space, there’s a good restaurant here. Some of our favorite dishes are the tom yum bloomin’ onion, congee with pork floss, Szechuan hot quail, and lasagna with pork ragu and tofu cream. They’re mostly the right balance of interesting and delicious. Add in great cocktails and Nightshade is a solid date night option in this restaurant-heavy area.
Located on the south end of the neighborhood, this late-night spot (open until midnight on the weekends) is cranking out big, by-the-slice pizza that always hits the spot after a long night of drinking. The margherita, soppressata, and mushroom are phenomenal, but the white pizza is always our first choice here. Looking to start your week off right? They do a mac & cheese pizza (on Sundays only).
In Sheep’s Clothing is a Japanese record bar that’s hidden inside of Lupetti’s Pizzeria. If you’re unclear what a Japanese record bar is, expect to come here and drink a lot of very good whiskey drinks and listen to vinyl records, both of which someone put a lot of thought into. The modern space kind of feels like you’re in a thermal spa, but there are a bunch of tables and big booths for you and your friends to take over. Also, there’s a black leather couch along the wall that might be the most comfortable couch we’ve ever sat in.
The Arts District has more craft breweries than any other neighborhood in the city. The only problem is that most are terrible - except Mumford. If you’re ideal Saturday means drinking excellent craft beer in a calm, casual setting where no one’s wearing stilettos or screaming about how the music “needs to be more fun!”, this tiny brewery is your spot. They have plenty of board games to occupy your time as you make your way through their daily beer menu. If you get hungry, you can order-in anything you want from the outer world.
Local dives aren’t exactly falling from the sky in this neighborhood, except for Tony’s. The hole-in-the-wall spot is housed in an old roadside saloon on the south end of the neighborhood and has great cocktails, a laidback crowd, and a spacious back patio filled with darts and a ping pong table. When you get hungry, just hop next door for a slice at Pizzanista.
If you’re the whole arcade bar thing completely exhausts you, we can relate. But EightyTwo is a place where fun can definitely still be had. With two giant rooms filled with every kind of old-school arcade game and pinball imaginable, a full bar, and a courtyard in the middle that always has a few food trucks, EightyTwo is a great spot to take a big group when no one’s in the mood to be too sedentary. Lines can get downright awful on the weekends, so be sure to get there before 10pm or prepare to wait.
Lost Spirits is a rum distillery and before you say you gave up rum in college, or have little interest in understanding how it’s made, let us stop you. Lost Spirits is not just a distillery. It’s an art installation/jungle cruise/science experiment that involves plenty of drinking. We can’t think of anything else like it. In the spirit of being as awestruck as we were, we’ll withhold specific details, but just know the $37 admission price is beyond worth it. Each tour last around 90 minutes and be sure to book tickets well in advance on their website.
Little Bear is a bar/restaurant with a 100% Belgian beer list. If your only reference point for Belgian beer is a Chimay someone passed you once at the Hollywood Bowl, know that Little Bear’s beer stock includes saisons, blondes, sours, pale ales, dark ales, and everything in between. As for the food, it’s your typical bar menu stuff, but everything is really good, particularly the short rib poutine and Belgian fries. The large industrial space is relaxed and the perfect big group spot before a night out downtown.
While you could have a full meal in Simone’s dining room, we prefer to visit the bar for pre-dinner dranks, and maybe a small plate or two. The cocktail menu reads like a de facto history book of the Arts District, with illustrations, chapters, and a timeline of significant local events printed along the top. That alone will give you and your date plenty of things to read and talk about after the small talk dries up.