Whether you’re meeting a friend, hanging out with coworkers, or simply looking to decompress alone on a patio, having lunch outside is essential to making it through the week. And thanks to LA’s expanded al fresco dining situation, you finally aren’t limited to that one mediocre salad place on your block. From a Southern cafe in Mid-City to a bibimbap specialist in Koreatown, here are 15 great places to have lunch outside in LA right now.
My Two Cents
My Two Cents is a fantastic Southern cafe with a casual sidewalk patio in Mid-City and an all-day menu filled with everything from a turkey meatloaf sandwich to black-eyed pea hummus to our favorite shrimp and grits in town. Their version comes with buttery shrimp sitting in a bath of Creole beurre monté, all over creamy corn parmesan grits. Wash it down with some of their iced tea, and top the meal off with whichever of their baked goods has just come out of the oven. Many items on their menu are also gluten-free, including the shrimp and grits.
This new, counter-service Australian cafe in West Hollywood is hidden behind Rag & Bone on Melrose. Once you find it, you’ll stumble onto a quiet patio ideal for catching up with a friend, getting some work done, or sitting alone and processing what your boss said to you this morning. The menu covers a lot of ground, but whether you’re in the mood for a Mediterranean chop salad, sprinkle-topped fairy bread, or avocado toast topped with fava beans and cornichons, everything tastes good and will make you at least temporarily forget about the “feedback” you received on “why you’re late every morning, but still carrying an iced coffee.”
This breakfast and lunch spot in Culver City seems like it was beamed here from outer space, with a minimalist interior and a menu projected onto the wall. The food is like nothing else you’ll find in LA, but despite the interesting flavor combinations and presentations like raw oatmeal topped with a vanilla disk, they never forget the main requirement for good food - it tastes excellent. Grab a couple coworkers you actually like, order a bunch of stuff to share (including the incredible beef tartare, sourdough sunchoke waffle, and aforementioned raw oatmeal), and get back to your day much later than you meant to.
This tremendous Thai spot in East Hollywood has a small tented patio in their front parking lot ideal for those quick solo lunches when you just want to eat your food in silence. Our order usually involves their sweet and savory khao soi, jackfruit salad, and spicy sai oua that you’ll be texting your friends about before you even pay the bill.
Located on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, this tiny shop does both hot and cold appetizers (the spicy shrimp wontons are a standout) and even some temaki, but the reason you’re here is for some of the best ramen in LA. The spicy “Reddo” is a standout, which is made with Japanese chili oil and sesame paste, as well as the broth-less “Orenji.” Please don’t ask us which one is our favorite, because it’s not possible. They’re both excellent, so just order one of each, and make the most of your lunch.
This Nashville-style hot chicken specialist in Baldwin Hills only opened in 2019, but they already stand out amongst other LA spicy fried chicken competitors. It’s run by Kim Prince, a family relative of the Prince’s Chicken dynasty in Nashville. The skin is crunchy, crimson, and super-hot - identical to the quality you’d get in Tennessee. That said, there’s plenty of other great things on the menu like gooey mac and cheese, banana cream pudding, and a hot fish sandwich that rivals its poultry sibling. They currently have a front patio setup ideal for soaking up some afternoon sun and that sweet Nashville heat.
We don’t need to remind anyone about Republique, but it’s worth pointing out that this upscale French spot on La Brea now has a fantastic side patio that’s made grabbing a quick lunch a bit easier than it was in The Before Times. There truly isn’t a bad order here, but the kimchi fried rice with savory short rib, shakshuka, and caramelized onion-topped burger are standouts during lunch.
Yess Aquatic is a new seafood truck in the Arts District run by London chef Junya Namasaki. The mantra here is to serve whatever is fresh from the ocean that day, and that means a constantly changing menu filled with some of the freshest fish you can find Downtown. The ridgeback prawn bánh mì is an absolute standout, and after one bite, you’ll be calling your next appointment to let them know you’re running late. Not because of traffic or anything, you’ll just need a moment alone on the sidewalk to process the sweet shrimp, spicy sambal, and pillowy bun of the sandwich all working together. We also love the meaty Nashville-style hot shark sandwich, but for something lighter that’ll still fill you up, go for the sashimi salad that comes with fresh greens, seaweed, fried almonds, and a mixed citrus dressing.
If you aren’t quite ready for Alcove’s massive patio just yet, head down the block to Mustard Seed. The casual Los Feliz cafe is the antithesis to its perpetually crowded neighbor - there’s a calm atmosphere, good food, and a crowd that isn’t completely made up of people pitching their pilots to their roommates. We head to Mustard Seed when we have 30 minutes to spare and want a simple deli sandwich or chopped salad that’ll keep us full until dinnertime.
Tamales Elena Y Antojitos is an Afro-Mexican restaurant in Bell Gardens with an incredible menu filled with things like red pozole, pork tamales, and beef tongue guisado - all specialties from the owner’s home state of Guerrero. The biggest highlights on the menu, however, are the pescadillas. They’re thin, crispy, and filled with perfectly stewed fish, and we recommend getting at least three orders - one for you now, one for you in five minutes, and one for five minutes after that. They have a tiny, wrap-around patio perfect for a quick lunch.
There’s a long menu at Jeon Ju, but come lunchtime, your focus should be on the galbi dolsot bibimbap - a short rib-filled bibimbap that arrives at your tiny table in a piping hot stone bowl. Eating it does require a bit of patience because you’ll want to let the rice get nice and crispy on the stone before diving in. Luckily, they’re generous with the included banchan (you’ll probably get a couple of soups, maybe a pancake, plus potato salad and kimchi) so you can snack while you wait. For $16, you’ll have enough food to feed a small family, though we like to use this place for a solo lunch (and hoard the leftovers for ourselves). They currently have a large patio set up in their front parking lot.
Loqui could’ve easily just been another run-of-the-mill taco spot people eat at while they shop for high-end hand soap. Instead, it’s become our absolute go-to place for tacos on the Westside. The flour tortillas are thick and chewy, and if you go with the chicken option, the spicy meat provides a nice kick that also doesn’t overpower the rest of the taco. Be sure to put the slightly sweet salsa seca on everything. Both their Culver City and Arts District locations have outdoor patios filled with spacious picnic tables.
Steps from the Third Street Promenade, Interstellar is the best lunch option in Downtown Santa Monica. The small cafe’s Korean-American co-owners pull off lots of dishes from lots of cuisines - like bulgogi burgers, katsu curry, pasta, chilaquiles, tacos, club sandwiches, and much more. That means this is the perfect place to keep in mind when you’re indecisive about what you want to eat, or you want a burger, your dining partner wants a kalbi bowl, and you’re both too stubborn to compromise. The patio is small, shaded, and discreet. If we were to write a pilot about a celebrity who goes missing after he sets off into the desert to take promo shots with cacti for his new tequila brand, we’d write it here.
If you’re looking to break out of your usual Sweetgreen + daily daydream about leaving the big city and starting a new life in the countryside routine, may we suggest Gamboge? The Lincoln Heights Cambodian restaurant makes outdoor dining feel easy - just place your order at the window, then make your way to their beautiful, serene patio out back. There’s hardly a bad dish on the menu here, but our favorites include the grilled pork shoulder numpang sandwich, bright-pink Kmher salad filled with shredded chicken, cabbage, and fried shallots, and a simple braised tomato and sardine dish that comes with a properly crusty baguette that we dream about on a near-daily basis.
Lunchtime has been really weird this year. Besides the fact that time lost all discernible meaning, your midday meals have probably involved some combination of canned goods you bought en masse back in March 2020, your dining room table, and one of your many screens. Which is all to say, you also might be having trouble remembering how an actual outdoor lunch works. If that’s the case, head to The Brothers Sushi. The high-end sushi bar in the Valley has a cozy outdoor patio that’s secluded from the noise and bustle of the Ventura Freeway, and serves everything from stone-grilled Wagyu to sushi omakase, as well as steamed crab legs and house sake that’s made in Fukushima.