Aside from letting years of unchecked anxiety manifest into harmful social tendencies, sh*tting on LA is every New Yorker’s favorite pastime - especially if they’ve never been here.
Whenever they do decide to make the trip, most New Yorkers land at LAX with their minds already made up. To them, LA is a smog-choked, cultureless abyss that should be avoided at all costs. And sure, our air quality isn’t always great, and our stretches of suburbia do occasionally feel endless, but LA is also full of incredible things to do - and even better things to eat. So prove your NYC friends wrong, and take them to these places that highlight everything that makes LA great.
What’s the best way to sway someone who preemptively decided to not be excited by anything they see or do in LA? Take them to the most exciting restaurant in town. And for us, that’s Anajak. This Sherman Oaks Thai spot has actually been open for almost 40 years, but has undergone a massive transformation this year thanks to the original owner’s son taking the helm. Now, this once-quiet neighborhood standby is one of the best parties in town. Tables have been set up in the alleyway and cast dramatic shadows against the back wall, R&B blasts from the speakers, and at the center of it all is chef Justin Pichetrungsi putting on a show for the lucky people who scored a ticket to his 14-course Thai omakase. It’s one of the most objectively unique and cool dining setups in town right now that’s only heightened by the incredible food you’re going to eat.
This tiny, all-day spot in Los Feliz possesses most things New York restaurants never will - a fantastic side patio we can utilize all year, a relaxed atmosphere that feels like you’re eating dinner in the backyard of a friend’s bungalow, and the kind of food you can only get in a city where fresh produce grows year-round. All Time serves excellent food throughout the day, but things get taken up a level at dinnertime, when the focaccia, cavatelli, and a fantastic steak hit the menu.
New York might have the Hamptons, but LA has Malibu - a sprawling coastline full of incredible beaches, gigantic houses, and shockingly mediocre seafood. Now, you’re tasked with finding somewhere to take your friend who grew up eating freshly-shucked oysters every summer. Go to Broad Street Oyster Co. Located behind the Malibu Country Mart, this East Coast-style seafood bar has some of the freshest fish and crustaceans on the coast, plus a fantastic front patio ideal for soaking up some sun and pointing out to your friend that it’s f*cking January. Order a bit of everything - oysters and spot prawns from the raw bar; a hot, buttery lobster roll; and maybe even a Caesar salad if you’re craving something green after hiking a local canyon.
New Yorkers love to make fun of how much salad we eat, and haven’t yet realized how little that claim bothers us. But we also have red-sauce pasta spots that give New York a run for its money. Namely, Dan Tana’s. This classic, chaotic Italian restaurant in West Hollywood is where you go to eat giant plates of chicken parmesan, drink martinis until you can’t sit upright, and watch the most unhinged crowd in LA not worry one bit about how much kale they had today.
Just about every city saw a rise in pop-ups during the pandemic, but in LA, things were taken to a level New Yorkers might struggle to wrap their minds around. Between breakfast sandwiches being lowered from fire escapes and pies being baked in garages, LA’s chefs, service workers, and even actors transformed their homes, driveways, and backyards into the most exciting places to eat in the city. Case in point, Kuya Lord. The Filipino pop-up is operating weekly out of the chef’s private residence in La Canada-Flintridge where you’ll find massive trays of sweet and savory rolled pork belly, blue prawns, and the best pancit we’ve ever eaten waiting for you. Order via Instagram and then humor your friend with a picturesque drive through Northeast LA and their first visit to a single-family home since that Airbnb in Montauk in 2018.
Spoke is a bike repair shop turned all-day cafe next to the LA River in Frogtown. With a huge outdoor patio full of people writing screenplays, groups of friends day drinking on a Tuesday, and children eating farro bowls, it won’t do much to dispel any preconceived notions about LA. That said, the longer you stay here, the longer you never want to go anywhere else. The food is fantastic (the veggie burger is one of the best in town), all the tipsy people tend to keep to themselves, and if you’re looking for some physical activity, you can always rent a bike and cruise down the bike path.
New York may have pizza joints, but we’ve got taco trucks. And while every person will vehemently claim their local truck is the best, there’s little fighting about Tacos Y Birria. Order the goat birria in a quesataco, which comes with melted cheese griddled onto the side of the shell, and the regular tacos dorados for your NYC friend, then watch them publicly renounce their East Coast allegiance. Each of the salsas are made for a specific type of protein, so be sure to get the correct rundown from the owners.
Have you heard that New York has better Chinese food than LA? It’s a myth - and one started entirely by New Yorkers. Feel free to say that to your visiting friends, then take them to Sichuan Impression. One of the San Gabriel Valley’s many institutions, this Sichuan specialist also has a West LA location with food that’s just as good as the original and a massive space ideal for big groups. Order the tea-smoked pork ribs, mapo tofu, spicy wontons, and the boiled fish with green peppercorns that’ll clean your sinuses out for a year.
Thanks to Bravo! reality shows, all your New York friends think you only party at tacky Beverly Hills rooftop bars. Take them to Ddong Ggo to show them another side of LA nightlife. Hidden along Western Ave. in Koreatown, this jam-packed indoor/outdoor beer garden is one of the rowdiest places to drink in the neighborhood, and a non-stop party until the lights come up. Expect cheap beer, excellent bar food (get the kimchi pancake), and large groups of friends chain-smoking on the patio like it’s a competition.
One of our favorite topics to bring up around our New York friends is how deeply ingrained burgers are in LA food culture. It’s a narrative that simply doesn’t fit with their antiquated stereotypes of us and watching them try to make sense of it is one of the best free shows on Earth. Snag a ticket and then take your friends to Goldburger. This pop-up-turned-brick-and-mortar in Highland Park (there’s a second location now in Los Feliz) serves the most substantial burgers in LA’s smash scene. From the eponymous Goldburger, which comes topped with American cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and their special garlic-mustard aioli, to the LA Special, loaded with thick cuts of pastrami, these are smashburgers that’ll keep you full well past dinner and possibly into breakfast the next day. Also, their curly fries are not to be missed.
On paper, Mama Shelter is everything your bitter New York friend wants to hate about Los Angeles. You’re taking them here anyway, because this colorful Hollywood rooftop bar is still one of the best places to day drink in the city. Grab a cocktail from the bar, play some foosball, watch a movie on the big screen, and pray for the girl in stilettos trying to do a round-off on the daybeds. There’s also a separate restaurant section with very solid Mediterranean food in case you get hungry.
New Yorkers will wait in a two-hour line for literally anything, so your friend is no doubt very excited to blow an entire afternoon with tourists at Howlin’ Rays. Time to show him that real LA citizens don’t wait in line, they go to Crawfords instead. The Historic Filipinotown dive is a great place to have a few drinks, and serves hot chicken that goes toe-to-toe with its much more famous colleague. Just make sure you don’t stumble in too late, because they stop serving food at 10pm.
Highland Park Bowl is on this list for no other reason than it’s incredibly fun and your friend can see that we also have a Brooklyn. The space itself has been around since the 1920s, but reopened a few years ago as a magical steampunk wonderland where bowling, drinking cocktails, and eating very good pizza are required activities. If you do want to bowl, make sure you reserve well in advance.
There are plenty of places in New York where you can get fantastic sushi - you just have to fork over a month’s rent to do so. That’s why you need to take your friend to Sushi Fumi, the casual spot on La Cienega with some of the freshest fish in LA and prices that won’t set your bank account on fire. We tend to stick to the daily specials board (the amberjack and king salmon are musts), but if somebody wants something a little different, the Moon Roll is very good.
Luv2Eat Thai Bistro
You can brag to your friend about how good our tacos, sushi, and avocados are, but the fact is, LA also has the best Thai food in the country. For proof, take them to Luv2Eat, the casual Hollywood strip mall spot specializing in spicy, flavor-packed dishes like sweet and savory moo-ping, jade noodles with pork, and a Phuket-style crab curry that’s among our favorite curries in town. And no matter what time you decide to stop in, there always seems to be an empty table waiting for you.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Everson Royce Bar
Going out in LA can, admittedly, be a difficult endeavor - bars are spread out, close early, and full of people you thought only existed on Instagram explore pages. Remedy the situation by going to Everson Royce Bar. The classic Arts District spot has one of the best back patios in the city and is the kind of place where one round turns into three in the blink of an eye. Sure, most people are here to drink, but if there’s a better bar food menu in town, we don’t know it. From flaky buttermilk biscuits and shrimp buns to a single patty burger that will change how your increasingly-less-judgmental friend thinks about burgers, this is deliciously straightforward drinking food that beats a greasy slice of pizza on Mulberry Street any day of the week.
There’s a decent chance your friend walked off the plane asking “What’s up with this Gjusta place?” And since this bakery/deli in Venice isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to, make it your first stop on the way back from LAX. The place is a madhouse every single day of the week, but once you find your way to a table in their expanded patio, you’ll be treated to some of the best sandwiches in LA. The tuna conserva is a must-order, but since you’re there, throw in a porchetta melt, reuben, and a bag full of pastries for the rest of your drive home.