Where To Take New Yorkers Who Hate LA, Even Though They’ve Never Been
17 spots that will make any NYC loyalist admit LA is actually pretty great.
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.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
It doesn’t take much to irritate a New Yorker, but if you want to really set them off, explain how LA’s pastrami is every bit as good as New York’s—if not better. From Langer’s and Wexler’s to Johnny’s, you can find world-class versions all over town, but head to Brent’s to dine with the suburban old guard. This vast Northridge staple is filled daily with large families, hungover college kids, weekly book clubs, and solo regulars who haven’t opened the menu in three decades. The people watching is tremendous, but the food is even better—get the latke and blintz sampler, split pea soup, and their famous black pastrami Reuben (swap out the steak fries for curly).
The Old Place
New York might have the Hamptons, but LA has Malibu—a scenic coastline full of incredible beaches, gigantic houses, and shockingly mediocre seafood. Considering you’re with someone who’s been shucking oysters since they were a kid, skip the PCH fish shacks and head to The Old Place. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains (but still only 20 minutes away from Zuma), eating at this 19th-century general store-turned-saloon and steakhouse is like entering a portal to another era. There are rickety old booths, an all-wood bar lined with crusty regulars, and a menu filled with American comfort food like bone-in ribeye steaks and “noodle and cheese bake”—a mac-and-cheese-like dish made with thick egg noodles smothered in melted parmesan, goat cheese, and mozzarella. You’ll need a partner to take it down.
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photo credit: Matt Gendal
Sceney rooftops are synonymous with LA—and often reinforce many of the East Coast stereotypes about the city. Take any skeptics to Calabra anyway. Perched above the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, this splashy Mediterranean restaurant has an indoor lounge, poolside patio, and curved couches that you can rent out for more privacy. The music is loud and people get dressed up to be seen sipping mai tais by the giant circular bar. It’s a whole vibe, sure, but if your bitter New York friend can’t enjoy ocean views and afternoon cocktails by the pool for a few hours, then we actually just feel sorry for them.
photo credit: Yasara Gunawardena
We’ll give it to New York, their sports culture is strong. What else do they have to cheer for in mid-February when everybody’s trash has been rotting under a snow bank for six weeks? But Angelenos exude their own style of sports passion—just take them to Pijja Palace for proof. This maximalist Indian sports bar in Silver Lake goes absolutely mad during Dodgers/Lakers/Rams/Kings games, and as fun as it is, the food is an even bigger highlight. Thin-crust pizzas come topped with saag gravy, stinger chiles, or baingan jawa fry, a deep-fried eggplant dish made with mustard oil. Wings are doused in masala and Kashmiri red chilis. Get at least one wonderful pasta, too—our favorite is the cheese and shells, seasoned with saffron, parmesan, and Indian long pepper.
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 one of the most exciting restaurants 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 over the last few years 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 inside, 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 dining setups in town that’s only heightened by the incredible food you’re going to eat.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
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.
photo credit: Matt Gendal
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.
Tacos Y Birria La Unica
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 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.
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
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?” Cross it off your list early and drive them straight there right from LAX. The place is a madhouse every single day of the week, but once you find your way to a table on 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.