It’s that time again. Flights are booked, bags are packed, and your friends are heading West. With our near-constant summer weather, this routine is frankly old hat for most Angelenos. Reminder: Our friends live in places that morph into an uninhabitable depression-prison for five months (read: winter) and they need out. Welcome to paradise.
But what in the hell are you supposed to do with them once they’re here? LA is massive and introducing them to what our best restaurants have to offer is no easy task. Plus, if they’re from the East Coast, they hate it here based solely on principle anyways. But fear not. The time is now to impress the sh*t out of your out-of-town-friends and prove LA is much, much more than sunny skies. Here’s the updated guide to do it.
photo credit: Holly Liss
Your childhood best friend from Ohio has trained herself to not exist outside after November 1st, and it’s time to show her just how good we have it. Salazar is an almost entirely outdoor restaurant in the made-up neighborhood of Frogtown and combines everything that makes LA great. Fantastic tacos? Drinking cocktails from a coconut? Endless sunshine in the middle of winter? She might skip that flight back to Columbus.
Your judgemental cousin from Long Island is back again and thinks making kale jokes is still so funny. Show her up (and maybe burn her tongue off) by taking her to Howlin’ Rays. Located in the Far East Plaza in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays is serving Nashville hot chicken and it is actually life-altering. Yes, it’s insanely spicy and yes, there will be long lines, but this order-at-the-counter spot is worth every bit of the hassle.
There’ll come a point in your friend’s trip where you’ll have to remind him there’s way more here than just wet burritos. Case in point - Shibumi. This small, dimly-lit downtown spot feels like an underground restaurant you’d find in Tokyo, where the chefs serve you and there’s even an insanely expensive heated toilet in the bathroom. The menu is kappo-style, which is basically a step up from Izakaya (cold egg tofu, squid sashimi, pork in koji rice), and also won’t break the bank.
Sarah from Denver is in town and she just, like, has to see a celeb. Pull her off that celebrity house bus tour to nowhere and get her to Tower Bar. The classic Sunset Stip restaurant/bar is easily your best spot to see a 90’s TV star not eating, and lots of other young Hollywood types faking it till they make it. Major bonus: have a build-your-own Sundae bar.
Gjelina is one of the Westside’s best restaurants and you’re craving it badly. But it’s also a complete production to get into and you just want to stay at home and drink wine with your elementary school best friend tonight. Accomplish both with Gjelina Take Away, the adjacent to-go version of the original with fantastic pizzas and sandwiches to help soak up all the wine you just bought. Get the pork meatball sandwich.
Located on the 71st floor of the US Bank Building downtown, this massive space has 360 degree views of the city most people only get while landing at LAX. And though a full dinner here is very much worth your time and money, a ticketed three-course meal just isn’t your college roommate who you’ve only ever seen in a sweatshirt’s speed. Here’s the hack - just go to the bar, order some fantastic cocktails and affordable bar snacks, and drunkenly discuss how you’re taking over the world.
Speaking candidly from one human to another, you simply don't turn down a day in the mountains drinking riesling and picnicking with friends. And at Malibu Wines, you get all of that and more. They definitely provide some snacks for your afternoon buzz, but you’re allowed to bring all your own food to the venue, and you should. So round up all the gal pals and prove to your friends from Dallas that life is better without 180% humidity.
Wait, but you thought all people eat in LA is green juice and muscle elixirs. Get real. We’re not going to pretend LA isn’t into the healthy lifestyle, but when we throw down we throw down. And while there’s plenty of excellent burgers around LA these days, we keep coming back to the OG gourmet burger - Father’s Office. Some people will say this place is overrated, and those people aren't to be trusted. Your freshman year roommate from Allentown didn't even know you could put Gruyere on a burger, and that’s about to change.
The taco truck game is still waiting for its spark in Milwaukee, so in the meantime, you’re taking your childhood neighbor to one of our city’s best. Mariscos Jaliscos sits on an industrial stretch of Olympic Blvd, but with plenty of copycats in the area it’s not always the easiest to find. But once you do, you’ll be treated to some of the best shrimp tacos you’re ever going to find. Get out of the Santa Monica bubble and go experience an LA icon.
Yep, all we have here are salads. Drought and salads. Nailed it. OH COME ON. This city is full of meat-centric restaurants and Animal might just be one of the best in the entire country. Snag a reservation well in advance because the dime-sized, minimalistic space fills up fast. But trust us, Animal is a carnivorous pilgrimage worth the wait.
If you have friends coming into town and DON’T plan a Mexican dinner, just give them a godd*mn refund. Insanely good Mexican food can basically be found anywhere in this city, but our choice is El Compadre in Hollywood. This decades-old standby is still one of the most reliable old-school Mexican meals in town with a great environment your high school BFF just can’t get back in Grand Rapids. Two words: Flaming Margaritas.
The Magic Castle
Yes, there’s a castle in the middle of Hollywood. Yes, it’s entirely composed of magic shows. And yes, it’s absolutely incredible. The membership-only club/dinner theater is notorious for only being accessible if you happen to know a magician (on our to-do list), but there’s a simple hack. Swallow your pride and post an ad on Craigslist asking for access and chances are a magician will come to your aide. Magic indeed.
SUGARFISH | Studio City
Sushi is another must-have for anyone visiting LA and Sugarfish is the obvious move. No place gives you the premiere sushi and affordable prices quite like Sugarfish and your chronically still-figuring-it-out friend on a budget will appreciate that. While there are locations citywide now, we recommend going back to where it all began: Studio City.
Look, if you’re in the market to blow it out and prove to your friend that LA is better than whatever hell tundra they flew in from, Bestia is how you make it happen. This isn’t where you bring the squad and get rowdy. This is where you iron your jeans beforehand like a functioning adult and go experience one of the best all-around meals in the city.
There’s always that terrifying moment in day three when you realize you have no f*cking clue what to do with your friend. Take them to Grand Central Market. No matter how picky your newly gluten-intolerant gal pal is, GCM has you covered and spending three hours wandering around the endless corridors of eye-popping food stalls is a perfect way to spend a day.
Your roommate’s friend Sami just flew in from Scarsdale and she’s already making comments about how she'll never live in LA. Give her a f*cking sticker and then get her ass to Canter’s for what will certainly be a taste of home. It’s not our favorite pastrami in town (that would be Langer’s) but it’s still fantastic and the perfect place to soak up the booze after a long night out in Weho.
The Cafe At The Getty Villa
HOSTING TIP: Don't suck at it. Your friends want experiences and at The Getty Villa, you are giving them one they never knew they could have. Not to be confused with its bigger, inland brother, The Getty Villa is a more intimate (and still completely free) museum and gardens overlooking the Malibu mountains and Pacific Ocean. And smack in the middle is the Cafe, with surprisingly great food and one of the most memorable settings in SoCal.
No weekend of hosting out-of-town friends is complete without the obligatory jaunt up the PCH to Malibu. And while plenty of seafood shacks dot this stretch coastal highway, our move is to keep driving till you hit Neptune’s Net. The kitschy restaurant is certainly touristy, but the people-watching remains prime and that outdoor patio is retro-Cali nirvana.
Night + Market WeHo
Chances are when your sorority sister from Bethesda comes to town and says she loves Thai food, she actually means she loves pad thai. No shame there. But Thai food is much more than that and they’re in the city to experience it. Night + Market’s spice levels might not be for the faint of heart, but it remains very accessible and an unassuming place to get a little wild as well.
It’s Sunday morning. You’ve drunk three nights in a row and you want to die and/or kill your friend. The only remedy is Bay Cities and our favorite sandwich in the city: The Godmother. You could point to the five different delicious meats stacked inside it but for us it all boils down to that bread. That perfectly crunchy Italian bread. Just call it in and avoid the long lines.
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