Life is full of prerequisites. Reading Of Mice And Men over the summer in high school, spending two years in the mailroom at your bone-crushing agency, or watching every episode of a Netflix show before showing your face at work in the morning.
When it comes to eating in Los Angeles, there are a handful of prerequisite restaurants. They’re the essential places you need to eat at first, before anywhere else. Places like Jitlada. This restaurant hasn’t just set the bar for LA Thai food - it’s constantly raising it.
Located in a Thai Town stripmall, Jitlada has been in operation since the early 1970s. It changed ownership a few times over the years, but it wasn’t until a brother and sister team took over in 2006 that it became the institution that it is today. They took a once-straightforward menu full of standbys you could eat in plenty of other Thai spots, and expanded it to include regional dishes from their hometown of Pak Phanang in Southern Thailand, like pickled crab and dried catfish curry. More than a decade later, you can still count on a meal at Jitada to give you the chance to eat something amazing that you’ve never tried before.
Jitlada’s menu is massive and predominantly made up of recipes passed down through their family. If you’ve heard one thing about the food here, it’s probably that it’s spicy. And that’s true - the majority of their 400-item menu packs a fiery vengeance you don’t often find at restaurants. But if having to wipe your forehead a few times during dinner is the worst part of your day, you lead a good life. When it comes to the spicy dishes, the khua kling phat lung (dry beef curry) and Taepo chicken curry are non-negotiables, and if you want something less-spicy on your table, the crispy catfish salad, the turmeric chicken wings, and yes, the pad thai, are all fantastic. But what is maybe the most legendary dish at Jitlada isn’t even on the menu. The Jazz Burger is only served when Jazz, the owner/chef, feels like making one. Call ahead to see if today is your lucky day.
Crowds get intense here at night, but the good news is their takeout situation is a well-oiled machine, and you should take advantage of it. That said, for first-timers or anyone looking to see what a restaurant at the top of its game looks like, dining-in is a required LA experience. And that beats out Of Mice And Men any day.
This needs to be the first thing that hits your table. The crunchy catfish itself is fantastic, but it’s the fresh mangos underneath that take it to another level.
Jitlada has several wing options, but the wings and fried rice combination is the way to go. It’s basically just a massive plate of spicy turmeric fried rice with wings on top, and ideal for big groups.
This off-menu (and sometimes completely unavailable) spicy burger is a Jitlada legend. Call ahead to see if they can make it for you, and prepare for a lettuce-wrapped burger that will change you.
This dark, spicy curry is one of the best things on the menu and the crispy pork inside has a lot to do with it.
You’re probably wondering why you would give pad thai space on your table when there are so many other interesting things to try here. The answer is that it’s one of our favorite versions anywhere.
This creamy curry certainly has a kick to it, but if you’re looking for something slightly less intense than the jungle curry, this is the way to go.
One of the spiciest dishes on Jitlada’s menu, this is one of the best curry dishes in the city. You can choose your protein and you should definitely choose beef.
Definitely not the most takeout-friendly dish on Jitlada’s menu, save this for the nights when you dine-in. The taste of the crab meat and their garlic sauce together is what we think about first in the morning.