Los Angeles is an international city whose population rivals most US states and with more than 33,000 restaurants to choose from, condensing the list to the very best is a daunting task.
Get (re)acquainted with “La La Land” and make the most of your vacation with some of these inspiring meals.
High-end dining for special occasions
Enter through an art gallery in Westwood for this Michelin-listed dining experience in a 1930’s building with ornate high ceilings. The coursed menu from Chef Chris Flint is presented in intimate artful bites. Share dishes like hamachi crudo, tempura fried maitake mushrooms, glazed lobster, and grilled wagyu.
An expert sommelier can provide insight into the 2500+ labels in their wine cellar or pair your meal with an exciting cocktail like the Miami Vice Milk Punch or El Camino (Mezcal, sherry, tropical fruit, and spice). Save room for a dessert finale consisting of bites of decadent chocolate layer cake with roasted squash ice cream and poached apple with miso caramel.
Fine dining in Los Angeles does not necessarily mean white linen table cloths and stuffy attitudes – California has always been about a relaxed dining environment. Combine exquisite inventive Italian food in a building that was once a former recording studio from 1971 (where Kanye, Beck, and Stevie Wonder produced tracks) until its closure in 2016, and you have Hollywood dining at its best in 2022. Arrive at a chic gold entrance donned with old-school cassettes and vinyl record memorabilia and head to the rooftop for sunset cocktails with a view of the Hollywood sign. Then impress your date at the soaring restaurant space inside for extravagant flavor hits – caviar cannolis, marinated white beans and anchovies, and mortadella begging to be rolled around the cacio e pepe churros.
Laid out like a traditional multicourse Italian menu, Australian chef Monty Koludrovic’s creations are inspired by the history of the building as he reminds us, “During these times we all need a bit of fun.” Admire the chefs’ work in the exposed lengthy open kitchen while you feast on ink cavatelli and crab and gnocchi with slow-cooked lamb. For high rollers, order the infused olive vermouth Dirty Martini that arrives with a bump of Petrossian caviar laid on your hand by the server. Round out your evening under the disco ball from Dancing with the Stars in the sexy Studio 71 lounge for more cocktails and dancing, but not before cracking open the tiramisu – shaped and imprinted like a real record. The scene gets even buzzier for the weekly Sunday Aperitivo party.
There are many high-end omakase experiences in LA but this one is superior, with over 20 courses of primarily nigiri sushi plus sashimi and handrolls. Adventurous eaters can expect surprises like clear Japanese jellyfish, monkfish liver, and the chef hoisting a 4-foot octopus tentacle. This intimate sushi bar tucked behind the famed SUGARFISH in Beverly Hills is led by Chef Fujita.
There are only ten seats available and guests must arrive on time as every course is served to all diners at once. Make a reservation to appreciate rare cuts of kama toro (bluefin tuna’s fatty collar meat), Santa Barbara uni, oysters (Pacific NorthWest), Baja California bluefin tuna, glistening Alaskan ikura (salmon roe), Maine lobster hand roll, scallop, sea eel, giant clam, large tamago portions, and more. There is a reason Nozawa Bar earned a Michelin Star. Splurge on a special night here.
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air
The 1950s hotel on a 12-acre plot surrounded by the wooded hills of Bel-Air is worthy of a stop just for the location alone. Cross the bridge and admire swans before dining in the elegant modern garden setting. To really impress, choose a private alcove or booth – the outdoor bar is the perfect spot to spend a long afternoon enjoying modern California fare with European and Mediterranean influences. This is the best of Wolfgang in LA. Think tagliatelle with truffles, Nancy Reagan chopped salad, cacio e pepe pasta with lobster, and veal wiener schnitzel and potatoes. Try the tortilla soup that has been on the menu since 1980. Come for brunch, high tea or a celebratory occasion because prices are steep.
The Restaurant at Mr. C Beverly Hills
While you may want to dine on fine white linens inside the glamorous European restaurant with servers donning white jackets and bow ties (which has become the trademark symbol), we suggest savoring your formal Italian dining experience outdoors with pink linen tablecloths or even poolside. The signature Bellini should be a mandatory start as the white peach puree and prosecco medley was first served here in 1948. Start with Italian classics such as prosciutto with melon and beef carpaccio (also invented by founder Giuseppe Cipriani in the 1940s) and save room for pasta like bucatini with guanciale and homemade potato gnocchi “pillows” with gorgonzola. Don’t miss Mr. C’s signature dessert, the triple-layer vanilla meringue sponge cake.
Jean-Georges Beverly Hills and The Rooftop by JG
The Waldorf Astoria is what 90210 dreams are made of, especially when you catapult yourself to the hotel’s Rooftop by JG for a garden setting with stunning panoramic views. Soak up the glamor and celebrity scene down below in the elegant dining room with the finest California dishes from Jean Georges Vongerichten, three-star Michelin chef and James Beard award-winner.
Pair wines with the seasonal tasting menu with options like sea urchin and caviar atop crispy potato, green asparagus with morel mushrooms, and rice cracker crusted tuna – so rich you might mistake it for steak. The artistry continues with buckwheat crepes wrapping lobster-like little cigars or a light sauce drizzled over sea trout presented with its skin puffed like a cracker. The Passion Fruit Flower dessert looks too pretty to eat embedded with hazelnut praline and caramel.
No visit to LA is complete without dining at one of these cultural icons
If a restaurant can survive a year in LA, it’s a winner. But some old-school classic establishments have managed to survive decades. When we think of classic LA food experiences we also think of venues that seem to define LA culture – like In-N-Out, Dan Tana’s, Bestia, Republique, Matsuhisa, and Giorgio Baldi, to name a few. Here are some other longstanding classics you shouldn’t miss.
Musso and Frank Grill
Step out of the grit and grime of Hollywood Boulevard into this legendary venue that hasn’t changed in more than 100 years. The waiters and bartenders wear the same red coats they have worn for decades. Close your eyes and imagine dining next to Frank Sinatra, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Francis Ford Coppola, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan and countless other stars who considered this restaurant their safe haven. Several feature films and TV shows have been shot inside, most recently Quentin Tarantino’s film “Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood.”
Sip the famed Perfect Martini (stirred not shaken) in the same red leather booths where the Rolling Stones sat and delve into the classics – lobster bisque, chicken pot pie, short ribs and fettuccine alfredo (featuring a recipe from the original Alfredo’s restaurant in Italy that was brought to Musso’s by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks). The kitchen is also known for its meat, with ribeye steak on the grill as the most popular option. But also consider grilled lamb kidneys with bacon, Charlie Chaplin’s favorite. Today many stars, authors, and studio execs still consider Musso’s their home away from home.
This LA institution in a strip mall in Thai Town has been in operation since the 1970s, pleasing guests with spicy southern Thai fare. On any given night you may be seated next to a celebrity or film writer as you gawk at over 200 menu items, including many passed down recipes.
You’ll have the chance to eat something you have never tried or at a spicy heat level you never thought possible. Of course, pad thai, tom kha, Jitlada fried rice, and green curry are a must but other items to put at the top of your ordering list include steamed New Zealand green mussels, spicy mango softshell crab, and southern spicy beef. In 2019, Jitlada earned a Bib Gourmand distinction.
You can’t visit LA without trying Korean BBQ, as LA is home to the USA’s largest Korean population. Let the meat sizzle on your tableside grill while the highest quality cuts roll out with an array of banchan (small side dishes). Order a combo platter with bulgogi, rib eye steak, short rib, galbi, brisket, and Ggot Sal (known as flower meat in Korean due to the marbling), and expect to leave satisfied and smelling like a meat stick.
Completed in 1914 this hilltop mansion was built as a replica of a palace in Kyoto and has some of the best views of Los Angeles. Spiral up the driveway to this teak-and-cedar mansion in the Hollywood Hills for a dinner above beautiful gardens, a 600-year-old pagoda, and a bronze Buddha. Dining in the inner courtyard gardens also makes for an enchanting setting.
The views alone produce major awe, but the menu also offers a way over-the-top experience. Guests can order a sushi boat or a 4-foot sushi yacht for $500. The 36-ounce Cowboy Steak marinated in garlic smoked shoyu sauce arrives on a cooking stone with lobster tail and octopus on top. While the Chef Val Roll (salmon, tuna, hamachi, topped with avocado, serrano peppers, truffle aioli, spicy mayo, eel sauce, crispy onions) is the most popular, high rollers will want to order off the Secret Menu. Ask for the Billionaire Roll stuffed with lobster and topped with A5 wagyu, uni, truffle aioli, and gold flakes or the Pressed Sushi Cake Roll that neatly packages four fishes atop layers of spicy tuna, cucumber, and rice.
The Pagoda Bar on a terrace above the pool will soon be a hookah lounge, while new outdoor sushi and cocktail bars are coming. The former carriage house offers sake tastings with a small menu. For a special occasion, order a smashable cake in advance. This chocolate heart the size of a dinner plate is cracked open to reveal sugary candy treats – the wow factor is what La La Land is all about and you certainly will find it here.
LA has some of the best vegan and vegetarian options in the USA
Margo’s Bar and Kitchen
Herbivores can rejoice as this new 100% plant-based casual café dishes up the best vegan delights on the west side. Right on Montana Ave., take a seat on their spacious patio and enjoy healthy California ingredients in salads, a burrito bowl, or tacos. Nosh on pea toast, an Impossible Burger, or a banh mi replicated with soy-glazed jackfruit, mushroom pate, pickled carrots and peppers, cilantro, and cucumber on a toasted baguette. Order the Breakfast Pizza or the Mushroom Pizza oozing with cashew cheese and a fluffy crisp crust.
Sage Vegan Bistro
Comfort plant-based food abounds at four locations – Pasadena, Culver City, Echo Park, and Agoura Hills. All-day vegan brunch, a dedicated selection for kids, and an extensive menu have resulted in dedicated regulars. Some may feel like they are cheating after tasting the cauliflower wings, baked eggplant farmesan, and BBQ pineapple pizza. Get excited about vegan taco options like spicy eggplant barbacoa, Baja avocado, seasoned jackfruit carnitas, and banh mi (made with tofu).
The Butcher’s Daughter
Imported from NYC, this Venice location with a café, juice bar, and restaurant impresses with its beachy farmhouse design and the SoCal light spilling in – get ready for how tasty a “vegetable slaughterhouse” can be on hip Abbott Kinney. Mostly vegan and gluten-free, order a juice flight or cardamom rose latte with a customizable avocado toast. Try a stone oven pizza, eggs from the griddle, and a harvest or grain bowl packed with ingredients that are as nutritious as they are delicious.
In 2014 Gracias Madre opened with an all-organic plant-based Mexican menu and a festive atmosphere in a trendy indoor/outdoor tree-laden open-air patio in West Hollywood. They have been going strong ever since, delighting even non-vegans with authentic Mexican flavors using different chiles, sauces, and traditional techniques.
Popular choices include the nachos, wet burritos, gorditas, pesto brussels sprouts, enchiladas verdes, and the madre burger made with a roasted mushroom and black bean patty. A lengthy bar pours over 70 mezcals and some 60 tequilas. Tortillas are handmade while the restaurant boasts 10 original sauces ranging from hot to mild and more than 15 types of chiles used in recipes. Our favorites? The refreshing Mexican fruit salad, caesar salad with oranges, and a healthy bowl stuffed with chipotle roasted sweet potato, tofu, corn, black beans, quinoa, and pea shoots.
Where to eat well on a budget in LA
This food discovery platform offers takeout and dining al fresco in Hollywood and Mid-Wilshire. After visiting LACMA or the La Brea Tar Pits, find a smorgasbord of casual food offerings here with affordable price points. We recommend double cheeseburgers and fried pickles from Pop!s Burgers & Shakes, fish-and-cheese sandwiches from Voltaggio brother’s STRFSH, sushi and spicy tuna rice from SUPERTORO, cajun shrimp yakisoba from Street Noods, mushroom or pineapple pork belly tacos from Azule Taqueria, and Cajun-style seafood and corn known as the ‘Hollywood Crab Shack Bag’. This is the best way to sample a variety of dishes in one location from well-known LA chefs and local rising stars.
Original Farmer’s Market
Since 1934 locals and tourists have flocked to this legendary market with over 100 vendors selling ready-to-eat food. Find trendy shops, local produce, and gourmet grocery purveyors scattered throughout too. The market is adjacent to the outdoor mall known as The Grove. Some old-school favorites include Bob’s Doughnuts and Magee’s world-famous corned beef sandwiches.
Choose your own food adventure by eating your way around the world market – sushi, deli sandwiches, and local fish, oysters, and seafood from Roxy and Jo’s. Try the French Crepe Company, Trejo’s Tacos, Brazilian-style BBQ from Pampas Grill, or chocolate cones filled with coffee from Zia Valentina. The new Mexican cantina El Granjero is a worthy sit-down stop for tacos, crispy pork belly, and handheld caesar with sunflower seeds. The permanent installation is open 7 days a week.
Grand Central Market
Beginning in 1917, this European-style food hall in Downtown LA has faithfully served locals and helped out-of-towners experience the various cultures of LA, with over 38 vendors. For super fresh seafood, a heaped shrimp ceviche or mixta (octopus, scallops, shrimp) tostada is a must at La Tostaderia, where you can sit at the counter and shovel it down before making your next move. Sari Sari sells Filipino rice bowls with crispy pork belly, chicken, and eggplant options with Halo Halo for a sweet.
Pop into the fancy wooden hut at Oyster Gourmet for bubbly and bivalves. Get in line for uber-popular breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut or a fruit donut at The Donut Man. Others to try – homestyle Korean at Shiku, Thai food at Sticky Rice, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches at Wexler’s Deli, Japanese bento boxes, noodles at Ramen Hood, and Olio Pizza. From the world’s top roasters and farms, grab a fancy coffee, coffee milkshake or hop-infused carbonated ice tea at G&B Coffee or gain another sudsy mustache at LA-based craft Golden Road Brewery with 20 beers on tap.
While it may have begun in Brooklyn, this grand weekly open-air market on Sundays in Downtown LA is a fantastic way to try a variety of inventive foods. Located at ROW DTLA, ogle over 65 local vendors selling exciting new food concoctions, from pop-ups to future foodie stars. Lines quickly get long at Shrimp Daddy and urbn’s pizza stall, but arriving at 10am when it opens should ensure you get to sample all the foodie delights you want – Cali dumplings, mama musubi sandwiches, Cuban plant-based cuisine, vegan mac and cheese, a veggie delicatessen, or lobster uni caviar rolls from Broad Street Oyster Co. Dig into some street tacos like carnitas from Los Cochinitos, birria from Goat Mafia, and blackened al pastor or dessert tacos from Evil Cooks. Vendors often change but you will soon realize why LA is the most exciting food city in America.