Despite the ups and downs of the city’s dining regulations, L.A. is still home to one of the most exciting restaurant scenes in the country: a collection of restaurants and pop-ups and vendors with a reputation built on incredible food trucks and off-the-beaten-path tacos just as much as tasting menus and farmers’ market produce.
At its core, L.A. thrives on its diverse blend of genre-bending formats and cuisines, which creates some of the world’s best omakase restaurants, fine-dining institutions and French-bistro gems tucked into strip malls. Our experts scour the city for great eats and great insider info. We value fun, flavor, freshness—and value at every price point.
Broad Street Oyster Company
Broad Street Oyster Co. has emerged as one of the best restaurants during the pandemic, owing in no small part to the Malibu destination and drive-thru capabilities. Still, it’s hard to find laid-back seafood shack-style eats this great in Los Angeles, including what may be LA’s best lobster roll.
Tacos Los Palomos
This prolific stand helmed by Indigenous taqueros serves some of the top al pastor in the city, though they also serve carne asada, suadero, tripas, and more via vampiros, burritos, and tortas upon request. Check its Instagram for the latest locations, which include Mission Hills, El Monte, South LA, and Torrance.
Dave Beran’s Santa Monica French restaurant has developed into one of the Westside’s most impressive fancy restaurants, with stellar renditions of Parisian bistro dishes with a California mentality. Though Beran’s ambitious tasting menu restaurant Dialogue had to close due to the pandemic, the team’s efforts at Pasjoli show an extra level of creativity and execution, from gorgeous coquilles St. Jacques to the grilled dry-aged ribeye with roasted fingerling potatoes.
Jon & Vinny’s Brentwood
The bright green, brand-appropriate Jon & Vinny’s patio is here to stay in Brentwood, or at least stay for a while. Locals have been loving the al fresco eating experience, and are mostly just happy to have the restaurant’s signature Italian-American delights — from breakfast bombolone to pizza, mozzarella sticks, salads, and the amazing spicy fusilli — back in the upscale neighborhood. —Farley Elliott
An outdoor patio with bright green booths and string lights during COVID.
Barb Batiste made her mark on Sawtelle with dessert shop B Sweet, but her casual Filipino restaurant Big Boi continues to impress with combination plates of garlic rice and pancit with savory sisig and beef giniling. Order up an appetizer of crispy lumpia shanghai, plus a bowl of Filipino-style spaghetti for some pure nostalgia.
Stewed goat and beef is all the rage around Los Angeles, and possibly the entire country, due to LA’s outsized influence on the national food scene these days. But before jumping to more known social media stars like Teddy’s Red Tacos (which is superb), try the more old-school Valley classic of Birrieria Apatzingan, with its mellowed goat birria served with thick corn tortillas. The daytime menu also features a pork rib chilaquiles that will stick to your own ribs all day.
For more than six decades Valley fans have flocked to Casa Vega, the enduring Mexican restaurant with its famed red booths, low lighting, and margaritas. The restaurant successfully navigated a tricky 2020 by offering drive-thru food, a massive parking lot patio, and lots of takeout and delivery, now those same fans are back to enjoy the booths inside once again.
Tetsuya Nakao’s impeccable attention to detail and service is why he remains one of the leading sushi chefs in the San Fernando Valley. Asanebo’s cozy patio reopened in February, the perfect spot to try the halibut yuzu or toro carpaccio. For now, there’s a 90-minute dining limit. If you need extra time to savor Asanebo’s menu or can’t wait for a table, Nakao prepared some reasonably-priced chirashi or omakase take-out boxes ranging from $85 to $140.
Meals By Genet
As far as Ethiopian restaurants in Los Angeles go, Meals by Genet is basically incomparable. The stalwart Fairfax restaurant run by owner Genet Agonafer is still going strong during the pandemic, and is considered one of the city’s best spots for stewed lamb, dorowat, and of course lots of injera.
Keith Corbin has excelled at this West Adams soul food restaurant serving a California version of comfort classics like oxtails and rice, fried chicken, and gombo in a modern, artsy space. The back patio was outfitted for some of LA’s most charming outdoor dining.
Brother and sister owners Ghazi and Sol Bashirian took over their father’s former Italian restaurant Gino’s Pizza in Inglewood, and modernized the look and menu. Growing up near Inglewood, the duo has served approachable old-school Italian fare to feed the community around them. The meatball sub and short rib ragu are both off-the-chain delicious.
Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen
Dulan’s is a soul food mainstay for Los Angeles, as is its amiable owner Gregory Dulan. The 22-year-old Inglewood spot is Dulan’s most famous restaurant to date, but his father Adolf Dulan spent decades running restaurants throughout LA’s Westside and South LA region. Dulan’s on Manchester and Crenshaw sports a cafeteria-style setup but doesn’t skimp on happy service or big portions, particularly with sides like mac & cheese, green beans, and corn bread. The gigantic Sunday dinner specials even come with iced tea.
Pizza has been a winner for both diners and restaurants during the ongoing pandemic, and few do a better pie than Ronan on Melrose. Blistered, delicious, and best served with a serious side of meatballs and a cocktail or two, these pizzas have helped to put LA on the national map, pandemic or not. Better still, the Cutler family behind the restaurant has been exceedingly open during the past year about their (common to all) economic struggles, pushing the conversation forward about what it means to make not just as a small business in Los Angeles, but anywhere right now.
Porto’s Bakery and Cafe
As the pre-pandemic lines can attest, Los Angeles (and indeed all of Southern California) loves Porto’s, from the pastries to the Cuban food to those impossible-to-resist potato balls. Of late, the restaurant in Burbank has been particularly busy thanks to a drive-thru system that allows for safe, distanced daily pickups of preordered food.
When Walter and Margarita Manzke took over the iconic Campanile space, they knew the stakes were high. And who in LA would have thought they would’ve succeeded this much, offering a swell breakfast-to-dinner menu with a French point of view? Throw in some pockets of new American and even Asian influences, and the bill of fare will likely appeal to everyone. The desserts, breads, and pastries by Margarita are as good as one can expect, while the charcuterie board is sure to stun anyone.
Kim Prince has established her family’s hot chicken legacy in the heart of Baldwin Hills, frying up superb spicy fried chicken with an array of sides. The homey dining room is closed for now, but the fried travels really well for pickup and delivery.
There are a bevy of excellent Oaxacan restaurants in Los Angeles thanks to influx of settlers from the 1990s, and Gish Bac might be the best of the bunch thanks to the work of chef and owner Maria Ramos. This Mid-City classic serves a bit of everything from Oaxaca, including a great tlayuda and delicious torta, but the star of the show is the goat barbacoa enchilada, slow cooked for five hours in guajillo chiles. Truly one of LA’s best regional Mexican restaurants.
Bong Joon Ho made it a point to celebrate here after winning Best Picture for Parasite. The slightly upscaled restaurant specializes in ganjang gejang, raw marinated flower crab that tastes like the pinnacle of Korean cuisine with its rich, slightly fermented umami and buttery sweetness (especially over warm rice).
Madre! Oaxacan Restaurant and Mezcaleria
Torrance’s standout Oaxacan restaurant has everything from top-notch mezcal to an array of regional Mexican classics, like memelitas, mole estofado, and tacos. The recipe has worked well enough that both its enduring Palms location and newer West Hollywood spots have cemented themselves already has beloved neighborhood restaurants.