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5 Great Food Neighborhoods in Los Angeles
Sample all of LA's flavors in these foodie-adored neighborhoods.
From Koreatown to Venice, Los Angeles is a foodie's dream.(Getty Images)
They say the best way to know a culture is through its food. And in Los Angeles, you can travel to all corners of the globe simply by sampling its eclectic cuisine. From taco stands to fine dining, there is something from everywhere, for everyone.
“With so much diversity in the city, the food scene is ever-evolving, which is such a gift to Angelenos,” says Jennifer McLaughlin, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Travel Magazine. U.S. News asked McLaughlin and other local experts about their favorite restaurants and neighborhoods for great cultural cuisine. Here's what they said.
Meat for miles in Koreatown
Perhaps the best way to take a cross-cultural Angeleno food tour is to visit Koreatown, home to the largest Korean population in the United States, as well as a huge variety of Latino and South Asian populations. The borders of this porous neighborhood, just west of downtown, bleed into Hollywood (to the north) and Mid-Wilshire (to the west), creating a variety of ethnic food microcultures.
Roy Choi, whose Kogi BBQ taco truck is credited with starting the food truck explosion, has two brick-and-mortar establishments inside the Line Hotel: Commissary, which serves “California American” fare, and Pot, which serves grab-and-go rice bowls.
[Read: The Best Los Angeles Tours.]
Korean barbecue, consisting of thin-sliced raw meat prepared at the table by diners (usually in unlimited quantities), is a Koreatown specialty. Start with a few local favorites, Chosun Galbee, Genwa Korean BBQ and Parks BBQ, if you are so inclined. But really, it’s hard to go wrong.
Old-school Greek hole-in-the-wall Papa Cristo’s and authentic Oaxacan Mexican restaurant Guelaguetza are equally hallowed establishments on Koreatown’s south side. In north Koreatown, South Asians swear by the spicy tandoori meats at casual Biriyani Kabob House.
Eat local by the beach in Venice
When it comes to artistic trendsetting, Venice simply radiates healthful California dining. “L.A. is definitely known for California cuisine,” says W Hollywood concierge Ali McCormack. “You go to other places in the country and they don’t have kale salad or pear martinis or avocado on every single dish.”
The farm-to-table trend, focused on dishes filled with local vegetables and from-scratch ingredients, is popular all over the city, but especially in Venice. Gjelina is the hottest table in Venice – literally, a long, communal-style table, where friendships are forged among L.A. foodies. The restaurant’s popular brunch menu features artisan plates like duck confit-potato hash, grilled local squid with salsa verde, and a local seaweed and cucumber salad. Can’t get a reservation? Retreat to Gjusta, the same owners’ casual marketplace eatery, which sells the best loaf of sprouted rye in the city.
Upscale raw food restaurant Plant Food + Wine is an unconventional but delicious place to enjoy a night out, and The Tasting Kitchen and Fig (in neighboring Santa Monica) offer some of the most inspired fusion Mediterranean cuisine in the city.
Discover diversity in downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles is a chef’s dream and a foodie’s paradise. Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ taco truck can often be found downtown. “Their following of customers have been dedicated since day one,” says McLaughlin of the short rib Korean barbecue taco purveyor.
Irene Chen, concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, has a list of recommendations that will take diners across Europe: Enjoy fine Italian at Bestia, Spanish fusion at Baco Mercat, and French pastries and wood-fired oven pizza at Bottega Louie. “Kids love the bakery because it’s like a candy store,” she says.
Of course, Chen reserves her highest praise for The Ritz-Carlton’s own WP24, a Wolfgang Puck eatery. “It’s a very tasty twist on classic Chinese food. The bao buns have spicy, garlicy pork inside, but these buns are encrusted with black sesame seeds so they’re crispy on the bottom, which is divine,” she says.
[Read: The Best Hollywood Tours.]
Closer to home, downtown’s Mexican scene is lively, too. Its upscale options, like Broken Spanish and Mas Malo, offer experimental dishes inside gorgeous, early-20th century interiors. For more low-key street tacos dressed up in homemade tortillas, try Ray Garcia’s BS Taqueria or local favorite Guisados.
Unique, authentic eats in Little Ethiopia
One of the most unique food neighborhoods, stretching for a few blocks along Fairfax Boulevard in the Mid-Wilshire area, is Little Ethiopia. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Ryan Fisher, concierge at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica.
Restaurants are spread across two blocks, each serving their take on authentic Ethiopian fare, which usually consists of a stew of lamb, beef, trout or foul, surrounded by various lentil, potato, cabbage, collard greens and tomato dishes. These dishes are served family-style, atop a giant, spongy crepelike bread called injera, which has a tangy sourdough flavor. Diners grab a handful of injera and use it to scoop out the main dishes with their hands.
The bright, fresh Meals by Genet eatery spends days simmering stews and preparing each perfect meal, all for shockingly reasonable prices. For more of a “homestyle” atmosphere, complete with colorful Ethiopian cloth and traditional seating, Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant & Market offers cozy tables.
Vegetarian feasts in Silver Lake and Echo Park
Looking for that hallmark healthy cuisine on the eastside is a great reason to dine in the neighborhood districts of Silver Lake and Echo Park, along Sunset Boulevard between downtown and Hollywood. “International travelers come to Los Angeles expecting a mecca of juices and acai bowls and vegetarian options, and they’re not disappointed,” says Casey Duggan, former head concierge at the Viceroy Santa Monica and current head concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta. “Los Angeles is really pushing the envelope when it comes to health-conscious, creative, cool restaurants.”
In Echo Park, Elf Cafe’s entirely vegetarian menu of locally sourced, vegetarian dishes satisfies both your taste buds and conscience. Next door, Mohawk Bend blends craft beers with (mostly) vegan bar food. Nearby in Silver Lake, musician Moby recently opened his vegan California cuisine space, Little Pine.
[Read: The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles.]
However, lest carnivores despair, there is still meat on some eastside menus. Silverlake Ramen, a strip mall ramen joint, is known throughout the city for its pork-based tonkotsu ramen. Scroll the vast menu at fresh and flavorful Cliff’s Edge, which serves up a variety of vegetable-only dishes, for a few meaty plates near the bottom.
To experience more of what Los Angeles has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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