A Visitor’s Guide to Los Angeles: 10 Essential Eateries

Alright, well I have bragged enough about LA, so I suppose it is time to give you all some tangible “to-do’s” to back it all up. But first, know that this is all my opinion, and only my opinion. There are countless things to do, eat and see in Los Angeles; my perspective is only one of many. Secondly, Lauren and I LOVE food. For us, it is the best way to immerse ourselves in and experience a culture–to live life with people, how they live it. Whether or not you call yourself a “foodie,” or you scoff at people who do, food is an integral part of existence for every human being.

So, if you are coming to Los Angeles and you have referred to yourself as a “foodie,” you are in for a treat. By virtue of its vast ethnic and cultural diversity, fresh, year-round produce and “we’ll try anything attitude” (think, ramen burger), LA has as good of food as you’ll find anywhere.

It’s also important to get some perspective. There are literally thousands of worthwhile restaurants in LA and the surrounding areas. Additionally, there’s like three dozen more that pop-up every week. It is impossible to keep up with it all. So, while I could give you “101 places to eat in LA,” I find large lists to be overwhelming and frankly, a great way to find yourself approaching lunchtime, before you’ve made a decision about breakfast.  Lastly, as aforementioned, this is only my perspective. If you get a tip from a local, stumble upon something by chance or decide to go the Yelp route, go with your gut (pun intended). All that said, here’s the list:

1. Gjusta (Venice)  – the mind-blowing, smokes their own fish, bakes their own bread, cures their own meat, makes everything  in house, restaurant/cafe/market/deli/pizzeria that you absolutely need to try. Last year, it made #2 on Andrew Knowlton’s (of Bon Appetite magazine) 2015 “Hot 10” list and you need to go here. I recommend that sandwich you see above, the pastrami reuben and probably anything else that looks good. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $$.

2. Daikokuya (Little Tokyo, Downtown) –  LA has dozens of great ramen shops and it’s hard to go wrong. Order the daikokuya ramen and you will be very happy. With the hole-in-wall-esque ambiance, the refreshing lack of anything that’s “local” or “organic,”the awesome vintage Japanese paraphernalia, the whole thing is great (Except, there’s no A/C, so maybe don’t come when it’s 100 degrees out). Afterwards, walk the little Tokyo plaza and head over to Mikawaya or Cafe Dulce for a treat. Cash only. $.

3. Kogi BBQ Truck (Constantly Roaming) – If you have heard anything about the food truck phenomenon of the last few years, you know that LA is king of food trucks. Kogi BBQ is the best of the best. Roy Choi practically created the whole Mexican/Korean fusion thing, and with it, a rolling icon of tacos, mulitas, quesadillas and burritos packed with the most flavorful and oddly colored salsa you’ve maybe ever had. It’s so good, you’ll forget that it doesn’t come with chairs. $.

4. Petit Trois (Hollywood) – A classic french bistro serving up the best french bread, omelettes (yes, an omelette for dinner and you should order it), french onion soup, confit chicken and of course an amazing burger (because every restaurant in LA has “their burger”). It is a great example of the increasingly common phenomenon when you find a nice restaurant in a strip mall. It’s also the kind of place you will walk away from, dream of and want to come back tomorrow. Credit cards only. $$$.

5. Pine & Crane (Silver Lake) – Modern, yet authentic Taiwanese cooking that is so good, every time and right in the middle of our favorite neighborhood in all of Los Angeles. Go here for lunch and order a beef roll, spicy shrimp wontons, dan dan noodles, whatever the seasonal vegetable is (trust me on this–I know you will just want to order 10 pork-centric things, but the vegetables are great) and enjoy. Afterwards, walk west to the Sunset Junction, take a look at all those “Silver Lake hipsters” you’ve heard of and grab a coffee from a, probably-not-that friendly barista at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. It’s all part of the experience. $$.

6. Sqirl (East Hollywood) – Want to see some more hipsters? Go to Sqirl for breakfast (or lunch)! I’m not even sure how to define Sqirl except by saying I always leave feeling like Jessica Koslow makes food how it ought to be made–seasonal, whole, healthy food, prepared creatively and consistently amazing, without being a gut-bomb. You will leave wishing you could make vegetables and rice as good as she does and wonder what the heck “lacto-fermented hot sauce” is and why it hasn’t been on everything you’ve ever eaten. Known for their jam, get at least one brioche toast & jam, a vanilla bean lemonade, something savory and enjoy. Then, probably come back the next morning too. $$.

7. Proof Bakery (Atwater Village) – But, if you want something else for breakfast, go to Proof Bakery. If you like pastries, please do not miss out on the opportunity. Pain au chocolat, canele de bordeaux and everything else are awesome. I’m not a pasty expert, but I’m kind of a pain au chocolat freak and I sought out the best in Paris – these are just as good. Get there early (like, before 9:00am to be safe) or much of the popular stuff will be gone. $$.

8. Guisados (Echo Park, Downtown, Boyle Heights) – Ok, so what’s even more prevalent than ramen shops? Taco stands. There are literally thousands of places to get tacos in LA. Stop at any given truck or stand and it will probably be good. Go to Guisados, and it will be awesome. Their house-made tortillas and stewed meats make for a rich and flavor-packed meal. $.

9. Grand Central Market (Downtown) – The constantly changing, bittersweetly gentrifying, Grand Central Market is a must. Eggslut, G&B Coffee, Belcampo Meat Co., Sticky Rice Thai, Sarita’s Pupuseria are just a few great things to eat there, and there are many more. Go with a group, patronize a few spots and share. $-$$.

10. In-N-Out Burger (Everywhere) – Ok, I know you’ve heard of it, so this isn’t an insider tip. If you haven’t been, please go. Order a double-double, animal style. Get some fries, asks for “extra spread,” and dip your fries in the spread. You won’t regret it. $.

Ok, well there you have it. Though I almost feel guilty having to omit so many other places that I love, if I moved away and came back to visit, this is probably where I would go. Oh! And there’s one more caveat. This list is based on places where Lauren and I have actually eaten. If want more than 10 options check out Jonathan Gold’s “101 Best Restaurants,” and if you have the funds, please go to Maude, N/Naka, Providence, Spago, etc. and let us know how it is!

We hope you enjoyed this and that you get a chance to eat what’s good this weekend.

– Christopher

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