Living in a city that provides virtually unlimited food options can often lead Angelenos to decision paralysis.
“Where should we eat tonight?”
“Umm… I dunno, where do you want to eat?”
It’s the very definition of a first-world foodie problem, but one you’ve almost certainly faced if you live here for more than a minute.
The flip side is we’ve also got our favorites that will never let us down, and once we discover those go-to spots it’s more than likely we will be returning again and again.
Some are hole-in-the-wall places that non-locals may not look twice at but we know better and most of us will happily talk someone’s ear off about the virtues of a particular restaurant’s cuisine if given the chance.
With that in mind, the following is an eclectic list (in no particular order) of some of the most dependably delicious eats in the city that’s sure to offer something for everyone.
1. Tatsu Ramen
Ramen has been a staple in most of our diets but only when you add the word “top”to it. But Tatsu is the real deal and, needless to say, it’s so much better. Their signature homemade Tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is their self-proclaimed secret to success. Patrons also rave about the ease of ordering and customizing dishes through the iPad- ah the joy of modern day technology.
2. Cofax Coffee Shop
Two words: breakfast burrito. In addition to the usual suspects- chorizo, cheese, eggs- they’ve got smoked potatoes and that has made all the difference plus the red and green house-made salsas complement and enhance the flavors perfectly.
3. Manuel’s El Tepeyac Café
The family-owned business is run by Manuel Rojas and features authentic Mexican dishes but it’s particularly famous for their five-pound machaca burrito that is guaranteed to be delicious and satisfying and best shared among friends. This iconic Boyle Heights café has been serving up the Hollenbeck burrito since 1952 so you know they’re doing something right.
4. Blue Dog Beer Tavern
You can’t go wrong with burgers and beer and this Valley gem does both items justice. Locals know this place always delivers especially fans of spicy dishes (El Scorpion) but my personal favorite is The Squealer. Like the food, the ambiance is also comforting and inviting so if you’re looking for a fun night of drinks and good eats this is it.
If there’s anything Angelenos love more than sunshine it’s organic food. SunCafe specializes in raw foods and all its ingredients are organic and they make their own nut cheeses from scratch. Their quinoa-based pasta in the mac ‘n’ cheese with a cashew cheese sauce is as good as the real thing and their zucchini lasagna includes the Sunchorizo, a soy chorizo made in house. Carnivores may not take notice disregarding it because of its vegan status but SunCafe has been known to satisfy meat-lovers when the foundation for their cuisine is all about comfort foods (think grandma’s cookin’ but much healthier). Bonus: they offer 18 organic vegan wines by the glass.
6. Gloria’s Café
Their famous Seven Seas soup hits all the right spots. They offer Mexican and Salvadoran dishes so sampling a bit of both worlds is the way to go. Pair the Plato Tipico for a little bit of El Salvador and tuck into the carne adobada, the house specialty from Gloria’s recipe.
The combination of fries drenched in that one-of-a-kind “juice” paired with their famous chicken is all one needs when eating here. It’s affordable and reliably delicious, basically it meets the two most important qualities of being a go-to dish.
8. Trois Familia
So this restaurant may not be anyone’s go-to just yet considering it just opened… literally last month… but it’s bound to become a go-to spot considering Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and Ludo Lefebvre ( of Trois Mec and Petis Trois fame) are the men behind it. Like its more upscale counterparts the food, a blend of Mexican and French, is top-notch but the menu is more wallet-friendly and kid-friendly (hence the name).
9. Nat’s Early Bite
They serve breakfast all day like their chilaquiles, or matzo brei if you prefer, and really who doesn’t love a cozy, low-key coffee shop with three decades of experience serving comfort food?
Like most places in the Valley it’s a low-key spot with an unassuming exterior but with a menu that has some of the best sushi in L.A. They’re famous for the blackened cod in addition to their salmon nigiri, spicy tuna, and uni and then there’s the miso soup with seaweed and chunks of tofu. Yeah, there’s a lot to love about this place.
11. Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
There’s no way to say this without it sounding odd but here goes- ketchup leather. Yes, it sounds weird but trust us, it’s a small part of a delicious whole known as the PCB (Plan Check Burger). This place is no stranger to unique ingredients though (See: pig candy in the Blueprint burger) but the biggest draw is their fried jidori chicken with smoked milk gravy. Bonus: Japanese whiskey. Don’t knock it till you try it.
[RELATED: 10 Spots For The Best Burgers in Los Angeles]
12. Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
Ask an Angeleno what their favorite barbecue spot is they’ll likely name American and Korean restaurants. The line here lasts about as long as it takes you to pronounce the name of the restaurant but after a bit of soju (Korean vodka) and grilled beef all is forgotten. The banchan (side dishes) includes bean sprout and green onion salad with a pickled radish broth, kimchi and kabocha squash all you have to do is pick your meat (pork or beef) and the it’s grilled at your table. Judging by the wait time it’s a go-to for many Angelenos but when it comes to K-town eateries you want the best meat and you’ll find it here.
13. Gracias Madre
It’s vegan, it’s Mexican and it’s no wonder it found a home in L.A. Chef Chandra Gilbert’s creations are born out of authentic Mexican dishes made with organic, locally-sourced food. Like the name connotes, the recipes are inspired by the Mexican families and mothers she met in her travels. The menu prominently features avocados, cashew cheese, and a little something from her Cafe Gratitude days- coconut bacon.
14. Ricky’s Fish Tacos/ Tito’s Tacos
Chances are you’ve stood in a long line, cash in hand, ready to order whatever your usual may be. The laid-back vibe and casual dining experience make for a great and affordable lunch spot. When it comes to fish tacos it’s all about the batter and Ricky’s mastered it (the aqua frescas helps counteract the heat from the jalapeños). Tito’s has been around since 1959 and it’s all thanks to their no-frills beef tacos covered in cheese.
15. Grand Central Market
They’ve got all your cravings covered with a variety of cuisine ranging from pastrami sandwiches at Wexler’s Deli to pupusas at Sarita’s Pupuseria to gorditas at Ana Maria’s. I would go so far as to say it’s impossible to step foot in GCM and not find yourself gazing at all the menus, delighting in the multitude of options and suddenly finding yourself hungry. From savory (Eggslut) to sweet (McConnell’s) they’ve got it all and it’s especially a great option when out with friends because everyone is bound to find something they like and subsequently plan a day to return to try something else.
16. The Apple Pan
Not much has changed since its opening in 1947, something evident as you walk through the doors and immediately notice the old school cash registers and overall diner feel. Their famous Hickory burger is still considered one of the best but it’s their homemade banana cream pie that’s head and shoulders above the rest. The reason customers keep coming back is two-fold: the food hits all the same spots it when they first visited and its throwback appeal where soda is served in a paper cones in metal cup holders.
What are your “go-to” spots in and around Los Angeles? Share your favorites below!