I’m slowly warming up to Los Angeles, thanks mostly to its diverse culinary options around the city. Despite the endless traffic, the sprawl, and the artificiality, there are many appealing parts of the city, including the rich diversity, and the openness towards new ideas that makes a winning combination for culinary excellence.
LA is an intimidating city to navigate food-wise, since there’s so much good food to eat (the best problem possible in my humble opinion). Since I moved back to the SF Bay Area, I’ve been down south numerous times, but still feel overwhelmed (and thrilled) with the possibilities. I’m most familiar with the Westside (especially Santa Monica and Venice), since a good friend lives there, but I’ve been trying to get to know other parts of the city as well.
I’ve written about where to eat in various parts of LA (Santa Monica and Venice, Little Tokyo), but I wanted to create a comprehensive list of my favorite eats around the city that I will continue to add to.
Here are a few of my favorites.
This popular spot is worth navigating the huge headache of a line that is almost always guaranteed to be pure chaos, and makes no sense whatsoever. Grab a number and wait your turn with the rest of the crowd. I promise whatever you order will make up for it. The lox bagel is my go-to, but they also have exceptionally good sandwiches, baked goods, and salads.
Tip: There’s a separate (often shorter) line for the baked goods (including their excellent bread) and drinks.
Wexler’s Deli (Grand Central Market and various locations)
There’s a lot of good food in Grand Central Market, but Wexler’s Deli is one of my favorites. I love their lox bagel (sense an obsession here?) for a lighter meal, and their Reuben if I want something more substantial.
Tip: If you’re at the Grand Central Market branch, and it’s a nice day, walk a few blocks to the outdoor gardens at Walt Disney Concert Hall for a quieter meal.
Bagel Nosh Deli (Santa Monica)
A great alternative to the long brunch lines on the Westside, this neighborhood staple offers pillow-soft bagels and a large hot breakfast menu. There’s plenty of seating inside where you don’t have to worry about being rushed out by waiting customers.
Tip: Get your daily dose of vitamin C with their freshly squeezed OJ.
Kismet (East Hollywood)
Two words: Turkish breakfast. Be prepared to get your senses overwhelmed in the best way possible. The visually stunning meal comes with both savory and sweet small dishes like a soft-boiled egg with Aleppo pepper and sumac, and fresh dates soaked in rosewater.
Tip: Try the LA-appropriate iced Turkish coffee that is spiced with cardamom.
Wurstkuche (Arts District-Downtown)
From classic to adventurous sausages, this place is a great spot to get your fill of meat in tube form. As a creature of habit, I went for the bratwurst, but if you want to try something a bit more exciting, there are options like rattlesnake & rabbit with jalapeno peppers that is described as buttery and mildly spicy.
Tip: If you prefer a tame pork-free option, the lamb sausage with Mediterranean spices is a wise decision.
Blu Jam Café (Sawtelle and various locations)
A solid brunch option, that caters to a wide range of dietary needs (vegan, gluten-free), and healthy options if you don’t feel like indulging in their signature crunchy French toast.
Tip: For a unique brunch option, try the Italian Breakfast that includes Arborio rice, mushrooms, parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, baby spinach, and a poached egg.
Urth Caffe (Santa Monica and various locations)
I have a mixed relationship with this café. It’s a LA institution that is a bit overhyped, but I have fallen in love with their heated back patio, where I can catch up with friends over a pot of warm tea. The food is mediocre and overpriced, but go for the atmosphere and drinks.
Tip: Try their Spanish latte (made with condensed milk) if you have a sweet tooth and need a kick of caffeine.
Bondi Harvest (Santa Monica)
This café offers a taste of Sydney’s beachside brunch culture hidden in an industrial area of Santa Monica (I would never have found it if my friend didn’t introduce me). I got the salmon tartine (opened-faced sandwich with house cured salmon) and couldn’t have been happier eating amid the surfboards leaning against the walls.
Tip: Certain breakfast items like the acai breakfast bowl are served all day, and make a great in-between meal snack.
Umami Burger (The Grove and various locations)
I heard a lot about this burger chain before I finally got to try it on my last trip down. I love the creative options for burgers, including a healthier ahi tuna burger with daikon sprouts, crushed avocado, and wasabi tartar. It has expanded around the state and country, but LA is where the magic started.
Tip: Order the truffle fries, and you will not regret it.
Mitsuwa Marketplace food court (Mar Vista)
This Japanese supermarket has an adjacent food court that is worth stopping at before braving the aisles. My personal favorite is Santouka for ramen, where I can get a steaming bowl of shio ramen. Cash only.
Tip: Get a combo set, which comes with delicious sides dishes like soy eggs and negi rice bowls.