Travel

The Downtown Los Angeles Guide

Bordered by Chinatown on one side and the Arts District on the other, what used to be a mostly industrial—and somewhat sketchy—expanse just a few years ago has blossomed into an exceedingly cool and covetable destination for some of the most inventive food in the city, under-the-radar shopping, and general good times.

B.S. Taqueria

514 W. 7th St., Downtown | 213.622.3744

The bright and fun B.S. Taqueria is run by Chef Ray Garcia, who previously spent six years manning Fig in Santa Monica. The menu isn't extensive but it's smartly curated, with plenty of taco options and lots of veggie-friendly variations. The margaritas are notably good, as are the happy hour prices.

Bäco Mercat

408 S. Main St., Downtown | 213.687.8808

From the people who brought you Bar Ama comes this Mediterranean-inspired restaurant where the signature bäco is made into tasty sandwiches. While they're known for meat, we particularly love their myriad veggie small plates (from crispy fava beans to pickled eggplant salads), and the fresh and unique seafood dishes. They also have a great drink list with small batch spirits and unique global wines and beers. It gets crowded so be sure to reserve before you go. Photo: Dylan + Jeni

Badmaash

108 W. 2nd St., Downtown | 213.221.7466

No one’s ever really attempted to make Indian food cool until brothers Nakul and Arjun Mahendro enlisted the help of their classically trained chef dad Pawan Mahendro to open their Indian gastropub, Badmaash. The menu here is devoted to both traditional and reimagined Indian dishes: chili-cheese naan, Punjabi fish-fry, chicken tikka poutine—an homage to the Mahendro’s Canadian roots—and our personal favorite, butter chicken. While the majority of the tiny two-story space is kept starkly industrial, there are several focal points throughout, like a brightly striped wall and a mural of a sunglasses-clad Ganghi.

Bar Amá

118 W. 4th St., Downtown | 213.687.8002

Puffy tacos, frito pie, queso, and other evolved Tex-Mex dishes are mainstays at chef Josef Centeno’s latest operation. Do not miss the perfectly caramelized sweet potatoes, the fried Brussels sprouts, and the guacomole, which just might be the best in the city. The ’50s hall-like space also offers its fair share of tequila and mescal drinks, along with homemade fruit mashes and Bäco-Pops.

Blue Cow Kitchen

350 S. Grand Ave., Downtown | 213.621.2249

Given its founders Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero are the force behind the ever-popular (and expanding) Mendocino Farms, it's no surprise Blue Cow delivers. The menu features California-style small-plates, salads, and entrees (including one of the better fried chicken sandwiches we've had) coupled with a pretty stellar cocktail list. Go for the turkey meatball flatbread and kale Caesar and grab a seat outside-it's one of the best patios downtown. It's also an ideal spot for happy hour or dinner after a visit to The Broad.

Blossom

426 S. Main St., Downtown | 213.623.1973

Owner Duc Pham, who was born in Vietnam but raised in Anaheim, obsesses over the quality of every detail in his restaurants, from the Scandinavian-inspired furniture to wine list to the bread on his banh mi, which is baked fresh daily. While the classic dishes are excellent at all three locations—anything on the menu with pork belly is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser—we love the Silver Lake location, which has a secret wine bar downstairs. They also have an outpost in Chinatown.

Bestia

2121 E. 7th Pl., Downtown | 213.514.5724

In an industrial-inflected, warehouse-like space in L.A.'s Arts District, you'll find Bestia, helmed by husband-and-wife duo, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. While the scope of the menu is ambitious (and innovative, as Ori hates to waste meat, meaning you'll find the occasional beef and lamb heart or chicken gizzard dotting the offerings), you should really go for the pizza: Ori gives his dough a good 24-hours to rise and fall before it heads into the wood-burning oven, and you can tell. A trip here requires Uber, as this place draws huge crowds—the bar is a fun place to wait, and the cocktails are delicious.

Best Girl

929 S. Broadway, Downtown | 213-623-3233

Leave it to the Michael Cimarusti (he's the brilliant chef behind LA mainstays Connie and Ted's and Providence) to pull a culinary magic trick: Cimarusti unveiled his new restaurant, Best Girl, after secretly working with DTLA's Ace Hotel to reimagine its now-former restaurant, L.A. Chapter (the change was unveiled to the public literally overnight, as hotel guests learned of the news via a note slipped under their doors). A good dose of nostalgia and history come with the new concept, from the name (Best Girl nods to the building's history, the former home of United Artists, the studio co-founded by actress Mary Pickford whose film My Best Girl premiered at United Artists Theatre, now the Theatre at Ace Hotel), to Cimarusti's return to the downtown culinary scene more than a decade after he was head chef at the Water Grill. The interiors are stylish and moody—and the menu is refreshingly unique, albeit heavy on the meat (there are a few veg-centric items, including a stuffed pachieri), with a solid desert game thanks to chef Crisi Echiverri.

Café Gratitude

300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Downtown | 213.929.5580

Everything on the menu is an affirmation, so if you can stifle the giggles at names like "I Am Connected"—which is actually an amazing zucchini cilantro hummus—you'll find that the vegan food here is delicious, even for those who normally refuse to go meat and dairy-free. There are picks for every sensibility, from coffee milkshakes (made with almond milk), to cashew cheese topped corn tacos to Indian curried lentils. There are three locations—Hancock Park, Venice, and the Arts District—and the Café Gratitude team just opened Gracias Madre, a Mexican iteration in Hollywood.

Cerveteca

923 E. 3rd St. #109, Downtown | 213.805.5862

One of the first things you'll likely notice is that the stools here aren't particularly comfortable—we're guessing this was an intentional decision, otherwise everyone would stick around for even longer. Despite the packed scene (you'll get intimate with your neighbor), this is one of our favorites downtown, thanks to the California-Mexican menu and the frequent happy hours. There are also locations in Venice and Culver City.

Church & State

1850 Industrial St., Downtown | 213.405.1434

The feel here falls somewhere between a classic Parisian brasserie and old Williamsburg. The industrial cool interior is warmed by distinct bistro touches, including the menu in chalk on mirrors. The comfort French fare is good, but we come for the inventive cocktails.

Cole’s

118 E. 6th St., Dowtown | 213.622.4090

Cole’s is one of several spots in town claiming to serve the “original” French Dip sandwich, and though we can’t confirm or deny, we can say that their dip is bomb. Yeah, the dipping jus is flavorful and the prime rib tender, but it’s the Atomic mustard that pulls it all together (don’t forget the garlic fries). Post-dinner proceed to the quirky little speakeasy in the back for an Old Fashioned.

Commissary

3515 Wilshire Blvd., Downtown | 213.381.7411

Chef Roy Choi’s sprawling greenhouse-slash-restaurant sits inside The Line Hotel in Koreatown. It’s obvious a whole lot of thought went into making this place the ideal mix of high and low. The gin and juice (we like ours with pineapple, but you can also mix in watermelon, apple, carrot, or beet juice) is freakishly potent and comes in a plastic cup, while tea is served in fine china. The menu—which, surprisingly, is illustrated—is largely devoted to all forms of veggies (try the carrots…trust) though there are lots of proteins to choose from, like a truly stellar burger and no-frills steak. You’ll also find several seemingly out of place menu items, such as deviled eggs and schnitzel, which make a lot more sense once you actually try them.

Daikokuya

327 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo | 213.626.1680

There's something so comforting about a hot bowl of ramen on a cold day, and anytime there's even a hint of rain in Los Angeles, the lines at this Little Tokyo joint are out the door. What makes the ramen here stand out is the broth, which is cooked with pork bones for hours to achieve its thick, flavorful consistency. The portions are huge, so be prepared to take home leftovers. There's a second location on Sawtelle.

Faith & Flower

705 W. 9th St., Downtown | 213.239.0642

Since its unveiling, dinner reservations at Downtown’s jazz age throwback, Faith & Flower, have been growing increasingly harder to come by. Local foodies flock here in droves to treat their palates to Executive Chef Michael Hung’s Californian rustic creations (past gigs include Bushi-Tei and Michelin star recipient, La Folie). The high-ceilinged dining room is outfitted with a stretch tufted couch (the rich, mustardy hue playing off the emerald water goblets) and hand-strung chandeliers. The menu is flush with decadent dishes—like the deviled Jidori eggs and mushroom stuffed quail, for example—with an impressive drink menu to match. Dangerously potent absinth cocktails are best sampled in the dimly-lit bar area with street artist Robert Vargas’ mural of a wide-eyed femme fatale keeping watch—a nod to Fitzgerald’s all-seeing Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, perhaps?.

KazuNori

421 S. Main St., Los Angeles | 213.493.6956

This is an offshoot of Chef Kazunori Nozawa's popular sushi restaurant, Sugarfish—and like Sugarfish, the emphasis is on the freshness and quality of the fish. But that's where the similarities end, as KazuNori is all about the hand rolls. They have two menus—one if you're ordering to go or eating on their patio, and another if you're sitting at the sushi bar.

Langer’s Deli

704 S. Alvarado, Westlake | 213.483.8050

In a city rife with delis, this is where you want to go for hot pastrami—the #19 is legendary. It’s also refreshingly simple: slow-smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and slaw on fresh rye, and since the meat is so ridiculously juicy, you can easily skip the Russian dressing. The only setback is the skimpy opening hours (8am-4pm; closed Sundays), but coming right before closing and ordering to-go is a good workaround if you’re aiming for dinner.

Le Comptoir

Hotel Normandie, 3606 W. 6th St., Koreatown | 562.537.5990

It's pretty special when a chef with a pedigree like Gary Menes' (Melisse, The French Laundry), foregoes opening a big white tablecloth joint in favor of something like Le Comptoir: A 10-seat restaurant where each guest sits at the counter and interacts with the chef throughout the prix-fixe meal. The intimate, memorable dinner experience takes place inside Koreatown's cozy Hotel Normandie, and rings in at a surprisingly affordable $69/person. The menu changes daily to account for seasonal produce, which Menes sources from Gladys Avenue Farm, an urban farm he founded and manages in Long Beach.

Little Sister

523 W. 7th St., Downtown | 213.628.3146

In 2015, Chef Tin Vuong opened his second Little Sister, this outpost near Pershing Square downtown. One thing that makes the DTLA location stand out from the original Manhattan Beach Little Sister is that breakfast is served here in addition to lunch and dinner. (The breakfast menu includes dishes like Vuong's elevated take on congee—a popular rice porridge throughout Asia, Chinese-inspired savory donuts, banh mi, and pho.) But that doesn't make this Little Sister any less of a spot for lunch and dinner—head here when you're in the mood for good Southeast Asian food.

Marugame Monzo

329 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo | 213.346.9762

Marugame Monzo is the place to go for udon of all flavors—from curry udon to uni creamy sauce udon, shrimp tempura udon, and seafood tomato cream udon. The real draw of Marugame Monzo, though, is that you get to watch the udon being made in the glass-enclosed kitchen—the impressive pounding, rolling, and cutting of the dough into thick udon noodles. An entertaining and tasty meal.

Otium

222 S. Hope St., Downtown | 213.935.8500

Fittingly situated behind the Broad contemporary art museum, Otium’s box-like, wood, steel, and glass building can easily be mistaken for a large-scale art installation. Inside, the large light-filled dining room and communal table area revolve around a sprawling open kitchen and are meant to accommodate the museum crowds without making anyone feel, well, overcrowded. Chef Timothy Hollingsworth, formerly of The French Laundry, developed a menu that’s at times experimental but always approachable and delicious, think: artichoke and burrata, bacon tart, and falafel.

Patina

141 S. Grand Ave., Downtown | 213.972.3331

Frank Gehry acolytes come from across the globe to see his curvaceous masterpiece, Disney Hall—so why not make a meal of it. The buttoned-up Patina is the crown jewel in Joachim Splichal’s empire of eateries at cultural institutions. Over the years, Patina has earned its fair share of Michelin stars, and now with young up-and-comer Paul Lee at the helm, the artfully prepared French fare has been modernized. Its central location downtown makes it a great option for private events, as well.

Perch

448 S. Hill St., Downtown | 213.802.1770

This terrace bar overlooks downtown’s Pershing Square, the home of several prime examples of classic L.A. architecture including the art deco building it tops. It has a French, bistro-themed restaurant and all the cocktails you’d want, though the real draw here is the view.

Plan Check

1111 Wilshire Blvd., Downtown | 213.403.1616

Plan Check is primarily known for the Plan Check Burger (PCB), which pairs a juicy patty with their signature ketchup leather (it’s like ketchup-flavored fruit leather). With the burger hogging the spotlight, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the restaurant also serves what’s arguably one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city. The secret is that they cold smoke and brine the chicken before it’s fried—the perfectly crispy, flavorful result is served with pimento cheese, duck breast ham, and crunchy pickles. There are two other locations, on Fairfax and Sawtelle.

Pot

The Line Hotel, 3515 Wilshire Blvd., Downtown | 213.368.3030

Nestled at the end of a dark hallway in the Line Hotel, Pot was one of Roy Choi's first brick and mortar restaurants after Kogi Truck. The interior, which is bright and stark, with low ceilings and basic furniture, tips its hat to the more old-school Korean restaurants in the neighborhood. Must order: potato pancakes with kimchi, uni fried rice, rice hot pots, and the "Basil," which includes Old Overholt Whiskey, lemon, and honey and is served in a deli cup.

Preux & Proper

840 S. Spring St., Downtown | 213.896.0090

Preux & Proper is yet another brand-new addition to LA's growing downtown bar and restaurant scene. The New Orleans-inspired spot features an elegant but unstuffy interior: white walls and tile are grounded by dark floors and black leather stools and banquettes, and there are open-air patios on both floors. For an upscale, ladylike dining experience and fresh oysters (proper), sit upstairs. For a more rowdy bar scene and the opportunity to test their 6 separate frozen Daiquiri flavors (preux), stay on the first floor.

Q Sushi

521 W. 7th St., Downtown | 213.225.6285

As far as omakase sushi bars go, this one is just about as authentic as it gets since it’s modeled after Chef Hiroyuki Naruke’s shuttered six-seat restaurant in Tokyo. The menu is strictly devoted to that day’s catch. It's perfect for a special occasion, as it's a big production with the price-tag to match.

Ramen Champ

727 N. Broadway, Chinatown | 213.316.8595

As the first proper restaurant from Alvin Cailan (of Eggslut fame), Ramen Champ was one of the most anticipated LA restaurant openings last year. He's since sold the venture to local ramen legend Yoshimasa Kasai, who, as the former Director of the Ramen Yokocho Festival, knows a thing or two about broth. Cailan has stayed on as a consultant so while the menu is simplified and the recipes have been tweaked, the arty sneakerhead vibe and the wall art are firmly intact. Veggies, take note: The vegan and vegetarian ramens are excellent.

Sushi Gen

422 E. Second St., Downtown | 213.617.0552

The long, sinuous sushi bar is where it's at, though you'll need to order a minimum of four items to sit here, which, once you taste the fish, won't be a problem. Fresh as can be, the sushi is prepared diligently by experienced chefs who emphasize the high-quality cuts with a light ponzu sauce here, a sprinkling of lemon and sea salt there. In typical LA style, it's located in a strip mall, and ideal for a business or casual lunch. Don't be intimidated by the line, as it moves fast.

Sushi Zo

334 S. Main St., Suite 1106, Downtown | 424.201.5576

It looks like nothing from the outside, but inside, you'll have some the best sushi going. The policy is omakase only, so it's an indulgence in all ways, but it's a place for purists, as the incredibly high-quality, fresh but uncomplicated fish actually melts in your mouth. There's another location in Culver City, and they've recently opened a restaurant in New York, too.

Umami Burger

852 South Broadway St., Downtown | 213.413.8626

The eponymous burger here warrants the elusive name, which refers to the fifth taste in Japanese. You'll find a sleek interior and fantastic burgers, plus inventive sides and sauces. Not to mention, they grind their own meat, process their own cheese, and pickle their own veggies. Because why not? With multiple locations throughout LA area, you can't, and shouldn't, miss this. Other locations: Arts District, Burbank, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Studio City, West Hollywood, and Thousand Oaks

Yang Chow

819 N. Broadway, Downtown | 213.625.0811

Named after the province of its founders, Yang Chow serves up authentic Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine in a simple downtown space. Their signature slippery shrimp is worth the trip alone. There are also locations in Pasadena and the Valley.

Zinc Café & Market

580 Mateo St., Downtown | 323.825.5381

Zinc got its start down in Orange County (there are similar outposts in Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, and Solano Beach), before branching out to the Arts District downtown in the summer of 2014. The airy, bright space is marked by an open kitchen and a smattering of tables and chairs for low key breakfast and lunch meetings, though many carry out. Baked goods, really delicious salads, and wood-fired pizzas round out the mix.

Woodspoon

107 West 9th St., Downtown | 213.629.1765

Between the beautiful interiors (the walls are decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage plates and photographs) and the stellar menu, there's no wonder why there's a wait every night–with a no-reservations policy to help–outside this tiny DTLA gem. It's owner has garnered such a loyal following of foodies and locals alike who crave her authentic Brazilian dishes infused with African, European, and Indian influences (including one of the best chicken pot pies we've had).

Manuela

907 E 3rd St., Downtown | 323.849.0480

Located in the Hauser and Wirth gallery complex in DTLA’s Arts District, at Manuela, chef Wes Whitsell nostalgically cooks the food he ate growing up in Texas, injected with modern flavor and technique. The restaurant is very much farm-to-table, the garden eggs really do come from the garden (they have their own chicken house, home to twelve rare-breed birds). All the smoking, fermenting, preserving, and pickling are done in-house. The sides really stand out, featuring vegetables commonly eaten in the South but rarely seen on LA menus like okra, scarlet runner and dragon beans.