What once looked like a warehouse wasteland (and provided a low-cost haven for L.A.’s artists) has become a beautiful, burgeoning hub for L.A.’s young, professional and creative. With approximate limits of Second Street to Seventh Street and Alameda Street and the L.A. River, surprisingly, the Downtown Arts District is totally walkable in pockets.
Sprinkled amidst these perimeters are the makings of a community rich in character, featuring stylish galleries, handsome coffee shops, socially conscious boutiques and some of the best restaurants and bars. These pockets of budding establishments lie amidst a stretch of early 20th-century warehouses—many ex-factories—converted into swanky lofts and creative spaces.
Get the lowdown on the Downtown Arts District’s best places to eat, drink, shop and explore.
RECOMMENDED: See more in our guide to Downtown Los Angeles
Where to eat in the Downtown Arts District
A few years after opening and Ori Menashe’s Bestia continues to turn tables and require weeks-out reservations. It shouldn’t be surprising, given this spot’s penchant for nailing straightforward but innovative Italian food that arrives hot from that centerpiece of a wood-burning oven. Some of Bestia’s menu highlights have become modern icons of L.A.’s dining scene: the Spaghetti Rustichella—a small pyramid of noodles under dungeness crab—is synonymous with this hard-to-land reservation.
Located in the loading dock of the Biscuit Lofts in DTLA’s Arts District, this French bistro serves classic fare—steak frites, escargot, steak tartare and more—to Angelenos with big budgets and a taste for nuanced interiors. Start with a seasonal cocktail and oysters on the half shell, then progress to housemade charcuterie and savory tartes. Don’t miss the weekday meal-deal: a three-course lunch for a steal at $25.
This family-owned café, whose interior consists of a few basic wooden picnic tables and chairs, offers homemade pies deemed by many as the best in L.A. Made from scratch every morning, popular pie options include Mexican Chocolate, Earl Grey and a savory Mac and Cheese hand pie (if that’s not a match made in heaven, we don’t know what is). To accompany your slice, Pie Hole’s coffee selection is top-notch, including their own fare trade organic blend. Craving something a little more funky? The shop also offers cold brew nitro iced coffee—one of the few places in the city to do so.
Husband-and-wife team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis redefined modern-Italian food with Bestia, but Bavel, their newest, feels much more personal, and even traditional. The cuisine pays tribute to both chef-owners’ heritages as the flavors wind their way through Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. The space livens up the already exciting menu: You can sit on the patio, but inside, near the open kitchen and under the waterfall of hanging vines, is where the action always is.
The hand-tossed, thin crust pies at this Downtown pizza joint show off local ingredients like arugula, tomatoes, cage-free eggs and ethically-raised pork-and-beef meatballs. Aside from the standard pepperoni, margherita and veggie options, Pizzanista offers inventive slices like macaroni and cheese (available on Sundays only), along with gluten-free and create-your-own pies. A selection of beer and wine is available, but if you want to drink elsewhere, order your pizza and take it next door to Tony’s Saloon.
With a menu that includes Peruvian ceviche, orange chicken wings, Asian-spiced pulled pork sandwiches and tacos de barbacao, there’s no question that Cerveteca embraces fusion and experimentation. Offering brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves as a popular hangout for neighboring Sci-Arc students ready to wind down with a couple drinks.
Cousins Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli transformed a triangular space into Wurstküche, a contemporary “sausage kitchen.” The cousins’ crew will gladly grill sausages like Polish-style Kielbasa or more adventurous Rattlesnake & Rabbit to pair with a “groot” worth of skin-on frites; in case you didn’t know, that amounts to a lot of fries. Wurstküche primarily pours Belgian and German beers from (surprisingly) brand-free tap handles.
The Factory Kitchen, a Northern Italian eatery made noticeable only by red neon signage above its door, focuses all of its efforts on the food and almost none on the decor. Cement floors and peeling pillars blend into the background as servers in checkered-shirt uniforms bring out one excellent dish after another. There are many stand-out options to start with, but the focaccina calda di recco, a heavenly flatbread, should be at the top of your list. When it comes to pasta, a fan favorite is the mandilli di seta, a delicate handkerchief option with pesto, though an oxtail ragu spooned over beautiful ribbons of pappardelle is just as excellent. And to finish? The dessert list is short, but let us narrow it down for you further: ask for the cannoli.
As one of the best acai bowl shops in town, Amazebowls has grown from a truck to a brick and mortar in Downtown L.A., selling their popular bowls and smoothies from the Arts District. Try the classic Amazebowl made with acai, blueberries, pineapple, banana, agave and hemp milk; or the Instagram-friendly Coconut Acai Bowl served in a chilled coconut and topped with a slew of superfoods.
Where to drink in the Downtown Arts District
Stepping into Everson Royce Bar is like heaving a sigh of relief, a hidden gem in the Arts District that feels part elegant cocktail den, part raucous patio party. Cocktails come inspired by Los Angeles—we recommend the Oaxacan old-fashioned, or the Yo LA Tengo which comes packed with mezcal, grapefruit, Aperol, ginger and lime—whether you’re hanging with friends outdoors or tucked into a dark corner inside on a date. Don’t skip the bar bites, which include some of the best biscuits and one of the best burgers in town.
Live music, burgers, beer, cocktails—what more could you want in a casual neighborhood bar? This friendly hangout hosts a steady stream of blues, rock and bluegrass musicians that perform inside the steampunk space almost every night of the week. A fantastic grilled cheese, beer battered fish and chips and more hearty eats satisfy hungry patrons, while a list of creative cocktails and craft beer fills out the drink menu. The best part? No cover.
Walk through the nondescript door to the right after entering Lupetti Pizzeria and you’ll find yourself in one of the coolest bars in the Arts District. Modeled after Japanese kissaten, audio-focused lounges and coffee shops, Lupetti’s hidden gem In Sheep’s Clothing is part listening lounge, part cocktail bar and part coffee concept.
Located next to Pizzanista, Tony’s Saloon is a favorite for Arts District denizens who come to play a few rounds of pool, down a couple well-crafted drinks and indulge in cheesy slices from the pizzeria next door. For those looking to challenge their drinking buddy to some friendly competition, there’s darts and table tennis in addition to pool. And if you’re hungry? Pair your Peroni with a piece of pizza (you can either order from the bar or pick it up at Pizzanista to bring into Tony’s), then head to the back patio for some fresh air under twinkling lights.
Arts District frequents now have another watering hole to rival Angel City Brewery and the arcade bar EightyTwo. This brewhouse features nine beers on tap, which will no doubt be expanded, and a full cocktail bar for when you want to amp things up. Oh, and there are skee-ball machines.
Local production brewhouses are bubbling up all over DTLA, each unique in their own special way, but none quite as large or Prohibition-era as Iron Triangle. Housed in real estate that dates back to 1905, the prodigious facility and tasting room occupies nearly an entire Arts District block. Even with a 16-tap bar, cornhole pit, picnic tables and at least a dozen stainless steel fermenters, there’s still plenty of space to imbibe in peace.
L.A.’s very first distillery opened in 2011, in a split-level, Arts District warehouse where visitors can taste their way through organic spirits that include bitters, rum, liqueur, whiskey, gin, tequila and vodka. Founded by husband-and-wife team Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew, Greenbar strives to be eco-conscious: A tree is planted for every bottle sold, and labels are 100 percent recycled. Standouts here include the versatile Fruitlab Organic Orange Liqueur and the clean Slow Hand White Whiskey.
Things to do in the Downtown Arts District
This industrial space has a bare-bones, beer-hall feel, with plenty of room to spread out among picnic tables beneath a renovated mezzanine. But the main focus is the well-lit bar with 12 coveted bar stools, clean copper taps and an Art Deco-inspired backdrop. Plus, Angel City also hosts regular trivia, bingo and game nights, along with fests and performances in its front lot and renovated shed.
This massive space is the Arts District outpost of the international gallery Hauser & Wirth. The L.A. space occupies a former flour mill with its collection of contemporary art and modern masters. The project has restored the Globe Mills complex into a cultural center with museum-caliber exhibitions as well as public programs and educational activities.
If ever there was a bar to geek out in, this one is it. Los Angeles’ first barcade (that’s bar + arcade for you noobs) boasts more than 40 classic consoles, from Centipede to Ms. Pac-Man—all fixed with cup holders for endless booze-fueled sessions. An entire section of the bar is dedicated to vintage pinball machines.
Two Bit Circus wants to be your Arts District arcade hangout. The “micro-amusement park” combines virtual reality, escape rooms, motion-sensing carnival-esque attractions, old-school–inspired arcade games and trivia, all wrapped up in a sort-of-steampunk aesthetic that’s as well-suited for a kitsch robot bartender as it is a virtual battle arena.
It’s a scene straight out of Austin’s Eastside, where food trailers and outdoor imbibing reign supreme at this patio bar and concert venue. In keeping with that theme, a revolving lineup of food trucks crank out comfort grub while craft beer and draft cocktails flow from a 1950s Spartan trailer-turned-bar. But the block party doesn’t end there—the musically-inclined head inside. Once a restoration warehouse for vintage Woodies, the high-ceilinged space has been converted into a dark, industrial performance venue featuring a DJ booth and an intimate stage for up-and-coming talent.
Art Share LA is a warehouse sanctuary situated across 28,000-square-feet of studio space. The ground floor houses a community-programmed facility (including a dance studio, gallery, classrooms and painting studio) that’s available for art classes, pop-up exhibitions and events. One level up, they offer 30 subsidized live/work lofts for artists.
Los Angeles’ indoor shooting range has the largest selection of guns in L.A. and is open seven days a week, but you might need a friend if you want to shoot off a few rounds—visitors who don’t own their own firearms must be accompanied by a second person. Never shot before? The club offers free safety briefings—although target practice is up to you.
At the renovated train-depot campus of the Southern Californian Institute of Architecture, catch lectures, screenings and major exhibitions from architecture luminaries such as Greg Lynn and Zaha Hadid.
Having spent several years bouncing around the city, the A+D Museum—‘A’ for architecture, ‘D’ for design—has landed in the Arts District after a lengthy stay along the Miracle Mile. Urban hikes, discussions and workshops supplement the museum’s roster of exhibitions.
You best brush up on your Spider-man–like wall climbing skills before tackling LA Boulder’s 12,000 square feet climbing playground. The Arts District spot is a bouldering gym, meaning there are no ropes or harnesses while you climb. Don’t worry: The foam-lined venue is as concerned with safety as it is fun, but you should definitely know how to climb and—eek—properly fall before you find yourself 17 feet off the ground.
Originally built in 1885, this Moorish-accented structure has worked a well-worn sense of history into its newest occupant: a 250-person Arts District concert venue. Unlike the area’s many stage-within-a-bar spaces, a partition separates the Moroccan’s full-service bar and restaurant from its intimate performance hall. It’s an astounding amount of polish for a venue so small, but it’s no surprise coming from the team behind New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge, as well as L.A.’s Teragram Ballroom, with which the smaller Moroccan works closely.
The Institute for Contemporary Art Los Angeles, or ICA LA, is the new home for the former Santa Monica Museum of Art. The new facility in the Arts District occupies 12,700 square feet of warehouse space.
Where to shop in the Downtown Arts District
Don’t call ROW DTLA a mall. Think of this ever-growing Arts District complex as a conceptual shopping center, curated with specialty retail and dining options—and home to Smorgasburg LA. The space is set up as if you’re walking through quaint industrial city streets located on a massive block of century-old produce hubs next to the former American Apparel factory.
Local textile shop Matteo offers carefully crafted home bedding and apparel using luxury threads for ultimate comfort. Their showroom, a huge, multi-level space in the Arts District, has a main shopping floor, plus a staging area with dreamlike beds and a basement with an insane selection of goods including backorders, special collaborations and discounted one-offs. Everything is made right here in L.A., just across the river. Keep an eye out for bi-annual sales when these luxury linens go for as much to half off.
Shopping at the Apolis Common Gallery is like stepping into an epic ’round-the-world travelogue, where every globally-sourced item has a story behind it. Leather sandals were crafted by a four-person co-op in Tel Aviv; jute market bags were assembled by a collective of mothers in Bangladesh; a women’s co-op in Nepal hand-knit the ’50s-style sweaters made in collaboration with cycling brand Rapha. Brothers Raan and Shea Parton launched Apolis the brand in 2004, employing and empowering artisans worldwide (and right here in Cali) to create their heritage-inspired pieces—this flagship shop serves as a showcase for the full product range, as well as an event space and gallery.
This art and architecture bookstore also sells children’s books, rare and out-of-print titles, maps, guidebooks and culinary books, along with a huge selection of Moleskine notebooks, journals and planners. It’s a store with highbrow merchandise, without the intimidation factor; the staff is friendly and helpful, and there’s something for everyone here.
This super-hip outpost of home goods, art, skincare, clothing and accessories from husband-wife team Raan and Lindsay Parton (he’s the creative director of the highly curated neighboring men’s emporium Apolis: Common Gallery) is a welcome addition to Downtown’s Arts District. The bustling neighborhood is a bastion of wares for the aesthetically minded, including the shop’s own navy blue 1959 Fiat Abarth Spyder—the only of its kind in the U.S.
Positioned amidst the Toy Factory Lofts just a few doors down from Belgian beer cafe Little Bear, the curiously luxurious Downtown Design Leage boutique would be easy to miss. But those who luck upon double-taking into its floor-to-celing glass windows will spy a sophisticated retail space, featuring handcrafted clothing, shoes, leather goods and accessories, many of which are locally made. This is one of the higher-end shops in the Arts District (for now), which becomes clear the moment you perceive how few purchasable items there are per square foot of store space—a ratio that immediately identifies any upscale boutique. The shop’s creative team and collaborators are palpably focused on their philosophy of creating luxury goods with both love and artistry. The shop is open 11am–7pm on weekdays (closed on weekends), but appointments are also available for those who’d like to discuss crafting their own custom Angeleno-made suede shoe, for example.
This semi-hidden, chock-full shop is a great place to go if you’ve got money to burn and are looking for an ecclectic collection of vintage and vintage-inspired goods. It’s incredibly well-curated, the staff is knowledgeable (and not too cool for school) and they’ve got some pretty impressive, rare finds. If you look at the shop more like a gallery (art’s expensive!) you can enjoy yourself here just perusing the wares—though be warned, you’ll probably be pretty tempted to invest in a statement and/or staple piece, whether it’s for your wall or your wardrobe.
Okay, so it’s a little different than the rest of the shopping experiences we’ve highlighted, but we’d be remiss not to mention Urban Radish, a grocery store recently beamed down from heaven to Imperial Street. Fill up on organic produce, grass-fed meat, artisan cheese, custom brewed coffee and beyond. Before heading home, choose a bottle of wine from Urban Radish’s in-store collection to enjoy on the front patio with your new block of Manteca cheese.