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Photograph: Courtesy Araceli PazDamian

The best restaurants in the Arts District

Downtown's trendiest neighborhood might be chock full of upscale dinner spots, but there are plenty of other daytime and less pricey options as well.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
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Always full of buzzy, new and often expensive eateries, the Arts District circa 2022 might be the landing spot of choice for out-of-town chefs and restaurant groups, but this industrial-adjacent Downtown neighborhood still has plenty in the way of more everyday eats like tacos and burgers geared towards locals and budget-conscious visitors. Most weekend evenings, the entire area experiences generally heavy traffic—and the parking struggle intensifies—but some of the best dining around makes the hassle of going out here worth it for residents and tourists alike. To cut back on chaos, head to the Arts District on weekday evenings, when this restaurant- and bar-heavy neighborhood typically feels more relaxed. 

RECOMMENDED: Read more on where to drink, play and shop in our guide to the Arts District

The best Arts District eateries for any occasion

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

After a splashy 2012 opening, this Arts District restaurant quickly ascended to the top of the city’s best restaurant lists—including ours—thanks to husband-and-wife pair Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis's innovative Italian dishes and desserts. Over a decade in, many of its signature items are now icons of the city's dining scene, including the must-order spaghetti rustichella—a small pyramid of noodles hidden under Dungeness crab, Calabrian chili, Thai basil and onion seed. While getting a normal hour reservation at Bestia is still difficult, the late-night tables are worth it—and so is stopping by after 9pm for a possible seat at the bar. Even if you’re unsuccessful, you're still within walking distance of several other great eateries open fairly late, including Damian, Kodo and Yangban Society (all of which are on this list.)

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 4 of 4

Brandon Go’s two Michelin-starred kaiseki counter inside the Arts District’s expansive outdoor mall, ROW DTLA, offers an intimate, multi-course seafood-centric meal plated using handcrafted ceramics imported from Japan. While bookings for this artful, once-in-a-lifetime experience fill up almost instantly when Tock reservations are released on the first of each month, those who experience this transportive meal will largely agree it’s worth all the hassle.

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  • Restaurants
  • Israeli
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

From the same couple behind Bestia, this broadly Middle Eastern eatery about a 15 minute walk from Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’s Italian counterpart offers a flavorful jaunt through Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. Here, you’ll find fire-roasted meats, handmade couscous, perhaps the best pita and hummus in all of L.A., and, like its Italian counterpart, fantastic dessert, all in a rustic, beautifully appointed dining room. Though the reservation process is just as difficult at Bavel as it is at Bestia, the wait is worth it. Both restaurants have helped usher in the era of the Arts District as a veritable dining destination—and you’d honestly come away pleased with a meal at either one.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

Despite an ill-timed 2020 debut, this Mexican fine dining restaurant by Enrique Olvera (of Mexico City’s Pujol and NYC’s Cosme) has quietly become one of the best restaurants in the city. The understated yet stylish ambience and unforgettable seafood-centric small plates, grilled meats and playful vegetable mains easily put it in the same league as its always-popular parking lot neighbor, Bestia, but the restaurant defies any simple comparison. When every bite reflects Damian’s commitment to traditional Mexican cooking techniques and ingredient sourcing, there’s no one singularly great dish to order, but you’d be remiss not to order the unforgettable duck al pastor and art-like hibiscus meringue.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pizza
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

This pandemic pop-up’s brick-and-mortar has one of most charming patios in Los Angeles, plus delicious, realtively affordable focaccia pizzas, salads and a raw bar. It’s also home to the Nonna Pack—a $75 bang-for-your-buck deal (two pizzas, a salad and a full bottle of wine) available Tuesday through Thursday that’s ideal for casual weekday date nights. Founded at a time when everyone needed a seat at the (preferably outdoor) table, the dinner-only restaurant holds most of its space for community walk-ins, and offers a reasonably priced alternative in the Arts District when a more upscale meal is out of the question.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

One of the city’s best options for outdoor dining, this plant-filled rooftop eatery offers a taste of Mexico City and some of the most vibrant, breezy cocktails we’ve had anywhere in L.A. The gorgeous sunset view and consistently excellent cuisine have also made Cha Cha Chá one of our favorite rooftop restaurants, and its proximity to Death & Co and a slew of other excellent bars, breweries and galleries make it perfect for the next time you’re looking to spend a weekend day or evening in the neighborhood (the restaurant also offers brunch).

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  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

If Venice’s Gjusta introduced Angelenos to the beauty of a gourmet deli experience, this Korean-ish evening eatery is perfecting it. Cheekily named after the Joseon Dynasty’s ruling class, this upscale-casual restaurant is a moving ode to head chefs Katianna and John Hong’s combined identities (hers as a South Korean adoptee, his as a children of immigrants). At Yangban, hard-line traditions melt away and combine for a knockout meal that cares little for what you think proper Korean food should be. First timers would do well to order the chef’s choice Yangban Style—a more casual tasting experience that might encompass anything from the luscious congee pot pie to new, limited-edition dishes built around what’s in season.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

First a food truck, now a full-service taqueria and bar, Guerrilla Tacos has grown its gamechanging tacos, tostadas and daily specials into one of the city's most prized restaurant posessions. Weisser Farm potatoes might come paired with chorizo, while braised lamb neck could be carefully nestled with root vegetables and topped with a fried egg. On a plate, any of these would be stellar, but in a taco, it’s perfect.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

This upscale izakaya located inside Rykn, a soon-to-open ryokan-style boutique hotel, offers striking minimalist design, subtly delicious Japanese cuisine and plenty of sake, wine and highballs to sip on as you take in the trendy crowd of creative and high fashion types that pop up on its patio on most weekend evenings. Excellent sushi and sashimi made with imported seafood make an appearance on every table, but Kodo’s izakaya, robata and more uncommon sushi items are where it truly excels. A few examples: The tsukune, a chicken patty topped with egg yolk and the old-school saba bozushi.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

This high-profile Midwestern import from Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard brings some of the Chicago restaurant’s signature dishes, like goat empanadas and sautéed green beans with fish sauce vinaigrette and cashews. Rotating seasonal items and plenty of new additions make quick work of California produce and keep diners on their toes for the type of experience that breathes new life into a culinary genre best described as “creative, globally inspired small plates.” Strong date night vibes and breezy weekend brunch service keep the airy, plant-filled Mateo Street restaurant packed to the brim with stylish diners seeking all-around excellent cuisine.

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

Unless you spend a boatload of money, you’re not likely to gorge yourself at Camphor, an upscale French restaurant with an airy white and blue dining room, old-school service touches and a featherweight approach to the typically decadent branch of European cuisine. Run by Alain Ducasse veterans Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George, the restaurant offers elegant yet nontraditional fine dining with a handful of South Asian-inspired dishes and tweaks to mix things up. This level of refinement with a twist extends to dessert, where a phenomenal savarin with passionfruit glaze holds its own next to a hot cocoa-inspired take on chocolate soufflé—the kind of fancy but modern fare that’s perfect for date night or a prelude to a big night out.

  • Restaurants
  • Brazilian
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

This underrated hyper-regional Brazilian restaurant might initially confuse Angelenos only familiar with exports of the country’s famous churrascarias, but the menu full of rare Amazonian ingredients and other seafood-centric fare that’s hard or impossible to find in L.A. offers serious delights for those willing to go out of their comfort zone. In terms of booze, Caboco also offers an extensive selection of cachaças, a sugarcane-based spirit, as well as an array of caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail—one of the few places in the city you can find either drink.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

The stylish backdoor taqueria to Damian, Ditroit serves gourmet tacos by way of chef Enrique Olvera, best known for Mexico City’s Pujol and New York’s Cosme. Though the tacos come at a premium compared to actual street food, each one is made with the same delicate, housemade tortillas and fresh salsas served at its more upscale full-service sibling, Damian, for the kind of quality and freshness you can taste in every bite. Suadero tacos and a killer molenegro tamal highight seasonal California produce, all in lush, greenery-filled alleyway with free self-parking off Violet.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Downtown Arts District

The West Coast outpost of a British motorcyle club, this enormous warehouse offers a restaurant, bar, café, private members club, event space, tattoo parlor, barber shop and even an apparel shop. Geared towards discerning SoCal riders (and longtime fans of the original Bike Shed blog), this veritable motorcyclists' lifestyle destination is also a hands-down great place in the Arts District for anyone to hang out, get some work done and grab some coffee and a delicious bite to eat—including some solid honey soy-glazed baby back ribs and plenty of vegan options.

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  • Restaurants
  • Gastropubs
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

With a roomy digs on the ground floor of an Arts District apartment complex, the newest location of Sang Yoon's award-winning gastropub has an expansive seating area that's perfect for larger groups craving burgers and beer. While you can still find the joint's iconic Office burger with its famously polarizing no-substitutions rule, the ever-rotating selection of craft brews and extended gastropub menu make Father's Office a solid neighborhood eatery—even if you're not in Culver City or Santa Monica.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 1 of 4

Though this industrial-looking café holds rides and evening events geared towards the LGBTQ and cycling communities, Detroit Vesey's welcomes all patrons in search of a place to work, a cup of coffee and all-day, affordable and health-conscious fare that can be hard to find in a neighborhood full of upscale dinner destinations. Plentiful outlets and well-made juices, smoothies and coffees are a welcome antidote to the pricier options around the Arts District, and have made DV's popular among locals as a daytime hangout spot almost every day of the week (the café closes on Mondays).

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

It might be a bit of a cheat to add one of the city's best bars to a neighborhood restaurant list, but the elevated bar grub at Everson Royce Bar also make it of the best Arts District locales for a casual, unfussy bite to eat. Home to one of the best burgers in Los Angeles, E.R.B. also offers delicious pillowy steamed buns piled high with roasted pork belly, scallion, pickled cucumbers and hoisin sauce and smoky potato taquitos that are even more steeply discounted at the bar's Taco (and Taquito) Tuesdays.

  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

Ambience is half the equation at Manuela, the Hauser & Wirth complex's on-site eatery with an excellent Southern-inspired brunch on weekends and an adjacent garden full of chickens. Perfect before or after a visit to the galleries, the seasonally driven menu fits the bill for a sun-lit, slightly speny daytime meal, though the somewhat dim-lit space feels a bit dark for dinner hour. 

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

Though locations in Hollywood, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Tokyo and even Saudi Arabia have turned this family-owned L.A. pie shop into an international phenomenon, their original Arts District location is still our favorite go-to for a seriously delicious slice of pie. Eschew the limited seating and take your artisan slices of earl grey tea pie, Mexican chocolate and even savories like mac-and-cheese to go—one of the finest snack-sized meals for walking and perusing the rest of the shops in the neighborhood.

  • Bars
  • Wineries
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli's fast-casual gourmet sausage shop might no longer but the buzziest restaurant on the block, but this Third and Traction eatery still turns out tasty grilled links like Polish-style kielbasa, plus signature exotic meat options like rattlesnake and rabbit, buffalo and even pheasant. The community tables and outdoor patio area also make Wurstküche a great option when dining in a large group or with pets. Paired with a "groot" worth of skin-on frites and a pint or two from the selection of Belgian and German beers, and you've got the makings of your next casual lunch or dinner in the Arts District. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

The airy Santa Fe Avenue location of Café Gratitude gives diners places to stretch their legs, plus all the same excellent vegan dishes and service quirks that have made the plant-based eatery (in)famous across L.A. Here, you may have to declare, "I Am Thriving," to have the soup of the day. It's true: When the server takes your order, they will ask you, “What are you grateful for today?" and you will feel compelled to answer. Embrace it, because the bright, perfectly composed food will have you coming back. If you’re feeling especially in tune with the world, you can order the I Am Grateful, the simple but delicious "community bowl" of kale, quinoa, black beans and garlic-tahini sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4

This Arts District stalwart offers little in the way of decor, but the impeccable Northern Italian cuisine has made it a neighborhood favorite despite the explosion in newer, buzzier openings. 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 heavenly focaccina calda di recco 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 we could narrow it down for you further: just ask for the cannoli.

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