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Baja Subs Lamprais (Edited)
Photograph: Time Out/Patricia Kelly Yeo

24 of L.A.'s best hidden gem restaurants

From the San Gabriel Valley to the Westside, we’ve tracked down unique strip mall spots and beloved neighborhood eateries serving some of the best food in Los Angeles.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
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When it comes to food, L.A. is full of hidden gems. These tried-and-true places might offer excellent takeout, or be a known lazy Sunday dinner staple, but they never get the attention they deserve. Every neighborhood in L.A. seems to have at least a few, and no list could be fully exhaustive of specialty spots, beloved neighborhood joints and other under-the-radar restaurants serving hard-to-find cuisine and eclectic dishes you can’t find anywhere else. 

In the name of our city’s diverse, often geographically isolated dining culture, we’ve rounded up two dozen hidden gem restaurants in 20 different L.A. neighborhoods and adjacent cities. No matter where you live, we’ve likely highlighted a hidden gem near you, with more than a few kernels of neighborhood knowledge and history most Angelenos probably aren’t familiar with peppered in. You may need to travel quite a ways to get to them or you may not, but these 24 hidden gems are more than worth seeking out the next time you’re in the mood for something new.

Our guide to L.A.'s best hidden gems

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Long Beach
  • price 2 of 4

At this broadly Middle Eastern restaurant in Long Beach, you’ll find more familiar items like hummus, shawarma and kebabs on the menu, but you can also track down harder-to-find dishes like mansaf, a dish many consider to be the national dish of Jordan. Available only by pre-order, Ammatoli dutifully reproduces this traditional Arab dish, which consists of lamb in a goat’s milk yogurt sauce atop a bed of yellow rice and strips of pita bread. According to the Los Angeles Times, there’s no better mansaf in Southern California than the version served at Ammatoli.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • La Brea
  • price 2 of 4

For pho connoisseurs, much of Central L.A. might feel like a wasteland when it comes to an all-around winning combination of aromatic broth, beef cut, rice noodles and herbs. Though you’ll find overall menu prices a bit higher than other pho purveyors in the area, most will taste the difference in the high-quality bowls of pho at Ănăn Vietnamese, which opened quietly in January 2021. Available in both traditional beef bone broth and organic chicken varieties, the pho here is flavorful and manages to taste rich and light at the same time. The rest of Ănăn’s small menu is quietly excellent as well, particularly the restaurant’s take on deep-fried spring rolls, which come with housemade fish sauce.

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  • Restaurants
  • South Asian
  • Northridge
  • price 1 of 4
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Although Northridge’s Baja Subs and Deli might look like another strip mall deli and mini-mart in the Valley, owners Premil and Koshalie Jayasinghe have served a dual takeout menu of casual Mexican food and some of the best Sri Lankan cuisine in L.A. since 2016. On weekends, Baja Subs serves larger dishes, including a Sri Lankan-style biryani, which comes topped with caramelized onions, hard-boiled egg, cashews and pineapple chutney, and lamprais—a portable banana leaf packet of rice, meat, sambal and curried vegetables, though its exact components change on a weekly basis.

  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Alhambra
  • price 1 of 4



While this no-frills Southeast Asian restaurant in the 626 offers a wide-ranging menu that spans Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine, it also happens to be one of the few spots in L.A. where you can find nasi lemak, widely known as Malaysia’s national dish. Built around a bowl-shaped mound of white rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, Borneo Kalimantan’s nasi lemak includes crispy pieces of fried chicken, a deep-fried boiled egg, cucumbers and vegetables, plus a side of sambal mixed with anchovies and peanuts. (You can also find it at the owners' other restaurant, Uncle Fung, which has locations in Long Beach and Buena Park.)

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  • Restaurants
  • Pan-South American
  • East Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

This strip mall restaurant in East Hollywood serves mouthwatering plates of Guatemalan barbecue, also known as churrasco, among other Central American offerings. Each plate comes with tender ranchera steak (grilled and hammered thin), refried black beans, yellow rice and guacamole, plus wilted green onions and peppers. Churrasco Chapin also sells shucos, the Guatemalan take on hot dogs, which involves a toasted rectangular bun, guacamole, peppers, onions and pickled cabbage. According to Eater, owner and chef Monica Ramos’s version of the handheld snack has drawn Guatemalans from as far as Lancaster.

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Palms
  • price 1 of 4

On the border of Culver City and Palms, Falafel Chee offers weekend-only Iraqi falafel at a walk-up stand inside West L.A. International Market. Unlike other varieties, it’s made solely of chickpeas, which proprietor Manaf Alsudaney crushes and mixes by hand. The budget-friendly end result is crispy, airy and light, and can be purchased by the piece or in wrap, salad or plate form. Ask for the date sauce and spicy mango amba dibis to go with your wrap instead of tahini if you’re in the mood for a sweet and savory combination.

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  • Restaurants
  • Global
  • Mid City
  • price 2 of 4

Drive down the typically congested Little Ethiopia stretch of Fairfax Avenue, and you’ll probably have enough time to read the chalkboard sign on the sidewalk advertising Flavors From Afar. Each month, the small restaurant features cuisine from a chef who is a refugee, asylum-seeker or recent immigrant. Each one works with in-house chef Kenna Copes to translate their family recipes to a larger restaurant setting. In the past, they’ve featured Afghan, Eritrean, Guatemalan, Venezuelan and Haitian food; to find out what’s available right now, check their Instagram for the latest updates.

Outdoor dining available.

  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Koreatown
  • price 2 of 4

Who knew fruit could pair so well with fried chicken? At Gol Tong Chicken, Kil Chae Jeong offers the quirkiest fried chicken in Koreatown. An erstwhile South Korean film director and Seoul-based fried chicken shop operator, Jeong is the shop’s only employee. His bushy eyebrows and mustachioed visage can be seen all over the screen-filled strip mall restaurant, which blasts a combination of K-pop and Korean TV shows. Dine-in customers can slip on disposable gloves to chow down on Jeong’s saucy fried chicken, which comes in original, soy garlic and sweet chili. Each made-to-order plate comes topped with sesame seeds and a rainbow of fresh fruit.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Downtown
  • price 2 of 4

Hungry for some Good Clean Fun? We are too. Inside Downtown’s Cognoscenti Coffee, this natural wine bar and restaurant with a built-in bottle shop offers pastries and lunch bites during the day, "Toasty Time" from 3 to 6pm and a full dinner menu after 5pm by chef Jesus Ramirez-Arteaga. Luscious shrimp, baked oysters and handmade pastas make this small wine bar a dinnertime destination in its own right, but don't forget your jacket: GCF's limited seating is entirely outdoors on the patio.

 

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

Since 2002, the Gourmet Cobbler Factory has offered Pasadena locals and cobbler fanatics some of the best fruit cobblers in Southern California, courtesy of owner and chef Clifton Powell’s Southern family recipes. Powell and his wife Gloria sell a variety of mouthwatering cobblers daily, but their classic peach is by far the most popular. The secret to their success? Fresh, not canned fruit. In recent years, they’ve also begun selling plates of barbecue and sandwiches with traditional sides like mac and cheese, collard greens, baked beans and potato salad.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Koreatown
  • price 1 of 4

Thanks to an in-house extruder dating back to 1985, the traditionally North Korean naengmyeon at Ham Hung is some of the freshest you’ll find in Koreatown. Here, you can order it dressed in red chili paste, the style of its namesake city (the second largest in North Korea) or a mellow Pyongyang-style beef broth. The noodles, which are made almost entirely of potato and sweet potato starch, are thin, chewy and light, and the rest of the menu includes other affordable homestyle dishes like seafood green onion pancakes and gamja tang, a pork neck broth soup that’s perfect in the wintertime.

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • South LA
  • price 1 of 4

At this halal takeout spot in Windsor Hills, the humble chicken takes on new heights by way of traditional Palestinian cooking, including a standout emsakhan—a slowly baked chicken topped with sumac and sautéed onions on a bed of pita bread. For a more manageable weekday lunch, opt for the Siti’s Original J-Chicken, which comes with two sides and allows you to pick from one of their four chicken preparations: sumac, lemon and garlic, onion and potato or stuffed. Jerusalem Chicken doesn’t slack on dips and accoutrements either, so make sure you order their hummus and get at least a small container of pickled vegetables.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Redondo Beach
  • price 1 of 4

Blocks from the ocean in Redondo Beach, Jiayuan Dumpling House comes by way of Alberta, Canada, where the Sang/Shi family opened their first location. The strip mall restaurant offers regional Chinese cuisine from owner and chef Emily Sang’s native Heilongjiang Province, as well items familiar to most Angelenos like kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef and scallion pancakes. First-timers should order the Northern-style sweet and sour pork topped with ginger and cilantro, as well as Jiayuan’s handmade pan-fried dumplings, which run doughier than others you’ll find around town.

  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Van Nuys
  • price 2 of 4

In most parts of Los Angeles, Syrian food is difficult to find, which is what makes this casual no-frills eatery in Van Nuys such a great hidden gem. Owner and chef Waha Ghreir serves a broad array of Syrian cuisine, including kobees—juicy deep-fried patties of beef, bulgur wheat, pine nuts and spices. Also known as kibbeh, Kobee Factory also offers them grilled and baked. Other popular items include the filet kabob and the majdara—a mixture of bulgur, lentils and stir-fried onions served with salad and pickled vegetables.

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  • Shopping
  • Cheesemongers
  • Mar Vista

Most Wednesday and Saturday evenings, you can find bubbling, crackling traditional Swiss raclette on the quaintly decorated, well-heated patio behind this Westside wine and cheese shop, which will carefully slice the melted cheese onto a fully loaded plate of bread, salami, cold cuts, gherkins, new potatoes and seasonal vegetables. (They also offer a vegetarian plate as well.) Since Kustaa’s Swiss raclette nights tend to get busy, particularly on Saturdays, it’s best to call ahead of time for a reservation. Planning note for those who wish to imbibe: The shop only offers wine by the bottle, not the glass.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Fairfax District
  • price 2 of 4

At this unassuming West Hollywood sushi spot, the most popular order is the choose-your-own-adventure chirashi bowl, which comes topped with three to five different items including spicy scallop, yellowtail, avocado and—for a premium—fresh uni. The sashimi cuts are particularly good when doused in Murakami’s garlic soy sauce, and each homestyle rice bowl includes ginger, cucumber, daikon radish and a healthy dose of seaweed for a casual, ultra-delicious Japanese meal.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Boyle Heights
  • price 1 of 4

This tiny Japanese neighborhood spot dating back to 1956 serves as one of the few reminders that this Eastside neighborhood was once home to one of the largest enclaves of Japanese Americans in Southern California. Today, Otomisan serves up affordable Japanese comfort food, including teriyaki plates, pork tonkatsu and warm, wakame-laced bowls of tempura-topped udon, all inside a no-frills, homey restaurant that happens to be a working piece of Los Angeles history.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Glassel Park
  • price 2 of 4

From a permanent location inside Lemon Poppy Kitchen, former Highland Park pop-up Parsnip offers locals and others in search of Romanian food a lighter, California-inspired take on the southeastern European country’s often meat- and dairy-heavy cuisine. Here, you’ll find chicken paprikash, beef goulash and salmon spaetzle, as well as bulz, polenta dumplings filled with sauerkraut and Gouda cheese. Their planchinta, or stuffed flatbreads, can even be made vegan with smoked cabbage and purple potato, plus a plant-based dill aioli.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Southeast Cities
  • price 1 of 4

Not far from the Orange County border, Shang Jie Kitchen is a tiny, budget-friendly strip mall spot whose signature handmade Chinese noodles are some of the best in town. Whether ordered in one of their comforting soups or stir-fried with lamb (listed in the “signature noodle” section), the noodles at Shang Ji Kitchen always come to the table buoyant, springy and long, with just enough bite texture-wise to keep you wanting more. We also like their Chinese cold cuts and salads, as well as their beef rolls.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Downtown Santa Monica
This unassuming Polish eatery on Lincoln Boulevard dates back to 1979, but newer overhauls and a renovation have kept this quirky Westside restaurant fresh in recent years. With a hidden back patio decked out in flags and string lights, plus Central European classics like schnitzel, beef stroganoff and pierogies, a night at Solidarity feels worlds away from Santa Monica’s other dressy-casual and fine dining restaurants. We also like their weekday happy hour running from 5 to 7pm, when drinks stay under $10 and the restaurant offers budget-friendly sampler plates of sausages, potato pancakes and pierogies.
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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Koreatown
  • price 2 of 4

Enter through Chun Feng Sugar and you’ll find Tokyo Hamburg, a casual Koreatown eatery specializing in Westernized Japanese cuisine. Hidden, like a speakeasy in plain sight, the restaurant’s specialty is its eponymous hamburg patty on hot stone, though you’ll also find plenty of fried appetizers, dollar oysters and an array of customizable milk teas from its conjoined twin. Each Tokyo hamburg is served with a pair of sauces, lightly dressed coleslaw and a bowl of warm rice. While the patty itself doesn’t taste like much, each bite of freshly seared meat and rice is deeply cozy, filling and, when dipped in soy and sweet red chili, full of flavor.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • price 1 of 4

For fresh sashimi-grade fish at everyday prices, head to Yama Seafood, a tiny family-run Japanese market and sushi counter in the San Gabriel Valley that’s served the neighborhood since 1984. Here, you’ll find Mr. Yama’s affordable maki roll platters for a crowd; simple cuts of tuna, salmon, yellowtail and mackerel sashimi in takeout-friendly packaging; plus classic inari pouches sweetened with mirin and rice vinegar. A larger array of Japanese sake and snacks is also available for anyone hoping to augment their meal.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ethiopian
  • Baldwin Hills
  • price 2 of 4

Outside of Fairfax, Ethiopian food restaurants are few and far in between in L.A., but this casual, family-run restaurant more than fills the gap in South L.A. with its menu full of traditional favorites like kitfo (a steak tartare seasoned with herbed butter, cardamom, bird’s eye chili and cloves) and an injera platter topped with whole fried fish and a dazzling array of vegetables and stews. Stopping in with a group? Opt for the coffee jebena, served family-style out of an clay Ethiopian coffee pot.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Glendale
  • price 1 of 4
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This modern-looking Glendale eatery specializes in its namesake, an oiled Armenian flatbread filled with over a dozen different herbs that’s a regional specialty in Artsakh, a politically contested Armenia-Azerbaijan border region also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. Without butter, the dish is entirely vegan. With or without, however, the zhengyalov hatz are light and delicious; each bite tastes like spring. The shop’s minimalist menu also offers one other item: paxlava, a regional iteration of baklava. Drinks-wise, among other beverages, you can also order Armenian coffee, glass teapots filled with spiced and herbal tea and their housemade okrosha, a tangy yogurt drink packed to the brim with dill and cucumber.

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