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Azay Japanese Breakfast
Photograph: Time Out/Patricia Kelly Yeo

The all-day guide to Little Tokyo’s best restaurants and bars

Here's our top 25 spots in this Downtown neighborhood full of cozy, family-run restaurants and delicious, mostly Japanese eats.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributor
Stephanie Breijo
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On the edge of Downtown L.A. near the Arts District, Little Tokyo dates back to 1886, when a Japanese ex-sailor opened a restaurant on First Street. Today, it’s a historic district, dining and shopping destination and a central touchpoint for L.A.’s Japanese American community. Many of the area’s family-run shops and eateries date back decades, some older than World War II, and the neighborhood is full of delicious Japanese and non-Japanese food alike, a wide array of Asian sweets and even a few late-night cocktail bars

While the area has long been a go-to among Angelenos for sushi, ramen and Japanese comfort food, a handful of newer destination-worthy eateries have moved in alongside old-school joints, giving even more reason to explore the area’s dining scene. The best part? The neighborhood is small—just a few blocks, really—so a fantastic bowl of noodles isn’t more than a few steps away from a diverse array of sushi spots catering to every seafood whim and price point. 

In recent years, Little Tokyo’s proximity to Skid Row and the worsening homelessness crisis citywide have meant that visitors are likely to walk by larger tent encampments nearby. Stay alert while parking, in particular, and in the evenings, when the neighborhood’s bustling crowds tend to thin out. That said, the neighborhood stays fairly busy and safe on weekends and special event days, especially near the Japanese Village Plaza and the Little Tokyo Galleria indoor mall. 

Depending on when you visit, you’ll find different spots open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, so we’ve divided our guide by time of day to help you dine well (and avoid any scheduling letdowns). Whether you’re hoping for a quick weekday bite or a long night out with friends, read on for our guide to the best Little Tokyo restaurants and bars. 

RECOMMENDED: Little Tokyo neighborhood guide

Breakfast and brunch

  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

While weekday crowds might fill the parking lot for a sashimi lunch plate at nearby Sushi Gen, those looking for budget-friendly Hawaiian food with old-school charm should head to Aloha Café. This family-run, daytime diner has been serving no-frills Hawaiian plates for over a decade, including Spam musubi, the iconic cheap handheld snack. Looking for something more substantial? Fill up on gravy-laden loco moco, teriyaki combos and kalua pork or, for something sweet, a heavenly French toast made with thick slices of sweet Hawaiian bread topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

This small daytime café run by third-generation Little Tokyo local Glen Ishii blends traditions old and new alike with mouthwatering, brunch-friendly takes on Japanese comfort food. Paying homage to Tokyo Café, the space’s previous iteration founded by Ishii’s grandmother, JiST serves a classic ketchup omurice and the must-order chashu hash, made using a secret marinade Ishii’s grandmother first made over 70 years ago. Served with breakfast potatoes and two six-minute eggs, it’s the perfect dish for sharing alongside the JiST’s French toast, which is pre-soaked in a crème brûlée base for 24 hours. We also enjoy the weekend-only Lucky Ducky: a Chinese scallion pancake topped with eggs sunny side up, duck confit and slices of orange.

Sweets

  • Shopping
  • Bakeries
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

A quiet, daytime-only little jewel of a place, mochi specialist Fugetsu-Do offers delicious, edible pieces of L.A. history. Open since 1903, this tiny bakery has been making mochi, chewy rice cakes and other baked delights since before most of our grandparents were born. Fugetsu-Do’s house-made mochi is the best in the city—no arguing that—and comes striped, shaped like fruit and chewy to the point of rice-flour perfection. But the imported candies and snacks are fun as well, as are the French-style wafers, and Fugetsu-Do is one of the few places in L.A. you can find manju, a type of wheat flour-based pastry filled with sweet red or white bean paste. (We like the pink one best.)

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

While the traditional red bean-filled Japanese taiyaki from Little Tokyo Taiyaki just outside the Galleria are wonderful on their own, the Korean ahboong at nearby SomiSomi shoot for the stars, with silky soft serves, four different filling options and toppings of your choice in a fish-shaped waffle cone sundae. As delicious as they are photogenic, each SomiSomi cone can come filled with Nutella, custard, taro or red bean, with rotating weekly ice cream flavors that can include matcha, ube and cookies and cream. If you’re in the mood for regular taiyaki, they also make them as well, including one filled with less conventional melted yellow cheese.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

This no-frills modern café in Weller Court stays true to its name, offering steaming hot matcha tea, lattes, soft serve and a few similarly flavored pastries, including a fluffy light green cheesecake. Here, you can truly taste the difference in quality: Midori uses a base mix of Japanese green tea and ceremonial grade matcha for all of its drinks. While you can’t go wrong with the now more commonplace matcha latte the next time you find yourself in Little Tokyo, the soft serve, which comes lightly dusted with matcha, works as a wonderful cap to a nearby meal.

Lunch, dinner, and all-day dining

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

The original outpost of this veritable ramen mecca (with four total locations) dates back to 2002, but time hasn’t stopped peak hour lines from forming outside Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. A wraparound counter faces the open kitchen, adding to a convivial atmosphere well-suited to slurping up bowls of flavorful pork broth and chewy noodles. The must-order here is the Daikoku Ramen, whose Chijire-style noodles sit in a rich tonkotsu soup and arrive to your seat topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly (though pork fans can amp it up with the richer, kotteri-style cut), boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions. Add an order of house-made pan-fried pork gyoza or crispy pork tonkatsu to make the wait worthwhile.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Specializing in traditional handmade udon, Marugame Monzo offers excellent bowls of the thick, chewy noodles, plus mesmerizing sights of noodle action through the kitchen’s picture-style window. Behind a large glass, the udon master will roll out the dough and cut strands and strands of the thick, chewy noodles for each order. The traditional bowls are great here; try the hot kitsune udon topped with fried tofu, or the cold plum shiso bukkake udon. For a fun mash-up of Japanese and Italian cuisines, go for the popular miso carbonara udon. Just be prepared to wait: As quite probably the best udon shop in Los Angeles, peak dinner time can cause gaggles of groups to queue all the way down the block.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Nestled in the neighborhood since 1980, Sushi Gen has been a years-long cult favorite for L.A.’s sushi aficionados. The main draw? A $23 weekday lunch special, complete with a rainbow of sashimi, soup, salad and rice. For a quicker table, head here during the evening, when you’ll be rewarded for waiting with fresh halibut, fatty tuna, sea urchin, monkfish liver, scallops and oysters, all in a wonderfully serene, wood panelled sushi bar setting. Just mind the rules: no personal device usage while dining, and make sure your whole party is present to get seated.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Open since 1976 and taken over by Hiroshi Yamauchi a decade later, the family-owned Kouraku offers no-frills Japanese diner fare inspired by the food eaten in Japan between the end of World War II and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Allegedly, It’s also the first ramen restaurant in the United States, and spent much of the early aughts as a beloved late night haunt. Today, Mihoki Yamauchi continues to carry on her late husband’s legacy at Kouraku, albeit with more regular eating hours. You’ll find a highly affordable menu of ramen, curry rice and a few less commonly offered Japanese comfort dishes like menchi katsu (a panko-crusted hamburger patty served with Bull-Dog sauce and rice) and tenshin chahan (a Chinese-style shrimp omelette covered in a light gravy).

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Although this tiny family-run restaurant on First Street first opened in late 2019, Azay can trace its roots back to 1946, when co-owner Jo Ann Hirose’s father opened Anzen Hardware (which has since relocated nearby) in the same storefront. Offering a moderately priced, compact menu of French and Japanese dishes made by Jo Ann’s husband Akira, Azay is best known for offering the elusive Japanese breakfast: a traditional meal consisting of broiled fish, miso soup and choice sides of seasonal vegetables, pickles and tofu, as well as slices of tamago omelette and a bowl of rice. While the breakfast set is always worth an order, don’t skip out on sampling a few French dishes and desserts, including the deftly prepared duck confit and a complex, bittersweet matcha crème brûlée.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

Those who still mourn the closure of nearby Curry House will enjoy the Little Tokyo location of Champion’s Curry, an international chain whose curry-making history dates back to 1961. Served fast-casual in a bright, airy setting, the curry at Champion’s is some of the best in the city, particularly when paired with their ultra-crunchy katsu cutlets. In addition to standard katsu curry plates (in chicken, pork, beef and fish varieties) they also offer katsu-topped salads and delicious fried appetizers like cheese curry fries and curry powder-dusted chicken karaage—both of which make for great shareable snacks. More deluxe curry plates of hamburg and steak are also available, but you can’t go wrong with chicken katsu curry rice, their most popular dish.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

This tiny family-run restaurant can trace its neighborhood roots back to 1929, when the Morishita family first opened a restaurant on nearby First Street. Here, you’ll find affordable lunch specials and excellent nigiri by the piece, all inside a quiet, homey sushi bar with thick wooden frames around the doors and windows and a handwritten daily specials board. Located on the third floor of the Little Tokyo Galleria, it’s hard to just wander into Sushi Go 55, but  when you’ve finally cozied up next to an old couple eating their chirashi bowl and teriyaki combos, or even just picked up a sashimi combo order to-go, you’ll understand why people have kept coming back to this mall-anchored spot time and time again.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Among the many standout ramen shops in Little Tokyo is Men Oh, tucked away in the bustling Honda Plaza. A small shop with a handful of tables and a long bar, Men Oh hails from the Tokushima region of Japan, where the dominant industry is pig farming. Thus, the signature item, the tokushima, is an unctuous, deeply flavorful bowl thanks to its 16-hour–simmered pork broth. With toppings that include not only lovely slices of tender chashu, but also strips of stir-fried butabara pork, green onion, bean sprouts, seasoned egg and bamboo shoots, it’s a complex, filling and completely fulfilling bowl of ramen to hunt down

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 3 of 4

It’s all in the name at Ootoro Sushi, where chefs slice thick cuts of fatty tuna for nigiri and donburi and the kitchen serves luxurious dishes made with lobster, certified Kobe beef and other kinds of premium seafood (including a king crab-topped uni cream pasta). Inside, you’ll find a stylish pale wood interior with mood lighting at night, as well as a small outdoor patio. Relatively new compared to other area sushi restaurants, most meals don’t come cheap at Ootoro Sushi, which also has locations in the eastern San Gabriel Valley and Orange County. At dinner, omakase prices start at $300, though they also offer an á la carte menu with items hovering around $40 on average, plus more moderately priced two-item combo plates at lunch.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 1 of 4

This charming Japanese diner’s been a Little Tokyo staple since 1972—and it looks the part. As if frozen in time, daily specials get added to a white pegboard near the front of the restaurant, while the unpretentious menu covers comforting territory with decades-plus dishes like curry udon, shrimp tempura, straightforward donburi and okonomi combo plates. Tuck away into one of the wooden booths for more privacy, or sidle up to the bar and watch day and night street views of Tokyo play out on a large flat-screen TV, no matter the time of day. Speaking of time of day, much like Kouraku, this spot is open until 3am (Thursday to Sunday).

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Upon entering this Hakata-based chain’s Central Avenue location, you’ll be met with a chorus of “Irashaimase.” You’ll then look over the order sheet, where you can customize your bowl to your exact specifications—choose the intensity (i.e. saltiness) of your broth, the doneness of your noodles and toppings (egg, wontons, spare ribs, garlic ships, even cod roe)—and combine chicken rice balls, deep fried cheese egg rolls and gyoza additions. Half the fun is ordering too many toppings on your first visit, which will arrive one after another in a parade of tiny bowls. While Little Tokyo has plenty of ramenyas, we find ourselves coming back to Shin-Sen-Gumi for its rich yet light tonkotsu broth and the always satisfying ability to design your own bowl.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Before “plant-based” became a meaningless buzzword, this Tokyo-based noodle chain had already begun making kombu-based vegetarian broth in 2011. With four locations in L.A., including one in Little Tokyo, Rakkan Ramen offers an array of light, flavorful soups with whimsical gem-based names like Garnet (miso-flavored), Pearl (shio-based) and Amber (soy-based). Yes, there are vegan options, but even if you’re primarily a meat-eater, you can come away from Rakkan feeling satisfied, particularly with the Spicy Garnet topped with egg and chashu pork.

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  • Restaurants
  • Puerto Rican
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Located in the old Curry House space in Weller Court, this family-run casual eatery is one of the only Puerto Rican restaurants in all of L.A. Started by Florida native Omayra Dakis, who also runs the Triple Threat Truck, Rumba Kitchen offers a varied, well-executed menu of island specialities, including the dazzling chiofrito: a market-priced, deep-fried red snapper that arrives with tostones (smashed fried plantains), a bright pink jicama slaw and a buttery sofrito sauce. More budget-friendly lunch sandwich options include golden-fried fish and Triple Threat’s tripleta–grilled chicken, steak and roast pork—which come with housemade plantain chips.

Dinner only

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 3 of 4

Named the most elegant izakaya in Little Tokyo by the late Jonathan Gold, Kinjiro is an intimate, upscale dinner spot known for seared uni, decadent bone marrow dengaku and seared thick cut beef tongue. Located in Honda Plaza next to Kagaya and Sushi Gen, the restaurant largely operates on a reservation-only basis, but the email process is worth the effort needed to board the tight ship run by owner Jun Isogai and chef Yoshizaku Kondo, who mans the space’s small kitchen. Here, each dish receives deeply thought-out gourmet treatment, from simple dishes like ochazuke made with housemade dashi broth to richer entrées like curry rice, which Kinjiro upgrades with a pillow-soft beef tongue. A large sake selection, as well as a few wines, ensures diners receive a full izakaya experience.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

Located on the third floor of the Little Tokyo Galleria, this largely dinnertime Japanese vegan spot is a hidden gem for anyone who can appreciate flavorful, creative plant-based cuisine. At Shojin (named after the Shinto Buddhist vegan diet), you’ll find a range of inventive, all-organic dishes delivered in an intimate, upscale-casual setting with lightly playing jazz music and relaxed clientele. We love their spicy “tuna” dynamite roll, made with tofu and avocado, as well as their Purple Treasure, which swaps out raw fish for pieces of buttery eggplant on top of asparagus and carrot maki rolls. Don’t skip out on dessert, which can include a super sweet roasted Japanese yam with ice cream or sliced banana tempura with coconut cream-based chocolate mousse. Note: Shojin is also open from 12 to 8pm on Sundays.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

If your definition of a good night with friends involves a smoky room filled with platters of yakitori grilled over an open flame, bottles of Kirin crowding the table and boisterous laughter, Izakaya Bizan is for you. This Japanese pub inside Little Tokyo Galleria has a tempting menu of sushi, udon, ramen, tempura—you name it—but we recommend any of the yakitori above all else. For group dining, it’s a solid place to start the night, gradually adding plates and pints of beers as the meal rolls on. Speaking of rolling—your newly rotund body will be doing just that as you leave, and that ain’t a bad thing.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 4 of 4

That same friend that always tells you to buy investment pieces instead of fast fashion will love Kagaya, home of some of the best shabu-shabu in L.A. You can only order by the set here: The basic beef will set you back $68, and wagyu and seafood upgrades are also available, but you’ll be rewarded with eight to ten slices of quality meat to be lightly cooked in the bubbling broth, then dipped into a smooth but complex sesame sauce. The luxe, DIY meal commences with a small serving of the day’s two seasonal specials and one soup special, followed by udon or rice porridge made with beef-infused broth—a haute couture hot pot experience, if it were, topped off with your choice of dessert like ethereal crème brûlée or banana cream pie.

Bars and late night

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

After waiting forever for sushi or ramen at one of Little Tokyo’s cult-classic spots, duck into Wolf & Crane, a casual, dive bar-lite kind of place with communal tables, comic-print wallpaper and classic oldies bellowing from the sound system. A neighborhood bar where the Japanese whiskey is plentiful and the cocktails are creative (and often affordably priced), Wolf & Crane makes for a perfect gathering spot for a small birthday group or solo drinking. —especially when you’ve already had ramen from Shin-Sen-Gumi around the corner and are looking for a nightcap.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Little Tokyo
  • price 2 of 4

It may take you a couple tries to find Far Bar, but trust us, it’s worth it for their ample craft beer offerings, laidback string-lit patio and delicious pan-Asian fusion bar snacks. Look for the giant CHOP SUEY sign on First Street, then stroll down an alleyway on the right that opens up into its twinkling, plant-lined courtyard. A favorite with beer lovers, Far Bar serves over two dozen artisan brews, plus a long list of spirits and yummy drinking bites like teriyaki sliders, wasabi fries and garlic-butter edamame. While there are burgers on the menu—try the house version with smoked gouda, onions and sriracha mayo—we’d recommend the bacon fried rice with chashu and fried eggs or any of the sushi rolls over them anyday.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Little Tokyo

This woman-run cocktail bar is a breath of fresh air—of the salt-air variety. Currently operating in the Honda Plaza parking lot, the Mermaid offers nautical-themed cocktails that are fruity, herbaceous and fun, and once a few of its rum-based concoctions have left you feeling peckish, well-made L.A. bar fare like buffalo wings, cilantro chicken tacos and tater tots will keep you sated until last call. The Mermaid also offers a killer happy hour for drinks, with $7 to $10 cocktails all day on Sunday and 5 to 8pm on weekdays.

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