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.
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