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Neptune's Net
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/carlfbaggeNeptune’s Net

19 famous Los Angeles restaurants actually worth trying

With movie cameos, glitzy clientele and cult-like Instagram followings, these L.A. restaurants are practically celebrities themselves

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Edited by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributor
Stephanie Breijo
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L.A. gets plenty of its reputation from the film industry, but we prefer our stars come draped in tablecloth and feeding us some of the best food we’ve ever tasted. And in this golden age of dining destinations, plenty of our city’s restaurants have become their own sort of icons. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, believe the hype: These famous Los Angeles restaurants have stood the test of time or made waves with newer fare, and live up to their reputation. From hot dogs and hole-in-the-wall Japanese cafés to Victorian-era food halls and star-studded fine-dining, here’s where to find L.A.’s most famous restaurants worth a visit—and who knows, maybe you’ll see a a celebrity there, too (but we all know the real draw is the food).

These famous restaurants are worth a visit

  • Restaurants
  • Californian
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 4 of 4
Name a more iconic L.A. fine-dining institution—we’ll wait. Fortunately, after nearly 40 years, Spago is both the old standby and the new kid on the block thanks to an ever-changing menu that makes the restaurant seem altogether fresh. Don’t worry, it’s still great even if you’re not here for a power lunch, and you can still ask for the smoked salmon pizza if you crave it. Spago purists will be pleased to hear that Wolfgang Puck’s flagship is still refreshingly old-school when it comes to presentation, though the Beverly Hills menu from executive chef Tetsu Yahagi features contemporary additions, too: chirashi boxes of sashimi with a yuzu-jalapeño gel; scallops with ice plants and kombu; and rye-crusted loup de mer with sea grass, to name a few. The handmade agnolotti is still outstanding after all these years (and don’t forget to opt for the truffle version, when it’s in season). Spago’s been serving stellar cuisine since the Reagan era, proving that age ain’t nothing but a number.
  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4
Open since 1919, the Musso & Frank Grill is Hollywood’s oldest restaurant—and it more than lives up to its century-long iconography. The steak-and-cocktails joint formerly favored by Charlie Chaplin and Raymond Chandler is practically an actor and star in its own right, making its way into films such as Once Upon a Time In Hollywood and Ed Wood. With its many obscure dishes and steakhouse classics, the menu can be daunting. However, some dishes are fail-safes. At breakfast, grab an order of crêpe-thin flannel cakes; later in the day, the grilled meats are excellent. And every table gets a half-loaf of house-made sourdough bread, the perfect accompaniment to the ultra-famous martini.
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  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4
Sitting at the heart of DTLA for more than a century, this European-style food hall is where you can find some of the top markets, bakeries and restaurants both decades old and brand new. Visitors can choose from breakfast staples like Eggslut (beware of the lines!) and breakfast burritos from Jose Chiquito, while at lunchtime, diners flock to Sticky Rice for Hainan chicken and tacos at Tacos Tumbras a Tomas, along with vegan ramen from Ramen Hood and freshly made pasta at Knead & Co. On warm summer nights, pick up BBQ at Horse Thief and sit out on the patio, then follow it up with a beer at Golden Road Brewery. Whether it’s your first time at GCM or your 80th, you’ll find something new to love.
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 3 of 4
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Bestia’s sterling reputation preceeds itself, which is why nearly a decade after opening, the modern-Italian destination still requires weeks-out reservations. It shouldn’t be surprising, given chef-owner Ori Menashe’s penchant for nailing straightforward but innovative dishes, which arrive hot from the Arts District restaurant’s centerpiece of a wood-burning oven. But the space and its clientele alone aren’t the reasons for fame: Some of Bestia’s menu highlights have become modern icons of L.A.’s dining scene in and of themselves. The Spaghetti Rustichella under dungeness crab is synonymous with this hard-to-land reservation, as is the currant-and-pistachio–laden dish of Agnolotti alla Vaccinara, filled with rich braised oxtail. The desserts by pastry chef and co-owner Genevieve Gergis are equally iconic, and god help anyone who tries to get in between us and a forkful of chocolate budino tart.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Koreatown
  • price 2 of 4

With late hours and solid homestyle Korean fare, this iconic L.A. restaurant’s Wilshire Boulevard location has endured for decades as a longtime after hours spot for the clubgoing crowd in Koreatown and beyond. Crack an egg into BCD’s extremely solid soondubu with your choice of protein or vegetables, and you’ll soon see why. Combined with the cozy atmosphere and camaraderie among patrons, there’s no better way to unwind after 2am.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Malibu
  • price 4 of 4
Famed sushi spots dot the Los Angeles landscape, but Nobu manages to come out on top with a slew of superlatives: Best Ocean View, Best Romantic Getaway, Best Bathroom—and, of course, it’s all from the esteemed sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Nobu Malibu’s relocation from the Country Mart to its current perch overlooking Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier is so close to the sand, you can see the footprints along the shore. The restaurant’s minimalist aesthetic—wood paneling, no white tablecloths—creates an understated feel that complements its environment; likewise, the menu of must-haves and now-iconic dishes feels a mile long and upscale, but comfortable. Just make sure to always order the mini tacos and the black cod with miso.
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  • Restaurants
  • Fast food spots
  • price 1 of 4
Southern California may have spawned the golden arches, but no other regional fast food export has a local and out-of-towner following quite like In-N-Out. “Did you go to In-N-Out?” is bound to come up in any conversation when a tourist visits our burger-loving city, and even for locals, it’s hard to argue with the less-than-$3 cheeseburgers, the late-night hours and the not-so-secret menu that offers a surprising level of customization for a fast-food spot. We swear our eternal allegiance.
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • West Hollywood
  • price 3 of 4
Along with its neighbor Craig’s down the street, this famously scene-y restaurant has some of the best people-watching in the city, along with a beautiful flower-filled patio and views to match. But once you make your way past the paparazzi waiting out front, you’ll find there’s more to this beautiful restaurant that hosts all the manner of A-listers and influencer types, thanks to excellent (if pricey) seafood-centric fare, with plenty of plant-based options for vegans and vegetarians. Don’t miss the Hit Me chocolate dessert either. Just don’t forget to make your reservation a few weeks ahead of time, and have some fun yelling “Sorry, no photos” on your way out the door.
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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • West Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4
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Few go to Dan Tana’s simply for the cooking. It’s not that the simple, old-fashioned Italian-American fare is bad: it’s more that the Old Hollywood atmosphere is wonderfully thick. The long-time servers can tell you what L.A. was like back when this red-sauce joint was cutting-edge, a time when they were much younger but Dan Tana’s looked the same. It’s favored by celebs with respect for Old Hollywood, too, so don’t be surprised to see the likes of George Clooney cutting into that signature, massive chicken parm in the red booth next to yours.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Virgil Village
  • price 1 of 4

California gets a little dose of Canada with Courage Bagels, an always-packed Virgil Village bagel shop slinging wild-yeasted, Montreal-style bagels. Featured in the New York Times, the bagels are worth the early morning wait on this sleepy Silver Lake-adjacent stretch for anyone who considers themselves a true bagel aficionado. Slightly burnt, lightly chewy and barely sweet, they’re crispier and thinner than your standard New York style—all the better to throw on farmers’ market veggies like heirloom tomatoes and sustainably farmed lox. 

 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Beverly Hills
  • price 3 of 4
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The word “institution” barely does it justice. Lawry’s prime rib is downright legendary: The meat is carved tableside in massive silver carts by men wearing tall chef’s toques, while your salad gets spun tableside, too. The steakhouse-leaning meal may be traditional, but it’s not complicated: If you’re ordering the prime rib—the most famous item available—then there are only a few decisions to make, including what size cut you’d like, what temperature and whether or not to add a vegetable (tip: always add the creamed spinach). By the time you leave, you’ll wonder why don’t eat from silver carts every night.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Fairfax District
Since 1931, El Coyote Mexican Cafe has served hearty Mexican food in an inviting and classic Hollywood atmosphere. The walls are dotted with signed portraits of Hollywood stars and the enormous red neon sign alone is a local icon (as is the red booth where Sharon Tate supposedly ate her last meal). Plates are hefty no matter what you order, but the ostrich tacos are a meaty favorite and one of El Coyote’s most popular dishes. Named after El Coyote’s first regular customer, who’d drop by over 80 years ago, the Enchilada Howard is topped with juicy chunks of pork. Also beloved are their from-scratch margaritas, which come served on the rocks—also in bountiful proportion.
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  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4
It’s called a French dip. Ever heard of it? In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. Whether or not you believe them (Cole’s will certainly contest this fact, claiming their own French dip version as the first), there’s no denying the eatery has an exemplary stack. Savvy customers make their way across the sawdust-covered floor to select a lamb, roast beef, pastrami or turkey filling, then ask their server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; add some of the sinus-clearing atomic mustard and you’re golden. A bevy of sides includes coleslaw, macaroni and potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and pickles—all to be eaten in the midst of friendly strangers you’ll inevitably wind up talking to.
  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4
Temporarily open for delivery only in Chinatown and Pasadena.

The chef behind Howlin’ Ray’s, Johnny Zone, may have spent time in the kitchen with some of the world’s best chefs, but he’s really found his calling bringing Nashville hot chicken to Los Angeles—and the world took note. Spice fiends fly in from around the world and head to his brick-and-mortar in Far East Plaza for a plate of chicken (white or dark) or a sandwich in whatever level of heat you can handle, from “Country” to “Howlin’.” You’re supposed to be sweating. You’re supposed to get messy. You’re supposed to be eating some of the best fried chicken in town. Of course, the fact that it’s some of the best is no secret—Angelenos and tourists alike wait in lines that can take up to three hours long and snake their way through the plaza. Our tip? Keep your eyes on this spot’s social media for line updates.

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown
  • price 1 of 4

Follow the smell of taquitos to this L.A. institution that sits on the edge of historic Olvera Street. The tiny stand has been serving freshly stuffed, rolled and fried taquitos since 1934, enough to earn its street cred title of “world famous.” The thing to order is obviously taquitos, though there are also burritos and chile relleno, which come smothered in guacamole sauce and optional beans and cheese. (Always go for the beans and cheese.)

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Ventura County
  • price 2 of 4
This ’50s biker hang still draws a line of motorcycles to its scenic stretch of PCH, and while you’ll be sharing massive wooden picnic tables with tough guys, you can also expect a mix of families with children, surfers and hungry tourists just trying to get a glimpse—and taste—of local history. This isn’t a fancy seafood spot, but one with consistently good fry baskets and dishes such as casual, steamed lobster, shrimp tacos and New England clam chowder. Of course, the unbeatable waterfront location is what makes this iconic Malibu-adjacent restaurant an ideal lunch and dinner spot, which fills up at all hours of the day.
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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Westside
  • price 1 of 4
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Queue up and ring around a U-shaped counter at this West L.A. institution, which has somehow managed to escape time. Burger patties sizzle on the griddle that’s been around for decades (since 1947, to be exact) and served by friendly waiters that seem to have been around for just as long. The go-to order: Don’t miss the smoky hickory burger, which comes slathered in house sauce and can only be made better by ordering double the cheese. Pair it with an order of crispy fries and save room for a slice or two of the equally-famous house-made pies (á la mode, all the way). Be prepared to pay cash only and, on a sweltering day, opt for a seat by the door at this no-AC joint.

  • Restaurants
  • Delis
  • Fairfax District
  • price 2 of 4
The historic gem sits along perhaps the most storied stretch of Fairfax, a fantastic relic of L.A. gone by and a reminder of the city’s deep Jewish heritage. Still owned by the Canter family, the 24-hour deli with a gargantuan bakery case and retro interior is both a fine old-school Jewish deli and one of our favorite after-hours places. Come here at 2am and you’re bound to see musicians from all over town who’ve just gotten off the stage and want to tuck into some blintzes or a stacked pastrami sandwich. Come here for comfort in a bowl of matzo ball soup. Come here for cookies and challah to-go, or, perhaps our favorite pairing, a plate of latkes and a dirty martini. Have just about whatever experience you’re looking for, because at Canter’s, things stay the same and variety is a constant.
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  • Restaurants
  • Hot dogs
  • Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4
You can argue over L.A.’s best hot dog, but Pink’s is the city’s most famous. The stand, open since 1939, most notably serves up dogs named after local legends and Hollywood heroes, from the Huell Howser Dog to the Brando Dog. But it made its name with a chili dog, a simple dog smothered in chili, onions, cheese and mustard, and it’s just as known for this as it is the bright pink exterior. Prepare for a long line stocked with tourists by day and clubgoers at night.
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