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A food spread at Badmaash.
Photograph: Courtesy Badmaash

The best restaurants in Downtown Los Angeles

Whatever you’re looking for, and at any price point, these Downtown restaurants will hit the spot

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributor
Stephanie Breijo
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Over a decade since its initial revitalization in the late aughts, Downtown’s dining scene shows no signs of slowing down. Over the years, the number of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood has snowballed, growing in size and diversity with redevelopment in Downtown’s historic core that spread to the once all-industrial Arts District—now home to some of the best restaurants in the entire city. 

Walkability and better public transit access across greater Downtown makes it easy to hop from the Fashion District for L.A.’s best tacos to classic sushi in Little Tokyo, before doubling back to pick up a takeout chicken pot pie from one of the best Brazilian restaurants in L.A. Whether you’re looking to splurge or save for a rainy day, here’s where you should be eating the next time you head Downtown.

RECOMMENDED: See more in our guide to Downtown L.A.

The 20 best restaurants in Downtown L.A., ranked

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

A decade after opening, the Arts District’s Bestia still turns tables—and typically requires reservations several weeks out. It shouldn’t be surprising, given chef-owner Ori Menashe’s penchant for nailing straightforward yet innovative Italian food, which arrives hot from a wood-burning oven, the kitchen’s centerpiece. Some of Bestia’s menu highlights have become modern icons of L.A.’s dining scene: the spaghetti rustichella—a small pyramid of noodles under dungeness crab, citrus, Calabrian chili, Thai basil and onion seed—is synonymous with this hard-to-land reservation. Plus, god help anyone who tries to get in between us and a forkful of Bestia’s chocolate budino tart.

  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

Downtown’s cultural food epicenter might as well be the historic Grand Central Market, which has been serving the neighborhood since 1917. Today, GCM is  a glimpse into the city’s past, as well as a contemporary hotbed for some of the best dining L.A. has to offer. Our favorites: Shiku, a Korean dosirak (lunchbox) spot with an array of unique, must-try banchan; Sari Sari Store, from the team behind République and Bicyclette, which offers vibrantly flavored Filipino rice bowls; buckets of Lucky Bird’s signature light and crispy crusted fried chicken; and the chow mein plate stalwart China Cafe, a GCM veteran for over 60 years. Earlier in the day, stop by G&B Coffee for a latte and The Donut Man for a sweet treat, including the Glendora shop’s famous, seasonal fruit-filled donuts (we love the strawberry).

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

Tucked behind traditional noren that hang over the door, chef-owner Brandon Go artfully tweezers a multicourse, traditional kaiseki dinner each night of service. The space is intimate, the ceramics are handcrafted and imported from Japan, and Go’s precision and technique have earned his restaurant not one, but two Michelin stars (as of 2021). There is something almost criminally understated here; Hayato’s delicate flavors and Go’s humble nature could lead Angelenos to overlook some of the most beautiful cooking happening in the city. We hope they don’t. They’d be missing out on phenomenal dishes such as steamed abalone with an unctuous liver sauce; an owan course of delicate crab meatball soup; and fresh fruit coated in a salted sake jelly.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 3 of 4

Orsa & Winston is the crown jewel of chef Josef Centeno’s L.A. restaurant empire, and for good reason. This Japanese-Italian fine dining den has a hyper-creative, genre-bending Michelin-starred tasting menu. At $125 a pop, it’s certainly not cheap, but Centeno’s emphasis on seasonal, locally sourced produce shines in artfully plated dishes like a honey nut squash braised in sake, Okinawa brown sugar and shiso leaves. A more sustainably raised bluefin toro served with calamansi, apricot and finger limes captures the essence of the cooking going on at Orsa & Winston, where the best seafood and produce combine into an elegant symphony worthy of your next date night or other special occasion.

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

Brought to you by husband-and-wife team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, the same folks behind Bestia, the pan-Mediterranean Bavel is a sheer delight drawing on the couple’s shared cultural heritage. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s best hummus and pita served in an upscale shabby-chic atmosphere alongside a sumptuous large-format lamb neck shawarma and spiced harissa prawns. There’s a profound kind of cozy elegance in the cuisine at Bavel, which winds its way through Israel, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey. At the end of the day, however, the space livens up its already-exciting menu: Though the more intimate patio sets a perfect scene on date night, inside, near the kitchen and under the waterfall of hanging vines, is where you’ll find most of the action is at.

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Downtown Arts District

Taking place every Sunday outside of the outdoor mall ROW DTLA, Smorgasburg L.A. is a cornucopia of food and retail stalls that happens to serve as an incubator for some of L.A.’s best up-and-coming small food businesses. Veterans include Tacos 1986 (also on this list), which now operates brick-and-mortar locations across the city, and Koreatown’s Love Hour, both of whom still head to Smorgasburg every week. Recent additions like Bridgetown Roti, chef Rashida Holmes’ ultra-popular Caribbean pop-up, and buzzy flautas specialist Los Dorados, have kept the crowds coming at Smorgasburg. You’ll also find much-loved regulars like travel-inspired ice cream hotspot, Wanderlust Creamery, and the açai specializing Amazebowls, who also have a shop in the Arts District.

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

One of L.A.’s most iconic budget-friendly eats might be known for its deep-fried shrimp tacos—TACOS DE CAMARON is painted on its Fashion District and Boyle Heights trucks in giant letters, for good reason—but Mariscos Jalisco also serves market fresh, often fiery ceviches, tostadas and oysters on the half shell. Their signature tacos live up to the hype, with flavorful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that is then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja. You’ll also want to save room for tostadas like the Poseidon, a fiery red aguachile that comes with shrimp ceviche, octopus and shrimp.

  • Restaurants
  • Filipino
  • Downtown Financial District
  • price 2 of 4

Housed in a tiny Downtown storefront, this casual Filipino takeout shop by chef Ria Dolly Barbosa (formerly of Sqirl) serves both Filipino classics like chicken adobo and sinigang as well as dishes inspired by L.A.’s diverse cuisines, like their sisig salad. Made with yuzu vinaigrette, chicken livers and fried garlic, it’s a crispy, citrusy, funky delight. Petite Peso’s juicy, deep-fried lumpia can be made meat-free (via Impossible Foods), and their pinakbet bowl uses vegan shrimp paste for a wholly plant-based version of the classic Filipino kabocha squash dish. Stop by earlier for one of Barbosa’s many show-stopping traditional pastries, particularly the ensaymada, which we consider a cut above other iterations available in SoCal. Topped with sugar, cheese and a smidge of cream, one bite of Petite Peso’s gourmet version will more than justify its price point.

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

Nestled in Downtown’s Little Tokyo neighborhood since 1980, Sushi Gen has turned into a cult favorite for L.A.’s sushi aficionados. The main draw? A modestly priced sashimi lunch special, complete with a rainbow of sashimi, soup, salad and rice. You can reward your taste buds with fresh halibut, fatty tuna, sea urchin, monkfish liver, scallops and oysters throughout the day, of course—just mind the rules: no cell phone or laptop usage while dining, your whole party must be present to be seated, and don’t even try to skirt around the host stand (or that giant line out front). At this top-notch spot, be prepared to wait; the lines can get massive.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

A modern Indian restaurant marrying Toronto-style swagger and South Asian spice, Badmaash offers a delicious, carefully thought-out menu of Indian classics and more playful dishes, like a chicken tikka poutine and chili cheese naan. Run by the Mahendro brother-and-father trio, this isn’t your average Indian takeout-style fare. Take their double-fried chicken: Dusted with paprika masala, each piece is craggy, crunchy and out-of-this-world good when dipped into their side of serrano-cream sauce. No meal would be complete, however, without one of their poutines, which can be also topped with vegetarian-friendly channa masala. Time Out tip: Order the vegan-friendly oat milk chai, available by the bottle for takeout purchase as well.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Downtown Fashion District
  • price 2 of 4

The Santee Passage food court probably isn’t where you’d expect to find some of the most delicious, unapologetically spicy Thai food in Los Angeles, but that’s exactly where you’ll find Downtown’s Holy Basil. Using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, chef Wedchayan “Deau” Arpapornnopparat and partner Tongkamal “Joy” Yuon regularly inspire revelations in Southeast Asian flavor and spice with their version of takeout favorites like pad kee mao and green curry. However, we’re also partial to Holy Basil’s small bites, like a vegan-friendly larb made with mushrooms and their dry-aged salmon. Billed as a Thai-style ceviche, this super-spicy raw dish is worth temporarily melting your tastebuds. 

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

When it comes to puffy tacos so crunchy and a queso dip so silky you crave it for weeks on end, it can only mean one thing: You need a Bar Amá fix, stat. Josef Centeno’s casual ode to Tex-Mex cuisine is a declaration and celebration of the chef’s roots, and it’s a casual, comfy dive into the most satisfying of guacamoles and deeply flavorful salsas. It’s impossible to go wrong with just about anything here (even the vegan queso), and we’ve yet to have a bad meal at Downtown’s little slice of Texas.

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

From the moment you enter Q’s doors, refinement is all you can hear, see, and taste. Classical music drifts through the elegant space, a formal dining room with a handful of tables and the center of the action—a 10-seat sushi bar where Q’s chef, Hiroyuki Naruke, quietly steals the spotlight. It’s hard to say which is more of a treat: the expertly cut fish sourced from around the world, or the chef’s artfully precise one-man show. The focus here is Edomae sushi, a style that highlights vinegar-seasoned rice and high-quality, fresh cuts of fish, and at Q’s omakase dinner—at $300 per person—you’ll also receive a smattering of Japanese small plates, like torched toro with shishito relish. Of course, if you’d like to make rent next month, Q also offers a lunch track for $150. Whichever option you pick, day or night, just be sure to make a reservation.

  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. Whether or not you believe them, there’s no denying the eatery has an exemplary sandwich. Savvy customers make their way across the sawdust-covered floor to select a traditional lamb, beef or turkey filling, then ask their server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; add some of the sinus-clearing house mustard and you’re golden. A bevy of sides include coleslaw, macaroni and potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and pickles—all to be eaten in the midst of friendly strangers, whom you’ll inevitably wind up talking to, especially during Dodger game season.

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  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 1 of 4

Whether you’re a Philippe’s fan or Cole’s believer, the real question is—do you dip? DTLA’s other originator of the French dip (or at least they claim to be), Cole’s sits in the same location as it did in 1908, when it opened its doors as a public house inside the Pacific Electric railway station. Today, thanks to a revamp from Pouring With Heart, the booze is still flowing—both up front in the restaurant, and in back at speakeasy the Varnish. Diners can order hearty, beef-jus–dipped sandwiches in a setting that’s much darker and moodier than Philippe’s, which is just down the road. You just need to ask yourself: Do you want a congenial, Dodgers fan atmosphere at one spot, or the darkened bar where mobsters and Charles Bukowski used to frequent?

  • Restaurants
  • Brazilian
  • Downtown Historic Core

Above all else, order the chicken pot pie at Woodspoon, a homey, Black-owned casual Brazilian eatery in Downtown’s Historic Core that’s been around since 2006. Here, chef Natalie Pereira draws on African, European and Indian influences that characterize the region of Minas Gerais, where she grew up without running water or electricity, like Woodspoon’s moqueca, a traditional seafood stew made with black cod and coconut sauce. Though Pereira also offers delectable pick-your-own-protein lunch plates, the favorites and regional specialties menu section are where Woodspoon shines brightest in our book.

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

Owners Victor Delgado and Jorge “Joy” Alvarez-Tostado didn’t catch lighting in a bottle with their Tijuana-style tacos; they worked tirelessly popping up on street corners and at Smorgasburg, and with equal parts perfect product and showmanship, the duo created one of L.A.’s most viral taco stands. Catch their team dressed in all red and tossing adobada from the trompo for tacos and a show that can’t be beat. And while the adobada is the star, we’re also partial to the mushroom taco—order it as “perron” for cheese and beans—and the vampiros.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 1 of 4

This Chinese takeout spot in the Spring Arcade Building chops, steams, grills and sears its way to the top of the food hall’s restaurant pile, offering outstanding rice bowls topped with pasture-raised meats, not to mention curry, tofu and sides of some of L.A.’s most fun bao. Run by a husband-and-wife team, this fast-casual spot combines Leo Lee’s culinary school background with both his and Lydia Lee’s family recipes for a truly destination-worthy, casual Chinese BBQ joint that’s just as much about the succulent meats as it is the more vegan-friendly, vermicelli and mushroom packed bao (or those phenomenal char siu egg rolls stuffed with monterey jack cheese).

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  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Downtown Fashion District
  • price 1 of 4

How do we love Sonoratown? Let us count the ways. This humble taqueria has become so much of a welcoming cornerstone of our dining scene that it feels like home the second you walk through the door. Well that, or a party. The staff are lively, open and fun-loving, and their mood is infectious. Patrons from all walks smile, laugh and even dance, all to the scent of char-grilled meats that get slid into handmade, award-winning flour tortillas made with imported Mexican flour. Dishes get brightened by cabbage and a rainbow of house salsas, and topped by entire strands of grilled green onions. Sonoratown specializes in—you guessed it—Sonoran-style fare, which means tacos, quesadillas and chivis (think: soft chimichangas oozing cheese) all packed with fresh ingredients that will have you planning a Northern Mexico vacation with every bite.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary Asian
  • Chinatown
  • price 3 of 4

Located on the edge of Chinatown, David Chang’s first Los Angeles restaurant weaves Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and other local flavors in an ever-evolving menu that’s impossible to fully pin down. Here, Chang turns Chinese tradition on its head with bing pancakes, which come served with roe, lamb, caviar and anything else the kitchen might be into lately. Served with fermented bean paste, pickled vegetables and kimchi, Majordomo’s large-format plates like the smoked half bo ssam and whole plate short rib are worthy of your next group outing. At its heart, this restaurant is an ode to L.A.’s cultural and culinary diversity, and Chang’s rendition is a welcome one to the vast collection of poetry the city already has.

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