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Cabra Assorted Food
Photograph: Courtesy Stan Lee

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 24 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
  • 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.

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

Since its lockdown era debut, Pujol chef Enrique Olvera's Arts District eatery has quietly become one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, as well as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, period. Damian’s understatedly stylish ambience and unforgettable seafood-centric small plates, grilled meats and playful vegetable mains easily put it in the same league as its always-popular parking lot neighbor, Bestia, but the restaurant defies any simple comparison. When every bite reflects Damian’s commitment to traditional Mexican cooking techniques and ingredient sourcing, there’s no one singularly great dish to order, but you’d be remiss not to order the unforgettable duck al pastor and art-like hibiscus meringue. 

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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
  • Delis
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

If Venice’s Gjusta introduced Angelenos to the beauty of a gourmet deli experience, Yangban Society is perfecting it. Taking over the former Bon Temps space in the Arts District, Napa fine dining veterans Katianna and John Hong blend together Korean and Jewish culinary traditions with daily cold salads and pickled vegetables, excellent standalone dishes like jajang bolognese rice and delightful Girl & Dug ssam boxes. Full of perilla and lettuce leaves, they’re designed to ferry morsels of larger protein entrées. Spring for their $50 family style feast to get a comprehrensiver starter lesson in cutting-edge Korean American cuisine. Plus, their $5 valet parking helps lessen the burn of circling for parking on Santa Fe Avenue.

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

If you’re itching for a taste of Mexico City, head to this stunning palm- and cacti-lined patio in the Arts District, where chef Paco Moran’s luscious, seafood-oriented share plates and addicting housemade tortillas chips add up to a transportative meal any day of the week. The same precision and seasonality extends to the upscale restaurant’s cocktails and desserts, including a gorgeous, crystal-clear strawberry milk punch and arroz con leche topped with puffed rice and mango passionfruit gel. For an equally transportative experience, post up at the bar all evening and pound spicy margaritas and palomas served in a traditional clay pot or try Cha Cha Chá’s cachaça, rhum and mandarin Jarritos-based painkiller.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs

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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • American creative
  • Downtown Fashion District
  • price 3 of 4

This Peruvian-inspired Downtown rooftop restaurant comes courtesy of Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, who also has an equally excellent L.A. outpost of Girl & the Goat in the Arts District. Here, you'llfind Izard’s usual sharp, playful takes on dishes like striped bass ceviche and lomo saltado. From appetizers to dessert, there’s something memorable and delicious for everyone to love at Cabra. For us, the quinoa and tuna salad’s cornucopia of bright flavors and caramel-covered picarones—sweet potato doughnuts topped with puffed rice—stood out above all else. Together with a gorgeous poolside bar, stunning interior design and excellent cocktails, this breezy destination-worthy eatery is an obvious choice for a big night out.

  • 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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