15 best restaurants in Downtown Los Angeles
To say that you'll need a reservation for Bestia is an understatement. As one of the most talked about (and as a result, packed) restaurants in LA, securing a table months in advance is a necessity. Chef Ori Menashe is the brains behind Bestia’s thoughtful, ingredient-driven Italian menu. His house-cured salumi is superb, whether it's part of a charcuterie board or atop a puffy pizza with mozzarella, black cabbage and fennel; and housemade pastas come tangled together with lobster and sea urchin or tossed with lamb ragu and saffron. Menashe's wife, Genevieve Gergis, is Bestia's phenomenal pastry chef, and you'd be wise to order her chocolate budino tart to end an unforgettable meal.
Nestled on the ground floor of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Patina founder Joachim Splichal’s haute restaurant hums with perfectly-harmonized service and food. Dining here is not cheap—prix-fixe menus range from $79 to $150—but executive chef Paul Lee makes every bite worth your while. The seasonal menu is constantly changing, and could include delicacies such as monkfish with puréed cauliflower; foie gras with chocolate, fig, carrot and ginger; and kabocha squash with black currant and pepita. Take your meal up a notch with the artisinal cheese selection, which arrives via tableside cheese cart—every fromage lover's dream.
Little Jewel of New Orleans channels the South through both its deli and marketplace, selling shrimp and oyster po'boys, muffulettas and fried catfish platters, which customers dig into at tables just steps away from the counter. The market section of Little Jewel carries essential Southern spices, sauces and regional beans; look for brands like Slap Ya Mama! and Bayou Magic. Wondering why that jambalaya tastes so good? All of Little Jewel's sausages and cooking meats are made in-house.
Located in the loading dock of the Biscuit Lofts in DTLA's Arts District, chef Tony Esnault's French bistro serves classic fare—steak frites, escargot, steak tartare and more—to Angelenos with big budgets and a taste for nuanced interiors (think: white subway tiles and leather banquettes). Start with a seasonal cocktail and oysters on the half shell, then progress to housemade charcuterie and savory tartes. Don't miss the weekday meal-deal: a three-course lunch for a steal at $21. With a French-heavy wine selection, proper fromage options and al fresco dining, it's a little slice of Paris in the middle of Downtown.
Located in the heart of Downtown is Grand Central Market, a European-style food hall that has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. Its rapid transformation (some would say gentrification) in the past couple of years has led many to long for the good old days, but there's no question that some of Downtown's best places to dine are at GCM: Wexler's Deli, serving a phenomenal pastrami sandwich; Horse Thief BBQ, one of LA's best BBQ spots; and Belcampo Meat Co., with its Belcampo Burger that rivals all other LA burgers. Make sure to stop by McConnell's Fine Ice Creams for a sweet treat, as well as the recently revamped G&B Coffee for a cold brew coffee.
It can be intimidating moving into a space with history, but step into Broken Spanish—chef Ray Garcia's restaurant which occupies the much-revered, now shuttered Rivera—and any sentiment you may have attached to the old space will soon fade. Broken Spanish is bright and colorful with tables boasting hand-woven doilies and Mexican pottery, while the food is decidedly down to earth. Garcia may be cooking things like lamb neck and oxtail, but they are wrapped in tamales and quesadillas, hearty and elevated at the same time. A fiery shrimp dish with cascabel chili, pequin peppers and pineapple may leave your mouth tingling for a good five minutes, and a cellophane-shrouded rabbit stew emits the most incredible smell when unwrapped. Finish with a chile mango panna cotta, which balances sweet and spicy with passion fruit curd and habanero caramel, diced mangos and cayenne meringue.
The most fancy-pants of Celestino Drago's roster of Italian eateries, this Downtown outpost is where fine dining meets LA power lunching. Tasting menus abound, in which the kitchen rolls out exquisite, freshly-made pastas of different shapes and sizes from pillowy agnolotti filled with butternut squash to toothsome pappardelle with morels and tender pieces of pheasant. Seafood dishes are just as masterful, like a tuna with garlic risotto cake, sunchoke and pomegranate mostarda—thoughtfully dressed and thoroughly modern. The dining room gives visitors a dead-on view of the public library, transporting you to a time when two-hour lunches were part of a normal work day.
This stunning restaurant from chef Neil Fraser resides in the old rectory of Vibiana, a Roman Catholic cathedral turned events space, and emits an old-school formality—not just in the details of the beautiful space, but the service, too. Immediately after being seated, diners are presented with an amuse-bouche: a small glass of port, vermouth and lemon juice called the Devil’s Cocktail. The menu works from small plates to larger dishes meant to be shared; highlights include fantastic Florida rock shrimp, a beautiful burrata salad and the rabbitchetta: rabbit saddle wrapped in bacon, stuffed with rabbit sausage and cut into medallions that put each layer on display. Redbird's drinks are just as captivating as the food, and you'd be wise to choose the KGB: gin, apricot and cumin-spiced kümmel result in a savory flavor profile that meanders between sweet and spicy.
This buzzy Little Tokyo spot—which has four locations in Los Angeles with a devoted following—is a ramen mecca. A wrap-around counter faces the open kitchen, providing a social atmosphere to dig into piping hot bowls of flavorful pork broth and chewy noodles; we love the specialty Daikoku Ramen. Chijire-style egg noodles sit in a rich tonkotsu soup and are topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly (pork fans can amp it up with fatty kotteri-style), boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions. Add an order of pan-fried pork gyoza or crispy tonkatsu (pork cutlet) to make the line worthwhile.
The Indian gastropub Badmaash is a family affair, with chef Pawan Mahendro and his son Nakul at the helm mashing up traditional and modern asethetic and cuisine. Sit at the bar, upstairs or along the sidewalk and take in the Bollywood movies projected on the wall as small plates arrive at the table. Start with street cart classics like the addictive Punjabi Fish-Fry or crunchy papri chaat chips served with masala-flavored potato and chickpeas, yogurt and tamarind and mint chutneys. Beef eaters can fill up on the Badmaash Burger gussied up with mango jam and spiced mayo on a brioche bun, while those wanting a more traditional experience can opt for butter chicken, saag paneer and tandoori oven favorites like chicken tikka. Thirsty? Badmaash offers wines by the glass and bottle, local beers, a cutting chai with a cult following, plus India's version of Coke called Thumbs Up that's absolutely killer.
Chef Josef Centeno's first solo venture is located in the Old Banking District, just around the corner from Skid Row and some of Downtown’s busiest art galleries. The restaurant highlights the "bäco," a sandwich that is equal parts Mediterranean flatbread and Mexican taco, like the Toron: oxtail hash, cheddar taters and horseradish yogurt. Larger plates include grilled squid and a half duck, but if pasta is what you're in the mood for, consider the All You Can Eat spaghetti and meatballs deal on Mondays. For a well-crafted cocktail, try the Dirty Pimms, made with gin, cumin, cilantro and chile. The restaurant also bottles its own soda, reminiscent of Mexico’s Jarritos.
Nestled in Downtown's Little Tokyo neighborhood since 1980, Sushi Gen has turned into a cult favorite for LA's sushi aficionados. The main draw: a $17 sashimi lunch special, complete with various types of sashimi, soup, salad and rice. Reward your taste buds with fresh halibut, fatty tuna, sea urchin, scallops and oysters at this top-notch spot, but be prepared to wait: the lines are massive, and reservations are scarce.
If the lines are too long at other old-school ramen restaurants in Little Tokyo (we're looking at you, Daikokuya), head over to Manichi Ramen, the Los Angeles installment from one of Japan's best ramen companies. The #1 Manichi Special is a rich, fragrant bowl filled with tender bits of pork, a soft egg boiled to perfection, black garlic and spicy miso. Portions are hefty enough to leave you full after one bowl, but you'll want to precede your meal with a plate of the restaurant's beloved gyoza.
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 sandwich. Savvy customers make their way across the sawdust-covered floor to select a traditional lamb 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, who you'll inevitably wind up talking to.
After a massive renovation, Bunker Hill's upscale restaurant Nick & Stef's Steakhouse is back in action with a revamped menu and mid-century modern flair. Coral blues, caramel and brass hues decorate the space, but it's the on-site curation of quality meat that really speaks to the restaurant's focus. Executive chef Andreas Roller delivers beautiful cuts of beef, like a Tomahawk rib chop cut tableside (you can even choose your own steak knife!). Also served tableside: a classic Nick & Stef's Caesar salad, crafted to the diner's specifications (easy on the anchovies, please). Decadent sides include an orecchiette mac and cheese, creamed spinach with bacon, and roasted fall squash with maple syrup and pumpkin seeds. If you manage to find room for dessert, a rum raisin chocolate cake will most definitely have you rolling out of the restaurant.