Downtown L.A. Restaurants: A Beginner's Guide
Pork testa with shiso and capers at Orsa & Winston
Downtown Los Angeles is home to a big chunk of the restaurants that can be counted among the city's best. Locals and tourists alike are eager to explore this area’s culinary scene — but if downtown is new to you, it can be intimidating, what with its distinct sub-neighborhoods, sprawl and sheer number of worthy destinations. Here is a guide to starting your DTLA culinary journey. Each restaurant is categorized by occasion ("I want noodles" counts as an occasion), the better to plan your culinary jaunt.
Slicing the dough for the focaccia di Recco at Factory Kitchen
Indulging: The Factory Kitchen
Here is a restaurant that doesn’t hide its love for cheese, bread and pasta. In fact, the success of the Factory Kitchen has in many ways relied on those staples, proving that a tradition of fresh ingredients and handmade dishes can directly compete with modern trends. But it’s not just the food that makes the Factory Kitchen one of the best sources of calorie bombs in L.A. — the popular restaurant also offers a killer cocktail menu and wine list. Remember, Uber and Lyft exist!
1300 Factory Place; (213) 996-6000, thefactorykitchen.com.
Tinga taco at Guisados
Mexican food: Guisados
In true L.A. fashion, Guisados offers well-made, straightforward food, and the restaurant is a runaway hit. It's a mini chain now, with a location downtown, among others. The original Boyle Heights location (just a touch outside downtown) still offers the simple stews-on-tortillas menu that first drew flocks of people to its doors. (The downtown branch and others have breakfast tacos, too.) And, in an effort to further support the spirit of DTLA, Guisados features a series of rotating, locally made art as part of its Featured Artist Program.
541 S. Spring St. # 101, downtown (and other locations); (213) 627-7656, guisados.co.
Faith & Flower
A special occasion: Faith & Flower
Ever inch of Faith & Flower's design is impressive. From the chandeliers to the green glassware to the curved booths, the design is reminiscent of Gatsby-era indulgence and includes a bar, dining room, private dining room and patio, all of which are likely to be packed on weekend nights. With its raw bar, seasonal cocktails and handmade pastas — and especially its showmanlike service, with flaming cocktails and the like — it’s the perfect DTLA destination for meeting a significant other’s parents, celebrating an anniversary or impressing an out-of-town business client.
705 W. Ninth St.; (213) 239-0642, faithandflowerla.com.
A slice of L.A. history (with a side of roast beef): Philippe the Original
No conversation about the DTLA food scene would be complete without the inclusion of Philippe the Original. A historic landmark that opened in 1908, Philippe the Original is widely credited with the invention of the French Dip sandwich. Unless you believe that Cole's invented it, of course. Philippe's still serves up thousands of orders of its juicy roast beef classic every year. Sure, customers may need to take a number and get comfortable for a while before getting their hands on one, but the wait is nothing compared with the opportunity to taste a true slice of L.A. history.
1001 Alameda St.; (213) 628-3781, philippes.com.
Girls' night out: Redbird
Spirited and bright, Redbird’s indoor-outdoor design, new American cuisine and inventive cocktail selections attract a lively mix of food obsessives and local professionals with some cash to spend, as well as big celebratory groups. Redbird is especially popular with the latter, who appreciate the accommodating nature of the sprawling space and the diverse menu, which features everything from head cheese to avocado salad. It’s perfect for girls' (or boys'!) night out — especially if you want to impress your friends with your food scene knowledge.
114 E. Second St.; (213) 788-1191, redbird.la.
Chef Mario Christerna of the Briks
Challenge your worldview: The Briks
These days, it seems like a lot of restaurants could be described as serving "global cuisine," a blanket descriptor that's become a catch-all for concepts that don't fall into a more definitive description. But at the Briks, an inventive eatery named after a traditional North African puff-pastry dish, global cuisine isn't just a buzzword, it's a driving force. Though he was raised in Boyle Heights, Chicano chef Mario Christena's menu reaches into every corner of the globe; guests will find everything from Spanish-style flatbreads called cocas to Israeli couscous, tempeh served with a za'atar sauce, harissa mac and cheese and a selection of homemade aguas frescas on the menu.
1111 S. Hope St. #110s; (213) 746-7766, thebriks.com.
Cereal Killer cheesecake ($6.25 per slice) is one of the Pie Hole's more creative options.
On a rainy day: The Pie Hole
Rainy days may be rare in L.A., but that just means all the more reason to celebrate with warm sweaters, boots and (most importantly) a warm meal whenever there's a little water in the sky. Downtown, there’s no better go-to for comfort food than the Pie Hole’s Arts District location, a cozy neighborhood spot offering a range of savory and sweet pies. The menu changes seasonally, but can’t-miss classics include the mac ’n’ cheese (yes, mac and cheese inside a pie), the s’mores and the breakfast hand pie.
714 Traction Ave.; (213) 537-0115, thepieholela.com.
Try a tasting menu: Orsa & Winston
With its menu of Asian-Italian dishes, artfully crafted tableware and excellent service, Orsa & Winston is, simply, the kind of place you take someone you care about. Named for chef-owner Josef Centeno's two (totally adorable) dogs, Orsa & Winston is not just his brainchild, it's his labor of love. Though diners are welcome to order à la carte, the star of the show here is the tasting menu, a six-course experience that often comes with add-ons. For those visiting for a special occasion (perhaps a proposal? anniversary? overdue thank-you to your parents for putting up with you for all these years?), Orsa & Winston also offers a "super omakase," a 20-course menu available with 48 hours' advance notice.
122 W 4th St.; (213) 687-0300, orsaandwinston.com.
Architecture ogling: Miro
One of the newer additions to DTLA’s financial district, Miro’s corner-front architecture is enough to make anyone stop and stare ... and then perhaps go inside. Part whiskey bar, part restaurant, the two-level space features an oversized bar, a large private dining room, two main dining rooms and a basement tasting room, all designed according to an aesthetic centered on geometric skylights, midcentury modern furniture and unique light fixtures. The attention to detail continues across the menu, where diners are treated to dishes including wood-grilled figs, roasted bone marrow, squid ink corzetti, house-made charcuterie and wood-fired pizzas.
888 Wilshire Blvd.; (213) 988-8880, mirorestaurant.com.
Best for comfort food: Daikokuya
It wouldn't be a culinary trip through DTLA without a stop in Little Tokyo — and when it comes to Little Tokyo, Daikokuya is one of the greats. Sure, it's not topping any trend lists these days, but the beloved ramen and rice bowl shop has been around long before noodle soup became trendy, and hasn't wavered in its ability to continue to warm hearts (and stomach) with its thick broths. The hole-in-the-wall joint may boast an almost constant wait, but after a tough week at work, a bowl of Daikokuya ramen feels like a much-needed warm hug.
372 E. First St.; (213) 626-1680, dkramen.com.
Enjoy the view: 71Above
Opened this summer on the U.S. Bank Tower’s 71st floor, this swanky restaurant and lounge offers — unsurprisingly — some of the most incredible views in all of L.A. A true exercise in appreciating our city by the sea, 71Above also features a selection of cocktails inspired by L.A. neighborhoods and a menu of dishes focused on fresh local ingredients. The circular space offers a dining experience for every guest, including a bar dining, main room dining (where guests can reserve a specific table online), chef’s table, semi-private dining, private dining and a sky lounge.
633 W. Fifth St.; (213) 712-2682, 71above.com.
Uni comes draped across a small block of egg tofu that has been doused in a slurry made from fresh nori.
Instead of a plane ticket: Shibumi
Chef-owner David Schlosser studied under some of Kyoto’s top culinary masters. Drawing from these experiences, Shibumi focuses on two traditional Japanese dining styles: kaiseki, a high-end tasting menu, and kappo, a practice of ordering directly from the chef behind a counter. Shibumi is a sophisticated spot, and you'll accidentally learn a lot by eating there.
815 Hill St.; (213) 265-7923, shibumidtla.com.
Mini fried chicken biscuit
Poppy + Rose
Hungover brunch: Poppy + Rose
Three words: chicken and waffles. Need we say more? This Southern-inspired spot brings a taste of country home cooking, and some of the best fried chicken and waffles in the city, to the Flower District. Other Poppy + Rose menu favorites include the weekends-only eggs Benedict, a rib tips breakfast burrito and biscuits sure to soak up any remaining alcohol in your stomach. Best of all, it serves breakfast and lunch all day, so you can hit this spot even after sleeping in.
765 Wall St.; (213) 995-7799, poppyandrosela.com.
Eggs for the Eggslut breakfast taco
Instagram star: Eggslut
For those looking to step up their social media game, it doesn’t get any better than Eggslut, an overwhelmingly trendy grab-and-go concept in DTLA’s popular Grand Central Market. Known for its remarkably photogenic egg sandwiches, Eggslut has become an iconic stop on the social media circuit — and a can’t-miss for all those Instagramming foodies. If you can, try to visit during the week or early on the weekends: This spot attracts so many breakfast fiends, the line often spills onto the sidewalk.
317 S. Broadway; (213) 625-0292, eggslut.com.
Eat meat: Bestia
For foodies fatigued by eating the same dishes over and over again, there’s no more desirable (and hard-to-get) reservation in L.A. than Bestia. The acclaimed modern-Italian concept is known for its out-of-the-box menu, featuring the likes of chicken gizzards, roasted bone marrow, veal tartare and lamb neck. But it’s not all challenging animal parts at Bestia, as the more unusual dishes sit alongside a range of more traditional options such as margherita pizza, farro salad and grilled branzino.
2121 E. Seventh Place; (213) 514-5724, bestiala.com.
Late-night drunk food: The Original Pantry Cafe
The word "drunchie" may have been coined at the Original Pantry Cafe. Seriously — if you've never had these pancakes at 2 a.m. after the bar closes, then have you even really lived? This cash-only diner has been open since 1924 and serves a modified menu 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making it a favorite of anyone who's ever craved breakfast food in the wee hours of the early morning.
877 S. Figueroa St.; (213) 972-9279, pantrycafe.com.