Eat at These 10 Restaurants to Celebrate L.A.'s Diverse Culture

Morning glory saladEXPAND
Morning glory salad
Terrance Rorie

It's a mighty good week to stop and appreciate the rich cultural diversity blossoming in America, and especially Los Angeles. How many cities have a booming Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, Thai Town and Little Ethiopia within a few square miles? (Not to mention the world-class Chinese restaurants of the San Gabriel Valley.) Go enjoy a little cultural immersion right here in L.A. — we couldn't possibly list all the great international restaurants across the county, but this is a good starting point.

Dan Sung Sa
The giant mural of Kim Jong Il, traditionally crafted wood fixtures and a Korean-speaking clientele make for a pretty transportive experience — and there are no windows to the outside world to prove otherwise. The spicy chicken and pork belly skewers are reason enough to come here, but at heart this is a late-night pojangmacha — a place to throw ’em back as quickly and cheaply as possible (as evidenced by the sign in the bathroom asking customers not to puke in the sink).
3317 W. Sixth St., Koreatown. (213) 487-9100,

Thali mealEXPAND
Thali meal
James Gordon

Surati Farsan
If you’re vegetarian — and even if you’re not — you’ll love the food at Surati Farsan Mart in Artesia’s Little India. This is a Gujarati restaurant, specializing in dishes from India’s western coast. The miles-long menu offers everything from a complete meal on a thali to veggie burgers and dosa (there’s even a chocolate dosa). Try the silky yellow rolls called khandvi, topped with mustard seeds, cilantro and coconut, or khasta kachori, which smothers crisp, bean-filled shells with layers of fine noodles, yogurt and sweet and spicy sauces. Snack on saladlike bhel puri, a mix of crunchy rice puffs, beans, potato and onion with cilantro and spicy sweet seasoning. Or bite into a soft idli, a rice-and-lentil cake, which comes with sambhar, a lentil-and-vegetable soup that is especially good here. After you’ve eaten, head to the counters filled with sweets and snacks so tempting that you’re sure to leave loaded with bags and boxes. No problem if you’ve never seen such goodies before. The friendly staff is really nice about handing out free samples. —Barbara Hansen
11814 186th St., Artesia. (562) 860-2310,

Taco carts at Beverly and EdgemontEXPAND
Taco carts at Beverly and Edgemont
Kelly MacLean

Cart Tacos on Beverly Boulevard
This is in the classic L.A. tradition of nonrestaurant restaurants. Seven nights a week, shopping carts reimagined into free-standing grills line the intersection of Beverly and Edgemont on the north end of Koreatown. Silhouetted against a strip of small stores and a panadería, each vendor has a small burner inside a shopping cart, topped with a makeshift griddle. The tacos get fried right there, sizzling away until the moment the proprietor hands you the dangerously hot bundle. The elote, chile rellenos and tamales hanging off the side of the cart taste homemade, too. To the Vons missing a few carts: It's for a worthy cause.
Beverly Boulevard & Edgemont Street, Koreatown.

Green mussels in curry at JitladaEXPAND
Green mussels in curry at Jitlada

One of the fun games to play when dining at Jitlada, outside of celebrity spotting, is to watch as customers around you try to eat the things they’ve ordered after they’ve proclaimed “I love spicy food!” Indeed, it’s become a pilgrimage site for spice seekers, for lovers of Thai food, for those who attach the potency of their manhood to their tolerance of the Scoville scale. The competition for the city’s best Thai food gets fiercer by the day, but Jitlada remains the O.G. of no-holds-barred Southern Thai cooking, and its insanely long menu, colorful dining room and Hollywood clientele make it as good a place as any to start when trying to learn the landscape of L.A.’s deep, vast Thai food scene. There are curries here in myriad varieties, complexly spiced salads made with crispy catfish or morning glory, fragrant soups, fish balls stuffed with salted duck eggs, and around 200 other things on this dizzying menu. People come here for the ebullient company of co-owner Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong as much as for any other reason — once you get in her good graces, there’s hardly a more welcoming place to eat on Earth. —Besha Rodell
5233½ Sunset Blvd, Thai Town. (323) 667-9809,

Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá
Anne Fishbein

Chichén Itzá
If there’s a greater source of piggy pleasure in L.A. than the glorious pile of cochinita pibil at Chichén Itzá, we’ve yet to come across it. Think of all the descriptions that attach themselves to good meat — tender, juicy, dripping with flavor — and then apply it in your mind to a mound of shredded, slow-cooked pork topped with pickled red onion and nestled against fluffy white rice and hearty frijoles negros. The stand in the back of Mercado La Paloma in Historic South-Central is undoubtedly the most celebrated L.A. establishment serving Yucatecan cuisine, and for good reason. Owner Gilberto Cetina literally wrote the book on the food of the region (Sabores Yucatecos: A Culinary Tour of the Yucatán, which you can buy at the restaurant), and Chichén Itzá serves up some specialties here that are hard to find anywhere else. Get a feel for the mixed heritage of the Yucatán with the Lebanese-tinged kibi, or try the agua de chaya, made from the leafy green chaya plant. Enjoying all this in the bustling, colorful Mercado is a plus, and makes for one of L.A.’s great dining experiences. —Besha Rodell
3655 S. Grand Ave., University Park. (213) 741-1075,

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