Takeout windows certainly aren't anything new, but over the last few years they've blown up in L.A. as quickly as the food-truck movement previously did: A new generation of chefs has followed in similar, low-overhead footsteps by offering quick grab-and-go meals, many with quite the gourmet flair. Here is some of the best food in L.A. coming from windows, from modern twists on Filipino fare to deeply indulgent breakfast biscuit sandwiches.
There's so much going on at Chinatown's Unit 120 that it's often hard to keep track of the chefs who are building up their brand through Eggslut chef-restaurateur Alvin Cailan's culinary incubator space — and that's part of what makes it so exciting. Blink and you just might miss the next big thing. Currently, Jeremy Fall (Nighthawk) is staking out the takeout window portion of Unit 120 until the end of November with his Easy's Burgers concept (Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Pastry chef Isa Fabro (formerly of Orsa & Winston), who's made a name for herself with her Hawaiian-Filipino hybrid donuts, will continue to sell her sweets once November hits. Follow her Instagram for updates on her upcoming schedule, and expect some other pastries like her chocolate malt crumbles, dubbed “milo malas,“ on the way. Also at the start of November, Amboy (the ones behind those delicious banana leaf-wrapped whole grilled pompano over rice) will be back at the window on Tuesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. with a new Filipino dish: lechon manok, crispy chicken that comes with rice and crab sauce. Remember that these popups are fleeting. “All will end after Dec. 31, and then we reconfigure for the new year,” says Cailan.
727 N. Broadway, #120, Chinatown; unit120.com.
Outside a nondescript window at the Hi Hat music venue in Highland Park, you'll find dedicated fans queuing up for Belle's Bagels in the mornings. They're here because these aren't your ordinary bagels; the doughy wheels go through a 48-hour fermentation process and then are hand-rolled by co-owner Nick Schreiber. The result is a dense and chewy disc that isn't quite New York– or Montreal-style. The schmears are special blended flavors of beet or charred scallions with Sierra Nevada cream cheese, and the bagel sandwiches are stuffed with handmade lox. Make sure to get here early because they sometimes sell out early.
5043 York Blvd., Highland Park; (323) 208-9408, bellesbagels.com.
One of the most adorable openings of the year was Leona's cookie window, which has a rotating cookie menu daily from noon to 9 p.m. A white brick-lined wall with a wooden heart-shaped screen serves as the façade of tiny takeout window. A handful of take-away specials, usually burgers and sandwiches, also is scrawled on a chalkboard, as well as chef/owner Nyesha Arrington's so-good-they're-addictive cookies. Take our word for it and try the sweet-and-salty miso chocolate chip cookies.
123 Washington Blvd., Venice; (310) 822-5379, leonavenice.com.
If you're walking down Ventura Boulevard and see a closet-sized brick building with a window trimmed in cherry red, then you've arrived at Red Window. This tiny coffee shop is owned by Australian husband-and-wife duo Dan and Leah Pringle, who are fans of San Francisco's Four Barrel coffee beans, which they serve here. At Red Window, you'll find flat whites (which folks Down Under created), as well as cappuccinos done “Aussie-style,” meaning chocolate powder dusted on top.
12953 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; redwindowcoffee.com.
The best way to treat yourself after a long hike at Griffith Park is to gain back all those calories you burned with delectable pastries. The Trails is a tree-shaded cafe tucked away in the woodsy Los Feliz side of the park. If you're in for just a snack, you can grab a cup of joe with cheddar-and-chive biscuits, egg in a basket, lavender scones or cookies. There are even freshly baked pies cooling off by the window sill, just like in the old days! After you get your order from the window, you can grab a seat at one of the many wooden picnic tables surrounding the Trails to nosh on your goodies, even with your pup by your side.
2333 Fern Dell Drive, Los Feliz; (323) 871-2102, facebook.com/TheTrailsCafe.
Tacos Tu Madre
There's no way you could walk past the Tacos Tu Madre window in Westwood without noticing it. The neon-bright artwork adorning it is like an acid dream of calacas and stripes, making it a prime subject of any foodie's Instagram feed. The gourmet tacos and burritos here are just as photo-worthy. While it has your regular al pastor and asada, it takes things up a notch with fillings like shredded duck meat drenched in a mole poblano or roasted pork belly done Korean BBQ–style. An extra bonus is that even though you order from a window outside, there's some seating inside the joint so you can sate your cravings immediately.
1945½ Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (424) 832-7092, tacostumadre.com.
Two Boots Pizza
The Two Boots Pizza window downtown is where you stumble after a night of painting the town red. Here the glass windows are longer than usual, to display the stacks of different by-the-slice pies on hand. While you can get your tried-and-true cheese and pepperoni pizzas, check out the Cajun-meets-Italian thin-crust slices: varieties like the Bayou Beast, a very spicy pie topped with chunks of jalapeño, shrimp, crawfish and andouille sausage; and the Dude (yes, definitely a nod to The Big Lebowski), a hefty Cajun cheeseburger of sorts served alongside tasso and andouille. The best part is there's a little standing counter outside, where you can fold (or not fold — are you a New Yorker at heart?) your slice in half before taking a big bite.
828 S. Broadway, downtown; (213) 623-2100, twoboots.com.
Hamwich Shack is fast food–style but with higher-quality ingredients. Diners won't find greasy burgers at this quaint eatery in Watts. Think non-GMO and hormone-free meats and free-range chicken. The Jive Turkey burger is paired with Gouda, and the organic salad has grilled wild salmon on it. In keeping with the health-conscious theme, you won't find sodas on the menu but instead fresh aguas frescas.
1330 E. Imperial Hwy., Watts; (323) 533-8712, thehamwichshack.com.
Twin Sliders is the chill California version of White Castle. Here, you won't be troubled with the paradox of choice. When you walk up to the throwback window on Hollywood Boulevard, you'll find that the menu is a simple one, consisting of sliders (like beef patties with caramelized onions and Thousand Island, or spicy Cajun chicken), fries smothered with cheese, and milkshakes. While everything is relatively on the cheaper side, Twin Sliders does have on its menu a nearly $20 milkshake — a decadent sugar bomb pretty much filled with every sweet treat you had as a child.
5940 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 960-6902, twinssliders.com.
On a quiet street in Glassell Park, the tiny Division 3 takeout window seems to pop out of nowhere. And just as much as it physically stands out, so do its stellar breakfast biscuit sandwiches, which you can order daily from 7 to 11 a.m. The buttery and flaky biscuits get split in half and stuffed with all sorts of goodies. One of our favorites is corned beef accompanied by a spicy Thousand Island dressing and an over-medium egg. Once it hits 11 a.m., D3 turns over to lunch service until 3 p.m., where you can get hot and cold sandwiches and salads. Bring a newspaper and your food over to the tranquil, tree-lined back patio.
3329 Division St., Glassell Park; facebook.com/D3eats.
California Donuts has been around since the '80s, but this 24-hour spot in Koreatown is staying relevant with its fried doughy creations. Walk up to the glass-walled shop — you won't miss the sign in '60s-style surfer font — and you'll find rows and rows of colorful and playful doughnuts. They run the gamut from classics like the pink-frosted and besprinkled doughnut to modern concoctions adorned with the nostalgic Froot Loops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereals of childhood. The family-owned stand also carries doughnuts decorated like adorable pandas, and one lacquered in a matcha green tea frosting.
3540 W. Third St., Koreatown; (213) 385-3318, cadonuts.com.
When you're on the go in Hollywood and need some quick caffeine, just follow the black-and-white arrows lined along Siren Studios to two rusted metal windows and you'll be at Coffee Commissary. These guys are serious about their caffeine kicks — you'll find roasted beans from the likes of Madcap and Victrola brewed in the form of cold brews, lattes and mochas. As an extra bonus, you can get the jack-you-up Gibraltar double-shot espresso with milk here.
6063 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 467-3559, coffeecommissary.com.
Nearly a year before Easy's Burgers even set up a popup at Unit 120, Burgerlords was filling the all-American meat patty void in Chinatown. The guys behind the Central Plaza takeaway window, Fred and Max Guerrero, aren't just any regular dudes running the show — they come from a burger lineage. For years, the brothers helped father Andre Guerrero with his Oinkster outposts, and they also helm the popular Tumblr of the eponymous name that used to host enough burger GIFs to keep you scrolling forever. They, along with partner Kevin Hockins, launched Burgerlords last year. Instead of gourmet burgers from the likes of Umami, think more along the lines of thin In-N-Out style with plenty of veggies. But here, vegans can get their own versions as well. Plus you can order some Topo Chico while you're at it.
943 N. Broadway, #102, Chinatown; (323) 405-4012, burgerlords.com.
This little window along the Venice Boardwalk was serving customizable poké bowls in L.A. before it was cool. Noshing on poké bowls by the beach is just about as close as you can get to being in Hawaii if you're stuck on the mainland. Cubed ahi tuna gets tossed in dressings like soy sauce or wasabi, and topped with all the fixins. Added bonus: They've got acai bowls, too.
1827 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, (424) 228-5132, poke-poke.com.
It isn't out of the ordinary during the lunchtime rush to find a line outside the Yuca's Hut on Hillhurst. The little takeout window has been faithfully run by the Herrera family for 40 years, and even snagged a James Beard Award in the America's Classics category about a decade ago. The family feel is very much alive here. Oftentimes Socorro “Mama” Herrera will greet customers as they order their tried-and-true burritos and tacos — filled with chicken mole, carne asada or cochinita pibil.
2056 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-1214, yucasla.com.