For as great as this city's restaurant scene is, sometimes all you want to do is lay around at home and shovel food into your mouth from a styrofoam container. Forget the industrial lighting, and to hell with communal seating. Give us a threadbare sofa, a box of fried chicken and something good to binge watch on Netflix. To help you achieve that special level of apartment nirvana, we've compiled a list of the ten best take-out only restaurants in Los Angeles.
These aren't regular dining establishments with tables, chairs and waiters. There's no water service at any restaurant on this list, and your only recommended wine pairing is whatever you've still got half-corked in your pantry. Sure, there may be an errant stool or two in some of these take-out spots, but their core business -- and the only reason you'd want to show up at all -- is take-out food. This is great food that travels well, so you don't have to get off your couch to enjoy what L.A. has to offer.
Not to be confused with Culver City's more recognizable Johnnie's Pastrami, the Crenshaw-based Johnny's Pastrami -- that's with a 'y' at the end -- offers none of the kitsch and cleverness of it's crosstown rival. Instead, Johnny's on Adams Boulevard gives the neighborhood a 24 hour destination for burgers, hot dogs and seriously sloppy pastrami sandwiches. Sliced thin and best when dipped, the pastrami here won't win an argument against Langer's by any stretch, but it'll start a conversation against The Hat, Tops and plenty of other regional pastrami specialists. Serve it on rye with a slice of swiss, then order the over-clocked chili cheese fries as a side. Good luck keeping your car clean on the drive home. 4331 W. Adams Blvd., Mid-City; 323-734-6003.
Despite Mel's unenviable position between an auto body shop and a string of half-empty warehouses on Jefferson Boulevard, their business is always booming. Maybe it's thanks in recent years to the opening of the Expo Line nearby. Or maybe the neighborhood knows what lots of other folks don't: this is some seriously great fried fish. Choose from orange roughy, red snapper, catfish, tilapia and more, usually for under $7 as a lunch combo, and that price includes a side. No matter what you're asking the guy on the other side of the formica to put down for you, be sure to add on a couple of hushpuppies. You may not find a better version anywhere else in L.A. 4026 W. Jefferson Blvd., Mid-City; 323-735-2200.
Los Cinco Puntos is the stuff of East L.A. legend, with swirling cauldrons of boiling pork and a griddle the size of a Geo Metro. Around the hulking swath of warm, black metal you'll find a phalanx of abuelas, hand-patting thick corn tortillas for all of the tacos you're about to order. Up front are the finished goods, warming away in front of you and just waiting to be taken home by the pound. Everything from the snout to the stomach is for sale, with carne asada, suadero and other cuts off to one side. Buy in bulk to take home to the family, or have them make a few tacos for you on site, then slink out to our car and eat them on the hood. It tastes better that way anyway. 3300 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., East L.A.; 323-261-4084.
For a town that loves to gripe about traffic, there sure are a lot of folks making the slow slog out to Glendora for a taste of The Donut Man's seasonal doughnuts. The summery strawberry delights tend to draw the most attention, but the fresh fall peach version is no slouch either. The fruit is sweetened and softened while still retaining its shape and vibrancy, then crammed into a soft, flaky pastry that never stood a chance. True fans know better than to forget an order of the sticky tiger tails as well, though an argument could be made for practically any doughnut you'll find in the case. After all, you've driven this far... 915 E. Route 66, Glendora; 626-335-9111.
Don't get sidetracked by the bulletproof window and dodgy ordering procedure: you're on a mission. Should you choose to accept it, Jim Dandy will outfit you with perhaps the best fried chicken in all of Los Angeles (are you listening, Ludo?). From the very first crunchy bite of skin, perfectly seasoned and still popping at the edges from its recent fry bath, through to the tender poultry inside, it's clear that Jim Dandy is a winner. Of course, you've got to pony up the change for their signature corn fritters too. They are a hushpuppy / beignet hybrid that's been dusted with powdered sugar, and their elusive appeal is half the reason you agreed to take this mission in the first place.
Atwater Village's Tacos Villa Corona has been doing quite well lately. Anthony Bourdain gave them some screen time during a recent jaunt through L.A., and we consider their potato and chorizo breakfast burrito to be second to none. But don't let their egg-focused breakfast options deter you from the rest of the menu; everything at Tacos Villa Corona is worthy of such high praise, especially when splashed with some of their housemade salsas. Adding a Cactus Cooler to your take out order never hurt either. 3185 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; 323-661-3458.
Gjelina Take Away is perhaps L.A.'s most well-known walk-up only food spot. Much like the more robust sit down space next door, Take Away offers market-driven California fare with a Mediterranean flourish. You'll find the usual cabal of grilled cheeses, an upscaled banh mi and the necessary-for-the-area veggie combo on the sandwich side of things, but most folks in the neighborhood known to skew towards the pizzas. The slightly chewy squash blossom is a highlight, while the thicker, bacon-y guanciale fills a porky void left in the wake of all those fresh vegetables. The best part about walking in Gjelina Take Away? Walking back out, food in hand, to stroll down Abbot Kinney while the lingering smells have tourists turning their heads. 1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-392-7575.
Is the sandwich the perfect take out item? Order correctly and you won't have to worry about your food getting too cold, or too soggy, or spilling everywhere because you tripped on a jagged slice of sidewalk. Michael Voltaggio's Ink.Sack on Melrose takes the standard-bearer for take out success and puts it through a centrifuge, cooks it sous vide side and adds chicken skin on top. These are fancified sandwiches, to be sure, but they haven't lost the quintessential elements of bread, meat and cheese. The reuben is made from slowly cooked beef tongue, and the bacon element of the familiar B.L.T. has been replaced with salty, crispy, dehydrated chicken skin. Order two of the diminutive sandwiches if you really want to be satisfied, or just one if you want to maintain that Melrose figure. 8360 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 323-655-7225.
At the original Bludso's in Compton, you wait. You wait and you wait and then eventually someone's name gets called and you're one step closer to feeling the weight of a meat-heavy styrofoam container in your hands, the taste of smoke on your lips. If there are stools to be found inside the small, tiled ordering room, no one uses them. Everyone stands at the curb here, waiting to hear their name called, craning to find out if all that brisket and all of those ribs mean that your order is up, or if they belong to the next guy. The truth is, there's no telling.
Everyone gets lots of meat at Bludso's, because Kevin Bludso says so. His Texas-style pit mastery practically demands it, and once you pop open the styrofoam lid to reveal his personal pile of smoky, spiced beef and swine, it'll all make sense. Standing there on Long Beach Boulevard, quickly running out of napkins and gasping for air between dives in the barbecue pool, Kevin's thinking really starts to make a lot of sense. The only thing smarter is to call in your order before you pull out of the driveway. 811 S. Long Beach Blvd., Compton; 310-637-1342.
1. Mozza 2Go
When Nancy Silverton's then-latest Mozza iteration opened its doors in 2009, neighborhood sales of paper towels spiked 200%. Everyone within walking distance of Mozza 2Go was immediately on home clean up duty, wiping away countertop pizza crumbs and working out saucy sofa stains. The ability to seamlessly order the fennel sausage and pancetta pizza, or the margherita with fresh basil, and have it home in your lap in just minutes was a boon to the paper industry worldwide.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
But there is more to Mozza 2Go than just their fantastic pies. Silverton's work with all things yeast, flour and fire is well-documented, so it's no surprise that the garlic knots and takeaway focaccia do so well too. But there are caprese salads here, and mozzarella paninis, whole roast chickens and rich butterscotch budino for dessert. Call ahead or just walk into the minuscule Melrose storefront for service. Nancy herself probably won't be around to serve you, but with every bite you take in front of y your Netflix fifteen minutes later, it's as if she's right there on the couch next to you. 6610 Melrose Ave., L.A.; 323-297-1130.
Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of L.A.® online at laweekly.com/best-of.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.