Los Angeles restaurants offer something for every price range and taste. We grew up there and still make regular visits to see family and friends, so we know the very best, most authentic places.
From five-star restaurants to dives, here are 15 Los Angeles restaurants that locals love.
1. The Original Pantry Cafe
A Los Angeles institution, The Original Pantry Cafe has been serving hearty diner fare nonstop since it opened in 1924. Owned by former mayor Richard Riordan, the cafe is great at any time of day, but the locals flock here for the amazing breakfasts. This icon’s motto is “We Never Close,” and it has no locks on its doors because it’s always open.
Take your appetite with you, and know that if you order a side of bacon, that means a whole plate of it.
2. Brent’s Deli
Believe it or not, Los Angeles has more authentic Jewish delicatessens these days than New York City. We have many old favorites, so we were surprised when we recently discovered Brent’s Deli, a local hangout slightly off the beaten path. Not only is every sandwich or platter huge and delicious, but the baked goods are top-notch, too.
Brent’s is the kind of LA deli that’s full of regulars. We get it, because the homemade chicken noodle soup alone is worth the trip.
Not many hot-dog stands post photos of celebrity guests on their websites. That’s just one of the ways Pink’s shows off its own celebrity status among the meat-serving establishments in Tinseltown. The chili cheese dogs are classic, but there are many unique options, including a pastrami burrito dog that explodes with flavor. Pink’s also serves burgers, sides, desserts, and more.
There are now more than a dozen Pink’s locations, but we still prefer the original spot, nicknamed “The Little Hot-Dog Stand That Could.” There’s always a line, but it moves quickly, and folks are fun and friendly.
4. Papa Cristo’s
Papa Cristo’s is one of those authentic ethnic spots that’s adored by locals and a revelation to everyone else. This is the spot where Greeks who attend services at the nearby Saint Sophia Cathedral gather to eat the kind of food that Yia Yia (Grandma) makes.
The restaurant serves tasty homestyle Greek dishes and takes reservations for its Thursday-night “Big Fat Greek Family-Style Dinner.” It’s also home to a market where you can buy Greek items and baked goods.
If you want to taste the real deal, this is the place in Los Angeles to go for Greek.
Ask a local about Tommy’s, and you’ll probably get a story about some late-night visit for after-drinks food.
Original Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers is the kind of late-night binge spot that brings back fond memories for many Angelenos, including us. We first discovered its awesome chili cheeseburger sometime during college, where late-night hunger and low-budget parameters met. Since then, we’ve returned to enjoy other menu items, including the chili fries, which are epic.
Tommy’s has several locations, but there are also lots of imitators. Be sure to look for the Tommy’s logo to enjoy the real thing.
While Chicago loves its Italian beef, Los Angeles revels in its French dip, and Philippe's serves the ultimate iteration.
Start with roasted beef, pork, lamb, turkey, pastrami, or ham wedged between the sides of a fresh-baked French roll. Then dip it in natural gravy from the roast and let it drip off your chin. Yes, this is why the spot is always busy!
Add some homemade potato salad, coleslaw, or other delicious sides, and then find a spot to sit and enjoy with the regulars, dipping and dripping in Heaven.
7. The Polo Lounge
Afternoon tea at The Polo Lounge may be a little splurge, but it is totally worth it. Star sightings are common, but what is uncommon about the place is the sheer elegance of every detail, from the dainty delicacies and the excellent tea selection to the live piano music and the personalized service. The Polo Lounge is the kind of place where everything makes you feel like a star.
Just purchase afternoon tea as a gift and invite yourself along -- you won’t regret it.
8. El Cholo
Plenty of Los Angeles restaurants serve outstanding Mexican food, but El Cholo has been doing it since the 1920s. Locals come here for delicious homestyle Mexican dishes and some of the best margaritas in town. If you like happy hours, check out El Cholo’s on weekdays.
This family-owned business has come up with recipes that have found their way into Los Angeles’s culinary culture, including a dish called “nachos” that quickly became a local favorite -- and the rest is history.
El Cholo has several locations now, but we think the original on Western Avenue in Los Angeles has the best vibe.
9. Grandma Kims
We were lucky to stumble upon Grandma Kims Korean diner one day when we were too hungry to think about where to go. What we couldn’t tell from the unassuming facade of this humble strip-mall restaurant was that it serves authentic, delicious, and reasonably priced fare.
It was too hard to decide what to order, so we ordered some of everything, from delicious bulgogi and galbi to bibimbap and dumplings. We thought we would have a lot to take home, but we confess that we didn’t.
This neighborhood favorite is a true hidden gem. We are happy we found it and can share it with you.
10. Zankou Chicken
We love Mediterranean flavors and anything with garlic. If you do, too, you’ll love the traditional flavors of Zankou Chicken.
Its crispy rotisserie chicken with house-made garlic spread is irresistibly delicious. There are other great options as well, including falafel, kebabs, and shawarma. Meals come in a variety of forms, including wraps, plates, and family-size meals.
The first Zankou Chicken opened in Beirut, Lebanon, and the flavors reflect authentic original recipes. Everything is fresh, and even the pita bread is baked daily. Enjoy -- and don’t forget the garlic sauce.
11. Inn Of The Seventh Ray
Inn of the Seventh Ray is one of the most romantic restaurants anywhere. Set amidst winding pathways with waterfalls, trees, and candlelit tables under a starry canyon sky, this soulful spot has long been a local favorite for special occasions.
The thoughtful menu features locally sourced items with many vegan options as well. The plentiful Saturday brunch buffet includes a selection of granola, fruit, bagels, seafood, waffles, salads, and desserts.
Though lovely at any time of day, this special hideaway is especially magical at dinnertime, when its cozy ambience shines.
It’s really hard to find an Italian restaurant with singing servers these days. Luckily, LA locals can count on Miceli’s, which has been serving Italian classics and serenading patrons since 1949.
Favorites like pizza, pasta, and tiramisu are on the menu, while arias and showtunes fill the air. Start with one of the classic appetizers like the bruschetta or prosciutto and melon. If you can’t decide, go for the appetizer combo, which features several of the hot appetizer items.
Enjoy the fun ambience, and don’t be surprised if your fellow diners join in the festive spirit. Miceli’s celebrates music, food, and enjoying life.
13. Casa Vega
Not many restaurants achieve such iconic status that they appear in movies and songs. But Casa Vega does, and locals love its red leather booths and vested, bow-tied waiters -- not to mention the massive tequila and margarita menus offered by the cantina.
All the classic Mexican comfort dishes are here in large portions with plenty of sides. If you want to take a souvenir home, any of the salsas or dressings would be a good choice.
At peak times, there is usually a wait, but just grab a drink at the bar, chat with those around you, and time will fly.
14. Le Sanglier
Fine French dining is always a treat, but Le Sanglier provides so much more. This long-standing local favorite offers an elegant ambience, exquisite food, and friendly service at a price that won’t make you choke on your dinner. We’ve spent holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions enjoying classic and contemporary French cuisine in this mellow restaurant filled with locals.
Along with traditional favorites like bouillabaisse and coq au vin, the restaurant offers classic desserts from souffles to crepes Suzette.
Le Sanglier doesn’t toot its own horn like some Los Angeles restaurants do. It lets its happy regulars do it for them.
15. Grand Central Market
For shopping, sightseeing, and people-watching, there’s no better place than Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. There's so much to see that you’ll want to walk around first. It’s like a United Nations of great food.
Eggslut has a funny name but really great egg sandwiches. The fried chicken at Lucky Bird is citrus-brined and crispy. The Oyster Gourmet features sustainable seafood selections, and Sticky Rice offers seasonally inspired Thai comfort food.
These are just a few of the places Angelenos who work in the area eat at daily. Hours vary, so check ahead, and allow enough time to enjoy the whole scene as well as the great food.
We’ve only touched on a small percentage of the Los Angeles restaurants that locals seek out again and again. While some of these places are popular with visitors, they’ve also stood the test of time with those who call LA home. Give them a try, and enjoy hanging with the locals.