Given Los Angeles’s infamous traffic, getting to the hottest restaurants can require some amount of planning. But thanks to the city’s rich culinary diversity, Angenelos know they can always rely on stellar restaurants in their own neighborhoods.
In Santa Monica, a Persian restaurant has wowed diners with its kebabs and shareable portions for years. In Tujunga, locals have been returning to one Mexican restaurant for nearly five decades for its rotating house specials and tequila-based cocktails. And in Hollywood, a beloved Thai restaurant is testament to the city’s love for dining at their strip malls.
Here are 15 Los Angeles restaurants that locals return to time and again.
Poppy & Rose (Downtown)
The bright, floral interiors, a nod to Poppy & Rose’s Flower District location, is just one reason diners keep returning to this casual cafe that’s been open since 2014. Locals know that brunch is the best time to visit so they can get the buttermilk chicken and waffles or biscuits, all prepared by chefs and owners Ryan and Diana Lamon. Drop in any day of the week for lunch and order sandwiches such as the juicy patty melt and the herby grilled vegetable creation. On weekends, be sure to grab a spot on the cozy patio.
The Tcholakians debuted Carousel in 1994, and nearly four decades later this Armenian staple is still pulling in diners for its small plates and live music alongside belly dancing performances. Get comfortable in the airy dining space and share plates of kibbeh, mini meat pies (shish barak), and turnovers stuffed with white cheese (fatayer). You might even find yourself dining next to one of the Kardashians one evening; Carousel happens to be a family favorite.
Quiadaiyn Restaurant (Culver City)
Neighbors have been drawn to Quiadaiyn’s wide range of moles since it opened in 2018. The Martinez family, who run the restaurant, prepares six different kinds, including a cilantro and jalapeño creation (mole verde) and a vegan option. Beyond the mole, the Martinezes highlight dishes from San Marcos Tlapazola in Oaxaca, including fish marinated in adobo sauce (pescado zapoteco) and shrimp tossed in chintextle, a smoked chile paste. The restaurant is open all day every day, which makes it convenient for locals; weekly specials give them reasons to return often.
Javan (Santa Monica)
Succulent charbroiled meats and hearty stews are front and center at this Persian restaurant in West LA. Regulars frequent this spot for its generous portions, ideal for bringing friends or sharing with neighbors. Get settled in the lively dining room, and dig into standout dishes such as beef koobideh, ground meat that’s seasoned with sumac and turmeric and cooked on skewers. Eat it alongside fluffy Basmati rice (polo) and torshi (mixed pickled vegetables)—there’s a reason Javan is considered one of the best Iranian restaurants in Los Angeles.
For nearly five decades, Tujunga favorite Joselito’s has been drawing in diners with its guacamole prepared tableside and its wide selection of tequila-based cocktails. Myrna Grijalva and Jose Grijalva Sr. opened the restaurant in 1977 before passing it off to their son Jose and daughter-in-law Tumara in 2010. One tradition that’s remained is the “especiales de la casa,” dishes that are special to the family. Go for the chile Colorado, where chunks of Angus beef are simmered in a mild red chile sauce that’s perfect for sopping up with the restaurant’s homemade corn tortillas. On a warm night, grab a seat on the patio and get your food with an order of the spicy ancho chile paloma.
Bao Dim Sum House (Beverly Grove)
Beverly Grove residents never need to travel far when they’re craving good dim sum thanks to Bao Dim Sum House, a neighborhood staple since 2010. When you’re feeling a little fancy on a weeknight, come grab one of the stylish round tables inside or perch yourself at the sleek wooden bar. This is the kind of place you want to visit with a group so you can go all-out on the family-style platters of dumplings, steamed buns, noodles, vegetables, and soups. The har gow (crystal shrimp dumplings) and xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings) are absolute musts.
Sasabune (Beverly Hills)
Given its location, it’s no surprise that Sasabune is a celebrity favorite. But the real reason Beverly Hills residents have been returning to this restaurant since 2012 is the formidable menu created by late chef and owner Nobi Kusuhara. Even today, the restaurant serves up a beloved omakase experience that includes a host of seafood options, including sea urchin, salmon roe, and monkfish liver. Grab a seat at the counter and get up close to the sushi-making action, or sit at one of the many wooden tables spread throughout the restaurant.
Mazal (Echo Park)
This casual, family-owned Israeli restaurant is a love letter to vegetables. Owner Tal Zaiet has created a menu of seasonal dishes spotlighting Mediterranean flavors and rotating desserts. There’s nothing quite like it in the neighborhood, which has endeared it to locals since its opening in 2020. In true Israeli fashion, the meal starts with small plates of hummus, babaganoush, and stuffed grape leaves, before moving on to larger dishes such as a red grapes-topped flatbread and baked Brussels sprouts tossed in a spicy green harissa. Getting an order of the Jerusalem bagel toast, featuring provolone, shredded carrots, and schug sauce (a Middle Eastern hot sauce), is a must—it makes a strong case for eating bagels at dinner.
Locals know they’ll likely be embraced by a live mariachi band and unparalleled Oaxacan mole when they enter Guelaguetza, a Koreatown staple of nearly 30 years. Today, siblings and co-owners Bricia, Fernando Jr., and Paulina Lopez are keeping the lively and welcoming atmosphere going, having taken over the business from their parents Maria Monterrubio and Fernando Lopez. Grab a seat in one of the cozy booths and order the mole with grilled pork, chicken, or beef. Or try the tlayuda, a pizza-like tortilla topped with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, and avocado. Pair your meal with a mezcal margarita; there are more than 65 varieties of the spirit to choose from.
Right next to LA legends Jon & Vinny’s and Canter’s Deli, this modern Indian restaurant has carved out a name for itself and a loyal following. Regulars make sure to pick up a glass of homemade oat milk chai, Indian cola, or sweet yogurt drinks such as mango lassi. When they’re dining in, diners are enthralled by the menu created by Pawan Mahendro and his sons Nakul and Arjun Mahendro. Order some of the Indian street foods such as the chickpea batter-coated fried fish, move on to inventive dishes like the chicken tikka poutine, and be sure to try comforting mains like the daal makhani, a creamy black lentils preparation.
Luv2Eat Thai Bistro (Hollywood)
Luv2Eat Thai Bistro is a testament to why Angelenos love to eat at their local strip malls. Chefs and owners Noree Pla and Fern Kaewtathip have been serving up family recipes at this Hollywood staple since 2014. Come here for creamy Phuket-style crab curry, jade noodles, and grilled pork skewers. The interiors here may be simple, but it’s really the food that will blow you away. Don’t leave without one of the various Thai snacks for sale on the front shelves as you enter the restaurant.
Venice is home to many a pizza hot spot, but those in the know who crave quality pies without a wait head to Southend. Here, former Mozza chef Mario Vollera tops his crisp-tender sourdough bases with white Italian anchovies and semi-soft Italian cheeses such as sottocenere, among other ingredients. For something a little more decadent, consider ordering the 24K pizza, a $38 pie that comes with edible gold, a white truffle sauce, and duck pâté. The cozy spot doubles up as a wine bar with a large selection of Italian varietals; ask your server for a recommendation.
Swift Cafe (Leimert Park)
In a neighborhood that’s leaned historically toward fast food options, Swift Cafe has created a niche and a loyal following thanks to its focus on healthy comfort fare. Nutritionist and chef Kyndra McCrary debuted the spot in 2018 with numerous options for diners with dietary restrictions. The eclectic mix of dishes includes sweet potato ravioli with cashew milk ricotta and chickpeas in a coconut curry. If you arrive in time for breakfast, served until noon, be sure to get an order of the breakfast sandwich featuring a red pepper jam, whole wheat english muffin, and your choice of vegan, pork, or turkey sausage.
Da Pasquale Trattoria Italiana (Beverly Hills)
Italian hospitality has kept Beverly Hills residents coming back to this cozy restaurant since its debut in 1993. Owner Pasquale Morra is usually busy greeting diners while Anna Morra, the chef and Pasquale’s spouse, is behind the restaurant’s classic Italian food. Think simple pasta dishes such as spaghetti al filetto di pomodoro (spaghetti with tomato and prosciutto) and penne arrabbiata. You’ll always leave here with a warm feeling inside.
Pasta Sisters (Mid City)
Come to Pasta Sisters for a much-needed casual weekday respite, stay for the next-level pasta. Paola Da Re and her children Francesca, Georgia, and Francesco have thrilled diners with their choose-your-own-pasta adventure menu with noodle options such as tagliatelle and gnocchi and sauces like porcini mushroom and bottarga (Sardinian mullet roe). The all-day nature of this cozy establishment has made it a neighborhood staple: Order a porchetta sandwich for lunch or settle in with a meat lasagna for dinner.
Kristin Braswell is a journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel, a company that customizes travel guides and authentic experiences around the world. Leila Najafi is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer in LA, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @LeilasList.
Lauren McDowell contributed reporting to this guide.
Tried them all? Check out other options here.