16 Places to Pig Out for Dinner in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, land of the lotus eaters, and eaters in general. When it comes to dinner, L.A. has an overwhelming amount of options all over the city, from east to west and north to south. Chefs city-wide are creating mouth-watering concoctions that take you straight to flavortowns from across the world. With all the hubbub and hubbabaloo, it can be hard to figure what kind of cuisine is calling you on a particular evening, let alone what restaurant to pick when you've finally nailed down what type of food you're looking for. With all that said, here's my list of my favorite flavor destinations, accounting as best I could for different cuisine genres and locations around the city.
1. Night + Market Song
Night + Market song is a one-way ticket to flavortown. Kris Yenbamroong, head chef and owner, makes frequent trips to the Thailand/Burma border to procure a plethora of spices with which to prepare his authentic and delicious Thai dishes, and you can absolutely taste the difference. The menu covers all sorts of Thai dishes: bar-like snacks, larb & fruit salads, curries, hot pot, fried rice, noodles, and stir fry--all an homage to his northern Thai heritage. The food is so damn good it's nearly sensual.
Recommendations: Larb Lana, Papaya Salad, Gaeng Pa Nok Saap (jungle-stew), Nam Prik Gapi (house + Thai special), Pad See Ew Gai
2. The Stocking Frame
A restaurant featuring New American cuisine, Stockingframe provides a quasi-alternative take on dinner in L.A. with their selection of upscale pub grub and high-quality cocktails. The plates are on the smaller side and intended for sharing, so Stockingframe makes a good place for a group gathering. Green appetizers, pasta, seafood, and grilled entrees make for some tasty dishes which can be enjoyed in their cozy craftsman space.
3. Bäco Mercat
A Spanish-fusion eatery featuring some of the most unique tapas you'll find in the city. The house special is the baco--a special flatbread sandwich (dough infused with yogurt to give it a remarkable tenderness) that works as a vessel for many of their other dishes including an array of vegetables with unique flavor pairings, fish, and steak. A wholly inimitable menu influenced by Mediterranean, North African, South European and West Asian cuisine.
For a more affordable alternative to experiencing the unique Bäco, check out BäcoShop in Culver City.
4. Bestia LA
While I have multiple Italian(ish) restaurants on this list, it is for good reason. The Italians know what they are doing when it comes to food, and Bestia's multi-regional Italian culinary crew is exemplary. Although the menu can be pricey it is for good reason because the food--particularly the pizza and pasta--is orgasmic. It's places like Bestia that provide credence to the idea of "Food Porn." It would also be remiss of me to not mention their phenomenal secondi grilled items, incredible craft cocktails, and their mouth-watering deserts.
5. Pho Cafe
Simply put, Pho Cafe is all about pho. Having been to Vietnam, I can vouch that their pho is both authentic, delicious, and an almost overwhelming amount of food. It's always quick whether you eat-in or order take out, but the dine-in (while a simple ambiance) provides a rather mellow and minimalist setting for a dinner party with friends.
6. In n Out Burger
In n Out Burger is quintessential California. Since 1948, In n Out Burger with its iconic yellow-gold arrow logo, red trays, secret menu, crossed palm trees out front, milkshakes, and hamburgers, has been serving California--and now Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Texas too. It's consistently fresh, consistently cheap, consistently quick, and always delicious.
7. B.S. Taqueria
Known for its quasi-offbeat taco combinations (especially the clams & lardo), B.S. Taqueria has become a destination for new flavors in the L.A.'s Mexican cuisine scene.. Located downtown and open for both lunch and dinner, B.S. packs the flavor for an affordable price ($3-5/taco) and pairs their tasty tacos with an array of incredible cocktails mainly of the tequila variety--go for the B.S. Handshake (tequila shot with salt + lime) or one of their on-point margaritas.
In a stunning location, church-transformed-restaurant/event center, Redbird is an innovative New American dining experience. More on the upscale side of the dinner scene, Redbird has an elegant cocktail and wine selection as well as a refined selection of small bites plus plenty of variety in the surf and turf categories. Some of their more adventurous and offbeat dishes, such as the barbecue smoked tofu, pack plenty of flavor that isn't offered elsewhere in L.A.
9. Pine + Crane
Another gem over in Silverlake is the Chinese/Taiwanese fusion restaurant Pine + Crane. The layout of the restaurant is clean, sleek and just a tad serene, an altogether perfect environment to enjoy their small plates of potstickers + dumplings, fresh vegetables (often a seasonal and rotating selection), fried rice, and savory noodles. While many traditional Chinese restauranteurs will argue Pine + Crane's dishes are more mild than their mouth-numbingly spicy counterparts in Szechuan, this is a tribute to the flavors from Taiwan that have influenced Pine + Crane's chef and owner Vivian Ku.
10. Shin Sen Gumi
There are quite a few ramen joints scattered throughout L.A., most notably Tsujita Artisan Noodles, Tatsu Ramen, and Shin Sen Gumi. In my humble opinion, Shin Sen Gumi takes the cake for a number of reasons. The environment the staff curates is intensely authentic and always floods me with nostalgia for my time in Japan a year ago. Their ramen comes in enormous portions that are fully customizable for every particular palette and they offer an array of salads and cold side dishes, fried foods, rice rolls and bowls, and even.
It would be beyond negligent if I didn't include at least one sushi destination on this list. Above all others, Nobu (Malibu) reigns supreme. Since 1999 Nobu Malibu has been an iconic L.A. eatery, and in recent years has garnered an unprecedented level of recognition thanks to the rise of reality tv stars and celebrities frequenting this beachside spot. The architecture and design is intoxicatingly immaculate as nearly every table has a picturesque ocean view, and the menu is truly beyond the realm of comprehension--sushi only begins to cover all the offerings. Go for the food, the view, the scene, celebrity spotting, or simply date night. Be sure to call ahead for a reservation because this place is jam-packed on days that end in "y".
Alternative/Cheaper options: Katsuya, Sugarfish, Kazu Nori
12. Bud Namu
If you're going out to eat, and I don't mean eat until you're full, but eat until you hate yourself, then Korean BBQ is the answer. KBBQ is a clinic in gorging, an altogether excessive amount of food. For $15, it's hard to beat an endless buffet of freshly grilled Korean food; or if you're feeling extra ambitious they have a $20 all day all you can eat with a more expanded menu. I digress, the $15 all you can eat dinner is more than enough between the beef bulgogi, chicken bulgogi, beef brisket, beef belly, prime pork belly, skirt meat, and a few more odd curations (at least to Westerners). With a two hour time limit, it'll be an eating marathon, so pace yourself...or don't.
13. Wurstküche [German]
Wurstküche is a proclaimed purveyor of both classic exotic sausages, delivering their carefully curated selections in both Venice and the Arts District (east L.A.). There's the classics: bratwursts, bockwursts, and a few vegetarian options. There's a gourmet selection: kielbasas, Louisiana hot links, Austin blues (spicy Texas bbq), chicken apple, mango jalapeno chicken & turkey sausage, and a few more. Lastly, for the bold, there's an exotic selection of more unusual combinations: duck & bacon with jalapeño, rabbit & pork with leaks & carrots (U.K. influence), Mediterranean lamb, pheasant & herbs, and even a rattlesnake & rabbit with jalapeño for the incredibly daring. For both meat lovers and vegetarians, Wurstküche would be a smashing success. Pair your sausages with their fine selection of toppings, their big-ass fries, and a German beer from their rotating selection.
14. Gjelina [Italian]
Over in Venice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard--a destination in itself for the food, fashion, and people-watching--is Gjelina, a chic and elegant New American eatery. The atmosphere is almost always buzzing and vibrant, and once you taste the food you'll understand why. They have a diverse lineup of farm-to-table vegetables, charcuterie boards with a multitude of meats and cheeses, a plethora of savory and spicy pizzas, and plenty of surf and turf plates for more traditional upscale dining. Between the atmosphere and the menu, Gjelina is a vibrant destination in the trendy L.A. foodie scene.
15. LA Cafe [Delivery]
Last but not least is the lazy and/or late-night option, LA Cafe. I honestly couldn't even tell you what the interior of LA Cafe's storefront looks like, because I strictly stick to their 24-hour delivery service. Whether you're feeling one and oneness with the couch, or coming home late after a night of partying, LA Cafe is the move if you don't want to move. At first glance their menu is overwhelming--featuring traditional American breakfast classic, burgers, sandwiches & paninis, soups, tacos, baked goods, smoothies & milkshakes, and fresh-pressed juices. Can't go wrong with a panini (renowned for their lobster grilled cheese) and their outstanding milkshakes.
16. Bay Cities
Looking for a classic and simple sandwich for dinner? Look no further than Bay Cities Italian Deli. Over in Santa Monica, Bay Cities, a sandwich deli nestled within an Italian deli, has a choice selection of prime and sizable sandwiches. The Godmother and Poorboy are fan favorites, though it's hard to go wrong with anything on their menu. If Bay Cities can pass the test for a picky eater like Larry David--it was featured as a restaurant setting in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm--then us mere laymen can venture over.
Options for pick-up (via online ordering) and in person.