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Restaurants in Los Angeles

It’s not easy to summarize the L.A. food scene. For every celebrity chef cooking up power lunches for hot-shot producers, you’ll find a food truck dishing out Korean BBQ or street tacos to hungry late-night crowds. The late food critic Jonathan Gold, the only food writer to win a Pulitzer Prize, understood this better than anyone, writing with passion about Los Angeles restaurants both high-profile and nearly anonymous throughout his long career. Read on for an overview of the Los Angeles restaurants that matter most to the city’s residents, from local institutions like Canter’s to exciting upstarts like Guisados.

Best Deli in Los Angeles

Canter’s Deli

 

The original Canter’s Deli opened all the way back in 1931, though it didn’t make it to its current Fairfax location until the early ‘50s. Still, customers from the early days would find plenty of familiar favorites on the menu today. You can still get a corned-beef Reuben and a hot pastrami, and you can still enjoy signature sandwiches like the Matt's Special—turkey, coleslaw, and russian dressing on challah bread. You can also try breakfast items like buttermilk pancakes, chocolate chip banana pancakes, and corned beef hash and eggs, all of which are served all day. Newer items, like updated burgers with thick-cut bacon and avocado, joined the menu during an overhaul in 2012.

 

But Canter’s is almost as well-known for the famous faces it attracts as it is for its food. Celebrity sightings are common, and its adjacent cocktail lounge, the Kibitz Room, is known as a launching pad for up and coming acts that have included Fiona Apple and the Wallflowers.

 

Click to claim 30% cash back at Canter’s Deli.

Best Burgers in Los Angeles

Hi-Ho Cheeseburger

 

HiHo moved from Ojai to its current location in Santa Monica in summer 2017, and almost immediately it made a splash. Now it's officially the hot spot to grab a burger in the area, thanks in large part to its distinctive 100% Wagyu beef patties. The hype makes even more sense when you realize that the high quality hasn’t translated to high prices: a half-pound triple burger costs less than 10 bucks(!).

Best Diner in Los Angeles

Mel’s Diner

 

“This movie came out, and [it was] the most profitable movie of all time. It put Mel's on the map. Everyone kept seeing this movie and they all wanted to eat at Mel's."

 

That’s how Mel’s Drive-In co-owner Colton Weiss describes the surge of interest in his grandfather’s diner after the release of 1973’s American Graffiti, which uses Mel’s as a key setting. Mel’s is still leaning into the nostalgic appeal of that film, with each location featuring neon signs, sweeping curves, and other hallmarks of the Googie architecture synonymous with California cool in the 1950s. For a restaurant that so thoroughly embraces the retro, Mel’s menu is surprisingly contemporary. There are of course classics like the Melburger and the French Dip, but you’ll also find goat cheese and turkey sliders, ahi tuna steak sandwiches, and a lengthy list of salads, including a kale and quinoa mix with charbroiled salmon.

 

Read about how Mel’s Drive-In became an Instagram sensation in this interview with co-owner Colton Weiss.

 

Click to see deals at Mel’s Diner.

Best Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles

Guisados

 

The word “guisado” is Spanish for “stew,” which is the first hint that the tacos at this restaurant are prepared a little differently than at many Mexican spots. All the meats that fill the tacos’ handmade corn tortillas are braises, meaning they taste like they’ve been cooking all day on your mother’s stove. The results are so popular that Guisados has quickly become a mini chain, with locations in Echo Park, Downtown L.A., West Hollywood, and Burbank, in addition to the original Boyle Heights spot. There’s no clear favorite taco among devotees, but the edge might just go to the cochinita pibil, shredded pork cooked with achiote spice and served with pickled red onions and habanero chile.

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Best Fried Chicken in Los Angeles

Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken

 

A lot of thought went into creating the signature crispy chicken skin at Honey’s—and a lot of science too. Not only does the restaurant use its own unique stainless-steel kettle-cooking method in the kitchen, it also employs a special batter made to withstand the unusually high temperatures the method produces. But this isn’t some fancy schmancy new gastronomy trend. It’s a method head chef Vincent Williams settled on after 40 years—and literally millions of pieces—of fried chicken cooking.

 

Click to see deals at Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken.

Best Sushi in Los Angeles

Sushi Gen

 

Little Tokyo is home to the largest Japanese-American population in the whole country, so it’s fitting that the area would be home to this beloved sushi spot. The lunch crowd comes for the excellent sashimi special, but if you want the full experience, you have to order a la carte, preferably at the sushi bar so you can see the chefs at work. The difference is in the quality of the fish; Sushi Gen supposedly gets first pick from many suppliers thanks to the lengthy relationships its built over almost 40 years in business.