Contrary to popular belief, In-N-Out burgers and fries aren’t the only go-to grub in the City of Angels.
Eating and drinking like a local here involves feasting on a mishmash of fare from all over the world, from nearby Baja to far-flung places like Ethiopia and Tibet. There are, however, a few staples–the ones that are practically a part of every single Angelenos’ regular diet. This is the not-to-be-missed fare when you’re visiting this town. Here, you’ll have every opportunity to eat like a well-traveled, Instagram-obsessed millennial foodie, so skip the chains and sample these instead. Oh, and pack your stretchy pants.
Top Picks for You
This is a beautifully simple dish: grilled meat (al pastor, chorizo, or carne asada) with chopped cilantro and onion, wrapped in corn or flour tortillas, drizzled with lime and salsa. They’re not only delicious but cheap at $1 to $3 apiece. Every Angeleno has their own go-to spot, usually a stand or a truck, so ask your favorite local for recommendations. We’re obsessed with Guisados, which has multiple locations, including West Hollywood and Boyle Heights.
While every major city in the country has its own take on street hot dogs, L.A.’s Mexican-inspired version is arguably the best. Wrapped in bacon and topped with grilled onions, bell peppers, ketchup, mustard, mayo, and jalapenos, it’s practically a ritual for anyone stumbling home drunk to grab one. By the way, you should probably be drunk while eating them. Look for street carts in areas with a lot of bars—Spring Street and Staples Center in Downtown, Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, and Normandie Avenue in Koreatown.
If you’re a fan of tequila, then it’s time to elevate your taste buds with mezcal, the fermented agave spirit that hails from Oaxaca and is known as tequila’s smokier, sexier cousin. Most bars in town keep it in stock, and many local mixologists use them to create their own spin on traditional cocktails. Pop into La Cuevita, the Corner Door, or Melrose Umbrella Co. to get your fix.
Los Angeles claims to have the biggest (and perhaps, best) Koreatown in the world. So if there’s one place you should feast on Korean BBQ—outside of South Korea, that is—it’s here, where a typical feast of grilled meats includes all the side trimmings, several dipping sauces, and lots of do-it-yourself grilling. There are so many Korean BBQ joints in the city that it’s hard to pick the best ones, though Park’s BBQ and Magal certainly have our votes. Consider washing all that meat down with some soju, the Korean vodka.
Korean BBQ Tacos
If you like Korean BBQ and you enjoyed those street tacos, then you might be ready for Korean BBQ tacos, which is one of the few culinary creations hailing from La La Land (alongside French Dip sandwiches, Cobb salad, and allegedly, cheeseburgers) that really took off. They’re exactly what it sounds like—tacos but with a Korean BBQ spin. Instead of al pastor or carne asada, you’re getting short ribs or pork belly marinated in gochujang. The best place to get them is from one of Roy Choi’s legendary Kogi food trucks.
Organic Juice and Smoothies
Make fun of L.A.’s famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) healthy juice obsession all you want, but they’re actually surprisingly delicious–not to mention nutritious. They’re an easy way to get your fruit and veggie fix when you’re on the go or when you’re strictly a carnivore who has an aversion to most vegetables. Luckily, the city has more than its fair share of juice bars, all of which serve different flavors of handcrafted organic juices and smoothies. Don’t knock ’em until you try ’em–you might actually enjoy ’em.
And while you’re on that health kick, why not sample a few vegan staples as well, of which L.A. has a lot? Vegan and vegetarian dishes have come a long way from their bland, practically inedible beginnings, which sadly gave them a bad rep. L.A. has more than its share of vegan restaurants, and many of them are constantly reimagining their dishes to make them look good and taste even better. A few even offer the option to add eggs in an effort to make their menus (somewhat) meat-lover friendly. Places like Café Gratitude and Kitchen Mouse are excellent plant-based dining stops.
Never had elote in your life? Then, bud, you’re severely missing out. This Mexican corn concoction is essentially just grilled corn smothered with butter, crema fresca (or mayo), cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime then served on a cob or in a cup. But it’s a delightful assault on your taste buds and a favorite Angeleno snack, earning it a spot on our list of dishes you must absolutely try while in L.A. Keep an eye out for street carts that tout it or take a chance at one of the city’s many farmers markets.
When Filipino cuisine became the next Vietnamese, thanks to the likes of Anthony Bourdain, an influx of Filipino restaurants flooded the urban foodie landscape, with Angelenos leading the charge. Today, the city is teeming with Filipino food joints that either champion traditional Filipino dishes like pork adobo, kare-kare, and pinakbet, or boast modern takes on them. Leave some room for dessert, as Filipino desserts like Leche Flan, Ube Cake, and Halo-Halo are to die for.
Yes, it has to be on this list. No L.A. food list is complete without it. “Where’s the closest In-N-Out” is asked by just about every tourist the moment they arrive. Not that we blame them—In-N-Out burgers and fries are made fresh and made to order, which is why they’re so good in the first place. But which location should you go to? Any of them! Whether it’s the one near LAX as soon as you leave the airport or in Hollywood, which gets a lot of traffic.