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10 Foods You Have to Try in Los Angeles

For a true taste of the City of Angels, make eating each of these types of food a top priority.

As a melting pot of cultures, a hotbed of culinary innovation, and a treasure trove of fresh ingredients, Los Angeles is one of the world’s ultimate food destinations. From intricate fine-dining creations to street food influenced by global flavors, the volume of one-of-a-kind dishes worth savoring throughout L.A. is simultaneously mind-numbing and mouth-watering.

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Korean Barbecue

Sitting down for Korean barbecue is more than a meal. It’s a meat-filled extravaganza. The experience begins with gathering around a communal grill and feasting on a well-balanced array of banchan—chilled side dishes like spicy cucumber salad and seasoned soybean sprouts. The majority of KBBQ spots in Koreatown invite diners to cook their own slabs of short rib, bulgogi, rib eye, or other cuts that can be individually devoured or dunked into various sauces. (Some higher-end spots like Chosun Galbee and ABSteak handle the heavy lifting.) While red meat is usually the star, other proteins like shellfish and chicken can often be found on menus.

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Burgers

A boring burger is a gastronomic crime in L.A. According to lore, the cheeseburger was invented in Pasadena at the Rite Spot in 1924. While the roadside stand is long gone, lots of area old-school institutions keep the between-two-buns tradition alive, such as The Apple Pan on the Westside, Cassell’s in Koreatown, and Irv’s Burgers in West Hollywood. Southern California is actually where a couple of burger empires were born: McDonald’s started in San Bernardino in 1940, and In-N-Out launched in Baldwin Park in 1948. The original In-N-Out drive-thru kiosk has been preserved as a historical site open for visitors. (A location down the block serves food.)

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Hot Dogs

Similar to burgers, hot dogs are equally beloved by Angelenos and an important part of easy-to-eat culinary culture. (The in-your-face smell of street vendors hawking bacon-wrapped hot dogs on makeshift grills outside music and sporting venues cannot be avoided.) Several hot dog stands have become neighborhood icons, such as the original Hot Dog on a Stick in Santa Monica, Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood, Okie-Dog in West Hollywood, and Carney’s on the Sunset Strip and Studio City. It’s set inside decommissioned rail cars. Oh, and don’t think of attending a Dodgers baseball game and not ordering a traditional grilled Dodger Dog.

 

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Dumplings

From perfectly steamed soup dumplings to deliciously fluffy bao, dumplings are continuing to have a moment. With a large concentration of residents with Chinese and Taiwanese heritage, the San Gabriel Valley is arguably the best place to find a locally owned eatery like One One Dumplings, Long Xing Ji, or Sea Harbour to enjoy a parade of the delectable doughy morsels, which are shaped and stuffed with a variety of savory fillings, such as shrimp, pork, cabbage, and—for those with brave taste buds—bitter melon. Remember: There is never a right or wrong time to devour a dumpling, whether during a dim sum brunch or for a late-night snack.

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Doughnuts

Do not believe the stereotype that all Angelenos are gluten-free actor-model wannabes who do not indulge in deep-fried confections. Case in point: When arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, a nearby giant circular sign in the shape of a doughnut (from Randy’s Donuts) greets visitors. Surprisingly, L.A. is home to a high concentration of delightful doughnut shops, both stalwart mom-and-pop venues like DK’s Donuts, SK’S Donuts, and The Donut Man as well as creative newcomers like Fonuts and Holey Grail Donuts. From flawlessly glazed old-fashioned varieties to lighter and healthier options, there is a doughnut for every personality.

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French Dips

Zut alors! It turns out the French dip was first created in downtown Los Angeles, not France. However, the actual inventor of the thinly sliced roast beef sandwich served on a French roll dipped in au jus remains up for debate. Philippe’s claims it was created in 1918 when owner Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped a roll in a pan filled with the roasting juices, while Cole’s affirms proprietor Henry Cole invented it in 1908 for a customer with sensitive teeth. No matter! Both restaurants remain open and serve the scrumptiously drippy concoction today, and many other chefs across L.A. have been inspired to make their own unique renditions of a French dip.

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Sushi

While it may have once been considered an over-the-top culinary fad, sushi is now a way of life in Los Angeles. (The meat-free, seaweed-wrapped California roll was invented in the 1960s by chef Ichiro Mashita in Little Tokyo in downtown L.A. as a way of making the once-daring dish palatable for Americans.) Los Angeles’ access to fresh seafood like yellowtail, tuna, and sea urchin from the Pacific Ocean makes for stand-out sushi. While there are critically acclaimed high-end places like Sushi Ginza Onodera and Sushi Zo, there are also more accessible options like Sushi Tama and local chain Sugarfish, which offers a reasonably priced pre-fixed menu.

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Ice Cream

With an average of 284 days of sunshine, Los Angeles’ near-perfect weather makes it possible to enjoy a scoop of ice cream any time of year. L.A. is home to numerous artisanal ice cream shops catering to various tastes and dietary preferences as well as boasting an array of inventive flavors, many inspired by seasonal ingredients like lavender, honey, and citrus. Mashti Malone’s, for instance, famously makes varieties with Persian cucumber and rosewater. Other artful Los Angeles-based purveyors include Scoops, Sweet Rose Creamery, and Awan, which serves creamy, plant-based ice cream from a teal takeout window in West Hollywood.

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Tacos

“Can we ever have enough tacos in our lives?” the Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times once rhetorically asked. Deeply rooted in the region’s connection to Mexico, tacos embody the diverse and piquant spirit of L.A. In their purest form, tacos are tortillas—corn or flour but usually corn—lovingly stuffed with the likes of carne asada, al pastor, grilled fish, or squash blossoms and topped with condiments. There are countless taquerias, trucks, and stands as well as restaurants that put a gourmet spin on the classic dish. A visit to Los Angeles would not be completed without devouring at least one taco.

INSIDER TIPMichelin-rated Mariscos Jalisco was one of the late Jonathan Gold’s favorite taco spots.

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Avocado Toast

It may seem like avocado toast is passé at this point. However, the versatile dish seemingly remains a breakfast and brunch staple as long as Angelenos continue to be obsessed with avocados, the nutrient-rich green fruit. As the culinary world has shifted away from relying so heavily on meat, savvy L.A. chefs like Tal Ronnen at Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood and Sharky McGee of Jewel in Silver Lake have been at the forefront of crafting dynamic plant-based dishes that can satisfy all eaters. In fact, it’s entirely possible to find a vegetarian or vegan version of every type of food on this list in Los Angeles. Do not be afraid to try it.