I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (2023)

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Alesandra Dubin

2022-09-27T10:15:00Z

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (1)

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  • Los Angeles' diverse restaurant scene can satisfy every palate, budget, and occasion.
  • Here are a local's favorite 10 places to eat and drink around town, from casual to fine-dining.
  • Visit Insider's hub for travel guides, tips, and recommendations.

As a longtime resident of Los Angeles, I've seen many — and I mean many — restaurants come and go. But locals know the spots that have stood the test of time, transcending fads and phases — including economic and pandemic circumstances — to earn and defend their reign as some of the best places to dine in town.

I've eaten at hundreds of restaurants in town through the course of work meetings, entertaining, date nights, special occasions, socializing with friends —and even as a longtime journalist on the local new-venue beat. I'm a vegetarian, but my husband and kids eat meat, so I have a range of favorite spots that pair well with every occasion and with any type of group.

From casual and carryout to upscale and special-occasion ready, these are my top picks for where to eat in LA, from Santa Monica to Downtown.

Meals by Genet

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (2)

Natasha Lee for Insider

I'm lucky to live just three blocks from the stretch of Fairfax known as Little Ethiopia. Many Ethiopian restaurants dot the short stretch of avenue, but my top choice, and what might be my favorite restaurant in LA, is Meals by Genet, from Ethiopian chef Genet Agonafer. The tofu tibs dish is ambrosia — and it's a dish not offered at any other neighborhood restaurant — as is the veggie combo. I recommend the tibs and the combo to share with your dining partner — each are generously sized portioned so you both can get a taste of everything.

In the wake of pandemic closures, Meals by Genet moved to a takeout-and-delivery model only, with the dining room available only for buyouts. I recommend taking your meal to a nearby park for a casual picnic — try Pan Pacific Park or La Cienega Park in the adjacent city of Beverly Hills, both within a quick drive or bike ride.

Sonoratown

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (3)

Natasha Lee for Insider.

Any guide to Los Angeles dining must necessarily include Mexican food — but the competition is steep. Among the standouts in my eyes is Sonoratown, with casual locations in both Downtown LA and Mid-City.

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Sonora-style tacos are the specialty, and come with avocado, salsa, pinto beans, and your choice of protein. Fellow vegetarians be warned: While there are plenty of veggie options here, the flour tortillas are made with lard.

Crossroads Kitchen

From Tal Ronnen, a big-name vegan chef, Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose is upscale and buzzy. The atmosphere is lively but the space is comfortable, with cozy booths, dark woods, and a sophisticated bar. With inspired menu that anyone can love, this place is hardly just for vegans.

It's my go-to special-occasion spot — I've celebrated many birthdays, anniversaries, and even a New Year's Eve at Crossroads. The must-try dish is the oysters, which are actually crispy oyster mushrooms served on an artichoke leaf "half shell." The presentation is a knockout.

Otium

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (4)

Natasha Lee for Insider

While Otium is a logical place to stop for a meal in combination with a visit to The Broad museum, Chef Timothy Hollingsworth's buzzy spot is a destination to itself, with a menu of sophisticated New American fare delivered in a relaxed environment.

The vibe here draws inspiration from the century-old olive trees planted in The Broad's plaza, by way of rustic cooking with wood fire and sustainable ingredients grown in the on-site garden.

E.P. & L.P.

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (5)

Natasha Lee for Insider

If the sun is shining in LA when it's freezing back home, make the most of your opportunity to eat alfresco at E.P. & L.P. Located at the intersection of Melrose and La Cienega in West Hollywood, the restaurant offers a celebration of American cuisine with European tinges, all with an emphasis on seasonality and California-grown produce.

Brunch fans take note: After seven years, the venue just started offering brunch this summer. The rooftop doesn't take reservations, so it's first-come, first-serve — if you can get in for brunch, don't skip the delicious avocado toast. And if you have some time before or after eating for window shopping, walk across the street to the brick-and-mortar outpost of the luxury-consignment platform The RealReal.

Dan Tana's

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (6)

Natasha Lee for Insider

This iconic Italian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard has been an city institution for more than 50 years. The pricey menu includes such dishes as "Veal Cutlet, Milanese, a la George Clooney" and "Chopped Salad a la Nicky Hilton" — so you can imagine the typical clientele at this old-school Hollywood hangout with a recognizable green awning.

The menu is huge, and in addition to meat and poultry dishes, there are plenty of fish, veggie, and pasta options — I almost always go for the eggplant parm.

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Shamshiri

Thanks to the influx of Iranian immigrants to LA after the revolution, you'll find no shortage of excellent Persian restaurants in the Westwood area —also known as Tehrangeles. Among them, Shamshiri Grill is one of my favorites and also a classic, operating since 1981.

As a vegetarian, I'm obsessed with the veggie fesenjoon, a rich walnut puree in pomegranate sauce that's equal parts sweet and tart. You can order a version of the dish with chicken, too. Here, portions are large and served with broiled tomato, rice, and mouth-watering bread.

Spire 73

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (7)

InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown

If you really want a view over the city, you can't beat Spire 73. Perched at the top of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on the 73rd floor, it's the highest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere.

The main attraction in this rooftop space is the views, but you'll also find fire pits, signature cocktails, a wide whiskey selection, and a seasonally rotating menu. I love a vodka cocktail, so I usually go with the appropriately named City View, which has vodka, lemon, cassis, raspberry, and sparkling wine.

Bestia

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (8)

Ren Fuller/Bestia

It's not the easiest to score a table at Bestia, but it's worth it. This Arts District Italian spot is a sophisticated space with industrial, hard-edge design features. Grab a coveted booth for your group with seats that appear to be levitating off the ground, or order your meal at the raw-copper bar.

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I don't eat meat, but I have it on good authority that the bone marrow topped with rosemary in a bowl of greens is the dish to beat for carnivores.

Grand Central Market

I've lived in Los Angeles almost my entire life — here are 10 of the best places where you should actually eat (9)

Shutterstock/TRMT Photography

This downtown food hall dates back more than a century to 1917. You might call it a microcosm of LA itself: Under this roof, you'll find food from every culture by way of restaurants, grocers, and other vendors. And just like the rest of LA, critics complain about its gentrification.

Get in line for a breakfast sandwich at Eggslut, slurp ramen from the all-vegan Ramen Hood, or score comfort Korean food at Shiku.

View Insider's comprehensive guide to visiting Los Angeles, California.

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The overall standard of living in Los Angeles is good, with a 4.6% unemployment rate (just . 7% higher than the national average). But there is standard-of-living heartbreak in Los Angeles as well. The city's homelessness rate rose 16% in the past year, with 36,300 people without a permanent residence.

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Overall, LA is about 24% less expensive than NYC. The cost of living in LA is lower than in NYC thanks to far lower housing prices. On average, housing in LA is 34% cheaper than in New York City. Additionally, prices for groceries, as well as restaurant prices, are lower in Los Angeles than in NYC.

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