Downtown LA has long been a desirable dining destination catering to residents, commuters and nighttime theater goers. Packed into an area less than six square miles are hundreds of establishments serving food from all over the world and ranging in price from cheap to extravagant. The options are pretty fantastic for lunchtime diners, whether you’re looking to eat solo or take an important client out on the expense account. Here are eight delicious options for lunch in Downtown LA.
This casual Taiwanese restaurant in South Park is always busy, but don’t let the long lines deter you. Order at the front, grab a table and each item will quickly appear on your table as it’s ready. The indoor space melts easily into the outdoors, making the whole place feel bright and airy. It’s ideal for a casual lunch with colleagues or friends. DTLA is the second outpost for this concept (which was started in Silver Lake), so the menus are similar but not identical. At this location, be sure to order the popcorn chicken, dan dan noodles, pan fried pork buns and forbidden rice pudding for dessert.
Once again, expect a line at this popular restaurant in Little Tokyo — but once you try their handmade udon, you’ll know it was all worth it. A highlight at Marugame Monzo is the opportunity to watch as the noodles are being made, which start as dough balls and are transformed into long, thick, chewy udon. The star of the show is sea urchin udon drowning in a savory, creamy sauce and topped with salmon eggs. If you’re not into sea urchin, there are almost 30 different hot and cold udon dishes to choose from. Your lunch won’t be complete without the traditional side of tempura, so be sure to get at least one order.
If you’re hungry but can’t decide what you want, head to LA’s original food hall, Grand Central Market. With 40 food vendors, you’re bound to find something to eat. The 105-year-old market offers everything from pupusas to pizza, all for a reasonable price. Keep in mind that Grand Central market isn’t air conditioned, so it’s not optimal during LA’s hot summers.
For authentic carnitas tacos, head to Tacos Tumbras A Tomas. These aren’t tiny street tacos but seriously generous portions of meat on a large tortilla. Sticky Rice serves delicious Thai food with just the right amount of spice. And traditional Salvadoran food can be found at Sarita’s Pupuseria, one of the market’s oldest vendors.
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Recognized with a Bib Gourmand award from the Michelin Guide, Badmaash is the rare Indian restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. The menu is a mix of traditional Indian fare along with a few creative contributions like chicken tikka poutine and chili cheese naan. While the classic veggie samosa is good, the butter chicken version is a true winner. The chicken tikka masala and saag paneer are also long-time favorites of guests. If you can make it for weekend brunch, definitely order the poori aloo, a Punjabi dish consisting of fried dough surrounded by small servings of stewed veggies like potatoes and lentils.
You decided to skip breakfast, regret it and now you’re craving morning fare. Urth Caffe is the ideal lunch spot for breakfast lovers or anyone with a killer sweet tooth. With a large menu that can accommodate all kinds of diets and a pastry case to drool over, there is something here for everyone. Popular breakfast items include the eggs salmone and rustic poached eggs, which are nicely complemented by a latte topped with beautifully detailed foam art. And there are plenty of traditional lunch entrees to choose from, including salads, sandwiches and pizzas.
Located in a fairly ugly industrial building in the Arts District is a restaurant serving some of the best housemade pasta in Los Angeles. The minimalist decor at Factory Kitchen keeps the focus on just one thing — seriously good Northern Italian food. All the pasta is made at a counter in plain view of guests, so be sure to take a peek.
Order the mandilli de seta, a handkerchief egg pasta served with pesto. Then round out the meal with focaccina and a salad, and your lunch will be perfect. If you can’t enjoy one of the creative craft cocktails with lunch, be sure to come back for dinner.
When you’re looking for lunch in a historic building surrounded by art, make a reservation at Manuela. This repurposed flour mill is home to the Hauser & Wirth gallery, and at its center is a Southern-inspired restaurant with rustic decor that’s heavy on wildflowers. The best time to come here is for a boozy brunch on the weekends, but it’s also a lovely spot for celebrating a special occasion with colleagues.
Do not skip the barbecued oysters as a starter. If you’re looking for a lighter lunch, the arugula and burrata salads are perfect. For something heartier, the shrimp roll is the way to go. Do allow time after your meal to enjoy the free galleries and the kitchen garden.
Your first challenge at Bottega Louie is getting past the pastry counter — in fact, the colorful pastries really are the decor in this high-ceilinged space with unadorned white walls. But if you can get to your table to check out the menu, you’ll find a nice selection of pizzas and pastas and a few heartier entrees. For a splurge, order the tartufo pizza topped with black truffle mushroom pâté. And if you want to reminisce about a trip to Rome, try the cacio e pepe. It is practically a requirement to save room for a pastry with the macarons being highly recommended.
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