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A foodie’s guide to Los Angeles
Published on 21 Mar 2022
The city of Los Angeles has long attracted visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of celebrities, bask in sunshine and hit the beach. Home to Hollywood and the rich and famous, Los Angeles is a premier cruise destination. The ports of San Pedro and Long Beach are located roughly 20 miles south of Los Angeles, so only a short taxi ride is needed to reach the heart of the action.
As well as seeking out famous faces, many visit Los Angeles for its varied and exciting cuisine. From Beverly Hills to downtown LA, the city streets are lined with bars and restaurants, serving international cuisines and fusion dishes. If you need help deciding where to eat during your cruise to Los Angeles, then look no further! Here is the ultimate Los Angeles food guide:
Los Angeles is full to the brim with super exciting restaurants. Whether it’s a hot dog or wacho you’re after, you’re certain to find an establishment to suit your needs.
Many Los Angeles restaurants date back at least a century and continue to serve their most iconic dishes to locals and visitors. We simply can’t talk about LA institutions without mentioning Pink’s Hot Dogs. Pink’s, a Hollywood legend since 1939, was opened by Betty and Paul Pink with a hot dog cart they bought for $50. “The cart was located on the same site where Pink’s stands today,” Richard, Company President of Pink’s, told us. “Betty and Paul borrowed $50 from Betty’s mother. They rented the property for $15 per month and sold hot dogs for 10 cents and cokes for a nickel.”
In the beginning, running the hot dog cart was a struggle for Betty and Paul. With no electricity on-site in 1939, and the landlord hiking up rent prices, the couple were forced to borrow money to buy the property or face going out of business. “In 1941, after buying the property, they put a canvas awning over the cart and continued selling hot dogs until 1946 when the building that houses Pink’s was built,” Richard explained.
“Pink’s started with a simple hot dog and chilli recipe. The menu remained limited until Betty and Paul’s children took over the business in the 1990s. Today, we have over 35 varieties of hot dogs on the menu and 12 varieties of hamburgers.”
But what makes the perfect hot dog? “Pink’s hot dogs are all beef and have a natural casing. When Pink’s hot dogs are steamed to a temperature of 145 degrees, the hot dog snaps when you bite into it. The key is the natural casing that creates Pink’s famous ‘snap.’”
Another of Los Angeles’s classic eateries is The Apple Pan. Since opening in 1947, this restaurant has been famous for its deliciously simple hamburgers, apple pies and banana cream pies. Located just over a mile from the 20th Century Fox studios, celebrities can occasionally be spotted eating here. Don’t forget to bring cash, as this old school eatery doesn’t accept cards.
Over on Hollywood Boulevard, Musso & Frank’s Grill is also serving a slice of the past. Opened in 1919 by entrepreneur Frank Toulet, a restauranteur Joseph Musso and French chef Jean Rue, the restaurant quickly gained a reputation for its exquisite food and classy setting. Grab a booth, peruse the 90-year old menu and enjoy a taste of Hollywood history.
If Musso & Frank’s Grill sounds like your cup of tea, you’re likely to love Dan Tana’s. This West Hollywood institution has welcomed John Wayne, Cary Grant and Fred Astaire and its retro Italian menu continues to lure in customers today. Choose from its roster of dishes named after famous regulars such as the Penne Arabiata a la Michael Kane or Fettucici Alfredo a la Mark Singer.
Canter’s Deli, situated on North Fairfax Avenue, is a family-owned deli that has been serving its classic pastrami on rye sandwiches and matzo ball soup since 1931. Come here for the great food and people-watching opportunities.
One of Los Angeles’ most famous trucks is Kogi BBQ. It’s no secret that the city is obsessed with Korean barbecue but this innovative eatery has taken it to the next level. Kogi BBQ serves Korean barbecue tacos that, according to locals, are out of this world.
If you’re craving authentic Mexican cuisine, there’s no shortage of incredible food trucks to satisfy your cravings. Leo’s Tacos Truck has been serving hungry locals for more than 5 years and their famous tacos al pastor (pork tacos) have long been its most popular dish. You can’t argue with the prices either - dishes at Leo’s Tacos Truck start from $1.
For a unique twist on American comfort food, try a plat of wachos from The Lobos Truck. “What is a wacho?” We hear you ask. The word wacho is waffle fry and nacho combined. The creative team behind this food truck use cross-cut potato fries and load them with tasty nacho toppings.
If you’re craving something sweet, try an authentic New Orleans snack at The Beignet Truck. Beignets are made with deep-fried choux pastry and powdered sugar. Born from the owners’ love of delicious food and The Big Easy, The Beignet Truck specialises in this authentic sweet treat, bringing a taste of the Deep South to California.
Mariscos Jalisco is one of Los Angeles's long-standing heroes. Well-known for their signature tacos dorado de camaron with flavourful and fresh shrimp folded into a corn tortilla that’s then fried to a golden brown and topped with thick slices of avocado and a vibrant and complex salsa roja.
Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures. And, due to its large flow of Asian immigrants, Asian food is extremely popular. However, the dominant cuisine here is undoubtedly Mexican, or a Californian interpretation of Mexican cuisine. By simply wandering around the city you’ll spot hundreds of taquerias and taco stands, as well as Korean barbecue joints and Japanese restaurants.
If you’re looking for a burger joint that takes its meat really seriously, visit The Oinkster. Specialising in succulent, flavoursome meat burgers and sandwiches, you’re guaranteed to find something to tickle your taste buds here. The Royale is served with a Nebraska Angus patty with bacon, chilli, pastrami, dill pickles, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and Thousand Island dressing. Top it with American or strong cheddar.
Since opening as a food truck in 2009, Grill ‘Em All has triumphed and is considered to serve one of the best gourmet burgers in Los Angeles. Every item on the menu is named after rock and metal legends, so you can chow down on a Dee Snider burger with peanut butter, strawberry jam, bacon and sriracha or enjoy the Metallica with Swiss cheese, avocado and bacon.
“After standing triumphant at the end of the Food Network’s very first Great Food Truck Race and being featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the demand for burgers grew strong enough that we opened the doors to our first brick and mortar in 2013 and closed the trucks shortly after,” the team from Grill ‘Em All told us. “We blend rock and roll attitude with gourmet concepts to create burgers that satiate the need for extreme burger terror and our most popular burgers are The Behemoth, Dee Snider and Metallica.
For an indulgent burger experience, head to Petit Trois for the Big Mec. Made with two four-ounce patties, caramelised onions, garlic aioli, American cheese and a red wine bordelaise sauce with foie gras. The delicious prime beef really is the star of the show.
If you’re seeking farm to table produce, Belcampo is the place for you. Raising animals on its farm near Mount Shasta, Belcampo offers a range of fresh burgers, such as the 100-day dry-aged burger with raclette cheese, caramelised onions and Dijon aioli or their classic Belcampo burger made with their tasty house sauce. The small farm and butchery chain has restaurants dotted around California.
Lastly, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, which has been going since 2010, brings together craft beer and unique burger concoctions. The chain prides itself on doing things the right way, not just the easy way, which is evident on their extensive menu. Must-try dishes include The Dynamite with cream cheese, jalapenos, eel sauce, avocado and tempura fried tuna patty and Buffalo Bill which is served with blue cheese, steakhouse bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, buffalo sauce and Doddy mayo.
Since opening its doors in 1953, Randy’s Donuts has often been praised as one of California’s finest doughnut shops. Drawing visitors from all over the globe (partly because of its delicious doughnuts and partly because of the giant doughnut on top of the shop), you’d be a fool not to stop by for one of their delicious sweet treats. Get your doughnut with maple icing, chocolate sprinkles, honey, coconut or anything else that takes your fancy.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles, Café Dulce, a sleek Tokyo-downtown eatery, has its own dedicated doughnut menu featuring seasonal doughnuts. Choose from green tea, pumpkin spice, bacon, maple, macadamia, hazelnut and much, much more. Over at The Donut Man, the classic fresh strawberry stuffed doughnut is their most popular menu item. The bakery was founded by Jim Nakano in 1972 and has continued to delight locals and visitors for decades. There’s plenty to choose from, including raised peanut butter doughnuts, maple frosted, orange frosted, cream cheese and raspberry, cinnamon sugar, vanilla frosted and triple chocolate.
If you’re seeking crazy flavour combinations, Donut Friend is your best bet. Specialising in signature and limited edition doughnuts such as the Bananaversary, a banana bread doughnut with a peanut butter glaze and candied walnuts or the Javabreaker, a coffee-infused cake doughnut with an espresso bean glaze, you’re sure to find a unique doughnut to suit you.
For an exquisite doughnut and a perfectly-brewed coffee, California Donuts has got you covered. Open 24 hours, you can always stop by to get your sugar fix with a matcha green tea, buttermilk, apple fritter or Boston cream doughnut.
Koreans began immigrating to Los Angeles in large numbers in the 1960s and, as a result, the city now has a thriving Korean community with tonnes of great restaurants. Korean barbecue, which allows you to grill a selection of meats at your table, is perhaps one of the city’s best-loved delicacies and at Gwang Yang BBQ, you can get your fix of this delicious food. Using secret family recipes, the restaurant offers a mouth-watering range of prime, marinated meats and tempting sides. Like Gwang Yang BBQ, Sun Nong Dan serves traditional Korean BBQ fare. Their specialities include Galbi Jjim, braised beef short rib and Oo Guh Ji Galbi Tang with beef short rib and dried cabbage.
Also in Koreatown, Mapo Galbi is most famous for one particular dish - chicken dak galbi. People travel for miles to indulge in this spicy Korean stir-fried chicken dish, so don’t miss out during your stopover. Another old-school Korean restaurant is Dan Sung Sa, where you can try adventurous dishes including frog leg and intestines and spicy Korean chicken wings.
If you’re vegetarian, fear not. Beverly Soon Tofu, established in 1986, was the first Korean restaurant of its kind in LA, serving delicious tofu soups and other vegetarian dishes. Try the tofu steak with seasoned kimchi and a soy sauce vinaigrette. Over in Long Beach, close to the cruise port, Sura is one of the area’s most revered Korean barbecue joints. Serving authentic Korean barbecue with a twist, the restaurant is famous for its delicately marinated meats and spicy tofu soup, as well as Mexican fusion favourites.
Closer to the cruise port in Long Beach, Lola’s Mexican Cuisine is a family-run restaurant with a passion for authentic Mexican food. Growing up in Guadalajara, the grandchildren of the family inherited recipes from their grandmother and decided to share them with the world. Chef Luis Navarro has also dedicated his career to learning and travelling through Mexico, studying the craft of the local cuisine. Their green salsa is said to be a thing of beauty but you won’t be disappointed with any of the classic dishes on their menu.
Also close to the cruise port, Top Shelf Tacos is worth a visit for any Mexican food fan. The menu is created using homemade tortillas, freshly made salsas and quality ingredients. Build your dream taco with a delicious range of meats and grilled fajita vegetables.
Over in the city of Los Angeles itself, Petty Cash Taqueria is keeping locals happy with its delicious menu of ceviche, quesadillas and innovative tacos. Try the grilled shrimp tacos with achiote aioli, cabbage, citrus salsa and cilantro or, for the vegetarians, rainbow cauliflower nachos with crema poblano, jack cheese, kale and pickled Fresno. Describing itself as a semi-authentic taqueria, the restaurant was named after both Johnny Cash and Tom Petty.
Guisados, which started out with a simple menu, specialises in home-style braised meats and handmade tortillas - a match made in heaven. Try the mole poblano, with shredded chicken, poblano-style mole, sour cream, queso fresco, red onion and dried chile or the chicharron, with pork rinds simmered in chile Verde, served with green serrano chile and black beans.
Guelaguetza first opened its doors in 1994. Since then, the restaurant’s goal has been to showcase the best of its traditional family recipes while staying true to authentic Oaxacan ingredients. On the menu, you’ll find a plethora of incredible dishes. Popular options include the mole estofado, quesadillas fritas and molotes de papa con chorizo.
Sushi has become a huge part of the food culture in Los Angeles, so you won’t struggle to find exceptional sushi on your cruise. Kiriko Sushi serves a creative mix of Tokyo-style sushi and Japanese tapas-style dishes. Founded in 1999 by Chef Ken Namba, the restaurant serves an authentic taste of Japan with modern influences.
If you’re vegan but still want a traditional sushi experience, head to Shojin. With a focus on organic, natural, vegan Japanese cuisine, Shokin creates classic sushi dishes replacing seafood with vegan ingredients such as tofu. Expect a full and exciting menu catered entirely for vegans, rather than choosing from limited options elsewhere.
Established by celebrated chef Zaunori Nozawa, Sugarfish is famous for its extravagant fusion dishes. Forming part of a small chain, Sugarfish focuses on serving exquisite sushi at reasonable prices so that everyone can enjoy some of the best sushi in Los Angeles.
Another establishment serving high-quality sushi is Sasabune, with omakase being the most popular option. If you enjoyed the Netflix documentary Chef’s Table, you may have seen n/naka. This premium sushi restaurant is owned by Chef Niki Nakayama, former protégé of legendary chef Morihiro Onodera. Focusing on kaiseki, a traditional form of Japanese cooking, n/naka offers a truly special experience with 13-course menus featuring sea urchin, diver-harvested scallops and okra.