It’s true that the pandemic rocked the restaurant world, along with everything else we know and love, but it hasn’t stopped places from opening around DTLA. Once things could open again, that is. Right now, Los Angeles is proving once again that it is the center of the culinary world with fantastic additions the scene from Top Chef winners, famous Mexico City imports, and one of the finest Filipino families in town.
Here are six places you need to have on your radar, all within a fork’s throw of 1133 Hope.
It’s been years since Stephanie Izard won Top Chef, but her status as one of Chicago’s top chefs is her greater glory. Now she’s transferred that fame to DTLA’s Arts District with a West Coast outpost of her wildly popular Girl & The Goat restaurant. The massive space is stunning, with a mix of industrial accents and an insane amount of greenery and gorgeous L.A. light. The menu is a little all over the place but in a good way. Thnk: naan and carrot hummus, goat liver mousse with crumpets, pork belly with green mango and Fresno chilies, and pan-seared opah with tomato-raisin relish. Cocktails are equally beautiful and creative. Make reservations here.
Another sibling restaurant to arrive in L.A. is Cha Cha Chá, an import from Mexico City. The mostly outdoor space — a rooftop! — feels like a mashup of California mid-century modern with a hint of Acapulco, the perfect vibe for chef Alejandro Guzman’s menu. The L.A. chef grew up in Mexico City, but cut his chops here at places like Sqirl, Eggslut, and Le Comptoir. Now he’s making dishes like jicama salad with tamarind vinaigrette, grilled huachinango with charred lettuces, and gorgeous tacos and tostadas. Great cocktails and rooftop views are just the icing.
When one door closes because of a pandemic, another opens with a gorgeous new sunset-colored dining room, extra patio, and rotisserie chicken and pork. The team behind Lasa transitioned their highly regarded Filipino restaurant in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza into this new rotisserie concept featuring dishes like chicken inasal and pork belly lechon, both served with garlic mojo and toyomansi, sides of tamari-glazed long beans or pickled vegetables, and an always on-point natural wine list. Get there early: Right now it’s first-come, first-serve seating only.
There is no shortage of ramen restaurants around L.A., especially in DTLA (i.e. Little Tokyo). But with so many styles, recipes, and vibes, there’s always room for more. Enter Afuri, an export from Tokyo with locations in Portland and Northern Cali, which features a light, acidic broth that’s a combination of chicken, seafood, vegetables, and seaweed. It’s a lovely contrast to the tonkotsu ramen that proliferates around town. There’s also a full cocktail and beer menu, which makes this another great option for the Arts District. Seating is first come, first serve; it’s also a no-cash restaurant (credit cards only).
Tucked away inside the O Hotel, a little boutique stay not far from 1133 Hope, Il Fiore is a hidden gem worth seeking out. The two chefs — Joel Stovall and Clay Cassis — have worked in top kitchens around L.A., including Orsa & Winston, Vespertine, and Bestia. That means a lot of creativity and technique on the all-day menu. You’ll find things like matcha French toast, assorted pastries, and house-smoked lox on the brunch menu, and steak tartare, kampachi crudo, abalone linguini, and seared scallop risotto at dinner. Really good cocktails, including an espresso martini (!), shouldn’t be overlooked. Make reservations here.
Bonus: Moo’s Craft BBQ
This Lincoln Heights spot is DTLA-adjacent, and a must-stop for any barbecue lover. If you follow any foodie on Instagram, you’ve most likely seen trays of Moo’s ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork, and brisket. Michelle and Andrew Muñoz started as a backyard popup in East LA before becoming a favorite at Smorgasburg. Their first brick-and-mortar operation has all the bells and whistles, from an expansive patio to amazing side dishes and plenty of beers on tap — everything you need to go along with perfectly smoky ‘cue. Currently open Thursday through Sunday, from noon until 5pm, or when they sell out, which they almost always do. (Get there early!)
Featured photo of Girl & The Goat by Anthony Tahlier