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Strawberry Donut | © Ron Dollete / Flickr
Strawberry Donut | © Ron Dollete / Flickr
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10 Iconic Los Angeles Dishes You Need to Try

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 20 June 2017
Los Angeles menus currently skew towards California cuisine, which means a lot of fresh, seasonal produce and light dishes, such as ceviches and avocado toasts. Yet it might surprise you to learn that heartier fare—such as the French dip, an epic pastrami sandwich, and a 10-inch stadium hot dog—are some of L.A.’s most enduring meals. Here are 10 of Los Angeles’ most notable dishes, many of them still being served at affordable prices out of their original homes today.

Langer’s Deli and Restaurant

Deli, American, $$$
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Langer’s, founded in 1947, is a casual deli open for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner. The most notable menu item here is the #19, which Langer’s itself describes as “forever imitated, never even approximated.” It consists of hot pastrami, cole slaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on rye. Nora Ephron once wrote in The New Yorker that Langer’s serves “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.”

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The Apple Pan

Diner, American, $$$
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Also founded in 1947, The Apple Pan is a family-owned, counter-service diner specializing in American staples such as burgers and apple pie. The Hickory Burger is the key item here, and it’s really quite simple: a hickory-smoked beef burger with pickles, lettuce, mayo and secret sauce on a bun. Add a slice of cheddar if you like. Cash only.

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Tue - Thu:
11:00 am - 12:00 am
Fri - Sat:
11:00 am - 1:00 am
Sun:
11:00 am - 12:00 am

Philippe The Original

Diner, American, $$$
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Philippe The Original claims to have invented the French dip. The simple diner opened in 1908, and according to the restaurant’s personal lore, it stumbled upon the everlasting sandwich in 1918. One fateful day, owner Philippe Mathieu dropped a French roll into a roasting pan full of juice. The cop who ordered the sandwich said he didn’t mind and took the deliciously soggy sandwich for lunch. He returned the next day, requesting the exact same sandwich. Another version of this story, told by Mathieu in an interview with the L.A. Times, states that the cop asked for French bread filled with roast pork, which Mathieu later began making with smaller French rolls.

“One day a customer saw some gravy in the bottom of a large pan of roast meat. He asked me if I would mind dipping one side of the French roll in that gravy. I did, and right away five or six others wanted the same,” Mathieu said.

Regardless of how it came to be, you can still get Philippe’s French dip with roast beef, pork, lamb, turkey or ham on a dipped French roll with optional cheese. Spicy mustard is available too, but guests are advised to use it sparingly. Other deli sides and desserts are also on offer, and you can still get a hot cup of joe for less than 50 cents.

However, there is another contender for inventor of the French dip that’s also worth trying. Cole’s, which also opened in 1908, lays claim with a similar story about a roll fortuitously dunked in roasting juices. We may never know who was truly first, but both sandwiches are delicious.

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Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery

Deli, Italian, $$$
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In addition to stocking up on wine and cheese, customers can also purchase a variety of sandwiches, salads, pasta, and desserts at this beloved Italian deli and market. The favorite sandwich of them all is the meaty monstrosity known as the Godmother: Genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, prosciutto, and provolone cheese on a fresh roll that’s delightfully crusty on the outside. You may choose to add “the works,” which would include onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, Italian dressing, mayo, mustard, and peppers, or any combination thereof.

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The Donut Man

Bakery, Dessert, $$$
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The Donut Man has been serving sweet and savory baked goods since 1940. Their most famous pastry is their seasonal Strawberry Donut. It’s simply a glazed donut, abundantly stuffed with fresh strawberries. The Donut Man is a 24-hour operation, meaning you can get a fresh strawberry donut any time—so long as strawberries are in season. Other seasonal offerings include a peach donut or the autumnal pumpkin donut, but none have achieved quite the following as The Donut Man’s summer berry treat.

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CHAYA Venice

Restaurant, French, $$$
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Tuna tartare might seem like a ubiquitous option on any upscale restaurant menu nowadays, yet many fans of the dish don’t know that it was invented in Los Angeles in 1984. Chef Shigefumi Tachibe says he came up with the recipe when working at the newly opened French-Japanese Chaya Brasserie in tony Beverly Hills. As Tachibe tells the story, a group of guests weren’t into the steak tartare, so he came up with a similar concept using tuna on the fly. “Beef and tuna look similar, and tuna is a fatty meat like red meat,” he explained to The Atlantic. While Chaya Brasserie has closed, you can get a spicy tuna tartare at CHAYA Venice, with avocado and crispy rice.

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Mon - Thu:
11:30 am - 2:30 pm
Mon - Thu:
5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Fri:
11:30 am - 2:30 pm
Fri:
5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Sat:
5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Sun:
5:30 pm - 10:00 pm

Kogi Taqueria

Restaurant, Asian, $$$
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A more recent, yet no less iconic, dish is the short rib taco. It came to L.A. via Chef Roy Choi, who partnered with Mark Manguera and Caroline Shin-Manguera to launch the Kogi food truck in 2008. Choi, who was born in South Korea and raised in Los Angeles, one day came up with the idea to put a Korean-style short rib in a taco, and the rest is history. It’s Korean BBQ, cilantro, lime, onion, and spicy slaw in a tortilla. You can still visit the Kogi trucks for short rib tacos (or a burrito), but they also have a brick-and-mortar location in Palms now.

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Tue - Sat:
11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sun:
11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Herb Hudson opened his very first Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles in 1975. The original Hollywood location has since expanded to six others around the L.A. area, and they’ve attracted a fair amount of celebrities, including President Barack Obama. He ordered the No. 9, which has since been renamed the Obama Special. It’s three wings and a waffle, but any combo of crunchy fried chicken with a soft, syrup-drenched waffle is a winner here.

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Mon - Thu:
8:00 am - 12:00 am
Fri:
8:30 am - 4:00 am
Sat:
8:00 am - 4:00 am
Sun:
8:00 am - 12:00 am

The Dodger Dog

Food Kiosk, American, $$$
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The Dodger Dog is best consumed at its birthplace, Dodger Stadium, on a warm afternoon or evening with a cold beer. It’s essentially a 10-inch hot dog on a bun, which Dodger Stadium has been serving since 1962 when concessions manager Thomas Arthur came up with the idea. They were named Dodger Dogs after customers griped that “foot-long” was an inaccurate title, given that the wiener was actually two inches short of a foot. You can get the Dodger Dog in several varieties, including vegetarian and kosher, but the classic would be a grilled pork dog. Toppings can vary as specialty Dodger Dogs are introduced every now and again, but most people go for the simple, classic condiments such as onion, relish, and mustard.

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Spago

Bistro, Contemporary, $$$
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Wolfgang Puck’s Spago opened back in 1982 in Beverly Hills, and with it came the smoked salmon pizza. The credit belongs to Ed LaDou, who was hired as Spago’s pizza chef and began creating unique pies that included gourmet toppings such as salmon and duck sausage, according to the L.A. Times. LaDou would later launch the menu for California Pizza Kitchen, which included another stroke of pizza genius: the BBQ chicken pizza. You can still order the smoked salmon pizza, topped with dill crème fraîche and optional caviar, from Spago’s lunch and bar menu. It’s $28 at the upscale Spago, but luckily for the thrifty, the smoked salmon pizza has made its way onto many more affordable menus around town too.

Est. 1982 // #Pizza with Black Caviar, House Cured Smoked Salmon & Dill Crème Fraîche 🍕🍕

A post shared by Spago Beverly Hills (@spagobh) on

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Mon:
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Tue - Sat:
12:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Tue - Fri:
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Sat:
5:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Sun:
5:30 pm - 10:00 pm