7 Unique Culinary Experiences in Downtown LA

People check out all that Smorgasburg in Los Angeles has to offer
People check out all that Smorgasburg in Los Angeles has to offer | © Leigh Green / Alamy Stock Photo
Theresa Christine Johnson-Christensen

Downtown Los Angeles boasts plenty of dining options, but these memorable spots are one-of-a-kind DTLA affairs.

Wander through Downtown Los Angeles, and you’ll discover a neighborhood full of vitality. It’s a part of town that has grown substantially in the past couple of decades, having welcomed new housing, hotels, museums – and, yes, plenty of new restaurants. The area has a hot dining scene offering virtually every cuisine, and it’s just as easy to find a mouthwatering meal from a celebrity chef as it is life-changing food truck fare. Here are seven unique culinary experiences to seek out when exploring DTLA.

1. Get lost in Grand Central Market

Market, American, Dim Sum, Seafood, Street Food, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free

Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
© EddieHernandezPhotography / Shutterstock
Grand Central Market has been an LA institution since 1917. You’ll find a little bit of everything in this bustling emporium, making it the ultimate place to go when you can’t decide what you want – meander up and down the aisles packed with stands serving every cuisine imaginable. Eggslut elevates the breakfast sandwich with its pillowy soft brioche buns. The market-fresh ingredients make the pizzas at Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria a standout. And Sarita’s Pupuseria will please both vegetarians and carnivores. For dessert, get in line for a few creamy scoops at McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream, or build your own ice cream sandwich.

2. Channel France at Garçons de Café

Bistro, Wine Bar, French

Walk into Garçons de Café – an eatery and wine bar found in a covered walkway in the heart of Downtown – and you’ll get transported to France. After happy hour, make a beeline for the light, flavorful toasts, the delectable breads and the outstanding cheeses. It’s impossible to pick a bad glass (or bottle) of wine here. Dim lighting and intimate bistro tables add to the whole experience.

3. Try a little of everything at Smorgasburg LA

Market, Sandwich Shop, Food Court, Street Food

Asian food bowls at Smorgasburg in Los Angeles
© Pamela Brick / Shutterstock
Much like the New York version of Smorgasburg, Downtown LA pays homage to local eats in this weekly outdoor market. Every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, the ROW in DTLA becomes a haven of ice cream sandwiches and acai bowls; it’s a place where visitors can try some of LA’s favorite offerings from local vendors. From Avocadomama’s vegan pasta to Baohaus pork buns and Buttery’s rainbow popcorn, food options at Smorgasburg are equal parts endless and Instagrammable.

4. Brunch it up at Bottega Louie

Restaurant, Italian

Bottega Louie, Los Angeles
Courtesy of Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market
You can enjoy a delicious brunch or dinner at Bottega Louie, but desserts are the highlight at this restaurant, market and patisserie. Upon entering, you will see a rainbow row of macarons nestled behind the counter glass. Sweets here are works of art, expertly crafted to be a feast for the eyes as well as a thrill for the taste buds – think decadent dustings of gold leaf, poised rose petals and cascading ripe berries on fruit tarts.

5. Feel fresh at the Restaurant at The NoMad Hotel

Hotel Restaurant, American

The NoMad Hotel Los Angeles
Courtesy of The NoMad Hotel Los Angeles / Booking.com

This new hotel transformed the old headquarters of the Bank of Italy so that the gold-and-blue Italianate lobby ceiling blends artfully with velvet chairs and benches in vibrant hues. Chef Daniel Humm uses fresh ingredients – like burrata, black truffles and caramelized cauliflowers – to create some of the restaurant’s specialties. Dishes “inspired by the vibrant culture and traditions of Los Angeles” make the NoMad restaurant a one-of-a-kind LA dining experience.

6. Try modern Indian cuisine at BADMAASH Downtown LA

Gastropub, Restaurant, Indian

A family affair, the Indian gastropub Badmaash is run by Pawan Mahendro and his sons, Nakul and Arjun. The fare is modern Indian food. A few expected Indian dishes are on the menu, but the more playful items are the standouts – among them are the ‘badass’ chicken tikka and chicken tikka poutine, the latter a nod to the restaurant’s Canadian influence. Badmaash’s fun twist on traditionalism exemplifies what’s so spectacular about DTLA’s food scene.

7. Get some Latin flavor at DAMA Fashion District

Restaurant, South American, Central American

For those who are craving Latin cuisine, this DTLA newcomer hits the mark. Located in Southern California’s former banana distribution hub, the space has a laid-back atmosphere and channels a relaxed Caribbean vibe with its patios, lounge area and wicker chairs. The menu is from executive chef Antonia Lofaso, and the tropical drinks blended to order by Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni complete any dish. The corn with queso fresco, cilantro aioli and chili lime salt is a signature appetizer choice. Make sure you leave room for some churros.

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