The downtown dining scene in Los Angeles has come a long way in the past decade. What used to be reserved for a lunch-and-run mentality now offers some of the best spots in the city. This is thanks, in no small part, to the launch of the Staples center which opened its doors in October of 1999. The development exploded even more in 2007 with the launch of L.A. LIVE’s first phase, which tripled in size over the next two years, forever changing the perception and raising the food and beverage bar for downtown. Whether catching a game, taking in a show or just spending the evening in the City of Angles, here are a few downtown gems not to miss.
One of the most beloved Mexican restaurants in Santa Monica since the 1980s, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger helped changed the perception of Mexican food in the U.S. Border Grill’s downtown location is reflective of the original, serving up vibrant, modern Mexican food at this urban cantina. The restaurant’s Dine & Ride program offers complimentary shuttle service for guests to enjoy dinner and a show at Staples Center, L.A. LIVE, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Music Center.
Tom’s Urban provides its spin on globally inspired, locally sourced and seasonally influenced cuisine meant for sharing. In addition to tasty eats (Truffled Cracked Lobster Sliders anyone?), the restaurant also provides 30 beers on tap and an interesting list of cocktails and wine. Check out their daily (Monday-Friday) happy hour specials and Tom’s Tuesday that offers drink, appetizer and food deals all day.
WP24, located high atop the Ritz Carlton, showcases Wolfgang Puck’s love for Asian cuisine, inside a sexy space with great views of the city. Named one of the best new restaurants in America by several outlets when it opened, this place hasn't missed a beat, providing some of the best modern Chinese and Asian fusion food in town. If you don’t want to take in a formal dining experience, check out its adjacent lounge, NEST, which features its own dedicated menu of snacks, appetizers, sushi and large plates all in the comfort of a lounge.
One of the new kids on the block, ChocoChicken is the brainchild of Adam Fleischman, the guy behind Umami Burger. Only a few blocks jaunt from L.A. LIVE, this place is a non-traditional take on a traditional southern fried chicken shack, combining a savory-meets-sweet flavor bomb that comes from bittersweet cocoa used in the breading. The restaurant also offers a variety of side dishes (duck fat fries and bacon biscuit are worth the trip alone) and a full bar. Chicken and chocolate...bizarre or brilliant? You be the judge.
Peruvian food was all the rage a few years back, and chef Ricardo Zarate seized the moment and in 2011 opened Picca, which immediately landed on a slew of “Best New Restaurant” lists across the country. His encore, downtown-based Mo-Chica, serves a modern interpretation of the country’s traditional comfort foods. Zarate is from Lima and knows a thing or two about authentic Peruvian food and opening a successful restaurant in L.A. So it’s no surprise that Mo-Chica feels both old world, serving incredible dishes you may never have thought to order like Causa de Cangrejo (Aji Amarillo seasoned mashed potatoes) and of-the-moment, thanks to its artsy, urban décor. How very downtown, indeed.