Grand Central Market | Press Coverage | Bon Appetit | "Not long ago, downtown Los Angeles could feel like a street scene in Blade Runner, all shadowy alleys punctuated by the occasionally transcendent bowl of ramen.
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Where to Eat and Drink in Downtown Los Angeles
February 18, 2014

"Not long ago, downtown Los Angeles could feel like a street scene in Blade Runner, all shadowy alleys punctuated by the occasionally transcendent bowl of ramen. But in the past few years there have been so many exciting restaurant openings that it’s become a thriving destination that bears repeat visits—for both locals and tourists. All the textbook indicators of culinary and cultural cool are fully aligned: a brand-new Ace Hotel, a Swedish hipster-fashion superstore, a Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and a home-grown market hallwhere you can get a bargain carne asada taco or Hainanese chicken rice that just happens to be cooked sous-vide. This is that thrilling, fleeting moment in a neighborhood’s evolution that makes dining there all the more exciting, when you can still get a $9 lunch or drop $195 on a 25-course tasting menu. Yeah, it can be gritty, but that’s what will give cred to your early-adopter bragging rights. Experience the rebirth these 10 ways.


1. Get the Tasting Menu at Alma
You usually have to catch a plane to Copenhagen to eat food as stunningly beautiful, perfectly executed, and downright delicious as what chef Ari Taymor serves on his multicourse tasting menus at Alma. In the casual-cool vibe of downtown, the spare space is almost undesigned. For an experience this good, you’ll need to book a table at least a month out. After all, it did earn the top spot last year on Bon Appétit’s Hot 10 list of best new restaurants.

2. Hang at The Ace
The Ace Hotel chain, that Howard Johnson for hipsters, does stylish lodging well, but its sceney mezzanine may be the best room in the house. Even if you’re not staying there, drop by for a cortado and free Wi-Fi.

3. Buy Knives at Anzen Hardware
For a one-of-a-kind insider Little Tokyo experience (as in Nobu Matsuhisa–level insider), go to the gloriously cluttered Anzen Hardware, where sushi chefs buy their serious Japanese cutlery. Pick up a nakiri—a cleaver-shaped knife designed to surgically dis-assemble vegetables.

4. Order the Lamb French Dip
Eating a “French Dipped” beef sandwich at the century-old Philippe is an L.A. rite of passage. Another one is being told by a native Angeleno that you ordered wrong. Get the lamb “French Dipped” for a more tender (and savory) lunch upgrade.

5. Take Your Friends (and Even Your Parents) to Bestia
The approach to this stunner is blocks of low-slung warehouses and desolate streets. Don’t despair. Once there, you’ll find a soaring indoor-outdoor fantasy of a modern Italian restaurant that anyone could love—even your most culinarily critical friends (yes, that’s beef-heart tartare). And don’t be surprised if, after a white Negroni and a plate of sea urchin spaghetti, you’re researching local real estate on your phone.

6. Visit a Chef Centeno Spot
With three downtown restaurants in two-plus years, Josef Centeno could be considered the neighborhood’s culinary mayor. He’s got the 25-course, super-omakase tasting menu at his latest, Orsa & Winston, as well as Bar Amá, his raucous reboot of Tex-Mex cooking. But it’s his original place, Bäco Mercat—one of BA’s Hot 10 restaurants of 2012—that is his most freewheeling and consistently satisfying. Is it Spanish, Japanese, Mediterranean? It’s all of those things in a convivial, border-blurring L.A. way.

7. Eat the Chubby Pork Belly Bowl
If you’re going to seek out only one dish downtown, head to Kogi Truck king Roy Choi’s Chego! for the unabashedly fatty (and spicy) Chubby Pork Belly Bowl. The madcap combination of gochujang-lacquered pork, fried egg, pickled radishes, Chinese broccoli, Cotija cheese, and salsa verde is a $9 crash course in the tradition of cross-cultural culinary mashups.

8. Drink Coffee at a Roastery
Most cities count themselves lucky if they can boast one world-class coffee shop roasting beans on site. Downtown L.A. has two just a short drive from each other: Local hero Handsome Coffee Roasters and Portland perfectionist Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Of course, they both use fresh micro-lot beans. But if you don’t know the difference between a Chemex and a cold brew, go with Handsome, where all you need to do is choose espresso or regular joe and tell them how much milk you want. It’s so easy, it makes Dunkin’ Donuts look pretentious.

9. Take Home a Souvenir from Acne
If you’re hungry for something with zero calories and lots more style, head to Swedish skinny-jean pioneer Acne Studio’s new flagship store for some denim. There’s always sunglasses or a pair of striking boots as well.

10. Snack at Grand Central Market
People used to go to Grand Central Market for bulk dried chiles and dirt-cheap Mexican food. Now they go to the newly remodeled food hall for local burrata and grass-fed California rib eyes. And, yes, for the burritos, too. Here, the places to build a visit around: Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut, Sticky Rice, and Ana Maria."

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