Finding Great Dining in Downtown Los Angeles

Eight great options for eating in Downtown LA
shaena engle

Cafe Pinot

From upscale establishments to neighborhood cafes, downtown LA’s dining scene has evolved within the last few years to become the city’s culinary hotspot.  With the opening of LA Live and Staples Center, chefs and dining entrepreneurs have opened dozens of new eateries.

Located adjacent to the Central Library, Café Pinot is a perfect spot to enjoy California French inspired cuisine from the Patina Group.   Diners can opt to sit in the romantic garden in the middle of downtown or in the cozy dining room.  The seasonally based menu features a variety of salads, fish, meat and pasta including the Kurabuta pork chop, steamed Tai snapper, faro salad and lobster risotto.

The Patina Group owns several other restaurants downtown.  Nick & Stef’s is a modern update on the traditional steakhouse.  The design incorporates old style staples such as large comfy booths, white linens and dark woods with modern touches including a glass on-site meat-aging chamber and a dramatic view of downtown LA.  In addition to menu staples such as tableside Caesar salad and prime cuts of beef, they also offer lamb and pork chops, salmon and halibut and over a dozen innovative side dishes.  Patina’s Kendall’s Brasserie at the Music Center provides French inspired fare for theater and concert goers.  Diners can choose to sit on club chairs under seats in the patio area, marble tables in the lounge, stools at communal wooden tables or relax in large booth in the main dining room.  Dark woods, French paintings, and fringed lamps provide a bistro atmosphere.  French inspired menu favorites include oysters, escargots Provencal, steak tartare and pommes frites.

Seafood enthusiasts will delight in the recently renovated Water Grill.  Housed in the 1922 Pac Mutual building, the restaurant has been one of the best places in LA for fresh seafood for over 20 years.   The huge central raw bar offers a variety of oysters, jumbo crab, lobster, mussels and shrimp.  Menu highlights include a variety of whole grilled or roasted fish, wild roasted scallops, Atlantic fish and chips, Sockeye salmon crudo and a New England lobster roll.

Located on the ground floor of the City National Plaza office complex, Chaya’s downtown location offers the chain’s signature Japanese-French menu.   The atmosphere is sleek and modern with a large multi-colored chandelier as the dining room focal point.  Guests can dine at the marble sushi bar, huge indoor dining room or on the patio.   The menu offers a large variety of crudo and sushi choices, as well as traditional main courses including a whole sea bream, miso-marinated white sea bass and Moroccan spiced lamb.

Umamicatessen houses several different food concepts under one downtown roof on Broadway.  Pigg serves up everything ham and pork, The Cure is deli focused with matzo ball soup, lox and pastrami sandwiches, Umami burger is all things burger and fries, and & a Donut delivers freshly fried to order faves including Meyer lemon curd and tres leches donuts and fresh beignets.

The 3,500-foot trattoria and pizza bar at Soleto has something for everyone.  Diners looking for a bargain will love their $5 happy hour food specials including shrimp oregano, charred cauliflower and crispy polenta croquettes and peach sangria.  Those who love pasta but are gluten intolerant can order a gluten free version of any pasta on the menu, and pizza enthusiasts will appreciate the open pizza bar and specialty pies including truffled mushroom and smoked peck and potato, egg and bacon pizzas.

For a spot with an upscale, modern urban ambiance head to LeKa, occupying the old Cathay Bank space.  The cosmopolitan indoor/outdoor dining restaurant blends a two-story enclosed patio with firepits and sofa seating and a modern open kitchen with high ceilings and a long back-lit sleek bar.  Dishes have a French/Asian/California fusion with highlights including seared octopus, truffle and ricotta pizza, oven roasted branzino and halibut cheeks with clams.

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Located on the 24th floor of the elegant Ritz Carlton at LA Live, WP24 is Wolfgang Puck’s take on modern Chinese cuisine with 360 degree panoramic views of the downtown skyline.   The huge lounge at WP24 offers casual dining while the adjacent main dining room is geared to fine dining.  Menu highlights include a whole roasted Peking-style duck, a daily dim sum plate, steamed baby bao buns, crispy glazed quail and a 2 pound angry lobster.