It’s exciting when people from out of town visit you in LA. You get to show off our endless sunshine, hike Runyon Canyon so they can see people who call themselves influencers in real life, and take them to all your favorite restaurants. There’s just one problem - sometimes your visiting friends and family aren’t interested in going to your “weird” LA restaurants. They’d prefer the spot that’s close to the hotel and has a kids menu, or to a restaurant that’s had a few cameos on Entertainment Tonight. If that’s the case, meet them halfway with a place that’s potentially cheesy and TV famous, but not terrible either. All of the spots on this guide will make tourists happy, and you’ll have a good time too.
Although it’s best known for seasoning salt that you can find on every spice rack in America, Lawry’s is also an essential restaurant in Beverly Hills. Eating at this 80-year-old steakhouse is like eating an extravagant meal on a cruise ship. You’ll understand what we mean once you ascend the grand staircase up from the valet stand and make your way into the ballroom filled with giant booths, oil paintings of nondescript monarchs, and gleaming golden carts of prime rib on wheels. The night will finally come to an end when you wave over your waitress, Mrs. Collinsworth, because you can’t eat any more of your tremendous prime rib dinner.
LA is the birthplace of several important inventions - the electric guitar, the tiki bar, and showing up to Friendsgiving with a salad. But one invention that goes largely unnoticed is the french dip sandwich. There are a few places around town that claim to be its true inventor, but it doesn’t matter because Philippe The Original is the best of them all. This classic deli in Chinatown has been open since 1908 and, while they have solid food across the board (get the mac salad as a side), you’re here for the double dip beef. Also, if you don’t douse it in the spicy mustard they put on the tables, you probably shouldn’t have come here.
At the border of Venice and Marina Del Rey, you’ll find a terrifying strip of places generally reserved for poorly planned bachelor parties. And in the middle of all of that mayhem is C&O, a massive Italian restaurant that spills over with out-of-towners almost every night of the week. The pasta itself is nothing special. You’re here for the open-air patio with painted Italian streetscapes on the walls, waiters who sing “That’s Amore!” on the hour, and unlimited garlic knots that you’ll fill up on before the food even arrives. Also, almost everything falls under $20.
If eating dinner in an over-the-top replica of a Japanese palace complete with courtyards, a 600-year-old garden pagoda, and giant fishbowl cocktails sounds like something you’d be interested in, it’s time for you to pay a visit to Yamashiro. This Hollywood classic has been around since the dawn of time and it doesn’t even matter that the pricey Japanese menu of rolls and fried things isn’t anything to write home about. You’re here for the unparalleled views, the kamikaze martinis, and one night where you get to convince yourself you’re an iconic 1960s celebrity.
If you have family visiting in town, there’s a 90% chance that they’ll be staying in Santa Monica. There’s a 100% chance that they won’t know what to do except walk back and forth between the Pier and the Promenade. Go rescue them and take them to Bay Cities. This classic Italian deli/grocery has good food across the board, but the reason you and everyone else is here is for the Godmother sandwich. This massive Italian sub comes topped with capicola, prosciutto, ham, salami, provolone, hot peppers. Wait times are long every day, so be sure to call and order ahead.
This high-end sushi palace in Malibu needs little introduction. Nobu is one of LA’s most celebrity-filled patios in LA. And because of that, everybody else is trying to score a table too. Scoring a table here is a complete hassle and you’ll probably have to dip into savings to cover the tab, but there’s no denying that both the fish and the ocean views are incredible. If you’re looking for a throw-down dinner where nothing matters except the experience, Nobu is a must.
Maybe you’ve heard already that the line at Howlin’ Ray’s takes about two hours at any given time. It’s true. But here’s the other thing, you haven’t seen your aunt and uncle since your college graduation, and maybe some quality time while you wait for the best Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the world is what you need. Even if you claim to have an unlimited spice tolerance, start with the medium level chicken. It’s still plenty spicy, but you won’t have to ice your lips in front of the extended family either.
The first thing you teach visitors about LA is that celebrities aren’t where Access Hollywood says they are. They aren’t on Hollywood Blvd. or hanging out at CityWalk, they’re at home on their couch, shopping at Gelson’s, and most likely, eating at Spago. Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant in Beverly Hills is one of those places that seems like it couldn’t possibly still be good, but it is. The move is to go mostly off-menu and get the salmon pizza, spicy tuna cones, and wiener schnitzel. Your cousin might take issue with eating pizza with smoked fish on it, but it doesn’t matter. They just spotted Alexis Bledel guzzling wine in the corner and they’re freaking.
Katsu-Ya is one of the largest sushi brands in the world, with locations from LA Live to Dubai. Most of those locations, however, are owned by a global nightlife corporation and cater to a stiletto-wearing club crowd. That’s not the case at the original location in Studio City. This strip mall spot is independently-owned, which means prices are lower, quality is higher, and the low-key space is filled with people who are actually there to eat good sushi. You should order the crispy rice with spicy tuna and a few baked crab hand rolls, but always flip the menu over to see what’s recommended that day. If you sit at the bar, ask for Chef Patrick. He’s a sushi wizard.
The Malibu coastline is lined with mothball-infested tourist traps luring you in with the promise of great views and old celebrities who definitely aren’t there. Resist all that and go to Neptune’s Net instead. This landmark seafood shack might not have the best seafood on the coast (that award goes to Malibu Seafood), but when you’re with people looking for a quintessential Malibu coast experience, you’ve got to go to Neptune’s. The people-watching is second to none (it’s a big biker spot) and the clam chowder is one of our favorites in town.
Whether it’s The Grove, Santa Monica Place, or The Americana, tourists love visiting at least one mall in LA. While you should definitely prepare to take your childhood friend to at least one of those while they’re here, make sure you go to Eataly as well. Located inside the massive Westfield mall in Century City, this Italian food emporium has three different restaurants, a full market, and classrooms where you can make your own pasta (your friend is going to want to do that). The food is good at every vendor, and now that crowds have subsided, you won’t have to stiff-arm a family of four to get the last burrata.
Yes, as in that Cheesecake Factory. We’ve included this national chain not because of its encyclopedic menu and caravans of screaming children - those are always part of the experience. We’ve included it because the Marina Del Rey location is unlike any in the world. It has a long history (it’s the second oldest location) and there’s a semi-private beach on a secluded inlet of the marina. You probably aren’t going to throw your swimsuit on after housing a plate of fettuccine alfredo, but it’s fun to know that option is available. And all your out-of-towner friends and family will agree.