You only need to spend 20 minutes on York or Figueroa in Highland Park to realize you’re in one of the most exciting areas of the city. Whether it’s outdoor beer gardens, old-school music venues, or the greatest bowling alley in the history of mankind, there’s no shortage of things to do here. Add in new bars and restaurants opening weekly, plus neighborhood institutions that’ve been here for years, and this is a place you need to be hanging out in. Here are the 16 best places to eat while you’re there.
Hippo is an Italian-ish spot in Highland Park that has a lot of qualities you see in most nice LA restaurants these days - high ceilings, graphic floral designs on the walls (unfortunately no hippos, the place is named after the Highland Park Post Office), and a menu full of crudos, pastas, and big plates of meat. But Hippo mashes all those familiar elements up in a way that feels exciting. The crudos and pastas are all excellent, and if you don’t like high ceilings, you’re dead inside. It’s also a great spot for a few drinks before heading out to all the other bars along Figueroa.
This graffiti-adorned Spanish restaurant on Figueroa is a great place to celebrate a promotion and, in the process, find out what goat anchovy butter is (hint: it’s good). The tapas is better than the larger dishes here, so grab a seat at the bar, snack on gambas a la plancha and ham croquetas, and then go all-in on their excellent cocktails. The gin and tonics are all dangerously drinkable and the rioja sour will make you realize you don’t actually hate whiskey.
If you’ve ever eaten at the original HomeState in Los Feliz, you know one thing - you’re going to wait at least an hour before getting your mouth around those breakfast tacos. Here’s the good news: HomeState’s second location in Highland Park is twice the size - with half the crowd. And the menu is nearly identical to the original, which means you get the same great egg-filled tacos, migas, and Frito pie.
From the outside, Triple Beam looks like a random pizza-by-the-slice joint along Figueroa. But then you walk in and quickly realize there’s much more going on here. First off, the pizza is from the crew behind Pizzeria Mozza, and it’s some of the best you’ll find in Los Angeles. Every slice is priced by the ounce, and if that type of math gives you anxiety, just know you can pretty much order the whole menu for under $30. Don’t assume that because this place is order-at-the-counter you’ll be eating your pizza on the curb - there’s a fantastic patio in the back for that.
Joy is an order-at-the-counter Taiwanese restaurant that’s exactly what you need when you have a half hour for lunch and would rather eat popcorn kernels off the floor of your Honda than do drive-thru. Owned by the same people as another order-at-the-counter spot, Pine & Crane, Joy’s menu is small, but has a ton of variety. They serve daily cold appetizers, a few different soups, noodle and rice sections (get the chiayi chicken rice), and fantastic sandwiches made with their homemade scallion sesame bread. Prices are affordable, the food is on the lighter side, and you can be in and out in 25 minutes.
Lines at this strip mall dumpling spot are long. And if you come on a weekend, they’re even longer. But people are here for a reason - these are the best dumplings you’ll find outside of the San Gabriel Valley. Though you might have to wait on the sidewalk for a bit to get a table, once you’re inside, this order-at-the-counter spot has quick service, affordable prices, and a hanger steak bao you’re definitely going to want to get involved with. They also have a serious to-go operation if you’re looking to stay on your couch tonight.
If it just hasn’t been your day (your week, your month, or even your year), go immediately to Cafe Birdie. The neighborhood spot on Figueroa is serving some of the best comfort food on the Eastside, in a relaxed space that’s great for a low-key night with friends in (or by yourself, contemplating life at bar). Get the Moroccan spiced chicken and pork cheek ragu, and definitely a cocktail or three - they’re great here.
La Fuente is the kind of old-school Mexican restaurant that cures your soul as soon as you walk through the door. The place is miniature, but between the friendly waitstaff and the plates of food larger than your torso, you feel right at home immediately. Don’t come looking for modern takes on the tamale here. Order the El Rey burrito and have enough food for three separate meals.
We ate two entire donuts from Donut Friend without realizing they were vegan and we’re not mad about it. The donuts from this York Blvd. shop are what a car salesman would describe as fully loaded: piled with fillings and toppings. The best part is that those extras are added on as you order. Either pick from the big menu (the Jets to Basil with vegan cream cheese, strawberry jam, and fresh basil is a standout), or choose your own glazes and fillings. These are some of the best donuts in LA.
We love Silver Lake Ramen as much as you do, but we’ve also waited in that massive line to get in. Here’s the great news - they have a second location in Highland Park with an almost identical menu and zero wait to get a seat. That means you can get the same fantastic tonkotsu ramen before you spiral into a hungry tornado of death. Don’t miss their rice bowls either - the salmon poke is the freshest fish in the neighborhood.
Don’t dismiss Mr. Holmes just because you’ve seen it all over your Instagram feed. This SF import is the rare Insta-famous spot that lives up to the hype. Their cruffins are excellent (even if they have a tendency to sell out early and are sorta hard to eat), and they know their way around oddly-flavored pastries (the jalapeño strawberry bear claw is weird but good). Between this and Donut Friend, Highland Park has their sweets figured out.
Dos Murejes is literally just a grill and a folding table set up along a quiet strip of York Blvd. from 8pm-2am, and it’s where you’ll find our favorite tacos in the neighborhood. We love their mesquite-grilled carne asada and al pastor, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything when it’s wrapped in those amazing handmade tortillas. Don’t forget to put their avocado sauce on top.
This small Mexican spot on York Blvd. has been around for almost a quarter century, and while it has solid food across the board, you’re there for their huarache - essentially a big, long Mexican flatbread. This doughy surfboard, topped with a meat of your choosing (choose carne asada), grated cheese, two separate sauces, and all the shredded lettuce they could find, is one of the classic Mexican dishes in the city and worth getting into your car for right now.
Sonny’s is one of those spots that’s equally good to roll into for a few $8 Moscow mules during Happy Hour at the bar as it is for a Saturday date night. The whole place has an old-Hollywood feel, and while it’s a bit over the top, it grows on you because nobody here is taking it that seriously. The American-ish food menu is solid, and they do an entire tiki drink takeover at the bar on Tuesdays.
If you’re in need of vegan or vegetarian brunch-and-lunch type foods in the area, this is the place to get them. There’s everything from breakfast tacos and chilaquiles to a big breakfast sandwich with optional tempeh bacon (because tempeh should always be optional). But really, the thing to order are the house pancakes - oat, buckwheat, and corn flour pancakes topped with coconut and maple syrup.