Aside from letting years of unchecked anxiety manifest into harmful social tendencies, sh*tting on LA is every New Yorker’s favorite pastime - especially if they’ve never been here.
Whenever they do decide to make the trip, most New Yorkers land at LAX with their minds already made up. To them, LA is a smog-choked, cultureless abyss that should be avoided at all costs. And sure, our air quality isn’t always great, and our stretches of suburbia do occasionally feel endless, but LA is also full of incredible things to do - and even better things to eat. So prove your NYC friends wrong, and take them to these places that highlight everything that makes LA great.
This tiny, all-day spot in Los Feliz has a fantastic side patio we can utilize all year, a relaxed atmosphere that feels like you’re eating dinner in someone’s backyard, and the kind of food you can only get in a city where fresh produce grows year-round. All Time serves excellent food throughout the day, but things get taken up a level at dinnertime, when the focaccia bread, cavatelli, and a fantastic steak hit the menu.
New Yorkers love to make fun of how much salad we eat, and haven’t yet realized how little that claim bothers us. But we also have red-sauce pasta spots that give New York a run for its money. Namely, Dan Tana’s. This classic, chaotic Italian restaurant in West Hollywood is where you go to eat giant plates of chicken parmesan, drink martinis until you can’t sit upright, and watch the most unhinged crowd in LA not worry one bit about how much kale they had today.
Spoke is a bike repair shop turned all-day cafe next to the LA River in Frogtown. With a huge outdoor patio full of people writing screenplays, groups of friends day drinking on a Tuesday, and children eating farro bowls, it won’t do much to dispel any preconceived notions about LA. That said, the longer you stay here, the longer you never want to go anywhere else. The food is fantastic, all the drunk people tend to keep to themselves, and if you’re looking for some physical activity, you can always rent a bike and cruise down the bike path.
New York may have pizza joints, but we’ve got taco trucks. And while every person will vehemently claim their local truck is the best, there’s little fighting about Tacos Y Birria. Order the goat birria in a quesataco (a taco with melted cheese on the shell), and the regular tacos dorados (served in deep-fried shells) for your NYC friend, then watch them publicly renounce their East Coast allegiance. Each of the salsas are made for a specific type of protein, so be sure to get the correct rundown from the owners. Cash only.
Cento is a lunchtime-only pasta place hidden inside of a Downtown wine bar. It’s not the easiest place to track down (and it’s only open Wednesday through Saturday, 11am-3pm), but once you find it, you’ll realize it was worth the effort. The space itself is just one big wrap-around bar and a guy cooking pasta - but he also pours you lots of wine while he does it. There’s no set menu, but know that whatever’s being cooked that day is going to be far more interesting than the run-of-the-mill penne alla vodka your New York friend makes you eat every time you go to visit them.
Have you heard that New York has better Chinese food than LA? It’s a myth - and one started entirely by New Yorkers. Feel free to say that to your visiting friends, then take them to Sichuan Impression. The San Gabriel Valley institution just opened a new location in West LA, with food that is just as good as the original and a massive space ideal for big groups. Order the tea-smoked pork ribs, mapo tofu, spicy wontons, and the boiled fish with green peppercorns that’ll clean your sinuses out for a year.
Thanks to Bravo! reality shows, all your New York friends think you only party at tacky Beverly Hills rooftop bars. Take them to Ddong Ggo to show them another side of LA nightlife. Hidden along Western Ave. in Koreatown, this jam-packed indoor/outdoor beer garden is one of the rowdiest places to drink in the neighborhood, and a non-stop party until the lights come up. Expect cheap beer, excellent bar food (get the kimchi pancake), and large groups of friends chain-smoking on the patio like it’s a competition.
On paper, Mama Shelter is everything your bitter New York friend wants to hate about Los Angeles. You’re taking them here anyway, because this colorful Hollywood rooftop bar is still one of the best places to day drink in the city. Grab a cocktail from the bar, play some foosball, watch a movie on the big screen, and pray for the girl in stilettos trying to do a round-off on the daybeds. There’s also a separate restaurant section with very solid Mediterranean food in case you get hungry. Reservations on the weekends are highly recommended.
New Yorkers will wait in a two-hour line for literally anything, so your friend is no doubt very excited to blow an entire afternoon with tourists at Howlin’ Rays. Time to show him that real LA citizens don’t wait in line, they go to Crawfords instead. The Historic Filipinotown dive is a great place to have a few drinks, and serves hot chicken that goes toe-to-toe with its much more famous colleague. Just make sure you don’t stumble in too late, because they stop serving food at 10pm.
Highland Park Bowl is on this list for no other reason than it’s incredibly fun and your friend can see that we also have a Brooklyn. The space itself has been around since the 1920s, but reopened a few years ago as a magical steampunk wonderland where bowling, drinking cocktails, and eating very good pizza are required activities. If you do want to bowl, make sure you reserve well in advance.
There are plenty of places in New York where you can get fantastic sushi - you just have to fork over a month’s rent to do so. That’s why you need to take your friend to Sushi Fumi, the casual spot on La Cienega with some of the freshest fish in LA and prices that won’t set your bank account on fire. We tend to stick to the daily specials board (the amberjack and king salmon are musts), but if somebody wants something a little different, the Moon Roll is very good.
You can brag to your friend about how good our tacos, sushi, and avocados are, but the fact is, LA also has the best Thai food in the country. For proof, take them to Luv2Eat, the casual Hollywood strip mall spot specializing in spicy, flavor-packed dishes like moo-ping (grilled pork skewers), jade noodles with pork, and a Phuket-style crab curry. And outside of peak weekend hours, you’ll never need a reservation to try them.
There’s a decent chance your friend walked off the plane asking “What’s up with this Gjusta place?” And since this bakery/deli in Venice isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to, make it your first stop on the way back from LAX. The place is a madhouse every single day of the week, but once you find your way to the counter and order, you’ll be treated to some of the best sandwiches in LA. The tuna conserva is a must-order, but since you’re there, throw in a porchetta melt, reuben, and a bag full of pastries for the rest of your drive home.
After an excruciating day of sun and happiness, your friend needs a place that reminds them of New York. Head to The Normandie Club. This dimly-lit Koreatown bar is loud, cramped, and full of well-dressed people drinking Old Fashioneds and complaining about things that are out of their control. So it’s not only a New Yorker’s dream, it’s also a great jumping-off point before a night out in the neighborhood.
New York might have the Hamptons, but LA has Malibu - a sprawling coastline full of incredible beaches, gigantic houses, and shockingly bad seafood. Now, you’re tasked with finding somewhere to take your friend who grew up eating freshly-shucked oysters every summer. Go to Malibu Seafood. The shack on PCH is far and away our favorite seafood on the coast (get the steamed mussels and calamari) with an ocean-facing patio where your friend can learn what a beach with real sand looks like.