Few cities can compete with LA’s selection of compact ethnic neighborhoods offering diverse dining opportunities. Its conceivable that this itinerary could be done in one dedicated day, but it would be more enjoyable spread out over two or more days, since these neighborhoods are notable for their cuisine, and there are only so many meals a person can enjoy in one day.
Start in Little Ethiopia, and work your way north through the other neighborhoods, with a final hook to the east to explore East LA’s Boyles Heights.
Little Ethiopia is positioned between Olympic and Pico on Fairfax. In addition to restaurants, there are a handful of shops to explore. Rahel International Veggie Cuisine offers traditional Ethiopian cuisine served with flatbread and spiced with turmeric, cumin, clove, and chili pepper. The café Messob pours a fresh cup of java using green coffee beans.
You’ll know you’re in Koreatown when you see whimsical signs like “Elephant Snacks” or “Tomato Wedding Dress.” There are many restaurants serving Korean fare – for a venue on the elegant side, choose Chosun Galbee. If you’re new to Korean food, try the barbecue, and enjoy the initial round of a dozen small plates called banchan.
Little Armenia is part of East Hollywood, and borders Thai Town. Fans of Lebanese and Iranian cuisine will love dishes that include kabobs, stuffed grape leaves, flatbreads, and hummus. Carousel Restaurant is one of the most famous eateries, with a menu of 60 small portion dishes they call mezzes.
Thai Town’s Thailand Plaza on Hollywood Boulevard offers a range of restaurants and shops, including Thai bakeries. For something different, order a green papaya salad, made with shredded green papaya, dried shrimp, green beans, tomatoes, and peanuts in a spicy dressing.
Colorful Chinatown can’t compete with San Francisco, yet it’s still worth a visit. Those with a yen for Hong-Kong-style dim sum can make tracks for Ocean Seafood, where they’ll find a noisy clattering of dim sum trolleys loaded with culinary delights.
Buttoned-down Little Tokyo is in downtown LA. Dip into Kula Sushi, the oldest sushi bar in LA. Here you can dine kaiten zushi-style, by snagging dishes off a conveyor belt motoring past your seat. Fugetsu-Do has been in operation since 1903, and – even though it’s a Japanese business – is said to have invented the fortune cookie.
Mexican culture and cooking is ever present in LA, and rules in Boyle Heights. For tamales, sweet and savory, head to Tamales Liliana’s. Then start walking, where you’ll find one great restaurant after another, selling everything from birreria, to burritos.
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