The Best 'Everyday' Dinner Spots In Los Angeles
Clichéd as it is, we all have that pair of jeans/sneakers and a sweater that we throw on and feel completely at ease in. It's something we've owned and worn for ages. It's almost a second skin. The 'everyday' restaurant is something similar. It is the restaurant as an extension of our own kitchen. It's probably a neighborhood spot, and its pretensions are non-existent. You've no doubt been here enough times that you have your order down. You also know which table you like to sit at, and the staff very likely knows your face (if not your name). This is not some special occasion thing—you go here, paradoxically, when you don't want to go out.
We've collected a list of our favorite 'everyday' dinner spots in the city—places where we feel at-home upon walking through the door.
Wood Spoon (Photo by Angela C. via Yelp)
It's rare to come across a truly undiscovered treasure in the L.A. restaurant scene, but Wood Spoon definitely feels that way. Chef/Owner Natalia Pereira, who hails from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, opened her downtown restaurant over a decade ago and has been quietly turning out some of the city's most solid dishes ever since. Suffice it to say, I've eaten the entire menu here (several times over, by now) and have never had a bad bite. Everything from the water (yes, the table water), to the picanha, to the decor on the walls is infused with Pereira's soul, and the entire experience feels so satisfying that you begin to wonder if it's undiscovered because everyone who knows about it doesn't want to let the secret out.
Wood Spoon is located at 107 West 9th Street in Los Angeles. (213) 629-1765
Izakaya SaSaYa (Photo by Ryota I. via Yelp)
This is where I first learned what an izakaya restaurant is—the Japanese late-night version of a diner, where the sake list is deep, and the menu runs a wide range of hot, cold, fried, raw, and other options. I came to Sasaya because I was living up the street at the time and was looking for something quick and easy nearby. I very quickly started coming here multiple times a month. The sunomono (slices of cucumber, okra, and seaweed tossed in vinegar) was a favorite starter. The Jidori chicken, cooked crispy and served with a side of dipping sauce, was another go-to for me. And, as always, it's important to keep the drinks flowing. Sasaya offers a list of Japanese whiskeys, sakes (some straightforward, others more "experimental") and even a selection of shochus (a spirit distilled with a higher alcohol volume).
Sasaya is located at 11613 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. (310) 477-4404
Milo + Olive (Photo by Emily Hart Roth via Milo + Olive)
MILO + OLIVE
With Milo and Olive, the team behind Rustic Canyon, Cassia, and other West Side favorites has created the perfect place to slip into when you want a plate of pasta Bolognese, or a wood-fired Margherita pizza. The space is cozy, but filled with life. Every table is a family enjoying each other's company, or old friends catching up. It's exactly the place where the quality of the food matches the quality of conversation.
Milo + Olive is located at 2723 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. (310) 453-6776
Cafe Birdie in Highland Park (Photo via Cafe Birdie/Facebook)
As we've noted before, Café Birdie is exactly the sort of elevated bistro we all want down the street. When Atwater Village's Canelé recently closed, the mantle of the quintessential 'neighborhood' restaurant was left to be taken up. Cafe Birdie is perfectly positioned to be the East Side's new favorite. A comfortable place to order fried chicken, pork ragu, or steak frites. And when you're ready, you can steal away out back to the Good Housekeeping bar: an intimate hideaway with charming decor and some of the most solid drinks east or west of the L.A. River.
Cafe Birdie is located at 5631 N Figueroa Street in Highland Park. (323) 739-6928
The pho ga at Pho Ga Bac-Ninh (Photo by Vienna T. via Yelp)
PHO GA BAC-NINH
To the uninitiated, "chicken pho" may sound like a culinary compromise that tarnishes the tradition of the well-regarded soup noodle dish. In reality, it's a very true portrait of home; warm, comforting, and hearty, nothing is more satisfying than a steaming bowl of pho ga. Pho Ga Bac-Ninh, like its signature dish, centers around simplicity and quality, making it a reliable go-to spot that's easy on the wallet. And if the weather's a little too sultry for soup noodles, you can go with the bun cha ha noi, which you may have encountered before at Button Mash. The dish includes a heap of crisp veggies and a bowl of meatballs and grilled pork swimming in fish sauce—the combination is light in taste (if you're putting the greens to use), but also perfectly filling. The only downside is that the place closes at 8 p.m., so get there early to get your fix.—Tim Loc
Pho Ga Bac-Ninh is located at 605 North New Avenue in Monterey Park. (626) 288-1448. There's also a sister location at 8930 Mission Dr Ste 102. Rosemead. (626) 288-9999
Night + Market Song (Photo via Night + Market Song/Facebook)
NIGHT + MARKET SONG
If I could eat at one restaurant for the rest of my life, it would be Night + Market Song. The menu never ceases to please (num khao tod will be engraved on my gravestone), the drink list is killer, and the rickety picnic chairs and colorful oil cloth always calms me down. People are cramped and huddled over sticky rice, so this isn’t a seen-and-be-seen kind of place (even though it’s totally a scene where everyone you could imagine has been seen there at some point). Going there is a good time regardless of the hour, it’s casual but festive, and it’s incredible food with almost no pretensions. It’s also great for calling in an order ahead of time, sneaking past the huddled masses waiting for their table, picking up kuay tiew khua gai and moo sadoong with your head bowed, paying in a rush, and escaping back to the safety of your own home. Plus, the history of Thai food in Los Angeles is arguably the most fascinating of all cuisines in this city (steal your college-aged cousin’s JSTOR log-in credentials—or sign up for a Los Angeles Public Library account—and look up Mark Padoongpatt’s article Too Hot To Handle: Food, Empire, and Race in Thai Los Angeles).—Annie Lloyd
Night + Market Song is located at 3322 West Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. (323) 665-5899
The Park (Photo via The Park/Facebook)
It’s been a handful of years since I lived in walking distance, but the Park is still the perfect neighborhood restaurant, regardless of where you’re coming from. You can actually hear your seatmates talk at an inside table, even when it’s packed for the dinner rush. The food is consistently delicious, but free from any pretension. Come for $5 burger night on Wednesdays—you may have to wait a few minutes for a table, but it’s more than worth it.—Julia Wick
The Park is located at 1400 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. (213) 482-9209
Pine And Crane (Photo by Sandy Y. via Yelp)
PINE & CRANE
Pine & Crane will always hold a special place in my heart, because it happens to be the neighborhood restaurant where my roommate and I signed our lease. We sat down with a few plates of dandan noodles, beef rolls and pork buns between us, and once we dug in, we decided we couldn’t pass up an apartment that was walking distance from some of the best Taiwanese food in L.A. The pork buns—oh, the pork buns! Fluffy, juicy, studded with black sesame seeds—they’re everything you could ever want in an appetizer (they come six to a serving, which I personally have proven myself capable of wolfing down in one sitting). If you bring enough people with you to split Pine & Crane’s infinitely shareable menu, a dinner there turns into a pretty sweet deal. The end of a group meal at Pine & Crane often turns into a flurry of frantic Venmo-requesting, but on numerous occasions, I’ve shared a full dinner (complete with wine) with three other people, left completely satisfied, and ended up paying only $11 for the whole shebang.—Emma Specter
Pine & Crane is located at 1521 Griffith Park Boulevard in Los Angeles. (323) 668-1128