Los Angeles best places to eat: Six classic LA dining experiences


A Downtown LA institution since 1935, the recent reopening of Clifton's Cafeteria saw lines snake down Broadway, with thousands eager to fill their tray with goodies. The original owner, Clifford Clinton, had a policy to never turn anyone away whether they could pay for their hot meal or not, and once served up to 15,000 a day. Lovingly restored with a woodsy feel – there's a giant faux redwood, a waterfall and taxidermied beasts eyeing you off over the five floors, diners now pay fixed prices for a roast turkey dinner or corn beef and cabbage. Or you can choose to pile your tray with blue jelly desserts. Writer Ray Bradbury spent decades holding court at Clifton's – there's still a corner booth dedicated to him – and Jack Kerouac wrote about the cafeteria in On the Road. Don't be surprised if you see David Lynch in the Monarch Bar, he's a fan. See cliftonscafeteria.com.


Regulars at this 100-year-old replica of a Japanese palace were nervous when the 2.8 hectare property in the Hollywood Hills went up for sale two years ago. Would they still be able to sit by the koi pond in the inner courtyard and feast on wagyu steak seared and served on a Himalaya salt plate? Could they enjoy the Truffle Hamachi by the window in the teak and cedar room and take in incredible views of LA? Thankfully Yamashiro was recently snapped up by Chinese hotel operator JE Group who plan to keep it operating, together with the small hotel and apartments on site. No word on what they will do with the Monkey House. Originally built to house a collection of monkeys, it was converted into an apartment where lavish parties were held in the 1950s. The bathtub was filled with a Mai Tai mix for celebrity guests to dip their glasses in. See yamashirohollywood.com


It might be on Hollywood Boulevard but Musso & Frank is well worth braving the teeming hordes and superman impersonators for. Since opening in 1919, it has always been a magnet for actors and writers. In the past century you could have shared a leather booth or seat at the bar with Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Depp, Leonardo Di Caprio, Ernest Hemingway or Charles Bukowski. Why did they all come? You won't find any foams or fusion here; this is classic American steak-house fare. The enormous rib eye is cooked perfectly to order, the wine-list is extensive and the old school classics such as the shrimp cocktail and lobster thermidor are delicious. Plus their martinis are superb. The maitre-ds are of the wisecracking variety who work the table like an Atlantic City comedian; it's all an act, and we know it, but in this nocturnal, walnut-paneled realm it seems to make perfect sense. See mussoandfrank.com


Slink into the curved white leather booths at the Dresden in Los Feliz and it could be 1954, 1974 or 1994. Many would recognise the restaurant and bar from the movie Swingers. The same duo from the movie, Marty and Elayne Roberts are still crooning Sinatra standards in the stone-walled lounge area, they've just celebrated their 35th year of residency. Their biggest fans are seated around the piano scribbling requests on the napkins. Meanwhile in the dining room, suited waiters serve specialty prime ribs and pasta with peach melba for dessert. The 1960s Batman, Adam West, used to drop in here, and legend has it ol' blue eyes himself would stop by for a martini. Don't let the bland brick façade fool you, it's like walking into a dimly lit lounge bar directly from the 1950s in the wee small hours. See thedresden.com


For the ultimate Jewish deli experience, some will recommend Greenblatt's or Canters, but Langer's Deli in Westlake is the go to place in LA, just ask celebrated food critic, Jonathan Gold who wrote, "The fact is inescapable: Langer's serves the best pastrami sandwich in America". The diner-styled interior and facade haven't changed since they were built in 1947, nor have the owners, a constant in an area that's been in a state of flux for years. The deli is across from the faded glory of MacArthur Park (yes, the same park Richard Harris sang about) among rundown pawn shops and gang-tagged walls. The much-lauded pastrami sandwich features slow-cooked meat combined with house Russian sauce and the crunch of fresh, crusty, carroway studded ryebread. Taking a slug of my egg-cream soda, I look around at my fellow diners – we're told Dr Dre was here last week – all lost in the same sandwich induced reverie. See langersdeli.com


Deep in the San Fernando Valley behind a topiary hedge sits Casa Vega, a classic of the mid-20th-century reinterpretation of Mexican food for a rapidly expanding suburban America, complete with drive-through valet service. Opened in 1956, the restaurant serves Mexican dishes in a classic American restaurant setting. The music, colours and decor are strictly south of the border but leather lined booths, giant portions and waist-coated staff are pure old-school-American restaurant. It's also dark, so a popular celebrity haunt for the likes of Matt Damon, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Gooey-cheese covered classics such as burritos, tostadas and moles are served. It's fun, easy and loud, the margaritas are hand-shaken, and strong so best to order an Uber instead of driving to the valley. See discoverlosangeles.com

Andrea Black travelled to LA as a guest of LA Tourism (discoverlosangeles.com) and Qantas (www.qantas.com)