Food in Los Angeles: The best restaurants to eat at in Los Angeles on any budget

Los Angeles can be a daunting place for first time visitors and it is steadily becoming one of the hottest destinations in the US for food. With a little planning ahead, you can be eating some of LA's best dishes without draining your bank account (unless you really want to).

Although this list is far from conclusive, here are some favourites and hot tips for the best places to get food in LA.

Far East Plaza, Chinatown

On a quiet, sunny Thursday afternoon In Los Angeles' Chinatown, 10 minutes north-east of buzzing Downtown LA, lies a small, innocuous, empty-looking mall with Mandarin lettering on its huge facade.

If you were to walk on by, which most visitors to LA would probably do, you'd be missing out on the new foodie concepts breathing life back into the area. Hosting a bricks and mortar location for highly successful food trucks, the outlets are run by some of the city's most beloved chefs.

It's here that Roy Choi set up his original Korean-Mexican mash-up Chego! made famous for its "LA in a bowl' rice dishes and ooey gooey fries. Oregon chef Andy Ricker opened his first LA instalment here serving Thailand's favourite noodle dish from Pok Pok Phat Thai (which has since closed, with New York's Bauhaus taking over the spot). Eggslut's Ailvin Cailin experimented with the Filipino food he grew up with at new barbecue endeavour Amboy – a takeaway window in the middle of the plaza that churns out whole grilled fish with rice and a tomato cucumber salad.

On the day I came by, those outlets were being largely ignored as everyone made a beeline to one of the latest restaurants to enter the fray. Howlin' Ray's hot Nashville fried chicken, another former food truck, was attracting an impressive line of at least 30 deep at 2.30pm on a weekday.

Amboy is not slinging Filipino barbecue every day, but Cailin has a concept restaurant a few doors down called Unit 120, which last hosted a burger concept and art show pop-up, Bob's Burgers. A modern Filipino restaurant LASA has just taken over the space in between, currently only open on weekends. But if these don't take your fancy, there are more options upstairs – including Ramen Champ and Lao Tao's Taiwanese street food.

Keep your eye on social media as new and exciting places are opening up in this plaza constantly. la.eater.com is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse.

Far East Plaza, 727 N Broadway, Chinatown, Los Angeles

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Grand Central Markets, Downtown LA

Back in 1984 a Los Angeles developer had a vision for the dilapidated space the markets occupied. Everyone else thought he was mad, but today, the Grand Central Markets continue to be one of the most exciting places to eat in Los Angeles, and what's more, at a budget price. Open from 8am until 10pm and offering nightly entertainment throughout the summer, Grand Central is becoming a major destination for travellers to Los Angeles.

Eggslut continues to attract massive lines fors its breakfast burgers, and deservedly so. But don't make the mistake of stopping solely at the store that fronts the market as there are plenty of exciting options lurking behind.

The markets may have opened with people cradling Starbucks cups to accompany their breakfasts, but G&B coffee to the rear of the market have come to the rescue with specialist brews made by a barista who just lost the world championships – to an Australian.

New to the market in 2016, Knead Pasta are the latest in a line of well-established and innovative chefs from the area that continue to fill this market to its now-near capacity. Knead's Chef Bruce Kalman and his partner Marie Petulla behind the white tablecloth Italian restaurant of Union in Pasadena wanted to bring people good quality pasta dishes at more affordable prices.

Elsewhere, felafel joint Madcapra just celebrated its first birthday. Two former sous chefs from renown New York restaurant Glasserie were poached by the market's owner, Adele Yellin, who's blessed with a canny sense of what will work in the market's precious space. LA Mag's food critic has since proclaimed it to be the best felafel in town. Their superb crispy bites of felafel are served in an old fashioned pita roll or in a bowl with red, yellow, green or orange salads – and the accompanying creamy tzatziki is heavenly.

There are plenty of traditional Mexican options inside, but La Tostaderia churns out some of the best fish tacos I've ever tasted, with some pretty stiff competition in Los Angeles.

Grand Central Markets, 317 S. Broadway, LA; grandcentralmarket.com

The Original Farmer's Markets

Alongside The Grove shopping complex, the Original Farmer's Markets has a more traditional approach to food, with some of its vendors in place since stallholder Magee's opened to sell carvery sandwiches to workers at the Dairy Farm which was originally on the site back in 1934. If you're wondering why, then, there's a replica gas station – this pays homage to the oil that was eventually found here.

Intriguing stories are buried here: dig a little deeper and you'll find original New York pizza introduced by Patsy D'Amore to LA who had connections with the Rat Pack. The classic American diner, Dupar's, which opened in 1937, has pancakes so famous they have to keep the recipe locked in a safe. Over at popular Brazillian barbecue Pampas Grill, you'd better load up your plate as you'll be charged by weight. Prepare to wait, but not for long; this is an LA institution where people queue all day long.

This is also the home of the original Waffleshot – or coffee in a cone – from Zia Valentina Espresso Bar & Conery that took the foodie world by storm a few years ago. Choose from a mind-boggling array of chocolate-lined waffle cones and fill it with anything ranging from a coffee granita to an espresso for an instant pick-me-up.

Redbird chef Neal Fraser's attempt at hot dogs may have not been the success he had hoped, so he's ditched his market hot dog stand to jump on board the fried chicken train with Fritzi Coop. Putting their own spin onto the world's greatest new obsession with "naked fried chicken", which is "made without batter while keeping all the crispiness and flavour".

West Hollywood

There are many, many great places to eat in West Hollywood, but slick Connie & Ted's is a knockout. A wave-shaped building on Santa Monica Boulevard that's filled with natural light, its welcoming wooden bar dotted with orange stools makes you feel like you're on some kind of fancy yacht. Its speciality is classic New England seafood dishes which you can sample from their happy hour menu at rock bottom prices, such as the three varieties of chowder: New England, light and creamy, with a hint of cheese; Manhattan, which has a rich spicy tomato broth and Rhode Island with a clear, salty pork flavour.

Their "stuffies" are famous for a reason – smoky sausage, chopped clams, garlic and peppers baked in an oyster shell and topped with breadcrumbs are to die for, as is their lobster rolls, served hot with drawn butter, meaty and sweet with a peppery twang. Their cocktails are also sublime. Happy hour is from Monday to Friday, 4-7pm and features specials off the menu and selected half-price drinks.

Thai Town, Hollywood

In Thai Town, you won't find better Thai food outside of Thailand. Jitlada gets the LA's most respected critic Jonathan Gold's seal of approval, and Matt Groening's cartoons on serviettes framed on their cluttered walls, as this is a notable celebrity favourite, the cuttings of five-star reviews sprawling underneath the glass-topped tables distinguishing it from your regular local Thai restaurant.

Distinctly old-school Thai, Jitlada is located in a small shopping plaza on Sunset Boulevard and is an essential LA experience. Christmas lights adorn the walls which are crowded with ornaments and reviews and shrines to Buddha. You're handed an extensive, plastic-covered menu which includes an entire section dedicated to fiery dishes from Thailand's north, but one of the most celebrated dishes is the morning glory salad: green leaves coated in curry batter with a tangy sauce, red cabbage, onion and prawns.

But Jitlada isn't the only hotshot in town. Well-known Thai eateries are dotted along Hollywood Boulevard and are generally open until late – some as late as 3am, and are favourites of chefs looking for an after hours chow-down. Two of the hottest names are Ruen Pair and Sanamluang. Practically across the road from each other, they specialise in noodle soups and home cooked, old school Thai, like the delicious chicken satay with peanut sauce. But my go-to place for a late night Singha and curry is Palms Thai, a massive, popular restaurant just past the 101 which has a huge range of Thai dishes and is reliably open til 2am. I've never dined there before midnight so am yet to see the elusive singing Elvis, but I can vouch for the food, like the hard-to-find Yum Pla Tod, minced fish deep fried until it's a light and fluffy sponge, served with tangy green mango salad.

Silver Lake

Over at Night & Market Song in the ultra-hip suburb of Silver Lake, a 10-minute Uber from Hollywood, is the second restaurant from celebrated chef Kris Yenbamroong, with a third due to open in Venice – the first over on Sunset in West Hollywood. His food is a modern take on traditional Thai in a playful atmosphere. Song is a tangerine dream, with basic orange chairs, plastic orange tablecloths and orange tikis dangling over the bar, with '80s model Cindy Crawford featuring on one of the walls. They don't take bookings so expect to wait in the largish waiting room, Beer Lao in hand. Trust me, it's worth it.

For brunch, you'll have to queue for one of the hottest place in Los Angeles for breakfast. Sqirl, on the edge of Silver Lake. It sports a massive range of caffeinated beverages – such as the "lait 'n' egg" – Vietnamese style iced cortado shaken with egg whites – to almond milk lattes. The small, bustling cafe is famed for its zesty rice bowls, with sorrel pesto, french sheep feta, and gooey poached egg – throw in some crispy, salty bacon and avocado and you've got the ultimate comfort food.

However, if it's only one brunch stop you make, make it at Trois Familia. A joint collaboration with chef Ludo Lefebre from Trois Mec (where it's predictably hard to get a booking) and Jon and Vinny from Animal, the bright white, fun cafe serves French-Mex food on communal tables with campside crockery. Roasted carrot, mole, creme fraiche and cilantro wrapped in a light tortilla is sensational, as is the accompanying iced horchata. Best still, mid-morning during the week, there is unexpectedly no queue.

Downtown LA

Try booking Bestia online and you'll come to a dead end, because it makes some of the best Italian food in Los Angeles.

Located somewhere you'll have to rely on an Uber driver to find, Bestia occupies a huge, L-shaped space that's part-industrial, part-rustic, a homage to its cuisine and location. You can sit outside on its huge patio or inside on shared tables, and singles can sit at the bar or the "chef's table" and watch Bestia's famous pizzas being created, from the orders being shouted down the line, to the big, round fluffy loaves of dough carefully kneaded into shape, doused with toppings and loaded into the pizza oven, which reaches temperatures of 850 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking the pizza in a minute and a half.

If you're just a visitor to LA and haven't had a chance to book, Bestia takes walks-ins and you can try your luck around 9.30pm. Chances are good if you're there during the week.

Redbird

Stepping inside Redbird, it's pretty obvious the building had some sort of religious significance. It's actually a former rectory adjacent Los Angeles' Vibiana cathedral, itself now a wedding and events venue. The space between the two buildings has been turned into a light-filled patio area that's inviting for brunch, while on the other side of its central bar, patrons can move from dining table to couch for the restaurant's famed cocktails in the evening. Chef Neal Fraser dolls out modern American with a Mexican flair with dishes such as sweet creamy grits with a piquant mole sauce over tasty, flame-grilled prawns. The much-lauded dish that was elevated from entree to main is, surprisingly, a vegetarian barbecue smoked tofu, sliced like brisket, and served with nutty beluga lentils in a red wine truffle nage. Don't miss the surprisingly smoky and salty chocolate caramel bar for dessert.

114 East Second Street, Downtown Los Angeles; redbird.la

In Venice and Santa Monica, don't miss:

Sweetfin

One food trend that's completely justifiable is the Hawaiian poke craze – freshly diced raw fish served with Japanese flavours on a bed of rice. Some call it "sushi in a bowl", but it's much better than that. You can find it throughout LA but Sweetfin does it best. sweetfinpoke.com

Gjusta & Gjelina

Gjelina owner Fran Camaj and chef-owner Travis Lett opened bakery and deli Gjusta to rave reviews a few years ago. Expect to be overwhelmed on entering: its large industrial space is filled with customers day in and day out. Counters filled with mind-boggling array of choices but you'll have time to make your decision after you take a number. Its sandwiches, salads and pastries which you can devour at the far end of the counter, outside in the sunny rear courtyard or take away are legendary. It's open until 9pm every night. Older sister Gjelina is a much-lauded Venice institution in a more formal surrounds, serving Mediterranean-inspired Californian cuisine. gjusta.com; gjelina.com

What's new

Kismet

Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson from Madcapra in Grand Central have just opened a restaurant with culinary team Jon & Vinny. Kismet's menu consists of vegetable-heavy Middle Eastern fare with an Israeli influence. It features an all-day menu with pastries from Sqirl Chef Meadow Ramsey.

4648 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA; kismetla.com

Smorgasburd LA

This hugely successful New York enterprise established itself in Downtown Los Angeles in mid-2016. Every Sunday an impressive list of food vendors set up stall along with design, art and craft, vintage, wellness and more. The vendors change every year and there's plenty of parking. There's a lot of hype and expectation going into the selected food vendors, often new players in the market, earning New York's version the nickname "The Woodstock of Eating" by The New York Times. Every Sunday, 10am-4pm, la.smorgasburg.com

Prince's Fried Chicken

What is often touted as the best fried chicken in all of the USA, Prince's Fried Chicken has popped up down the street from Far East Plaza. They've renamed it Hotville Chicken, which ought to give the increasing queues at Howlin' Rays a bit of respite while fans rush to get a taste of Nashville's most prized cayenne-spiked chook. The Chinatown restaurant at 643 N.Spring Street is only a pop-up while they scout for new territory and staff, but will include regular side dishes such as the jalapeno mac'n'cheese. Facebook.com/hotvillechicken

Short on time? Five essential places to eat in Los Angeles

1. Bestia

2. Trois Mec

3. Jitlada

4. Connie & Ted's

5. Eggslut

Stopping overnight in Los Angeles? Head to:

1. Gjusta, Venice

2. Eggslut's Venice branch

3. Sweetfin, Santa Monica

4. Cassia, Santa Monica

5. Gjelina

Best budget meals in LA:

1. Grand Central Market

2. Original Farmer's Market

3. Smorgasburd

4. Tacos, practically everywhere

5. Far East Plaza

Five meals worth splurging on (you may need to plan ahead and book)

1. Bestia

2. Trois Mec

3. Redbird

4. Mozza Pizzeria

5. Providence

Five of LA's best pizzas

1. Pizzeria Mozza

2. Jon & Vinny's

3. Sotto

4. Bestia

5. 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria

For further information and the latest news on food in LA, visit

Eater magazine: la.eater.com

LA Weekly: laweekly.com

Los Angeles Times' food critic Jonathan Gold's list of 101 best LA restaurants comes out once a year and is well worth the 99¢ to access: latimes.com

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