Gay Los Angeles: LA's Multicultural Cuisines

La Parrilla | Photo courtesy of Frontiers

Los Angeles provides a virtual smorgasbord of restaurant options. Within the span of a block, you can experience authentic food from all over the globe that will tantalize your tastebuds. Here is a sampling of some of LA’s best restaurants offering multicultural cuisine.

East LA: Manuel’s Original El Tepeyac Café

Hollenbeck de machaca at El Tepeyac | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

This small Mexican food stand has been cooking up burritos that are bigger than your head since 1955. That is no exaggeration. Go to El Tepeyac, order one burrito and you will have food for the rest of the week (and a half). They’re big. So big that Man vs. Food conducted one of its gut-busting food challenges here. But enough about size. What’s important is that the entire menu is made up of authentic, absolutely delicious, cheese-exploding gifts from God. And because of this, you may find yourself standing in line for a while to take your turn. Late owner Manuel Rojas was known to walk the line and hand out shots of tequila while you waited! 812 N. Evergreen Ave.

East LA: La Parrilla

La Parrilla | Photo courtesy of Frontiers

The menu at La Parrilla is short and to the point, but it hits all the important plates—enchiladas, tacos, taquitos, flautas, chimichangas, chiles rellenos and more. This popular East LA dining spot has been cooking up truly authentic homemade Mexican food since 1978 (there’s a second location in Downtown on Wilshire). All fiesta dishes are served with vegetable soup, rice and beans. We highly recommend starting the meal off with the queso fundido and/or an order of freshly-made guacamole. Bring cash to tip the mariachi trio that travels from table to table and serenades guests with traditional tunes. 2126 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. 

Chinatown: Plum Tree Inn

There are so many amazing restaurants in Chinatown, but Plum Tree Inn really stands out from the crowd. The décor is spot-on and the service is always on point. Definitely drop by for their great lunch specials, available Monday through Friday. Must-try dishes include the sweet and pungent chicken, pork dumplings, barbecue ribs, Kung Pao chicken, mu shu pork and chow mein—and we’re talking generous portions here. And for $7, you can turn any menu item into a combination with soup, an appetizer and rice. 913 N. Broadway 

Little Ethiopia: Rahel Ethiopian Cuisine

Lunch buffet at Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine | Photo by Zach Brooks

The stretch of Fairfax just south of Olympic consists of half a block of highly concentrated Ethiopian restaurants and businesses. Rahel stands out as the only one that offers strictly vegan fare. As a matter of fact, Rahel claims to be the only 100 percent vegan Ethiopian restaurant in the world. If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, we recommend the all-you-can-eat lunch special for $10.99, which is available seven days a week from 1 to 3 p.m. You really get to sample the different dishes, including brown rice, two types of cabbage, buckwheat, chickpea stew, string beans, kale, split pea stew, split lentil stew and two types of injera, a spongy type of bread that is an Ethiopian staple food. 1047 S. Fairfax Ave.

Little Ethiopia: Merkato

Located catty-corner from Rahel is Merkato, an Ethiopian restaurant and market. The space is split in two, with a colorfully decorated café on the right and a shop on the left that sells everything from tea to CDs and incense. You can order an individual plate or go the traditional Ethiopian route and eat family-style (and we’re not talking Buca di Beppo-type family style). Everyone is served injera, and various dishes are placed around the table. You then rip off a piece of injera and use it to scoop up bits of those dishes. No utensils. You better like the people you’re dining with, 'cause you’ll get to know their eating habits real fast. 1036 1/2 S. Fairfax Ave.

Fairfax District: Canter's Deli

Photo by Zabilskiphotography.com, courtesy of Canter's Deli, Facebook

You can’t mention the words "Jewish deli" in LA and not follow them almost immediately with Canter’s Deli. In the time since this landmark opened its doors in 1931, it has served up more than two million pounds of lox, nine million pounds of corned beef, 10 million matzo balls, 20 million bagels and 24 million bowls of chicken soup. In other words, they’ve got this deli food thing down. True to form, Canter’s has an endless menu, so you could possibly come here every day for the rest of your life and not have the same thing. You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner 24 hours a day, and if you’re looking for something a little stronger than gefilte fish, the Kibitz Room (a fully stocked cocktail lounge that adjoins the deli) is open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:40 a.m. 419 N. Fairfax Ave.

Fairfax District: Schwartz Bakery & Circa-NY Café

Schwartz Bakery started out in 1954 as the place for all your bread, pastry, cake, danish and cookie needs. It has since evolved into a one-stop-shop eatery, and proudly holds the title of the oldest kosher bakery in LA. After partnering with Circa-NY Café in 2006, the bakery is now equipped with a full-service café. In addition to its mouth-watering baked goods, you can satiate pretty much any food craving—breakfast, salad, fish, sandwiches, wraps (hot and cold), paninis, smoothies, pizza, calzones, nachos, quesadillas—and even sushi! The food is great and the prices are more than reasonable. 433 N. Fairfax Ave. 

Koreatown: Ham Ji Park

Ham Ji Park is a really fun spot to hit with a group of friends, but if you go during peak hours, be prepared to wait a bit. Ham Ji Park is known for two dishes in particular—pork spare ribs and gamjatang, both $17. The latter is a pork neck stew with potatoes that is served in a huge pot - the meat is so tender, it falls right off the bone. If you eat here and don't order both of these signature dishes, you’re missing out. But really, you can’t go wrong no matter what you decide to order. Also noteworthy are the kimchi bibimbap and the squid with noodles. There’s $2 valet parking in the garage behind the building. 3407 West 6th St.

Koreatown: Honey Pig

As you might gather, pork is on the menu at the Honey Pig—the house specialty is pork belly. This is Korean barbecue at its finest. For anyone who hasn’t tried this hands-on culinary experience, you cook your own meat on a grill located in the center of the table. While many Korean barbecue establishments are all-you-can-eat, the Honey Pig is not, so be prepared to spend a little extra (a plate of meat runs around $18-$20). In addition to the pork belly, try the brisket, kimchi and hot noodle soup. They offer $2 valet parking. 3400 West 8th St.