A Day of Dining Near Museum Row in Los Angeles

Hanger steak at Ray's and Stark Bar | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Whether your destination is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Craft and Folk Art Museum, or any of the other cultural institutions along Wilshire Boulevard’s famed Museum Row, there are plenty of dining options in the neighborhood. From buttermilk hotcakes for breakfast to a late night bowl of matzoh ball soup, here are the best restaurants you can enjoy throughout your day exploring Museum Row.

Buttermilk hotcakes at Du-par's | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Breakfast: Du-Par's



The breakfast menu at this classic coffee shop is offered 24-7, and includes thick-cut brioche French toast dusted with powdered sugar, and chicken fried steak for savory palates. The buttermilk hotcakes are legendary - Frisbee-sized and nearly one inch thick. The short stack has three hotcakes, and when the waiter asks if you want butter on top, the answer is, “Yes, please.” Served with a ramekin of warm maple syrup, the hotcakes are fluffy and just right on the sweet-o-meter. Du-par’s also bakes up excellent pies, including holiday favorites like pumpkin and Southern pecan.

Fried eggs with chickpeas at Cooks County | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Brunch: Cooks County



The soft scrambled eggs dotted with ham are delicious, especially with the accompanying warm cheddar biscuit sandwiching a thin disk of soft butter. And the BLT is the standard by which you judge all others. But the best thing on the brunch menu - the best egg dish in town, in fact - might be the fried eggs, slicked with harissa and topped with toothsome garbanzo beans, salty kalamata olives and fried parsley. A dollop of cool creamy yogurt is served alongside - who knew eggs and yogurt were such a happy pair? - along with a thick slice of grilled olive bread. The weekend-only brunch attracts a steady crowd, but reservations are accepted. The restaurant even welcomes well-behaved dogs on the sidewalk patio.

Half & Half (spaghetti and ravioli) at Andrés Italian Restaurant | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

LUNCH: ANDRE'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT



Heaping portions of pasta and 25-cent garlic bread have earned this 50-year-old Los Angeles institution a devoted and eclectic clientele. Located in the shopping center that also houses Whole Foods and K-Mart, Andrés Italian Restaurant is ultra-casual - customers queue up with trays and order cafeteria-style. Best bets include the ravioli with marinara sauce: big, square, cheese-filled ravioli that bear little resemblance to the delicate pasta served at more fashionable spots. Pair this with a simple chilled salad in a tasty, mayonnaise-based dressing, with a hint of garlic (bottles are available next to the register for purchase), and a piece of that aforementioned garlic bread. For anyone who grew up with this sort of Italian American food, a meal at Andrés is practically primal, and wholly satisfying. Cash only.

Picanha and more at Pampas Grill | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

LUNCH: PAMPAS GRILL



Standing in line with tourists is standard at this cafeteria-style Brazilian churrascaria in the Original Farmers Market. But the payoff is beautiful, flavorful, juicy beef and chicken, sliced before your eyes. The buffet also includes various salads and hot dishes like julienned collard greens strewn with fried garlic, and tender, ping pong ball-sized cheese bread. But the meat is the big lure. Don’t miss the tender, juicy, super-beefy picanha with its salty, caramelized crust. The spicy chicken thighs are also irresistible. Grab a can of ice cold Guarana, sort of a cross between 7-Up and Crème Soda, to counter that heat. You can gorge yourself for a fraction of what it costs at those shiny, banquet-type churrascarias.

Hibiscus Margarita at Mercado | Photo courtesy of Mercado

HAPPY HOUR: MERCADO



Big chunks of succulent carnitas (slow-cooked pork) nestled in warm, chewy house-made corn tortillas, topped with a dollop of chunky guacamole, are among the highlights of the happy hour at Mercado, the little sibling of the Santa Monica original. The extensive happy hour menu is offered at the bar and at the oversized high top tables, which are sometimes shared by strangers. Add in the brilliant hued, tart-sweet hibiscus Margaritas (also featured on the happy hour menu) and a lively soundtrack, and you can’t help but get into a party mood. Even if you don’t like flan, Mercado’s version is a must. The staff calls it “the best flan in the universe” - the sort of claim that begs for a rebuttal - but it’s absurdly good: creamy with a capital “C,” firm and not cloyingly sweet.

Smoked turkey leg at Animal | Photo courtesy of Animal

DINNER: ANIMAL



There are few spots in L.A. where a food-loving dude in a baseball cap can tuck into crispy julienned pig ear blanketed with a fried egg. But Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s rockin’ little dinner only restaurant, behind an all- black, signless façade a few doors north of Canter’s, is just that kind of place. Five years after opening, it’s still a coveted reservation - seven spots at the bar in the rear are set aside for walk-ins. Chicken liver pate is smooth and supple, painted on toasted garlic bread and finished with a fat ribbon of caramelized onions. The hamachi tostada packs a wallop of flavor with slivers of jalapeño, crunchy peanuts, Thai basil and fried onion. For heartier appetites, there’s a Flintstones-size smoked turkey leg. The menu changes often, so come with an open mind, not to mention an adventurous palate:. Bacon chocolate crunch bar anyone?

Hanger steak at Ray's and Stark Bar | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

DINNER: RAY'S AND STARK BAR



Details like silverware tucked away in hidden drawers under the tables - very James Bond - and a recently-debuted water menu, make meals at this modern glass box looker feel extra special. So does chef Kris Morningstar’s confident and thoughtful cooking. Morningstar changes the menu frequently. Cool weather offerings might include his haute version of a chile relleno: a poblano pepper, charred to black, stuffed with zippy housemade venison chorizo, and napped in a suave corn sauce. There’s also an expertly-cooked hanger steak served sliced over bacon-onion puree and paired with soft roasted apples. In keeping with the restaurant’s setting in the central courtyard of LACMA, everything is plated with an artist’s eye. But the eater’s eye wins out - Morningstar does beautiful food, but never too beautiful that you don’t want to dig in.

Carmela | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

DESSERT: CARMELA



There’s a reason the salted caramel flavor at this sweet ice creamery - little sibling to the Pasadena original - is the runaway favorite. Jessica Mortarotti and team make their own caramel for the recipe. The result is an intense, not too sweet, ultra-creamy, super-charged, salt-tinged caramel treat that’s crazy good. But so are the seasonal flavors like roasted sweet potato studded with homemade marshmallows. For the mint crowd, there’s the cool whoosh of fresh mint ice cream dressed up with tiny bits of crunchy cacao nibs. It’s worth upgrading to a waffle cup or cone. They’re crisp and buttery, the perfect foil to the star attraction. Other things to love about Carmela: the employees serve up samples with a smile, and you can get two flavors in one scoop. Now that’s some nice ice.

White chocolate raspberry at Milk Jar Cookies | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

DESSERT: MILK JAR COOKIES



The cookies at this charming bakery are so thick, it’s like they’re saying, “You got nothing on us, cupcakes.” Look for a dozen varieties each day, including several variations on chocolate chip: with nuts, no nuts, even gluten-free. But the unlikely star of the show is the white chocolate raspberry. It’s a big golden beauty with a fresh raspberry heart, a light crispy exterior and a soft chewy interior, with that perfect doughy goodness. And it’s not overloaded on the chippies. Mint fans will flip for the chocolate cookie packed with shards of Andes mints - those classic wafers with the green stripe. To go along, there is ice cold milk from local dairy Broguiere’s. And for something totally over the top, create your own ice cream sandwich.

LATE NIGHT: CANTER'S



Even if you’re never going to order a white fish plate with toasted onion bagel at 3 a.m., there is something comforting about knowing that you could. And 363 days a year, you can at this vintage deli. (The restaurant is closed on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.) Juicy, salty pastrami is piled high on soft rye bread with a crunchy crust. Softball-sized matzoh balls in steamy chicken broth are a meal on their own. And there is loads of good stuff from the bakery, such as rich cheese rugelach and massive poppy seed hamantashen. The servers are efficient pros - some of them have been here longer than the iconic autumn leaves ceiling. And the people watching, especially in the wee hours, is A-plus.