The Best Restaurants & Bars in Highland Park

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Good Girl Dinette spring rolls and a cortadito from Cognoscenti Coffee | Photo by Javier Cabral

The community of Highland Park in Northeast Los Angeles (aka NELA) is home to an ideal mix of both old-school Latin American resident traditions and the contemporary dining trends that cater to the area’s growing new wave of younger residents. This means that within a one-mile radius you can find boldly seasoned Yucatan-style Cochinita Pibil tacos and a perfectly frothy cappuccino made with hemp milk. Many of the new business owners opening up in Highland Park have strong ties to the community, so the sense of pride is particularly strong. Add to all of this, the attractive five-minute driving distances to Pasadena, Downtown, Silver Lake and Glendale; the tree-lined rolling hills; and the Metro Rail Gold Line stop located in the middle of town, and you can see why Highland Park is a serious contender for the best neighborhood in Los Angeles. Here are the top ten places to eat, drink and experience Highland Park's local flavor.

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Galco's Soda Pop Stop | Photo by Javier Cabral

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop



Though it's technically an eatery with a full list of sandwiches, the real reason to stop in here anytime you are even close to Highland Park is for their selection of soda pop and craft beer from around the world. You'll find everything from a Mr. Cucumber cucumber-flavored soda from Florida to a lightly carbonated Marionberry soda from Hot Lips Pizzeria in Portland, Oregon. The most popular sodas are available already refrigerated and ready to drink, but the majority are sold at room temperature to be enjoyed at home. If you still can’t find your dream soda, you can just make it yourself at their DIY soda-making bar.

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Good Girl Dinette spring rolls and a cortadito from Cognoscenti Coffee | Photo by Javier Cabral

Good Girl Dinette



This is a farm-to-noodle bowl Vietnamese restaurant, so the slices of pork swimming in your chilled noodle bowl will be sourced from Niman Ranch. Or, you can opt for a vegan version of that bowl and get tender yellow beets from another local farmer instead. Their Banh Mis are seasonal as well - the restaurant recently offered one that was filled with juicy, ripe heirloom vintage wine tomatoes. Breakfast is served every day, too. The fact that the cult-favorite Cognoscenti coffee is no longer a pop-up, but is now pulling espresso shots there permanently, makes Good Girl Dinette almost unstoppable, especially when you can have one of the best cappuccinos in Los Angeles with one of Good Girl’s legendary flakey strawberry hand pies.

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Happy Hour beers at The Greyhound | Photo by Javier Cabral

The Greyhound Bar & Grill



Until recently, it was York Boulevard that was home to the trendy coffee shops and plethora of craft beer bars in Highland Park. That is, until The Greyhound Bar & Grill opened on Figueroa earlier this year and brought their 20 craft beer taps along with them. It’s a splendid place to meet a friend from out of town for happy hour - they have a fully-loaded digestivo section with sweet, balanced and bitter sippers. The food isn’t too special, but drinking food basics like fries with cheese and bacon are there to soak up all of the alcohol.

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Jugo Verde at Jugos Azteca | Photo by Javier Cabral

Jugos Azteca



Jugos Azteca is the place for Mexican style cold-pressed juices on the cheap. Juicing has been an integral component part of Mexican cuisine for decades, and many more new locals are now discovering this and reaping the benefits. The owners are related to the owners of nearby Huarache Azteca, the local favorite for Mexico City-style griddled huaraches. This juice shop has more of a medicinal philosophy towards their juice blends, with a wall full of over a dozen varieties aimed towards helping everything from clearing your urinary tract (watermelon, grapes) to easing leg pain (grapefruit, celery, parsley, chayote). The specialty here is their Jugo Verde (“green juice”) in Spanish. It has orange, pineapple, celery, spinach and fresh nopales (cactus paddles). The nopales create a frothy, milky texture when juiced.

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Maximiliano | Photo by Javier Cabral

Maximiliano



Think of Maximiliano as your average neighborhood pizza place that happens to have a burrata pie on the menu. There’s also a seasonal pizza that’s rotated every month - a recent version was made with pea puree, fava beans, artichoke, asparagus and asiago. The menu has an emphasis on vegetable-based small plates, with items like roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, baked eggplant and rapini available as a small plate. It’s a nice place to bring the family, since there is something for everyone here. On weekend mornings, there is breakfast pizza and ricotta pancakes.

Monte 52



No other establishment captures Highland Park’s current food culture better than Monte 52. It's a simple sandwich shop located inside a corner store that specializes in Latin American produce and high-quality meats sourced from local small family farms. Most things on the menu – like the spicy merguez sausage available as a sub, or lentil-based veggie burger – are made in-house. Once you finish eating, you can peruse the butcher case and buy a coil of the same merguez sausage that you just ate, or a double-thick cut duroc pork chop that has been brined for hours and ready to be grilled up at home for dinner that same day. Decent craft beer and wine selection too.

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Scoops peanut butter and curry ice cream | Photo by Javier Cabral

Scoops - Highland Park



Scoops is a relaxed ice cream parlor with a few non-dairy options that changes their 17 flavors on a daily basis. These flavors can range from malt oreo to vanilla sour cream to yuzu mint and coconut jasmine. Aside from the appealing list of flavors, it is the light and creamy texture of the ice cream that keeps people coming back for more. It’s the type of ice cream that you can eat all day and not feel too sick about it afterwards. Bring cash, since it’s a cash-only business. But don't bring too much, since it's only $3 for two scoops.

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Handmade pasta at Sonny's Hideaway

Sonny's Hideaway



How did Jimmy Everett - a chef who has previously worked at Marea, Eleven Madison Park, and wd-50 - land in Highland Park? Through Sonny’s Hideaway, that’s how. Expect refreshing Mediterranean-Modern American dishes like falafel fries with lemon pepper aioli and grilled octopus with a creamy avocado puree and raw minced chilies. The cocktail program here is among the best in Highland Park, with drinks like the “Croatoan,” a smooth and aromatic mix of mezcal, Campari, yellow chartreuse, amaro and lime oil. Combine great food and great drinks with Sonny’s classy leather vintage booths and hanging globe lights, and you have the perfect spot for the next date night.

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The York | Photo by Javier Cabral

The York



No Highland Park restaurant or bar list would be complete without mentioning The York. Simply put, it was the pioneer that first opened up a hip bar with alternative food and craft beer on York Boulevard for everyone else to follow. And everybody seems to know that, as the place is always busy at almost every hour that it’s open. The ambiance is cool and very inviting. The York is the type of place where curious locals come in to try strawberry beer, and where craft beer enthusiasts from out of town come in for a pint of a local IPA. Food-wise, the menu is basic but absolutely solid with interesting dishes like fried chickpeas, sriracha wings and a truffled grilled cheese.