The Top 10 Restaurants Along the Metro Expo Line

Dungeness crab at The Albright | Photo by Joshua Lurie

The Metro Expo Line expanded from Culver City to Downtown Santa Monica in May 2016, opening up a new world of public transportation and dining possibilities. The light-rail now passes through a wealth of different cultures that capture L.A.’s brilliant diversity. From Downtown L.A. to the Santa Monica Pier, learn about 10 reliable dining options within a three-block walk of stations along the Expo Line.

Mandi and kabsa at Aldewaniah 100% Halal | Photo by Joshua Lurie

LATTC/Ortho Institute: Aldewaniah Restaurant

A mural of a hookah and woman wearing a purple veil greet your arrival at Aldewaniah Restaurant, which Jordan native Alex Alomari debuted in 2013. The name refers to traditional cushioned Arabic floor seating, which people lounged on during our visit, including many students. The menu features many items that should sound familiar to Middle Eastern food fans, including fattoush, baba ghanouj, and baklava. That said, you will find some unique items. Mandi and kabsa are seasoned rice dishes available with a choice of roasted chicken or rosy bone-in lamb, both served with spicy red sauce and herb-flecked yogurt. Mutabaq is another standout item, flaky fried flatbread filled with onion and ground lamb. You’ll also find an array of hearty stews and sweet Arabic tea flavored with cinnamon. The restaurant is cash only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Expo/Western: Tracey’s Belizean

Daisy Tracey founded Tracey’s Belizean restaurant in 1983 in South Los Angeles. Now her four sons help steer the business, and nephew Floyd Tracey handles front of house. Said house is compact, with just four aquamarine booths, black tables, and cream-colored walls lined with mirrors. Breakfast lasts from 9-11:30 a.m. and includes proteins like chicken wings, whole fried snapper, and standout hash fish. Minced snapper joins red pepper and onions, a heaping portion of refried beans, and three fry jacks, supple, savory beignets. Dinner entrees include oxtails and daily specials like Tuesday curry shrimp, Wednesday meatballs, and seasonal conch fritters. No matter what you order, pour on fiery Marie Sharp’s hot sauce bolstered with house salsa. Before paying, swing by a pastry case that touts options like cassava pudding, jam rolls, and caramel cake.

Trout at Mel's Fish Shack | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Farmdale: Mel’s Fish Shack

Mel’s Fish Shack is a longtime neighborhood favorite, a tiny aqua establishment sporting an eye-catching oceanic mural. Most seating at their counter faces a wall, meaning plenty of people just grab lunch (served with one side) or dinner (two sides) to go. Mel’s printed menu features a choice of seafood available as a plate or by the pound, either grilled or coated in cornmeal and fried. Options include trout, filet of sole, sand dabs, bony buffalo, salmon, whiting and gar. Mel’s sells sides like hush puppies and stewed red beans and rice seasoned with clove. Find crab seafood soup on Mondays, and bean pie for dessert.

Chilaquiles at CJ's Cafe | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Expo/La Brea: CJ’s Café

Jesse Cisneros and mother Jessica have led palates “from the South to South of the border” in Mid-City since 1988. For about 10 years, the family has also run a corner space in Baldwin Hills Center with art-lined, pale yellow walls, red cushioned chairs and booths, and a counter facing a juice bar. Their menu includes chicken wings with waffles, “soul food entrees” like oxtails and fried catfish with black-eyed peas, candied yams, and collard greens, and “platillos tipicos” like chile rellenos and flautas, plus burritos, patty melts, and a whole lot more. Chilaquiles are especially notable, with tortilla chips fried with “red sauce,” a tomato-based salsa crafted with onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. They’re topped with two eggs (any style), crema, diced white onions, and Monterey Jack cheese and served with red rice, refried pinto beans, and a choice of corn or flour tortillas.

Tacos at Loqui | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Culver City: Loqui

Loqui is a focused Mexican taqueria at The Platform, a sleek Abbot Kinney-like shopping mall and office building in Culver City. Strings of dried chilies hang on lines, and most people pile into a sunny back patio. Cameron Wallace and Ari Ampudia started as a pop-up behind San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery and now feature shredded beef, pork, chicken thigh, and white button mushrooms in bowls (molcajetes) or on flaky, house-made flour tortillas. Essential “sides” include chips and guacamole dusted with cotija and quesadillas with white Oaxacan cheese. Salsas involve roja (chile de arbol, guajillo, garlic, and more) and verde (chile de arbol, jalapeno, cilantro, and more).

Golden Goose Sandwich at Neli's Catering | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Expo/Bundy: Neli’s Catering

Neli Gutierrez founded her catering company in 1984, and daughter Sally is the current owner. Originally located on Barrington and National, Neli's Catering has been tucked away on a West L.A. alley for more than a decade, where they serve weekday breakfast and lunch. A green awning and two-table patio leads to a small dining room with grey walls. They rotate soups, specials, and quiche on a daily basis, and specialize in egg dishes, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Golden Goose combines juicy grilled turkey, bacon, avocado, Jack cheese, and tomato on buttery toasted sourdough. Philly cheese steak features griddled Angus sirloin, multi-colored bell peppers, caramelized onion, molten Jack on a French roll. A case of baked goods conveniently resides by the register, making it easy to grab an oversized cookie for the road.

Carne asada tacos at Tacos Por Favor | Photo by Joshua Lurie

17th St/SMC: Tacos Por Favor

Atilano Sanchez has grown Tacos Por Favor into a three-pronged Mexican food favorite on the Westside. Santa Monica is the beloved original outpost. A faded green and brick façade gives way to a sprawling dining room with canary yellow walls lined with decorative sombreros, baskets, and beer signs. Order at a green counter with a tempting case of pan dulce. Proteins like carne asada, chorizo, mahi-mahi and shrimp are available in soft corn tortillas or deep-fried, hard-shell tacos. Other popular vessels include quesadillas, nachos, and tortas. Regulars swear by their breakfast burritos, big league flour tortilla wraps filled with combos like scrambled egg, ham, hash browns, cheese, and salsa. Saturdays and Sundays bring birria and menudo, as if you need more choices.

Dungeness crab at The Albright | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Downtown Santa Monica: The Albright

Technically, The Albright is more than three blocks from the end of the Expo Line, but you might as well go the distance to reach the Santa Monica Pier. Yunnie Kim Morena, husband Greg, and 1977 Restaurant Group took over S.M. Pier Seafood (open since 1977) from immigrant parents after working in fashion, rebranding as The Albright, named for a sailor’s knot that connects generations. The space now sports Popeye imagery, referring to Captain Olaf Olsen, who helped develop the pier in 1929. Sit at wooden picnic tables or a patio with yellow umbrellas. Draw “from the tank” to fill seafood platters with sea creatures like green New Zealand mussels, briny Kumiai oysters from Baja, sea scallops, tiger shrimp, King crab legs and clams. In season, Dungeness crab from Vancouver comes with drawn butter, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Lobster rolls are also popular, with toasted split-top buns piled with meat, mayo and chives.