The Top 5 Dishes in Downtown LA

Discover 5 essential dishes in LA's city center


The Downtown LA dining scene has never been more vital, with dozens of great restaurants now dotting sub-neighborhoods like the Arts District, Bunker Hill, Fashion District, Old Bank District, and South Park. Discover my favorite dishes from five of Downtown’s best chefs in LA’s city center. Consider these plates gateways to great meals, since they’re on menus at consistently high-quality restaurants. Fan across DTLA for your next steps.

 

Beef Tongue Schnitzel Bäco at Bäco Mercat

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Bäco Mercat



Creating a new food is a bold move, but Josef Centeno has made the bäco stick, first in DTLA’s Old Bank District, and also in Culver City. Bäco Mercat supple flatbread sandwich has proven versatile, cradling a range of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Still, Centeno’s globally minded, genre-busting approach may best apply to vegetables. He’s a fiend for seasonality, and he’s constantly tweaking the menu to keep pace with ingredients that are at their peak. He’s also a sauce savant, and often incorporates punchy elements to really make produce sing. Depending on the day, caramelized cauliflower florets might come dressed with sumac, mint, pine nuts, tangy sumac lebni, and chilies. In the fall, Centeno incorporated garlic, pumpkin, and sesame. Really, you can’t lose.

Bone Marrow Gnochettini at Bestia

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Bestia



Bestia, the high-energy Italian restaurant with Mediterranean influences from chef Ori Menashe and wife/pastry chef Genevieve Gergis, often strays from tradition in the Arts District. The staff takes a hands-on approach to every step of food prep, butchering animals in-house, crafting dough for pasta and pizza, and preserving ingredients with charcuterie and pickling. One of their greatest hits involves roasted marrow bone featuring a caramelized crust, crispy breadcrumbs, and aged balsamic for tangy touch. Each bone’s served with spaetzle-like spinach gnochettini. Use a spoon to scrape rich marrow, mix with gnochettini, and integrate the beautifully balanced ingredients.

Chicharron at Broken Spanish

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Broken Spanish



Chicharrones (fried pork skins) are a staple of Mexican cooking, but you won’t find a version anywhere like the chicharron at Broken Spanish in South Park. Chef Ray Garcia creates his “chicharron” by seasoning rich, fat-streaked pork belly with salt, garlic, and chile de arbol, rolling porchetta-style, and cooking sous vide for 36 hours. Each order showcases a two-inch-thick steak that’s fried until crispy and plated in a savory, slightly tangy sauce crafted with pork jus, elephant garlic, lime and herbs. Garnishes include sliced garlic from the same cloves, crunchy radish sprouts, and more bright herbs.

Veal Fraser at Redbird

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Redbird



Chef Neal Fraser and wife/front-of-house partner Amy Knoll Fraser often achieve dramatic effect at Redbird, their modern American restaurant in the former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana rectory. That applies to the grand dining room with high ceilings that’s awash with history, and extends to several large-format, flavor-forward dishes. The menu changes some nightly, but Veal Fraser is a constant. This eponymous plate of meat would make any carnivore drool. A tender sliced 24-ounce veal chop is plated with 24-hour braised veal cheeks and Burgundy snails and served with the bone for added effect.

Nonna’s Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese at Rossoblu

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Rossoblu



Rossoblu is a highly personal restaurant in the Fashion District from chef Steve Samson and wife Dina that was inspired by Bologna, the hometown of his mother and Nonna. Nonna’s Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese is a comforting pasta dish from Emilia-Romagna’s capital, and Samson more than does this plate justice. He uses his grandmother’s recipe for Ragù Bolognese as a base and departs in some subtle, signature ways. He crafts the savory, well-balanced stew with beef, pork and "not too much" tomato sauce and adds some Samson-specific flourishes to create a ragù that beautifully coats delicate house-made tagliatelle, flat, whisper-thin noodles.

NOTE: after briefly closing due to a kitchen fire in September, Rossoblu is reopening on Wednesday, December 5.