Where to Eat Near L.A.'s Top Basketball Courts

Where to Eat if Ball is Life

Chicharron at Broken Spanish in DTLA
Chicharron at Broken Spanish  |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

March Madness is no longer limited to March. The NCAA Final Four now bleeds into April. People play college, pro, and street ball year-round in Los Angeles, and not just indoors. Find out where to eat near key post-high school basketball destinations that span from Downtown L.A. and Westchester to Eagle Rock and Malibu.

Pork longganisa at RiceBar in DTLA
Pork longganisa at RiceBar  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Los Angeles Athletic Club: Ricebar

Los Angeles Athletic Club presents the annual John R. Wooden Award ceremony at The Novo by Microsoft (formerly Club Nokia), celebrating the most outstanding men’s and women’s college basketball players. Chef Charles Olalia and business partner Santos Uy are featuring Filipino comfort food in their nearby storefront, Ricebar. The small space features an L-shaped counter, reclaimed wood, and colorful mural of sun rising over rice fields. Heirloom Filipino rices from places like Ifugao, Mindoro, and Cotabato support proteins like pork longganisa, free-range chicken tinola simmered in a fragrant ginger broth, and Soy-Marinated Black Angus Bistek Tagalog. The tiny kitchen also produces pan de sal sliders with SPAM and fried egg, mushroom tamales, and ultra-savory Pancit Luglug.

Udon at Musashiya in Westwood
Udon at Musashiya  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Pauley Pavilion: Musashiya

In Westwood Village near UCLA, Japan-based company Justice Foods focuses on udon and honors legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi. The space features light wood, paper lanterns that resemble kites, and shelves of books and teapots. House-made udon noodles are available either cool or in hot water. Tsukemen-style is a particular strength, with miso broth enriched with sesame seeds, soy broth with simmered beef, and spicy soy milk broth loaded with crumbled pork. Udon also stars in noodle soups, including carbonara with bacon, cheese and a vivid farm egg. Noodle-free dishes include chicken karaage, an assortment of tempura items, and hug rolls filled with sometimes-zany ingredients like hot dogs. Sake is listed with a handy flavor chart.

NOTE: Musashiya is temporarily closed and scheduled to reopen Jan. 31, 2020.

Tacos at Taqueria Vista Hermosa
Tacos at Taqueria Vista Hermosa  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Galen Center: Mercado La Paloma

The Dove Marketplace, a 34,000 square foot building with Elizabeth Eve’s inviting mural, is a key project from the Esparanza Community Housing Corporation, and resides just across the 110 freeway from USC and Galen Center. The community minded organization leases first floor stalls to artisans and food vendors, some of which are very good. Chitzen Itza chef Gilberto Cetina showcases Yucatan cuisine, including cochinita pibil, papadzules and poc chuc. Raul Morales opened Taqueria Vista Hermosa in 2000, and this stall serves Michoacan style tacos like spit-roasted pastor, carne asada and citrus-marinated chicken. Oaxacalifornia, from Juan and Sofia Antonio, serves ice cream in tropical flavors like guanabana and mamey, plus aguas frescas in flavors such as cantaloupe and chilacayote with sweet squash strands, seeds and a lime sorbet cap.

Golden Fried Shrimp Po Boy at Orleans & York Deli
Golden Fried Shrimp Po Boy at Orleans & York Deli  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

The Forum: Orleans & York

The prior home to the L.A. Lakers now primarily hosts live music, but The Forum’s basketball legacy remains. New Orleans and New York meld seamlessly at Orleans & York in nearby Inglewood (and Baldwin Hills) thanks to a New York-born owner whose mom has New Orleans roots. Orleans Po-Boys or York Heroes are both in play. The Golden Fried Shrimp Po Boy features soft house-made bread that’s brushed with butter before and after baking. Sweet, plump, thin-sheathed shrimp join crisp iceberg lettuce, tomato, and mayo, taking your mouth directly to the French Quarter. Gumbo Mumbo is another hulking sandwich that incorporates a rice-free gumbo of griddled bell pepper, onion, shrimp, chicken breast, ground beef sirloin, and sliced hot links. If you’re looking to go even bigger, consider off menu Cajun Asian, a rice plate piled with lightly fried shrimp slathered in sweet sauce, plated with fresh-shucked avocado.

Alejo's Salad at Alejo's Presto Trattoria
Alejo's Salad at Alejo's Presto Trattoria  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Gersten Pavilion: Alejo’s Presto Trattoria

This casual Italian restaurant, located just up the hill from Loyola Marymount University, specializes in a deluxe chopped salad named for dearly departed founder Alejo Castro. He helped create the chopped salad for La Scala in Beverly Hills and eventually migrated west. Alejo’s Salad combines a fine chop of lettuce, chickpeas, mozzarella, salami, tomato, plus turkey, bacon and red cabbage, served in a tangy yellow dressing. Red sauce is also a staple on dishes like spaghetti with meatballs and chicken Parmigiana. No matter what you order, expect house-baked bread with pungent garlic-bombed olive oil.

Chicken + Ricotta + Bacon Burger at Malibu Farm Pier Cafe
Chicken + Ricotta + Bacon Burger at Malibu Farm Pier Cafe  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Firestone Fieldhouse: Malibu Farm Pier Cafe

Helene Henderson’s farm-driven café is not far from Pepperdine University’s basketball arena. Malibu Farm Pier Cafe resides at the end of Malibu Pier, past dozens of fidgety fishermen, and specializes in breakfast and lunch. The space sports white walls, rustic wood tables with lavender centerpieces, and tables shaded by tan umbrellas that provide views of surfers and paddle-boarders from cushion-backed banquettes. Chicken + Ricotta + Bacon Burger comes on a brioche bun with arugula, tomato, red onion, and spicy aioli. Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and ricotta, served with baby potatoes, are another popular option. In 2015, Henderson took over the restaurant at the start of the pier, serving lunch and dinner nightly. Dishes befitting the Malibu lifestyle include cauliflower crust “pizza” with mozzarella, tomato, and pesto; spaghetti squash lasagna with creamed spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella; and skirt steak with soy-ginger marinade. Produce comes from places like Larry Thorne Family Farm and 1 Gun Ranch.

French toast breakfast sandwich at Eagle Rock Brewery Public House
French toast breakfast sandwich at Eagle Rock Brewery Public House  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Rush Gymnasium: Eagle Rock Brewery Public House

The Occidental College Tigers basketball team plays their games at Rush Gymnasium, which honors track star Frank “Speedy” Rush. Nearby Colorado Boulevard features plenty of tempting food and drink options. Eagle Rock Brewery Public House is one of the best, from the family behind Eagle Rock Brewery, including Jeremy Raub, Ting Su, and chef/brother Jerry Su. The space is open for lunch, brunch and dinner, with roll-up garage doors, exposed wood rafters, brick walls, polished wood bar, strings of lights, and eight Eagle Rock taps. Brunch, lunch, or dinner is available every day but Tuesday. Jerry Su’s menu changes seasonally, but you can expect composed plates like citrus salad with avocado, arugula, and green goddess dressing; or pork tenderloin with shishito romesco, red wine reduction, and pluot. Go big with large plates that feed up to four, possibly half duck, or a buck of smoked and fried chicken. Brunch brings shrimp and grits and a gut-busting French toast breakfast sandwich with bacon patty, fried egg, and Tillamook cheddar.

Original Tuna Poke at Poke-Poke in Venice
Original Tuna Poke at Poke-Poke  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Venice Beach Basketball Courts: Poke-Poke

In White Men Can’t Jump, Wesley Snipes celebrates wins on this court at Sizzler, but if Poke-Poke was around in the ’90s, he no doubt would have gone here instead. This was the Westside’s first standout poke place. In 2010, Trish McVearry and husband Jason brought a taste of Hawaii to a beachfront window by Venice’s basketball courts and Muscle Beach. “Surfer’s sashimi” includes original recipe with ahi, shoyu, sesame oil, scallions, and white onions. Spicy tuna is also an option. The biggest consideration is whether you want “lil poke” or “big poke.” Poke-Poke also features Brazilian-born acai bowls featuring frozen, antioxidant-rich acai berry paste, organic hemp granola, coconut shavings, sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey for light sweetness.