Discover Downtown L.A. Dining Car Free

Grand Central Market in Downtown LA
Grand Central Market in Downtown LA  |  Photo:  Yuri Hasegawa

How global can a foodie get in an area essentially bound by the 10, 110 and 101 freeways? Completely global. With its massive influx of full-time residents in recent years, Downtown Los Angeles has sprouted dozens of restaurants offering an international range of cuisines, while maintaining culinary landmarks that harken back to its all-business days. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, your palate can taste the world at numerous options throughout Downtown L.A., often within a few blocks of a Metro Rail station.

Sausage, egg and cheese sandwich at EggSlut | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Breakfast: Eggslut - Grand Central Market

There’s no better way to combine old-school and new-school Downtown L.A. dining than starting the day at Eggslut, the former food truck that set up shop at Grand Central Market (GCM), whose diverse collection of food stalls have been serving hungry Angelenos since 1917. Eggslut’s specialties include the Fairfax sandwich (with chives, cheddar, caramelized onions and Sriracha mayo) and the Slut (a coddled egg on a bed of potato puree). Not a fan of eggs? GCM has a variety of vendors with offerings from breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Grand Central Market’s Hill Street entrance is about a block and a half north of the Pershing Square Metro Rail station.

Nickel Diner

Breakfast: Nickel Diner

The Nickel Diner isn’t just about the Maple Bacon Donut anymore, though that’s a good place to start. BBQ Pork Hash, Dutch Baby (baked pancake with caramelized apples), and Cinnamon Swirl Brioche French Toast also take center stage, complemented by the lively, funky vibe. Located on Main Street in the ever-changing Historic Core, the Nickel Diner can be reached from the Pershing Square Metro Rail Station by walking east on 5th Street, then a half-block south on Main.

Reuben Benedict | Photo courtesy of Nick's Café, Facebook

Breakfast: Nick's Café

The slogan on the restaurant’s website reads, “Serving the best Ham N Eggs since 1948,” and one visit to this institution will make its connection with the digital age downright incongruous. Located in a slice of Chinatown that abuts Los Angeles State Historic Park, Nick's Café (not to be confused with West L.A.’s Nick’s Coffee Shop) serves, among other things, a laundry list of Eggs Benedict dishes (the Poppa Benedict includes Jalapeno Bacon). Nick’s, which is worth the trip as much for its horseshoe-counter vibe as it is its cuisine, is located on North Spring Street a long block north of the Chinatown Metro Rail station.

Photo courtesy of Philippe the Original, Facebook

Lunch: Philippe The Original

Philippe the Original achieved its legendary status among L.A. food aficionados a long time ago. Philippe has long tussled with Cole’s for bragging rights for inventing the French Dip sandwich in 1908, though Philippe gets the karmic edge for being continuously open since it moved to its current location in 1951 and retaining its ancient, straw dust-floor-covered feel. Its tasty sandwiches, super cheap coffee (45 cents) and famous hot mustard keeps the restaurant’s counter lines full.

Primary image for Marugame Monzo

Lunch: Marugame Monzo

One of the newer among the batch of ramen houses in and around Little Tokyo, Marugame Monzo serves some of the best udon noodles, made fresh in front of guests. Marugame Monzo is located on East 1st Street, a block and a half west of the Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro Rail Station.

Olio GCM Pizzeria Margherita Pizza
Margherita pizzas at Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Lunch: Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria

Get your pizza fix at Olio GCM Wood Fired Pizzeria, located in the bustling Grand Central Market. Olive wood fuels a Stefano Ferrara oven that produces premium 10-inch pizzas like the Margherita Plus (tomato sauce, basil, burrata, basil-infused olive oil). Specialties include a Wild Mushroom & Crisp Prosciutto pie with roasted garlic and caramelized onion sauce.

Dinner: Orsa & Winston

Chef Josef Centeno, formerly at Opus and Lazy Ox, continues to expand his reach across downtown. The high-end Orsa & Winston showcases Centeno’s take on Spanish- and French- influenced eclectic cuisine via multi-course tasting menus. Bar Ama is next door to Orsa & Winston, featuring Centeno’s spin on Tex-Mex, including Puffy Tacos, Queso with Chorizo and an extensive tequila list. Nearby is Bäco Mercat, named for Centeno’s invention – the bäco is essentially a flatbread taco filled with pork belly, beef carnitas, shrimp and oxtail hash. Bar Ama and Orsa & Winston are located on 4th Street, about three blocks east of the Pershing Square Metro Rail station. Baco Mercat is another block east on Main Street, near 4th Street.