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Japantown/Downtown restaurant recs

I'm heading to LA for essentially the first time next week and am looking for great, interesting spots to eat. I'll be with a group from work, most of whom are pretty adventurous eaters, with one vegetarian. We're staying in Japantown, so most of our time will be there and in downtown. I'd say we'll want fresh and interesting rather than greasy dives (unless it's really special).

Sushi spots?

Other must eats?

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  1. I'll start...Have your wake-up "meeting" at Groundworks (2nd and Main) and taste coffee made from their special ($11,000) Clover machine. I would order their Panama special cup ($150/lb. but only $3.50/cup) or an espresso or both!
    There, you can sit around a table, sipping your second and third cup and plot the rest of your culinary day!

    1 Reply
    1. re: liu

      Yep, I also second GroundWorks for great coffee!


    2. Izayoi is a really fun spot for izakaya-style dining (small plates, pretty good sake menu) with lots of vegetarian options and some sushi too.

      If you're not going for a weekend dinner, Sushi Gen is worth considering -- a longtime favorite, but lines can be horrendous.

      I also used to be fond of Oomasa (but haven't been there in years, so can't really say if they're still up to par now.)

      If you're looking for non-Japanese grub, Pete's or Roy's are good options, and Ciudad's pretty fun for happy hours. For higher-end options, there's Noe at the Omni and, of course, the Water Grill.

      And the newly opened Edison bar is definitely worth checking out for the power-plant-style scenery, and maybe a drink or two.


      2 Replies
      1. re: AquaW

        Had a really good meal at Oomasa last week, it had been 3 years, still enjoyed.

        1. re: AquaW

          And, Aqua W, I second both Izayoi and Sushi Gen!

          I could walk Little Tokyo all day...and if you're up for the walk, you can visit the major downtown sites from the Disney Concert Hall (fun gift shop!) to the Cathedral and eventually back to Little Tokyo for a mid-day snack or three!

        2. Not sure what they have where you're coming from, but I'd also put in a rec for Chinatown. Dim sum or family style can be fun for lunch at a place like CBS or Empress Pavilion, there's Phillipe's, (supposed) home of the french dip sandwich, and a pretty good bbq spot called Spring Street Smoke House, among other things. Chinese food everywhere and plenty of interesting shops selling all sorts of merchandise.

          1. R23 for sushi/japanese www.r23.com

            Cafe Metropol for sandwiches and salads www.cafemetropol.com

            Traxx at Union Station www.traxxrestaurant.com.

            1. IMHO, these two places offer some of the best food in L.A. at the best prices. At the lunch rush hour you will see a large crowd but the line moves fast. Both places have many dishes $10 to $15. At Fisherman's Outlet you will have tha ambiance of being at the harbor. At lunch there are two lines. I like the line on the right that begins near the fresh fish display case. Grab a paper menu on te wall and read it fast because they may come to take your order as you stand in line. I have tried everything on the menu and never had a bad meal. I always have the shrimp cocktail (Best I have had). My fish selection is either Orange roughy or the White Sea Bass (Fresh). I also get the deep fried shrimp (a big pile of shrimp). After a short wait you get your food at the counter and find a table (no problem, you will find a table).

              Curry House will also have a line and it does move but is a little slower than the Outlet but this is an indoor sit down restaurant. The food is special because it has a modern twist to classic curry and ginger dishes. The menu goes beyond seafood and salads anf offers steak, chicken and vege dishes. You do not have to be a curry lover to enjoy this food. The burger is very good also.

              Fisherman's Outlet Restaurant and Market (Grilled of Deep fried seafood, Shrimp Cocktail, Large salads))
              529 S Central Ave (Cross Street: Fifth Street)
              Los Angeles, CA 90013-1714
              (213) 627-7231

              Curry House (Think of Shrimp, Steak, Chicken, Vegetable, Seafood, $10 to $15)
              123 S. Onizuka St., #204 (corner of Second St.)
              Los Angeles, CA 90012
              tel. (213) 620-0855

              5 Replies
              1. re: JeetJet

                I guess I should have mentioned we're coming from NYC...

                This is great feedback so far! Thank you all so much.

                By the way (forgive my ignorance) what does IMHO stand for?

                1. re: margieslocal

                  IMHO = In My Honest (sometimes "Humble") Opinion

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    My god, I NEVER would have gotten that! Thank you!

                    1. re: margieslocal

                      LOL. ipsedixit is the interpreter of acronyms and the LA food map. Once ipse used LMAOOTF when responding to a post about deep fried cheese curds and had me searching the net for the defination and a place that offers deep fried cheese curds.


                2. re: JeetJet

                  I have to 2nd the fisherman's outlet, FRESH fish and can't beat the price.
                  I would also add the Shabu Shabu house and for the "off the beaten trail" Tacos Mexico on the corner SW corner of 9th and Broadway. CRAZY CRAZY carne asada tacos for $1.00(Health code A) open 24 hours which also leads me to offer the broadway bar across the street.

                3. Hamakawa for sushi and cooked food is excellent - Central (near 2nd St). Yellowtail collar there is delicious.

                  Hana sushi on 2nd, near Central is also very high quality.

                  Daikokuya is a wonderful ramen house on 1st street (btw San Pedro and Central). Their website is www.daikoku-ten.com A bargain. Open late, but can run out of soup.

                  Ebisu is a good Japanese restaurant - somewhat izakayaish. Was there last night and had a good tuna (subbed for salmon) and salmon roe over rice, as well as mixed tempura and fried tofu - agedashi tofu.

                  A short distance away, I am a fan of Banquette Cafe for breakfast or lunch. It is on 5th and Main Sts. Good pressed sandwiches etc. Blood orange juice is a nice way to start the day too.

                  1. Angelique Cafe, if you don't mind coming down a few more blocks. It's a little French place at 9th and Main/Spring. I'm kind of embarrassed to say that the only thing I get from there is the roast chicken. I'd like to try their other items, but the chicken is so good!

                    1. There is a traditional japanese place-Kokekokko-that does grilled chicken in all its forms. I like the chicken livers, meatballs and okra. You can find it at:

                      360 E 2nd St
                      Los Angeles, CA 90012

                      Like othere, I also like Izyoi. There is a special cooked dishes menu that changes often based on what is fresh. Had eggplant with miso, baked mussels, vegetable tempura cooked after its ordered, fried sardines with lemon, and an order of good yellowtail sashimi.

                      1. Try Yokohama Kaigenro for great ramen noodles in the Mitsuwa Market Plaza(1st Floor)

                        1. Daikokuya for sure for some noodles. Beer gardens at The New Otani hotel might be fun. The tempura bar at The New Otani might be fun, but expensive. There's a new frozen yogurt place that opened up in the Little Tokyo plaza called "Fiore", I think? I hear their red bean on green tea is awesome, I personally haven't been down to try it yet. If you're interested in going down a little more, you'll hit Koreatown. And I'm sure the chowhounders will have some great recommendations for some places there.

                          1. Mendocino Farms (closes at 3PM)
                            (213) 620-1114
                            IMHO, the BEST sandwiches downtown.
                            300 South Grand Avenue (text to Tesoro/Spiral Court)
                            Head *south* thru the underground corridor to The Watercourt and eat your sammy there.