L.A.’s Most Classic Restaurants
When it comes to Jewish delis in the United States, there are two kinds of people—those lucky enough to know Langer's, and everyone else. Nora Ephron once wrote a New Yorker essay that called their hot pastrami sandwich the finest in the world; most who've tried it would probably agree. Standing sentry at the chaotic corner of 7th and Alvarado, even as the neighborhood (one of the most densely-populated in LA) and world changed so dramatically around it, this 1940s-era coffee shop is known for its #19 sandwich—pastrami, Swiss and coleslaw on L.A.'s finest, fresh-sliced rye bread. Come before noon to avoid the inevitable lunch rush. 704 S. Alvarado Ave., langersdeli.com
Musso & Frank Grill
Opened in 1919 in then-suburban Hollywood and weathering the district's darkest days without missing a beat, this softly-lit hideout on Hollywood Boulevard is a living monument to a very different time in American dining, back when waiters wore red jackets and everyone drank martinis like they were water. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Greta Garbo, there's hardly a writer or star from the old days that isn't said to have considered Musso's an extension of their own living space, at one time or another—true or no, the restaurant certainly does retain a warm, pleasantly haunted quality. Best of all, the food can still be really good—you'll never go wrong with a juicy steak, a wedge salad and a side of potatoes (Lyonnaise-style would be best, yes there are options). Wash it all down with as many ice-cold cocktails as you can handle. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., mussoandfrank.com
Expats from back east are often surprised by the depth and breadth of Southern California's own classic Italian deli and restaurant scene—it almost feels as if every old-school Los Angeles neighborhood and suburb has its own, decades-old institution for either pizza, pasta, meatballs, subs, sausage or all of the above. This modest, unchanged institution on Colorado Boulevard in newly-hip Eagle Rock draws adoring fans from all over for the pizzas with house made sausage, a strong callback to Chicago's locally-loved thin crust style. (The founding family, which opened Casa Bianca in 1955 and operates it to this day, hail from the Windy City.) Generous dinner combos include ice cream at the end, but make sure one of those sausage pies makes it to your table at some point. 1650 Colorado Blvd., casabiancapizza.com.
You can't throw a tortilla in most Southland communities without hitting a treasured, classic Mexican restaurant—from O.G. coffee shops like Manuel's El Tepayec in Boyle Heights to Epcot World Showcase-worthy staples like WeHo's Gardens of Taxco, Beverly Boulevard's El Coyote or Silver Lake's pretty-in-pink Casita del Campo, wherever you are, a messy plate of cheese enchiladas never seems far away. No place, however, quite brings the history as effectively as this humble counter joint at the heart of old downtown. Part of a sprawling historic park including the original mission site (1700s), the oldest residence in town (a Spanish-style hacienda, obvs), a host of cultural attractions and a lot of stalls selling Mexican wrestling masks, Cielito Lindo began life back in the 1930s, specializing then, as it does today, in fried beef taquitos, served swimming in cool, green, avocado-inflected salsa. 23 Olvera St. cielitolindo.org
The Original Pantry
The only thing Los Angeles seems to love more than being up with the sun is the breakfast that soon follows. From post-yoga acai bowls to hangover-killing coffee shop combos, no matter what you woke up like, there will always been someone to feed you, and well. Even if you woke up at, say, 9 o'clock at night, or any other time, really, you'll find stacks of giant, fluffy pancakes, piles of fried potatoes and mugs of strong coffee at this 24/7 institution on Downtown's quickly-changing Figueroa Street, home to some of the most ambitious developments currently transforming the heart of the city. Inside, sitting at the counter and watching the hash slingers work their magic, it's not hard to travel in time to the 1920s, back when the place first opened. 877 S. Figueroa St., pantrycafe.com.
Phillippe The Original
Roughly a century old and co-laying claim to the invention of the French dip sandwich (this one's the best), this spare cafeteria on Alameda Street serves as the de facto canteen for scads of downtown workers, blue collar and sharply-suited alike. (If you're one of those visitors who think Los Angeles lacks history or gravitas, make this your first stop. You can apologize after.) Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just roast beef that can be dipped—here, they do it all, from pastrami to lamb, served up on a crusty French roll. Well, crusty until you tell them to do it wet, which you should—that's nearly triple the usual dose of jus. 1001 N. Alameda St., phillipes.com
There are plenty of places in LA that barely feel like themselves anymore, what with all the changes the city has seen of late. Burbank, that famous company town just behind the Hollywood Hills is not one of them. This classic studio favorite (Warner Bros. is just across the street) with its preponderance of neon signage, those lipstick red banquettes and a crew of lovably crusty waiters that'll fill you up on cheese bread before your prime rib sandwich arrives is just one spot helping this corner of the San Fernando Valley retain an almost cozy, old school energy. 4420 Lakeside Dr., Burbank, smokehouse1946.com
Pacific Dining Car
Feeling the need for a nice piece of fish, paired with a dry white wine, right around midnight? Los Angeles surely isn't Las Vegas, but locals have been able to satisfy cravings for the odd late night (or early morning) dinner at this 24-hour restaurant, set behind a white picket fence in the decidedly-non-white-picket-fence-y Westlake neighborhood, since 1921. Holding on through the area's occasional highs and abundant lows may have paid off—the restaurant, a marvelous, white tablecloth affair centered around a vintage railroad car, should have no trouble attracting generations of new fans, as long as it can survive the tidal wave of redevelopment sweeping through this downtown-adjacent neighborhood. 1310 W. 6th St., pacificdiningcar.com
Do you find yourself in search of a restaurant that features, in no particular order, cheap cocktail specials, Jell-O, carved ham dinners, world-class taxidermy, a life-sized, faux-redwood tree and the world's longest-burning neon sign? You have come to the right city. This recently-reborn, multi-level cafeteria—the lone location of a mini-chain that SoCal old-timers always claim to have grown up with, even if they didn't—is one of many lures into a quickly-revitalizing downtown that aren't just a great link to the past—they're also just plain fun. Whether you go for the full dinner or just stop in for coffee and a slice of pie, the food is just fine, but even better is the scene—the place always seems to be packed with people who can't get enough of the vibe, the one-of-a-kind décor and the fact that something so old seems to fit in so perfectly with the new Los Angeles. 648 S. Broadway, cliftonsla.com
It's impossible to talk about this Vermont Avenue restaurant—an establishment that feels more like a Wisconsin supper club than something you'd find at the heart of the happening Los Feliz neighborhood—without mentioning, right at the top, the almost-nightly house entertainment. Marty and Elayne Roberts, now regularly on stage here for over 35 years, have been immortalized in film, on television, in a Target commercial—there's even a documentary in the works. (That's Los Angeles for you.) Fortunately for fans, fame hasn't dampened their love of singing the old standards to an eager, multigenerational crowd of followers that laps it right up, along with classic cocktails and piles of prime rib. 1760 N. Vermont Ave. thedresden.com.