My Go to Eats in L.A.

My Go to Eats in L.A.

As much as I love trying new restaurants, and as much as I hate getting stuck in a rut of any kind, there are some tried and true restaurants in Los Angeles that I can always count on to satisfy my cravings.  These are the restaurants I find myself returning to again and again for quick, affordable, and downright delicious eats.

WARNING: This post will make you drool, and that’s perfectly okay.


Lechon asado with lots of onions

When I Crave: Cuban

I Go To: El Rincon Criollo

And I Order: Lechon Asado or Arroz con Pollo (with yellow rice)

I’m going to start this roundup off with a restaurant that serves my absolute favorite cuisine – Cuban. There’s something so comforting about a plate of black beans, perfectly cooked rice, and some sweet and savory plantains. Add to that the lechon asado (roasted pork) or the arroz con pollo from El Rincon Criollo, and you have a winner.

For lack of a better description, El Rincon Criollo is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that packs a big punch. You can dine in while chair dancing to the salsa rhythms in between sips of one of their delicious blended juices, or you can carry out as Jave and I often do. Either way, prepare to fall in love with the food here.

4361 Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230
(l): Noodle Salad; (r) Chicken Biryani

When I Crave: Burmese/Indian

I Go To: Jasmine Market

And I Order: Chicken Biryani & Noodle Salad

A block or so down the street from El Rincon Criollo you’ll find Jasmine Market. Ok, so there’s actually another Indian restaurant that I prefer over this one (Akbar’s Cuisine of India), but when I need a quick, filling, cheap, and delicious Indian meal, Jasmine wins out. Plus, as opposed to Akbar’s which is purely Indian, Jasmine Market is a hodgepodge of Burmese and Indian cuisines (this is one of the things I love about L.A. – diverse food options).

If you’re a Muslim, you’ll be happy to know that Jasmine is a halal restaurant. And as its name implies, Jasmine is also a market where you can find a small selection of Southeast Asian products. But it seems that most people go to Jasmine Market for its restaurant, and you can dine inside of the market or sit out front at one of the picnic tables.

While the food at Jasmine Market is delicious, what I love most are the prices. Jave and I recently ordered carryout. I ordered the chicken biryani while Jave ordered curry chicken, and we split a noodle salad. There was so much food – easily enough to last us two days – and we only paid $20 for everything including some candied tamarind that Jave got!

4135 ½ Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230



When I Crave: Southern/Soul

I Go To: Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

And I Order: Fried (or baked) Chicken with Yams, Greens, & Black Eyed Peas

I miss my grandmother. Although she was from Arkansas, anytime I’d visit my dad’s childhood home which was in Florida, I’d always call and request some of her down home cookin’.  And she’d always do her best to make sure to fulfill my requests. She was the best Southern cook ever. Period.  She never used recipes; she just cooked from memory with her heart and soul.

It’s really, really hard to find good Southern cooking that matches hers. But Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen is the closest thing to my grandmother’s food. It’s that kind of soul food that puts you straight to sleep after you eat it. Here in L.A., I’ve seen and tried a fair share of “contemporary soul food” restaurants or healthy soul food restaurants. Here’s the thing: soul food is not meant to be contemporary or healthy – okay?  It’s supposed to taste and feel like your Southern grandmother’s food. After you eat a plate of good soul food, you should feel heavy and sleepy. That’s when you know it’s hit the spot.

Soul Food Kitchen consistently hits the spot whenever Jave and I need a dose of Southern comfort. Most people, my dad included, love this restaurant. When you go, you’ll usually find a line of people waiting to be served cafeteria-style. While most take their food home, there are tables so you can dine in.

You’ll be served A LOT of food – enough for two meals if you order from the lunch menu (about $9), and enough for three meals when you order from their dinner menu (about $13). So if you eat everything on your plate in one sitting, something’s seriously wrong with you.

202 E. Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90301




When I Crave: A Cheeseburger

I Go To: In-N-Out

And I Order: #2, no onions (with an unsweetened tea)

I have a confession to make. There have been times when I’ve driven past In-N-Out, and without even being hungry, I’ve made a U-turn after catching a whiff of their burgers on the grill. It’s shameful, I know.

In-N-Out is one of those quintessential California burger joints that you just have to try whenever you’re in town. It’s actually one of the few fast food restaurants I’ll eat at because the food is always fresh, the service is always extremely efficient, and their burger combos are extremely affordable.

When I was very young, before I moved to Panama and before I lived in L.A. proper, I used to live in Diamond Bar which is an inland suburb of L.A. At that time, there weren’t any In-N-Out locations that I knew of in L.A., so whenever we’d have long stints visiting my grandparents in the city, it was always a special treat to stop at In-N-Out once back in Diamond Bar. Sadly, there are now In-N-Out locations all over SoCal, Northern California, and even Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. I hope it stops there. I know it’s silly, but I wish that In-N-Out could’ve remained exclusive to L.A.; but the word is out, and other people want our burgers. Fine.

TIP: Unless you plan on eating in the restaurant or in your car, when ordering your food to go, I suggest requesting it in a box with a lid to seal in the heat and to keep your food neat and organized until you’re ready to eat it. Just my two cents!
Contact (closest to LAX)
9149 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

When I Crave: Soup

I Go To: The Soup Bar

And I Order: A “Better”-sized Turkey chili (topped with cheese) or Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’m a regular at The Soup Bar, and by regular, I mean that I eat here at least every other week. It’s my go to lunch spot. And while I usually try to take my lunch to work, I’ve been known to go to The Soup Bar even twice in one week. And I ALWAYS order turkey chili. I may ask to sample other soups, but when it comes down to it, I end up ordering the turkey chili, unless chicken tortilla soup is on the menu for the week. But the turkey chili is always on the menu and it’s hands down the most delicious chili I’ve ever tasted. It’s so well-seasoned, full of chunky stewed tomatoes and beans, and it’s perfect with a buttery slab of sourdough. It’s really the perfect lunch. And sometimes, if I’m really hungry, I’ll order a side Caesar salad to go with it. Mmmm…

310 E. Grand Ave.
El Segundo, CA 90245
UPDATE: The Soup Bar has recently closed for business and I’m seriously devastated. Devastated, I say!


When I Crave: A Salad

I Go To: California Fish Grill

And I Order: Blackened Salmon Salad

I love a good salad. Jave used to make some really good chicken salads for my lunch, and I really need to get him to rekindle that habit. In the meantime, I’ve discovered the blackened salmon salad from the California Fish Grill. The fish has such good flavor and it’s perfectly cooked. Served on a bed of mixed greens with candied walnuts, cranberries, crumbled blue cheese, and savory vinaigrette, and there you have it – a bite of heaven in your mouth. I think I could eat this salad everyday for the rest of my life and be happy. But it costs about $11 which makes it an occasional lunch treat.

TIPS: 1) If you’re going around lunchtime during a weekday and you don’t want to dine in, call in your order ahead of time for pickup as this restaurant stays busy at lunch! 2) Make sure you request sufficient cranberries and candied walnuts – sometimes the cooks can be a bit stingy!

730 Allied Way, Ste. H
El Segundo, CA 90245


When I Crave: Brazilian

I Go To: Pampas Grill

And I Order: A bit of everything

I have to credit my mom for introducing Jave and I to this restaurant that I’d been meaning to try for the longest time but never visited until she recommended that we treat her to a meal there for Mother’s Day.

This restaurant is in the style of a comida kilo – restaurants where the price is based on the weight of your plate. These types of restaurants are popular in Brazil. So choose what you load onto your plate wisely since it all adds up. I usually try a bit of everything from the salad bar which includes a variety of salads, fruit, feijoada (a traditional Brazilian beef stew), buttery bread balls, and various other dishes.

Once you make your way down the salad bar line, you’ll reach the churrasco part of the restaurant where you’ll find a variety of delicious grilled meats. My favorites: the Portuguese sausage and the garlic chicken. Oh, my God! The meats here really make the meal, so make sure that you leave enough room on your plate for the meats.

My strategy when filling my plate at this restaurant: get two sausages, two pieces of garlic chicken, and enough from the salad bar section so that I have enough food for two meals. The food here can get pricey (we usually spend about $20/person), so go easy. Oh, and be sure to order a Guaraná, a popular Brazilian soft drink that I fell in love with while in Brazil, to wash it all down.

3857 Overland Ave.
Culver City, CA 90232
(l): Morrocan Baked Eggs; (r): Duck Confit Potato Hash

When I Crave: Brunch

I Go To: Gjelina

And I Order: Moroccan Baked Eggs

So Gjelina recently made it onto my go to list for brunch spots (as recent as last week) as my friend and I ate brunch here the Sunday before last. And since then, I haven’t been able to get the Moroccan Baked Eggs out of my head. Look at them!

These slightly runny eggs are served with Merguez, fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and spiced yogurt. And of course there’s a piece of charred bread to sop it all up. My friend ordered the Duck Confit Potato Hash with runny duck eggs and grainy mustard. So good! Next time around, I’m ordering what she got although the Moroccan Baked Eggs are really, really good too. Each of our meals cost $15.

Gjelina is located on Abbot Kinney, a popular street in Venice, so on weekends, this place gets crazy busy (and parking can be difficult). Unless you don’t mind communal dining, expect to wait about 20 minutes or so for a table. But there are lots of cute boutiques nearby where you can window shop while you wait.

I’m so glad that we tried Gjelina because it’s one that I’ve definitely added to my go to rotation.

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291




When I Crave: Fro-yo (frozen yogurt)

I Go To: Pinkberry

And I Order: A medium-sized original flavored yogurt topped with mangoes, granola, & strawberries (and sometimes blackberries)

So Pinkberry isn’t exclusive to L.A. or California for that matter – they can be found across the nation and around the world. But still, Pinkberry is my go to place for a refreshing cup of frozen yogurt, so it had to go on this list. The thing I love about Pinkberry is that I never feel guilty eating it. It’s like Greek yogurt (sort of) that I always top with fruit. And anything topped with fruit is healthy – right?

Click here for locations.



It’s your turn – I’m looking for your tips: 1) Where do you live? 2) What’s your favorite go to restaurant? 3) What do you order there?                 

  • I am such a California girl at heart! I was last there in LA and although I have been there many times I blogged about all the new things I did in the city including trying new restaurants! But you are right-In and Out is a must! It is kinda special to have it to look forward to going there but I wouldn’t mind if it was on the East Coast! Lol. Will definitely keep this post as a reference. A lot of ethnic varieties!

    • Dana Carmel

      Whenever I’ve been away from L.A. for awhile, I always crave a cheeseburger from In-N-Out. The good thing is that there’s one right by the airport so it makes a quick stop there convenient. I don’t understand the people who don’t like In-N-Out! And L.A. definitely has lots of variety. I love that I can have Indonesian food today and Russian tomorrow. Gotta love L.A. for that!

  • I’ve never eaten at an In and Out Burger. But now I feel like it’s a must!

    • Dana Carmel

      Oh, it’s definitely a must when in L.A., Kae Lani! It’s a quintessentially Los Angeles experience. Hope that you make it to L.A. to try it for yourself!

  • You’ve made me so hungry right now. Great variety of food.

    • Dana Carmel

      Glad to whet your appetite!

  • Mouthwatering pics … damn, i’m drooling!

    • Dana Carmel

      Mission accomplished! ☺

  • You KNOW I love me a food post, Dana!! ha, ha! Oh lordy if/when I can make it down there to meet you and Jave in person I would love for you to take me to Pampas Grill and Gjelina. We just had a new girl start at work (I did her orientation) and she spent a year in Brazil on an exchange program. She’s a big time foodie so your post was very ironic with the timing. Loved this and now my mouth is of course watering at this late hour. She brought me some homemade lasagna to take home (made with white sauce) and I think I may just go warm that up now that you have my stomach literally growling! Please have a wonderful, safe weekend you two! 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Just say the word, and we’ll brunch at Gjelina and then go to dinner at Pampas! Done and done! Maybe your new coworker will bring you some delicious Brazilian food. ☺

  • I used to work in WeHo, right under the Trader Joe’s. When that girl and her hubby/bf opened the little Pinkberry store, she would come around with little samples of the yogurt just to get people to come in the store. We tried it and loved it, told our friends at the bank etc,..then she had those little punch 4, get the 5th free..months later, the place exploded, the lines were out the door. The police started towing cars away due to the parking problems created by the store traffic. I think even she was surprised by the popularity, but l knew it was a winner! I had it everyday…so good! My go to was always El Torito, and the Mexican restaurant whose nam escapes me on Beverly and like Poinsettia, especially for the cheap but potent “scratch” margarita. I am drooling, the plantain looks great. I love Cuban food. Great post!! ;o))

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks, Kemkem! Wow – so you witnessed the genius of Pinkberry in the making!! It’s soooooooooooooooooo good and refreshing! Maybe I’ll treat myself to a cup tomorrow – lol! And speaking of Mexican, despite the fact that this is L.A., I have yet to find my go to Mexican restaurant. So now I’m going to check Google for the place you mentioned on Beverly around Poinsettia. In the meantime, if you think of the name, please let me know.

      • El Coyote! That’s the name of the restaurant. It’s been there for a gazillion years. It’s more authentic Mexican , unlike El Torito etc.. Every year on like the anniversary , they roll back the prices. It’s usually packed, l think you’d like it, and that scratch is cheap and potent! I miss it!!!! know one of the people l,worked it had a brother who was a surgeon in Palm Springs and she had him try it. He ended up hounding her till he got a franchise when she finally opened it up! Hah hah!!!! Now, l am drooling again over your pictures!! ;o)

        • Dana Carmel

          Oh yeah, I’ve heard of El Coyote and have been meaning to try it. Thanks! And that’s so funny that he bought a Pinkberry franchise to soothe his addiction – ha!

  • Great post, I really miss the food in LA! The UK doesn’t just have as much choice sadly!

    • Dana Carmel

      I’m surprised that the UK doesn’t have as many choices considering that there are so many different ethnic groups living there. I gripe about L.A. a lot, but our food options definitely give us an edge.

  • The Cuban and Brazilian in particular have me drooling there! Have to say, America is the best for the variety of food on offer.

    • Dana Carmel

      Yes, we really are a melting pot in many ways!


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