A few years ago, people would talk about Highland Park and say it’s a neighborhood you should probably move to soon, because it’s going to be a really big deal. Update: It’s officially a big deal. The main thoroughfares of York and Figueroa are lined with some of the most exciting restaurants, bars, and shops in the city, with newer ones opening seemingly every week. Add to those the fantastic old-school spots that have been in the neighborhood for years, and you have a neighborhood you need to be hanging out in. Here are the 16 best places to eat while you’re there.
From the outside, Triple Beam looks like a random pizza-by-the-slice joint along Figueroa. But then you walk in and quickly realize there’s much more going on here. First off, the pizza is from the crew behind Pizzeria Mozza, and it’s some of the best you’ll find in Los Angeles. Every slice is priced by the ounce, and if that type of math gives you anxiety, just know you can pretty much order the whole menu for under $30. Don’t assume that because this place is order-at-the-counter you’ll be eating your pizza on the curb - there’s a fantastic patio in the back for that.
Joy is an order-at-the-counter Taiwanese/Chinese spot that’s exactly what you need when you have a half hour for lunch and would rather eat popcorn kernels off the floor of your Honda than do drive-through. Owned by the same people as another order-at-the-counter Taiwanese/Chinese spot, Pine & Crane, Joy’s menu is small, but has a ton of variety. They serve daily cold appetizers, a few different soups, noodle and rice sections (get the chiayi chicken rice), and fantastic sandwiches made with their homemade scallion sesame bread. Prices are affordable, the food is on the lighter side, and you can be in and out in 25 minutes.
Lines at this strip mall dumplings spot are long. And if you come on a weekend, they’re even longer. But people are here for a reason - these are the best dumplings you’ll find outside of the San Gabriel Valley. Though you might have to wait on the sidewalk for a bit to get a table, once you’re inside, this order-at-the-counter spot has quick service, affordable prices, and a hanger steak bao you’re definitely going to want to get involved with. They also have a serious to-go operation if you’re looking to stay on your couch tonight.
If it just hasn’t been your day (your week, your month, or even your year), go immediately to Cafe Birdie. The neighborhood spot on Figueroa is serving some of the best comfort food on the Eastside, in a relaxed space you want to spend a low-key night with friends in (or by yourself contemplating life at bar). Get the Moroccan spiced chicken and pork cheek ragu, and definitely a cocktail or three - they’re great here.
This spot just off Figeroa has been in the neighborhood longer than all the cool new places, but hasn’t quite made it to legend status (yet). The place has a diner feel and classic Vietnamese food - banh mis, pho, and vermicelli salads - until you get to dessert: tasty pies. This is a great spot for a low-key lunch, and they do a good brunch on weekends too.
La Fuente is the kind of old-school Mexican restaurant that cures your soul as soon as you walk through the door. The place is miniature, but between the friendly waitstaff and the plates of food larger than your torso, you feel right at home immediately. Don’t come looking for modern takes on the tamale here. Order the El Rey burrito and have enough food for three separate meals.
We ate two entire donuts from Donut Friend without realizing they were vegan and we’re not mad about it. The donuts from this York Blvd. shop are what a car salesman would describe as fully loaded: piled with fillings and toppings. The best part is that those extras are added on as you order. Either pick from the big menu (the Jets to Basil with vegan cream cheese, strawberry jam, and fresh basil is a standout), or choose your own glazes and fillings. These are some of the best donuts in LA.
The concept of a secret deli in the back of a convenience store that requires a password to access is admittedly over the top. But somehow, the folks over at Tinfoil have made it work and it’s all because of the sandwiches themselves. Once you figure out how to actually get inside (try asking the convenience store cashier if they sell birthday candles), you’ll find a simple space with a bunch of people who know exactly how to run a deli. The corned beef is their specialty, but their roasted turkey sandwich is our favorite. Don’t skip the mac salad either.
Maximiliano is Highland Park’s go-to neighborhood Italian restaurant. From a first look around the place, you get the sense that no one drove over 10 minutes to get here. Everybody knows everybody, and everybody is having a great time. Is this the best Italian food you’ve ever had? No. But it also doesn’t matter. The meatballs are solid, the Bianca pizza is a must-order, and you’re definitely a little wine drunk on that back patio.
We love Silver Lake Ramen as much as you do, but we’ve also waited in that massive line to get in. Here’s the great news - they have a second location in Highland Park with an almost identical menu and zero wait to get a seat. That means you can get the same fantastic tonkotsu ramen before you spiral into a hungry tornado of death. Don’t miss their rice bowls either - the salmon poke is the freshest fish in the neighborhood.
Don’t dismiss Mr. Holmes just because you’ve seen it all over your Instagram feed. This SF import is the rare Insta-famous spot that lives up to the hype. Their cruffins are excellent (even if they have a tendency to sell out early and are sorta hard to eat), and they know their way around weirdly-flavored pastries (the jalapeño strawberry bear claw is weird but good). Between this and Donut Friend, Highland Park their sweets figured out.
Dos Murejes is literally just a grill and a folding table set up along a quiet strip of York Blvd. from 8pm-2am, and it’s where you’ll find our favorite tacos in the neighborhood. We love their mesquite-grilled carne asada and al pastor, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything when it’s wrapped in those amazing handmade tortillas. Don’t forget to put their avocado sauce on top.
Located inside the La Tropicana Market, Monte 52 is a tiny sandwich shop/deli that serves everything from gourmet fried chicken sandwiches to housemade pickles to a breakfast burrito we think about regularly. That said, the best sandwich is the Cuban - cheesy, ham-stuffed goodness that’s large enough to last you through the entire afternoon. Also, no sandwich here is over $10.
This small Mexican spot on York Blvd. has been around for almost a quarter century, and while it has solid food across the board, you’re there for their huarache - essentially a big, long Mexican flatbread. This doughy surfboard topped with a meat of your choosing (choose carne asada), grated cheese, two separate sauces, and all the shredded lettuce they could find is one of the classic Mexican dishes in the city and worth getting into your car for right now.
Sonny’s is one of those spots that’s equally good to roll into for a few $6 Manhattans during Happy Hour at the bar as it is for a Saturday date night. The whole place has an old- Hollywood feel, and while it’s a bit over the top, it grows on you because nobody here is taking it that seriously. The American-ish food menu is solid, and they do an entire tiki drink takeover at the bar on Tuesdays.
If you’re in need of vegan or vegetarian brunch and lunch type foods in the area, this is the place to get them. There’s everything from breakfast tacos and chilaquiles to a big breakfast sandwich with optional tempeh bacon (because tempeh should always be optional). But really, the thing to order is the house pancakes - oat, buckwheat, and corn flour pancakes topped with coconut and maple syrup.