Los Angeles serves as a nexus point for so many different cultures that we have a veritable wealth of exotic cuisine readily accessible to us. However, the beautiful blending of cultures has a potential setback: it can be difficult to find authentic cultural food. In a city like LA, tradition is often forsaken for something unique. So while chefs are innovating and infusing with taste bud-baiting results, we’re left with a lack of truly traditional cultural cuisine. Yet, if you look hard enough, your palate just might be rewarded with a flavor you’d normally have to travel far and wide to experience. Here are a few of the best LA restaurants for traditional cultural food.
Noodle Art: Serving Up Chinese Chow Distinctive of the Shaanxi Province
While the talent behind Monterey Park’s Noodle Art has been slinging their distinctive ultra-wide noodles since 1985, their single US location has only been in operation in recent years. China is huge, so finding a catch-all traditional representative of the entire country’s cuisine is nearly impossible. However, if you’re looking for cultural food from the Shaanxi province, Noodle Art is as close as you’re going to get in the U.S.
Noodle Art specializes in a variety of dishes colloquially referred to as biangbiang noodles. These intensely wide noodles are created by hand in a process that is alleged to produce the “biang-biang” sound that earns the noodles their name.
While the Monterey Park Noodle Art location features a menu heavily inspired by the original Xi’an location’s, some items have been tweaked for better marketability stateside. This basically translates to more noodle dishes. But rest assured, the authenticity remains firmly intact.
Carousel: Lebanese-Armenian Home Cooking Comes to Hollywood
With the city’s burgeoning Armenian population, we’re blessed with a vast array of quality Armenian bakeries, cafes, eateries, and restaurants scattered around LA. But when it comes to Lebanese-American cuisine, perhaps none is more beloved than Carousel.
Founded by a family fleeing the Lebanese Civil War, the Hollywood location rose through pure culinary talent and hope. Four decades later, you better have a reservation if you’re hoping to sample this faithful rendition of Lebanese cultural food. And that goes for both the original location and the even more popular Glendale spot.
Guelaguetza: The Oaxacan Take on Traditional Mexican Cultural Food
In a city that easily produces the best Mexican food outside of Mexico proper, trying to name the best LA restaurant for authentic Mexican cultural food is an impossible task. So, let us preface by saying: there are plenty of restaurants serving up traditional Mexican fare in LA. This includes taco trucks and street vendors up through high scale establishments.
But for our money, no one can touch Koreatown’s Guelaguetza when it comes to genuine Oaxacan ingredients applied to authentic family recipes. If you’re looking for tacos, burritos, and the like, you may be disappointed. But this family-owned establishment is sure to help you get over it with traditional dishes you’re not likely to find anywhere else.
Chao Krung Thai: Hollywood Royalty That Never Lost Its Identity
When it comes to Thai cuisine, LA restaurants typically like to get creative. Take our recent highlights from the innovative menu at Emporium Thai as an example. But Chao Krung Thai forged its legacy with traditionalism, serving authentic cultural food to the Hollywood masses.
Its popularity extends back to 1976 as a staple of movie stars and industry movers and shakers. In fact, it’s one of the city’s oldest Thai eateries. Still family-run to this day, you can bet that the recipes you’re enjoying are the same ones the stars celebrated in the ‘70s.
Pampas Grill: Casual Brazilian Eats Across the Greater LA Area
With a common flavor not too far off from barbecue, traditional Brazilian cuisine is surprisingly hard to come by in LA. However, Pampas Grill’s three locations serve up cultural food representative of Brazil’s southern regions to much acclaim. This restaurant employs a mixture of buffet and fast food setups, but the high quality is apparent from the first bite.
Petit Trois: Paris by Way of Hollywood
Speaking of unusual setups, Petit Trois faithfully recreates the cuisine of a Parisian brasserie, but with strictly bar seating. And even that’s not easy to come by. It almost wouldn’t seem worth the hassle.
But if you’re looking for authentic French cultural food, you won’t find anything closer in LA. And the prices reflect that Petit Trois knows this. Honestly, the genuineness makes it worth it.
Shamshiri Grill: A Lively Atmosphere for Enjoying Persian Cultural Food
Like so many of the best LA restaurants, Shamshiri Grill is often packed. But there’s a reason so many people flock to one of the oldest restaurants to grace Little Persia. Shamshiri Grill specializes in “Mediterranean comfort food”, meaning mouth-watering kebabs, curries, and a decent amount of vegan options. And while the kitchen can get creative, you’ll also find a menu that honors authentic Persian cultural food to satisfy any exotic cravings.
Eataly: Several Options in One for Genuine Italian Cuisine
Maybe it’s cheating a bit to name Eataly one of the best LA restaurants for cultural food since it’s not exactly a restaurant. But this unique conglomeration of markets and eateries easily offers the most authentic tastes of Italy in the city. You just need to figure out what that means to you.
You could enjoy pizza and pasta at the ever-popular La Pizza & La Pasta. No false advertising there! If Italian seafood is more your thing, Il Pesce Cucina is sure to impress. Then there’s Terra, the rooftop restaurant that focuses on meat, veggies, and everything in between.
Don’t forget that Eataly is also a market that sells imported Italian ingredients. It even features stalls for on-the-go meals like pizza by the slice. Eataly may not be unique to LA, but if you’re looking for Italian cultural food with authenticity, it’s your best bet.