LOCAL GUIDES

How to Eat Your Way Through LA’s Little Tokyo

Before Downtown LA got its second wind, Little Tokyo was holding it down with sweet treats, late night eats, and piping hot bowls of ramen. As the landscape started to change, it meant that old favorites got a face-lift, while new businesses seemed to pop up overnight, adding more hype to the ever growing Eastside enclave. These days a trip to Little Tokyo can easily transform into a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. You come with one intention and before you know it, you’ve eaten three pieces of mochi ice cream, a croissant donut, and you’re tossing back pitchers of Asahi while performing “Gangster’s Paradise” in a private karaoke room.

drink dine

Cafe Dulce

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Calling all sweet tooths, Cafe Dulce has everything you didn’t realize you needed – Fruity Pebbles donut holes, churro bread, maple bacon donuts, and mocha rolls. Wash it all down with one of their signature green tea lattes and sit back while the glorious sugar coma hits you. This is the ultimate spot for a dessert loving date or to meet up with friends when you get hit with the munchies. For the lunch crowd, they have an unexpected killer kale salad that would pair perfectly with a strawberry cream donut or blueberry roti bun.

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Fickle

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Sandwich shop by day and cool restaurant by night, Fickle is an unexpected gem in Little Tokyo that seemed to appear within the blink of an eye and has thankfully developed a cult following. The first time I walked by their lunch-time sandwich board, it read “Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork Sandwich” and I knew I was never going to be the same. Sandwich game on point. For those seeking something a bit more elevated in the evening, their selection of oysters are quick to set the mood, followed by a delectable slab of bone marrow, good enough to make angels cry. Come hungry and leave delightfully surprised (and full).

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Lazy Ox Canteen

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Before Downtown LA became a “thing”, Lazy Ox Canteen was dishing out plates good enough to make your toes curl. If you ever had the chance to take a bite into their juicy 7 oz burger piled atop a fluffy bun slathered in grain mustard and pickled vegetables, you know exactly what I am talking about. If it’s brunch you seek, toss a few cold artisan beers back while you wait for your crispy cast iron chicken and ricotta pancakes topped with coffee butter and strawberries to hit the table. This isn’t one of your light LA meals, so come prepared to eat with no regrets. Welcome to a food lovers paradise.

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Marugame Monzo

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At Marugame Monzo, udon is the game and you never lose. With a line that is visible from every way you look on 1st Street, it is clear that people are crazy for freshly prepared noodles. Some of the most flavorful udon bowls are the savory selections like uni, squid butter and curry. Not to be neglected is the magical tempura fried egg, with yolk porn so real, you’ll need to share it via Instagram. What enhances the dining experience at Monzo is the chance to watch the entire noodle process, with a “making of” fit for film, it’s that beautiful to witness. Ask for a seat near the large glass window while you watch the chef stretch, roll, and fold every single noodle to perfection.

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Mitsuru Cafe

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If it’s Japanese street food you desire, look no further that Mitsuru Cafe, a long time favorite of those who’ve spent many of their days in Japanese Village Plaza Mall. The star of the show here is the Imagawayaki (Japanese red bean cake) which is prepared fresh at all hours of the day by a master cake flipper. Lay down a couple of bucks and feverishly eat your hot bean cake while you watch dozens of these babies be flipped within seconds—it’s quite the experience and one not to be missed while in Little Tokyo.
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Shin Sen Gumi

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There are a few ramen options in Little Tokyo but at Shin-Sen-Gumi you are in control. Pull up a seat, grab a pencil, and select on your paper menu how you’d like your noodles, broth, and oil prepared. Addicted to toppings? They got you. Crispy pig ears for the adventurous, and flavored eggs and bamboo shoots for the classic bowls. If you are looking for a porktastic bowl of savory broth to comfort you on those cold Fall evenings, this is exactly where you need to be.

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Mikawaya

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Did someone say mochi ice cream? The creators of this dream-come-true combination answered many prayers when they began to open up storefronts across Southern California. Fresh batches of colorful little mochi balls—small enough to fit in the palm of your hand—are filled with cool ice cream flavors like green tea, plum wine, and black sesame. For only $1 a piece, why not make a game of it and see how many you can eat? For those crazy people not in love with mochi, take a peak in the gelato case and ease all your troubles away.

Image via OC Weekly

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Sushi Gen

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Sushi snobbery is very real in LA, but no one can argue that Sushi Gen has been doing its job for the past couple of decades, boasting now legions of followers. Locals and visitors alike live by Gen’s fresh selection of sushi and sashimi. Rarely isn’t there a line to get in; come at lunch and you’d think they were giving sushi away! People go crazy for their $35 sashimi deluxe dinner, but if you want something a bit smaller, the Chirashi Deluxe is the way to go. Their fresh fish is as vibrant as it is delicious.

Cafe Dulce
134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 346-9910
Fickle
362 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-1888
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-5299
Marugame Monzo
329 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 346-9762
Mitsuru Cafe
117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-1028
Shin Sen Gumi
132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-7108
Mikawaya
118 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 624-1681
Sushi Gen
422 E 2nd, Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 617-0552