Worth the Wait – Local DTLA Restaurants Known for Having Long Lines

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Downtown Los Angeles has an array of restaurants as diverse are they are numerous with a select few becoming so renowned they consistently draw long lines of eager customers. Here’s a list of some of DTLAs favorites…

First in Line at Howlin Ray’s in Chinatown

If you’re a big fan of spicy fried chicken, Howlin’ Ray’s is the place for you. Located in the Far East Plaza in Chinatown, Howlin’ Ray’s quickly became one of the most popular restaurants in downtown Los Angeles when they opened in 2015. Owners Chef Johnny Ray Zone and wife Amanda Chapman serve the Sando – a boneless chicken breast topped with Vinegar Slaw, Comeback Sauce, and Pickles, stacked on a toasted Butter Bun for $13. Sides include Vinegar Slaw, Shake Fries, Mac Salad, and Collard Greens, making them a solid choice for lunch in Chinatown or at their new Pasadena location on Arroyo Parkway. https://howlinrays.com

The Flavor of Anticipation at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo

Tokyo Ramen Located in Little Tokyo, Daikokuya is a popular ramen shop that has been serving up steaming bowls of ramen since February of 2002. The restaurant’s rich, savory broth and perfectly cooked noodles have made it a favorite among ramen enthusiasts, and the long lines are a testament to its popularity. Owner Takaaki Kohyama’s rags-to-riches tale began as a young chef in Japan and culminates with several locations with the longest lines forming in Little Tokyo. As the line forms down the sidewalk of 1st street, the wait time outside can last up to an hour, while inside Daikokuya serves its Famous Original Daikoku Ramen and Homemade Gyoza & Rice-Bowls for around $17. For vegans, the Spicy Sesame Vegan Ramen splashes with bean sprouts, green onion, carrot, and garlic sauce, but most bowls combine the flavors of homemade tender pork belly chashu, marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green onions, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. www.daikokuya.com

Looking Like a Tourist at The Original Pantry

The Original Pantry is a Los Angeles institution that has been serving up classic American diner food since 1924. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is known for its Pantry Classics (Roast Beef, Short Ribs, or Country Fried Steak) served with vegetables and a choice of mashed or house potatoes, ranging from $14 to $36. The Original Pantry’s popularity has only grown over the years, and its line is just as much a part of its brand as any part of the menu. Well known for the patience of its patrons, it’s not uncommon to see a line around the block on any given day of the week. Despite the long wait times, the restaurant’s friendly service and delicious comfort food keep customers coming back to this landmark time and time again. https://pantrycafe.restaurant

If You Give a Moose a Muffin at Blu Jam

They’ll be a line of moose that comes with it. Blu Jam is a popular restaurant located inside the Historic Spring Arcade Building in downtown Los Angeles. Since its opening day, this café is known for its long lines and crowded dining area. When cold weather calls for soup, Blue Jam Café offers a cozy, family-friendly café that serves Spring Asparagus Soup garnished with Oat Milk and Toast for $9.50. When they aren’t serving up their famous Crispy French Toast, Blu Jam’s menu lists other popular items like the BLTA Sandwich with Butter Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, Smoked Bacon, Chipotle Aioli on Grilled Rustic Bread, served with a choice of Grilled Potatoes or Mixed Greens for $15.75. https://www.blujamcafe.com

Ain’t No Thang But a Chicken Wang at Poppy & Rose in the Flower District

Poppy and Rose are a popular brunch and lunch hotspot located in the Flower District of downtown Los Angeles. This comfort food dining hall has gained a reputation for its Southern-inspired cuisine and high-quality ingredients. The restaurant’s focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and scratch-made dishes has made it a favorite of foodies, and its charming interior and outdoor seating area have made it a popular spot for brunch and lunch with standout items including the $18 Smoked Beef Sandwich with pickled red onions, arugula, and horseradish aioli on rustic white bread. This popularity also means that Poppy and Rose is often crowded, and it’s not uncommon to see a line out the door, particularly on weekends and during peak dining hours. Never fear, standing outside gives visitors a chance to mix and mingle while talking about what brought them to the destination. Visitors also have an opportunity to snap a photo in front of a set of angelic fried chicken wings painted on the wall out front. https://www.poppyandrose.com

All Roads Lead to Sonoratown in the Fashion District

All roads lead to Sonoratown as the most popular lunch destination in the Fashion District of downtown Los Angeles. With a loyal following anxiously awaiting every bite, delicious Sonoran-style tacos and other traditional Mexican dishes keep the tiny restaurant full and a line out the door throughout the day. Teodoro Diaz-Rodriguez, Jr. and Jennifer Feltham created Sonoratown in 2016 with the commitment to authenticity and soon became a local favorite and a must-try DTLA destination. Customers agree Sonoratown Burritos 2.0 ($11), Quesadillas ($4), and Tacos ($3.50) stuffed with choices of Costilla, Pollo, Tripa, and Chorizo are well worth the wait. https://www.sonoratown.com

All in One Basket at Eggslut in Grand Central Market

Although there have been plenty of popular favorites to choose from inside DTLA’s historic Grand Central Market since its opening in 2011, Eggslut has proven itself to be the food hall’s most popular food vendor ever. From the moment Eggslut began taking orders, there has been a consistent twenty to thirty-minute wait in a line that snakes its way from the counter towards the farthest reaches of GCM’s bustling food hall. Their innovative twists on classic breakfast sandwiches like the Bacon, Egg & Cheese come with Hardwood Smoked Bacon, Cage-Free over-medium Eggs, Cheddar Cheese, and Chipotle Ketchup in warm Brioche Buns. Founded by Chef Alvin Cailan, Eggslut is also one of the most heartfelt success stories of our time. Beginning as a humble food truck with the most promiscuous eggs he could find, Filipino-American Cailan has managed to crack open 15 new Eggslut locations from Singapore to London in little over a decade, bringing worldwide attention to Filipino-American culture and coining the phrase a sun never sets on an Eggslut Breakfast Sandwich. https://www.eggslut.com

Count the Steps to Urth Caffé in the Arts District

Urth Caffé is a popular café in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, and the result of owners Jilla and Shallom Berkman’s dream to bring high-quality organic, fresh, healthy cuisine to the masses for over 30 years. With eleven locations, the eatery still focuses on sustainability, and its plates of organic utopia have made it a favorite among health-conscious foodies. However, its popularity means that Urth Caffé is often crowded. Its small ordering space is no match for the crowd that gathers just inside the door after making their way from the sidewalk, up the short flight of steps, and through the main doors. Once inside, they find a hectic counter, with servers eagerly flinging dine-in and to-go orders to and fro. Tables of food, pastries, teas, and coffees may include the Pizza Huevos Rancheros topped with a crust, sunny-side-up eggs smothered in house-made ranchero sauce, black beans garnished with almond cheese wrap, avocado, and micro cilantro, all for $15.95. https://www.urthcaffe.com

Timing is Everything at Cielito Lindo at Olvera Street

Cielito Lindo is a beloved Mexican restaurant located on historic Olvera Street in Downtown LA. The restaurant has been serving up its famous Taquitos Dorados with its famously patented Guacamole since 1934 and has become a must-visit destination for anyone seeking authentic Mexican cuisine in the city. This tradition brings a steady line of valued customers both new and old, but unlimited taquitos can only be enjoyed after waiting in the inevitable line. Never fear, the wait goes by quickly thanks to the veteran staff and the short time it takes to fry up the taquitos and cover them in tasty guac. However, the seating area is extremely limited, so patrons know that if they get a chance to sit inside the original 15 square ft space with a plate of taquitos, it must be their lucky day. https://www.cielitolindo.org

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait at KazuNori in Old Bank District

KazuNori is a popular sushi restaurant located in the Old Bank District of DTLA. It was opened by the team behind the highly acclaimed sushi restaurant Sugarfish, including chef and co-founder Kazunori Nozawa, and keeps a steady line outside on Main Street from the moment it opens. The atmosphere at KazuNori is casual and relaxed, but tensions rise outside as stomachs yearn for a seat before the open kitchen where they can watch the chefs prepare their hand rolls. KazuNori is renowned mostly for signature Hand Roll Sets, ranging from $16 to $28. Diners may choose from select favorites of Toro, Yellowtail, Salmon, Bay Scallop, Crab, and Lobster. The menu is small and focused.

While waiting in line may test your gastrointestinal patience, the delicious food and unique dining experiences of DTLA will always be – well worth the wait. https://www.handrollbar.com

Author: Keri Freeman

Military mom and proud parent, artist, writer, musician and film maker. Cocktail connoisseur. Publisher of DTLA Weekly.

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