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You’re fresh off a cross-country flight, and the only thing that was left when the food cart got to your seat was a “cheese platter,” except they’d run out of cheese. Don’t succumb to the first thing you see when you get off the plane. (In-N-Out, as much as we love a Double-Double Animal-Style with whole grilled onions, chopped chilis, and an extra-toasted bun, it’s time to diversify.) The area around LAX is full of better options than anything in the terminal—from Thai food in Westchester to Mexican seafood in Inglewood. So next time you need to pick something up before a flight or get a meal as soon as you clear baggage, check this guide for all the restaurants near LAX worth your while.
Soul food is always a good idea, especially after sitting in a crowded airbus for several hours. This LA soul food institution happens to be within a 10-minute radius of LAX. You can drop by their to-go window or grab a seat inside the casual dining room for a filling meal involving some legendary fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pick up a slice of their signature sweet potato pie—it’s soft and fluffy with a kick of flavor from the cinnamon and nutmeg.
We often catch ourselves daydreaming in the clouds above LAX about Sunday Gravy. There’s usually a slow-motion montage of the old-school Italian spot’s thick lasagna layered with creamy ricotta and hearty ragu, gooey mozzarella-topped garlic bread, and the gnocchi e pepe topped with silky cream sauce. If you find yourself in the mood for a heavy meal comprised of handmade pasta in Inglewood, actualize this fantasy and stop by Sunday Gravy after your next flight. You’ll get there in less time than it takes to exit baggage claim, and their walk-in-only dining room is never too packed.
This tri-level driving range isn’t just an open-air venue for golf enthusiasts, Top Golf in El Segundo is also home to a full-service restaurant. Regardless of whether you plan to pick up a club, you can order food and drinks from the bar counter on the first floor. If you’re with a group, you can mix and match any six dishes for $65. The menu is what you’d expect at a better-than-average sports bar: buffalo wings, chicken strips, and loaded nachos. Top Golf also serves a bunch of wine, beer, and fruity cocktails that you can enjoy at a high-top table while listening to whatever early ‘00s pop song is blasting from the speakers.
The name of the game at Carnitas El Artista in Inglewood is the Michoacan-style carnitas—tender, slow-cooked pork that’s nicely charred along the edges. Although commonly made with pork shoulder, Carnitas El Artista also offers carnitas with everything from pork stomach and chicharron to lengua and cabeza. Whether you go with tacos, a torta, burrito, or quesadilla, you’ll catch aromas of garlic and lime rising from the caramelized meat on your plate. It’s impossible to imagine a more memorable carnitas experience within a two-mile radius of LAX.
Trini Style in Inglewood serves classic dishes from Trinidad & Tobago on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Turmeric-colored doubles are filled with generous scoops of chana and tangy tamarind sauce. Garlicky goat curry is simmered until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. But the star of the show here is their bake ‘n’ shark—a glorious sandwich of puffy fried bread and crispy chunks of shark, all smeared with avocado, tamarind sauce, and mango chutney. This dish in particular is only served on Fridays, but we’d gladly coordinate our flight in sync. Before you come, be sure to check out their current menu on Instagram to see what you’re in for.
This pint-sized poke counter in El Segundo understands a fundamental truth: Quality fish is king (they source theirs from the Honolulu Fish Auction). From succulent cubes of ginger soy ahi to a slightly wasabi-y ponzu salmon, everything here tastes exactly like something you’d get from a Foodland poke counter in Hawai’i, which is the highest honor.
Tucked between a jeweler and a taco shop in a weird shopping-center cul-de-sac, Irori has long been Marina del Rey’s best-kept secret. Well, the secret’s out: From their massive $25 bento box lunch to their 12-piece omakase (for $80), this is one of the best bang-for-your-buck meals on the Westside. The fish is always high-quality and the rolls are creative (get the blue crab and salmon roll with truffle). Plus, they make you remove your shoes when you enter, if you’re looking for a little bit of tradition, too.
It’s been a long day of travel, you’ve only eaten that complimentary packet of trail mix, and now, you need pizza. Head over to Good Pizza in Playa Del Rey. This tiny strip mall spot has some of the best pie on the Westside, and it’s a short 10-minute drive from Terminal B. They offer full pies and options by the slice if you’re not in the mood to share. Just be sure to check their website for deals because you can always find something good.
Much like Anajak, Ayara is a long-standing spot that’s enjoying a massive renaissance thanks to the original owner’s kid taking the reins. Chef Vanda Asapahu, the owner’s daughter, is now running the show and over the past few years has turned this Westchester staple into one of our favorite Thai restaurants on the Westside. It’s still technically a to-go-only operation, but there’s a good-sized patio out front if you just landed at LAX and need to eat immediately. Prioritize the plump, savory kai jeaw omelet and Ayara’s toast, which come shaped like little elephants and topped with a buttery shrimp and pork spread.
After a 17-hour international red-eye, you just landed at LAX and you can’t see straight. Tell your Lyft driver to go to The Serving Spoon, immediately. This classic soul food spot in Inglewood opens every day at 7am (8am on Sundays) and serves the kind of hearty breakfasts your body needs to survive crippling jet lag. Our go-to’s are the waffles and chicken drumettes, but as long as you stick to the all-day breakfast section, you can’t go wrong.
Travel involves a lot of decisions – like window or aisle, or if $20 is too much to pay for a hat you’ll probably never wear again. So if you don’t want to make yet another decision when you land, go to Zam Zam. This Pakistani market in Hawthorne has fantastic food and the best way to order is to ask the person at the counter what’s cooking that day. At that point they’ll just tell you to sit down – they’ve got this. What they’ll proceed to bring you will inevitably involve incredible biryani, a curry or two, maybe a kebab, and some garlic naan.
You’ve picked your best friend up from Terminal 5 at 2pm on a Saturday and she wants to reward you for your kindness with a celebratory lunch. Point your car towards Manhattan Beach and Fishing With Dynamite. This tiny seafood spot just off the main drag is the ideal welcome to California, especially if you order prosecco and the Peruvian scallops. Everything on the menu is fantastic, and once you’re done you can walk right down to the beach, since your friend probably doesn’t have one of those where she lives.
You spent a cross-country flight sandwiched between someone sobbing about a recent breakup (who wouldn’t stop talking after you finally asked if he was OK) and the world’s most aggressive typist. Now that you’re free, all you want is excellent food, preferably in a place where people don’t burst into tears every ten minutes. Jame has the food covered, and we’ve yet to see anyone crying there – also, it’s just a short drive away from LAX in El Segundo. The pastas are truly fantastic, and seeing as all you ate on the flight was a crumbled granola bar, you deserve to order at least two of them. Plus a slice of the Key lime pie.
You have to repay your sister for picking you up at 6pm on a Monday somehow, and it might as well be dinner at Blessed Tropical. Located in Inglewood, this family-run Jamaican restaurant serves jerk chicken, oxtail, and spicy goat curry worth driving long distances for. The portions are massive, prices are affordable ($12-14 for combo plates), and even if you order several different things (which you definitely should), you can be in and out in under 20 minutes.
You just got back from a weekend in your hometown where the only restaurants of note are a late-night diner and a Subway inside a gas station. You need some spice in your life. Al-Noor is a quick ten-minute drive from LAX and it’s home to the best Indian food in the city. Located in a strip mall in the tiny suburb of Lawndale, this traditional family-owned spot is where you go to get Indian staples like tikka masala, paneer, and the best garlic naan you’ve ever eaten.
You booked an early evening flight and are dreading the hour-long drive you will face if you leave the house anytime after 3pm. So leave earlier and have a long lunch at Coni’Seafood. The back patio at this Mexican seafood spot is sunny and laid-back, perfect for eating shrimp approximately a thousand different ways and washing it down with beers. You’ll be on your way to vacation mode in no time.
The vacation to Cabo ate up more of your bank account than you expected, so now it’s time to pinch some pennies. Head to Mutiara, a family-run Burmese restaurant and one of the most affordable spots in Inglewood. Whether it’s a giant plate of mee goreng (spicy fried noodles), lamb kebabs, or some of the best beef rendang we’ve eaten in LA, almost everything on Mutiara’s menu falls roughly between $5-10. That definitely softens the blow of six days’ worth of $23 pina coladas.
Located between a car wash and an apartment complex, Aliki’s doesn’t exactly have the strongest curb appeal. But don’t be fooled, this is some excellent Greek food at extremely affordable prices. Aliki’s is also a great option if you’re only here for a night and staying at an LAX hotel, because it’s one of the few places in the area you can actually walk to. The menu is massive, but stick to the classics – the Greek salad with lamb gyro on top is one of our go-to’s.
It’s 8am, your flight just landed, and the last thing you need is a second Starbucks spinach wrap this morning. Head to Playa Provisions, the all-day restaurant in PDR where you’ll find good coffee, good pastries, and a very good spicy breakfast sandwich. The space is large and casual, with a nice front patio where you can decompress before resuming real life.
When caffeine is your highest priority upon landing, Two Guns Kitchen is your very best option in the area. It’s a New Zealand cafe on Main St. in El Segundo, and just like their Australian cousins, NZ-ers know their way around a flat white. As well as excellent coffee, they serve a full menu of stuff like huevos rancheros, smoked salmon bagels, and a very good breakfast sandwich that comes on a pretzel bun.
If you’re headed to the airport from the middle of the city you know there’s one rule: Always take La Cienega. But if we had to give you a second rule it would be this: Stop for brunch at Pann’s on the way. This old-school diner has been open since the ’50s, appeared in too many movies to count, and serves chicken and waffles we always order. They’re definitely not the best chicken and waffles you’ll find in LA, but you feel like you’re on the set of Pulp Fiction, so it doesn’t really matter.