Where to Eat in DTLA

Some cities are more accommodating than others to visitors that are trying to eat healthy on the road. Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, Los Angeles is a city with endless dining choices – many of which focus on fresh, light, nutritious dishes. 

I was happy to travel to the west coast for 12 days in the middle of winter – determined to eat my way through the land of acai and poke bowls. Here are 9 spots I enjoyed on my trip.

Where to eat in Downtown LA

Café Gratitude

This all-veggie all-organic hot spot has been on the top of my foodie bucket list for quite some time now, and it was the first place I went after arriving in California (after a quick sweat-session at Rise Nation…) Café Gratitude first popped onto my radar via Instagram – it’s a favorite among bloggers like @shutthekaleup.

Cafe Gratitude

We happened to go during Dine LA, the Los Angeles version of New York City’s “Restaurant Week.” We opted for the Dine LA menu, which allowed us to choose 2 dishes for $20 each. We only ate about 50% of the four dishes we ordered – not because we weren’t hungry or didn’t like it – but because it was an extremely generous amount of food for $20!

Brussels Sprouts

Cafe Gratitude Review

These were maple miso glazed and while they were perfectly fine, they were nothing super special. I’m always a fan of Brussels, but I still think the best I’ve ever had were at Bareburger. This could also be due to the fact that I ate them after having previously biked 30 miles and cried because I was so hungry and didn’t want to walk to the restaurant (true story).

Chili Bowl

Cafe Gratitude Healthy LA

Wow. Wowowow. This was so hearty and flavorful and the crumbled jalapeno biscuit was killer. This is the kind of dish you can make your meat-eating friends try and then say, “SEE! Eating vegan doesn’t mean giving up on filling, delicious meals!”

The chili was loaded with red beans, tempeh, sweet potato, avocado, and more.

The only thing we were a little unsure about was the dollop of what looked like whipped butter on top. It was actually a cashew sour cream, and though I tried to get on board with it, it just wasn’t my thing.

Pad Thai Kelp Noodles

Vegan LA Cafe Gratitude

This was a lighter dish than the chili and I loved the texture of the kelp noodles. If you’re in the mood for a cold dish but don’t want to go the salad route, I recommend ordering this.

Kelp noodles are smothered in a delicious Thai almond sauce with carrots, red bell pepper, kale, teriyaki almonds and sunflower sprouts.

Mole Abuelita Enchilades

Best Healthy Food LA Cafe Gratitude

I think this was my favorite of the 4 dishes. If I hadn’t known, I never would have guessed that these enchiladas had no meat or cheese in them. I was again blown away at how satisfying these were – with real authentic Mexican flavor to boot.

The dish is comprised of black beans, grilled Portobello mushrooms, braised butternut squash, avocado, Mexican coleslaw, esabeche and an amazing cashew queso fresco. I love cashew “cheese.”

When our waiter delivered our food, he gave us the “Question of the Day” which was “What inspired you?” My first reaction was, “This is a little too hippy-dippy for me, let me eat my food in peace” but, when in LA…

Emily and I actually discussed the question when the waiter walked away and I’m glad we did – it was an interesting topic. I first said that nature inspires me – watching sunsets is my favorite thing in the world – but I also loved Emily’s answers of traveling and seeing people we care about achieve their goals.

Another feel-good aspect of Café Gratitude, other than the name itself, is the fact that the menu items are all inspirational words like Ecstatic! Dazzling! and Humble! When the waiters bring you you’re food, they deliver it and say, “You are Dazzling,” “You are Lucky.” Thanks, hot hipster waiter, I know I’m Smokin’ ;) 

Next time I’m at Café Gratitude, I definitely want to try some of their refreshing sounding juices and elixirs like the pineapple, pear and ginger juice or the heavenly sounding smoothie with coconut cashew ice cream, almond milk, cacao nibs, almond butter and vanilla bean. KK.

Baco Mercat

I read about Baco Mercat on The Infatuation and was intrigued by their signature item, the “Baco” – part taco, part sandwich, part flatbread and 100% created by chef and owner Josef Centeno.

I also loved the rest of the menu – with a focus on small plates great for sharing and inspired by cuisines from across the globe.

This was the second restaurant in LA to tell me and my friends that we were ordering too much food – but the three of us did a solid job eating the following dishes:

Ricotta Fritters
honey, lemon zest, dill

Baco Mercat Review

None of us were impressed with these, sadly.

The Toron Baco
Oxtail hash, cheddar tater, horseradish-yogurt

Baco from Baco Mercat

The original Baco contained crispy pork belly and beef carnitas with caraway pepper sauce and salbitxada according to Baco Mercat’s website – but the Toron Baco is now the most talked about and for good reason! This was DELICIOUS and though I don’t really know exactly what oxtail hash is, I would gladly eat it again and again.

Double Mushroom Coca (Crispy or Chewy Flatbread)
Shitake, Crimini, Fontina, Chili Flakes

Baco Mercat LA

We opted for the crispy flatbread, and this was mushroomy masterpiece.

Caramelized Cauliflower
Pine Nuts, Mint, Garlic, Sumac Lebni, Chili

Baco Mercat LA Foodie

I always love cauliflower, and while this wasn’t over the top amazing, it was delicious as cauliflower always is – especially when paired with pine nuts!

Blistered Okra
Tomato, Fenugreek, basil, lebni, sesame

Baco Mercat Healthy LA

We were shocked at how much we loved this! There were a lot of different flavors in it, and after some research, I found out the Fenugreek is full of health benefits like reducing inflammation, improves exercise performance, and promotes milk flow in breastfeeding women! It’s also a key ingredient in many Indian curries. 

Caesar Brussels Sprouts
Pecorino, anchovy, garlic, croutons

Baco Mercat LA

This was served as a shredded Brussels Sprout salad and tasted exactly like a Caesar Salad!

Hamachi Crudo
Abkhazian spice, avocado, hash brown, crème fraiche

Baco Mercat Review

We all agreed that this was probably our favorite dish of the night – so light yet so flavorful! The Hamachi melted in your mouth!

Mainland Poke

Best Poke LA

My secret weapon when I’m traveling for work is ordering delivery to my hotel room using Postmates. Room service usually takes forever, is super expensive, and doesn’t have a ton of options (especially healthy ones).

Postmates, on the other hand, will deliver directly to your hotel room door (at most hotels) and there are SO MANY OPTIONS. Even restaurants that don’t offer their own delivery allow Postmates drivers to pick up food for delivery. 

When in California, I knew I needed to eat some poke – a raw fish salad originally from Hawaii. From Mainland Poke I ordered a 3 scoop bowl with baby greens, kelp noodles, Ahi tuna, salmon, octopus, avocado yuzu ponzu, cucumber, edamame, mango, seaweed, sweet onion, tobiko, black sesame and red sea salt. Basically, everything you could possibly put in a poke bowl – I ordered!

It was delicious and light while still incredibly filling. Everything tasted fresh and it was great as delivery because it didn’t need to be kept warm! 

Mas Malo 

We headed here for a big group dinner knowing that it was a favorite among some of our staff. 

Four Salsa Flight With Chips 

The four flavors were burnt habanero cream, fresh tomatillo, warm chocolate mole and fresh pico de gallo. It was a great spread, but little did we know, we missed the opportunity to order Mas Malo's famous off-menu "chewy chips" that my coworker had been raving about! 

After devouring multiple baskets of chips, we realized that our counterparts at another table were chowing down on chewy chips. once bite and we were hooked and had to order a round for our table too! These half-baked tortilla chips are seriously crack and you can't go to Mas Malo without ordering them! 

Guacamole 

Solid - with pomegranate seeds for a fruity punch! 

Sauteed Cactus and Onions
White Wine, Butter, Cilantro

We didn't know what to expect eating cactus, but it just tasted like a green vegetable - and what doesn't taste good smothered in white wine and butter? 

Roasted Squash
Squash, Dry Chili, Piloncillo

What's piloncillo? It's unrefined cane sugar - so this side dish was essentially dessert. YUM.

Carnitas "Al Pastor" 

Mas Malo LA Review

For my entree I opted for the NorCal pork shoulder with achiote paste, pineapple juice, guacamole, and sour cream. I'm a sucker for fruit with my meat, especially when it comes to Mexican food. This was very tender and flavorful, though not that best Al Pastor I've ever had. I was so full of chips at this point, that I enjoyed the pork with the side salad instead of making tacos with the tortillas they served me. 

Tres Leches Cake 

Mas Malo Mexican

This was wildly underwhelming - the only good part was the lower portion of the cake that had been soaking in the cream. Otherwise, it just looked pretty. 

Churros 

LA Churros

These were alright but they were mainly a vehicle for the decadent chocolate dipping sauce. 

Rawberri 

This was another Postmates order on a night I wanted to stay in - it's no shock that I was craving avocado toast and an acai bowl, and thankfully, Rawberri was able to deliver exactly that! 

Rawberri LA

Wild Bowl 

I went for the medium, and it was a perfect size. I was also shocked that when it came, it wasn't a soupy mess. It wasn't super thick, but there was granola, bee pollen, blueberries, strawberries and bananas so I was very happy! 

Avocado Toast

When it came to the avocado toast, it wasn't great because the toast was a little soggy, but at least it came on Ezekial toast! It also had quite a bit of kick to it with the chili flakes! 

Hoke Poke

Best Poke LA

Another day, while laying by the pool, I was simply too lazy to get up and get food. So again, it was time to call on Postmates to provide me with a poolside poke bowl. This time, from Hoke Poke. I opted for a small bowl with citrus kale, cilantro, cucumber, edamame, mango, Ahu Tuna, avocado, wasabi peas and a side of the Citrus Thai Basil Sauce.

I barely even needed the side of sauce because everything was so flavorful. My favorite part were definitely the wasabi peas!

This bowl was delivered with chopsticks only, so I struggled a bit to eat it, but felt very authentic ;)

True Food Kitchen

One night we took a bit of a drive to Santa Monica for another healthy-chain I’d heard a lot about. True Food Kitchen is a healthy, seasonal restaurant with a menu that’s constantly changing based on what is in season and fresh.

When the three of us looked at the menu, it was heaven. There was truly not one thing on there that we weren’t intrigued by.

We started with a round of drinks. I opted for the Ginger Margarita. Though I’m not usually a fan of tons of ginger, I’ve been drinking it more in my homemade smoothies and couldn’t turn down a margarita with honey and elderflower liqueur! It was delicious and refreshing with a definite ginger bite to it.

Our waitress informed us that many of the dishes we were planning on ordering were sold out for the day – but it didn’t stop us from ordering am incredible line-up of things to share!

Grilled Fish Tacos
Avocado, Greek Yogurt, Cilantro, Pickled Onion, Anasazi Bean, Cotija Cheese

True Food Kitchen Review

These were such a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a great taco from this place, but they were spicy and delicious.

Butternut Squash Flatbread
Butternut Squash, Smoked Onion, Organic Kale, Vegan Almond Ricotta, Dried Cranberry

True Food Kitchen LA Eats

That vegan almond ricotta was KILLER and I never would have guessed it wasn't actually cheese! Something about squash and cranberries is just THE BEST. 

Chioggia Beet Bruschetta
Vegan almond ricotta, amaranth, arugula, pomegranate molasses

True Food Kitchen Review

More vegan almond ricotta, more happy taste buds. This was one of my favorites! The toast was a crunchy, crumbly texture that I really liked and I was a big fan of the amaranth sprinkled on top. 

Spicy Panang Curry
Organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, thai basil, coconut shrimp broth

True Food Kitchen Santa Monica

This certainly had some spice to it! We got the chicken version, but there were still lots of veggies too which I liked! I'm not a huge chicken fan - most of the time it's boring and dry to me - but this wasn't dry at all and was drowning in flavorful curry.  

Charred Cauliflower
Harissa tahini, medjool date, dill, mint, pistachio

Vegetarian LA Hotspots

Is there anything in this dish that isn't something I love? NOPE. Who knew that witha little bit of Mediterranean flavor and a hint of African, you've got yourself a delicious cauliflower dish!?

Herb Hummus
Greek salad, feta, grilled pita bread

True Food Kitchen

Unlike most of the other dishes at True Food Kitchen, which were GREAT - this hummus was just very middle of the road. 

Lemonade 

LA Healthy Eats

Lemonade is by far the best airport restaurant in the entire universe. There, I said it. It's only competition is the World Bean in JFK that served avocado toast AND peanut butter banana toast. 

But I digress. Lemonade is a health food chain with different locations throughout California. They are a quick-service, health-food restaurant offering build your own meal options including seasonal sides, salads, proteins and delicious lemonades! The stars of Lemonade are definitely their vegetable sides which rotate based on what's fresh and in season. 

Every time I go to LA I'm PUMPED to build my own plate of delicious salads like Roasted Broccoli with ricotta cheese and Champagne Vinaigrette, curry cauliflower and lentils with pomegranate seeds and sweet potatoes! Don't forget the protein - citrus poached salmon fillet with whole grain mustard sauce. 

We decided a lemonade with vodka was necessary pre-flight, and I went with the sugar-free rosemary something or other with vodka - I honestly didn't really love it - probably because it was lacking sugar! They looked pretty though! 

Lemonade LAX

Broken Spanish 

One of my best friends from NYC happened to be in LA for a work trip at the same time I was, and we go to grab dinner together at a popular restaurant in the downtown area where we were both staying. 

I first read about Broken Spanish on The Infatuation - which is one of my most trusted restaurant review websites. They made the claim that, "Broken Spanish in DTLA is not fixing Mexican food. It's putting it on a level we never knew existed." With that GLOWING review - I added Broken Spanish to my list of "must-trys" before leaving LA. 

Broken Spanish was very nice inside and the wait staff were great. I appreciated that Erin trusted me and gave me full reins to order what I pleased.  Though the waiter warned us that it was going to be a lot of food, I went full steam ahead with the following plates:

Seasonal Tostada
Habas, Pea Salsa Verde, “Little Lamb,” Carrot Escabeche

Broken Spanish LA Review

This had a very vinegary taste to it, but was light and refreshing despite sitting atop a fried tortilla. I was a big fan of the carrot escabeche ad pea salsa verde in particular! This was definitely the "healthiest" tasting dish of the night. 

Chile Relleno
Poblano, Potato, Kale, Lemon, Soubise  

Broken Spanish Mexican Food

YUMMO. Erin and I both really enjoyed this - what is there to dislike about a pepper bursting with cheesy potatoes? 

Tamale
Lamb Neck, King Oyster Mushroom, Queso Oaxaca

Broken Spanish Tamale

The waiter was raving about how amazing their tamales are - so it seemed like a no brainer to order one loaded with mushroom and lamb, two of my favorite things. Unfortunately, we were really underwhelmed by this. The tamale itself was very dry, and though the lamb on top was tender and saucy, there wasn't enough to make up for the blandness of the tamale. 

Camote
Sweet Potato, Pig Tail, Trompa, Chile de Arbol, Verjus

Broken Spanish LA Review

Sign me up for any and all things sweet potato! This was probably the least sweet-potato-y sweet potato dish I've ever had. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I really didn't enjoy it very much despite being a little sweet and a little savory. Apparently, this dish was named one of the bet dishes of 2015 in LA. While I'm all for sweet potatoes having their moment, I just didn't really get this dish. And it wasn't particularly appealing looking either. Not to mention the fact that i ate pig tail...

Carnitas
Lamb Shoulder, Kabocha Squash Escabeche, Pomegranate Salsa

Broken Spanish DTLA

This meat was very tender, but not my favorite - something about the texture and consistency. I also didn't love the cold, vinegary squash escabeche. 

I left Broken Spanish pretty underwhelmed. I had been expecting an EPIC meal and it was just a good meal.