I was recently called in to do jury service and was placed on a panel for five days. While it was a somewhat interesting case, and I was happy to do my civic duty, I most looked forward to lunch. At first glance, the downtown area around the Superior court building and city hall might look like a culinary wasteland, but if you’re willing to walk a few blocks there are literally hundreds of options. While the nearby LA Mall has lots of fast food choices, and the court building has its own cafeteria, I preferred to get out, stretch my legs and search for something different for lunch each day.
Even if you’re not there for jury duty, if you ever get the chance visit downtown Los Angeles (and you should), you might want to check out some of these places. For my five days of lunches, I relied on previous experience plus the Yelp app on my phone. I found the app to be helpful in giving walking directions from my exact location and showing me new options in my area. I took many of the photos in this post with my phone’s camera, so please forgive the less than stellar quality.
Notes for Jurors; the free parking for jurors is located below Disney Hall (pictured above). Show your summons for free parking, and later show your juror badge if you have to return on subsequent days. Exit the hall and go left to 1st street. Walk down first street to your right to Broadway and turn left. Walk up Broadway to the Superior Court Building and the entrance is on the rear of the building. The walk takes at least 10 minutes if you walk at a fast pace. Allow extra time for the interminable elevators (keep this in mind when returning from lunch).
Typically jurors are released for lunch between 12:00 and 1:30PM. This is plenty of time to walk somewhere, eat and return. In fact, most days I was back around 1 pm. Jury duty pays $15 a day (yes really, that’s it) after the first day, so my goal for lunch was never to spend more than this.
As always, places can move, change, or close. I’ve also been known to mix up my left from right, so check directions and opening hours before you set out!
Daikokuya and Little Tokyo
On the first day, I found a place called Tokyo Cafe via yelp and walked over there. But when I arrived, I realized I was only half a block from the fabulous Daikokuya, well known for its ramen and lengthy wait (I’d been before and knew it was good). Fortunately on a Monday lunch there was room at the counter for a single diner and no wait. I ordered the traditional ramen bowl which was excellent and for $8.50, a very affordable lunch.
On my third day, I returned to Daikokuya wanting to try something else. The guy sitting next to me on my previous visit had a small bowl of rice with unagi and I thought that would make a good lunch with some gyoza. Unfortunately, that small bowl was part of a larger ramen combo offer, so instead I ordered the gyoza with some tuna rolls (yes, they also have some sushi offerings). The gyoza are good, but in the end the ramen is much more satisfying. Lunch was $12.
After Daikokuya, you can walk across the street to the Japanese Village Plaza and take a quick stroll through to check out the tourist trinket shops, the Japanese food market, other restaurants and stop for a mochi ice cream ($1 each) at Mikawaya near the fountain. There are plenty of places to eat in Little Tokyo area if Daikokuya is busy. On previous visits I’ve eaten at Shabu Shabu House and Orochon Ramen.
How to get there:
To get to Daikokuya (and Little Tokyo in general) from the court building at Temple and Broadway, exit the building from the rear entrance and turn left, going down the stairs to Spring street. Walk south down Spring to 1st (1 block) and turn left. Walk down 1st street, 3 1/2 blocks until you reach Daikokuya which is on the North side of the street. Daikokuya 327 E 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 TEL: (213) 626-1680
Ana Maria’s and the Grand Central Market
Another easy walk from the courthouse is to the Grand Central Market which spans the width of a city block between Broadway and Hill at 3rd Street. The market has been there since 1917 and is still filled with produce, fish, meat and dry good stalls. In addition, there are several restaurant stalls with choices ranging from Mexican to Japanese to Chinese to Pizza and more.
My favorite is Ana Maria’s, known for its inexpensive, but tasty and generous portions of home style Mexican food. I ordered a carnitas (pork) taco which was an enormous portion of chopped pork, 4 corn tortillas, choice of salsa and garnished with chopped cilantro and onion, all for $2.50. Add to that a small coke and my lunch was a whopping $3.75. The gorditas are also very good here.
A bonus in to going to the Grand Central Market is right across the street on Broadway; the Bradbury Building. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but once you step inside, you’re in a different world; one of a bygone era and one of the future. The Bradbury Building was built in 1893 and is a National Historic Landmark. It’s filled with gorgeous wrought iron, brick, polished wood, and topped with a glass skylight. It was also featured in the not-so-distant future world of the movie Blade Runner, one of my favorite movies of all time. Whenever I’m here, I have to step inside if just for a moment. The Bradbury Building is open to the public, ground floor and 1st floor landing only, 7 days a week, from 9-5pm.
How to get there:
To get to the Grand Central Market from the court building at Temple and Broadway, exit the building from the rear entrance and turn right, going out to Broadway. Walk south (left) down Broadway to 3rd Street (3 blocks). At 3rd Street the Bradbury Building will be on the left side of the street at 304 South Broadway and the Market will be on the right at 317 South Broadway.
Shish Kabob and Much More
Yes, that really is the full name of the restaurant; Shish Kabob and Much More. This Persian hole-in-the-wall has only 4 tables and a kitchen which looks to be the size of a closet. This is the one place I ate at based solely on the Yelp recommendations and the proximity to the courthouse. I was looking for something different and it didn’t disappoint.
I ordered a chicken shish kabob sandwich ($5.99, not on the online menu) and it came out open faced on a pita. The chicken was hot and freshly cooked on the grill and I liked that it was served with baby lettuce instead of shredded iceberg. I was asked if I wanted mild or spicy sauce; I said mild. Next time I’d opt for spicy and ask for extra of whatever the creamy sauce is on it (yogurt, I presume).
How to get there:
To get to Shish Kabob and Much More from the court building at Temple and Broadway, exit the building from the rear entrance and turn left, going down the stairs to Spring street. Walk south down Spring to 3rd Street (3 blocks) and turn left. Walk down 1 block to Main and the restaurant is right at the corner of Main and 3rd. Shish Kabob and Much More 101 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90013 Open 10:30-5:30 Monday-Saturday, Closed Sundays.
Pho Hoa in Chinatown
I’ve been going to Pho Hoa (link is to Yelp page, they don’t have their own) for about 20 years, ever since I first read about it in a book called Ethnic Food in Los Angeles. I usually order only one thing here, the #18, Pho Tai (with rare beef) and the occasional Ca Phe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk). As with any good pho restaurant, it’s the broth that’s the deal breaker and here, it’s very flavorful. However, any of the pho choices would be good. They give you a plate filled with sliced green chilies, bean sprouts, fresh Thai basil, and lime so you can garnish your soup to your liking. The pho ranges in price from $5.50 to $6.50 per bowl.
How to get there:
To get to Pho Hoa from the court building at Temple and Broadway, exit the building from the front entrance onto Temple and walk to the corner at your right at Spring Street. Here, you can pick up the Downtown B DASH bus for .50 cents and it will take you to the Chinatown Gold Line stop where you can walk half a block back to 818 N Spring St. Or, you can walk up Spring street 2 long blocks until you reach Caesar Chavez Blvd, veer right one block to continue 2.5 blocks up North Spring Street. The walk will take 15-20 minutes. By the way, the DASH site has real time bus routes so you can see when the next one is coming. I took the bus there and walked back because I didn’t want to wait 14 minutes for the next bus to come. Pho Hoa, 818 N Spring St, Ste 103, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 485-0074. Pho Hoa is open daily 7am-7pm.
Let me know what you think: Have you served on a Jury? What did you do for lunch? Would you like to go to these types of places?
Do you have any favorite places to add to the list for a quick but tasty lunch?