If you’re a foodie like me, when you travel abroad and eat at local restaurants, there’s another level of joy that comes from knowing that every meal directly supports families putting their kids through college and small business owners taking a chance on their dreams.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of diverse communities like Los Angeles and this summer, we partnered with LATourism to explore three incredible neighbourhoods that have been vibrant hubs of Black culture in the city for decades. LA isn’t just about movie stars and fashion models. During my stay, I discovered that in Los Angeles food means community, and in neighbourhoods like West Adams, Leimert Park, and South LA, you truly see that in action.
Each of the restaurants, cafés, and food trucks I visited were operated by friendly people with strong ties to the LA community and a passionate dedication to helping Black businesses thrive. It’s a city where farmers, sommeliers, and chefs work together to create incredible meals with locally-sourced ingredients and where the restaurants off the beaten path are packed with customers who stop by regularly, chatting with staff and treating the owners like old friends.
What sets LA’s food scene apart from that of other cities on the West Coast is the little slice of California that shows up on every menu. The dishes at the Black-owned restaurants I toured were contemporary, cool, and unique and it was so easy to find satisfying remixes on Southern, African, and Caribbean favourites at places like Alta and Azla Vegan.
Here are five of my recommendations for fantastic Black-owned restaurants in LA. If you want to go on a multi-day eating tour, check out our Instagram Guide to see the full list.
Little Belize – 217 E Nutwood St.
Little Belize is the kind of restaurant you picture when you think of the words “family-owned business”. The eatery is owned by a down-to-earth mother-daughter with deep ties to Los Angeles’ Belizean community and when you walk in you feel like you’re at an aunt’s house, so it’s no surprise that their food is delicious and that the portion sizes are huge.
If you’re unsure of what to expect from the country, I can tell you that it’s relatively similar to food from across the Caribbean with an Afro-Latino twist. I ordered the stewed oxtail, stewed chicken and rice & beans which also came with a delicious potato salad and the best appetizers I’ve ever had.
The appetizer trio I had included panades (fish empanadas with a spicy sauce), salbutes (fried masa covered with shredded chicken and cabbage), and garnaches (fried corn tortillas with kidney beans and cheese). If it wasn’t for the huge meal I ordered after the appetizers, I definitely would’ve ordered some more.
At Little Belize, every dish is filling, seasoned extremely well, and comes in large portions, making it the perfect place to linger over dinner with a friend.
Stevie’s Creole Café – 5545 W Pico Blvd.
Head over to Stevie’s for a lip-smacking introduction to Creole food in all its forms. I was surprised to see the more traditional menu items like fried gizzards and chitlins alongside Louisiana classics like seafood gumbo and fresh beignets, so if you’re interested in exploring all that NOLA has to offer, this is the restaurant for you.
Seating is a little limited but the food truly reminded me of what I ate during my last trip to New Orleans, so swing by for take-out whenever you can and grab a shrimp po’boy for the road. They’ve got a huge menu that includes lots of filling options perfect for treating yourself to something comforting after a long day of work or play!
Alta – 5359 W Adams Blvd.
Alta in the West Adams neighbourhood is a huge restaurant with lots of outdoor seating and lively guests celebrating birthdays or enjoying date night. The staff are attentive and very knowledgeable about the menu which features California Soul Food, a regional staple. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a way of cooking soul food that infuses healthier techniques and local ingredients into Southern classics like fried chicken (which they slow bake and then fry at the last minute for extra crispiness) and meatless collard greens. Many of the dishes are also inspired by West Africa, so if you want to try something you’ve never had before, step out of your comfort zone at Alta.
One of the coolest things about the restaurant is the wine shop next door called Adam’s. It’s run by a Black sommelier named Ruben and sells all of the wine the restaurant pours plus small gifts and cookbooks. And if that wasn’t enough to get you to Alta, the mac & cheese is hands down, the best I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I like it better than their banana pudding, but they’re both must-haves for sure.
Azla Vegan – 4309 Leimert Blvd.
In every city I travel to, I try to visit an Ethiopian restaurant to see how the locals prepare the recipes I grew up eating, so of course I had to stop by and grab a meal at Azla. It’s part of a vibrant community in LA and is especially known for marrying vegan East African staples with SoCal style as seen in their quinoa and Ethiopian beet salad and savoury fava bean tacos.
I ordered the Feast meal with 100% teff injera (that’s how you know it’s authentic!) and the stews that came with it were fresh, flavourful, and the perfect portion size for one person. If you’re a fan of Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, you’ll find that the restaurant will become a lunch or dinnertime staple whenever you visit the city. And if you’ve never had injera or shiro before, this is the best place to fall in love with it.
Banadir Somali Restaurant – 137 Arbor Vitae St.
Don’t let the humble exterior of this family-owned restaurant fool you; the food at Banadir Somali in South LA is fresh, flavourful, and definitely worth the trip inside. Every dish comes with a bowl of delicious broth with lime wedges on the side to turn your order into a complimentary combo.
If you’ve never had Somali food before, you’re in for a treat — it really is unlike any other East African cuisines. At the restaurant, you’re greeted with the warm, spicy smells of traditional Somali cooking including coriander, cumin, and cardamom.
Apparently, Banadir is the only Somali restaurant in Los Angeles, so that’s reason enough to visit. But if it isn’t, you should still head down for their huge portions and their basbaas cagaar, a tangy hot sauce made with green chillies, garlic, and coriander. I ordered the beef suqaar and bariis and enjoyed every bite. Don’t forget to ask for a banana with your rice dish — it’s essential to your East African eating experience.
Hungry for more reviews? Check out the full BLACK FOODIE Guide to Los Angeles on our Instagram page or watch my tour of the city’s best Black-owned restaurants here.
Special thanks to LA Tourism for supporting this trip.