Los Angeles has a very large international community with people from all over the world who call it home. As part of this wonderful experience, there are several neighborhoods where you can sample top ethnic food — some of the best in the United States, in fact. Since Los Angeles is a “garden city” — that’s spread out with a number of different neighborhoods — navigating around the city is simple though — and you can easily visit any of these neighborhoods within 30 minutes to an hour from UCLA for top ethnic cuisine!

Little Tokyo

This neighborhood features the finest Japanese cuisine in L.A. Just north of downtown Los Angeles and near the up and coming Arts District, you can find amazing ramen dishes, authentic sushi and other Japanese fare. And the lines can get long at some of the top eateries. We recommend Daikokua, a popular spot for noodle dishes, and the fan-favorite, Marugame Monzo — serving great-tasting udon and ramen. Get directions to Little Tokyo from UCLA

Photo courtesy of PineOceanWorld, Flickr


Korean barbecue takes center stage here. It’s the best place in Southern California for Korean barbecue and other dishes — hands down, bar none. Once you get to Koreatown, the only hard part is finding which one of the many, superbly-tasting Korean barbecue restaurants to try. We recommend Park’s BBQ (known for its high-quality beef and banchan), and Genwa Korean BBQ (celebrities even frequent this place because of its selection of prime meats). Get directions to Koreatown from UCLA

San Gabriel Valley

If you love Chinese food, then you want to head east to the San Gabriel Valley — the most popular spot for L.A.’s best Chinese cuisine. It’s just over an hour during peak traffic hours to get to the “SGV,” but well worth the drive. Once you get there, you’ll be at the doorstep of restaurants that serve top-quality seafood and authentic Chinese dishes. Get directions to Monterey Park, the most popular city in San Gabriel Valley, from UCLA

Photo courtesy of Wen-Ting Yang, Flickr

Boyle Heights

Take a tour through the restaurants of this old, Los Angeles neighborhood and experience unbelievable Mexican cuisine. From traditional ethnic dishes to more popular fare, you won’t come out of Boyle Heights hungry. Visit the first Guisados location in Los Angeles — a legendary, local taco chain and a favorite for Angelenos, or try “Manuel’s Special Burrito” at El Tepeyac Cafe — featured on the show “Man vs. Food.” Once you’re done, visit La Monarca Bakery for its unique selection of coffee and pastries. Fun fact: the churro was invented in Boyle Heights! Get directions to Boyle Heights from UCLA


Just outside of UCLA in Westwood is the main neighborhood for top Persian cuisine. Persian Square is just 10 minutes south of the UCLA campus and is lined with Middle-Eastern restaurants that serve kabobs, grilled tomato and rice, and other rice dishes and soups popular in Iranian culture. We recommend Shamshiri Grill for its selection of stews and kabobs or nearby Flame Persian Cuisine. Make sure you end your meal with some traditional “chai,” before you head back to campus! Get directions to our top pick for food, in Persian Square in Westwood, from UCLA

Photo courtesy of Frank Farm, Flickr


One of the largest cities in Los Angeles County, Glendale, is home to the largest population of Armenians in the United States. As such, it’s no surprise that you can find a mix of Armenian restaurants serving cuisine brought by Armenians from Armenia, Lebanon and Iran. Raffi’s Place is by far the most popular restaurant in town for kabob while Carousel and Zankou Chicken serve Lebanese and Armenian dishes including the popular “soujoukh,” shawarma, and rotisserie chicken. Glendale is approximately 30 to 45 minutes from UCLA. Get directions to the heart of Glendale from UCLA

Photo courtesy of Erin Pawlicki, Flickr

Little Ethiopia

What an amazing neighborhood for cuisine! Little Ethiopia brings you dishes like “kitfo” (raw meat in warm butter and spices) and dishes dressed with “bebere” (chilies and other spices). We recommend restaurants along Fairfax Avenue between Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive, in the heart of Little Ethiopia for the best in Ethiopian cuisine. Places like Little Ethiopia Restaurant and Merkato are popular dining spots in the area. Get directions to Little Ethiopia from UCLA

Thai Town

Just 30 minutes of UCLA is Thai Town, the neighborhood with the best and most authentic Thai dining in Los Angeles. It’s one of L.A.’s newest neighborhoods, but packs an impressive lineup of Thai restaurants, including Bhan Kanom Thai, Jitlada, and Lacha Somtum. We could go on and on about the unique and memorable experiences at these places, but you’ll have to see for yourself! Get directions to Thai Town from UCLA


Chinatown in L.A. may not be as large or famous as the one in San Francisco, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Both Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese cuisine can be found at favorite local spots like Far East Plaza, where you can choose from delicious street food (at Lao Tao) or more formal dining options like Kim Chuy and Qin West Noodle. Chinatown is just under one hour from UCLA, and quicker in non-peak hours for traffic. Get directions to Chinatown from UCLA

Main Photo: Chinatown, Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of goldenpower1, Flickr