Los Angeles’ reputation as an endless concrete suburbia is well-earned. But one of our secret weapons has always been our sneakily abundant access to all things nature. Between Malibu and Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park and our miles and miles of beaches, the outdoor culture in LA is strong. But after a few hours of sucking wind while walking up a canyon, you always need something to eat - and finding the right place to fill up is easier said than done. Here are the 15 best places to go after finishing one of LA’s major hikes.
For some reason, you decided to do the hard path at Runyon today and now you’re sore, dehydrated, and have three thorns stuck into the back of your leg. Time for some Korean bowls at BBQ + Rice. After a good sweat, our move tends to be either the bulgogi salad or tofu bowl, but you can’t really have a bad post-hike meal at this casual cafe on Sunset Blvd.
Grain Traders looks like one of those fast-casual, build-your-own lunch bowl spots. The difference, however, is that the food at Grain Traders is exceptionally delicious. You start with a protein base of your choice (beef, jidori chicken, tofu, etc) and then move down the line adding in an assortment of vegetables and sides like forbidden rice with caramelized leeks, the acidic pineapple kimchi, and spicy sambal salsa verde. Our favorite side, however, is the green curry eggplant casserole. It’s sweet, spicy, and something we always ask for an extra scoop of in the bowl.
You just spent an hour jogging around people taking selfies and now you need a comedown meal. Head to Otus Thai. Located just a few blocks down on La Brea from the Runyon entrance, this Thai breakfast cafe certainly has some heavier dishes on its menu, but if you’re in the mood for something lighter, check out one of their excellent salads. We like the som tum or yum gai sapp salad with spicy lime dressing.
You’re starving after walking up to the Observatory, but the last thing you want to do is try to find parking again in Los Feliz on a Saturday. Good news - Griffith has its own little order-at-the-window cafe at the bottom of the hill. And while it’s not the best food on the Eastside, The Trails is certainly the most convenient after any Griffith outing. You’re going to want the turkey avocado sandwich or vegetarian chili or one of their excellent muffins (if the blueberry banana is available, get it).
This tiny, counter-service shop in Glendale only has two things on its menu - sweet paxlava and its namesake zhengyalov hatz. While we always endorse a post-hike dessert moment, your focus should definitely be on the latter. This warm, doughy flatbread that’s wrapped around 15 different herbs and sunflower oil is a delicious, perfectly-constructed wrap and the kind of quick, affordable lunch (it’s $6.99) that’ll fill you up and get you on your way in under 15 minutes.
If Alcove isn’t your speed today (or any day), you’re in luck. Just up the block is Mustard Seed - a casual sidewalk cafe with zero waits and a surprisingly strong menu. Their chopped salad is massive and good for two meals, and their turkey burger won’t make you sad either. They’re only open till 4pm every day, but the bonus is they serve breakfast until close.
The tiny little cafe off Vermont is making the only real juices and health shakes you want in the area. Our move is the "Power Mint" (it tastes like a mint Klondike Bar), but frankly most of their shakes are worth ordering. Looking for a real nasal clear-out? Get the ginger shot with oil of oregano.
Kenneth Hahn Recreational Park
So you want to eat healthy after a hike, but also go somewhere cool/possibly from the future? Head for Destroyer. Located in the middle of a bunch of tech startups in Culver City, this daytime-only, order-at-the-counter spot seems like one of those places created only for Instagram, but then you try the food and realize it tastes even better than it looks. The raw oatmeal (with a frozen disk of crispy vanilla on top) is a must-order.
Somehow you got conned by your overachieving friend to get up at 6am on a Saturday and hike three miles. Take back control of the itinerary and head to Pops afterwards. The popular bagel shop at The Platform serves doughy, dense bagels that always hit the spot after an early morning workout. The everything is our favorite - served with your choice of cream cheese (we like the pickled jalapeño option, which is full of fatty and spicy flavors). You should also get the “What Zach Had For Breakfast,” a rotating special involving sweet-and-savory combos like a sesame bagel topped with Santa Barbara Smokehouse lox on one side, and cream cheese and strawberry jam on the other.
Citizen Public Market
Figuring out lunch with four sweaty friends in your car will most likely involve spreadsheets, side eye, and incoherent shouting about your last failed post-hike lunch. Cut your losses and go to Citizen Public Market. The new food fall in downtown Culver has seven vendors selling everything from plump bivalves and uni trays at Jolly Oyster, shrimp ceviche and carnitas tacos from Mexicology, and smaller versions of Pizzeria Mozza pies found at Pizzette. Once everyone’s got their desired meal, head upstairs and enjoy it all on the excellent rooftop space.
Mateo's Ice Cream & Fruit Bars
Running the last mile of your hike was perhaps ill-advised and now your body temperature is hotter than Matt Bomer helping an elderly woman cross the street. Head immediately to Mateo’s. Between their Oaxacan paletas, super-creamy gelatos, and sorbets that taste like freshly juiced strawberries, this incredible Mexican dessert shop in Culver is one of the fastest cool-downs in town. You can’t go wrong with any of their 30 different flavors, but we love the watermelon, mango dusted with chile, and leche quemada - a creamy smoked milk concoction that tastes exactly like someone kippered a gallon of dairy over an open flame.
Malibu Creek State Park
Broad Street Oyster Company in Malibu is filled with so many oysters, mussels, shrimp, and uni you’ll wonder if their “local source” is actually the Aquarium of the Pacific. Order a bit of everything - oysters and spot prawns from the raw bar, a hot, buttery lobster roll, and maybe even a Caesar salad if you’re craving something green after hiking a local canyon. There’s also a massive outdoor patio now in their front parking lot perfect for hanging out at.
There are a few sandwich shops inside the Malibu Country Mart, but the one you should go to is Malibu Kitchen. It’s owned by a native New Yorker and by simply stepping inside you’re transported to Long Island in the best way - you’ll probably be curtly asked to hurry up or slow down, the chip and beverage options are endless, and the delicious made-to-order sandwiches come out quick. The moist pulled pork on ciabatta is better than many BBQ spots, but even if you go with turkey, a reuben, or an assortment of sides like tuna salad or mac and cheese from the deli case, your refuel lunch will be a guaranteed success.
Driving up Topanga Canyon from PCH, you’ll pass crystal shops, outdoor Shakespeare amphitheaters, and homemade art installations that have all become local landmarks. It’s a perfect post-hike jaunt when you aren’t ready to head back to reality, and one that’s made even better by having lunch at Cafe 27. The almost entirely outdoor space is built into the side of a hill with sweeping views of the canyon that feels like you’re eating inside the tree-house of your childhood dreams. But instead of warm M&Ms and juice boxes, you’ll refuel on perfectly-plump omelettes, giant sandwiches, and a very good avocado toast.
Malibu Farm continues to be one of Malibu’s better lunch/dinner options, but its tiny cafe-sister at the far end of the pier is the even-more-casual version, and perfect after breaking a sweat in the canyons all day. The menu is simple (with everything from a fried egg sandwich to a kale Caesar), but everything on it is quite good. And, as a plus, you’re on the tip of a pier in Malibu.