Nicknamed Little Osaka for its longstanding population of Japanese Americans, this Westside neighborhood has become a pan-Asian cultural and culinary hub. In the past couple of years the changes have been unmissable. Pop culture emporium Giant Robot remains a cornerstone, and you still have your pick of ramen and robata. But now there’s Chinese dim sum, Vietnamese bánh mì, Taiwanese boba, and Korean hot pots—making it easy to think globally and eat locally.
1. Plan Check Kitchen + Bar
If the only gastropub in the area always seems packed, blame the tallow-cooked fries, bold cocktails, and burgers with ketchup leather. The menu is small, but the ambience inspires lingering. » 1800 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-288-6500.
2. Blockheads Shavery
While nearby Brian’s Shave Ice specializes in Hawaiian-style snow cones drizzled with colorful syrups, this shop serves massive fluffy mounds of “snow cream” with toppings like brownie bites, condensed milk, lychees, and azuki beans. » 11311 Mississippi Ave., 310-445-8725.
3. Hotel de Ville Eyewear
The West L.A. outpost of the local eyewear chain reveres retro-modern specs, from vintage Christian Lacroix to the company’s nerdy-cool line—proving that the Twin Peaks Log Lady can be a fashion icon. » 11307 Mississippi Ave., 310-312-8899.
4. Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
There’s plenty of ramen on Sawtelle, but the Tokyo import, with its impossibly rich pork bone broth and springy noodles, is the one place where patrons queue out the door at lunch—the only time the coveted soup is served. » 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-231-7373.
5. Coffee Tomo
Coffee hounds have two choices: the louder, more laid-back Balconi Coffee Company or this quieter, more ascetic space, where pour-overs and macchiatos are a precision art form. » 11309 Mississippi Ave., 310-444-9390.
6. Seoul Sausage Co.
After their mobile eatery won big on The Great Food Truck Race, the three owners opened this cramped café to serve spicy-sweet grilled sausages and fried, curry-flavored rice balls. » 11313 Mississippi Ave., 310-477-7739.
7. Hashimoto Nursery
An area once dominated by nurseries now has only three. With roots (ahem) that go back nearly 80 years, this one-acre, family-run business is an anchor. Kumquats, yuzu, and cacti abound, while veggies and herbs come in tantalizing varieties. » 1935 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-473-6232.
8. Black Market
Twice as large as Giant Robot but just as jam-packed, the ultimate gift shop runs the gamut from streetwear-inspired graphic T-shirts to edgy designer labels like Vivienne Westwood. In between are thousands of eye-catching toys, tchotchkes, and even an eclectic art gallery. » 2023 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-966-1555.
9. In Residence
The spare boutique showcases chic, creative apparel and jewelry from established names as well as emerging talent. A Corey Lynn Calter dress looks even better with a pair of Fiel ankle boots and an Alice Park leather satchel—all locally designed. » 2051 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-312-2049.
Dig into the house specialty: egg, cabbage, and yam pancakes known as okonomiyaki. Heaped with shrimp, squid, pork belly, fried mochi, and other options, this isn’t just ideal drunk food, it’s modern gastronomic fusion at its sloppy best. » 2119 Sawtelle Blvd., 310-478-0521.
Why I Love It Here by Yotaro “Joe” Hashimoto Co-owner, Hashimoto Nursery
I am 68. I am here every day at 6:30 a.m., except on Sundays, when I come in at 7:30. The nursery was opened in 1927 by my father, Shichiro, and his three brothers. Before World War II, Masahiko, the oldest brother, adopted my father and they went to live in Japan, where I was born. My two uncles, Juro and Suehiko, went to the concentration camp at Manzanar. Workers kept the nursery open during the war—I don’t know how. I came here in 1959 when I was 15. I studied art at L.A. City College, and I was a barber for five years. After I turned 30, I started working here. I run the place with my two sisters, Nanayo and Chimie, and my son helps me with the books. I still live in this neighborhood.
Photographs by Mindee Choi. Illustration by Andy Friedman