For anybody who's worked downtown for a while, the ever-expanding choice of dining spots is thrilling. After years of limited choices, we can now eat Latin, Japanese, Italian, Peruvian, classic American, straight-up French bistro — just about any cuisine you can name. If you're not familiar with downtown, though, the cornucopia of choices can seem daunting. Here are three suggestions.
The Factory Kitchen
This newish Italian spot from former Valentino chef Angelo Auriana has a terrific lunch menu that includes some of Auriana's best pasta dishes but also some just-for-lunch items. I love the pillow of fried sage dough topped with fresh stracciatella cheese and fat ribbons of rosy well-aged prosciutto. Frittata Milanese, an open-face Italian-style omelet with zucchini, spinach, artichoke hearts, potatoes and fontina, is ideal to share. So is the calamaretti salad with local squid, crisp green beans and wild arugula in a lemon-chile dressing. As for sandwiches, grab the panino porchetta made with rolled pork belly if it's on offer.
1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles, (213) 996-6000, http://www.thefactorykitchen.com. Lunch items, $8 to $24.
Grand Central Market
Juror alert: The historic food market, which dates from 1917, is within walking distance of the courthouse, and every week, it seems, something new opens. Lots of possibilities here, including a killer breakfast sandwich at Egg Slut, the all-natural pork bratwurst at Berlin Currywurst and Texas-style smoked brisket from Horse Thief BBQ. My new favorites? The massive burger from sustainable whole-animal butcher Belcampo Meat Co., and the Crying Tiger or any of the Thai curries from the tiny Sticky Rice stand. On your way out, grab a cup of joe from G&B Coffee.
317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 624-2378, http://www.grandcentralmarket.com
At Ricardo Zarate's casual Peruvian place (which started out as a lunch counter near USC), the lunch menu is strictly comfort food. You can't miss with his bright, juicy ceviche mixto (halibut, prawns, scallops, squid) or the flaky paiche (an Amazonian fish) with rice and cherry tomato escabeche). My pick is the carapulcra, a stew of crispy pork belly with peanuts, Inca-style sun-dried potatoes and a vibrant chimichurri. At $18, the lunch special is quite the deal, since it comes with two daily sides, rice and a dessert. Choose the alfajores cookies. Come hungry.
Mo-Chica, 514 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 622-3744, mo-chica.com. Lunch items, $9 to $35.