Following Exposition Boulevard from Downtown LA, through the Westside and hitting USC and Culver City before ending at one of the most famous beaches in the world, few Metro lines exemplify southern California quite the way the Expo Line does.
Since opening in April 2012, the Expo Line has grown to carry more than 55,000 riders everyday. The Expo Line serves as an essential railway for thousands of commuters working throughout the Westside, students exploring the big city, and anyone hoping to enjoy the SoCal sun and surf.
But beachgoers, starving students and the common working man all have one thing in common when it comes to riding the Expo Line: Easy access to some of LA’s best eats! Check out one of these great dinner spots next time you’re on an aqua-colored train.
Little Sister (7th/Metro)
Sporting one of the oddest names in Downtown LA, it’s hard to parse what the big idea behind this Singaporean bistro is. But once you get over the name, Little Sister will quickly reveal itself to be one of the finest fusion food offerings in Los Angeles, combining European accents with Southeast Asian food.
A quick peek at the menu easily displays Little Sister’s wide influences, with everything from curry to noodles showing up and being paired with sesame, fried chillies and much more. The shaky beef and spring rolls are both popular online, as are the noodle plates. Be careful, though. Although it’s in DTLA and next to some of the finest bars Los Angeles has to offer, Little Sister closes early.
Chichen Itza (Expo Park/USC)
Los Angeles is the capital of Mexican food, with its taco trucks known around the world. But while most people assume Mexican food boils down to rice and beans, there are plenty of places, like Mercado La Paloma’s Chichen Itza, that are bucking the trend. Chichen Itza, named after one of the largest and best-preserved Mayan ruins in Mexico, serves up Yucatan food, hailing from Mexico’s southern peninsula.
Yucatan food, drawing on Spanish flavors, Mayan ingredients and influences as diverse as Lebanon and Central America, includes both familiar treats like tamales and more exotic fare like kibi. Kibi, brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, are ground beef and cracked wheat patties seasoned with mint and fried to perfection. Best of all for the hungry student, nearby at USC, almost everything is under 10 dollars, with only the entree plates reaching over $10 dollars.
Mel’s Fish Shack (Farmdale)
This isn’t the only seafood place on our list, but it certainly provides a stark contrast to the whimsy and class of our later option. Mel’s Fish Shack wasn’t even a full restaurant when they first opened in 1982. Rather, it was a buy-and-fry operation that provided the local community of West Adams with fresh seafood. But everything changed when current owner Georgette Powell turned the market into a restaurant.
This proved to be a good idea, Powell would later tell Eater LA. Their years of expertise selling seafood to the surrounding community meant they knew exactly what their customer base wanted, and that was crispy catfish and shrimp. The restaurant took off with locals, in part due to the affordable lunch specials that come with sides like creamy potato salad and fluffy hush puppies. Of course, even today there are some people not used to the change. According to Powell, even today there are some people drop by expecting to find a fish market.
The Cannibal (Culver City)
The Cannibal was once a few steps away from the Expo Line terminus, but now it’s part of Culver City’s blossoming foodie scene. In case you couldn’t tell by the name, this is not the place to bring your vegan pals. A self-described butcher’s restaurant, The Cannibal is a great place to do your shopping for weekend barbecues, but it’s also a prime spot for lunch and dinner.
Sandwiches and burgers are the main draw, with the almighty Cannibal Burger being both the priciest option on the menu, and the most delectable, sporting stilton blue cheese and fancy harissa mayo on a brioche bun. There’s even a few vegetable options, if you absolutely have to. While the food menu is an exercise in specialization, the drinks are as varied as you can imagine, with everything from fine wine to scotch ale beers available. I’ve always judged gastropubs like these by their pretzel, and the Cannibal’s Everything Pretzel doesn’t disappoint, with the creamy scallion cream cheese being so good, I almost went out and thanked some cows for all the goodness they’ve given us.
The Albright (Downtown Santa Monica)
The final spot on our list is the The Albright, found on the prime real estate that is the Santa Monica pier. Sporting a whimsical Popeye the Sailor theme, The Albright is worth coming to for some of the freshest seafood in Los Angeles. Everything from lobster rolls to fish and chips tastes like it was just caught, and tanks along the entrance filled to the brim with live crab and lobster let you know that this is the real deal.
There’s some important advice to follow, though. Since the seafood is so fresh here, bills can run high. The best solution I’ve found for this is to take a group of friends and have everyone order one of the fries combo plates! That way, each member of your party can sample hand-battered black tiger shrimp, sauteed prince edward island mussels and fried calamari. Wash it all down with one of The Albright’s fine brews, ranging from world-famous SoCal IPAs to ordinarily-expensive imports. The drinks menu is another place where The Albright shines. Everything is reasonably priced, with only a handful of beers peeking over $7.