Photo: Eater LA

Japanese bar food might be one of my favorite cuisines of all time. Plates are small and shareable, flavors are clean and interesting, and honestly, there’s nothing better than spilling tea with friends over some sake. Here are five of my favorite izakayas when I’m craving innovative Japanese flavors without the fussiness and high price tag that comes with more formal establishments. 

Otafuku Restaurant


Photo: Eat the World Los Angeles

Otafuku might be the sole reason I would go out of my way to go to Gardena. However, every time I do, it’s well worth it. Slightly more formal than other places on this list, there’s still no doubt that it’s still an izakaya at its core. Virtually everything here is amazing, so make sure to come with a big group and get busy with fresh sashimi, light and crispy tempura, refreshing soba, and quite possibly the best yakitori chicken wings I’ve ever had. Make sure to save room for dessert though, as their egg custard with vanilla ice cream and dark caramel still has me dreaming about it. 



Photo: 5280 Magazine

Apart from their adorable coasters, OTOTO is one of my go-to spots for several reasons – the food is delicious, the atmosphere is warm and cozy, and the Silverlake izakaya is just a short drive away from several of the many wine bars in the area if you’re looking to keep the party going. If you come between 5 and 7 PM, you get the privilege to try their ode to the mos burger, which is a chili burger that will have you forgetting about any chili you can get in a train (please don’t come after me). However, even if you do get the burger, you cannot leave without getting the karaage, which is some of the best I’ve ever had and the perfect vessel to soak up any sake or future natural wine consumption. If you’re looking for a more formal dining experience, check out Tsubaki next door (owned by the same people) – it’s just as good.

Izakaya Osen


Photo: Wonho Lee

I have a hot take – I know Izakaya Osen is normally known for their kushiyaki, but their raw fish selection is the star of the show. Don’t get me wrong, their kushiyaki is amazing (especially the chicken wings and negima), but I was pleasantly surprised that their sashimi selection is better than some other LA staples. A perfect place to chat with friends at the bar while indulging in fresh seafood and succulent grilled meats, Izakaya Osen is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in good food.



Photo: The Infatuation

As someone who lives on the Westside, Santa Monica needed a spot like Shirube. Just opening up late last year, I sprinted there as soon as I found out it was open. Perfect for a date night or a night out with friends before you hit the clubs, Shirube has you covered with fun cocktails and delicious food. Some of my favorites include their frozen yuzu mojito, aburi shime saba (which is torched right in front of you!), addicting corn ribs that kind of taste like turtle chips, and their hojicha brulee that has me salivating thinking about it. When you don’t feel like venturing out into the depths of central and eastern LA, Shirube is a gem.



Photo: Eater LA

Another relatively new spot on the list, the Virgil Village izakaya is sure to start appearing all over your for you page soon. From yakisoba with kewpie mayo drizzled on top, to decadent skewered chicken oysters, to their must-try soft serve, Budonoki is a welcome addition to the LA izakaya scene.