6 Great Lunches Near The Geffen Contemporary @ MOCA

Last week Transmission LA: AV Club opened at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Downtown L.A., an installation curated by the one and only Mike D from the Beastie Boys.  A maze of visual wonders, complete with a coffee bar that doubles as a race track for remote control racing boats, the exhibit is open for three weeks and meant to be more than just a thing you visit once before checking it off your list.  There will also be performances by bands and DJs, and to add to the draw Mike D enlisted Chef Roy Choi to offer up food from a Kogi truck parked outside the building.  Each day the chef plans to offer something completely new, alongside old Kogi favorites like pork belly tacos and blackjack quesadillas.  Last week it was peanut butter and jelly pupusas, this week- who knows?

Sadly, though, Kogi will only be serving food Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 6-10pm  (with lunch service just once a week on Saturdays from Noon to 2pm.)  So if you want to check out the installation during the week on your lunch break, you’ll be on your own food-wise.  Thankfully The Geffen is right in the heart of Little Tokyo, and there are plenty of great, quick lunch options within walking distance.  Here are 6 of my favorites…


1. Shin Sen Gumi – If wait times are indicative of quality, Daikokuya is hands down the best ramen spot in Downtown Los Angeles.  But if you want to spend some serious time gawking at Ben Jones’ insane video art “tunnel”, you don’t have time for waiting.  Instead head over to Shin Sen Gumi, which is larger and feels a bit quicker even though you aren’t completely immune to waiting. At the very least you should be able to grab a seat at the counter, and you are allowed to park in that lot in front of Office Depot.  132 S Central Ave, 213-687-7108  [link]


2. Spice Table – In the mood for a something a bit more portable? Right next door is Spice Table, which serves up an impressive lunch menu of sandwiches on house made baguettes, including a pastrami-like pork belly creation and a near perfect gourmet version of a cold cut banh mi. 114 S. Central Avenue, 213.620.1840 [link]


3. Fat Spoon – If you’ve never tried the Japanese take on Italian food, use a visit to MOCA as an opportunity to hit up Fat Spoon on 1st Street. You can get your perfectly cooked al dente pasta topped with uni or cod roe and seaweed, or stay traditional with a bowl of hearty bolognese. They also serve a decent plate of katsu curry. 329 East 1st St., 213-621-7890 [link]


4. Aloha Cafe – If you like Chinese roasted pork, this old school Hawaiian spot serves up a dynamite version as a plate lunch with rice and macaroni salad or a fried egg. And make sure you ask for a squeeze bottle of their chili water.  The only catch is, you’ll want to hit this place up before heading to MOCA, because they’re likely to be out of the char sui if you end up going after. 410 E 2nd St (btw. Central+Alameda), 213-346-9930 [link]


5. Wurstkurche – If you’re not in the mood for Asian food and willing to go a tiny bit farther this super popular sausage/beer emporium is just .4 miles away. The bread. The onions and peppers. The fries. So good, and they have something for everybody in your art loving crew- like turkey, chicken, seafood and vegetarian sausages (this is L.A. after all.) 800 East 3rd Street. 213-687-4444 [link]


6. Oiwake – What’s quicker than an all you can eat buffet? Walk in, and you could (potentially) be eating 15 seconds later. I don’t normally suggest rushing the ayce experience (you want to win the game after all) and Oiwake doesn’t serve up the best Japanese food in Little Tokyo, but all you can eat tempura and mall food court chicken for $8.50 is all I need to keep me coming back for more. 122 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, 213-628-2678 [link]

BONUS: There’s coffee available at the installation, but for something a little sweet (and LaMill coffee, if you’re into such things) you’ll want to head over to Cafe Dulce in the Japanese Village Plaza. Their green tea doughnuts have become legendary, but my favorite is their “koko churro”, a chewy, tapioca flour concoction that is deep fried and then covered in sugar. 134 Japanese Village Plz. 213-346-9910



  • I’m kind of glad my favorite Little Tokyo spot is not on this list, as I don’t want it to be overrun. On the other hand, I don’t want it to go out of business, either.

  • Nothing against hipster sausage-fest Wurstküche (not “Wurstkurche”) but it’s too far away from the Geffen Contemporary to be included in this list.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.