(CNN) — Almost from its start, Los Angeles has been a huge draw for tourists. Well, much of it anyway. Downtown L.A. hasn't exactly had a reputation as a haven for fun-minded vacationers. But that's been changing in recent times. Downtown now has all sorts of attractions to keep visitors -- and residents -- entertained: Grand Park, the Broad Museum of contemporary art and shopping at the Grand Central Market are just a small sampling.
And while you enjoy downtown's parks, museums and such, you can stay for something to eat these days. The downtown restaurant scene is hopping, stays open past 5 p.m. and adds to the growing appeal of the area. And the options are befitting a city that's a global melting pot.
Here are five downtown Los Angeles restaurants highly regarded by local chefs that you might want to check out for yourself:
1. Broken Spanish
It's pretty easy to find Mexican food in L.A. But what do you do when you want memorable, out-of-the-ordinary Mexican? Fellow chefs like to go to Broken Spanish, where Ivan Marquez and Ray Garcia oversee things.
The tostada at Broken Spanish gets raves: "His tostada on heirloom corn tortilla (made by hand in house) with beets, hard-boiled egg & pickled habanero is transcendental!" writes chef Sammy Monsour, co-author of the cookbook "American Burger Revival."
Have you ever had duck at a Mexican restaurant? The roast duck with mole is considered another standout there. Another innovative dish is charred red cabbage with cueritos (pig skin). Ingredients in their dishes vary from oysters and scallops to beets and mushrooms.
Broken Spanish says it adds a 3% surcharge to its bills so it can provide health insurance for its full-time employees, but diners can have the charge removed if they wish.
Broken Spanish: 1050 S. Flower St. Los Angeles, CA, 90015. Call: 213-749-1460. $$$
2. Bäco Mercat
If you're in the mood for food inspired by Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, this is the spot. Just one of the restaurants in chef Josef Centeno's group, the flatbread sandwiches and other fare here are making a big impression.
The Original sandwich with pork, beef carnitas and salbitxada (a tomato-based sauce from the Catalonia region of Spain) is a favorite with chefs.
"You can't go wrong with Bäco's original flatbread sandwich," says chef Tim Goodell, co-owner of Public Kitchen & Bar in L.A. "They up the ante of the traditional beef carnitas by adding pork belly."
Other dishes getting attention: The Fava Fritter Bäco (with feta-poblano, chickpea and salmorejo) and the House Granola With Lebni (unsweetened yogurt) and Honey. Veggie lovers will find a menu full of offerings. Bäco Mercat also has an extensive selection of wine, cocktails and beer.
Bäco Mercat: 408 S. Main St. Los Angeles, CA, 90013. Call: 213-687-8808. $$
In downtown Los Angeles, Bestia is impressing chefs with its Bone Marrow and Spinach Gnocchetti.
When you want Italian that upgrades pasta and pizza selections and offers a range of menu items well beyond traditional fare, head to Bestia. The industrial concept for the restaurant comes from chefs and founders Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menshe.
They excel in rustic Italian. For example, consider the Grilled Whole Branzino. It comes with pea tendrils, fried herbs and grilled lemon. Chef and TV personality Nathan Lyon describes it as "simplicity at its best. If you've ever been hesitant to order fish for fear that it will arrive dry, lacking flavor, and void of acidity, Bestia will change your mind."
Feeling adventurous? Another interesting dish catching the attention of the city's chefs is the Bone Marrow and Spinach Gnocchetti.
You'll also find a nice variety of desserts on the menu such as Maple Ricotta Fritters and Warm Pear Ricotta Tart.
Bestia: 2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90021. Call: 213-514-5724. $$$
4. Sarita's Pupuseria
This eatery has a name that's fun to pronounce and food that you'll remember. It's one of the vendors at L.A.'s popular Grand Central Market. You can grab a stool at the counter or take your order elsewhere.
Owner Sara Clark serves up delicious Salvadoran fare that comes from family recipes.
The cactus pupusas get raves from chef Sammy Monsour: "I crave them. They come made to order, ripping hot with a great sear/crust and loaded with tons of cheese." Another pupusa on chefs' radar: the loroco (an edible Central American flower).
Along with the popular pupusas (a thick corn cake that comes with savory fillings), you can also get fried plantains, Salvadoran stews and vegetarian offerings.
When you think of typical SoCal cooking, German cuisine with a twist probably doesn't come to mind. But Wurstküche could help change that. The restaurant is a self-described "purveyor of exotic grilled sausages."
To that end, the Duck & Bacon Sausage is a good place to start. Chef Tim Goodell posts that he's addicted: "With tender meat and a spicy jalapeño kick, the combination of ingredients is really unique. I try to order something different every time I go in, but I can't."
And what goes better with a good sausage than crispy, twice-fried Belgian Fries? You can order them with a variety of dipping sauces, including curry ketchup and pesto mayo.
If you want to go truly exotic, they also have rattlesnake and rabbit on a freshly baked roll. Wash it all down with a wide selection of German and Belgian draft beers.
Wurstküche: 800 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Call: 213-687-4444. $$ (There's also a Venice location)