NY Chowhound in LA for the first time....where to eat!?
Will be in LA Mon - Thurs on business staying at The Orlando in West Hollywood (West 3rd off of La Cienega). Any good places I should know about? Type of food isn't important - I'll eat anything as long as it's good!
1.) Willing to drive, but not an excessive amount.
2.) I don't want to limit myself to joints only, but I'll be dining alone most of the time so someplace I won't feel out of place would be preferable.
3.) Price range ~ 30 dollars not including alcohol.
Any ideas? My only goal so far is to hit up an In n' Out and see what all the fuss is about.
In n' Out is really no big deal. Don't know where you are visiting from but the food in LOs Angeles leaves a lot to be desired. I'm originally from NY and I find that the food here is mediocre at best. Doesn't really matter where I go. Be it Mr. Chow's which is really famous and celeb heavy or if I go to the corner rest. Good Luck
i'm from ny as well and prefer the restaurants here in LA by far, except for the extreme high end, where ny excels, by far.
that said, i'd skip in n out or
go with no expectations.
some would say have the langer's pastrami instead.
your question is too open ended though, as there are hundreds of cuisines
I always LOVED chinoise on main and the ivy - the ivy's great people watching. So is the restaurant at Fred Seigel's. Have fun.
If going to In-N-Out, request sauteed onions on your double-double. (it doesn't specify it on the menu). It really is the best fast-food burger. If you are an adventurous eater, LA is a magnificent chowhound city, especially as an "ethnic" food city. NYT, today, just wrote about Chinese food in LA here:
Don't go for Italian, French or jewish deli or the things you are used to in NYC. In LA, go for Mexican, Persian, and Asian. I'm not too familiar with West Hollywood. East LA is more of the eating mecca of LA.
re: david t.
You're kidding me, right? Beverly and Melrose all by their lonesome could carry the city. La Cienega is no slouch either. All of this is within the 323 area code.
In-N-Out is worth the hassle, just to find out what a good fast food burger is like. Thomas Keller was so impressed with In-N-Out that he decided to open his own burger joint (although right now Ad Hoc is a family style restaurant).
I agree with the comment, though, that Mexican, Persian and Asian flavors are dominant, although try and hit up L'Orangerie before it shuts down.
Near WeHo, go down La Cienega and you'll find plenty of options.
while l'orangerie is my favorite restuarant, pls note that fascfoo noted his budget was $30 (l'orangerie will set you back at least $150/person). for $30, you'll have to settle for a 2-dollar sign resto in the fairfax district or west hollywood. some cheap spots that are good are toast on 3rd st., the cafe in fred segal, la conversation on robertson, and other casual places abundant on 3rd, beverly, melrose, la cienega, la brea (sorry, $30 won't really buy antyhing stellar now).
re: david t.
In-N-Out "secret menu":
"3 by 3", three patties, cheese on each one
"4 by 4", more of the same, with four of each, etc.
"animal style" in addition to the standard lettuce, tomato and spread, grilled onions, mustard and pickles
"protein burger", no bun
All standard menu burgers come with lettuce, tomato, spread, and optionally raw or grilled onions.
Some people like to order the fries well done, I don't. If you get the standard fries right out of the frier, when they are super hot they are good, but as they cool they get limp and uncrispy.
The fries are cut from real potatoes in each store, the lettuce is always whole leafs, and the tomatoes are fresh.
I prefer a 3 by 3 (I allow myself about two a year), a perfect melding of meat and melted cheese, good condiments, and a nice, light grease sheen on the outside of the bun.
Although, you'll get the anti-LA haters on this...who'll disagree to disagree.
My take? LA is definitely a burger town. Although, after visiting Paul's in NY, I think Ny has a pretty stellar burger.
My suggestion is to have a 3 burger day, not including the In N' Out visit.
1. Go To Cassell's, it's over in Koreatown towards 6th and Vermont. There are naysayers who say that the burger there isn't worthwhile--they are wrong. The beef they use is wonderfully rich tasting. It's almost gamey and I love it. It's inexpensive, too.
2. Go a bit west and hit up the Counter on Ocean Park Drive. This is the kind of burger you build yourself and reap the rewards of being a creative burger god.
3. Now go to Father's Office, a place a great many dislike on this forum. It's actually wonderful and fun. You can't modify your burger, but it's fine because all the things work really well together.
Now, get drunk at FO...then head to In N' Out.
Oh, that's a four burger day.
But be warned that Father's Office gets really packed, sometimes a line out the door. When it's that packed and you can't find a seat, know that it's first come, first grab (table, that is). Another tip about their burgers: there are no substitutions so hope you like bleu cheese and bacon in your burger - I don't eat pork, but this burger is worth the trouble of slicing off half the patty and removing the lettuce and top bun to make sure I don't eat even a bit of the bacon.
Yeah, my tip is four o' clock--get there.
That's cool you're that flexible about the pork thing, but also I wish that they'd make just one exception--especially since there are quite a few jewish folks in town here.
Because, minus the bacon, that burger would still be impressive.
I want to be friends with someone there in the kitchen so I could try just the MEAT...on a plate and nothing else.
Some close restaurants:
You could go for lunch at Lucques. It's a bit finer dining, but their bar is fitting for solo diners.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at BLD, a neighbor to the finer dining resto, Grace.
Little Next Door is another good nearby option. It's a new place that shot up next to an old Italian standby known as The Little Door.
Urthe Caffe for coffee, tea, sandwiches, and delicious desserts.
I also suggest hitting up The Grove at 3rd and Fairfax. It has a trendy area, plus a farmer's market where you can get gumbo, crepes, and all other sorts of less expensive foods. The Grove has set up its Christmas decor and it's just a cool place to hang around in the evening - shopping and dining. They have a BBQ wood ranch and grill, maggiano's little italy, and one of my favorites -- Whisper Lounge. They play live piano there on some nights and have one of the best tasting menu deals in town.
Welcome to LA!
The Grove is fun for shopping (and no, there's nothing like that in NY, though the LA Times on Sunday made a claim that the new Times Square is based on the Grove) but the Farmer's Market is fun for eating. The Greek restaurant (Ulysses Voyage) is pretty good, but all the food stands inside are a lot of fun. If I were visiting from NY (and I used to live there) I'd hit up Loteria for tacos and follow it with ice cream from Bennett's and a walk around the Grove.
I'd also get some good Thai food -- the closest in that neighborhood that's decent is Natalee on Robertson and Olympic -- it's actually spicy, and even if it's only OK, it's better than any Thai in Manhattan. There are probably better thai places if you want to drive though.
Other good food in the neighborhood of your hotel is the 3rd Stop -- a pub with great food on 3rd Street and Hamel, I think - right by Cedars Sinai.
re: Amuse Bouches
Farmer's Market is a good suggestion as it is an LA institution with a huge variety of cuisine to chose from. We usually end up at the Gumbo Pot - love their fried cornmeal crusted oysters or shrimp with the salad.
Agree - Grove restaurants tend to be chains - they are OK, but you can find them anywhere.
The farmer's market is the single best place on earth for sitting outside with a pitcher of beer with friends and watching people.
Any time that I want to drink early in the day, I go there. Man, those little beer bars there have incredible selections, great views, and awesome people-watching!
Teres (at Melrose & Caheunga) is a great example of the excellent mom and pop Mexican restaurants that are all over L.A. My faves are enchiladas fish, mechudas, & enchiladas michoacanas among others. It will set you back $15 max.
Where will your business days take you? Downtown? Studio City? Santa Monica? There are great lunch options within your budget in each of these areas.
Agree you should try Langer's for pastrami. Some will try to scare you from the neighborhood, but it is safe in the daytime and would never put off a New Yorker. They are next to the Seventh/Alvarado red line subway station and there is a parking lot a block to the east on the NE corner.
The double-double with onion and grilled onion is the essential In'and'Out burger. About $3. I do get my fries there well-done.
Check out Bandini's "The Great Taco Hunt" on blogspot for his highest recommendations for Mexican street taco joints. His ratings are divided into neighborhoods. Near downtown is his highest rated El Parian and north of Chinatown is my favorite Carnitas Michaocan on No. Broadway at 19th. In Santa Monica try Tacos Por Favor on Olympic at 14th and in West L.A. there is Taqueria Sanchez on Centinela between Washington and Culver. Too many to list east of downtown or in the Valley.
Many of the restaurants in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are expensive and require valet parking. If someone is buying, try Spago, AOC or Lucques. If downtown, Water Grill. Between downtown and WeHo, Providence.
For Persian food, Westwood Blvd. on the west side between Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvd. (just south of UCLA) has Shamshiri, Sheherezad, and the ultra-casual Sunnin.
Have a good trip!
Check out The Griddle for breakfast one day -- best pancakes ever! It's close to where you'll be -- near Sunset & Fairfax. Has a counter that's good for solo diners.
I love In & Out. We hit it on the way in and out (ha ha) of the airport every time we're in LA!
Huge fan of The Ivy also.
On a trip a couple of years ago, a friend took us to Enoteca Drago in Santa Monica and we really enjoyed it.
There are so many great places in LA -- it's hard to name just a few!
I always take out of town guests to these restaurants. They are inexpensive and really wonderful:
Amazing breakfast near West Hollywood: DOUGHBOYS
Also has the best french onion soup anywhere, worth the calories.
8136 W Third St (Cross Street: Crescent Heights Boulevard)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Best Korean BBQ (uses mesquite wood, most bbqs are electric): SOOT BUL JEEP (very low brow)
A bit of a drive to Koreatown though
3136 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
order the shrimp or the beef; comes with plenty of side dishes
Fozen Yogurt phenomenon: PINKBERRY
see what everyone in L.A. is obsessing about, frozen yogurt with live yogurt culture, get the green tea with tropical fruit.
868 Huntley Dr (off of Santa Monica, west of La Cienega)
West Hollywood, CA 90069
For a bit more money:
A piece of Hollywood history, legendary martinis & steaks: MUSSO & FRANK GRILL
(Musso's is Hollywood's oldest restaurant)
6667 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dinner at the bar at A.O.C. is great fun alone, and within your food price range (I wouldn't pass up a glass or flight of wine while you're there). Another L.A. solo dining fun spot is grilled cheese night (Thurs) at Campanile -- eat at the bar there too.
I really don't know West Hollywood very well -- I tend to be somewhat hype-averse and it seems like a lot of the restaurants in West Hollywood and its environs are all hype.
I know you said you don't want to drive too far, but some things are really worth it. There is the best Chinese in the country just east of LA, off the 10 freeway. Pick a Chinese style, we'll find you THE place to eat it.
The Valley, which is a few miles over the hill, is jam-packed with all sorts of ethnic delights... pick a cuisine and we've probably got what you want up here.
Definitely K-town. Soot Bull Jeep is a lot of fun and great food but don't wear anything nice, because you're going to smell like a forest fire when you come out. Nicer in ambiance (but still in your range) is Chosun Galbi on Olympic. If you're into Korean soon tofu, the doyens of the genre face each other across Olympic at New Hampshire -- Beverly Soon Tofu and Sokongdong.
You could join the fuss about Mozza (Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali's new pizzeria). New York it ain't, though.
You should have Mexican food while you're here. Not TOO far away is La Serenata di Garibaldi in Boyle Heights, on 1st near Soto. It's a Mexican seafood restaurant, the likes of which aren't to be found in New York. I second the taco hunt blog -- and there are some fantastic taco trucks to be found (with a much, much, MUCH higher standard of hygiene than street food in New York), especially once the sun sets.
Don't bother with I-N-O. Really. I'm speaking here as a Jersey boy who didn't grow up with it -- it's a lot of nostalgia and a lot of people who mistake old-style (good) service for excellent food. There are other, better, burgers in the city, though I haven't tried Father's Office because of my need not to deal with the Burger Nazis.
Sushi. Yes, I know there's sushi in New York, but it's different here, it's cheaper here, and it's arguably better here. The state capital of sushi is Studio City, which is just over the hill from WeHo.
The food isn't mediocre -- except the kind that tries to imitate New York. We're not New York, we're not San Francisco, and so people who come here locked into their "home" eating styles end up disappointed.
Have Ethiopian food in Little Ethiopia, on Fairfax just south of Olympic. I'm partial to Meals by Genet, but honestly none of them are at all bad... and you'll be hard-pressed to spend $30 on yourself there. Try the vegetarian combo at whatever place you pick, because what the Ethiopians do with pulses is truly excellent.
With all due respect, I think many responses here are off the mark.
Why would you send someone from NYC to Langer's for pastrami sandwiches? To Musso and Frank, for their mediocre NYC-steakhouse vibe? Or to L'Orangerie or Water Grill on a $30 budget? Or to Maggiano's or Whisper Lounge at all?
How much is "too much" driving? For a special meal, if you have a date and don't mind a 45 minute drive, go to Saddle Peak Lodge. Quintessential SoCal dining.
If you don't mind driving 1/2 hour:
- Lares on Santa Monica Blvd., for quality, classy, Southern California style Mexican food the likes of which you won't find on the East Coast, period.
- NYC has good Korean, but LA's is better. Soot Bull Jeep is great, but a little grungy. If you have a client or a guest, go to Chosun Galbi instead.
If you want to spend a teeny bit more for a special California meal, I agree that Chinois in Santa Monica is awesome; it's the type of place that invented pan-Asian cooking and still does it really well. Plus celebrity chef and probable celebrity diners to boot. Not so great for dining alone, though.
For a real feast, go to Chinatown and hit Empress Pavilion for dim sum brunch. Much better than any NYC dim sum.
If you're lazy, don't have a date, and don't want to drive more than five minutes from 3rd and LaCienega, I'd recommend:
- Ulysses Voyage, at the Grove (Fairfax/3rd) for Greek
- El Coyote (Beverly/La Brea) for California Mexican (they also, btw, make one of the better cheeseburgers in town). An LA institution, though "foodies" will cry foul.
- Mishima (La Cienega/3rd) for Japanese noodles.
- Loteria, at the Farmer's Market (La Cienega/3rd) for Yucatan style Mexican food.
- La Salsa (at the Beverly Center) or Baja Fresh, (across the street at the Beverly Connection), to see how good even "chain" Mexican food in LA is.
- Buddha's Belly, on Beverly near Fairfax, for excellent, contemporary fusion cuisine.
As a rule of thumb, any one of a zillion sushi bars will be as good or better than 90% of NYC sushi; double that for any scary-looking taco place for a quick bite.
As for In' N' Out... yeah, definitely go there. Order a double double, they're small. Do let us know where you went and how you liked it!
I'm glad you wrote that... I was beginning to think I'd landed in some alternate LA Chowhound... but one small correction, Lares is on Pico in Santa Monica -- and it's gone downhill. I'd pick La Talpa on Pico or Tia Juana's on Olympic, in the same area, for Socali Mexican food on the Westside.
Langer's is totally worth it for the pastrami (ask for hand-cut) but I wouldn't send a business-tripper from New York there, a bit like coals to Newcastle. I'd send an expat New Yorker who really missed the pastrami from Katz's there.
If you insist on In N Out, try to get them to do the burger(s) medium rare, animal style (don't ask), with well done fries and a Neopolitan shake. But Fatburger is about as good for a chain burger and their fries are better.
Of the stuff that has been recommended, I would definitely emphasize Loteria! Grill in the Farmer's Market (Fairfax & Beverly).
Of the things that have not been recommended, I would say sit at the bar at the Hungry Cat which is sort of behind the corner of Sunset & Vine and order seafood or a Pug Burger and a fruity alcoholic drink (very good fruit). Also, get thee to Sawtelle and Olympic and cruise Sawtelle. There I would immediately queue up at Orris and eat whatever strikes your fancy (small plates, Japanese influence). Also check the good but cheap sushi at Hide (cash only, again go for the counter) also on Sawtelle.
If you happen to see the Famima! in WeHo, you might want to check out the interesting munchies there--really tho more eye food than belly food.
And if you should find yourself on Melrose you might want to plant yourself at Urth Cafe, have a coffee or tea and watch the passing scene.
Things to avoid: the Grove and any restos therein--as opposed to the adjoining Farmer's Market; any restos in the Beverly Center. Have a wonderful stay.
Exactly. No point in mentioning restaurants of an ilk that you can get in NYC. Biggest mistake is sticking with the types of cuisines that a traveler gets in his hometown. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In LA, stick to the cuisines that are popular in LA like japanese, korean etc.
hmmm... i'd recommend
- real food daily, on la cienega between oakwood and rosewood for good vegetarian food- very "california" as a visitor said. they can get pricey but definitely won't be over 30$
- singapore banana leaf in the farmers market (east on 3rd)
- since they have pinkberry in ny now, you may want to try kiwiberry on 3rd near la cienega, a competitor
- m cafe for macrobiotic food that is usually good. on melrose and detroit: n. on orlando then east. also very "california"
places i have not really eaten at but i know people rave about in that area:
- mandarette cafe is one my dad likes
- my 80 + year old grandmother likes toast. but so do many trendy hipsters from what i can see. very crowded. i miss the old boulangerie that used to be there when i was little :(
re: Bugg Superstar
I completely agree with Bugg Superstar's suggestions to go to Mandarette, Real Food Daily and M cafe. Mandarette serves unusual healthy chinese food. Real food daily is great if you want to have a really 'clean' meal, and M cafe is the latest venture from the Chaya restaurant chain, serving super-gourmet macrobiotic food. All three are quintessential L.A./California experiences.
If you want a scenic drive and have the time go to the Inn of the 7th Ray in Topanga Canyon for the ultimate earthy crunch California experience. This is where Michael Jackson took Brooke Shields on a date many many moons ago!
re: Das Ubergeek
I second this. I'm a vegetarian, and the stuff at this place bores ME; I'd never send or take a non-vegetarian there unless I was trying to get them to mock my dietary habits for months on end. It's only incrementally better than stuff I used to get at The Good Earth (remember that chain?).
If you wanna try In-n-Out, maybe opt for the Westwood Village location if its not too far. I agree with the folks above, ask for "animal style" as this includes grilled onions that have been slathered in griddle scrappings. Tooo good!
Also, right down the street is Fat Burger... another Cali burger phenom! You could try them both.
In fact also, within a stones throw of In-n-Out is Jose Benstein hole in the wall. They make mostly mexican food, but there is some odd fusion there like Galbi/kimchi Burritos. Anyway, they make the best burger in westwood. Order the Monster Burger but sub the guacomole for mushrooms giving you a double cheeseburger lett/tom/pickles, bacon and said mushroooms. Great crisp lettuce and a nice smoky char on the burger, with crispy bits melting into the cheese.
Actually, I just remembered. There is a "Tomy's" there as well, a few doors down from In-n-Out. Its one of those countless Original Tommy's clones that pervade LA and the Valley. It does a mean chilli cheeseburger though... kinda like the original one. Definitaley worth a go! Pretty cheap as well. Its a shack next to the In-n-Out entrance drivethru alley.
Those four joints will give you an idea of the four types of cali burgers in one sitting... if you're up to the challenge! ;-) They pretty much define burgers here.
Can't help with W. Hollywood restaurants as I don't live/work in the area, but as an ex-NYer I can't help but chime in. As other suggested, Mexican is a good bet. Try some baja style fish tacos, carnitas, al pastor, egg & chorizo burrito (for breakfast) or the sweet corn tamales.
Chinese here (specifically cantonese) is better than NYC, but it's hard for a lone diner at dim sum places or seafood restaurants.
Zankou chicken is pretty unique here, if you like middle eastern style roast chicken. Persian is also very good here - if you haven't tried it before, check one out if you are into meat and basmati rice.
Pass on the pastrami and hot dog and pizza. I think you'll find them lacking. Even if they are as good as NYC (which they are not), why eat the same stuff you can get at home?
I think you should go ahead and try In-N-Out, despite the naysayers. My relatives from NYC all loved it, so to each his/her own. One recommendation is to get at least 2 patties (double/double) - their meat is ultra thin, and if you get a single, it's not very 'impactful'. I like mine with sliced instead of grilled onions. Also standard comes with the 'spread', which is like a thousand island dressing. Their fries are awful - you have to eat them within the first 2 minutes or they are limp. Ordering them well done helps some but I would save your calories and order a vanilla milkshake there instead.
Surprised that there are no ocean view recommendations - are they all tourist traps? I would think a very LA thing is to eat your meal with the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop.
"Pass on the pastrami and hot dog and pizza. I think you'll find them lacking. Even if they are as good as NYC (which they are not), why eat the same stuff you can get at home?"
Langer's pastrami is superior to what you get in NYC and try one of our bacon wrapped street dogs which are excellent in LA
Well, taste is very subjective. I personally hated anything wrapped in bacon and grilled (I like Neiman Ranch no-nitrates added bacon by itself).
Just think that the NYer may want something he can't experience in NY. At least when my relatives visited they don't request pizza, hotdog or pastrami sandwiches, which are a dime a dozen to them.
Even people in NY argue about who has the best pastrami (Katz or the now defunct? 2nd Ave), so I don't need to add Langers into the mix. Don't want to start a pastrami war. There's already a pizza one going. ;)
Surprisingly, no one here has mentioned La Terza in your hotel. Although not as wonderful as his other place, Angelini Osteria on Beverly, it is very good Italian and is in your price range.
Just to overload your poor hound brain with a couple of comments:
- Shouldn't posts about views go to "viewhounds.com?" Rumors of improved food at Yamashiro are greatly exaggerated.
- Kimchee/Galbi burritos in westwood sound awesome, but never go to a Tommy's knockoff for a chili cheeseburger! It's the equivalent of going to a Not-Original Ray's pizza in NYC. "Kinda like the original" says it all. On the other hand, if you can get yourself to the Original Tommy's, it's arguably more quintessentially SoCal than even In N' Out.
- Formosa Cafe? For a chowhound? We are joking, right?
- La Terza is great idea, but Angelini Osteria is just a few minutes away!
"- Formosa Cafe? For a chowhound? We are joking, right?"
Now, jesstifer, be nice. If I want to get all postmodern, "chowhound" is subjective and a social construct at best. I would be hard pressed to find an operationalized definition of what that is supposed to be.
Truth be told, I live down the street from Formosa Cafe and have had very mediocre entrees. However, I have had some very nice appetizers and the history that seasons the joint holds great importance to a lot of us Angelinos. That speaks volumes.
Soory to hear what you say about the new Yamashiro. Then, for a view I'd say hit the restaurant at the Getty at lunch and get the view there. Maybe the art isn't as good as the Met (although some is pretty fine), maybe the food is not the best, but the Richard Meier architecture and the associated gardens are worth a debate and the view (as Dunphy used to say,"From the mountains to the sea and all of Southern California...") on a clear day (which you might get)is really what we are about.
I just came back from New York where I had a sandwich from Katz. Maybe my palate isn't refined enough, but it tasted about the same as the stuff you get from Langers. Neither was noticeably better than the other, and Langers is definitely comparable (both are quite tasty). Langers bread was head and shoulders above Katz, though. Katz bread tasted like it came out of a plastic bag, to be honest.
For the NYer... It depends on what you're looking for. For a good taste of LA, i'd hit up a taco truck (any of the ones on Bandini's page should do it), Dino's, or any number of hidden treasures. I haven't had memorable tacos or burritos in NYC. Also, I don't find that Asian food in NYC is particularly good, especially Chinese and Korean restaurants. Even the restaurants in Flushing aren't comparable to those in the San Gabriel Valley. I like to eat "street" (cheap and tasty) food to get a feel for a city, though, so this might not be what you're looking for. New York hot dog carts aren't typically considered good cuisine, but everyone gets them and I like to have one whenever I visit. I've found that most high-end restaurants offer similar experiences (exception being Le Gavroche in London... wow), but I will always remember the tamale from the street vendors in front of Jon's market in Koreatown, or those beef noodle soup carts in Thailand...
I find that the food in NY is mediocre at best. Doesn't really matter where I go. Be it Gray's Papaya or Dallas BBQ. I think between those I've sampled pretty much NY has to offer.
You'll be close to AOC, which I recommend.
Oh, I want to add that you might want to try some food that may be unhealthy, but are just darn right good, even if they have trans fats -- because you'll soon be returning to a city that will ban it. :)
I moved to NY about a year ago and am returning to LA for the first time all year in December for the holidays. My wife and I plan on eating every meal (except for Xmas with the family) at restaurants with food that we either crave or just can't get back here.
Top of our list:
-Chinese in San Gabriel Valley (dim sum; soup dumplings/pork pump/lion's head at Mei Long Village - Joe's Shanghai doesn't even come close; real Sichuan at Chung King; the place-whose-name-I-can't-remember-east-of-San-Gabriel that serves scallop with asparagus and mint - where's my copy of Carl Chu's book?). Definitely worth the drive.
-Al pastor tacos with red salsa from the El Matador truck, El Taurino or King Taco (in order of preference, original East LA King Taco only)
-Birria and pupusas
-Oaxacan at Guelaguetza (either downtown LA location, less so the West LA location)
-Thai food! Thai town in Hollywood is a must (I'll be satisfying my jones at Renu Nakorn and Thai Nakorn, but that's way too long of a drive from 3rd/La Cienega). Ruen Pair, Sanamluang and Krung Tedd immediately come to mind.
-All the wonderful variations of Japanese food beyond sushi and tempura/teriyaki (izakaya, yakiniku, etc, which is only slowly starting to appear in New York, a yakitoriya like Nanban Kan on Sawtelle in West L.A. or even fusion like at Blue Marlin also on Sawtelle.)
FWIW I love pastrami but I don't miss Langer's (but I do miss the 2nd Ave. Deli). I don't miss In-N-Out either (and won't be wasting my time with pizza or any Italian food while back in L.A.).
This is exactly what we try to instill in expat New Yorkers -- don't come expecting what you do well, come try what we do well.
I am sorry to tell you, though, that Renu Nakorn is closed until February for remodelling. Thai Nakorn is still open (not sure if you know that it moved to Garden Grove Boulevard from Buena Park) though, and there's always the mini-Thai Town up in North Hollywood (and the Wat Thai, mmmmmmmm!)
I'm not sure if Nanbankan is still open but Yakitori-Ya in the Olympic Collection is definitely still there.
re: Das Ubergeek
Thanks for the info on Renu Nakorn (I'll scratch it off my revisit list - I am aware of Thai Nakorn's GG location, but thanks). And yes, the Wat Thai rocks!
I checked the LApublichealth.org website (public health ratings) and Nanban Kan is still listed (although I got the address wrong - it's on Santa Monica Blvd.) - last health inspection was in October.
And I forgot about Peruvian - haven't been able to find any decent places in NY/NJ. I'd recommend Mario's Peruvian and Seafood on 5786 Melrose at Vine/Rossmore, which is a short drive from 3rd/La Cienega.