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Favorite Spots to Walk In or sit at the Bar/Counter/Communal Table

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SF Hound here. I'll be visiting LA in a few days (22-26) and I completely failed to prepare reservations. I'm looking for a few spots where I can walk in and eat a great dinner (table optional). I tend to dine on the early side, so I don't mind showing up right at opening.

I'm particularly fond of California influenced Italian and French food. I also love upscale versions of American comfort food (burgers, fried chicken, pizza, etc.) I'd like to max prices at $50 pp (I don't drink wine), though anything in the $25-$35 range is most welcome. I really enjoyed Lucques, and I adore Clementine. I'll be staying on the West Side, but I don't mind a drive for great food. I'm already planning on snagging a counter seat at Mozza.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Nook Bistro in West LA sounds perfect for you. In the right price range, sort of refined American comfort food, it has both bar seating and a communal table and it usually has spots open at either/or if you dine early. Lots of threads about it on this board, if you want specific dish recommendations.

    Nook Neighborhood Bistro
    11628 Santa Monica Blvd (hidden away in the back corner of the shopping center)
    310.207.5160

    2 Replies
    1. re: igj

      Hi Morton! Welcome to LA (again).

      I agree with igj that Nook sounds like the place for you.

      Have you tried Musha in Santa Monica? Japanese Izakaya, kind of hard to find up in Berkeley. Gochi and Tengu in the South Bay come close but I find Musha superior.

      And, not that you can't get pizza in the Bay Area, but Mozza is Mario Batali's new place and it's worth a try just to see how you think it compares to pizza up north. When I went a few weeks ago, it seemed easy to walk in within the first 45 minutes of lunch (they open at noon) and get a bar seat. I can only assume the same for dinner.

      1. re: igj

        DITO!

      2. I would definitely encourage you to eat at the bar at Mozza. I've been several times since it opened and have enjoyed every meal so far! Another spot good for eating at the bar is Hungry Cat in Hollywood, especially since you like the whole California/American cuisine scene. Enjoy your stay!

        1. I'd recommend Opus, it shouldn't be difficult to get a seat at the bar and the food is fantastic.

          1. you should try wilson in culver city. perfect to sit at the bar and let them take care of you. the scallop dish they usually have (with shaved truffles) is heavenly.

            1. For upscale burgers you should try 25 Degrees at the Rosevelt Hotel. IMO they are the best burgers in LA and you can choose from a well selected variety of gourmet cheeses and toppings. They're fries and onion rings are also delish.

              If you want to stay closer to home, you can also go to Father's Office in Santa Monica, which is another contender for best burger. There's always a huge wait though for FO, so get there early. Also, they only serve one variety of burger, but it's quite good.

              1. i really like eating at the bar at Joe's on Abbott Kinney in venice. gets a little too crowded for comfort on weekends, but earlier on a weeknight is good.

                www.joesrestaurant.com

                1. I love eating at the counter at Orris.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: budlit

                    Second this.

                    1. re: budlit

                      The food at Orris looks fantastic, but they've committed my #1 pet peeve by not printing prices on the on-line menu. What is the price range on apps and entrees, and how much do you generally spend pp before tax, tip and drinks?

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        I honestly do not remember prices on each dish. But usually for two people, eating a lot and a couple bottles of wine and two desserts, it is usually about $160.00. But if you are really that concerned you could call and ask them. But since they have already commited your #1 pet peeve, you may not enjoy the experience.

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          The dishes at Orris range from about $8 to $12 a piece, with a few going for a few dollars more. The menu changes frequently, though there are several standard items which seem to carry over from menu to menu. The dishes are all small plates, designed for sharing rather than "appetizer/entree" sizes. 3-4 plates should satisfy most appetites.

                      2. I always eat at the counter at BLD. Whether it's breakfast lunch or dinner. ;)

                        1. The BEST counter experience, IMHO, is the counter at Wolfgang's Chinois on Main (the kitchen floor show starts just 3 feet away). It's sort of French/Californian/Asian cuisine:

                          http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/rest/fine...

                          You could order a starter and a main for $50 & under, but personally I would probably still order the Szechuan Beef (I been over 40 times and since we share everything family style, I've had some every time I've gone) at $38.50 and possibly a starter at $15.50 = $54. If your going with 2 or more, it's easier to arrange your ordering to keep the food cost at or under $50 p.p.

                          I highly recommend that you call first instead of walk in unannounced, but if your willing to go close to when they open, then it's NOT an impossible dream.

                          BTW, the Hottest ticket in town right now is probably Wolfgang's new beef palace at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills called "CUT"; and while it is probably booked solid, when I spoke with them last they said that the entire menu is available at the counter/bar area and they take NO reservations there, first come basis only.

                          http://wolfgangpuck.com/rest/fine/cut/

                          1. There is a communal table at Canale in Atwater. I think they encourage folks sitting there to share appetizers, but I'm not sure...

                            There are a few posts on this place; I was just there the other night with a large group, so got to check out a lot of their starters. We tried the beet salad, the onion/anchovy tart, the clams (a special, I think,) the serrano ham and manchego plate, the omlet -- all the apps were delicious and really generously sized. I tried both the trout and beef tenderloin mains, and both were pretty great.

                            We got there early Saturday (when they opened at 5.30) to snag the big table - it got crowded but the waitstaff were super friendly and efficient all night. There are seats at the bar also. It's a nice little neighborhood place with great food, great service.

                            They don't have their menu on-line -- they do have printed menus, but also there's a large chalkboard in the (small) room with the menu written on it. It's a smallish menu - 4 or 5 apps in the 6-12$ range, 5 or 6 mains in the 12-25$ range, if I'm remembering correctly. We drank a syrah all night, bottle was around 25 I think.

                            1. I'm a fan of the community table at the Original Pantry on Figueroa. It's a 24-hour old school breakfast place. Most of the other options mentioned here are lunch or dinner places, so here's a breakfast place. The food is good, but the community table conversation (or the counter, for that matter) makes it taste even better.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: glutton

                                Hey, one third of BLD's namesake is Breakfast!

                                I like Pantry also. Bring cash!

                                If you want a truly communal experience, find something to eat at the Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax.

                              2. Dai Ho.

                                Although sitting at a communal table there is less by choice than by command.

                                1. try Vertical in Pasadena

                                  1. The bar at The Counter in Santa Monica is a nice experience. The ambiance is bustling and fun and the burgers are great. I love to build my own burger, sit down with some pear cider and most importantly, the lightest and tastiest fresh sweet potato fries you'll ever have!