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Chefs with balls (pehaps quite literally) in LA.

I moved to LA not long ago from the [only slightly] more cultured east coast, and I'm having a terrible time finding restaurants that serve any kind of interesting game or secondadry cuts of meat. Everything seems to be filets and chicken. I think T.K. said it best; that making boring food like that isn't cooking, its just heating (wait a minute, he lives in California). So what's the deal with the rest of them. Is it just LA? Then again, I can't imagine getting anything other than a quinoa colon-blow nine times out of ten in northern califonia. It seems like almost monthly there is some new asian vegetable that is all the rage in every trendy restauarant in town, but when it comes to substance, the meat, nobody seems to be able to get away from the basics. Who cares about a shiso salad if your serving it with seared salmon? I want wild boar, phesant, woodcock, sweetbreads, even rabbit is hard to come by... The closest I've come are at some of the fine taco trucks in town (I'm thinking especially of "Taco Zone" on Alvarado and Montana in Echo Park) who make some awesome Lengua and Cabeza tacos. Where should I go?


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  1. Saddle Peak Lodge was always known for its game menu; plus all the dead animal heads hanging on the walls. It's away in one of the Canyons near Malibu State Park. Very rustic, great for cold weather (Fireplaces, cozy, etc.).

    I often see wild boar this or that (ravioli, ragu) at some of the Italian places, and sweetbread I swear are (at least were) on just about every upscale seasonal restaurant in town; i'm thinking Grace, Sona, and the like. I can see Josef at Opus doing something with rabbit and sweetbreads; you should check to see what his menu is right now. I had an awesome tagliatelle with wild boar ragu at the now defunct Rocca; the chef is working at Matteo's now. I know I just saw phaesant on some menu, but I can't for the life of me remember what.

    Now, as far as offal goes, someone else will have to answer.

    1. Saddle Peak Lodge has excellent game meats.

      And all the fine restaurants are serving sweetbreads these days as some sort of bedding to help showcase some protein on the plate.

      1. LA serves lots of game and odd bits-- you just need to know where to look.

        Lucques currently has a rabbit on the menu and Spago frequently serves it. Grace almost always has at least one type of wild boar. Vension pops up all over town including at Josie and Saddle Peak Ranch. Campanile frequently has sweetbreads. Opus too. I think the season for woodcock is over. All of these restaurants frequently serve at least some type of game or "other" and yes, all of them are higher end. If you want to cook yourself the bison at the Hollywood Famer's Market is superb.

        Of course, chinese, vietnamese, and Mexican restaurants all offer abundant options.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JudiAU

          Venison, right! I just had a nice venison loin dish, perfect actually with oxtail ragu and what may have been cippolini onions, at Blue Velvet downtown. Great dish!

        2. It seems venison is on all higher priced menus these days as you get consumer interest, get it at affordable costs, and provide your customers with something different, instead of the usual, per the basis of your post.
          That said, the Boneyard Bistro has had elk, boar, venison among other game on its menu, depending on time of the year, in its first year of operation, and all very tasty I might add.
          Bunny is a hard sell in many places, yet Jar seems to have had it a coupla times I was there, meaning I had it once and it was very good.
          The San Gabriel Valley's Chinese restaurants serve more off the wall items than your vocabulary can handle. On your mark, get set,...

          4 Replies
          1. re: carter

            Don't get me started. I'm a fairly adventurous guy when it comes to food but hands down the worst thing I ever ate in my life was cow spleen.

            Lengua and cabeza make for great tacos. You'll find tendon and tripe as a special in almost all pho joints. Menudo is uniquitous in the city on Sunday mornings.

            1. re: SauceSupreme

              What was the texture of spleen like? I'm trying to figure out what this one nasty organ was in a tripe soup I ordered in a Thai place was. It was all rubber on the outside and tasted like overcooked liver on the inside...

              I like tripe, liver, and kidneys, but this one was GROSS.

              1. re: therealbigtasty

                I describe spleen as having the iron-filled metallic taste of liver while trying to chew on a wet sponge that just won't tear, and so the metal just lingers in your mouth.

                1. re: SauceSupreme

                  It must've been spleen that I ate then.

                  Nasty. Dammit, and I was hoping to like ALL the organs!

          2. Bistro K in South Pasadena. Duck hearts, gizzards, duck tongue, pork tongue, veal sweetbreads, venison tartare wild boar, woodcock, pheasant have all been on the menu, which varies by season. Check out their current menu and past menus on the website and search this board for reviews. The place is tiny, service is slow (I think of it as leisurely), and it's strictly BYOB, which is great (stop by Mission Wine in South Pasadena).

            Bistro K website:

            J. Gold's review from LA Weekly:

            1. They serve lamb "fries" every night at Al-Cazar in Encino. I had some last night in fact. Look for Beyd Ghanam on the hot mezza page below.


              17239 Ventura Blvd
              Encino, CA 91316
              Tel: 818.789.0991
              Fax: 818.789.0978

              1 Reply
              1. re: ks in la

                Yeah they have lamb tongue and beef brains there as well. Not my cup of tea but if you like that kind of stuff I'm sure they do it well there as their food is great.

              2. Grace definitely has a lot of game and less frequently encountered meats. In fact, their entree variety is one of the reasons it's my favorite restaurant! They have an amazing boar and an even better rabbit. I also ordered the venison one time, but thought it was a bit bland.

                If you want more low-brow, try Palms Thai in H-wood. Their menu is brimming over with every exotics meat you can think of from boar to frog legs.

                1. If you want a Vietnamese take on Saddle Peak, I'm told Phong Dinh in Rosemead is the place to go.

                  In addition to the catfish they are famous for, apparently you can order goat, boar, venison, ostrich, kangaroo, snake, alligator, fox

                  Anthony Bourdain did a segment here. Pleasure Palate posted a recent review of her visit on Chowhound.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: luswei

                    Yes, I was just about to mention PHONG DINH RESTAURANT, this is the type of establishment where going with a group of diners is the way to experience their offerings. Do they still serve the kangaroo grilled tableside? The fox with glutinous rice is also a winner.

                    Phong Dinh Restaurant
                    2643 San Gabriel Blvd. (W. side of street, 1 block S. of Garvey)
                    Rosemead, CA 91770

                    1. re: Mr. Roboto

                      For game try the following:
                      Grace practically the entire menu is game, Spago has an excellent rabbit dish, Chaya has a great Venison Filet (It was better than any traditional filet I"ve EVER had), Doug Arango's has an awesome Duck breast sliced with cherry compote and also a Lamb tartare appetizer that was incredible, Sona has great Duck and Lamb

                    2. Orris makes great sweetbreads.

                      1. I'd recommend Melisse in Santa Monica too.

                        Some of their seasonal offerings are listed on this page: http://www.melisse.com/dinner.html

                          1. Don't forget the rabbit sloppy joes at Wilson! Also, Cucina Paradiso has pasta with pheasant (does that count as game? Dick Cheney pheasant hunts, so I assume so.) And Chaya has venison. These are all restaurants I've eaten at very recently...I can't remember all the places I've seen w/sweetbreads. I don't think game is all that hard to find.

                            1. You can get frog probably in chinatown, and many French palces do frogs' legs.

                              I support Alcazaras a goodplace for a few harder to find meats.

                              Typhoon in Santa Monica serves bugs.

                              And of course, as mentioned multiple times above, Saddle Peak lodge is great for all sorts of game.

                              Gosh, you really haven't been in LA long if you haven't found lots of game.

                              1 Reply
                              1. look around for korean pheasant dumplings.

                                tripe is everywhere. menudo is easy. most korean places have "secondary" cuts of meat. If you cook, any argentine butcher shop has marrow gut - carniceria argentina on victory for one. Sweetbreads/mojellas are easy even at a place like gaucho grill. hooves are easy as well - armenians serve lamb hooves - at least hagop on ventura used to, menudo con la pata has hoof, koreans make a hoof soup, a real good kosher deli may have p'tcha, the calves foot jelly.

                                check out el taurino for a taco de sesos.

                                it's so nice that you have such a variety of meats available on the ohso cultured east coast. are you from ogunquit, or ipswich, maybe new london or fall river or bridgeport or ...
                                i know brockton mass.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Jerome

                                  Jerome, where do you fine Korean pheasant dumplings?

                                  Had those in Korea, never in the states.

                                  1. re: jwpark

                                    you know there was a place on wilshire that gold talked about and was good but i think it's gone.
                                    Some korean friends told me it's a northern specialty. I had it a while ago...
                                    I'll keep an eye out for it.

                                2. How about chicken knees? Or duck feet and duck tongue?

                                  And pig neck, gotta try that.

                                  Plus, don't forget our amphibian friends like frogs and conch.

                                  Where to go?

                                  Run, don't walk, to MACAU STREET in Monterey Park.

                                  Just had a great late night "snack" there ...

                                  MACAU STREET
                                  429 West Garvey Ave.
                                  Monterey Park
                                  (626) 288-3568

                                  1. A Korean BBQ place next door to Cafe Nandarang (6th St a few blocks east of Western) specializes in internal organs. I can't read the menu there, but I recognize at least one of the items as being pork intestines, others might be pork stomach, but not sure.

                                    I quite like the idea, but the waiting times were too long, and the portions were a little skimpy for the price. This was possibly the first time I left a Korean BBQ joint feeling not quite satisfied.

                                    Another place which offered the same strange meats, on the same street but on the other side of Western. I gather they have a combo deal where you can order a "regular" meat and have a second course of intestines free. Went there once and got smoked out because their ventilation system weren't working. I hope to go there again soon and try again. I think the name was Gui Rim something.

                                    1. oh and any taiwanese place can offer up a typical swineblood soup.

                                      1. definitely check out La Terza on 3rd and orlando, or Angelini Osteria on Beverly - near the grove. you might find veal tongue, kidneys, sweetbreads, pheasant, or pork bellies at either on a given night, and even the more basic stuff - giant bone-in tuscan style ribeye, rotisserie duck and jidori chicken, and fennel stuffed pork loin are excellent.

                                        1. Josie in Santa Monica has a really nice venison on their menu.

                                          That said, you already found your best option when you talked about the taco trucks. Those trucks can turn any part of the animal into a taco... the chicken neck taco off a taco truck on Whittier Blvd near Eastern Blvd was probably the most impressive effort, in my book.