I have 2 days in LA --- where and what should I eat?
I am attending a food writing workshop in Los Angeles in two weeks, and have some ideas of where I want to eat while I am there (I know I want a hot dog from Pink's and to perhaps grab a bite at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles) but I wanted to get some advice from you seasoned Angelenos.
This will be my first visit to your fair city. I will be staying at a hotel near LAX and will have a rental car. My workshop is in West Hollywood. I am a food editor for a regional magazine in the Norfolk, Va. area.
Any suggestions on where I can get a good flavor of your town in the two days I will be there?
You'll need to get some Mexican food and some sushi because those are two things that LA does better than any other city, IMO. There are a lot of options for both, so I will just pick out a couple of my favorites. Monte Alban (West LA, on Santa Monica Blvd) is an outstanding Oaxacan restaurant. Casual, cheap, generous, tasty. For sushi, I would suggest you head to West LA again. Sushi Zo has really good sushi with a very attentive sushi chef. You might need a reservation if you want to sit at the counter and get omakase, but it probably depends on the night and time you go.
Hi and welcome! Get to West L.A. (nearby) and find the corner of Sawtelle blvd and Olympic. Park, and start walking up (north) Sawtelle blvd., and sample the various japanese shops that include ramen, small plates, cafes, sushi,and desserts. Very reasonable prices and all within a few blocks walking distance, once parked... Also, if here on the weekend, go for late morning/early afternoon lunch at the Wat Thai (temple) location in North Hollywood, where you can sample low cost street vendor vittles... Lastly, go to Surfas cooking supply store and cafe in Culver City, buy a ton of foodie goodies you never knew you needed, pack up a lunch from their adjoining cafe, then head due west and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, park near the beach, and enjoy the sand, sky and surf of a 70 degree perfect California day...
specifically on the corner of Sawtelle and Olympic:
right off the sidewalk is Kiriko, an excellent choice for omakase in the area now that Sasabune has moved to a sushi warehouse. Even if you don't sit in front of Ken-san, Shinji-san is still deft with the knife and the omakase still fun.
across the street is the surprise dessert hit of '06: Beard Papa 's: http://www.muginohousa.com/
You'll be *relatively* close to Culver City. Surfas closes kinda early.
Also, I recommend the Westwood Blvd. north of Santa Monica Blvd. area - especially Shamshiri Grill. Where if you want something to write about you might try the fesenjan lamb shank (intense tamarind/walnut puree and melt-in-the-mouth lamb) and you MUST get the rosewater ice cream for dessert.
If you do decide to go to Malibu, Taverna Tony (Greek place) is great... try the flaming saganaki cheese appetizer, the tiramosalata (spelling uncertain there) and the roast baby lamb kleftiko. That's also a good write-about topic if you google the origin of kleftiko and this type of dish.
Versaille for cuban -
Musha in Torrance for creative Japanese small plates
Hama sushi in Venice for Sushi and Vibe
Urth Cafe for good organic joe and salads (Nr Melrose and Westborne)
Cheap Mexican at the GRove on Fairfax (forget the name)
Head east on Hollywood Blvd to Thai town. Try either the Palms, Sanamluang Cafe or dozens other very authentic Thai restaurants.
1. Musso & Frank's in Hollywood. Sit at the counter in Manny's section. Cottage fried potatoes, creamed spinach, short ribs (Sat only), steak sandwich with julienne fries, grenadine of beef. Famous for flannel cakes served until 3 only. Open Tue-Sat. Been there since 1919. It was once called the Algonquin West because of the famous writers who went there.
2. Philippe's - french dip sandwiches. I like pork best - "double dipped". This is a piece of LA history for you.
3. Paco's Tacos - not just tacos, two locations, not far from where you will be.
4. Porto's - two locations (Burbank & Glendale), cuban sandwich, mashed potato balls. Quite a place!
5. Don't miss Farmers Market - Farifax & Third. I love the chopped beef sandwiches at Bryan's BBQ. It's fun to walk around and look at all the food.
All but Musso's have websites.
Here are some better options IMO:
Go to Father's Office (in Santa Monica) for a burger and great beer. http://fathersoffice.com/html/fathers...
Go to Mercado La Paloma for Mexican/Yucatan food.
Go to Izayoi for Japanese izakaya (essentially Japanese tapas)
Go to Soot Bull Jeep for Korean BBQ.
Go to Sea Harbour for dim sum.
Mercado La Paloma
3655 S. Grand Ave.
Downtown Los Angeles
132 S. Central Ave.
Soot Bull Jeep
3136 West 8th Street
3939 Rosemead Blvd.
I'd go with 3 clusters:
Sawtelle--sushi, small Plates at Orris, goddies at Beard Papa and Pinkberry;
Farmer's Market--the old part, all kinda of stuff from Loteria Grill! to BBQ to French to Cajun to Littlejohn's English Toffee;
Grand Central Market--cruise around for all sorts of prepared food and for ingredients, different types of nuts, etc.
Virginia was different than i thought it would be. lots of vietnamese, some korean etc. however, no sushi so you must have sushi if you like that sort of stuff. i agree with the recs above.
pinks is good to say you have been and the dog ain't bad. the line is long.
one note, the traffic in l.a. has gotten really, really bad so you might want to budget time for that. several years ago it was nasty but now, it can take you 4 hours to get from one part of the city to another. I know because this has been happening to me in the last year. so either get really familiar with the metro system (which is surprisingly cheap and works great) or get ready for the worst traffic you have ever seen.
Out of towners don't realize the magnitude of the traffic problem. Thus, all these recommendations are meaningless unless you budget your time and hit different areas strategically. The question is not where to eat in LA, but where to eat in LA close to where your end up hungry.
As good and authentic as the Chinese food is in the San Gabriel Valley, I cannot recommend sending a visitor on his first trip to L.A. all the way out there negotiating our freeway system. Ditto even for downtown.
Beverly Hills is adjacent to West Hollywood. The newest allstar star-sighting restaurant of 2006 is Cut, a Wolfgang Puck steakhouse in the Beverly Regent Hotel on Wilshire. Also a classic Puck standout is Spago nearby. Finally, Chinois on Main on Main Street in Santa Monica, not far off your track back to the LAX area from WeHo, is the classic Puck fusion place, recently revamped their menu, and is amazingly decorated.
If you try the excellent Oaxacan at Monte Alban, you might grab a trifecta of tacos (carne asada, al pastor, carnitas) at the place a couple of doors to the right in the same minimall for a snack later at the hotel. Tacos are only a buck -- go crazy. Be sure to load up on salsa roja and other condiments from the salsa bar. Bundy turns into Centinela going from West L.A. back to LAX and south of Washington Blvd. is Taqueria Sanchez, where you order a shrimp taco to go along with your favorite meats. In Santa Monica, Tacos Por Favor is on Olympic and 14th, the salsa roja is the best, and the tacos are a bit bigger but more expensive -- almost two bucks each.
Other fine L.A. restaurants in or near West Hollywood/Beverly Hills with notable proprietors are Lucques, AOC, and Campanile.
Concerns over traffic are valid, especially if you only have two days with a busy work schedule.
Between LAX and West Hollywood, there are a myriad of options. There's nothing wrong with focusing on the options that are actually between your two termini, and saving the rest for a more in-depth jaunt into Los Angeles.
Yes, I agree. Traffic is unnavigatable for "foreigners" (people who've never driven the L.A. freeways before.) But this is such a tragedy, cuz if you are coming from Norfolk, VA, you will be missing most of the truly unique, regional cuisine L.A. has to offer!
You can get a gourmet burger, hotdog and trendy "American" food anywhere on the East Coast. Surely you've eaten all this stuff before on some trip to D.C./Bethesda, MD.
But you CAN'T get really authentic Chinese food there (Monterey Park/San Gabriel). Or Ethiopian (along Fairfax). Or Armenian (Glendale). Or Mexican (East L.A.) Or Thai food (Hollywood/North Hollywood). Or Central American (Pico/Union).
If you have to stay within the LAX-West Hollywood corridor, you will be missing out on MOST of the truly unique food L.A. has to offer. Very sad. Very, very sad. Get a driver. Stay longer. You won't be able to eat squat in two days staying on the Westside.
Hold on now.
There's great stuff to eat over here. While there's most certainly a lot that any visitor would miss having only two days to spend to work AND play, please please PLEASE don't be so smug about food because there are hard working people putting out great product all over the city, and your quick dismissal makes it seem like it's a wasted trip, which it most certainly is not.
Father's Office, Monte Alban, Versailles, Lucques, Cut... these are all good suggestions within his travel range. Pinks and Roscoes are LA institutions that he's already mentioned, which by default stretches him to the Mid-City for the Farmer's Market, Little Ethiopia and K-Town. Your comments make it seem like he's about to make second rate choices (and by extension, that other Angelenos are giving him second rate options), when what I think you meant to say he's only going to enjoy a sneak peek of LA and hope he'll be back soon.
"You won't be able to eat squat in two days staying on the Westside."
Wow. Just wow.
I never said there wasn't "great" food to eat on the Westside. Almost all the trendy food is on the Westside.
I said most of the UNIQUE food is in the rest of the metro area. He can have fab meals at Father's Office, Monte Alban, Versailles, etc. -- but it won't be anything he can't get in Washington D.C..
He's a FOOD WRITER, remember? Theoretically, that means he's looking to eat something NEW. And he doesn't know how to drive the city, which means he won't be able to FIND anything very easily without a local driver. I said nothing about "second rate choices" -- that's your (Westside?) interpretation. I said he's missing the UNIQUE cuisines this region has to offer. You can get a great burger, hotdog, French, Cuban and fancy food any ANY city in America today. Yes, hard working people do a great job putting it out. But why travel 3000 miles for the same thing you can get at home?
I'm on Fairfax, so it isn't my neighborhood explicitly but I will always be swift to defend this city-- the whole city.
Yes it's my interpretation, and it's hard for me to avoid that interpretation when someone says that they "won't eat squat in two days on the Westside."
It's just that when I read your post, it smacks of "trendy = overrated" and that the hidden jewels of not-Westside are of greater value. I just wanted to stress the importance that the yin and yang of Los Angeles' culinary world are what makes it unique. Fine cuisine has a place on the palate as well, and when limitations are placed on your ability to find treasure, why not celebrate that which you can get?
And no one ever said you'd have to find something new. I'll leave that to his judgment (and his editor). But why wouldn't you also write about something good, just for the sake of its excellence? I've had great meals at Lucques-- should I never go to French Laundry? Should someone from Napa avoid Bordeaux? Surely he's seen the Atlantic Ocean so let's avoid the Pacific.
Look, I love everything that LA has to offer, and you're absolutely correct that Patrick won't come close to scratching the surface of what the LA is as a foodie town.
But in order to be proper ambassadors to our city, we have to maintain civic pride in the whole city, no matter what your culinary opinions are.
Perhaps I'm a fool to jump in the middle of this battle royale, but I disagree that you can get a "great burger, hot dog, French, Cuban, and fancy food in ANY city in America today." I am hardly a West/East Coast elitist and I spend a lot of time in many cities across the country. Yes, there are many things in LA that we can find in many other cities, but there are also things that are hard to find elsewhere. A restaurant like Monte Alban would be an epiphany in most American cities. Same with Tacos Baja Ensenada, Sushi Zo, and many of the other favorites on chowhound. Our sushi, Korean, dim sum, Mexican, Central American, etc. options are world class. IMO, LA lacks great hot dogs, has no German food to speak of (now that Knoll's closed), and lacks many other wonderful things I can get in other cities. But those other cities lack many wonderful things I can get here. On the net, LA has many extraordinary things to eat that are very hard to find in other major cities that we shouldn't quickly dismiss as pedestrian options, even for a food writer.
I have to admit, the notion of the traffic is a bit daunting, but I grew up in Atlanta and frequent D.C. --- and with all the bridges and tunnels even in our area of 1.8 million folks, it can be quite challenging. It routinely takes 2 hours to get from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, where I live, to the Colonial Williamsburg area.
I have been looking at the options on your Metro - and I am actually staying near a stop in El Segundo - so especially when I venture downtown, I am sure I will take the train.
Because of time constraints on this visit, I am hesitant to venture too far out of the downtown - Hollywood - Santa Monica area. I am hoping for a longer visit sometime in the future, but the 2 free days I will have on this trip (plus the day I will be in the food/travel writing workshop) is all the time I have for now.
You guys have some great recommendations. I am very excited about the visit.
As some of you have noted, the majority of cuisine in our area is either seafood, largely crab, oysters and local catch like rockfish, augmented with Southern Regional (although growing up in Georgia, this area doesn't feel truely "southern" to me.)
In our area, there are lots of peanuts - Suffolk, within the MSA of Norfolk, was the headquarters of Planters Peanuts for some 75 years before they were bought out about 20 years ago. The large, Virginia gourmet style peanuts are awesome.
Also close is Smithfield, Va., home of the Smithfield country ham. Our area also grows lots of corn, tomatoes and strawberries.
Of course, there is the seafood, which is one thing I love about our area. I live just one block off the Atlantic Ocean, and just 5 miles south of the Chesapeake Bay.
But I have, for so long, heard of the sushi and Mexican offerings in your area. And of course, the famous restaurants like Spago, et. al.
One question on Spago - how "stuffy" is it? I am not checking in luggage with the airline, and my wardrobe will consist of khaki pants largely and casual shirts (probably short sleeve, with collar.) Is a trip there worth it, just to come back home and say I went?
Of course, I am mostly interested in the smaller places, like so many of you have mentioned. And I certainly want to hit the Farmer's Market while I am there.
Thanks again for all your ideas - keep them coming!
Your Basic Food Groupie
I'm a Southerner (although many argue that me being from Florida, I am not a TRUE Southerner!) However, I have also been through many parts of the East Coast, so I understand about all the food descriptions you gave above. I agree, stick with Sushi and Mexican! If you can, and never have experienced one before, try a restaurant specializing in Dim Sum. The only one I have gone to is in Monterey Park-Ocean Star-I believe? Some of my friends who are Mandarin took me there, and I was amazed. It's a great experience-so delightful and yummers!! As for seafood places, I apologize, but IMO too, the seafood here cannot compare with "back home".
Of course, some places that are very fun (and 'delish) like Roscoe's, you really should try as you already mentioned. For the Left Coast, they make pretty darn good fried chicken (and the real thing-grits!). Being here in a wonderful melting pot, one can get dizzy from all the enticing restaurants, cafe's etc. But I concur that The Farmer's Market is a place you HAVE to visit!!
Since my pocketbook doesn't expand to the pricier places around here, I could only recommend some great kitchens in pal's homes ;-) LOL! Any way, I wish you a terrific stay in our fair city, patience with the traffic, and most of all, a happy and tasty experience!!
Spago is not stuffy. You might want to throw a sport coat or leather jacket on over your shirt and there should be no issue at all. You want the tasting menu and you want to talk with your server about your situation, your desire to experience the food, suggestions, etc.
re: mc michael
Despite the reputation, Spago's not stuffy. I've certainly seen people fully dressed up there (with lots of attitude), but I've also seen jeans. Khaki's and a collared shirt would be fine. Great choice, and open for lunch.
As far as other choices, I think Koreatown has some of the best Korean food choices second to Seoul. Soot Bul Jeep for Korean BBQ is a great choice.
Mexican is excellent -- my current favorite is Tacos Baja Ensenada, but that's probably a little out of your way.
And for your basic California/American, Clementine is a casual and delicious lunch place.
Great posts here. If you do decide to go downtown, Phillipe's is a must. I think it is much better than Cole's. My preference at Phillipe’s is Pork or Lamb with Blue Cheese. Use the mustard on the tables. Wow. Great food and quintessential LA.
If you go to Musso's (high on my list as well) have Manny make you a Caesar salad. You can't do better in life than a Musso's martini with a Caesar by Manny.
If you go for an 'upscale' meal, I think Lucques is the way to go, particularly if you like some of the current seasonal choices on their menu. And if you are here on a Thursday, Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile is incredible and something you can’t get elsewhere.
Some of our steakhouses are terrific; I just feel, given you only have two day, you can get a great steak many places. The same for a burger, although The Apple Pan burgers are incredible. Langer’s is worth a visit if you want the best pastrami sandwich in the world.
I like Roscoe's a lot. If you go, be sure to get the norm, the chicken and waffles. It is a weird combo that works beautifully.
for sushi -
my take on the more traditional
1. Mori at Sushi Mori (reserve with the chef) - westside
2. Shige at Shibucho on Beverly Blvd, let them know you're a food writer - with chef shige it will make a difference unfortunately, but you will eat well. This isn't beverly dr in beverly hills, this is closer to downtown. Open later, till midnite take a care after rush hour
3. Kawasaki at Sushi Go 55 in the Mitsuwa marketplace mall near little tokyo, downtown, top floor. Drive. The green line to the blue to downtown still leaves you with a hefty walk and a lot of waiting unless you're going in the daytime. At night, just drive it, or split a cab from west hollywood with some folks.
next time, 4. mr shibutani at Shibucho in Orange COunty, costa mesa to be exact. Not a chain, shibutani sold the beverly blvd establishment years ago.
I wouldn't put it on the list of must-eats in 2 days, but if you find yourself despite your best plans stuck eating near LAX, there is a very good Thai place in the area, an unassuming but pleasant-enough physical place and the food is quite good.
tucked away off of La Tijera just east of Sepulveda (sharing a lot with Truxton's, but not the place actually on La Tijera)
Ayara Thai Cuisine
6245 West 87th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90045
This may be repetitive but 2 specials for me:
Fish tacos baja style: Tacos Baja Ensenada, one of the most popular fish taco places in the city http://www.tacosbaja.com/
Japanese: Wakasan: not the typical japanese sushi place you might find. It is purley omakase, so you don't order they just bring out around 10 courses of small dishes in a specific order based on the food and preparation. Fixed price. I belive $30-$40 a person. Love it!! here is a chowhound post on it with address: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
There are five things that you should try to eat to experience LA dining. If you had more time, I'd say also go to the San Gabriel Valley for Chinese, Koreatown for Korean, maybe some upscale fair at Lucques, etc. But this is the necessary stuff:
Go to the Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax. You only have 2 days, and this is a quintessentially LA scene; it's also close to West Hollywood. There's a great place there called Loteria, and you can get a beer at the stand next door. I recommend the conchinita pibil (roasted pork) in whatever dish you like, though they have a 20 mini-taco taster that would give you a range of flavors. Also get the cactus salad if you've never had it. You can also go and get great breakfast there.
I would look around Chowhound for good sushi near where you'll be.
Go to Real Food Daily on La Cienega just north of Beverly. Again, it's close to where you'll be. Get the "reuben" or the "club" -- I usually don't like fake meat, but here it's delicious.
I would travel out of your area to the Apple Pan, on Pico in West LA. It's a really old burger joint, with old men in paper hats. What Johnny Rockets wishes it were.
Again, I would look around on Chowhound. I personally like some places out of your area, but I'm sure there's good stuff around you.