Recs for dinner for group (5-7) staying in Universal City, but will be happy to drive for good food
Several collegues and I will be staying in Universal City at the Hilton for a conference and I'd like to be able to recommend some good resturants. If there is nothing in that neighborhood (doesn't sound like the best place to stay unless you're traveling with kids) we'll have cars and will be willing to travel a bit for dinner. Obviously not hours away, but 30 minutes isn't too long to drive for a fun meal. Looking for dressy casual, mid-range price, interesting atmosphere and of course good food.
Thanks in advance.
The BEST place and in the perfect location is Minibar Lounge on Cahuenga (www.minibarlounge.com). They are a Tapa's restaurant and have amazing and substantial bites. ALso, the drinks are to die for and the valet parking is cheap. It is social, fun, great food and NO tude :)
You should try the Universal Hilton Buffet for dinner (Thurs to Sunday). It's an excellent seafood buffet, one of the best in Los Angeles. You could also try Sunday brunch there. I think it is just under $40, but if you like seafood (crab, lobster, etc.) and can eat a lot, it will be well worth it! Free beverages included too.
I do not care for French cuisine, but people in my "social circle" really like Bistro Provence in Toluca Lake, about 2 miles from Universal. Quiet and reasonably priced, I also think they offer nice pastas. Also popular is Ca' Del Sole on Cahuenga, practically in your backyard.
Avoid Universal City Walk; nothing there but "upscale" chains (and a Dodger Dogs outlet).
I wasn't crazy about Minibar, but it's been a while; maybe they've improved.
Agree that Ca' Del Sole is worth a visit.
There are a lot of restaurants on Ventura Blvd., including some of the better sushi restaurants in the city, e.g., Asanebo [good selection of cooked food as well, but can be expensive], Nozawa, Kazu, Tama. Also there's Lazlo's Hortobagy Hungarian, which is affordable comfort food and has a decent selection of Hungarian wine.
If you wait til late evening on a weeknight (other than Friday), you can get from Universal City to downtown LA in ten or fifteen minutes. Izayoi and Haru Ulala are both pretty good and open late -- and great for group dining since you probably won't want to eat, say, an entire order of deep fried Camembert.
I'd suggest driving to Hollywood or WeHo. Off the top of my head, in Hollywood, I'd suggest...Hungry Cat and Magnolia. For WeHo/West LA, try Taste on Melrose Ave., or the nearby BLD. For some great people watching and a good burger/sandwich/salad, you can drive to Bev Hills' Newsroom Cafe.
Also on Magnolia in WeHo is Angeli Caffe, Providence, Sweet Lady Jane for dessert (I LOATHE it, but some people love it)
In Hollywood you can go and get some good beer, fries, burgers, milkshakes salads and desserts at Lucky Devil's
ON Ventura, you can drive from Universal City to Woodland hills and hit some great palces-tha aforementioned Sushi spots, Mistral, Boneyard Bistro,Il Tiramisu, Clay Oven, Shiraz, Alcazar, Gochi, Anarbagh, Cafe Bizou, Gorikee, Stanley's, Chili My Soul, Leeda's Bake Shop, Nata's pateries, Haru Tea House, Backlava Factory, and Sanpper Jon's fish house
Not all these palces are casual dressy. Some are good lunch spots or regular jeans and T shirts places..but all are great.
How about AOC? It's unique with wonderful food. French tapas-style small dishes with a wine-on-tap bar. Might be a little more than you wanted to spend but it's oh so worth it. Fun to do with a group of that size, too. Not real close to Universal City but within your 1/2 hour parameters.
It's on 3rd. west of Fairfax in the Grove area (would be nice to do in connection with a visit to the Grove, actually.)
8022 W. Third St.
I would recommend Cha Cha Cha in Silver Lake. Fun laid-back atmosphere, great food served tapas style, and a fantastic pitcher of sangria. Beyond that, I'll second the AOC and BLD recs if you're heading all the way down to my neighborhood, but you'll most certainly have closer options (like the aforementioned Hungry Cat and Magnolia, both in Hollywood).
I worked in that neighborhood for several years, and agree with a couple of recommendations.
Mini-Bar is interesting and fun.
CaDelSol is really very good and a lovely space. It's very tuscan in style. Fireplaces burning, a lovely patio, and very good food and wine.
I've been there many, many times and have never been disappointed.