What makes LA a foodie city? Tell Me
A friend and I are traveling to Los Angeles for a week, it's a working vacation of sorts. We would love to know about the best foodie type places in Los Angeles. What makes Los Angeles unique, we've heard of the current gelato / frozen yogurt craze! Underground restaurants, are they still going in Los Angeles? Farmers Markets? Artisan food Markets that are locally owned? What can you find only in Los Angeles? I.E. San Francisco is know for fresh foods from Napa Valley farms (produce, meats, cheeses, wine) from farm to table in hours not days. What makes Los Angeles a foodie city? What do you love, why do you LIVE TO EAT in Los Angeles?
So many things make LA a foodie city. Farmers Markets and our excellent Southern California produce are a huge part of that. But I'll kick off the commentary with this: Los Angeles is a remarkably diverse city and, accordingly, the local ethnic food is terrific. Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Peruvian -- I am barely scratching the surface....
The San Gabriel Valley is what makes LA a foodie town.
The rest of the city could be bombed back to the stone age and the SGV would still be a mecca for foodies. There are plenty of other options and an embarrassment of riches to be had, but if you need to ask this question, San Gabriel is the quickest argument-ending answer that I have ever heard. Go to Phong Dinh or Macau Street or China Islamic or Vietnam House (for Bo Bay Mon) and tell me where you're going to find this in SF (I hesitate to challenge NYC to a duel). The simple answer is that, when I lived in San Francisco, you couldn't find certain cuisines.
Go on, try a few of the standouts in the SGV. If you get bored there are world-class Armenian places in Hollywood and Glendale, excellent inexpensive Indian joints in Artesia, the profusion of excellent and diverse Korean food in K-town, and so on and so forth; but the money shot has always been (and probably will always be) the San Gabriel Valley and its ethnic restaurants. My wife and I routinely take the easy way out when showing people around town and just head to one of the places I mentioned previously. There's no reason you shouldn't do the same.
At Phong Dinh, you want the whole fish, and maybe the ong choy, snake salad, and something else that strikes your fancy (depends on how many people are dining).
At Macau Street, the house special crab, leeks with clams and black beans, and ong choy or baby bok choy are good, but save room for the little custards if the restaurant is busy. If the place is slow then don't bother -- you only want the custards when they are hot as lava and light as air, otherwise they're only as good as the best desserts anywhere else.
At China Islamic the sesame bread, hot pots, cucumber-chicken salad, and lamb are good.
At Vietnam House you get the bo bay mon and then if you're still not full, you get other stuff.
There are many, many other places but these are at least a little unique to Los Angeles. On your way back to whatever business is distracting you from eating, stop by one of the huge Taiwanese supermarkets and raid their produce section. For 99 cents a pound you can load up on esoterica that would break the bank in Napa, and that's no joke.
Ok, I agree that there's a lot of great food in the SGV, but if you're pulling out the SGV card, couldn't travelfoodie also point to San Jose/the South Bay in general for great Asian food? I can also think of some wonderful places in SF (Richmond area, to be specific) and Oakland Chinatown.
Not to digress too much, but I think my point is that just as most SF residents would hesitate at driving all the way to the South Bay for great Asian food, residents of the city of LA (like me) may balk at regularly driving all the way to the SGV for great Asian food. So unfortunately, the reality is that most nights I'm stuck eating mediocre Westside food.
I've lived in the South Bay, and I've worked in the SGV... and honestly, there's just no comparison. The SGV is a firehose; the South Bay is a garden hose. It's not that there's not excellent Asian food in both places, and there's certainly plenty of good food in Richmond and right off 880/980 in Oakland, but it's not miles and miles and miles of truly excellent Asian food the way the SGV is.
The Westside, while fashionable and having some of the best weather, is a desert of good ethnic food. There are oases (Sawtelle for Japanese and Westwood Blvd for Persian and Lebanese) springs to mind), but it's still a desert.
When you get to the point when you don't give the Westside credit for a restaurant vaguely based on its location, you begin to prove my point by splitting hairs. LA is meant to be ingested as a whole, if only because so many Angelenos don't work/live/play all in one area code.
But to play along, I'd give Venice Blvd credit for being on the westside until it hits La Cienega.
It's not that there aren't good places to eat on the Westside, the problem I have is that the rent is too high and the value proposition deteriorates. The westside suffers from the same problems as Pasadena, but without the convenient relief valve of the nearby SGV, Glendale, Highland Park, and (gasp!) La Crescenta.
Not much in the way of good surf on this side of town, though, to be fair :-)
We find ourselves coming from the Santa Monica area to K-town frequently, (and K-town is a treasure trove of great ethnic food - Korean and other types) and it is normally an easy drive east on the 10 and off at Crenshaw Blvd. to Olympic or 8th depending on where we are headed to eat.
For sure -- it is a similarly quick drive on the 110 for us and we do it often -- whenever I have business to attend to at USC downtown, we either get Korean or Creole. If you're in that neck of the woods be sure and check out Leimert Park every now and then -- a much under-appreciated trove of of its own. Go south on Crenshaw instead of north and be sure to ''appreciate'' Dr. Grillz, the dentist specializing in installing gold teeth, as you head for Phillips or the Creole Chef (or any number of other places)
I, too, was going to point out the South Bay and San Jose, but the Geek's fire hose metaphor is well taken. Still, Chestnut makes a good point about proximity. I can think of some truly awesome Chinese places in SF proper that are much better than what I've found on the West Side thus far.
i had an argument with someone about this a few months ago (specifically about chinese food, since it's well established that korean and japanese is better in LA). i ultimately came to the same conclusion.
you don't have to go that far to find good Chinese food anywhere in the bay area. sf, peninsula, east bay, south bay, all have great stuff.
but the concentration of Chinese food in the sgv, and the pursuant fierce competition between restos, produces quality leaps and bounds better than anything the bay area has to offer.
Yeah I'd definitely agree as far as Asian food. But there's no comparison in the non-Asian front.
If we're talking Italian for example, 1 square mile section of Russian Hill has 3 Italian restaurants better and cheaper than almost every Italian restaurant in Southern California. I grew up in LA for 20 years, and in three days I found 3 restaurants that each were better and cheaper than comparable Italian here. $10-$20 entrees that would blow away far more expensive Italian restaurants in LA.
I just used Italian as an example, but Russian Hill is also right next to Gary Danko, which despite being one of SFs more expensive restaurants is a bargain by LA standards.
That said, if you're looking for awsome cheap Asian food, SGV is probably unbeatable. Probably in the whole of the US. Having grown up in the center there, all I'm saying is for a special occasion I'd choose SF any day over SGV. I love the seafood in SGV and some other dishes.
But outside of Asian it's either non-existant or overpriced. Yes, SGV is overpriced for non-Asian food. If you want something nice, prepare to overpay. I say this because I lived in it for 20 years. =)
You need to grit your teeth and go to the San Fernando Valley. LA really excels in holes-in-the-wall of random ethnic cuisines, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than the SFV.
I was horrified by the prices I was expected to pay for food in the Bay Area, because I'm accustomed to just driving to where that kind of food is cheap (since one really has to drive anyway).
I would say that the Mexican scene in LA is much, much better than in SF. The California cuisine scene is way, way, WAY better in SF than in LA. Peruvian? LA. African? SF.
Both cities have their strengths but (here comes another generalisation) it seems to me that when SFans post on this board they're always looking for what they have at home. (This happens with travelling Angelenos too, but less often with the casual travellers. What happens is Angelenos move away, thrive on their new adopted cuisine for six months, and then bitch about Mexican food in general and fish tacos in particular.) But I just feel like every other week I'm writing some post about "embrace cheap ethnic food and save the farm-to-market Cal places for when you get home".
re: Das Ubergeek
Having lived all my life in the SGV, having eaten in SFV and in San Francisco many times, I have to say that I agree with both Das and royaljester. I am thankful for the asian eateries in the SGV and really good mexican can be found anywhere in LA, what I agree with royaljester is the fact that yeah Italian and French, you get generally more authentic(ie. no salads sometimes, gasp), and even at higher prices, less attitude than you do here in LA. I like that laid back vibe at higher end places that know what they are doing but are not snot nosed, instead of like you sometimes find yourself Das, as said of the Beverly Hills Cheese Store, and you are more apt to find a good bread store in SF with little pretension than you are here in LA, and as it so happens most of these are on the Westside(and sometimes blind arrogance rather than intelligence or vast quality experience). In that aspect if there were more good cheese and bread stores like say in Pasadena (where yes I've found in general less snot nosed service) or Silverlake, or an urban locale not immediately associated with ostentatious perhaps Hollywood wealth like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, or Brentwood, I think we could match SF point for point and outdo them. We need a middle attitude about food sometimes. As for restaurants I still think we can get more creative about the fine dinign concept and not be snot nosed. Chef's need to leave the confort zone of the westside, there is plenty of money elsewhere in LA County as well not just in a few locations, and might I even add, to head to a other locales that have a healthy mix of college, middle age, and elderly patrons nearby (hint: not just club goers, and touristy spots, but quality locales with a sense of community and curiosity, and some semblence academic and hollistic thought)--there is an abundance of those you just have to look--then will you overtake SF and NY.
re: Das Ubergeek
I completely agree. Longterm, living in LA is better for your wallet and has a wide variety of satisfaction. San Francisco makes a great trip and is refreshing when it comes to what's lacking in LA.
In SF it really depends on locations, especially if you're around where the locals eat. We had a recommendation for one place in Russian Hill called Pesce. It had $12 entrees and was good enough to eat again on our trip. I made a list of other restaurants in the area and on our own we found some other great places - Frascatti comes to mind (which I also went to twice). I consider them both a bargain for the level of food they serve. They wouldn't compare to my favorites in Italy, but they'd actually compete on price and food with some of the better places there and that's saying a lot.
My comment was coming after reading threads about wonderful $200-$300 meals in LA. I've eaten at some of these places and while I loved the food, I went in knowing I was paying a significant markup for being near Hollywood. These places do fill a niche and are operating on a monopoly on certain good cuisines in SoCal, so I can't blame them. I'm just hopeful that they motivate more competition.
Speaking specifically of the Westside, which is generally a culinary wasteland - Sawtelle Blvd. (the area roughly between, say, Olympic and Santa Monica Blvd.) is the reason why L.A. is a foodie city. Without Sawtelle, most of the Westside's culinary bounty would be gone.
I'm partial to Kiriko (great lunch specials for sushi, and there's wonderful homemade ice cream for dessert - in great combinations like ginger+brown sugar). Cap off a belly-busting trip to Kirko with a visit to the infamous Pinkberry (tart yogurt; makes Korean and Chinese expats nostalgic because it tastes eerily similar to the pink yogurt drink from childhood), in the same shopping complex.
The Westside also has a huge number of really great breakfast/brunch places (for all those hungover celebs, I wonder?). John O'Groats near/in Century City is excellent, as is Hugo's Restaurant in West Hollywood (try the Pasta Mama at Hugos - with a pitcher of mimosas and a few friends to share, I can't think of a better way to spend a lazy weekday or weekend).
John O' Groats
10516 W Pico Blvd (Cross Street: Patricia Avenue
)Los Angeles, CA 90064-2320
8401 Santa Monica Blvd (Cross Street: Orlando Avenue)
West Hollywood, CA 90069-4209
Oh - I just thought of something else that LA has - world-class pastrami (not to be found in SF or its environs) - at Langer's, near MacArthur Park in Downtown L.A. It's a scary area - I'm not gonna lie. But Langer's pastrami is regularly compared to the pastrami at Katz's Deli in NYC - for me, both are gold standards, albeit quite different (as I remember, Katz's pastrami was more buttery-soft; Langer's is chewier).
GREAT local ice cream, which also happens to be in the SGV...
1824 W. Main St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Great old fashioned ice cream, shebets, sorbets and frozen yogurts. They also have great seasonal and unique flavors too. I LIVE for their pumpkin pie and cinnamon flavors in the Fall. They also have some great Asian-inspired flavors like Lychee, Green Tea and Macapuno.
Don't go there expecting to use your credit card though, I think they only take cash.
I think they also serve Fosselman's ice cream at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena too.
LA is a foodie town because no matter what kind of food you like, no matter how much you're willing to pay, we've got it, and chances are, the restaurant is still open.
I'm not going to get into the whole San Gabriel Valley horn tooting because doing so downplays the rest of the region, which taken as a remarkably diverse whole, trumps anything that other cities can muster.
(But in full disclose, if you told me the only restaurants I could ever eat at could only be on Valley Blvd, Brookhurst Ave, 3rd St or Beverly, I'd really be okay with that.)
It's all about the Towns, eg, Koreatown, Thai Town, Little India, Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Little Phnom Pehn, etc., SGV being the Chinese version.
It's the diversity, but not only that, it's the size of the diversity. The immigrant communities that flourish in LA are larger than in most other cities, and therefore the competition, the authenticity, and the prevalance of the cuisine is amped up. It's not just the market for restaurants; it's the market for the raw ingredients and the imported ingredients. You may have Oaxacan restuarants in a smaller city. But do they use actual Oaxacan ingredients like they do in LA, or adapt American ingredients? The size of the Oaxacan community in LA makes it economical for purveyors to import perishable ingredients, which gives the food an autheticity not found in smaller communities.
more than a bit vague-- any keyword search in the LA board will show you the scope of what's available in this great city
It's the best place west of New York to get cheap, excellent ethnic food. Just stay away from the Westside, which is an ethnic wasteland, and you will be rewarded almost anywhere you look. The Valley (like, oh my God!) in particular is astoundingly rich with cheap, fairly authentic ethnic food, because that's where so many of the ethnic communities are.
With the glaring exception of a "Little Italy", there is just about anything else you want within 45 minutes' drive of downtown. Vietnamese? Rosemead or Westminster. Chinese? Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, Rowland Heights and Irvine. Thai? Thai Town in Hollywood or Thai Gulch in North Hollywood. Korean? Koreatown, Buena Park, Garden Grove. Indian? Artesia. Cambodian? Long Beach. Armenian? Glendale and East Hollywood. Arabic and Persian? Westwood and Anaheim. Filipino? Eagle Rock, Panorama City and La Habra. Salvadorean? Pacoima and Van Nuys. Ashkenazi Jewish? Pico/Robertson and Valley Village. Russian? West Hollywood. Soul food? South LA and Inglewood.
Of course, the 800-pound gorilla in LA cuisine is Mexican. While we have only a few fancy Mexican restaurants, we have more taquerias and taco trucks per square mile than many places in Mexico, and you can't throw a rock without hitting a combo-plate Mexican joint, even on the Westside.
And, of course, there are places sprinkled all over the place.
If you told me the most I could ever spend for dinner on myself was $25, I might move to San Francisco... but if you told me it was $10, I'd stay right here in LA.
The more I think about it, because of the high quality of all of our holes-in-the-wall, I would venture to say that many Angelenos are foodies without even realizing it. The places that we go to day in and day out that don't have linen cloths or have any hope of ever getting a Michelin star, these places are fanflippintastic and comprises our everyday faire. Being a foodie is more than just a way of life here; I don't even think it's a conscious choice. We simply go about our daily lives, get hungry, and without trying, we take part in the rich culinary tapestry of our region.
The proliferation of Pinkberry (and Famima before it, and artisanal cupcakes and donuts before that, and...) is just an example of how, as a whole city, the entire populace is always hungry for more. Our strength as a foodie town isn't in our highest highs; we're not challenging French Laundry for three stars. Our strength, though, rests in the fact we have quality AND quantity.
Fair enough. And maybe my viewpoint is skewed because I have to regularly dine on the Westside, but...I would argue that the rise and fall in popularity of such things as "artisanal cupcakes" and Pinkberry (even though I like Pinkberry) indicates to me an LA food culture (at least on the Westside) which is built on hype and trends and which celebrity is eating what, not necessarily on the quality of the food.
I will say that sushi in LA kicks SF's ass.
But the biggest thing that LA lacks, in my mind? What troubles me the most is that I can think of no great neighborhood bakery, a la Acme, Tartine, or Cheeseboard, or even Semifreddis. I cannot think of a single place where I can get an honest loaf of sourdough or levain, or a great baguette, without pretention. I don't care or want a Double-Chocolate Cherry Bread, or a Rosemary Sourdough Cheese-and-Jalapeno filled loaf. I need, and have not been able to find, an honest loaf of simple bread, that will stand on its own. (And I'm saying this with Breadbar in mind - the quality is so poor and the prices so high that there's just no comparison; La Brea Bakery's quality has gone so far down that the sour baguettes are just laughable.)
The bread thing is troubling. We seem to focus more on pastries. There was a time when it seemed Pioneer might get there, but it didn't. LaBrea has had its day. Maybe something at Europane might work. It's been forever since I've been to Paris Pastry in Westwood. Can you get real bread there? I will say the rye bread at Langer's is terrific. Not sure where it comes from.
I am not so sure that LA's food is based on trends. It just so happens that the recent trends get the pub. After all, who wants to read article after article about how I had _yet another_ great meal at some place that's always been good.
If LA's food scene were built on a house of cards, it would have fallen a long time ago. Its diverse ethnic (and American!) food provides the solid foundation on which the trends can rise and fall.
If all one did was read the LA Times (or, possibly even worse, out-of-town papers) then one could certainly get the feeling of hype and trend. Take Mozza: it is a perfectly fine addition to LA dining in a realm (the pizza realm) that we have few options. Some things excell, some don't. So what if it's not the world's best pizza. But the papers hype the s*#t out of it and make everyone feel that all of LA is like that. I know I will be driving to SGV long after Mozza is fading from my memory.
Folks, thanks for keeping this board focused on foods found uniquely in the Los Angeles region. We removed a few tangents that strayed off course.
If you'd like to discuss L.A. versus other cities, please start a new thread on the General Topics board, where pan-regional food is discussed.
If you'd like to discuss the effects of immigration, transportation, etc. on this region's food culture, please start a new topic on the Not About Food board.
To me, a sampling of what LA has to offer better than any other city:
Chil Bo Myun Ok on 6th/Kingsley, has good cold noodles as well as bbq. My current favorite.
Dan Sung Sa also on 6th/Berendo, Korean pub grub. Order a beer/soju, and ask your server for food suggestions, no English on the menu. Shrimp skewers are good.
Try out the places in the hidden Chapman plaza complex at 6th/Kenmore, for a taste of Korean nightlife.
El Taurino on Hoover/Olympic is always packed, has a great local vibe. Great place for after-drinking tacos late at night.
A lot of us use Bandini's Great Taco Hunt blog as a starting place.
Park your car in the lot at the San Gabriel square at Valley near Del Mar Ave. Easy walking distance to Dong Ting (Hunan fish head), Eight Cafe (Guilin beef noodles).
In the next mall over is Green Village (Shanghainese fine dining), and also nearby is JJ (Shanghainese homestyle).
The inexpensive yet high-quality ethnic food is what makes LA remarkable to me. The rents are relatively low and cooks have access to a wide variety of cheap, fresh produce all year around. Throw in the huge immigrant population, and the result is a taste sensation.
LA has fancy places like Spago and Providence that can hold their own with anyone, but the real key of eating out in LA is the diverse riches in the under $20/entree price level. This could be an American place like Phillipe's but more often it's a place like Zankou chicken (Armenian-Lebanese) or Cafe Baccali (Chinese-Malaysian) or Porto's (Cuban). LA is very strong in Latin, Asian, and Middle-Eastern dining. It's hard to say there are any particularly LA foods like New York pizza or bagels, rather LA takes food from other areas and cooks them well.
It's true that as a tourist it's hard to find many of these places as most of them are not on the main tourist drags, and some are 20-30 miles away from Hollywood or Beverly Hills. But it's a good excuse to explore LA's many interesting neighborhoods. Johnathan Gold's Counter Intelligence book is a good place for an overview but caution, the book is several years old and some of the places have closed.
I feel like Providence is excruciatingly overrated -- any Thomas Keller place would stomp all over it based on my experience with the tasting menu and wine pairings. Am I the only person in Los Angeles who feels like 3 foams and a marshmallow course constitute a party foul? The ambiance and service were absolutely wonderful, but some of the dishes fell short (IMHO).
If it hadn't been an expense-account excursion I would have felt gypped.
Where are you coming from Travelfoodie? I mean literally -- are you coming from S.F. or NYC? Because (having lived in the Bay Area during the 1980s), the definition of "foodie" in those towns if FAR different from our concept here in L.A..
Don't get me wrong. Those are both great restaurant towns. But the "foodies" tend to be affluent folks who love to drop $50 for lunch at the latest, sleek, creative high-end restaurant. I spent my entire 20s eating at Chez Panisse. It was (and still is) very Slow Food/organic/grass-fed beef/etc. oriented.
L.A. is not that kind of place. L.A. is like what NYC was 100 years ago -- an urban area widely populated by foreign communities that have been transplanted lock, stock and barrell into So. Cal's suburbs.
And with the exception of the Pico Union Central American "zone," most of our ethnic enclaves are in the suburbs. Here they've combined Old World cooking with high-quality American ingredients. So you can find Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hunan, Taiwanese restaurants in Monterey Park/San Gabriel; Vietnamese food in Garden Grove, Thai food in East Hollywood and North Hollywood (San Fernando Valley), Korean food in midtown. Indian food in Artesia, Italian food in San Pedro, Russian food in West Hollywood, Armenian food in Glendale, Japanese food in Torrance, W. L.A. and downtown, Northern Mexican food in East and Central L.A., as well as peppered throughout the S.F. Valley.
Like NYC's food is heavily influenced by European immigrants, we are heavily influenced by our Asian and Mexican/Central American immigrant cultures. If you need to find NYC-style anything here (e.g. Italian food), you're going to have to look in NYC. I don't go looking for Mexican food when I'm in Manhatten, so you just need to remember WHERE you are!
ANTI-elitism is the philosophy of "foodies" here. There are entire websites devoted to TACO TRUCKS. If you come to L.A. and don't eat at a taco truck, you've pretty much missed the heart of our eating culture. Jonathan Gold, the grandfather of L.A. food reviewing, made a name for himself eating almost exclusively at ethnic holes-in-the-wall.
Of course we have nice farmer's markets here. (California is the nation's produce basket.) The Santa Monica market on Wednesdays and Saturdays is probably our flagship. Although if you want to see real ethnic markets, you can hit Alhambra on a Sunday. Bring home a live chicken!
BTW, I hate to say it, but nobody I know has heard about this "gelato craze...."
Is that like our overhyped "cupcake craze?" Somebody save me from the rest of the USA!
BTW, I hate to say it, but nobody I know has heard about this "gelato craze...."
REALLY....I guess you haven't seen all of the new gelato franchises that have been popping up in many various places. But I personally don't care for the franchses. I much prefer the smaller gelato shops. Maybe it's more of a beach cities thing? dunno, but all of my friends love gelato and it's almost passe now. Maybe you missed the boat.
LA is a "foodie" city because the Los Angles Board is consistently one of the most active on Chowhound.com
i don't know what a "foodie" city is, or what a foodie is exactly. Kind of a silly label if you ask me. And I'm not sure about the SGV thing; the best Chinese I've had was in Oakland. But i'm not chinese so I'll defer that issue. One thing I do know, being Korean, is that LA is the best in the world (outside of Korea) in Korean cuisine. I've lived in the Bay Area (horrible Korean food there), LA, NYC (you call this korean? how can you eat galbi in the same place that serves jjigae; that's like Denny's, where they serve both spaghetti and ribs) and Seoul (the mecca). I've had Korean food in China and elsewhere, too.
Outside of Korea, LA is the best city for Korean food, by any measure, on earth. There are 200,000 Koreans in LA county, and probably 100,000 more in surrounding OC, Ventura, etc. That's the single greatest concentration of Koreans outside of Seoul. (All 5 boroughts of NYC have a paltry 90,000, and together with the tri-state area at most 150,000).
This is not a lesson in demographics but only to explain how far LA's Korean cuisine is ahead of any other city on earth. Did you know that there is a large farm just outside of LA county that grows only Korean vegetables? I'm talking really weird mountain vegetables and roots that originally only grow in Korea and somehow end up on my mom's table. I believe it supplies the Korean supermarkets in LA. And that there is a restaurant at this farm? I think that would be unheard of anywhere else in the country.
LA Korean food is so good, when you go to Seoul, the restaurants there serve what's called, "LA style Galbi". I don't know if the beef is really from LA, but the way it is cut and prepared imitates the galbi made in LA. And i would argue that the vegetables in LA are so bountiful year-round, that some of the vegetable dishes in LA are better than those found in Seoul.
I am constantly amazed at how little of the surface non-Koreans in LA scratch in terms of Korean food options (even the members of this august board). That is not entirely their fault; tourism was always a small, insignificant industry in Korea, so Koreans have not felt the need to export their culture. Plus with 300,000 Koreans, restauranteurs don't need the business, frankly.
I am not an expert of LA Korean restaurants, as I rarely venture outside of the westside (plus I get home cooked meals when I visit my parents). But i will make one suggestion that I have only seen mentioned on this board once:
9916 Garden Grove Bl
Garden Grove, CA 92844
This is the best seafood broth I have ever tasted in the world. The second best was in the south of france in Villefranche-sur-mer, where I had an amazing bouillabaise at a family owned restaurant. But Hangari beats its French counterpart by a long shot. The flavoring and balance is much more subtle. It is a heavenly seafood broth, with fresh shrimp, clams, and other seafood, with handcut noodles. When you walk in it's like smelling the fresh ocean. you will not find this anywhere on earth except in Korea (probably in Seoul and some of the seaside towns) and LA. You will most likely be one of the few non-Koreans, so don't feel intimidated (I've seen some vietnamese and pilipino patrons there a few times).
Yeah, ditto on what awl said.
What I love about living in Los Angeles is that it has more korean bbq joints per capita than anywhere outside of Korea. Korean food in NYC or SF just doesn't compare and that makes us special. =)
My favourite Korean joints are:
Yongsusan for offering subtle royal delicacies from the Kaesong cuisine of the ancient North Korean capital of the Koryo Dynasty.
Dae Sung Oak for bulgogi and other well marinated and well marbled barbecued bites served with unique condiments. Your galbi comes with chopped onions swimming in a sweet, salty dipping sauce topped with green wasabi. Yum!
LA has so much more to offer with other cuisines but since you're from SF you probably won't be impressed. Korean is definitely our strong point with hole-in-the-wall Mexican coming in at a close second.
I've eaten in Oakland and other parts Bay area, not that it's bad, just that the variety of Chinese (both in quality and quantity--SGV areas go for miles and miles) is found in greater abundance in SGV. Heck when you get entire suburbs that are almost completely ethnic Chinese this kind of thing bounds to happen.
Two main areas 1)West SGV: Monterey Park/Alhambra/Arcadia/San Gabriel 2)East SGV: Hacienda Heights/Rowland Heights/City of Industry/Diamond Bar/Walnut/Chino Hills
and I'm not including newer digs in OC.
Los Angeles is also great for hole-in-the-wall sushi places. Everyone here has a neighborhood sushi place they frequent.
Los Angeles's farmers markets are one of the things that make it a great foodie city. Other cities have similar markets, of course, but L.A.'s best ones -- i.e. Santa Monica and Hollywood -- are among the largest and most diverse anywhere, and are showcases for regionally grown produce of all types. The selections of stonefruits and heirloom tomatoes alone, in season, are amazing.
The Hollywood market is also a very entertaining scene, where you can spot the occasional celebrity amid transvestites, mom-and-pop shoppers and zombie-looking heavy-metal rockers.
re: Mr. Cookie
I went to the Farmers Market in Santa Monica and was so disappointed...no place to park - had to pay for parking - bums begging for food. Produce was excellent but if you want a great market go to UC Irvine on Campus drive on the weekends ...its really the best and guess what FREE PARKING
There's eight lots that give you two hours' free parking in Santa Monica. Two are harder to find, which is why there's usually room in them. I love my UCI market on Saturdays -- I go every single Saturday -- but it can't hold a candle to Santa Monica Wednesday or Hollywood Saturday, except in prices -- the prices at Irvine are shockingly reasonable for such a large market.
And yes, there are bums begging in Santa Monica -- but my "local" market used to be the San Francisco UN Plaza. You talk about bums -- you couldn't even get out of the freaking BART stop.
re: Das Ubergeek
I think it's a BK... there is this fast food joint RIGHT at the corner of that Mall... nearly had a heart attack getting out that little corner...
Thanks for the TJs reminder... that Mall gives me a headache when ever I get there because I lose all sense of orientation... I just look for the market...
re: Mr. Cookie
Santa Monica's FM is just scratching the surface. I've been to farmer's markets in Pasadena, West Covina, Redlands, the OC, SFV, SGV, in Ventura county, Riverside, even places in downtown, and even to the actual fields themselves (seen so many crops, let me tell you)etc, just about any suburb in LA with an active interest in produce has a decent farmer's market, being that so much stuff is grown locally in the four counties surrounding LA and still in remote places of LA county. Even local universities like Cal Poly Pomona, have a campus market where they sell the produce they grow and the stuff they grow and canned themselves.
I agree with Mr. Cookie about the farmer's markets in LA. Santa Monica farmers market on Arizona on Wednesdays and Saturdays is great, as is the above-mentioned Hollywood farmers market by the Cineramadome on Sundays. I mean, where can you choose from so many stands selling awesome produce, then get great Thai, El Salvadoran, and Korean food within steps of each other? And the street entertainment ain't half-bad either...
Also, the choices we have not only in so many cuisines, but great examples of particular foods from so many cuisines. All you have to do is pull up a post like, "who has the best fish taco," or "what's your favorite xiao lung bao," or the current battle royale going on at the Apple Pan post. We are so so lucky to have so many options in this great conglomeration of towns that we call LA.
Has anyone mentioned the plethora of dessert bakeries/patisseries we have around here? Chantilly, Jin, Boule, Sweet Lady Jane, Daintycakes, J.J., Porto's, Susina's, just to name a few of so so many... and to think - Victor Benes is a chain!
And another thing about trends is that sometimes they stick. One trend in the mid eighties was to put crazy toppings on pizzas. Another one was to put grilled meats in salads. These are both California Cuisine "fads" (at Spago and Michaels, respectively ) that really stuck. Who knew fifteen years ago that we would wait in a long line to happily pay for $4 coffee? Sometimes fads stick, at which point they transcend trendiness and become legitimate aspects of the local cuisine.
The variety of cuisines, at any price point. The many shops that specialized in one thing, and did it wonderfully. I.e., cheese, fish, baked goods, chocolates. I never felt when I lived there that I couldn't have exactly what I craved, if I was willing to drive to it. That and the produce. I miss the farmer's markets the most - I could have gone every day, all year round. Now I'm up north, and the ground is frozen. I'm resorting to grocery store produce and eating a lot less of it! In short, LA is a great place to have food as a hobby, rather than to simply eat. Not that that's bad either.
Read Jonathan Gold at laweekly.com -- his take on food of all sorts in LA will not only show you why he won a Pulitzer Prize, but also why LA is a foodie city.
I moved to LA from NYC about 5 months ago and I have been disappointed with LA from a foodie perspective. Sadly, I have had very few "wow" experiences since I have moved here.... and that is not for lack of trying... (Although as some Hounds mentioned above, the SGV is good for Asian food... I have had some good Dim Sum there... I will post again if I can remember the name of the place...)
Other than that, there are really only two places I have been to that I crave going back to:
1) Father's Office... delicious Burgers, salads, and sweet potato fries... a great local burger joint, but be prepared to wait a LONG time for a table.
2) AOC... great small plates and a go-to spot for me. Again, I would say there are places just as good in NYC for this kind of food, but I really love this spot. You have to try the brioche with prosciutto, gruyère and egg... simple, but SO good.
And... I have to give an honorable mention to the taco trucks... Stop if you see one and get some al pastor and chorizo & cheese. If you search the boards, you will find some favorites and their locations, but they are not always easy to find.
I am still on the hunt for the "wow" places, so please post if you find some great spots.......
re: Ali B
You know, having lived in both cities, I have to say that the "average" dining experience of a New Yorker is fancier and more expensive than the "average" dining experience of an Angeleno.
Don't get me wrong -- there are plenty of people in New York who eat in ethnic dives and plenty of people in LA who frequent the trendy places -- but take your average, not-necessarily-foodie young professional type who goes out for dinner with three other ditto, and they'll probably end up at a fancier place in New York than in LA, where they might just as easily end up in a Thai restaurant.
Angelenos tend to be "wow"ed by the flavour and the trendiness; New Yorkers by the ambiance and the use of ingredients.
Embrace our dining culture, cast off your need for fancy linen-napkin places with (what I consider to be) overconstructed New American food, and you'll eat a lot better.
re: Das Ubergeek
Having lived in NYC fro ten years before moving to LA I disagree with you on NY - maybe because I lived in Hell's Kitchen most of that time and there was an amazing array of food (just stroll down ninth avenue) at all price points. Here you have to be willing to drive ALOT as evidenced in many of these posts. The variety and goodness is here - if you're willing to brave the freeways. If I wanted Chinese for lunch and Greek for dinner (or Indian and Peruvian or Vietnamese and Russian or any other combination) I could get really good versions of all of those, but how many miles would I have to drive?
I understand your point about NYC and 9th Ave but it's somewhat of an apples n' oranges comparison... Primarily, NYC is a vertically oriented city (the five boroughs add up to about 800 sq. miles), while the area of LA county is horizontally sprawling across a major chunk of So Cal (over 34,000 sq. miles). NYC has a population density of over 26,000 per sq. mile, while LA has just over 7,900 per sq. mile. If you isolate Manhattan, it bumps up to over 66,000 per sq. mile - you get the picture. You'll find streets with the variety of 9th Ave in LA as well... Pico, Santa Monica and Wilshire come to mind immediately... The difference I guess is that walking five blocks in parts of NYC is the equivalent of driving five miles in LA... My experiences in Asia is in comparing Singapore (vertical and extremely densely populated like NYC) and Kuala Lumpur (dead in the water without a car where alot of towns and neighborhoods form what is generally known as KL). Many are already familiar with Singapore's hawker centers (a couple are the size of neighborhoods). But one can also find sections of Singapore that offer great food ranging from $2 noodles to truly high-end European cuisine that would max out one's expense account - all within walking distance of each other. On the other hand, KL has alot of great food, but you have to first of all know where to go to find what you want, and jump in a car to get there - typically 20 to 40 minutes away. KL is basically LA with 90+ percent humidity and the folks selling fruit on the corners are offering up durians and mangosteens instead of oranges and strawberries...
I agree with foodhypnosis': the food in LA is much less accessible than in NY. And in my opinion, most of the times I have gone way out of my way, the food has been mediocre. Yes, Das Ubergeek, Angelinos like trendiness more than good food... but I am accumulating a list of places I think are worth the trip. The most recent finds are in the Reseda area:
Sandwich Express, which serves delicious Bahn Mi -- the closest I have come to the Bahn Mi get in NYC.
Lum-Ka-Naad Thai: Be prepared for some authentic Thai flavor - spicy and delicious. The anchovy salad is salty with a great texture. And the Naked Mermaid is flavorful and fresh (raw shrimp -- kind of like a thai ceviche). The noodle dishes are great, too... BYOB.
I don't think either of those fall into the "fancy linen-napkin" napkin category Das Ubergeek mentioned above.
I lived in Hell's Kitchen for years. There's good stuff on 9th Ave, but I can list the places worth trying on two hands. There is no good Chinese or Vietnamese in the area -- you have to leave the neighborhood for both. I don't ever recall seeing a Peruvian or Russian place in the neighborhood.
234 W 48th St,
When I lived there - there was a small vietnamese place on sout west end of restaurant row, and one on 10th between 46th and 45th. Mother owned restaurant row/daughter ran the one on 10th.
Btwn 8th Ave & Bway. They were wonderful - don't know if they are still there.
Chinese - yes chinatown was better but always enjoyed
MEE Noodle Shop
795 9th Ave (good and cheap!)
Westside Cottage II
689 9th Ave | Btwn 47th & 48th
Peruvian Restaurant, 688 Tenth Avenue between 48 & 49
315 W 54th St,
365 W 46th St
Among the places you mention, several of them have closed, and none of them are really good versions of their respective cuisines. There are much better versions of them in Queens or Brooklyn. Yeah, you have to be willing to trek out there for the good stuff, rather than settling for what's nearby. As I remarked in another thread, while there seems to be a great diversity of restaurants in some NYC neighborhoods, these are examples of ethnic places that are catering to a wide common denominator of people, and what you're getting at these places just are not as good as the places where there's a concentration of the ethnic community. Also, rising rents and redevelopment have made it impossible for small restaurants to stay in business.
Inadvertantly, I think you asked "what consitutes a foodie town" as much as you asked why Los Angeles is one. These are the places that I think represent foodie experiences and since I live in the "ethnic desert" of the Westside, most are located there or near there with a few exceptions. It appears some no longer consider Japanese, Mexican or Italian ethnic as they are so firmly entrenched in this part of town, but that is another thread. This is not a comprehensive list and is in no particular order.
Mitsuwa Market--I go to the one on Venice Blvd. and Centinela in West L.A. to shop for authentic Japanese ingredients and eat great ramen in the food court there. Check other threads, it is a food court worth paying attention to.
La Playita--Taco stand on Lincoln just North of Rose. There have been lines at lunch time for years and years at this taco stand. As usual in the foodie world, check the ratio of hispanics to gringos and if it is usually 10 to 1, probably not a bad place.
Hiko/Hide/Sasabune and Echego sushi bars--all Westside sushi bars that are a cut above for me. I find it hard to imagine a non-foodie town with this many good sushi restaurants. I'd probably put The Hump in here too as a total foodie experience if not totally authentic.
Musha and FurAiBo Izakaya's in Santa Monica and West L.A. There is another Musha location but this is the one I go to and I think it is just swell. Again, check the threads to see how many people say Musha is the only Izakaya they have found in Los Angeles that reminds them of Japan.
Cora's Coffee shop on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. Fancy foodie coffe shop done just right.
The Metro Cafe on Washington Place in Culver City. Classic updated diner food done well at a place you can also get hand made Serbian specialities like Chavapi. When the guy who makes the sausages isn't around and/or they run out, they don't have them. 'Nuf said.
La Flama Taco Shop and Carneceria at the corner of Pico and Westgate in West L.A.
Vincenti, Drago, Valentino, Giorgio Baldi, Osteria Mozza, Angelini Osteria, La Terza and so many more for Italian food that rivals the best line-ups of even NYC and Chicago.
Bay Cities Italian Deli on Lincoln in Santa Monica and Sorrento Italian Deli on Sepulveda by Jefferson. Get a GodMother at Bay Cities.
Oki Dog--do the Pico location near Sycamore in Los Angeles. Not all foodie stuff is fancy.
Jin Patisserie on Aboot Kinney in Venice. Brilliant little pasteries and tea.
Farmer's Market's--Santa Monica on Wednesday and Saturday, 3rd and La Brea everyday, Pacific Palisades on Sunday.
The Apple Pan on Pico in West L.A. for burgers.
Father's Office for craft beer and burgers. The success of the burger often overshadows the fact that they still (as they always have) offer one of the best craft beer selections in all of Los Angeles and they sell enough to keep it really fresh. Foodies like to drink too right?
Orris on Sawtelle in West L.A. Small plate Asian fusion done perfectly.
Su Won Galbi and Honey Pig in Korea Town. I am not an expert on Korean food, I just like to eat and these are the two places my Korean friends like to go.
Din Tai Fong in Arcadia (note, this is roughly an hour from the Westside of Los Angeles--maybe 25 mins from Downtown in good traffic and potentially longer if at the wrong time of day). Known for thier Xiao Long Bao (or XLB) this is Chinese dumpling foodie world.
Surfas for speciality foods and kitchen-ware in Culver City. This is a go-to foodie place.
And lastly, though expensive doesn't mean foodie, there are a group of restaurants that when put together say to me, this is a foodie town: Spago, Chinois, Bastide, Providence, Grace, Sona, Patina, Melisse, Cut, Craft, Urasawa, Josie, Matsuhisa, Jar, Campanile etc....
God, I don't even know where to start.
Wait, yes I do, because I'm not into trendy fancy haute-cuisine places. So if you want to know about them (and apparently there are some) you'll need to enquire elsewhere. Also, I don't head down further into the 949 than the Irvine FM very often.
I can't even get into Garden Grove and Westminster here. Little Saigon you already know about, but you can refresh your memory by looking at kingkong5's posts, elmomonster's, and your humble author's. There's also a great Korean section on Garden Grove Blvd. from Brookhurst west to just past Magnolia. But here are at least a couple of places from each North OC city (and if I forgot one, well, tough $#!&). I know of no chow in La Palma, by the way.
Los Al Fish Company
Captain Jack's Seafood
Harbor House Cafe
Slice of New York
Shinsengumi (ramen side OR yakitori side)
John's Philly Grill
The Loft (Hawaiian)
El Taco Nazo
Cat and the Custard Cup
Brea's Best Burgers
Soot Bull Jip (not related, I don't think)
Original Pancake House
Chomp Sushi (for brunch only, please)
Summit House (for prime rib and their creamed corn)
Anita's New Mexico
Taqueria de Anda
California Asian Bistro
Rockin' Taco Cantina (for chiles rellenos only, please)
Tony's Little Italy (Chicago-style pizza)
Gem Meats (butcher shop, might actually be in Fullerton)
Los Mochis (f/k/a Mariscos Hector)
Natural (for escamochas and suchlike)
Taqueria Las Mulitas
Cafe Casse Croute
Merhaba (Eritrean food)
Rasthal (vegetarian Indian)
Senor Baja (fish tacos!!)
Mas Islamic Chinese
El Farolito Jr.
Ten Ten Seafood (but beware the mindbogglingly rude service)
You & I Thai (surprisingly, surprisingly good)
Dunarea (Rumanian food)
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop
Original Pancake House
Darya (Persian food)
Tulsa Rib Company
Felix Continental Cafe (Cuban)
Frog's Breath (cheese shop)
Cafe Lucca (for gelato)
Citrus City Grill
A million and three Mexican places, and you'll have to ask EatNopal
Tropika (Malaysian food)
Zov's Bistro (upscale Middle Eastern)
Black Sheep Bistro (Spanish food)
Haveli (Indian food)
Claro's (Italian market)
re: Das Ubergeek
Honestly, if you can give me a rec in Santa Ana in the vein of King Taco/El Taurino, that'd be a godsend. I actually lived in Santa Ana for 15+ years. In regards to the rest of the list...
Looks like a culinary wasteland to me! lol.
-Tulsa Rib Company - well deserved respect. Fall off the bone tender, but not very smokey.
- Taco Mesa - ARE YOU SERIOUS!? I went there a few times and hated it. I'd eat King Taco 10-1 over Taco Mesa
- the Loft - Pretty garbage IMHO.
Anyway. Good effort, but I think getting to those places will take a considerable amount of drive. That however, I pin as being the difference between city living vs suburb living.
It's ok, I know I'm being too nit-picky, but bombass food from every type of cuisine within 15-20 minutes is pretty hard to beat. But then again, giant roads, cheaper rent, and cleaner air are also pretty hard to beat...
Anyway, I'm getting fairly off topic here. Das, we can still be friends even though our opinions differ ;) We can do a foodie run at Thai Nakorn sometime haha. On a somewhat related topic, I find that Thai Nakorn is a pretty convenient stop for me when I go back home.
Sticky rice/mango, fried baby banana, taro + coconut milk = thumbs up
sticky rice and taro, thai pancake = thumbs down
BTW you forgot Favori on your list in Santa Ana ;)
I've never been to Favori, actually.
Taco Mesa is good for exactly one thing: those tacos alambre. HOLY MACKEREL those are crack.
I gotta say, from Anaheim, nearly all of those places are 20 or fewer minutes away (the result, as you say, of actual investment in our infrastructure).
If you're looking to move to Lake Forest or San Juan or Dana Point or something like that, you're on your own. :)
re: Das Ubergeek
Right on Das! A very comprehensive list.
Have to defend Orange County. IMHO, there is a treausre trove of fine restaurants out here- and I've travelled a fair bit and lived abroad. To me, the sign of a good 'foodie' city is the quality of choices in its entire metro area, not just in the city proper. To your list, I would also add the following:
El Gallo Giro
Hans' Homemade Ice Cream (so good)
San Juan Capistrano
Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen (love this place)
Cha for Tea (boba, boba boba)
Goro (Japanese, great sushi rolls)
Houston's (especially the seared ahi burger and key lime pie)
French's Cupcake Bakery
Jugos Acapulcos (love the sopes and horchata)
Darya (great Persian food, in a beautiful restaurant)
Royal Khyber (an interesting and tasty twist on Indian curry)
Sprinkles (red velvet cupcakes only)
Lotus Chinese Eatery (not as good as Mas - but ALMOST).
And as I've mentioned many times before, I heartily second Maki-Zushi. It's A++++.
I'd have to agree about Orange County. If you think it doesn't offer much in terms of cuisine, you aren't looking or trying hard enough. Although I don't really understand the accessibility issue either. It's much easier to get from restaurant to restaurant, place to place in OC than it is in LA, especially with a time span of 15 to 20 minutes. But here are some more that are really gems of OC:
Zov's Bistro (Irvine)
I'm a native Angeleno now living in New York. I'll tell you one of the one of the most starked differences that made LA such a great place. The Farmer's Markets. Very few of the farmer's markets in New York are year round, and the one that is, the Union Square Greenmarket, is the largest in Manhattan, if not all of New York City. But about 5 months out of the year it sells almost nothing but bread an apples! In LA, they are selling almost anything you need year round! The Alhambra Sunday farmers market specializes in Asian vegetables! The Wednesday Santa Monica is almost all organic! The Saturday Long Beach is great for cheap herbs, seafood, and 5 or 6 different varieties of avacados! The heirloom tomatoes are spectacular! Citrus fruits! When prime strawberry season hits.... oh man....
1) Of course LA is a foodie city. Is it Paris, London, SF, NYC? No.
Is it on the level of Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Philly, or other major US cities? Of course it is. In my opinion, it exceeds all of those cities. Peronsally, I think LA gives SF a run for its money in many respects.
2) The west side has plenty of great food. What is everyone talking about?!? Check Jonathan Gold's top 99 and look at the map. Check out the ultimate food guide 2008 listed on chowhound. You will find many places listed on the greater west side. More specifically, you will find places far west of san gabriel valley
Is SGV legit? Of course it is! But remember, torrance, little tokyo (to some extent) and sawtelle have great Japanese food. Venice blvd has decent brazilian, ktown for korean, glendale or westwood for persian, anaheim st in long beach for cambodian, inglewood and carthay for ethiopian, etc. I could really go on and on about all the regions that have great food.
Also, there is decent food everywhere. I live in the foodie desert of the south bay, but Darren's Restaurant, the Del, catalina restaurant, japonica, Muira Sushi's omakese, Saluzzi, La sosta enoteca are QUITE good. Easily as good as any "randomly good" restaurant in SF. Of course they won't compete with Delfina, Spruce, Incanto, Masa, Gary Danko, A16, Bar Tartine, etc., but they will easily compute with places like Aziza, Tangerine, Q, and other chef ownded SF favorties.
Moving north to the west side I can think of several good places off the top of my head.
Joes, Jin Patisserie, James' Beach, Piccolo, Baby Blues (BBQ) in Venice. Also in Santa Monica there is Josie, Jifarre, Melisse, Rustic Canyon (before the chef left), Michaels (might not be as good as before), la botte, Drago, Il carpoccio, Violet, amongst others.
There are several places that are legit in West LA between Santa Monica and BeverlyHills. Once you get to the mid-city, west hollywood area, there are a lot of great places.
Cut, Jar, Enoteca Drago, Spago, Hatfields, Grace, Lucques, Campanile, Bastide, AOC, Lou on Vine, Mako, etc.
culver city has Friache, Wilson, Akasha, Fords filling station, beacon, amongst other great places.
I had a wonderful tasting menu at Opus (now defunct), and a wonderful meal at LudoBites at breadbar (now defunct). some of the most memorable dishes I have ever had.
There are probably 100 tasting menus and most likely more all over LA. Many places using great CA produce and showing very strong wine lists.
There is still a lot of dineatainment like Beso, STK, BLT, Bond St, Nobu, etc., but places like Seattle, Atlanta, etc. would be happy to have these places.
Anyhow. Whether its Mozzarella Mondays at Jar, Campaniles grilled cheese nights, tasting menus, ethnic food, omakese, taco trucks, pizza from mozza, craft beer and bruger from father's office, oysters from hungry cat, salads from lucques, or wine and small plates from AOC; There is always some great grub left to eat in this town.
Anyhow, to the original poster. What makes LA a foodie city?
Variety, expansion, and adventure!
LA has the most variety out of any US region not including Chicago, NYC, or the Bay. LA's dining scene is expanding with reckless abandon at the moment. New notable places are opening every week. Laslty, LA is exciting because finding great food is like a treasure hunt. In SF, decent food it everywhere, and terrific food isnt too hard to find. In LA, you have to dig. Alot! Seeking out the best food is fun and rewarding.
Why do I live to eat in Los Angeles?
SGV for best chinese food in the country
Best sushi in the country
Best Korean food in the country
Best Vietnamese Food in the country (via OC's little Saigon)
Great Non-sushi Japanese Food (Noodle Shops, Izakaya,Vegan, home style, etc)
Cal cuisine, American New(World Cuisine), and developing wine culture
Bar Food, comfort food, and Small plates
Very underrated Italian Food Scene: Melagrano, Vicenti, La botte, All Angelo, the mozzas, Amarone, etc. etc.
All of these make LA a great food town.
I highly question anyone who thinks there is nothing good on on the west side. What does west side even mean? West of la brea? West of La cienega? west of the 405? West of 26th Ave?
Unfortunately, there is no true way to give people advice on how to sample our food culture. It is too varied and too distributed. I have a lot of foodie friends and I know their tastes. Everytime someone comes to town to visit, I always choose a different place to take them. For some people, its AOC, others it Lou on Vine, yet others its Vin-Bar at Valentino or perhaps Bar Pinxto. Unlike NYC, you cant walk down any random street, into any random restaurant, and order any random entree. In LA, you have to know where to go, how to get there, and what to order when you do. There is a steep learning curve, but there is great food in this town. Is it NYC, Chicago, or SF? Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold says yes, most Angelenos say no. After finding most of the great spots in LA and growing up in SF, I would say.....no comment.
Having lived in L.A., San Francisco, NYC and Chicago - as well as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Jakarta - and traveled extensively in Europe and Asia - I can honestly say that there is no city anywhere on the planet that has the range and depth of cuisines, at a high level of quality, that can be found in Los Angeles. What we don't have is a concentration in any one place, so you have to know your way around to find everything. But Los Angeles has more, much more, high quality restaurants of nearly every sort of cooking, than anywhere else. San Francisco, in particular, is very thin on the ground. It's got some great restaurants, but no depth or breadth of enthic cuisines. New York kicks our butt in most European cuisines, but we utterly kick its butt in any Asian, Central or South American food. There is actually a greater variety of high quality Chinese cooking here than can be found in Hong Kong - which is very provincial in its tastes.
Check out how active this board is! That's how you know Los Angeles is a foodie town. The farmers markets here are absolutely unbeatable as well. Although LA isn't known for it, from farm to table in hours is pretty common in LA as well. One stop at any of the farmers markets in LA and you'll see the wonderful wide variety of what you can get. And of course, the depth and breadth of ethnic dining in LA is above any city in the country.
re: david t.
Yes - it's a foodie town. Yes - this board is active. I'd say the board here is so active because if you're a foodie in this town you absolutely NEED a resource like this. Other cities you can just wander the streets, looking at menus in windows, until something strikes your fancy. Here you're in your car and the real gems are hidden in strip malls that you wouldn't notice unless you KNEW to check it out. I would hate LA for food if I hadn't found Chowhound - Thankfully this exists and I can usually satisfy any craving.
"Yes - it's a foodie town. Yes - this board is active. I'd say the board here is so active because if you're a foodie in this town you absolutely NEED a resource like this."
This is exactly the point I have pounded to death. LA has a tremendous learning curve, but there is fantastic food here if you search. It is SO distributed, no one thing can characterize LA. LA could add 10 aweseom french restaurants and no one would even notice. LA is just too big.
"Other cities you can just wander the streets"
Not true. I am a total food snob. I tried wandering the streets in chicago and seattle and I ate a bunch of over priced garbage. Only NYC is that really possible. SF is getting better, but I have had a ton of bad meals in the city. I can search on yelp for about 10 minutes and find a "decent" place, but I cant just randomly eat out. Atlanta and philly and cities that only have a tiny central district where walking is even possible.
When people say LA isnt like most "cities" they are typically talking about Manhattan exclusively. I am sure you didnt mean "most cities" to include kansas city, memphis, louisville, tampa bay, orlando, sacramento, phoenix, houston, dallas, san antonio, philly, etc.
I actually think LA and its metro area compares favorably to cities like London and NY, and actually does better in terms of diversity/variety than either SF or Paris (by a mile, actually). I've lived in all of these cities, or visited them many times (and grew up in Chicago) so I can speak from experience here.
Just like many cities, Paris specializes in only certain types of ethnic cuisine. Not all cities do a multitude of ethnic foods well. The quality of continental European and North African foods in particular are excellent in Paris, but, just like Rome, their best offerings are local fare.
"I actually think LA and its metro area compares favorably to cities like London and NY, and actually does better in terms of diversity/variety than either SF or Paris (by a mile, actually). I've lived in all of these cities, or visited them many times (and grew up in Chicago) so I can speak from experience here."
I agree. Having eaten at specialty restaurants (like pork-focused lou on vine), dining events (cocktail pairing tasting menu, ludobites, etc), special dining nights (Mozzarella mondays, icecream tuesdays at wilshire, grilled cheese thursdays, sunday supper at grace/lucques/violet), the best sushi ever, the best asian across the board, farm fresh salads from lucques, inspired tasting menus at hatfields, brunch at joes, taco trucks in east la, ramen in torrance, etc etc. I never knew koreans and japanese folks offered authentic fancy tasting menus or cuisine other than noodles/sushi or BBQ. I never knew there was regional thai or high end thai food, until I ate at places in LA.
I have come to the opinion that LA has some darn good eats ALL across the board. Yeah we dont have a per se, gary danko, or french laundry, but we actually have a very good breadth and depth of cuisine here. And its growing.....fast.
I'm new to LA, and can only really speak for LA proper. (I know that if you go a little further out you can get vast improvements in some cuisines, e.g., Indian in Artesia, that are lackluster in LA proper. I find the quality of LA Chinatown low in general, so I am going to have to check out these places in SGV that people rave on.)
I think sushi is much better here than most places. There are at least five sushi restaurants within a few blocks of each other in Little Tokyo that I think are very good, and Sushi Gen is among the best I've had. Little Tokyo in general is a highlight
High-quality Persian is overrepresented here compared to the rest of the U.S. Good Middle Eastern food in general.
I'd say mid-range Contemporary American food is better here than most places. There are a gazillion good $20/entree restaurants around.
Thai Town is another winner with lots of great eats.
L.A. also has a lot of great vegetarian/vegan restaurants.
Let's put it this way, I haven't gotten bored of the dining scene in LA and I eat out nearly twice a day. Make that hundreds of restaurants and eateries in the last few years. While I'm envious of traveling to SF or NY for some other food, in general I can satisfy a craving for any cuisine or style from all over the world. Also, most of my friends who grew up here and have moved to other cities still rave about the excellent food here compared to where they are now. Each city has its own culture. SF and NY are definitely on the forefront and continually stretch boundaries, but in LA, food is still accessible and adventurous.