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Neighborhood Joints

This question isn't to find the "spot". really, i just want to ask if there is a small place in your neighborhood that you enjoy going to. not the most popular, maybe not even the best food--but its got the neighborhood vibe and you keep going back?

for me it is this little corner restaurant on Figueroa and Ave 37 in Highland Park called La Abeja. it's not the snazziest diner, the hours are modest, just breakfast and lunch, but the waiter is attentive and generous with coffee, the food is made to order, the food is always solid---their carne en mole rojo is just fantastic, they run out of their specialty friday soups by lunchtime, the prices are always really so refreshing, and best of all, just a walk across the street from my home.

do you have a neighborhood joint you love that isn't overrun by crowds and zagat postings?

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  1. The Reyn coffee shop on North Lake in Pasadena has the jokey waitress, the old guys flirting with her, decent coffee and pleasant breakfast skillets and sandwiches. Breakfast and lunch only, cash only, but the grub's OK and cheap.

    For an evening hangout we still love Amigo's at Colorado and Wilson, despite the food's being just tolerable (and some on this Board don't think it's even that). Comfy booths, friendly service, good margaritas and a killer jukebox. For just the two of us, or for meeting friends and/or neighbors for anything from party planning to gossip-fests, we love it.

    1. Rutt's Cafe on Washington Blvd. in Culver City. Hawaiian / Japanese food with a great neighborhood vibe and really friendly down-to-earth service. The interesting thing about Rutt's is that they offer just about ever dish in 3 sizes, Regular - Queen and King, so differences in appetites are addressed and you can save money. My wife and our son went the other night for dinner and the tab was $28.75 + tip for the three of us, (and no one left hungry)

      1. Our neighborhood is one of the big restaurant hotspots in LA -- we are within immediate walking distance of Hatfield's, BLD, Angelini Osteria, Grace, Cobras & Matadors, etc.
        We treat these restaurants like our neighborhood go-tos, but it's not always practical to do so. With the popularity of this area in full bloom, we would love to find some good neighborhood spots (in other words, not Buddha's Belly, which is vile) that are not super pricey or overrun with people. Walking distance would be great, too. Any suggestions?

        6 Replies
        1. re: hungrygirl106

          Dou you ever go to Fiddler's Bistro? What do you think? I used to go for lunch fairly often and always found it pretty good, but haven't been in a while.

          1. re: hungrygirl106

            I really like Chao Krung on Fairfax, just around the corner from Beverly. Always good, never seems to be too crowded when we go. Addictive green curry. Also, we spend a lot of time at the Banana Leaf at the Farmer's Market. I know it doesn't quite fill the bill as far as being crowded, but I love it for the curry (again) and roti paratha.

            Atch-Kotch on Vine and Fountain. Mmmmm...delicious ramen and udon!

            1. re: hungrygirl106

              Living in this neck of the woods kind of spoils you in terms of what your "neighborhood" joints are. Have you tried Doughboy's yet?

              1. re: SauceSupreme

                Have not yet tried Doughboys. I'm trying to eat healthfully these days, so I'm sticking with M Chaya, sushi (tried Izaka-ya last night -- great!), and Soot Bull Jeep these days.

                1. re: hungrygirl106

                  Izakaya is on my radar, too. How was it?

                  And did you get the marinated shrimp at Soot Bull Jeep?

                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    Izakaya was terrific; perhaps I'll post on it later, when I have more time. As for the marinated shrimp at Soot Bull, that is one of my go-tos -- especially when I'm trying to watch my diet. Grilled shrimp and some kimchee, and I don't even feel like I'm being "good." :)

            2. Won Won Kitchen (Temple City)

              The Sushi (Temple City)

              Dai Ho (Temple City)

              Sin Ba La (Arcadia)

              Tony's Pizza (San Marino)

              Dumpling House (Temple City)

              Connal's (Pasadena)

              Wolfe Burgers (Pasadena)

              Gerlach's Grill (Pasadena)

              1. Well, we used to have Frank's at the corner of Oxnard and Vineland, but they closed it down and the building's sitting there, sad, empty and occasionally graffiti-tagged ever since. Since Sitton's NoHo Diner decided to go a tad more upscale (in keeping with the whole "Arts District" thing) it's no longer the fun "watch the trannies come in loaded at 2am" place it used to be. I guess the closest place we got these days is Kerry's Grill (formerly Pat's Grill) at Riverside and Laurel. Kerry's a hoot, slings a mean patty melt and keeps the breaded mushrooms around for us even though they're not officially on the menu anymore.

                1. We just discovered Wood Spoon in the fashion district (9th and Main). It's a homey, Brazilian kitchen. I'm not terribly familiar with Brazilian cuisine, but they were very friendly and excited to share very traditional, home-style Brazilian cooking with us. We just went for breakfast this morning, and the experience was so great we'll definitely be back to try their lunch and dinner menus. Since it was a slow morning, we chatted it up with the owner, who brought out several "test items" she was considering putting on the menu. Decor is beautiful and minimal - apparently the furniture was handbuilt by the owners, so it's definitely a labor of love.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: munkicat

                    Wood Spoon has a great pork burger.

                    Owner is super nice and friendly as well.

                    Hope that place sticks.

                  2. Used to be Pace in Laurel Canyon but now way over-run by crowds and zagat postings. Thank god they deliver their pizza. Cafe Med on Sunset another old stand-by -- tastey focaccia baskets, nice wines and a solid simple clam pasta -- but seating on the terrace (which is the only decent place to eat) is sometimes hard to come-by and scene can be kind of Euro-cheesey. Damn, I don't have a good old-fashioned neighborhood joint. Wahhh!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bite bite

                      This wasn't called Cafe LA a million years ago was it? Is it on the left or right side as you drive toward the ocean? I remember a great focaccia basket at a similar sounding Italian place on the left side of Sunset in the late 80's.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        Wasn't here in the late 80's but Cafe Med on the right side of Sunset as you drive toward the ocean -- right at the bottom of Sunset Plaza Dr. and across the street from ChinChins. They do serve a delicious focaccia basket with their meals. Oh something else, across the street from Cafe Med in the Equinox gym courtyard is an excellent gellato place that's definitely worth a stop for desert for anyone eating in the area.

                          1. re: hungrygirl106

                            Hmm. Didn't think so but just googled and looked like it is -- 4 or 5 branches around LA area.

                    2. Famima! It's nearby and a reliable source for a salad, a snack or whatever I need at that moment. I go about once or twice a week.

                      1. Los Toros Mexican - Northridge on Devonshire near Topanga Cyn. I've lived near this shop over 20 years and have watched it go from small and neighborhoody to large and still neighborhoody. Never had interest in eating here b-cuz everything is cooked in animal fat! :( But, tonight I closed my brain and took the dive. Not bad and inexpensive. We were escorted to the back of the bus and liked it very much. Quite and romantic. Even had a gutarist for a few minutes. I was happy NOT to have to cook tonight!

                        1. Toscana is my neighborhood joint. I feel comfortable going in there solo and sitting at the counter/bar for lunch. In the evening it is always bustling. Service is friendly, food is great, albeit pricey but I love that I am welcomed despite my attire and can get in at the last minute. Pizzas are great as are the off-menu, chicken and shrimp salads. So, that is why Toscana is my favorite neighborhood place. Even the valet parking guys are nice.

                          1. Last time at Fiddler's was the last time. The food was so greasy. Poor service too.

                            1. Cheers to you Mommycat for mentioning La Abeja! I've been eating at Roy's restaurant since I was a kid (several decades now). Roy's still behind the counter most days, but his kids are grown and running the place too. He has the BEST machaca anywhere! Those onions, those tomatoes....YUM!

                              It really is a neighorhood joint. It's only been "remodeled" (spruced up) once in the past 30 years and you see the same families (two generations or more) still enthusiastically eating there! I still drive into Highland Park to join my dad there for breakfast.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Reeter1

                                Another vote for La Abeja! I'm nuts for their Carne Adobada. I don't even bother ordering anymore, they just bring me my food when it's ready. I wish they were open for dinner, but Chico's down the street is open fairly late, and is a great runner-up.

                              2. Nat's Early Bite on Burbank in Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys fits the bill.
                                So does Tony's at Coldwater and Magnolia.

                                1. I would have to say Eat at Joes in Redondo Beach, close by my neighborhood in Hermosa. It is mostly very popular for breakfast and lunch with big crowds. However it started serving dinner a couple of years ago and the crowds haven't shown up in the evening. My significant other and I eat dinner there about twice a week and the food, while only reaching the level of good and sometimes very good (pork chops, burgers, country fried chicken), is always satisfying. The real draw though is the crowd, old South Bay working class consisting of cops, fisherman, the few remaining aerospace workers and the occasional homeless person with just enough coin to enjoy a cup of coffee, a friendly space and the Lakers game the tv. The waitstaff is friendly to all.

                                  1. Mine would be Harold and Belle's on Jefferson just east of Crenshaw. It's become a regular spot for me when I get to LA visit my family, and my parents seem to clamor to go when I'm back in town. We've had nothing but pleasant experiences and I find the food to be very good, though I'm no expert on Creole cuisine.

                                    1. In the Valley it'd have to be Skaf's -- that hummus deserves to be spread on the bodies of the virgins I'll get in heaven -- and in Orange County, it'd have to be Carolina's.

                                      1. blue marlin
                                        don felix
                                        monte alban
                                        terried sake house

                                        as you can see i live on the westside.

                                        1. Another vote for La Abeja - the absolute best chile rellenos in the world. I'm partial to the steak picado (con chile) too! The whole family is involved in this - the aunt, Roy, the kids, etc. Its warm and comforting and pretty much never changes. Only wish they were open later.

                                          And a vote for the Oinkster, too - not superlative, but love the pastrami, the burgers and the pulled pork - in other words, a good neighborhood joint!

                                          1. Kimmie's Coffee Cup for breakfast in Brea. The best hash browns; cooked just right so that the exterior has enough of the crunch, and the interior potato is perfectly cooked and not too mealy. This place has a line on Sundays if don't get there early enough.

                                            1. I love gilbert's. There's nothing outstanding about the food and I would never drive out of my way, but I love how everyone there knows me and often knows what I'll be ordering (the chile rellenos burrito).

                                              1. This is a long list 'cause I'ma hungry.

                                                Konjac (green tea with konjac)
                                                The Basket (patty melts and other diner items)
                                                J&J (xlb)
                                                Mei Long Village (xlb, hot & sour soup, noodles, veggies)
                                                Har Lam Kee (dumpling/wonton soup, porridge)
                                                Tacos Baja (ceviche and baja tacos)
                                                Mi India Bonita (mood-dependent but, anything)
                                                Krazy Kabobs (wraps)
                                                Golden Skewer (kabobs and hummus)
                                                Los Molcajetes or the place on Atlantic Square (pupusas)
                                                Lee's Tofu (seafood pancake, tofu salad)
                                                Liliana's (tamales, sopes)
                                                The Hat (chili cheese fries, pastrami sandwiches)
                                                Doublz or Arry's (big fat burgers)

                                                1. Cafe Bixby in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach
                                                  Good neighborhood place for solo dining or an informal gathering of friends - lotsa seating, so minimum/no wait for a table. A large, diverse and reasonably-priced menu and some pretty good specials (esp. their stuffed cabbage). The owner is always there and seems genuinely interested in taking care of the customer. I've not had a bad meal here, yet.

                                                  1. I just checked out Puran's on S. La Brea and I think it's going in our rotation as a solid neighborhood go-to. Good quality (organic galore) at decent prices -- and their chicken caesar is twice as good but a fraction of the cost of the one at Bad Lettuce Dinner (ahem, BLD). Go Puran's!


                                                    1. Sunnin in Westwood (on Westwood Blvd., just north of Santa Monica). Little hole in the wall Lebonese restaurant with the best hummus (garlicky), and really good grilled meat dishes and large selection of mediterranean appetizers. Good sized portions for low prices. Markie D's Taste of Philly on Washington Blvd. in Culver City (just east of Sepulveda). Best philly cheesesteaks (really juicy meat) and cheese wiz on their fries instead of that generic stuff. So much better than South Street in the village, and better prices. This is my FAVORITE lowkey around-the-corner type place when I wanna break my diet.

                                                      1. My neighborhood stand-bys here on 3rd and Fairfax are Doughboys and Thai Patio. I'm going to the Farmer's market less and less but I used to go to the Crepe place a lot.

                                                        1. Vinotecca on Hillhurst for a snack and a nice glass of wine! Also Dusty's over on Sunset in Silverlake is always fun. Decent food, wines by the glass and great servers...always friendly and attentive.