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SF/NYC Hounds Visiting - Recs?

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sfoperalover Mar 25, 2007 12:46 PM

Hello All - My best friend and I are meeting for a guys weekend in LA next weekend. Can I indulge you all to throw out some tips on dining? We're staying in Beverly Hills, but are willing to travel (reasonable distances) for good chow. We're particularly interested in holes in the wall generally, distinctively LA dining spots (not necesarily the fancy ones) that we can't get in SF or NYC, and have a few specific requests as well:

a) great tacos
b) best Chinese places in Monterey Park/elsewhere
c) great Mexican (what do people think of El Cholo? - someone recommended it)
d) great middle eastern food

any places in Hollywood or Silver Lake would also be welcome.

Ideally we'd like to spend under $30/person for dinner, perhaps with one splurge meal.

Also, years ago, I went to a great marketplace in San Pedro, with a fish monger next to a restaurant where we chose a fish, had it cooked, and then sat on picnic tables on the port and enjoyed. Is this still around? any specific recs on which place is now best?

Many thanks!

  1. katkoupai Mar 25, 2007 02:48 PM

    Go to Shamshiri Grill in Westwood for Persian food. It's on Westwood Blvd., not too far from Westwood Village and UCLA, and probably less than 5 miles from B. Hills, depending on where you are staying. :)

    www.shamshiri.com

    1. tony michaels Mar 25, 2007 03:10 PM

      For all the local taco knowledge you will ever want - or need - go here and read at your lesiure before your trip: http://tacohunt.blogspot.com/2005/11/tacos-por-favor.html

      For buying fresh seafood and having it cooked before you go over to a table and devouring it get down to the Redondo Beach Pier and proceed to Quality Seafood:

      http://www.qualityseafood.net/cats.htm

      In Silver Lake we like Cliff's Edge for the most striking patio in the heart of the city. The food is good, not great - but this is a wonderful place to dine and relax.

      Cliff's Edge Italian and Mediterranean Restaurant
      3626 Sunset Blvd - Cross Street: Edgecliffe Drive
      Los Angeles, CA 90026
      (323) 666-6116

       
      1. b
        bulavinaka Mar 25, 2007 03:22 PM

        I second all of the mentioned recs, as well as:

        I don't know if you folks are up to Japanese, but there are tons of Japanese food places that may or may not have counterparts from SF and NYC but probably deserve a mention as well. Orris and Kiriko on Sawtelle Blvd in West LA for some very good Japanese-inspired tapas (Orris), and great sushi/desserts (Kiriko).

        As for Mexican, you probably want to narrow down your specifics (drive time, GPS?), otherwise you'll be getting recs from East LA, to Whittier, the SF Valley, to the Pacific Ocean. There has been a recent new mention about a place in the Palms area called Sabor A Mexico taqueria and Grill. It's on a really quirky boulevard called National which can even confuse locals but it sounds like a hidden gem that is worth seeking out...

        Opus may be a good choice as well. I personally haven't had the honor of trying them yet, but they have a tasting menu that is supposed to knock your socks off, and they won't break the bank...

        5 Replies
        1. re: bulavinaka
          s
          Silverlaker Mar 25, 2007 03:56 PM

          do a search about silver lake on the boards -- the main draws are: Blairs, vermont, cliff's Edge, Dusty's (very cool hangout), malo (brad pitt sightings if you care), ginger greengrass (is that the name? -- vietnamese in SL) and Cobras & Matadors, in that order.

          For two guys and a very L.A. experience, I'd go to the arclight in Hollywood for a pricy (but worth it) movie and then go to either hungry cat (which may be out of your budget -- two with drinks will run you past $100, more like $150 if you're going for a full meal), magnolia or the Bowery (more in your budget, real good pub food and fun -- if you're single, go here!) for a meal/drinks. Oh, and these are real hollywood scenes -- last time we were at Magnolia tons of stars, hollywood big wigs there.

          gardens of taxco is really fun for mex in hollywood. el cholo is sorta ehh... in my opinion, use to be better. malo in SL is a real scene plus pretty decent -- but it's mex tapas. For truly authentic mex, people are gonna send you across town to boyle heights and since you're visiting, that may be really out of your way. Another place I love in the valley is casa vega -- and there will be many groans on the board, but it's one of my favorite and has a lot of non-chowhounder fans. It's also become a scene which is sorta funny since I've been going there since I was a kid and it was hardly a scene then -- it's in Sherman Oaks and there's stuff to do there.

          carnival in Shermn Oaks, carrosel in Glendale (and there's one also in Hollywood which I don't like as much) and Marousch in Hollywood for middle eastern -- my fav is carrosel in Glendale, you can see a movie nearby (guess what I like to do?) and it's got a really nice atmosphere.

          Have fun! We just were in NYC and had wonderful meals at Town, paninni place in village that was awesome that I forget name, and Lupa... our fav though was Molly's pub, we went twice. Awesome stews.. burgers... i'm getting hungry.

          1. re: Silverlaker
            s
            sfoperalover Mar 25, 2007 04:53 PM

            this is awesome, everyone - thank you for such thorough, thoughtful replies! we're happy to head to Boyle Heights (or anywhere else within a 20 minute drive from Beverly Hills) if the chow is that good, so I'd welcome any recs on Mexican places...though you've filled our plate very nicely already!

            1. re: sfoperalover
              b
              bulavinaka Mar 25, 2007 05:33 PM

              My current favorites for Mexican food are close to where I live - the Westside of LA, as I don't feel a great need to venture too far (yet) since my local haunts are quite satisfying.

              Gallego's Mexican Deli - call first as the hours can be abbreviated. Great meats, mexican dishes, tamales, salsas - their barbacoa beef has been the recent rave! Also some of the best tasting tortilla chips I've had...
              12470 Venice Blvd
              LA, CA 90066
              310-391-2587

              Tacomiendo (the Culver City location is located almost across the street from Sanchez Meat Market) - they do alot of things well. Great, varied menu but they are known for their freshly-made tortillas that go into some tasty tacos. Also clayudas, chicken mole, giant burritos and champurado.
              4502 Inglewood Blvd
              Culver City, CA 90230
              310-915-0426

              11462 Gateway Blvd
              Los Angeles CA 90064
              310-481-0804

              Taqueria Sanchez - also has a large menu as well as off-menu items (tostada with al pastor is served with a large bed of tortilla chips that is more like a hybrid tostada/nacho dish), great tacos, burritos, tortas, gorditas, and shrimp dishes. Also has a generous salsa bar that includes guacamole - not the best, but it's included (free!) and goes well with most of their dishes.
              4541 Centinela Ave
              Los Angeles CA 90066
              310-822-8880

              Sanchez Meat Market (they own the above taqueria) - they offer most things offered at their taqueria but they are more of a carneceria with the food offered through order windows.
              4541 Inglewood Blvd
              Culver City, CA 90230
              310-391-3640

              Tacos Por Favor - located in a more industrial/commercial part of SM, they have great tacos in general, but their cholesterol-busting chorizo-filled items are their go-to orders.
              1406 Olympic Blvd
              Santa Monica CA 90404
              310-392-5768

              La Playita - a very simple taco stand that usually has lines because of a very long-time loyal customer base. Again, tacos are great, but they are known for their shrimp tacos, as well as their "surf&turf" burrito - combination shrimp and carne asada with just enough pico de gallo and gaucamole to meld the two proteins together.
              3306 Lincoln Blvd
              Santa Monica, CA 90401
              310-452-0090

              Don Felix Meat Market - a favorite haunt of a close friend of mine of Mexican desent. Because they also are primarily a carneceria that happens to have a great kitchen, Don Felix will always offer great meats in their dishes. Carne asada and al pastor are also great here. My friend who is nuts about tripas can't get them anymore with the new restrictions on certain animal parts, but they are a serious contender in the taqueria market as well. Since they serve both as a market and a taqueria, you can usually grab a beef from the cold box and enjoy that with your meal as well...
              3985 1/2 Sawtelle Blvd
              LA, CA 90066
              310-915-1978

            2. re: Silverlaker
              a
              anothernotch Mar 26, 2007 10:22 AM

              For value, I believe it will be hard to top Carnival. I also really enjoy Golan, in the valley roughly at Coldwater and Victory.

              1. re: Silverlaker
                a
                ajbinla Mar 28, 2007 12:12 AM

                Second on El Cholo. Don't come this far for that food! Better recs all over in the replies....

            3. b
              bulavinaka Mar 25, 2007 05:53 PM

              Almost forgot - I don't know if Peruvian food is offered in SF or NYC, but if it isn't you might consider seeking this out as well... This emerging cuisine is considered to be the best by far according to a couple friends from Chile. There are some dishes that are known nationally, but there are alot of regional dishes, as well as ethnic dishes that you wouldn't expect that show influences from Spain, Italy, China and Japan.

              I've only been to a few - El Pollo Inka, which is the "McDonald's" of Peruvian food. I've tried three of their locations, but evidently their best one is of course the one I've yet to try, which is located in Lawndale - they roast their chickens in a wood-fired oven there.

              Mario's, which is probably closest to you, is located on Melrose, and almost always has lines of Peruvians and non-Peruvians alike.

              My favorite is El Rocoto, located on Artesia Blvd in Gardena. They not only have the tasty salsa di Ahi which everyone can't get enough of once they've tried it, they also have a salsa (salsa di rocoto?) that is made of the chile from which the restaurant's namesake comes from. As the owner is Chinese-Peruvian, the menu reflects this, and it is pretty extensive. As is the case with Peruvian cuisine, potatoes, pasta, chicken, beef, and seafood rule menu, but don't let these simple ingredients think you will be bored here or any other Peruvian restaurant. The twists, variations, seasonings and combinations are very satisfying. They also have some nice desserts and drinks as well. If your familiar with dulce de leche or alfajores, El Rocoto has a monster cookie dessert that hasn't been duplicated anywhere else that I know of. This place is a favorite of my friend who is from a small arid coastal town in Peru.

              They're are a few more around Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, but I don't recall their names or locations. However you will find lots of entries on Chowhound.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bulavinaka
                ttriche Mar 26, 2007 10:29 AM

                Los Balcones near the ArcLight is great.

                1. re: ttriche
                  b
                  bulavinaka Mar 26, 2007 08:55 PM

                  Thanks - the name was on the tip of my tongue, as I remember a few folks mentioning it recently... I think J. Gold likes this place a well...

              2. m
                mc michael Mar 25, 2007 07:20 PM

                Why not peruse this list and then followup with questions on places that interest you? http://www.laweekly.com/general/featu...

                1. a_and_w Mar 26, 2007 09:38 AM

                  Make sure to try some Oaxacan style Mexican, which was a taste revelation to this ex-SF/NYC hound. I'm addicted to Monte Alban on the west side, but I'm sure others can provide further recs.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: a_and_w
                    SauceSupreme Mar 26, 2007 10:15 AM

                    Since they're visiting for just a weekend, I'm tempted to point them to Guelaguetza instead of Monte Alban because Guela is in KTown, which allows them to scope out another LA food neighborhood.

                    1. re: SauceSupreme
                      ttriche Mar 26, 2007 10:27 AM

                      Indeed, I do not recall there being anything quite like Soot Bull Jeep in San Francisco!

                      excellent point... they might get 'distracted' and trot across the street to check out the fire ;-)

                      1. re: ttriche
                        a_and_w Mar 26, 2007 10:56 AM

                        Good call -- korean is surprisingly weak in SF and Manhattan.

                        1. re: a_and_w
                          k
                          kazhound Mar 27, 2007 03:42 PM

                          hilarious - i'm from NY and my good friend from SF (originally a NYer too) came down for this past weekend. the two dinners I took her to were guelaguetza and soot bull jeep. she was delightfully impressed! (and i discovered today that leftover red mole sauce from guelaguetza tastes great over a poached egg and beans for breakfast!)

                          1. re: kazhound
                            a_and_w Mar 27, 2007 03:44 PM

                            The red mole over poached egg sounds really, really good!

                  2. d
                    djquinnc Mar 26, 2007 09:54 AM

                    I second any votes towards Shamshiri and Marouch for Persian and Lebanese food, respectively.

                    http://www.shamshiri.com/

                    http://marouchrestaurant.com/client/marouch/index.html

                    For tacos, you have to go and have the cochinita pibil at Yuca's on Hillhurst in Los Feliz.

                    http://www.yucasla.com/

                    The link to the Taco Hunt blog already given will give you the lowdown. I also have a soft spot in my heart for sopes de asada at the King Taco down on Washington and San Pedro.

                    http://www.kingtaco.com/

                    I also depend a lot upon El Gran Burrito at Santa Monica and Vermont when I want my breakfast carne asada burrito fix (a habit from going to LACC back in the day) and for al pastor at 1:30am - yum! Really good Oaxacan food can be had at Guelaguetza at very reasonable prices as well.

                    http://www.guelaguetzarestaurante.com/

                    Enjoy your trip!

                    1. ttriche Mar 26, 2007 10:39 AM

                      El Cholo will be underwhelming, I promise. Especially if you regularly visit the Mission. Your time will be much better spent elsewhere. Someone else suggested Guelaguetza in Koreatown, which is a genius idea on two levels -- Oaxacan food is absent from SF in my memory, and you will be within smelling distance of Soot Bull Jeep, an excellent Korean BBQ place. In fact, Koreatown itself is a food spectacle which you should not miss, there is nothing like it (again in my recollection) in either NYC or SF, and it is crammed full of bizarre, wonderful, cheap places.

                      Finding the ''best'' taco truck is an art, but one worth suffering for. Good luck :-)

                      Depending on what sort of Chinese you prefer, you will find someone who can execute it with breathtaking skill in the San Gabriel Valley. The hardest part will be deciding which style you are after. Also you might consider Bo Bay Mon at Vietnam House on Las Tunas at Mission, I don't recall anything like that in San Francisco either. Mission 261 is down the street from them if you want new-wavey dim sum, but I do remember lots of that in SF/NYC.

                      Personally I think that the original Carousel in Hollywood is the best Lebanese restaurant I have ever been to, (IMHO) far outclassing Marouch. To each their own, but I have not heard any complaints about the food at Carousel. It is half a block west of Normandie on Hollywood, in a little strip mall, and it is an insane value for the portions and flavors.

                      Have fun. This town seems like a hellhole at first (having lived in SF and spent plenty of time in NYC) but over time I have grown to appreciate its incredible diversity.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ttriche
                        m
                        mc michael Mar 26, 2007 11:00 AM

                        Yeah, but it's our hellhole!

                        1. re: mc michael
                          s
                          sfoperalover Mar 26, 2007 11:09 AM

                          you all are amazing - thank you again for giving us such a problem of riches - deciding which of these places to choose! I promise to report back once our trip is over. And of course, as the SF hound myself, am more than happy to provide tips when any of you head north...

                      2. raytamsgv Mar 26, 2007 11:31 AM

                        What type of Chinese cuisine are you looking for? Cantonese? Shanghainese? Taiwanese? Other?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: raytamsgv
                          r
                          risottoman Mar 26, 2007 11:57 AM

                          El Cholo is O.K, but there are many better places out there. El Cholo has really good Tex-Mexy type food, but for the authentic experience, try some places near downtown that serve goat. If not, get some tacos at a taco stand (I love Rambo's in Eagle Rock, if not you can't go wrong with King Taco or El Taurino)

                          1. re: raytamsgv
                            s
                            sfoperalover Mar 26, 2007 12:11 PM

                            i'd love tips on sichuan, uighar, and other less typical chinese cuisines...

                            1. re: sfoperalover
                              ttriche Mar 26, 2007 02:02 PM

                              Sichuan: Lucky Dragon or Chung King

                              if you go to Lucky Dragon, try the water-boiled fish. (which is, of course, a horrendous misnomer; if you are expecting steamed tilapia when you pop it in your mouth, you will probably meet your maker instead.)

                              1. re: sfoperalover
                                b
                                banjoboy Mar 26, 2007 02:23 PM

                                For Sichuan, go to the Chung King on San Gabriel Valley Blvd. Jonathan Gold's review will give you some menu tips:

                                http://www.laweekly.com/eat+drink/cou...

                                1. re: sfoperalover
                                  raytamsgv Mar 26, 2007 03:00 PM

                                  Try Kim Ky Noodle House in San Gabriel for some Chiu Chou noodles:
                                  http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/chinese_cantonese2.html

                                  Try Jin Jian (aka JJ) in San Gabriel for Shanghai food, especially with their xiao long bao: http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...

                              2. justanotherpenguin Mar 27, 2007 06:03 PM

                                some thoughts:
                                1. i started going to el cholo almost 40 years ago, when they only had one location on western near olympic. was great. they started declining about 10 years ago. last year i gave them one last chance. will not return, even though they have great margaritas. the food and service suck - especially in pasadena.
                                2. have been going to el tepeyac in east la (on evergreen between wabash & cesar chavez also since the 60's. very unpretentious, no beer, wine, etc. (though the owner - manuel - is likely to pour you a tequilla or vodka or whatever else he has. he can legally give it away, but can't sell it.) have NEVER had a bad meal in this place. generally drive from la canada at least a couple times a month. i am stuck on their machaca dinner and their hollenbeck burrito, but i've had many, many friends over the years try just about everything on the menu, and i have never, ever heard a complaint. (though i suspect that i will now!) if you want to order the largest and best burrito ever made, get a manuel's special. be prepared to share with at least 2-3 friends. there is no way you can eat it yourself. (i actually tried when i was in my early 20's - gave up.) they are closed on tuesdays, or i would probably be getting ready to leave after reminding myself by writing this!
                                3. don't know if you like peking duck. but, if you do, there is an absolutely wonderful place on valley in san gabriel called "lu din gee". there are several great reviews on this place on chowhound. that is where i found it several months ago. very moist duck with very crispy skin. delicious. also very nice service and they have beer and wine. call an hour ahead for the duck. i had a chinese gentleman sitting at the table next to ours tell me that he had just returned from peking, china, and came to the restaurant directly from the airport because he had missed it so much and couldn't find anything comparable in peking!
                                4. finally, lebanese food input. since my wife's family is of that persuasion, without a doubt the best is at my mother-in-laws house. but since she is booked, i suggest either carousel in glendale or carnival in the valley (i have not been to the one in hollywood.) they both are quite good if you can't get reservations at alice's.
                                enjoy, and make sure to report back.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: justanotherpenguin
                                  echoparkdirt Mar 27, 2007 06:20 PM

                                  You are getting some great advice here.

                                  I back up Carousel in Glendale. You must go to Chung King on San Gabriel in San Gabriel, for szechuan. There's nothing great in Silverlake, IMHO. For Mexican try Oaxacan -- Gueleguetza.

                                  1. re: echoparkdirt
                                    ttriche Mar 27, 2007 11:32 PM

                                    The original Carousel in Hollywood has better food than the one in Glendale, IMHO (and my wife's too). If you want ambiance, Maran would be a better choice, but Carousel on Hollywood is the original and still champion, at least in my book.

                                    Lu Din Gee is absolutely great. The smoked eel and rice bowl is something I have been dying to return for (the duck + bean sprouts + soup combo kept us occupied last time). But then again there are a number of absolutely great places in the San Gabriel Valley.

                                    I have to submit that Korean and (real, hard-core) Lebanese food are strong points of Los Angeles that simply cannot be matched by anything in the Bay Area, and possibly not NYC either. El Tepeyac is an awe-inspiring place (well, the portions and people are, at least) but the sad truth is that a Mission-style burrito is not *too* far off from an Educator.

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