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Mar Vista/Venice/Santa Monica recs???

I just started a new job in SM on the corner of Bundy and Ocean Park Blvd. I need your best recs within a 5 minute drive. Been to Santouka and Gallegos by myself since my fellow employees are such boring eaters. They go to Subway and El Torito all the time and I've never been with them. Not a great way to get to know your fellow co-workers, but good chow is good chow!


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  1. Go to Sawtelle between olympic and Santa Monica. Hurry Curry, Sawtelle Kitchen, Hide Sushi- and more- lots of good eats.

    1. on ocean park near Subway are Mrs Winstons, Il Forno, Vito's, The Counter, Miyako. I work right there too and have never been to Subway. Ewww

      3 Replies
      1. re: NYCnowLA

        I'm jealous that you work so close to Mrs. Winston's. I wish so badly they would open a location downtown!

        1. re: mollyomormon

          Seriously, you're not missing that much -- way overpriced in my opinion (and I eat there at least once a week since I work in the office park where it's located).

          1. re: Snoopy

            It's expensive, but so is everything in my corner of downtown. I'd much prefer the healthy fare at Mrs. Winston's than paying $10 for pizza at the food court, which is one of the few take-back-to-your-desk options down here.

      2. Venice can be a stretch time-wise if you're coming from Bundy and Ocean Park, but if you can manage, probably the best lunches I know of are on Abbot Kinney - Joe's, 1023 Abbot Kinney, is probably the best known and most popular, with their set lunches - about $15 per. Considering the service, the quality of ingredients and the care in preparation, it's a good bargain.

        Two more restaurants are on the same block - Primativo (Spanish) and Lilly's (French), and both have lunch menus as well, but if I were to pick one of the three, it would be Joe's.

        Also Axe, 1009 Abbot Kinney, is very popular and very good. Lots of great salads and sandwiches on their lunch menu, as well as daily specials... about $10-$15 per dish...

        All four restaurants can get crowded quickly, so if you decide to go, and have the ability to cut out of work a little early, then you should do so.

        From where you're at I'd go Bundy south to Airport Road, head west, left on Walgrove, right on Rose, left on Main and left on Abbot Kinney... and watch out for the radar cops. Again - Venice is stretching it from east Santa Monica...

        1. I know you like burritos from your detailed review of Gallegos, so I'm thinking you may already know about Taqueria Sanchez. It is a bit further south after Bundy turns into Centinela, a bit after Washington before Culver, on the right (west) and there is parking and an entrance in the back. Their specialty is their shrimp -- I've had many a shrimp taco there (now about $1.65) and enjoy the marinated flavor and the just-cooked texture. Good job, though I haven't tried the shrimp burrito. I also enjoy their al pastor very much -- nicely seasoned and tasty. I've had al pastor tacos and brought home some satisfying burritos -- I like mine without beans. Carnitas tacos have been mostly good but occasionally chunky and dry. Good salsa bar -- they keep it well-stocked and clean. I like the salsa roja -- not blazing, but pleasantly hot and spicy -- and the limes on the shrimp and carnitas. Most soft tacos are a buck and a quarter, and burritos around $4. I ordered a crispy taco once and it was a good change. Very pleasant service and crowd there.

          5 Replies
          1. re: nosh

            Great rec... but that location that she is starting from is a tough one in terms of traffic... I don't think she could do it in five minutes... I don't think Venice could be done in five either, but I posted anyway... The shrimps in their burritos are the same as their tacos... they're small and tasty but their size is perfect for biting into a burrito or taco... I've even asked them to combo shrimp and carne asada for a surf&turf. I also like their tostadas, which are assembled with a generous layer of tortilla chips, instead of a bowl-shaped flour tortilla. In fact, I don't think I've ever had anything there that I haven't liked...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              they serve the larger, prawn-sized shrimp in their great tostadas.

              1. re: westsidegal

                Wow - didn't know that. I've had their "tostada" only with my favorite - al pastor. Will have to give it a go the next time... thanks, Westsidegal!

            2. re: nosh

              You would think from the detail in my review that I eat nothing but burritos. I'm actually just a very detailed person, especially when it comes to food...any kind of food...such is the life of a chowhound. Burritos are a great quick lunch though. I have heard of Taqueria Sanchez. I've never been one to enjoy shrimp tacos or burritos much for some reason. I guess I feel it's often overcooked, but if done just right, they might just change my opinion. Thanks!

              1. re: hch_nguyen

                Taqueria Sanchez is known for their meats, but they do cook their shrimp and prawns just right, for the most part.

            3. A few of the recs will definitely be a bit of a stretch. I need to be around this job for a little while longer before I start heading off for the extra long lunches :) but eventually will get around to trying all the recs...

              10 Replies
              1. re: hch_nguyen

                The Nook - Great restaurant on Santa Monica and Barry (one block east of Barrington). It's in the corner of a mini-mall and has wonderful food. I had the salmon special today with their incredible cesar salad. As a teacher in the neighborhood, I never have wine during lunch, but they have a nice selection.

                1. re: Julefish

                  What else do you order at The Nook? I keep hearing about this place. I'm not big on cooked salmon for some reason. I like the raw kind :) most of the time.

                  1. re: hch_nguyen

                    I love their albacore sandwhich. the salmon was a special - it's not usually on the menu. their burger is fabulous - and like i said - the ceaser is amazing. some people really like their mac n' cheese. i don't love it - and it's really no good if you eat it take-out.

                    1. re: hch_nguyen

                      The mac'n'cheese and ceasar salad is a special at lunch at $9, if i remember their menu correctly. But it is going to take a LOT longer to eat table service at Nook than get a quick cheaper lunch at Taqueria Sanchez. And i'm a huge Nook fan.

                  2. re: hch_nguyen

                    Have you noticed the tiny little cafe up Ocean Park a couple of blocks or so west of Centinela, (are you really at Centinela and Ocean Park rather than Bundy where I don't recall seeing any commercial office space)? It's now called OP Cafe. It used to be a total dive but some new folks took it over and it's not a bad place for breakfast or lunch at all. Some of their wraps are good. It's basically right across from the Coffe Bean & Tea Leaf.

                    And just a couple of minutes from you going east is Tlapazola Grill for Oaxacan food. I like it better for lunch than dinner because the food is just as good and the prices are more reasonable. In the mini mall on the SE corner of Gateway and Barrington.

                    1. re: tony michaels

                      I am at Centinela and Ocean Park proper in the SM Business Park as you mentioned. I said Bundy because it turns into Centinela going South, but you already knew that :) Anyway, I literally was staring at that OP cafe yesterday as I left work wondering if it were any good. Weird cause that's the first time I've done that since I started working here two weeks ago. I just might give it a shot. Thanks!

                      1. re: hch_nguyen

                        If you go north on Bundy to SM Blvd. and hang a right you will see U-zen on your left in just a block or two and then across the street from U-zen is Monte Alban for excellent Oaxacan food. Just past the OP Cafe is the mini mall with the Counter on the western end of that block. In the mini mall is il Forno for good Italian food. Those would only be a minute or two from you. Going east on Gateway (Ocean Park) past Tlapazola Grill right where Gateway Y's into Pico is Sushi Mori and across the street is SF Saloon for good burgers (turkey or beef) and really good chicken salad sandwiches.

                        When I think of more I will add to the list. Welcome to the neighborhood.

                        1. re: tony michaels

                          In the same center as Monte Alban is a taco place, El Super Taco? Cheap very good tacos for only a buck. Their salsa bar has a great habanero sauce.

                          1. re: tony michaels

                            I just wanted to point out that at il Forno, there's a $5, cash only, take out only menu. I like to take out & sit in the park at 28th!


                          2. re: hch_nguyen

                            i've tried op cafe twice - had the eggs benedict and one of their wraps...oh yes...a 3rd time had the burger ( i would call it their take on the fathers office burger ) - it was all good in a comfortable setting ...this was a few months ago - i'm curious if they've maintained the quality or not...please report back after you've tried...thanks

                      2. 26 Beach Restaurant for Burgers, Salads, French Toasts and Desserts
                        Pepe's Grill/Mar Vista Bowl Breakfast/Comfort Food
                        Wacky Wok Tea Smoked Duck w hot mustard
                        Taco Miendo Mexican
                        Taqueria Sanchez Mexican and Tamales
                        El Abanajo more american mexican but gooooooood

                        http://www.tacohunt.blogspot.com/ all things taco related
                        Philly Cheese Steak Shack on Lincoln north of Venice
                        Mexican Seafood Stand on Lincoln, just north of Rose, west side of street
                        Titos Tacos Tacos and the all meat burrito w cheese

                        1. Sunset Grill (Ocean Park and 17th)

                          Il Moro (on Olympic, near Sawtelle)

                          Kiriko (on Olympic as well, same vicinity)

                          Lazy Daisy Cafe (Pico and 23rd)

                          Tandoor-India (2622 Pico)

                          The Nijiya market in the mini-mall on Sawtelle, near Olympic, for grab-and-go lunches (sushi, bento-type combos, Japanese beverages and snacks). Open till almost midnight if you should find yourself working late and in need of sustenance.


                          Driving tip, if you're new to the 'hood: use Ocean Park, to Gateway, to Pico, and then Corinth or Purdue to make your way from your work location to the Olympic/Sawtelle area. Avoid driving/parking on Sawtelle proper; park a short block away and hoof it in. You'll save a TON of time. It's all about backstreets in that neighborhood. :-)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: LicketySplit

                            I knew there was a Mitsuwa nearby but didn't realize there was a Nijiya, too. I did notice that driving around that area can be a bit tricky. Thanks, LicketySplit.

                            1. re: LicketySplit

                              Kiriko is actually on Sawtelle, about half a block north of Olympic (but it is in the "Olympic Collection" minimall, and you can park there and get validated). Kiriko's lunch omakase is pricey ($29.50) but amazing!

                            2. Thanks to everyone for your responses so far! Now, work can be a little more interesting. Keep 'em coming if you have any more ideas....I welcome them. I especially want to try the Sawtelle stretch or corridor I keep hearing everyone talk about.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: hch_nguyen

                                I used to work in the SM business park but haven't for several years now, so hopefuly my information is still current. I recall there was a small cafe called Gaby's on Ocean Park across from the business park that was pretty good for sandwiches and salads. Also, you are lucky enough to be close by to The Counter, also on Ocean Park, which a lot of folks (myself included) think serves one of the best burgers in LA. Also, last I checked there was a cooking school (LA Culinary Institute I believe) in one of the buildings in the business park - there is a student run restaraunt on the ground floor of that building that has some pretty decent food for reasonable prices. Finally, I second the recs to head over to the Olympic / Sawtelle area - one of the things to check out there is a small Koren place called Tofu Ya. Order one of their Soon Tofu dishes (spicy tofu soup). Its very good.

                                1. re: Marvin

                                  Ooops, thanks to another poster, when I said Gaby's in my post above, I realise I was thinking of Zabie's.

                              2. I'll probably get slammed for this, but I always really enjoyed Fast Taco, and generally recommend it as "much better than you'd think after hearing the name." They have some of the better guacamole I've found (not the often-found avocado sauce renamed guacamole), very good quesadillas, and I'm also a big fan of their carne asada burritos. I used to go there at least twice a week for the 5 years I worked in the big office park there. It's right next door to the Subway on Ocean Park between 29th and 30th.

                                I seem to remember a little place called the Cutting Board buried in one of the office buildings near El Torito (the building was just southwest of 3420 in that office park (not the one straight west) and the place was on the north side of the building). Most of the stuff there I wasn't a huge fan of, but I really enjoyed the avocado BLT.

                                1. There are some good family run places up on Pico, not far from where you are.

                                  I'm a Gilbert's El Indio fan, personally. I also like Lares. I never know the exact cross streets. Gilbert's is on the south side of the street near the car wash. Lares is on the north, near Rae's Coffee Shop.

                                  I don't see Tlapazola in the thread, yet. It's very good.

                                  My personal favorite in the neighborhood, though, is Tacomiendo. There are two locations, one up in Culver City, the other is Pico and Gateway in the same lot as the tire shop. Great tacos, good burritos, good platos.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PaulF

                                    Gilbert's is at 26th and Pico; Lares probably around 30th and Pico. I like both!

                                  2. Lemon Moon on Olympic and Bundy? That's gotten several good raves here.

                                    5 Replies
                                        1. re: anothernotch

                                          Lemon Moon is good because if you're in a hurry, they have already prepared takeout sandwiches and salads and/or two deli cases filled with cold salads that are extremely good. They also are cafeteria style, so things go fast. And they have a beautiful patio for these gorgeous spring days. A great place, open for breakfast and lunch (and I haven't been there in ages--gotta go).

                                      1. re: Jase

                                        You also might want to try Hungry Pocket Falafel house at 17th and Pico. Fresh made Falafel and a full fruit juicing machine plus decent Gyros and Shwarma and other things

                                        1715 Pico Boulevard
                                        Santa Monica, CA 90405
                                        (310) 450-5335

                                        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                                          On Pico, just immediately East of Bundy are a strong of Mexican restaurants: La Talpa and Don Antonio. On Olympic just East of Bundy is Tia Juana. And I third (or fourth or whatever) the recommendation for Lemon Moon!

                                      2. Is Zabie's Cafe still on Ocean Park across the street from the business mall? I've had good omelettes and sandwiches there. Some of the places mentioned on this thread are simply not reachable in a standard lunch hour, particularly with a westside drive.

                                        1. A fair amount of West LA recs for you - those are probably your best bets for now... the corridors of Pico and Olympic, maybe Santa Monica blvd, offer alot and are alot more accessible from where you are, versus Venice or Santa Monica proper... the roads leading you toward the ocean are thick with traffic and signals... they seem relatively close, but the amount of time it takes to get there will be almost half of your lunch... You can hit the recs in Venice and central and western Santa Monica when you have more time...

                                          1. Not a "5 minute drive," but so worth it... Bay Cities Deli up on Lincoln just south of Wilshire. Warszawa on Lincoln too is a bit of a drive.

                                            What about Violet on Pico?

                                            For sit down Mexican, I'll recommend La Cabana.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Emme

                                              Hey, not a bad idea with the Bay Cities Deli rec. The OP could pre-order a sandwich, grab it to-go, and maybe find a park nearby to picnic. Don't they have some sort of curbside "sandwich valet" that brings your order out to you? So L.A.! :D

                                              One of the joys of starting a new gig is sniffing out all the cool new-to-you dining options in the area. Unless ya get stuck in one of those soulless, chow-deserted business mega-plexes out in the middle of corporate food hell...shudder. But the OP is in luck!

                                            2. I really want to thank everyone for their suggestions! I hope I last long enough at this job to try everybody's recs :)

                                              I'm gonna try to write back on each place I try, but school and work might prevent me from doing so in a timely manner.

                                              1. I use to work near there, and if your interested in expanding your culinary exposure to different cuisines, then here's a few that might interest you. These should be doable assuming you have an hour for Lunch:

                                                Indo Cafe - Indonesian - a simple drive due east.

                                                Hu's Szechwan - They have some decent lunch specials that you may or may not like. If you go tell them "exactly" how you want your food cooked, otherwise it might be prepared too bland.
                                                10450 National Blvd. (310) 837-0252

                                                Gilbert's El Indio - Mexican (Old Style). The use to prepare (I hope they still do) one of the better chili curred carrots around. Try and stear you co-workers here instead of El Torito. This is a cash only place.

                                                Aroma Cafe - Bosian - I was intrigued by the Kajmak sandwich but found it lacking any wow factor, so I probably won't order it again but others like it. Read triplecreme 's & Sarah's (which is a little long and she has a certain devilish nature to her commentary....) blog reports:

                                                Monte Alban - Oaxacan - I found their signature mole sauce a bit disappointing in that it was not as rich and creamy as others, but it's very afforable in a mini-mall with some parking.
                                                11927 Santa Monica Blvd. (310) 444-7736

                                                Le Saigon - Vietnamese - The best Vietnamese on the westside? (which isn't saying much).
                                                11611 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 312-2929

                                                Javan - Persian - The entreee dishes were very disappointing so I just order the combination appatizer platter (with 5 items). One of which are their grape leaves which are very good.

                                                Typhoon - Dishes from 10 (?) countries from East Asia - The food is just o.k., and disappointing if you really had the good stuff. But if you every go out with your co-workers after work for a few drinks and maybe some noshing, then try and go here instead of El Torito. Some interesting Sake's to try...

                                                Sawtelle Corridor - definetly explore this chow-street up and down starting with Cafe Dahab - Egyptian - and go south:

                                                If you ever get asked to take a client out for Lunch with the boss picking up the tab, where should you go? If you and/or the client have never been to Chinois, then go and sit at the counter and share plates. Plan on at least 90 to 120 minutes. IMHO, everyone who's serious about good chow should go there at least once.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JBC

                                                  JBC -- Agree completely about Chinois. I have been a huge fan since my first time there. A weekend date with very late reservations, 10 pm, and got there early to a packed restaurant so found a space against the wall looking in on the open kitchen. Had a great time watching the cooks until a space opened at the bar. After we sat down, a server came up with a small plate of appetizers, said that he'd seen us waiting, and said "Wolf would want you to have these." Wow...after that they could charge me whatever they wanted. Class act.

                                                  For Persian, definitely try Shamshiri on Westwood, just north of Santa Monica Blvd, rather than Javan. Get the chicken shawarma or the beef koobideh, and definitely the shirazi cucumber salad.