PHX hound visiting Santa Monica
my wife and i will be visiting santa monica for easter weekend and are looking for a few good recs. we are staying at the ocean lodge, located 1/2 block south of the pier, across the street from the loews hotel. we have a car and some friends in thai town, so we are definitely willing to travel for great food. although we will probably have a fair share of meals in the santa monica/venice area. as any hound would, i do have a specific chow agenda. however, due to my unfamiliarity with the area, i have not picked out any specific places yet. my three main chow goals are:
authentic thai from thai town
al pastor from a taqueria (mexican)
killer sushi (japanese)
and if there's time:
soon doo boo (korean)
doner kebab (turkish)
dim sum (chinatown)
kalua pork (hawaiian)
an easter brunch rec would be great too! i know i'm asking a lot here, but i do promise to come back with a full report. thanks, LA hounds. as you can probably tell, thai and mexican are my favorite cuisines, so LA is the perfect town for me!
btw, some non-food goals of the trip:
roller blading the santa monica path
the getty center
la brea tar pits
I love living and eating in Santa Monica, so I'm glad to be able to pitch in my 2 cents worth to a visitor.
For authentic Thai, I would agree w/ Yai and Ruen Pair. I also love Torung but it's quite divey. although most awsome ethnic food seems to come from dives.
I fell in love w/ tacos al pastor while traveling in the Yucatan but so far, every place I've been to has been a disappointment.
I highly recommend Hide Sushi. There are so many trendy sushi spots of the moment in L A and most are just hipe and way too much $$, Hide is very solid, really fresh very reasonably priced and really close to Santa Monica. It's a small clean no frills place and it fills up very quickly so I suggest you either go during off peak hours or go and expect to wait 45 min while sipping sake.
There are some really good soon doo boo here in LA. If you don't mind the drive, I suggest BCD Tofu House on the northwest corner of Western and 9th. If you want to stay in the Westside, the choices are slim. I'd say Tofu-ya across from Hide sushi.
For Pho and table top beef/seafood bbq, Vietnam House in San Gabriel Valley would be well worth the drive.
I second the other review's suggestion about Cha Cha Chicken just a block from the beach. It's super casual, has very good plantains and ropa vieja and the best part is it's BYOB, no corkage. Bay Cities Deli on Lincoln is also an awsome spot to buy picnic goods. I usually get their poorboy sandwich and some salad and drive up the coast for a hike or just eat it hanging out at the beach. It would be a perfect picnic for you when you've reached a turn around point by Entrada Way rollerblading. There's a stone bench at the side of the bike path and you can watch the volleyballers while munching on a great picnic.
Westside dimsum is nearly nonexistent. There's VIP on Wilshire but you might as well just go out to the San Gabriel Valley and go to NBC. But get there by 11 if you don't want to wait too long.
For good - no great kalua pork, go south, young man... Bruddahs. 1033 W. Gardena blvd in Gardena, (310) 323-9112. It feels like th old diners in the Islands with "da grinds." Almost all of the customers look and sound like they're locals. Their kalua pork plate will fill most folks.
If that's too far for you folks, then L and L recently opened a place on Pico and Lincoln, (310) 396-3694, is very close to where you're staying. My Samoan buddies like L&L for their more generous portions, but I personally prefer Bruddah's for the feel and the great menu. If you're going to L and L, I'd call first to make sure they have kalua pork, as this is a somewhat looser franchise, and the menu can vary from place to place.
A recent buzz about a mexican food stop called Mexico a Sabor has alot of people praising this place for items they never thought would be available on the Westside. Check out the thread, "A true test of faith: Mexico a Sabor." Folks have been waxing poetic about their al pastor, among many other things that they do well.
Pho- I think its easier if you head to Van Nuys instead of Westminster (Van Nuys= 10-15 minutes aways from Santa Monica without traffic). There is a place called Pho 999 on 6411 Sepulveda Blvd # 1K1L, Van Nuys, 91411. They have authentic vietnamese food and are open until about 10pm (i think).
There is also a Zankou Chicken close by which has great armenian food.
re: kek is khmer
And I prefer the Pho So 1 location in Reseda over the one in Van Nuys, but I think the VN one will be a good trip if only because it lets you explore the 99 Ranch.
For Thai food, you can go to an open air market like Wat Thai or at a sit-down place in Thai Town. If you can't make it to either, I actually like Thai Boom on Venice Blvd in the Culver City/Palms area, which isn't too far from where you'll be.
thanks for the many great suggestions, folks! brunch at getty is an interesting idea i hadn't considered. tacos por favor sounds awesome, as do the taco trucks. and yes, i have seen the tacohunt blog in my research. great pics and very thorough reviews.
kiriko sounds good. how does that compare to hide sushi? which i also found on this board.
and what about thai town? is there a consensus t-town fav on this board?
Abbot Kinney Blvd does seem very cool. i'll add that to my list along with venice beach, of course.
thanks again to yogachik, cchow and licketysplit for the great recs.
Hide is about 1/2 to 2/3 the price of Kiriko. Hide is cash only no reservatios with a long wait during busy times. Quality is good especially for the price. Kiriko is also good quality with more upscale service/interior. For dim sum I would reccommend driving to the SGV instead of chinatown it's about 10-15 minutes further, but you may spend more time than that waiting in line anyway, so you might as well wait for the best. you will also be driving a for Korean, Thai and Vietnamese if you want the best that LA has to offer.
re: Mateo R
I'm not a big fan of Hide. At one time, years ago, it was a good-value option, but with increasing competition in that area, I feel it is no longer an exceptional deal. Granted, it's cheaper than Kiriko, but the quality of the sushi is commensurate; and the atmosphere is far inferior, and not conducive to savoring one's meal -- crowded, blah, formica environment.
imo, there is no comparing Kiriko (A+) to Hide (um, like B-C).
Kiriko is the sushi-ya to go to on Sawtelle (and right next door is Yakitori-ya which I also highly recommend).
I can also recommend two other sushi-ya on the westside: The Hump (Santa Monica Airport) and Mori (on Pico in WLA).
Also, I have not yet eaten at Shima (on my to do list) on Abbott Kinney Blvd:
1432 Abbot Kinney Blvd
6PM - 10:30 PM Tue-Sat
Just thought I'd mention that Shima serves sushi on brown rice. Yoshi mills his own rice to get the right textures and tastes for this sushi specialty. It can get a little expensive, but as with most sushi places, - as mentioned above - price is often commensurate with quality.
If you are willing to expand your Thai destination beyond Thai Town, you might want to consider the food vendors at the Thai temple (weekends).
You will see that it gets mixed reviews here on chowhound:
If your trip coincides with the Songkran celebrations, you could be in for a real treat.
P.S. Or, if you are here in time for the Blessing of the Animals festivities on Olvera Street...
...you could use that as an extra excuse to swing by the Grand Central Market...
...for all sorts of great chow!
(I'll calm down now. ;-)
Ok, tackling the al pastor goal:
How do you feel about taco trucks? Some of the best al pastor I've had has been from the great, wonderful, magical taco trucks of L.A.
Scratch that: THE best al pastor I've had has come from the trucks. It makes for a fun L.A. adventure, too, taco-trolling the boulevards late at night. You can do your research here:
Plenty of brick-and-mortar taquerias are reviewed there as well.
Hmm, Easter Brunch. A couple of ideas:
For a lovely meal in a very pretty outdoor setting, in deeee-luxe Bel Air, you could go with the Restaurant at the Hotel Bel-Air:
And yogachik's suggestion of the Viceroy would also be a good choice, for the setting if nothing else (I've not eaten there, so can't comment on the food, but it is quite the L.A. experience!).
For more casual dining, with the opportunity to stroll thru an eclectic part of town not far from your hotel, one of the eateries on Abbot Kinney Blvd:
You can search this site for more info on each venue, and to see if they will be doing anything special for Easter.
BTW, I am loving your list of food to-dos. The only one that might prove difficult or disappointing would be the doner kebap. There is a Turkish food stand in the food court at the Westside Pavillion (near Westwood) that has some decent, cheap offerings, but...it's in a food court. You might want to consider seeking out some fab Persian food instead; L.A. has more to offer in that arena, and not too far from your hotel (Westwood Blvd area).
Enjoy your visit...hope the weather is as gorgeous for your arrival as it is today in Santa Monica. :-)
Since it's Easter, many places will have set menus for their brunch. One of the few places I found last year which did not have a set menu (I'm not usually a fan of those - higher prices and less food choices) was the Getty Center. While it's not the best food in the world, I thought it was a lovely Easter brunch. That could killl two birds with one stone - Getty Center and brunch. Plus I got to cut in a very long line for the Getty tram because I had restaurant reservations.
For sushi, my vote goes to Kiriko in West LA. It's also one of the few great sushi places that has a decent atmosphere.