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Visiting LA, Need Recs

Hey...coming to visit LA this weekend and looking for some recommendations for good places to eat. Nothing that requires a reservation (we don't exactly plan ahead) and nothing too far of a drive outside the main areas. We are from DC and staying in Santa Monica, so anything quintessentially LA or just totally awesome that we should try?

PS In N Out is already on the agenda.

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  1. Just off the top: maybe cue up at Father's Office to get their signature burger; Oaxacan at Monte Alban or Guelaguetza; Sushi Zo for the expected; follow your nose around the old Farmer's Market (3rd & Fairfax) possibly ending up at Loteria! Grill for whatever strikes your fancy there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mc michael

      Father's office is a pain in the ass and not worth the wait, noise, or attitude. You can't make substitutions or change the burger in any way, nor the other food. Twit Yoon makes everyone take his creation in all its glory. Ego maniac! The burger isn't THAT good. The wait is forever, the volume of noise is barely standable.

      Definitely tryhte Wednesday or Saturday Farmer's market on the Prominade, Wednesday is the best one.

      Pradeeps is "healthy" indian. it's OK

      Chez Mimi is a lovely little French place with fabulous ambiance and food.
      Library Ale house is OK for beer, food not fabulous, but not awful. There is an Urth Cafe on Main in Santa Monica. Very Californian.
      I Like The Lobster, but not everyone does. The trick is to get a good res and order the steamed lobster. The other dishes are only so-so.

      I like Locanda Del Lago on the promindae for Italian. Some peole disagree, but I have always found it nice.

      Head south to Venice and visit 3 Square for Lunch Brekkers or yummy baked goods. Joe's for Brunch, and Jin Patisserie for tea.

      1. re: Diana

        Yeah, but at least at Father's office, you're neck-deep in elbows and asses, and pretention flows from Yoon down throughout all ten square feet of the place... ;}

        Library Ale House is definitely a nice stop for a break while cruising down Main Street... Go for the brew - who needs food?! ;} Again! You can walk it off on the way to Urth...

        And don't forget Axe on Abbot Kinney as well... You'd swear Joanne was Alice Waters' long lost daughter...

    2. In Santa Monica go to:
      - Skip In N Out and go to Father's Office for burgers and beer or wine.
      - Musha for Japanese pub food (call in the afternoon and you will probably get in that night)
      - Cha Cha Chicken and Tacos Por Favor taste so good after the beach!
      - Bay Cities for a Godmother sandwich to take to the beach.
      - Josie's for a more elegant, fine dining experience (American/game) and Via Veneto (amazing Italian), if your concierge can get you in.
      - Buffalo Club and Michaels for patio dining
      - The Penthouse for a late afternoon drink and watching the sunset.

      5 Replies
      1. re: whatsfordinner

        Second the rec for Josie and Bay Cities although I've never understood the fascination with the godmother sandwich. DO go to In-n-Out...

        1. re: vinosnob

          If you don't like the Godmother, they make a delicious prosciutto sandwich. Not cheap, but really tasty.

          1. re: mc michael

            Good to know, I'll check that out; my usuals are the sausage/peppers or (hot) pastrami or roast beef.

            1. re: vinosnob

              Speaking of pastrami, we forgot to mention Langer's for hand cut pastrami on great rye at 7th & Alvarado until 4 p.m.

      2. Oh, thanks! Skipping In N Out isn't really an option, but going to both places certainly is!!

        What is Loteria?

        1 Reply
        1. re: caphill2320

          Loteria! is in the old permanent (?) Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax in LA.
          Second the rec for the Godmother at Bay Cities on Lincoln in SM. Sorry, Loteria! makes all sorts of Mexican goodies while you sit right at their counter. Tacos, gorditas, agua frescas, whatever.

        2. best burger - hinano in venice (just mins from santa monica) it's such a dive bar and the burger is out of this world.

          for a nice dinner - james beach, it's right by the beach and the food is great

          for breakfast - the omelette parlor on main st. is a local's favorite

          italian - go to fritto misto, 601 Colorado Ave or c&o, the place is fun and the food is decent.

          indian - akbar on wilshire, the food is great

          i hope that helps

          1. I adore the Lobster Bisque (with the puff pastry) at Enterprise Fish Company. Enterprise is just off Main Street in the heart of Santa Monica. I also definitely second the Bay Cities Italian Deli recc. You have to go there at least once during your visit, maybe even twice! They have the best bread! Bay Cities is on Lincoln Blvd. at Broadway.

            1. Huntley House in Sta Mon has a great top of the building restaurant w/fab view of the bay. It served mexican food last year and had a great happy hour appetizer buffet on the opposite side of the restaurant floor.

              1 Reply
              1. re: letynjery

                aka the Penthouse (mentioned by whatsfordinner above), and an excellent view...hopefully the May gray disappears by the weekend!

              2. Since you're going to be in Santa Monica, don't miss the yummy breakfast sandwich at Amelia's Cafe, & if you go early enough (they run out fast), have one of her homemade polenta cakes. I hear the meatball sandwiches are great, too (I'm a vegetarian, so I haven't tried them). Casual, friendly place & you can park in the adjacent motel parking lot (a big plus in that area).

                2645 Main St.
                Btwn Ocean Park Blvd & Hill Sts.

                1. To me, the quintessential LA experience is trying to balance everyday working class life with the city's image as glitz and glamour and residents who have or want a piece of that action. Angelenos have a split personality in that regard. No one goes anywhere anymore because it's always too crowded. (We sometimes overlook the fact that anti-elitism is a form of elitism itself.)

                  We love our hole in the wall places. That is a very LA attitude. If a sushi shop isn't in a mini-mall, in all honesty, I don't trust it. I view Sasabune as an exception. Some view that as an example.

                  We debate. A lot. A metropolitan area with 6mil+ people, each one with a different opinion about where you can find the best burger, the best pizza, the best sushi, etc. The clearest thing to do is try all of them, and partake in that discussion.

                  Quintessential LA is discovering the ethnic flavor. No, you don't have to go to Thai Town or Little Saigon or SGV, but it certainly helps. No one is going to expect you to be able to give a presentation at the United Nations, but part of the LA experience is seeing a group of white skater kids, Mexican dayworkers, and Filipino nurses all hunker down to a bowl of Vietnamese pho in a predominantly black neighborhood. It's about being up at 3am and seeing punk/goths in a booth next to an elderly couple next to the struggling writer with insomnia and having them all enjoying a good bowl of matzoh ball soup.

                  Because of that ethnic background, everything is rooted in home cooking. We love comfort food. We love food that makes you relax. That's why we argue about the burgers and the pizzas and the doughnuts and so on. If you want molecular cuisine, go to Chicago. Even innovation has to be inspired by the tastes of home.

                  My suggestions for experiencing a slice of LA life is to go to the 3rd Street Farmer's Market. You'll witness the confluence of tourist and local, and some tasty eats to boot. From there, depending on how you get there, you can get to Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood and West Hollywood.

                  As far as the Father's Office rec goes, visit it during an off-peak hour. You'll get in easier and the food is the same. I bet, though, that you'll be curious as to exactly how packed a neighborhood pub can get, but I'll leave that discretion to you, as many on the LA board have grown quite weary of it. I myself quite like FO and I think their sweet potato fries are great.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    Very nicely put. BTW, the population of LA County is now about 10 million (you wondered where all that traffic was from?).

                    1. re: SauceSupreme

                      Well said, SS.

                      As a DC transplant now in LA, I recommend that you (the OP) focus on the things LA provides that are not available in DC. Mexican here puts everything in Metro DC to shame. Sushi is better and more prevalent here. Chinese and Korean are good choices also. The Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax is a nice mix of tourists and locals and features some good food options in a super casual atmosphere. As much as I appreciate it, In-n-out is just good fast food, not an earthshaking event. It is better than most fast food burgers that you can find in DC, but that is just not setting the bar very high.

                      If you are in SM and on the Pier, most of the food is so-so, won't kill you, but won't wow you either.

                      The bar at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in SM is a classy and fun place for a drink at sunset - it features a beautiful view of the beach. The resturant there is good but fairly expensive.

                    2. I've been to Loteria and for me it alone is not worth a drive from Santa Monica. However the 3rd & Fairfax/The Grove is a very LA place to hang out and there are a number of eating choices.

                      If I were you I'd plan to get to Father's Office. They have been mentioned in national articles as having one of the best burgers in the country - go on an off hour and decide for yourself.

                      Bay Cities is great, but if you can already regularly get great Italian subs in DC, then you don't really need to go here. We love Bay Cities because it's one of the only places we can get a good sub in LA.

                      Definitely have a drink at Casa Del Mar. Gorgeous room, so relaxing, great view.

                      You may also want to drive a bit to Culver City and walk around. This is arguably the most exciting developing dining area in LA right now. I love Beacon, Ford's Filling Station, Ugo, La Dijionaise, and Wilson.

                      1. In addition to FO as burger offering, there's The Counter and The Apple Pan that get a lot of burger praise.

                        If you head down to Venice, I'd consider 26 Beach, Joe's, Primitivo, Axe, Lilly's, and Rose Cafe.

                        Down in Culver City, try the new Fraiche.

                        For casual Italian dinner without a res, try Pizzicotto in Brentwood or Vincenti if you can get in. Divino is also good. For an older school Italian feel (and great Fra Diavolo), try Peppone... no not everyone loves it, but it's got a classic feel.

                        In SM, you could try and get into the new Abode or Rustic Canyon, and if you can't, you can't.

                        Literati II is also a nice option up at Bundy and Wilshire, and Lazy Daisy a few blocks up does good breakfasts and has a nice patio.

                        Up on Sunset in WeHo, go to the Griddle Cafe for decadent breakfast foods.

                        You might also want to try Soot Bull Jeep for good Korean, assuming you'll be willing to drive for the goods.

                        Echigo or Zo for reasonable omakase.

                        Stop in the Tudor House on 2nd for a custard tart, and/or Ye Olde Pub Shoppe for great fish'n'chips.

                        Drive up to Hollywood for Cobras and Matadors, Hatfield's, Hungry Cat...

                        Have a great weekend!