SF chowhound visiting LA for ...
breads, pastry, danishes, croissants, sandwiches, anything sweet, and basically a cool cafe, classic or modern bakery.
Did some preliminary research, and wanting to check out bread bar, 3 square cafe and bakery, La brea bakery, MILK, and pinkberry for frozen yogurt, Oh, also wanting to check out
! Famima, a japanese grocery mart. Any other recs for my 5 day excursion down in LA would greatly be appreciated....,many thanks in advance!
Porto's (Cuban pastries) is really so very, very good. If you want a Portuguese pastry (a rare find in LA) and you happen to be in the Valley, try Natas Pastries on Ventura Blvd. La Brea bakery isn't as much the hotspot it used to be, but I think still delivers some pretty good stuff. Susina on Beverly (just west of La Brea) has delightful scones. BLD on Beverly (near the Grove) makes heavenly crepes, and you can sit at the counter and watch them being gently made on the hot griddle.
For a great croissant, Amandine on Wilshire... soooo good.
Hit up Nata's in Sherman Oak's... one of my faves.
Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock for the red velvet.
Skip Pinkberry; it's certainly not an LA "institution."
Bay Cities Deli in SM for sandwiches.
3 Square and Rockenwagner.
For cafes, try Literati, Lazy Daisy, Angelli, Vivoli, Urth, UnUrbam, World Cafe on Main.
Have fun and do report back!
My personal favorites, in no particular order...
Patisserie Chantilly in Lomita: French-influenced Japanese patisserie. Best cream puffs in town - if you're planning on going to Beard Papa and here, go to Beard Papa first; otherwise, you'll be severely disappointed going the other way around... for a double-play, Gaja is right next door. Their specialty is okonomiyaki - not very common in LA. Across the street, katty corner is Kotosh at Kamiyama. Peruvian cuisine plus sushi. Don't let the seemingly odd combo make you twitch - lots of Japanese expats from Peru find themselves opening restaurants here...
Grand Casino Bakery in Downtown Culver City. Argentinian baked goods that draw expats from all over. If nothing else, try their alfajores with a nice cup of espresso. You might as well try them since this part of Culver City has become a huge foody paradise in the Westside. Fraiche, Wilson, Tender Greens, Bottle Rock, Ford's (if they've reopened yet), Ugo... I'm out of breath... just go...
Grand Casino Bakery
3826 Main St
Culver City, CA 90232
Amandine in West LA. Probably the best croissants that I've tried in LA. Sorry, probably the best anything-they-serve in LA. They are very strong on the pastry scale, especially croissants, danishes, bread, cakes, and pretty good french cafe-type food as well.
12225 Wilshire Blvd
LA, CA 90025
Clementine across from Century City. This little place defines homey comfort food in this part of LA. Never had a bad experience there - seems everyone loves this place. Great baked goods, soups, salads, sandies, supper entrees (and to go), and banana cream pies that will make you sing. Breakfast, lunch, or supper - you're going to enjoy this place.
Dainties Cupcakes in West LA. I don't know if the cupcake craze ever hit the bay area, or if you have an affinity for cupcakes, but if you do, think of Hostess cupcakes done as they should be done. Devilsfood cake dipped with great ganache, then injected with real whipped cream frosting - you choose the flavor. Banana, maple, raspberry, chocolate, caramel, mint, green tea, nutella, coffee, vanilla, mocha... I've lost track. The flavors are real - no artificial anything. Bill and Susan are old-school - e.g., Bill makes the caramel from scratch that flavors the caramel-flavored frosting. I know the whole cupcake thing is a little bit hoo-hoo, but if you want a really great rendition, Bill's the guy you need to see. They are off Santa Monica Blvd, behind the Winchell's, which is about one block east of Sepulveda.
Mitsuwa Marketplace. The most prevalent of Japanese markets in SoCal. Although Marukai probably has Mitsuwa beat for selection and price, the big warehouse store is members-only. They have an offshoot store that is non-member about five minutes away from their main store, but I haven't been yet. Anyway, If Marukai is the Home Depot of Japanese markets, then Mitsuwa is more like Home Expo. Their Torrance location is probably the best one to visit. They not only have a great market, there's satellite counters that offer some great stuff, especially Minamoto Kicchoan. They offer super-premium mochi and manju. I know of nothing that is in the same category as this place when it comes to mochi and manju desserts. E.g., candied yuzu stuffed with white bean paste, yokan with cherry blossoms, whole chestnuts surrounded by koshian azuki paste then wrapped in a pastry shell. Very different and maybe something nice for you to take back to someone special. The marketplace also has a great food court. Probably the most well-known eatery is Santouka Ramen. Very substantial shio ramen with great sides that can be ordered as a combo.
If you have to choose between going to Milk and Pinkberry, go to Milk. While Milk is unique and excellent, PB is not unique. I think if things keep going the way they are, they will be Starbucking you neighborhood in no time. They went from five to 54 opened or planned shops overnite. Word has it they have been bought out by Disney, which means they will replicate and take over like pastel blue and green gremlins. I hear they're already present in the Big Apple, which means the Bay Area is not too far behind.
7290 Beverly Blvd
LA, CA 90036
3 Square is great all the way around as well. Their bacon-cheddar pretzel twist is probably the popular pastry, and rightfully so. But take time and set aside a little more cash for the cafe. They are now serving three squares a day, and their schnitzel is to die for. There's no surprise here - Hans is from Austria. And from what I've heard, just about everything else that sounds good to you at 3 Square is to die for as well. I go to the bakery about two-four times a week, depending on my weight.
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Primo's Donuts in West LA. Why donuts? Because the Primo family has been at it for over 50 years, making great donuts on the Westside and probably responsible for multi-generational weight gain. They are well-known for their extremely tasty and satisfying buttermilk bars (BMB) - glazed and unglazed. But their cinnamon rolls, cinnamon sugar cake, cake donuts, and air-light raised donuts are great as well. If you go, go early. This will assure you will have a great selection, of which everything will be warm, if not piping hot. They open early - like 5:30 to 6AM, depending on what day you go. I truly feel this little institution on the Westside is not to be missed. Yes, those BMBs are that good. If you go on Saturdays around 7AM, keep an eye out for fellow chowhound Tony Michaels - he's the guy downing the BMBs by the dozen. :)
One caviat. Alot of the places you seem to have an affinity for or ones that we have listed may have business hours issues with your scheduling. Please call to get their hours and days of operation. Get your treadmill ready - you're going to gain some serious weight... ;)
One more place of interest - Fugetsu-do in J-Town. This mom&pop business in Little Tokyo has been cranking out those confectionary cakes made of rice (mochi) and flour (manju) since 1903. Aside from a brief involuntary break from their enterprise (WWII), they have been putting smiles on the collective faces of the Japanese community in LA by being a thread in the cultural fabric that has connected several generations. While not high-end like Minamoto Kicchoan in Torrance, their items are much more familiar and nostalgic to most who have enjoyed such things over their lives at a local level. You can get a mixed box of twenty for $19. That's a deal considering the quality and aesthetics of their products. I always like to let the folks behind the counter pick for me, as they know how to balance the flavors, textures, and the delicate artistry of the various confections. My favorite part of this ritual s when they show you the completed assortment in the box. It dazzles like a spring bouquet of flowers. These boxes were made to be presented as gifts, but don't feel guilty if you have no other reason to buy some just to bring them home to enjoy with friends and family over a cup of tea. Twenty sounds like alot, but they go fast...
Unfortunately L.A. is behind S.F. in the bakery department, but you've got a good list. Also Boule (on La Cienega), although they don't do croissants anymore, and Jin (on Abbot Kinney in Venice), for Asian-influenced chocolates and pastries with a lovely tea patio by the beach. Many people love Susina, just down the street from Milk, although it's no Tartine.
Also Little Next Door (on 3rd), which is definitely a cool cafe, with good bread and pastry as well, in the tres francais department.
I disagree. I was thinking about this recently. I don't miss the food in SF at all. I never even think about it-- not the pastries, not the burritos, nothing. It's pretty sad actually. Wait-- I just thought of something-- Mitchell's ice cream. That's the only thing I miss. I have now found Fosselman's ice cream in Alhambra though, so I'm cool. :)
Now, as I think on it, perhaps I'm being too rash. So please let me add this qualification. There are definitely good spots for food up in SF. I liked the raspberry lemon tart at Tart to Tart, for example, or the pho at Pho Hoa Hiep on Irving in the Outer Sunset, and the salads at Pluto's. I do feel that I can get everything that I want- from tarts, to pho, to salads, and more in the LA area. That's why I don't really miss much.
Regarding bread and pastries, we have so many bakeries to choose from in LA; it's almost overwhelming. :-)
That is so strange. I find myself constantly longing for SF, where there seems to be a bakery on every other block. I have, for example, yet to find a wonderful baguette in LA. I've tried Maison du pain, bread bar, amandine, vietnamese restaurants, la brea, the various farmers markets, all to no avail. The only place left to try is the place on Pico in Santa Monica (pain du jour?).
But not trying to be argumentative, just saying I do often find myself missing SF.
For a visitor, I would suggest hitting Ktown, Japanese restaurants, and Chinese restaurants.
La Brea is forgettable if you have access to ACME, but MILK is worth a stop. Famima is more like a Japanese 7-Eleven. If you're used to eating char siu bao and shopping at Nijiya for candy and cookies, you probably won't be very excited by Famima. Its popularity is due to convenience, less because it has things you can't find elsewhere.
I agree about your comments on Famima. I live right next to Famima, so it's basically my local 7-11.
I also take your point re. SF. I never bought baguettes there. All I know is that I missed LA and LA food a lot when I lived up north, and I'm definitely glad to be back. I appreciate your thoughts. :-)
The bread I buy tends to be from Persian markets: lavash, barbari, pita, sangak, and so on. If I need something else, I just go to Vons, Ralphs, etc.
I've had a good baguette sandwich from Baguette du Jour in Alhambra. Have you tried most of the Vietnamese baguette places in LA and OC? There are so many.
okay i'm gonna have to jump in on this conversation.... i have to constantly travel between both norcal and socal... and i consider them both my homes...
but i will have to say that i prefer the desserts in la.. the thing is, i often go out just for desserts, and so there are more late night choices that offer great desserts. plus la is such a driving culture, that i've been known to go from the westside to all over la just to find food.. in san francisco, folks don't like to travel as much and each part of the bay has its own flavors...
i do like sf bread and baguettes... and i'm there with you when pei states not to eat korean food in sf... it's not quite the same... i'll eat it though =) hahaha it's still good but not the same...
ANYWAY, not sure where you will be in la... but... i do like the PORTOS bakery... yeah the glendale one is pretty crazy, but they added these lines to make things a bit easier... the one in burbank is new and i stayed in the car while my friends went inside (i'm in love with pastries, so the best way for me not to be tempted was to not step inside...)
my friend's sister loves the different bear claws. i like the fruit tart... they don't put that gooky syrup on top that other bakeries put... well, if they do, it's very slight, so it doesn't take away from the flavor of the fruit.. i recently had a fruit tart from them, and i joked that it was "fruit on steroids." 'cause every single piece of fruit was huge and had vibrant color and flavor.
i'm really into popovers, but the place i used to go to for popovers (bullocks westwood) has since shut down and is now a ralphs/bestbuy thing (which btw i felt old when i went there recently and the workers thought i was odd when i said that the coffeebean used to be the juniors department... and that the cashiers were part of the intimate apparel dept...) i'm told that nieman marcus in beverly hills has the just as good popovers as bullocks westwood did....
cheap cookies are at diddy reese in westwood... 4 for $1.25 and you can get an ice cream sandwich there too... (don't quote me on the prices, it changed... and i'm not sure what it's' up to now)
there's actually a beard papa in the sf nordstrom center (the new wing) and in redwood city... so if u live or frequent these areas, you won't miss out if you don't get to go to these places in la...
recently went to mi piace in old town and they had a really good chocolate souffle and chocolate soup... fyi though, that place gets SLAMMED on these boards.. i like it though....
griddle cafe in hollywood (?) has a good breakfast and awesome banana walnut pancakes.. feeds A LOT... you could split it by 3 or 4 people actually...
roy's has a good molten lava cake, but there's a roy's in sf, so again, if you don't get to go there, you won't miss out...
i hear that duke's malibu does a great lavaflow (something i have yet to find in the bay and actually in la until i got the tip)... just like the lavaflows on the islands =) yay =)
there's so many more, but those are all that's coming to the top of my head right now....
have fun =)
I appreciate the thoughtful and detailed input. Coincidentally, I'm going to the Griddle for the first time tomorrow, and I'm still trying to decide which pancakes to get! I may just have to try the banana walnut! :-)
Edit: This is related to kinipela's rec of the Griddle (below).
Check out the menu, if you are interested, and the pics on the homepage, if you want to see how huge these pancakes are. :)
Paradise Pastry in Glendale. I told my friend from Alameda to go there. She loved it.
For something in Brentwood, try the banana latte at Coral Tree Cafe. This place is better for checking people out or meeting a group of friends for lunch.
Paradise is more of a place to go and get great pastries to go.
People here really love Porto's (in Burbank or Glendale). I find the Glendale location to be way too crowded. I've never been to the Burbank location.
I go to Famima in the Pasadena Playhouse district all the time. It's a nice little convenience store.