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Jul 3, 2007 03:50 PM

LA newbie

Hi there, I'm another new yorker who moved out here. I am looking for what chowhound is best for. Fairly priced, authentic foods.

Any must haves I need to know about? My friends took me to El Cholo (sp?) already, great mexican food there for sure.

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  1. This is just my opinion, but if you thought El Cholo was great, you will die from ecstasy once you dig beneath the surface of L.A.'s best Mexican restaurants. El Cholo is popular, but sort of overrated IMO.

    There could (literally) be 100s of answers to your query. There are many, ,many fairly priced, authentic restaurants here. There might be 100s of such Mexican places alone.

    My current favorite -- though I could do a dozen others off the top of my head -- is Sabor a Mexico. It's on National Boulevard just off Venice across from the banner factory. It's a whole in the wall, almost literally, but on Friday and Saturday nights they put out a taco table that is really outstanding. Their other tacos and quesadillas are also excellent. One of my very best friends hails from Pegueros and believes that SaM is the best and most authentic home cooking he's ever had in a restaurant in Los Angeles.

    I'm sure this thread will grow. I'll just add that you shouldn't be afraid to hit the local taquerias in your new neighborhood. They often have great, authentic chow.

    Look also for Japanese/sushi joints, Thai places, Korean BBQ and other Asian cuisine. I've not done NY in a long time, but reading this board has led me to believe that our local Mexican and Asian restaurants represent the best of what we have to offer compared to NY. Which is not to say we don't have top notch places of every ilk, but it's in those cuisines that we might fair most favorably when compared to NY.

    Good luck and welcome ...

    17 Replies
    1. re: PaulF

      So true about El Cholo, unless the OP had the green corn tamales which really are great!

      Here's some fairly priced authentics for ya..
      Soot Bull Jeep
      Los Balcones de Peru
      Sanamluang or Jitlada Thai
      Rahel or Meals by Genet
      Sushi Zo/ Azami/ Asanebo/ Sushi Ike
      Blue Marlin, Sawtelle Kitchen, 2117
      Bombay Cafe
      Gilbert's El Indio
      Roscoe's (it's an institution)
      Zankou (some naysayers here)
      to get you going...

      1. re: Emme

        zankou naysayers? I had the chicken schwarma there...that is incredible stuff

        1. re: 1newyorkguy

          lately there's been a slew of complaints about the price increases.

      2. re: PaulF

        Hello fellow New Yorker.

        First off... forget New York. It's all high and low in Los Angeles. All those great middle ground restaurants don't realy exist here. Here are a few of my favorites.

        Sushi. The one thing that really trumps NYC food is the Japanese food in LA.

        Ike Sushi. Hollywood
        Sasabune. West LA. Incredible
        Asanebo. Studio City $$ but great
        Itacho on beverly in hollywood. Not sushi but great and neighborhoody japanese
        Nanbankan in west LA for Japanese barbecue

        Corner Place. Have the cold noodles Vermont and James woods in Koreatown

        Tacos guylain (mariscos) in Venice on Lincoln
        Yucca Cafe in Silverlake

        Bagels. You're screwed here. they all suck compared to NYC
        Bagel Broker on Beverly
        Sams on Larchmont in Larchmont Village

        Sandwiches. Like bagels. it's a burger town.
        Bay Cities in Santa Monica
        Langers in west LA.

        That said, for great burgers
        In and Out. make sure you get grilled onions. best fast food burger ever
        Apple pan in culver city

        Osteria Angelini on Beverly. best italian in LA


        Best outside of bangkok.

        Sanamluang Cafe Hollywood bl in thai town. Down and dirty cheap. great just like thailand.

        Indias grill right at the lacienega/san vicente split. better than 6th street
        Parus on sunset/western. Vegetarian. 6th st atmosphere with better food.

        The only place like home is Vito's on La cienega. when you need a slice.

        Google any of those for more info. They are all pretty neighborhoody and great places that remnd me of home (NYC)

        good luck and welcome

        1. re: whackit

          Good suggestions, but dude, get a Thomas Guide! ;-) Apple Pan isn't in Culver City, it's smack in West LA, while Langer's is nowhere near West LA (anything with a 213 area code isn't West LA.) I'm saying (writing) this all in good fun. I'll have to try Vito's, that's a new one for me and La Cienega is close.

          1. re: whackit

            Langers is near downtown, McCarthur Park area. There are lots of good sandwiches, do a search, there was one recent post with over 100 responses. I think he means Yuca's, it is a stand. Check out this Blog for great tacos. For an interesting take on the taco, a burger taco. try this

            1. re: whackit

              There's a pizza joint in Pasadena that gets a thumbs-up from ex-applers...Momma's or something like that? Maybe others know about it... heard about it in passing...

                1. re: rantsnravesnreviews

                  I honestly can't remember, but I could swear it was in Pasadena... The pizza place was bought by a couple - I believe they were from New York - and had a "pizza consultant" from NYC come and give them the lowdown as to what a real New York pizza is like, how to make it, and what the place should look like right down to the red&white checkerboard tableclothes...

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Man, I'd have done it just for free (and for the fact-finding trips to Brooklyn, obviously).

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Think it's in South Pas on Fair Oaks.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Zelo's is famous for their cornmeal crust.

                    2. re: bulavinaka

                      There's Momma's which is next to the Bristol Farms on Fair Oaks then there's Nonna's which is the new pizza place that was opened up by the original guy from Momma's. Nonna's is like two blocks down from Mamma's.

                      1. re: bigtums

                        Okay, I think you may be getting warm here... The guy who sold his restaurant swore up and down that he had the most authentic NY-style pizza in town, which turned out to be not even close; thus, the new owners bringing in the "ringer" from NYC. I believe this change in ownership happened recently... the "new" Momma's pizza (dripping of olive oil and requiring the obligatory bend in order to eat the huge slice) is supposed to not only impress some friends of ours from New York, but they also make a mean stromboli. I can't confirm the name but I do think it was Momma's or Mamma's...and it was in Pasadena...

                    3. re: whackit

                      Listen to this guy, whackit. He's pretty much right on. And try AOC (start with the bacon-wrapped, parm-stuffed dates).

                      1. re: whackit

                        Greetings: I gotta add Canters for their pastrami- so lean and delicious. I live on the Eastside and Folliero's Pizza reminds me most of Boston: thin, well-done, cheezy.

                        1. re: whackit

                          Must disagree re Vitos. IMHO bland and sucky.

                      2. It depends on where you live and how far you are willing to drive. For example, some of the best Chinese food in North America can be found in the San Gabriel Valley, which is just east of Los Angeles. There's some awesome Vietnamese food in Orange County, etc. There's great Mexican food in many places. Here are some mini-reviews I've compiled about San Gabriel Valley restaurants in particular:

                        1. El Cholo is just "eh" to me. Tastes a lot better after a few margaritas.

                          With a few exceptions, you are not going to find authentic, cheap, great ethnic food on the Westside. Japanese is an exception, and there are a few bright spots, but you're going to need to go where the recent arrivals live.

                          For Mexican, this means East LA or the Valley. This ranges from taco trucks (our answer to dirty-water hot dogs), the best of which in my oh-so-humble opinion is Tacos La Fonda outside the carwash on the corner of Vanowen St. and Vineland Ave. in North Hollywood, to Babita Mexicuisine, which is an astonishingly good Mexican sit-down restaurant (try the chiles en nogada!!) in San Gabriel. The best fish tacos (yes, I said fish tacos) are from either Tacos Baja Ensenada (Whittier Blvd. near Atlantic Blvd. in ELA), or Senor Baja (many locations sprinkled throughout the 323, 562, 626 with one in the 714), or my favourite, El Taco Nazo, also with many locations. Another good option is La Huasteca in Lynwood, or La Serenata de Garibaldi on 1st St. in Boyle Heights (the Westside branches just don't measure up). Also try regional Mexican -- La Flor de Yucatan for tropical Yucatan cuisine, including cochinita pibil, and places like Monte Alban or Guelaguetza for Oaxacan cuisine like moles and quezadillas de chapulines.

                          Chinese: New Yorkers have the #7 train. We have the 10 freeway. Make your way to the San Gabriel Valley and start eating Chinese food from every part of China. It makes Flushing look like a piker. Green Village on Valley Blvd. for Shanghainese -- get the pork pump and the pork with bean curd. Seafood Village for their inimitable Chiu Chow crab. 888 or NBC for cart-style dim sum, or Mission 261 for menu-style dim sum. SinBaLa in Arcadia or Rowland Heights for Taiwanese food. Lu Din Gee for Beijing-style duck. Regent Cafe for Western food filtered through Hong Kong (very interesting menu they've got there). Little Sheep (Xiao Fei Yang) for hot pot. Shau Mei for Taiwanese slush. It goes on, and on, and on, and on. Ignore Chinatown, there's precious little there.

                          Vietnamese: Hie thee to Little Saigon, in Westminster and Garden Grove, or to Rosemead in the San Gabriel Valley. Banh Mi Che Cali for $1.75 sandwiches and $1 che (pudding) that are also buy-2-get-1-free. Com Tam Thuan Kieu for "broken rice" plates -- get the cha (egg pie) as one of your toppings. Pho Thanh Lich for pho. Vien Dong for bun cha Hanoi and cha ca Thanh Long (grilled fish with dill). Pagolac for 7 courses of beef.

                          Korean: Koreatown is right in the middle of LA. New York has nothing like it -- picture the East 30s, and now make it fifty times larger. Soot Bull Jeep for charcoal barbecue (you will reek of smoke afterwards, just so you know), Corner Place for noodle dishes (you won't be allowed to take them out), Sokongdong or Beverly for spicy soft tofu stew, the place I always forget the name of next to BCD on Western and 8th for mandoo (dumplings). Then go to Ice Kiss and get a big serving of bing su (Korean sweet ice) served in a dog bowl.

                          Thai: It's debated whether LA is the centre of the Thai-American universe or if we're just preternaturally lucky that so many good Thai cooks live here and run restaurants. Besides what I consider the king of Thai food (Thai Nakorn in Stanton, Orange County), there are two general heavily-Thai locations: Thai Town, in East Hollywood along Hollywood Blvd., and along Sherman Way in North Hollywood west of the 170. Yai, Sapp Coffee Shop and Sanamluang in Thai Town, Krua, Bua Siam, Swan, Sunshine, Sri Siam, and Sanamluang in NoHo. The must-do is the Wat Thai, which is a Thai temple (you can't miss it, trust me) on the corner of Coldwater Canyon and Cantara in North Hollywood. Every weekend from 11 to 4, rain or shine, people come and set up booths and sell food. You purchase plastic tokens at a booth, then queue up for various foods. A serving of the best som tum (papaya salad) you'll ever eat, nearly a quart of the stuff pounded in front of your eyes, is $3. Satay is $1 a stick. Kanom krok (coconut-rice balls, addictive) are 19 halves for $3. Mango and sticky rice is $3 for a mango and a pint of rice or $5 for two mangoes and a quart of rice. Country curry steamed in banana leaves. Noodles. Fried taro. Soups. Custards baked in sweet squash. Spend $20 and you'll have enough food to feed four hungry people. The profits go straight to the temple, but you might want to increase your karma by giving alms to the orange-robed monks. (If you do go in the temple itself, remove your shoes and behave respectfully -- no photos!!)

                          Arabic, Armenian and Persian -- Westwood and Glendale. My favourite, Skaf's Lebanese Grill, is at Laurel Canyon and Oxnard in NoHo, get anything written on the whiteboard above the soda fountain. Other great options: Raffi's in Glendale (best bean salad, best rice you'll ever eat), Javan in Westwood, Shamshiri in Glendale, Carnival in Sherman Oaks, Mandaloun in Glendale, Darya in Orange, Carousel in Glendale.

                          Peruvian -- some in Hollywood, more in Van Nuys and North Hollywood. My favourite is Las Quenas, on Sherman Way and Bellaire in NoHo, but there's also El Hatuchay, Los Balcones del Peru, and Mario's, and for rotisserie chicken there's Juan Pollo (OK, run by Mexicans, but still) in OC and the IE (one in ELA) and Super Pollo on Van Nuys Blvd.

                          There's more -- a lot more, Filipino and Laotian and Indian and Salvadorean and Colombian and Japanese and English and soul food and drunk food and... and... but my fingers hurt so I'm stopping for now.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            Hey Das... Thanks for the recent fish taco showdown, btw. Is it just me or have the fish tacos at tacos baja ensenada not been as superb as they used to be?

                            I first started going there about 5 or 6 years ago I think. I now live in the East, but when I go home each year, my first place to visit is tacos baja ensenada (I swear it's worth the trip on its own. But when I was there again in April, they weren't up to snuff in my opinion. Still great and better than any others I get (never been to el taco nazo). But the batter seemed a little breadier than usual. not as light and crisp as before... was this just a bad day or how they are now?

                            and to the original poster. As someone from So Cal who now lives in the NY Metro area, definitely check out the regional mexican food that Das Ubergeek outlined above. It's something you just can't find out in NYC area. Baja style included.

                            Tacos Baja Ensenada
                            5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Thx for the chow-worthy service, DU. Your post is now safely ensconced in the Grubs' glove box w the Ultimate LA Chowhound Restaurants & Jonathan Gold's Essentiall 99.

                              Only one rec addition to your notes: Pollo ala Brasa's Peruvian chicken is, imho, best-in-class for rotisserie chix.

                            2. You will drive everywhere for good Chinese food and you will not find any you like...After about two years, you will start to get used to it, then you will like Kung Pao Bistro. Driving an hour to Monterey Park will not do it for you, driving 6 hours to San Fransisco will be your only hope - or just have your friends freeze and ship direct from NY.

                              Focus on Japanese food. Azami on Melrose is excellent. For non sushi items, Mishima is a small chain that has some very good prices and comfort food.

                              Find Versailles for Cuban food. Find Rosco's House of Chicken and Waffles. For Mexican, I like Antonio's on Melrose better than El Cholo. Although the same owners as El Cholo have a great Southwest place called Sonora Cafe on La Brea (pricier).

                              Some other moderate/cheap priced consistent food choices, California Chicken Cafe, Urth Cafe, Rosti, Baja Fresh, Pink's hotdogs, The Counter in Santa Monica for burgers.

                              Susina Bakery if you're homesick.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Food Good

                                Why do you think that just because he's a New Yorker he won't like authentic Chinese food?
                                (And while on Chinese food. Try Din Tai Fung for Shanghai soup dumplings in Arcadia, and Chungking for spicy Sichuan greatness, in San Gabriel).

                                There are plenty of great suggestions listed here. But absolutely try some taco trucks/stands (try the Al Pastor at some of the more recommended places); the Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley; great Pho and other Vietnamese wonders; In-N-Out Burgers; and Langer's pastrami sandwiches, which are indeed awesome and easily appreciated by New Yorkers. But please forget about the pizza out here.

                                And a good list of places is Jonathan Gold's 99 essential restaurants, which was in last week's edition of the L.A. weekly. I don't think he's always right, but he sure is right a lot, especially when it comes to Asian and Mexican/Latin American food.

                                1. re: mcmal

                                  Mcmal is right on the money about Din Tai Fung (or is it Ding Tai Fung?). The best dumplings I've ever had.

                                  Although why people love In-N-Out so much will always be a mystery to me. Maybe it's because I'm from the Midwest. Much better burgers are to be had at Father's Office and The Counter, both in Santa Monica. Make sure to order them medium rare or rare.

                                  TRY SUSHI ZO!

                                  1. re: PlatypusJ

                                    The San Gabriel Valley (SGV) is blessed with many Shanghainese-style restaurants. If you enjoyed Din Tai Fung, go deeper into the SGV to places like Mei Long Village, J&J (next to each other in the same shopping center), a couple among many eateries that serve up their own interpretations of these sublime mouthfuls of dreams... As I would rarely decline a steamer of xiao long bao from Din Tai Fung, I find that they lack a certain soul compared to the other places that are known for their xlb's. I think Din Tai Fung is a great starting point for those who have yet to be introduced to these dumplings, with the process taking place before you as viewed through the large picture windows. But take the effort in seeking out other xlb's and you will be rewarded with a wider appreciation for this dish, as well as the incredible cuisine from which it was born.

                                    Here's a recent thread started by Ipsedixit - one of our well-knowledged Chowhounds on various Chinese cuisines - as a starter:


                                  2. re: mcmal

                                    Same reason you said "forget about the pizza." Some things are so different that it's just too painful to compare. After 12 years here - I still can't find Chinese food that matches my personal tastes. When I go back to NY, I go on a Chinese food bender. As for pizza, as long as I think of the stuff here as lovely cooked bread with interesting ingredients, I get by.

                                    1. re: Food Good

                                      Fair enough. But I do know plenty of New Yorkers who do like the Chinese food here better. With the pizza I think most everybody's in agreement.

                                      1. re: Food Good

                                        I'm a native NYer, and what comes closest to NY-type big, thin, foldable slices IMO, is Mulberry Street. The one on South Beverly (the only one I've been to) has the New York Post on tables to read while your pizza cooks.

                                        347 North Canon Drive,Beverly Hills 310-247-8998
                                        240 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills 310-248-4455
                                        17040 Ventura Blvd, Encino

                                    2. re: Food Good

                                      New York has its own kind of Chinese food -- I found Genghis Cohen and New Moon in Glendale/La Canada/Montrose/what IS that city anyway to be closest. I eat NY-style Chinese food when I go back to New York... and the rest of the time, I eat "real" Chinese food in the SGV.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        See, that's funny, because when I lived in New York, I ate great authentic Sichuan and great Shanghaiese. NOT New Moon style. There isn't the type of Cantonese we get here, though I think the Shanghai may replicate. What I haven't found in LA is the same type of great Sichuan.

                                        1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                          Did you ever eat at Oriental Pearl when it existed, or have you eaten at Chung King in San Gabriel? I honestly haven't had better Sichuan outside of China and Taiwan.

                                          1. re: mcmal

                                            No, I haven't, but I'll have to try them. Granted, my standard home delivery place in NYC was one of the best Sichuan places there (Grand Sichuan -- their Mapo Tofu and Dan Dan Noodles were to die for) and I haven't heard a lot of CH discussion on Sichuan food. We only moved here a couple of years ago -- didn't get a chance to eat at Oriental Pearl, but I'll have to give Chung King a try some winter night when I have a yen for mapo tofu.

                                    3. thanks everyone, looks like a lot of great info there. if only there was a train to bypass the traffic :(

                                      now all I need is a job and apartment :)

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: 1newyorkguy

                                        Try to pick a neighborhood that's walkable, (it may help with your adjustment to our coast.) They do exist. If you live in Culver City (really, they don't pay me) there are lots of restaurants to walk to, the great farmer's market, etc. Welcome!

                                        1. re: 1newyorkguy

                                          Depending where you live, there is a train... Koreatown, for example, is on the Purple Line (shut up, yes, we have subways and light rail). In about a month, Buena Park (huge Korean population) will have its own Metrolink rail station.

                                          New York it isn't, but you'll get used to the driving.

                                          1. re: 1newyorkguy

                                            Try the Highland Park area. Rents are a lot cheaper here than the west / central LA, there's a train to downtown, Hollywood and Pasadena (and it's close to downtown, Pasadena, Glendale, etc.) and there is a lot of good eating around here. I think the best tacos are in HP. La Estrella taco truck anyone?