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Toronto foodie looking for LA suggestions

Hello - my sister and I are planning to go sightseeing in Los Angeles during the second week of August, before heading up to the Bay area. She lives in Sacramento but neither of us have been to LA before. We're planning to do a couple of blow-out meals while we're here - Nepenthe (sp?) in Big Sur and Chez Panisse in Berkeley - but we are on a budget for the most part and looking for reasonably-priced meals while in LA. Any recommendations would be gratefully appreciated!

TIA :-)

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  1. where inLA will you be, what kind of food do you like, and most of all, what kind of dining experience do you want.

    Do you want to explore our ethnic diversity?

    Would you like to eat Los Angeles "traditional" dishes and foods (Pink's, Dan Tana's, etc)

    Would you like to explore the healthier options?

    Would you like an overview of celeb hang outs?

    A seafood tour of LA?

    Food matched with wine or beer?

    New gems, or old favorites?

    So many options, it would help to narrow it down!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Diana

      Thanks for your reply, diana and katkoupai (thanks for the links) - I'll try to be more specific :-D

      We're staying in the Santa Monica/Culver City area, we love all different types of food (especially Indian, Mexican and Thai/Vietnamese), would definitely be interested in checking out landmarks like Pink's, and seafood for sure. Neither of us are big drinkers so that wouldn't matter quite so much. In addition, my sister is a vegetarian (not vegan) and would be interested in some good (but not super-pricey) veggie options.

      Thanks again! Hope that clarifies our needs a little bit ...

      1. re: Welshgirl

        Okay, Shamshiri Grill, also on Westwood Blvd. is a Persian restaurant that may have a few more veggie options for your sis. I like their couscous, their Shirazi salad and their eggplant (bademjan) appetizer. If your sis is not vegan, she might also enjoy the yogurt with shallots or yogurt with cucumbers appetizer, available at both Shahrzad and Shamshiri. Ash-e-reshteh is a thick all-vegetable (and noodle) soup that I really love, but it is an acquired taste. Shahrzad does a fair rendition of this soup, and it's only $6.

        There's a vegan restaurant called Native Foods, also in Westwood, that my non-vegan vegetarian friends like. I have never tried it, but I have heard them talk about how good it is, many times. They usually go to the Costa Mesa location, but it's a small chain.


        I recently drove from Westwood to Santa Monica. They are neighboring areas, and it should take you only about 10-15 minutes to get to Westwood from there, depending upon traffic and which part of Santa Monica you're in. :)

        1. re: katkoupai

          Here are the links to Native Foods and Shamshiri Grill in Westwood. :)

          Shamshiri Grill
          1712 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

          Native Foods Restaurant
          1110 1/2 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024

            1. re: Welshgirl

              You're welcome. :)

              I hope you have a great time eating in LA and seeing LA. :)

        2. re: Welshgirl

          In Santa Monica my favorites are:
          Musha - Japanese pub food, with lots of vegetarian options and very reasonably priced
          Father's Office - best burger in LA. Many love their sweet potato fries, but I'm addicted to the regular.
          Bay Cities Italian Deli - great sandwiches to take to the beach. Be sure to order the Godmother.
          Tacos Por Favor - chorizo and cheese tacos to die for. Tastes especially good after the beach.

          1. re: whatsfordinner

            Great suggestions!
            Also: Becon in Culver City for great Japanese-Euro fusion
            Rose Cafe in Venice or The Omlette Parlor in Santa Monica, Both for B'fast and local color.
            Taiko for excellent Japanese noodles in Brentwood

      2. Where in LA will you be staying (which area)?

        I'll give you some suggestions. Enjoy LA. :)

        Shahrzad is a good Persian restaurant near UCLA.

        21 Choices is a good frozen yogurt shop in Old Pasadena. Both areas would be fun to see for a tourist from out of town.

        1422 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

        21 Choices Frozen Yogurt
        85 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105

        1. I reccomend a Day at the Original Farmer's market on Fairfax, next to The Grove. Down south on Fairfax from there is Little Ethiopia. Go to Rahel or Messob and get a combo platter, you won't regret it. Rahel is 100% vegggie!

          Providence is good for fish, but not many veggie options.

          Sabor A Mexico in Culver City has great mexican and a fabulous veggie burrito (with other veggie options)

          3 square cafe in Venice is good for breakfast.

          The supposed best burger in LA is at Father's Office in Santa Monica. Personally, I find the owenr pretentious and the crowds not woth it.

          The Lobster does lobster right, and has a great view of the Santa Monica Pier. But stick to the steamed lobbies.

          Diddy Reese in westwood has fabulous cookies.

          In west Hollywood, Angeli Caffe has great italian, less wait and better prices than Mozza.

          1. Might as well join the other 10 million people and head out to Pinkberry for some frozen "yogurt".


            1. Thanks to all for these great suggestions! I'm pasting them into a word document to take with me along with maps etc. Sis is not vegan, but we both enjoy well prepared vegan food so will check out Native Foods.

              I'm getting very hungry looking at this thread :-D

              1 Reply
              1. re: Welshgirl

                If you like Mexican, definitely check out Babita in San Gabriel.

                1823 South San Gabriel Blvd
                San Gabriel, CA 91776
                (626) 288-7265

                1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

              2. If you're going to be around during the weekend, try and spend a little time at the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple in North Hollywood. On the weekends, the courtyard gets filled with vendors, and the proceeds go toward the temple itself. My favorite is the $3 plate of papaya salad, and you can tack on some satays for $1.

                Thai Town in Hollywood (close to many sightseeing stops) also has plenty of options. Tonight I'm heading over to Jitlada (again!) but other Thai Town favorites include Ruen Pair, Sanamluang and Sapp Coffee House.

                Wat Thai of Los Angeles
                8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 91605

                1. i host a lot of out of towners. here are the places i typically take them to or recommend:

                  1) for blowout meals: Providence, Lucques, AOC
                  2) for current yummy, sorta trendy: Mozza (sit at the pizza bar)
                  3) for ethnic: sa rit gol (korean), musha (japanese), sushi zo (sushi), sabor a mexico, versailles (cuban), guelaguetza (oaxacan)
                  4) for light & healthy: tender greens, alcove cafe
                  5) for chinese and good lobster: newport seafood
                  6) since you might be in hollywood: hungry cat
                  7) must trys: in-n-out, any taco truck, pinkberry
                  8) for lunch at the beach: duke's

                  here are some good related posts:

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: greengelato

                    I know it's a chain, but I like Duke's in Malibu, too. The food is decent, and the view of the water is truly beautiful. I take out-of-town guests there often.

                    Duke's Malibu
                    21150 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

                    1. re: greengelato

                      Thank you! We will be in Hollywood at some point during our stay so have added Hungry Cat to list - Tender Greens and Duke's have been suggestion by a couple of other posters, I am glad that there are so many great veggie options

                      1. re: Welshgirl

                        Remember that in addition to the seafood at Hungry Cat, their claim to fame is that they're among the best bartenders in the city.

                    2. Father's Office burger is spectacular, and it's a fun bar atmosphere. It's almost always busy though, so it might only be worth it if you really like a good burger, and don't mind paying $14 for it (I'm pretty sure that's how much it is...), but it really is spectacular. I also LOVE the regular french fries and dipping sauce over the sweet potato fries. I've heard the other food there is also great.

                      I also second Bay Cities for a great takeout sub. Walk it down to the Santa Monica pier and eat it there at the beach.

                      Malibu Seafood is right on PCH and is a little house that has a big picnic area and some of the best seafood in LA. Really really great stuff and it's pretty cheap. This is where I take out of town guests who love seafood. Go to The Lobster if you want lobster, but for any other seafood, the best deal is Malibu Seafood.

                      Right in Culver City is Tender Greens - big, great $10 salads, really fresh and tasty.

                      Pink's is kind of ew, and there is almost always an hour long line, so not really worth it in my opinion. Tommy's is an institution here, known for their chili burgers, but I just get their great chili cheese fries. Closest one to you will be a stand at Lincoln and Pico.

                      I advise you to avoid Duke's, which is barely a notch above Elephant Bar and Rainforest Cafe in my book. The view is nice but the food is very average and overpriced and they have a whole cheesy tiki theme going on.

                      In N Out is only good if you like your fast food burgers with a lot of stuff on them. If your burger priorities are more on the quality of the meat and the bun, skip it. I got a hamburger there once and while the bun was fine, it completely hid the most depressing tiny little flat sad average beef patty. And the fries are completely flavorless. And she has In N Out in Sacramento anyway...

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: LisaStitch

                        I disagree about Duke's. The food is reasonably priced and the view is lovely. I've never been to the Rainforest Cafe, but I think Duke's is better than the Elephant Bar and less cheesy. :)

                        The lunch menu prices at Duke's are about $6 for starters and $10-$15 for the average main meal-- not pricy at all. Here's a link to the menu for more info.


                        At the end of it all, the view is worth it, and the food is decent. I particularly like the main dining room (as opposed to the bar area), right by a big, clean window. It feels like the restaurant is practically on the waves of the Pacific.

                        I've taken friends and family from Europe and the east coast there, and they've all liked it. :)

                        1. re: katkoupai

                          Thank you! I did try In and Out last time I visited my sis in Sacramento but wasn't crazy about. I like a good "home-made" burger that looks like it was made by human hands more than the fast food kind. Faher's Office and Tender Greens both sound fab *adds to list*

                          1. re: Welshgirl

                            Just so you don't get caught off guard - if you go to Father's Office, you should know that they do not allow any additions, deletions, or substitutions to their food, so you get the burger made with the toppings they designed. The only thing you can choose about it is how rare or done you want the meat. They are very strict about this, so even if you have an allergy or are lactose intolerant, they will still not make any changes for you. Some people are put off by this rule which is certainly their prerogative, while others like me love the burger so much that we put up with it.

                            1. re: LisaStitch

                              Thanks - good to know! Fortunately I don't have any food allergies so that helps. I know someone who is both lactose and gluten intolerant, which makes eating out a challenge at best.

                      2. If you're in town on a Wednesday, check out the Santa Monica farmer's market on 3rd Street. It's a foodie paradise -- I get high just walking around and looking at all the amazing fruits and veggies. And it's a fun scene. I think it goes from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: onebite

                          Hi Welshgirl,

                          I used to live in Toronto (visit frequently) and can safely say that the food there is infinately better and almost as diverse. The exceptions here are Mexican/Latin, Brazilian, Persian, Cuban and Thai/Indonesian. Don't waste your time on anything else - it's all better on Bloor St. or on the Danforth etc. So, here are a few recommendations for things you will NEVER get in Toronto: Indo Cafe on National Blvd in Culver City. Shamshiri Grill (Persian) on Westwood Blvd, Guelaguetza (Mexican) on Palms Blvd at Sepulveda, Versailles (Cuban) on Venice Blvd just East of Motor, and Thai Boom on Venice Blvd. Also Cafe Brasil and Zabumba (Brasilian) on Venice near Motor Ave. Finally be SURE to try Tito's Tacos on Washington Place just West of Sepulveda. There's always a lineup, there's zero decor, but it's a phenomenal L.A. classic. It's magic - order one of everything on the menu and you won't be able to spend twenty bucks. Forget Pinks - unless your idea of fun is waiting in line for a mediocre hot dog - the carts on every corner in Yorkville are better. And we in LA dont have ANY french fry trucks. Do go to the Farmer's Market on Fairfax ( which is sort of like St.Lawrence Mkt.) and eat at The Gumbo Pot and visit the Santa Monica farmer's mkt. Otherwise, as a fellow Canuck, please take my advice. Have fun.

                          1. re: Jeryy

                            Thank you for the suggestions! I'm definitely looking forward to the Mexican, as I've yet to find anything decent in Toronto and have had some spectacular Mexican food in Sacramento (including the best burrito I have ever eaten, in a strip mall very near my sister's place in Rancho Cordova).

                            1. re: Welshgirl

                              I have to vehemently disagree about Tito's Tacos. Although it is an institution, the food is awful awful awful. There is a good old-school Mexican rest in Santa Monica, been there forever, Gilbert's El Indio, 2526 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. If you are going to the Farmer's Market, Loteria has more "authentic" Mexican but is a bit overpriced.

                              One of the better northern Indian lunch buffets (there is better Indian food in Artesia, but it's not near you), is Nizam, 10871 W. Pico Blvd., West La, CA , near the Westside Pavillion. The bring fresh tandoori chicken to the table, and the naan is quite good.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                I don't understand the raves for Tito's Tacos. I think they're awful. I also wouldn't recommend Tender Greens when there are so many better options.

                              2. re: Welshgirl

                                The best burrito anywhere near where you'll be is at Taqueria Sanchez on Centinela south of Washington. Once again -despite other's objections Tito's is not to be missed. Another very festive and often good Mexican place is Mi Ranchito on Washington. Also you might want to try La Serenata De Garibaldi on Pico - it's not my favorite - a bit more upscale and gourmet, but many people like it. Guess what - go to Tito's - if you don't like it, e-mail me while you're here and I'll pay for it. Or if you do like it, you can take me to Terroni's for a pizza in Toronto.

                                1. re: Jeryy

                                  Greasy, soggy taco shells with grey pasty mystery meat, exactly WHAT is there to like about them?

                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    The enchiladas, refried beans, beef burrito and chile con carne, Plus the green salsa. The tacos are the worst thing on the menu.

                                  2. re: Jeryy

                                    Thanks - I can take or leave tacos in general but will try Tito's on your recommendation :-) I would also be interested in trying the burritos at Taqueria Sanchez because I have yet to have one better than the ones I have eaten in Rancho Cordova.

                              3. re: onebite

                                We're there from August 6 through 9 before heading up the coast so will definitely check into it as we're not always going to be eating out. I love farmer's markets - we have some wonderful ones in southern Ontario too, the quality and price of the produce can't be beat.

                                1. re: Welshgirl

                                  Keep in mind, also, that the Original Farmer's Market on 3rd/Fairfax is less of a true farmer's market and more of an open-air food court with grocery vendors. I would personally only ever buy meat/poultry from the various butchers; fruit/veggies/seafood I would purchase elsewhere.

                                  The "real" farmer's markets are held weekly at various spots throughout LA. My favorite is the Sunday Farmer's Market in Hollywood on the corner of Selma/Ivar (one walking block southwest of Hollywood/Vine)

                                  1. re: Welshgirl

                                    check out the grand central market in downtown la. a really fun experience!

                                    as for breakfast places, check out: doughboys, john o groats, and bread and porridge.

                                2. Second the recs for Ethioipian (Rahel, Meals by Genet), Bay Cities, Shamshiri, and Musha.

                                  In addition to Wat Thai, I'll add Sanamluang and Jitalada Thai. If you don't want to drive that far, Thai Boom is much closer to Culver City.

                                  Soot Bull Jeep for Korean.

                                  For a fabulous croissant, try Amandine on Wilshire.,.. though 3 square has more options, Amandine's croissant rocks. Jack'n'Jill's, Jinky's, Snug Harbor, Bread and Porrdige, and John O'Groats all do fine breakfast fare as well, particular groats for the pancakes.

                                  As suggested, you might consider The Lobster for a nice dinner. Other nice places would include Melissa, Joe's, and Jiraffe, but I think I'd make the venture over to Grace because they'll do a veggie tasting menu, as will La Cachette, so it's probably worth considering as well in Century City.

                                  As for nice casual places, Violet, Nook, 26 Beach, Newsroom Cafe (good for vegetarian stuff in SM), Gaby's Mediterranean, Double Dutch Dinette, and Tender Greens.

                                  Nawab of India on Wilshire is good for Indian.

                                  Second Babita and Guelaguetza, but will also toss in Tacos Por Favor... and if you must do the LA tradition, head over to Tito's Tacos.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Emme

                                    Thank you for your suggestions! The breakfast places in particular sound great. I may have to do some serious dieting after this trip, LOL :-D

                                  2. One more place that you won't find in Toronto - Quzqo, a new Per uvian restauarnt on Santa Monica Blvd nt the corner of Barry Ave. Excellent ceviche, seafood and loma saltado.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Jeryy

                                      Great! There is a Peruvian resto near where I live in TO called El Plebeyo which is so-so, but its the only Peruvian place I know of in Toronto. I'm a sucker for good ceviche so have added Quzgo to my "LA eats" list.