last-minute trip to L.A.
i'll be riding my wife's (business) coattails to los angeles in a few weeks. we'll be staying four or five days at the omni at california plaza.
it's been awhile since my last visit so i would appreciate thoughts/advice where to enjoy lunch (solo) and dinner. i would like to concentrate on korean, japanese, mexican food plus your famous california cuisine. other suggestions are also welcome.
we won't have a car but we're not afraid to walk, taxi, bus or train just about anywhere. can't say i have much experience with L.A. mass transit but i'm more than willing to learn.
price is not an issue. high-end, low-end makes no difference. i've had great chow in bars and dives, pathetic swill in some so-called three-star places. it's all about the food. sometimes views, character and history can overcome some culinary shortcomings so please take that into consideration. lastly, we like to drink. any good bars in town?
thanks for taking the time to read this.
just arrived home tonight and wanted to thank you all for your suggestions. in a nutshell, here's how things worked out:
deb and i touched down at lax close to 4:30 p.m. on tuesday. limo dropped us off at the omni 30-45 minutes later. by 6 or so i had a cab heading us to osteria mozza. time well spent.
we walked in without reservation and opted for the bar where nancy hangs out. we were granted two seats at the end of the bar (my favorite) and decided to treat the place like we were at lupa, babbo, whatever. the place really felt that comfortable.
proseco to start while we looked at the menu. deb wanted to go light so she shared the burrata with me as an antipasto. cacio e pepe and grilled sea bream are two favorites from a modest place in rome (ditirambo) so i gave the house the pepsi challenge. nancy got wind of this and insisted on some minor scribbled details that i respectfully provided. might have gained some face with the wait staff. deb upped the ante with an order of orrchiette. a nice dolcetto rounded out a superior meal. no room for dessert so we enjoyed our espresso. taxi fare averaged $22 each way. ouch! still, this was a superior meal in a beautiful room lorded over by a significantly impressive chef/owner. i would return in an instant.
Deb and i parted ways wednesday morning: she to do corporate battle; me to travel to anaheim and help the angels avoid a sweep by the hated oakland a's. i took a cab to union station (boo on that) and bought round-trip amtrak tickets (coach) to get me to the stadium. $12 each way sounded reasonable. when i saw the restored beauty of union station, i would have gladly paid double for the privilege. loaded up on ballpark junk food but washed it down with harp on draft and sapporo in bottles. angels managed to squander a 6-3 lead going into the top of the ninth (rally monkey must have sweated a bit) but the angels prevailed in the bottom of the ninth to break the tie. i have four, never inflated, noisy phallic things for anyone who wants 'em (we don't do this stuff in the bronx). deb ate lunch at patina. instead of waiting the extra 15 minutes or so for the amtrak back to la, i hopped the metro-link and never had to show a ticket!??! hmmm. stopped at traxx for a vodka gimlet (so-so) and enjoyed one more look around your beautiful train station. took the dash (25 cents) back to the omni. too tired for dinner so we walked across the street to california pizza kitchen. we won't be this tired again. ever.
thursday was a mixed bag: i wanted to tour the beaches but could only book a spot on a bus tour of downtown la. i used to work for times mirror back east and spent tons of time at the la times back in the last century. didn't think i needed a refresher on the city of angels but i was wrong. lots to see (4.5 hours went by too fast) and do. modest gripe was the so-called farmers' market: i stumbled around for an in-n-out burger. really wanted a double/double with onions and a pink lemonaid but it was not happening. rocket's had a line that snaked out the door. i went to plan b: draft beer (stella) and the new york post.
I arranged dinner at the cafe pinot. cosseted by stunning high-rise office buildings on two sides and the art deco splendor of the library's rotunda on the east side, this is perhaps the most impressive outdoor space in all of los angeles as the sun retreats and nightime asserts itself. sparkling wines, crab ravioli, mustard chicken, duck, california pinot (la creme). only a churl could cavil. we walked both ways from the hotel.
friday was a mass-transit tour de force. i wanted to take deb to the getty center when she finished work at 11:30. my mission? get us there. by bus.
i got itchy waiting for 11:30 so i walked a block or so and did the audio tour of the disney hall (pretty good) and hiked over to the library where i had a chance to appreciate superior architecture, loving care of the content by staff and, best of all, fred marcellino's drawings. his cover illustration for puss in boots is mighty special. i trust you locals appreciate all your town has to offer.
later, i escorted deb on foot to 5th and grand where we caught the rapid 720 to wilshire/westwood. took about an hour. we then walked a block or so to westwood plaza and lindbrook drive for the second leg: waited about 20 minutes or so before the 761 arrived. another 30 minutes and we arrived at the getty center. took the tram to the top and strolled rapidly to the restaurant (not the cafe). mumm's in beautiful stemware seemed right when assessing the singular beauty of this room. saffron risotto with crawfish only accentuates the obvious. a double-dose of mumm's prepared us for the next steps. i expected fine art, but didn't anticipate the bernini offerings. i was very happy.
return to downtown was a piece of work. we left the getty center a tad before 5 p.m. on the rapid 761 to hilgard ave./westholme ave. (frat row at ucla) and then jumped across the street to the metro 2 bus - a local. total transit time back to the omni probably exceeded two hours when you factor in waiting time between buses. was it cheap? hell yeah. was it worth it? maybe, but only if you are a tourist like me.
deb and i were pooped so we walked down the hill to ciudad for a modest, late-night supper (no reservation). a pair of mojitos brought us around and we shared a peruvian ceviche that was both fresh and bright. plantains and salsa played second fiddle (as well they should). skirt steak for me and pollo ciudad for deb. we compromised on an argentinian malbec. mango sorbet for a finish and we walked out very happy. food here is pretty good. prices are modest and made only better by promotions and giveaways.
i enjoyed my stay in your fair city. i accomplished a lot but need to do much more. i will.
thanks for taking the time to help me out.
re: steve h.
Wow. Great write-up. Even as an East Coast guy who cut his teeth on the Never, the Rare and the Waiting-for-Godot and the M1 bus, I would have rented a car... the 2 bus all the way down Wilshire? Ick ick no thanks.
Your "modest food" is my special-occasion food (just don't like to spend tons on food) -- come back next time and take a tour of our amazing, ubiquitous, spend-less-on-dinner-for-two-than-on-one-bottle-of-Mumm's-at-the-Getty ethnic restaurants. :)
re: steve h.
that's a very good (and very difficult) question. as a rule, i tend to shy away from making direct regional comparisons (cooking in manhattan is not the same as cooking in rome, etc., etc., etc.). still, osteria mozza is a part of the batali empire and comparisons are inevitable.
my take is that silverton's place compares favorably with the better italian restaurants in nyc but i have to stress that osteria mozza is true to its los angeles roots and makes (in my opinion) no attempt to mimic the manhattan dining experience. all of the dishes we enjoyed there strongly emphasized the wonderfully fresh and tasty produce that is a signature of your great state. that experience cannot be duplicated in nyc.
a pleasant surprise was the level of service we encountered at the cheese bar. i expected to get a kick out of watching nancy and her colleagues put on a show in front of us. what took me by surprise was that i had a waiter, a sommelier and several servers looking out for my best interests throughout the meal. mighty impressive. i'm used to the bartender (i know, i know) filling all those roles in between drink orders. i think nancy is onto something here.
lastly, the room is inviting and designed to make guests feel at ease, not in awe. someone successfully "noodled" all the teeny-tiny details and i'm grateful. well done.
re: steve h.
Hi Steve H.
Thank you for your assessment. We have friends who live in your fair city and come out here to visit on occasion. They love Italian (albeit they're Chinese roots would never make one think this - I think the Chinese are still a little upset that Marco Polo expropriated their pasta idea) and eat Italian of levels often in NYC. Now I know of a place in LA that they would be most impressed with.
Again, thank you for your great report!
If you need to kill time while the the wifie is busy, head up (blue line also)to downtown Pasadena. Bars, clubs, restaurants, movie, theatres, shops, malls all within a 4 block area, plus some little old lady with a car for sale. There are many threads on the restaurants there, you definately can waste a whole afternoon. There's some decent Sushi and Thai, is it the best in LA. NO. Are they very good. YES! Plus the usual i.e.Ruth's Chris, Cheesecake Factory, yada yada.
Steve -- Hope you have a great trip and congrats on a very productive thread here on Chowhound. You've already received a bunch of suggestions so I'll add my two-cents worth.
Your hotel is well within walking distance of the Grand Central Market on Broadway between 3rd and 4th. This is a bustling place with lots of vegetable stalls and many other assorted proprietors. It is probably a great bet for Mexican streetfare. Stop in at Ana Maria's or Roast-2-Go and get monstrous delectable carnitas tacos for next to nothing -- a couple of bucks apiece. Explore the market -- there are vendors that sell beer and inexpensive spices. A great place for at least one lunch.
DASH is your best friend. It is the van system that circles the downtown area on several different routes every 15-20 minutes and only costs small change. Depending on the route, it can get you up to Chinatown, east to Japantown, or all around the area near your hotel.
It is absolutely true that the contributors to this board judge the Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley -- a twenty-minute or longer car ride east of downtown -- to be vastly more authentic, more regional choices, and all-in-all superior to that in Chinatown just north of the Civic Center. But the San Gabriel Valley is simply inaccessible to travellers without a car and freeway knowhow. Chinatown is only a DASH ride away. I like Yang Chow, though others prefer Hop Li. At Yang Chow, on Broadway north of Alpine, get the slippery shrimp, the eggplant in spicy garlic sauce, the spicy won ton soup. Get a couple of other people together or join them or take leftovers back to your wife and have dim sum at Empress Pavilion or Ocean Star or CBS -- admittedly, not as fantastic as the SGV joints, but tasty and fun and much better here than in 99% of the country. If you want the best sandwich, take DASH to East Side Deli or take a hike up to Nick's for ham up on No. Spring, but more convenient is the historic Phillippe's, where the dips are delicious albeit a bit small (I also like the lamb or pork much better than the tougher beef) so supplement with some potato salad and slaw and even stew or chili. Phillippe's is on Alameda right across from the train station.
The subway red line serves just one primary service -- to take you from downtown west to the MacArthur Park stop at Seventh and Alvarado for the famous pastrami sandwich at Langer's deli. Limited hours -- not open late and I don't know about weekends.
Avoid Olvera Street, the Mexican stretch just north of downtown Civic Center before Chinatown -- touristy boring overpriced crap. The Criminal Court Building (CCB) is on Broadway and Temple, just above 1st, not far. You could spend a morning or maybe an afternoon watching the Phil Spector trial. Know that L.A. is NOT a cab town -- sure your hotel can get a cab for your trip TO a restaurant, but you better call and make sure the restaurant has some reliable connections to help you get a cab BACK to the hotel or you may be waiting a LONG time. If wife's business is willing to pick up large cab fares, I can't imagine why they wouldn't spend less for a rental car and hotel parking -- that is the way things are done in L.A.
steve h, if you'd like to get to the San Gabriel Valley to sample some of SoCal's best Chinese food, you can definitely get there by the Metro buses. Several lines originate in downtown and land you right in the middle of SGV eating... 76 goes on Valley, 70/370 on Garvey, 78/378 on Main, etc. Check out www.metro.net for bus maps or bother your hotel concierge for maps and timetables (available online as well). If you aren't in a hurry, the buses can be your friend... sounds like you could make use of the $5 day pass if you're traveling on other subway lines as well!
My downtown LA favorites have already been mentioned: Watergrill for awesome seafood; Cafe Pinot (in front of the LA Libray)--I also recommend checking out the beautiful library grounds and interior.; Philippe's (an LA institution); Olvera Street--I prefer the taco stands over the sit down restaurants; I would add Traxx inside Union Station to see the Art Deco architecture and eat some good food; and for a location with great energy and good places to eat, I recommend Old Pasadena. You can take the Gold Line train to Pasadena from Union Station in downtown LA. Some recommendations for good food that have been recommended on this site are: Vertical Wine Bistro; Red, White and Bluezz; and Bistro 45. My favorite dive bar for local color is the 35er on Colorado Blvd. You can sit outside to people watch.
Red White & Bluezz
70 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105
Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N. Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103
544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071
Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
700 West Fifth St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
800 N Alameda St Ste 122, Los Angeles, CA 90012
45 S Mentor Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106
12 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105
re: chowhound chloe
what a wonderful post. yes, the library is at the very top of my stack. how you divined i'm both a rail and arcitecture buff is remarkable. as far as old pasadena goes, the old la times (pre tribune) used to put me up at the huntington. lots of good times/memories there. i'll definitely take your advice and hop onto the gold line train. lastly, i'm all over dive bars. do we know each other?
I second Mendicino Farms for a solo lunch sandwhich. It is literally attached to your hotel. Plenty of outdoor tables available in Cal Plaza by the fountains. For lunch, I also recommend the food vendors in Grand Central Market which is only about a block from Cal Plaza. Anna Maria's is great and inexpensive.
For upscale (expensive), Water Grill is within walking distance of the Omni, and, in my opinion, is the best seafood restuarant in LA. Patina in the Disney Center is close by and good. Nic and Stef's in the Wells Fargo center is close enough to walk, and good for steaks, although Arnie Morton's at ninth and Figueroa is better. Cafe Pinot by the LA public library is within walking distance, good, and has a great outdoor patio for dining. For bars, the bar in the omni is nice enough, but fairly boring. Blue Velvet, as mentioned above, is a short cab ride and a relatively new and popular dowtown bar.
Steve, you do get around. I agree with your initial assessment that korean and regional asian is where you should focus. I agree with the prior poster that you may want to consider renting a car which may actually end up being cheaper. www.kayak.com for nice search on the cheapest car rentals around. My recs are for LA in general and not necissarily walkable ones.
Beverly Soon Tofu. They do soon dooboo on a 1-5 spicy scale. The 5 is excellent with a deep rich flavor. The combination with kalbe is good and the seafood rice also looks good.
Sushi Zo. Excellent sushi. I would put it just below Yasuda but the quality and variety is excellent and it's also cheaper.
Pizzeria Mozza. If I remember, you're a Babbo fan. Might be worth checking out Batali's west coast endeavor. The salumi pizza with peppers was really good.
AOC is good as LA's answer to tapas. Small plates and tastes with a very good wine by the glass selection. Some say it's gone downhill since it first opened but it's still good if you've never been.
Might be worth renting a car just to navigate to San Gabriel Valley and go beserk on regional chinese and taiwanese food there. Much better than what you can get in SF or the east coast. If you do end up getting a car, try Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings (regular better than the crab) and the steamed shrimp and pork dumplings before heading back east.
For high end LA, Providence seems like the board favorite. Similar to Le Bernardin but louder.
Try Pinkberry and add the mochi balls. It's very LA.
And for sandwich try Langer's and Phillipes (I like the pork and lamb french dip better than the beef). (close)
If you are staying downtown, the metro red-line is your friend. Not that there aren't some classic places near your hotel - you are basically in Little Tokyo.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, just what comes to mind.
Near your hotel:
Philippe's is an LA institution as is Olvera Street, which has Mexican though I am not sure what if any of the places is good.
I've never been but R-23, which is downtown, is considered a very good sushi place and certainly closer than the westside or sushi row.
The redline gets you near such places as Providence, Hungry Cat, and Teres if you stop in Hollywood.
If you stop at MacArthur Park/Westlake, you can have Langer's famous pastrami sandwich.
There is likely a red-line stop near K-town but I can't think of what it is.
The Hollywood & Highland metro stop is near Musso & Frank.
North Hollywood stop gets you near sushi row in the SFV and reasonably close to the Thai places on Sherman Way.
If price really isn't an issue, then I second PROVIDENCE. Amazing. Very pricey. Imaginative and seafood-centric.
I've heard people rave about Urasawa. i've never been. Even my corporate card can't handle that bill. But perhaps your wife's can.
Neither of these places are in downtown. But they'll be well worth the taxi fare, I'm sure.
No the Omni is not in Little Tokyo, it's in the Financial District, but it is not very far. Use the DASH A and B busses to get around.
Mexican on Olvera Street: Luz del Dia, Golondrina are both decent. The first is more casual. There are also places inside the Grand Central Market but I dont have a specific suggestion there. There's a La Salsa branch next to Ciudad, on Figueroa. Ciudad also has a bar scene.
Japanese: Suehiro is a favorite casual cafe on First Street, and be sure to sample the mochi at Fugetsu-do.
There is a Korean restaurant inside the Wilshire Grand, Seoul Jung, which is supposed to be good, if you can't get to Koreatown.
Mendocino Farms is I believe in the food court just outside your hotel and is supposed to be good for sandwiches.
The new Pitfire Pizza near City Hall is good for grilled sandwiches as well as pizza. Don't go between noon and 1pm or you won't get in.
There's a bit of a Patina empire downtown. Check their website, patinagroup.com for options and menus.
it's tough if you're downtown, don't have a car, and want those types of food.
But...Grill Lyon is a japanese/french fusion that is quite good. Reasonably priced. Kobe-style prime rib, apple foie gras, and more.
Water Grill is excellent for seafood. Pricey.
El Compadre (in Hollywood) has good Mexican food and a lively bar. Taxi shouldn't cost more than $35 each way.
Soot Bull Jeep has excellent korean bbq. Charcoal grills, indoors...so bring your gas mask. Rib eye cuts w/ their salt-and-pepper-oil dipping sauce is to die for. Maybe $20 cab fare each way.
Lunch a Philippe's is good. Lamb french dip sandwich is good.
Blue Velvet is a new bar downtown.
Kagaya is shabu shabu. The Kobe Beef shabu shabu costs $85.
I'm sorry Chowpatty, but Steve H. can skip all of those places and head straight to Sushi Zo for sushi. It's amazing, some of the best sushi in the country, just check the boards! Get the live sake and the omikase (sp?). It's worth a drive/cab ride. Make reservations, and try to sit at the bar.
You should check out Father's Office in Santa Monica if you want a mind-blowing hamburger. Order medium at most, rare is great too.
Patina downtown is also wonderful for dinner. Not only do you get to check out the Disney Concert Hall, but you can head over to the Edison afterwards for a drink. Don't wear jeans or tennis shoes to either place!
If you want the L.A. experience, go to the rooftop bar at the Standard downtown. During the day you can lounge by the pool; at night you can scope out the city.
At some point you should have "live bacteria" frozen yogurt, which is a craze right now. Pinkberry is the worst of the bunch, but the most popular. Cantaloop (corner of La Brea and Hollywood) is my favorite, but I haven't been to all of them. I hear Snowberry is good.
The Redwood Bar & Grill is pretty close to the Omni. It's a good place to drink with plenty of character and history but the food is solid too.
There's plenty of good Japanese that's not too far of a walk.
Sushi Gen or Takumi for sushi.
Daikokuya for ramen.
Iyazoi or Haru Ulala for izakaya (small plates) of cooked food and sushi.
For Korean, you will have to take a cab or a bus down Wilshire or Olympic -- you might start with Sa Rit Gol on Olympic.
Redwood Bar & Grill
316 W 2nd St Ste 202, Los Angeles, CA 90012
422 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Takumi Sushi Restaurant
333 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
368 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sa Rit Gol
3189 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
re: steve h.
if you're familiar with korean food, you might want to try "dduk bo ssam"- which is actually a korean dish created in los angeles by shik do rak restaurant in koreatown. it basically consists of rice noodle wrappers with an array of dipping sauces you can eat with your korean bbq. it's extremely popular and quite good during the summer.
if you're taking public transport into koreatown, i'm sure you can find a restaurant that services dduk bo ssam that is easily accessible from the bus/metro. a few:
- soot bul gui rim 1 or 2
- family restaurant
- mu deung san
you sound like such a friendly and adventurous fellow. :) i hope you can return with a report.
For Koreatown, you can take the Purple Line subway. Runs down Wilshire to Western. Much nicer than the bus, plus faster.
Nearest station to the Omni would probably be at the southwest corner of first and Hill. Both Red and Purple lines, identical, but the Red says No Hollywood and the Purple says Wilshire and Western.