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2007 Marina Del Ray, surroundings

My husband and I are visiting my ma in MDR in August. She just moved there from the east coast and knows zip. We live in Alaska and when we travel we always seek out the local, the weird, the wonderful- foodies through and through. She is usually vegan but will eat fish. There are a slew of restaurants in MDR, any of them any good? In particular, looking for:

1: Nice place for Friday night dinner (my birthday): this can be Santa Monica, Venice, anywhere near MDR. Hubby and I love tasting menus and good wine lists, we all love an emphasis on fresh local ingredients.
2: Any hippie breakfast joints in MDR? We love the big hearty inexpensive b'fasts with vegetarian options, like Snow City Cafe in Anchorage- fru fru breakfasts always disappoint.
3: Cheap eats: we are always in search of the perfect fish taco, the best Thai, the Indian lunch buffet- what's the best bang for one's buck?
4: Any good bars with Belgians on tap?

Thanks in advance, LA foodies!

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  1. Friday night - dinner at Abode or Chaya Venice. Beechwood is another idea.

    Breakfast - Mercedes Grill on Washington at the end where it meets the beach

    Cheap - Holy Guacamole on Main St in Venice for tacos, Cafe del Rey for lunch, no great Indian or Thai in that area, to my mind. But lots of great tacos.

    Beer - Otheroom on Abbot Kinney

    3 Replies
    1. re: yogachik

      Good recommendations, but I have to disagree on one thing. Holy Guacomole isn't that cheap when you compare it to the taco trucks in the area. And the food isn't as good as those taco trucks.

      1. re: yogachik

        cafe del rey for weekend brunch will run about $40/per person BEFORE tax and tip.

        1. re: yogachik

          IMHO Nawab does a great Indian lunch buffet in Santa Monica, though its strength is on the meat side of things. Shershah, which is right in Marina Del Rey, has a very nice (well above average) lunch buffet.

        2. 1) Ritz Carlton's Jer-ne on Admiralty - A hit w/ my mom. Nice all-around menu.
          Cafe Del Rey on Admiralty in MdR - Nice all-around menu and nice big dining room
          Joe's on Abbot Kinney in Venice - xlnt Cal-French, tasting, wine, patio dining
          Axe on Abbot Kinney just north of Joe's - Venice's version of Alice Waters - casual
          Chaya on Main & Navy Streets in Venice - nice Asian-Cal and nice dining room

          2) Brickhouse Cafe on Hampton/Brooks in Venice. Locals eat here - good portions.

          3) In-and-Out burgers on Washington in Costco shopping center
          Abbot's Pizza on Abbot Kinney - great selection of pizza slices
          Groundwork Coffee on Rose & 7th Ave. Organic coffees, teas
          Taco trucks - Rose & 3rd Ave, also on Lincoln & Rose at night - both popular
          La Playita on Lincoln in Santa Monica - very good Mexican taco stand
          Tacos Por Favor on Lincoln & 14th St. again very good Mexican - Chorizo/queso tacos are to die for and will tilt your daily cholesterol allotment
          The Shack on Culver in Playa del Rey. Knarly burgers and beers, beechy mood.
          Hinano's by the pier on Washington in MdR/Venice. Divey bar but popular with many locals

          4) Library Ale House on Main St in Santa Monica - lots on tap including Belgians
          Father's Office on Montana in Santa Monica - Bar more known for their gourmet burgers but great beer selection as well
          Naja's on the Pier in Redondo Beach - opposite direction but prob the best selection of beers on tap within a 15-mile radius. Aprox 100 beers on tap.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            Tacos Por Favor is really good for very inexpensive Mexican tacos, burritos, tostadas, etc. It is up in Santa Monica, on Olympic at 14th, not Lincoln. The chorizo and cheese is indeed a specialty and very good but quite rich -- I like their al pastor, carnitas, and the excellent salsa roja from their salsa bar.

            1. re: nosh

              Thanks for catching that - I didn't poofread it...!

            2. re: bulavinaka

              I was gonna say The Brickhouse, too.

              It's a locals place, like you said, as opposed to Mercedes Grill, which is very touristy.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                imho, for the pescatarian mom, the best bet for mexican tacos would be tacqueria sanchez on centinela. all the other taco/mexican food suggestions are truly focused on meat/poultry.

                in and out burgers really has virtually nothing to speak of for the pescatarian mom.

                i really like 26 beach at 3100 washington. their salads are great and they are willing to substitute grilled tofu the meat. i'm told that their breakfasts are also terrific.

                for indian food, great vegetarian indian food can be found at SAMOSA HOUSE on washington. the food is great, but it is served on styrofoam plates, and you serve yourself. very reasonably priced for such high quality food. you will need to ask which of their dishes are vegan as opposed to vegetarian, but you can be confident that there will be several excellent vegan choices.

              2. 1. Josie, Melisse, Abode, Joe's, Rustic Canyon, Jer-Ne, Cafe del Rey

                2. Pann's, Figtree's Cafe, The Firehouse, 26 Beach (not really inexpensive but I like it), Nichol's, Rutt's Hawaiian Cafe

                3. Taco Truck at Lincoln and Rose, Thai Boom, Nawab of India (on Wilshire--great lunch buffet), Tacomiendo or Tacos Por Favor, Uncle Darrow's, Aunt Kizzy's, Gaby's Mediterranean (a little pricier)

                5 Replies
                1. re: Emme

                  26 Beach has a range of $10-15 for breakfast, great big portions, french toasts, scrambles start at $10 and ny steak & eggs $15. Regular Menu, huge entree salads $11-$15 and Burgers & fries or salad on homemade buns $10-14 all angus, they also do a kobe for a few $ more. Entrees pastas & salad to rack of lamb $17-$29. To me this is reasonable for the great food, huge portions & beautiful garden environment! It is a different environment than the others you mentioned, IMHO.

                  1. re: Burger Boy

                    PLUS they'll substitute grilled tofu for the meat and poultry in many of their dishes for the pescatarian mom

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I guess I could look it up, what is a pescatarian mom? TIA

                      1. re: Burger Boy

                        OP said that her mom generally eats vegan but will eat fish, making her a pescatarian (someone who eats fish but not other kinds of animal protein).

                        1. re: mollyomormon

                          thank you for giving BB the definition.
                          i have great empathy for pescatarian moms because i am a pescatarian mom myself!

                2. for Indian lunch buffet--

                  Shershah Cuisine Of India
                  13444 Maxella Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
                  310 301-2477

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fdb

                    I'll second that. Shershah is in a large, busy shopping mall on the south side of Maxella near Glencoe. Look for the big Barnes & Noble on the corner; you can see Shershah from there. There are plenty of vegetarian choices on the buffet, and you can easily look first.

                  2. I can't say enough about the the taco truck on Lincoln (south of Rose) at night, the daytime taco truck on Rose (west of Lincoln), and the all-day/all-night taco stand called La Playita. Get the ceviche at La Playita. You'll get a feast for $6 at each.

                    For a good South Indian buffet, check out Annapurna on Venice Blvd (near Motor) in Culver City.

                    26 Beach is hardly exotic, but they've got a good, professional kitchen that has a lot of range and turns out good food consistently. They're a reliable option for brunch, lunch, and the like. Salads, burgers, sandwiches, etc.

                    Gaby's Mediterranean has its main location on Venice (near Motor) in Culver City, but they also just opened a takeout location on Washington Blvd, west of Lincoln.

                    The Hinano is a great dive bar, but if you want Belgians, then you might try The Otherroom on Abbot Kinney.

                    The Shack in Playa del Rey is a good dive bar. Fridays are especially entertaining with some of the more spirited drunk karaoke performers on the planet.

                    Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln in Venice is a decent option for BBQ (by LA standards -- we're not exactly Memphis when it comes to BBQ).

                    Monte Alban in Santa Monica is a great Oaxacan place. It's on Santa Monica and Brockton. Perhaps my favorite restaurant in LA.

                    If you love fish tacos, then I suggest getting in your car and driving to Tacos Baja Ensenada in East LA. You won't regret it.

                    1. You are coming from Alaska, so I'd strongly advise you to check out In and Out Burger. Most agree that it is a superior fastfood burger -- only found the Southwest, very limited menu. Get a double-double ($3.09 after tax) and order your fries well-done.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nosh

                        For breakfast, I'll suggest Maxwell's on Washington (corner of Walgrove), across Lincoln. When I lived in MdR and WestLA, a group of us always went there a couple of weekends a month for breakfast. It's a tiny place, so be prepared to wait outside for awhile.

                      2. Thanks so much to all of you!
                        Keep the ideas coming- right before we leave I'll print this off and take it with- what a fantastic resource!

                        1. 2. Hippie breakfast joints? If you get to Maxwells before 7 AM, many omelettes, etc are half priced and pretty good. Also in Westchester I like KJ's Diner for good hearty breakfasts.

                          3. Cheap eats: The best Thai in the area is Ayara Thai in downtown Westchester, although Thai Boom is a little cheaper and good also. I second In-N-Out Burger. Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica has maybe the best sandwiches in the area. Try the Godmother and go early.

                          I second La Playita, Baby Blues for BBQ.

                          1. I'm surprised nobody mentioned Musha in Santa Monica! Delicious Japanese pub fare, reasonably priced and many vegetarian options.

                            1. My FAVORITE Italian place ever is Antica Pizzeria in MDR. You can have your birthday dinner there, but might be better for a cheap lunch. They have a nice wine list, the best italian pizza, and homemade pasta (especially the gnocchi and ravioli of the day).

                              The best cheap Indian food is at Sweets & Spices on Venice, I think it's in Palms. It's a total dive, but the best homemade, vegetarian indian food I've had.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: krez

                                if you like India Sweets and Spices, you will LOVE samosa house/bhrat bazaar.
                                their menu is not as extensive, but the depth of their flavors is supurb.
                                open 7 days a week 'til 9.
                                11510 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  Samosa is vegetarian too right? I drive by it all the time and seem to recall seeing it say this in the window... or is it vegan?

                                  1. re: LisaStitch

                                    it's vegetarian with MANY vegan choices.
                                    they often substitute olive oil for ghee when preparing their food in order to accommodate their many vegan customers.

                                    be aware that often more food is available than what you can see. normally they will have soup available. it's behind the counter. be sure to ask if they are serving their delicious banana/mango soup. (someone needs to help them with signage.)

                              2. Thanks again everyone. After reviewing numerous menus, I'm leaning toward either Joe's or Josie's for the birthday dinner. We are looking for outstanding, innovative, interesting food with an emphasis on the fresh or seasonal, and top notch service. Atmosphere is a distant but still important third. Oh yeah and there's the wine. I'll post this as a separate query also. Thoughts?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: hillpagan

                                  Tough choice! Both are great in terms of food, wine, service and atmosphere. I think I'd have to flip a coin. Josie's focus seems to be on game (which they do VERY well -- definitely try the venison, although they do have fish and vegetarian options. Joe's is also really, really good. I like the tasting menu. Joe's is a little more casual, but the service is just as professional.

                                2. Wait a minute.....hold the phone. I've got a great one - two combo for you!

                                  Breakfast - Figtree's Cafe
                                  For your filling hippish breakfast joint you need to go to Figtree's Cafe directly on the Venice boardwalk. This is a great place, they use specialty / organic products and make a great Potatoe Latke & Chicken Apple Sausage along with other veggie/vegan options. Go early because it gets crowded fast and they stop serving the best breakfast choices at noon I think (Give them a call to check just to make sure or you'll be stuck with the basics). This is also a great spot to take in the wonders that are the Venice Boardwalk.

                                  Belgian Beer - The Waterfront
                                  After you've finished at Figtree's and wondered the boardwalk a bit to work off breakfast, head a little ways down the boardwalk to The Waterfront and grab a Erdinger Weizenbier to cool down. Again, this place will be packed on a nice weekend so try to get there early to get a spot right off the boardwalk. People will be hawking the tables so you have to be quick. They will always have plenty of seating inside though. People tend to spend many hours here hanging with friends, drinking & people watching. It's also a good spot to catch the Sunset. Most reviews on the food aren't great, but I find the Samosa appetizers and the pretzel to be a pretty good way to soak up some of the beer.

                                  Veggie Lunch - The Spot (Hermosa Beach
                                  )This place is one of the oldest Vegetarian Restaurants in California. It's been a number of years since I've been down there so I'd do some checking around about the current status of the place. Pretty cheap & huge portions. My favorite dish was the Mexarama with the Savory Sauce.

                                  Good Luck and have a great trip!


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: shenry

                                    LOVE the spot!
                                    it is still very much there.
                                    the portions are still huge.
                                    the food is still terrific.
                                    note: this is not 'authentic' food--i.e. the burrito isn't designed to transport you to mexico, it is healthy food that has taken inspiration from various cuisines; as an example, the burrito is made with a whole wheat tortilla, you will be given your choice between soy cheese and regular cheese, the only kind of rice that is served is brown rice--get the idea?

                                  2. This is pescatarian mom piping up. Daughter chose Joe's on Abbot Kinney for her birthday dinner. Menu features foie gras so I am tempted to wear my PETA tee shirt. But it's her birthday so I won't. This is a great site and we all truly appreciate the great advice. I am moving to mid-Wilshire near 1st and Vermont so we are looking for good food in that neighborhood too. Thanks everyone.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: pescatarian mom

                                      Just hold tight, in five years foie gras will be illegal in California thanks to SB 1520. (Note that I'm not certain I think it's a good idea, despite my dislike of the taste of foie gras, but the bill is passed and signed.)

                                      1st and Vermont is pretty much Koreatown -- you can go to Vermont & Olympic to Sokongdong or Beverly Tofu House for fantastic seafood soon tofu.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        most often the broth that is served at soon tofu joints is a meat/poultry broth.