Boston Chowhound in LA...what not to miss?
- AnjLM Aug 3, 2007 11:48 AM
I'm visiting a friend in LA (Pasadena to be exact) next weekend for 4 days and I'm really excited to try all the food LA has to offer. My friend plans to take me to Thai Town and Little Ethiopia and I've already decided to have sushi at Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo (please don't give me any more sushi suggestion...I've already changed my mind about 50 times! see post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/424201). I'm pretty adventurous and would really like to try things that are unique to LA or that you feel LA does better than Boston. I know I want to try some Mexican (Boston lacks this) but my friend doesn't know where to go, any suggestions? What other cuisines/restaurants shouldn't be missed during my trip? Please keep in mind that I will only be there for 4 days and there is only so much food I can eat! Also, I would like to steer clear of fine dining restaurants and mostly hit up ethnic cuisine/LA specialities that I cannot get at home. One last request (am I pushing it?): I'm not familiar with LA so it'd be great if you could provide me with either the addresses or neighborhoods of your recommendations. Thanks in advance!
One of our most revered Mexican food items are fish tacos. Here is an excellent thread to give you something to "chew on."
For gourmet / high end Mexican there have been many excellent posts for Babita (I still have not been) over the years with a few very vocal dissenters who abhor paying big bucks for this genre of food.
1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776
I'm not too familiar with Boston -- what cuisines do you feel Boston does well? LA's a veeery diverse city, and you're already doing well by hitting up Thai Town and Little Ethiopia.
If you're really adventurous, perhaps you should visit The Prince in Koreatown.
All kidding aside, I would recommend going somewhere in Koreatown. You can even hit two birds with one stone by stopping into Guelaguetza for great Oaxacan.
Korean is an excellent idea. If the OP is up for something he definitely won't be finding in Boston he might head over to O Dae San for a nice bowl of Al Bap. While this place can be really $$$$ the Al Bap is only about $15. Here is link to Jonathan Gold's review and, more importantly, a great description of what Al Bap consists of.
2889 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles 90006
Btwn Fedora St & S Kenmore Ave
King's Taco by the 710 FWY and Atlantic Blvd.
Din Tai Fung in Arcadia off of Baldwin Ave or Mei Long Village or J&J on Valley Blvd by Del Mar Ave and New Ave for soup dumplings (xiao long bao).
For Korean, Young Dong in Arcadia off of Huntington Ave by Santa Anita Ave does a good job with soon tofu.
Grab some dim sum at Sea Harbour on Rosemead Blvd by Valley or 888 on Valley Blvd for some Chinese.
You've got to go for Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley. There is nothing in Boston that is like it.
Also, if you change your mind on "fine dining" you might want to consider Providence or Water Grill...my experience is that the seafood restaurants in Boston are much worse than Bostonians believe them to be....
Going to the Boston CH Board, a 3 year old thread (forgot to bookmark it) of around 100 entries discussed and listed the cuisine styles that Boston lacked. The ones that jumped out were:
N.Y. Deli (a "good" one).
Mexican with moles
Now most of those you can partake of in different cities, like going to NYC; however some ideas not previously covered so far:
Lowenbrou Keller - German - L.A. (213) 382-5723
This place is LOADED with Character & Charm and Boston seams to have just J. Writh (more Swiss, than German) & the Jasmine Bistro is close with a French-Hungarian-Middle Eastern Menu (what a combo). So if you haven't gotten a German meal in a while, than here you can.
Scroll down to the "very" bottom for a little bio and some pics (enlargable):
Polka - Polish - Eagle Rock
Not as good as Warswawa in Santa Monica, but lots closer.
Harold & Bell's - Cajun, Soul Food, & Creole - L.A.
I haven't been, and it's not that cheap.
Mexican Mole - Coming soon or Not coming soon - Can't think of Oaxacan close to Pasadena at the moment. Repost if your interested in this.
How's the Burmese food in Boston? You might be interested in this pictoral report in Whittier:
Seems like you're willing to drive, so I'll give a range of suggestions...
Warszawa on Lincoln in Santa Monica for Polish
Traktir for Russian
Ragin Cajun Cafe
Langer's for Pastrami
Nate'n'Al's for traditional rudities of the longtime staff and regulars :-)
closer to Pasadena in the valley...
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
11941 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
19565 Parthenia St, Northridge, CA 91324
11920 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91604
1414 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
8151 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90046
Ragin Cajun Cafe
422 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
3715 Santa Rosalia Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Nate 'n Al's Deli & Restaurant
414 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
2560 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
There was a big wave of immigration by African-Americans from Louisiana (especially New Orleans) to Los Angeles in the mid-twentieth century to take advantage of the superior employment opportunities in the city, and there remains a vibrant Lousiana culture in this city to this day. (In fact, after Hurricane Katrina, another significant wave of immigrants came in to be near their families already living here.) Because of their heritage, L.A. is blessed with some very good, very authentic Creole restaurants. Harold & Belle's on Jefferson is the most famous, but it's certainly not the only one. And yes, they tend to be very authentic.
I'm an LA->BOS transplant, and I'd have to say that I miss just about every category of LA food, but for sure the obvious ones like Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Persian, etc. are something to be experienced.
For some good (and decidedly not high end) Mexican food, you might enjoy going to the Grand Central Market (on Broadway, downtown)-- I've always enjoyed the burritos at Ana Maria's, particularly the fish burritos. It's a fun place to walk around (think Haymarket, but with LA flavors), and you can walk around the neighborhood and check out sights like the Bradbury Bldg, etc. (Hint: you'd probably want to split a burrito with someone, if you hope to eat again on the same day!!) There's so many mexican places with different specialties in town that it's hard to point to anything in particular as uniquely "not to miss", but I myself yearn most for the Oaxacan food of LA with its moles, tlayudas, chapulines, and so on-- there are several branches of Guelaguetza (I've only been to the Palms and Olympic locations, they're both quite good-- though actually, I hold a soft spot in my heart for Monte Alban on the westside, at Santa Monica & Brockton (just east of Bundy)
As others have mentioned, a trip to Koreatown is eye-opening. Although I do love al bap and hwe dop bap, I might actually recommend something more distinct from the sushi/japanese-influenced side of Korean cuisine. One good place if you're not terribly familiar with Korean food is Choseon Galbi, on Olympic just west of Western. (If you're already familiar with Korean food, I have a whole stack of different recommendations, if you're interested-- picking a good Korean place often requires having a more specific idea of what dish you want)
It sounds like you've already got a Japanese plan, and indeed, good sushi is something that's hard to come by in Boston (=almost impossible, with perhaps one exception as you've already mentioned). Then again, I would probably have been inclined to recommend something from one of the dozens of other categories of Japanese food that are completely utterly missing from Boston-- a good izakaya place, or a curry/spaghetti house, or a udon place, or okonomiyaki place, or something like that. Most of the really good ones are a bit of a drive from Pasadena (my own favorites are mostly in Gardena or in West LA), but Haru Ulala in Little Tokyo is good and closer by. A compromise with great cooked dishes and also good sushi is Torafuku, in West LA (pico @ westwood), with the absolutely best rice in all of LA, in my opinion :)
Also, though it's kind of an unlikely choice for that "uniquely LA experience", I have to say that one of the things we've had a hard time adjusting to in the move east is the lack of good burgers! (I know this is a perennial topic on the boston board, and certainly there's dozens of possible places-- but both the style and the quality are really something different in LA)
We also quite miss soul food (well, Aunt Kizzy's in particular), Japanese-Peruvian food, Sri Lankan food, and Hawaiian food, but that generally requires a trip south to the Gardena area (see multiple threads on this board re Hawaiian food)... and lots more
Coincidentally, I was just in LA last weekend for a visit and the inevitable eating frenzy. I was in West LA and my eating choices were partly geographically determined, so they wouldn't necessarily make sense from Pasadena, but in case it's helpful to know what some nostalgic ex-Angelenos ate on a visit from exile, here's the (embarassingly long) list of what what we consumed-- at least, what I remember through the haze :)
-- Terried Sake house (Japanese izakaya food)
-- Raku (also izakaya, one of my LA faves)
-- Jeonju (Korean, specializes in bibimbap and stews)
-- Papa Cristos (greek taverna)
-- Monte Alban (oaxacan)
-- Kotohira (specializes in udon-- I lie awake at night in boston dreaming of their shoyu udon)
-- Brent's deli (enormous portions, pastrami and half sours of a kind that are getting hard to find even in NYC)
-- Amandine (japanese french-style bakery)
-- Pinkberry (i have to admit, i'm an addict. I hit them multiple times on every visit for their plain flavor and perfectly ripe fruit)
-- Hannam market world for "german bakery" daifuku-style mochi
-- Nandarang for lots of soju, and bingsu (korean shave ice with fruit and red beans)
-- In 'n out
11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
11678 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Terried Sake House
11617 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
1747 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247
3014 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Cafe Seoul Nandarang
3815 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Grand Central Market
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Chosun Galbi Restaurants
3330 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
10914 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Hannam Super Market
2740 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Wow - great post for just about any out-of-towner to read. Two things among the many great recs caught my eye. Okonomiyaki (Gaja Moc) and Peruvian-Japanese (Kotosh at Kamiyama - they also do sushi), both in Lomita, and literally a stone's throw away from each other.
Both of these types of food are a very rare find even in LA. In Japan, okonomiyaki is relatively common, especially at festivals, where they will make them on huge grills by the dozens. In Hiroshima, stands and restos serving okonomiyaki outnumber taquerias in LA. In general, good okonomiyaki in LA comes out of the homes of Japanese transplants. To find a place that is set up for it and encourages patrons to try making their own is even more rare. Gaja Moc fits this bill.
Caddy corner to where Gaja is located is Kotosh at Kamiyama. I think Jonathan Gold finally did a brief writeup on them about a few weeks ago (come to think of it, I think J. Gold has written up most of these places mentioned). Kotosh is a true anomaly in LA, serving not only Peruvian food but sushi as well. Strange at first thought, but when one considers that Peru is blessed with a coastline that offers some of the best commercial fishing in the world (except when El Nino hits) along with a very large Japanese immigrant population, I'm surprised that places like Kotosh aren't the rule.
I don't know if one could do both places back-to-back, but doing one or the other could be then coupled with a trip to Patisserie Chantilly, which is next door to Gaja. Chantilly is a patisserie with a French-Japanese spin on things, and one of my favorite places to get desserts. The care they take in creating their desserts and the quality in their ingredients is hard to match anywhere. And please try their coffee. Their coffee is more like a great espresso with a nice mottled crema on top that is served up in a precious manner, with a small cup of cream and two types of sugars on the side. This style and serving method is common in the patisseries and coffee shops in Japan, and I wish it were more common here as well. It's a great cuppa joe. Also, bringing a small ice chest might help if you're planning on taking home their desserts.
One of my friends who is from Peru says that some of the best Peruvian eateries that he's eaten at in both Peru as well as here are owned by Japanese-Peruvians. However, his favorite is actually owned by a Chinese-Peruvian. El Rocoto on Artesia in Gardena (a few shops over from the 99 Ranch market) serves up great renditions of traditional Peruvian dishes but also has very respectable Chinese dishes as well. The restaurant's namesake is a Peruvian chile from which Peru's other famous sauce is made - a red picante sauce that goes well with so many of the dishes. And they do have the green sauce (aji) made famous in LA by El Pollo Inca as well.
And of course there's Los Balcones del Peru in Hollywood. Although I've yet to try this place (but wanting to with great anticipation), if SauceSupreme gives this place a big thumbs-up, then what more needs to be said.
2383 Lomita Blvd #102
Lomita, CA 90717
Kotosh at Kamiyama
2408 Lomita Blvd
Lomita, CA 90717
2383 Lomita Blvd #104
Lomita, CA 90717
1356 W. Artesia Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
Los Balcones del Peru
1360 Vine St.
Hollywood, CA 90028
I also vote for Chinese in the San Gabriel Valley. My plug is for Chungking, for Sichuan (if you like hot and spicy dishes).
Also try some Vietnamese. And don't forget about the taco stands and trucks.
When my family comes in from out of town - not from Boston, of course, but the South - I tend to vary up the places. Good Chinese and Mexican are always on the menu. Unfortunately, they're too xenophobic for me to get them to try Thai, Vietnamese, Korean. But they love the old-fashioned L.A. establishments. They think it's a kick to get the original French dip at Philippe the Original, and it's to the point that I can't NOT take them to Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n' Waffles. (Hey, Chris Tucker got killed for Roscoe's in "Jackie Brown"!) My parents have been asking me about Pink's lately; this is where I draw the L.A. institution line. You've got better things to do with your time. But Tommy's? Yeah, I might recommend snarfing down one of those. There goes that myth of L.A. people's all eating alfalfa sprouts. If you've never had a Double-Double from SoCal legend In-N-Out, by all means, drive through and get one. Truly, Los Angeles is the burger capital of America.
And while L.A. does all sorts of other cultures' foods really well, take some time to have a great California cuisine meal while you're here. There are lots of places you could go - Table 8, Spago, Patina, and so on - but, if I had to pick just one, I'd have to pick Lucques. It's really an amazing restaurant, laid-back and simple, with a small outdoor patio, serving California-French-Mediterranean food. The restaurant even has a Hollywood connection - the building was silent film star Harold Lloyd's carriage house, and part of an episode of "Entourage" was shot there. Suzanne Goin (who won a James Beard Award last year) epitomizes the style of cooking so typical of our homegrown chefs right now, and I don't think you can really get a meal quite like you can at Lucques - or any of the other of our top California cuisine restaurants - in anywhere region of the world but, well, California. We have our own cuisine here, and it would be a shame to miss it.
Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Roscoe's House of Chicken
1518 N Gower St, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tommy's Original World Famous
2575 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057
2114 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
The original In-N-Out Burger is in Baldwin Park, although now closed(ate there many burgers as a kid) I can say it was definitely the best burger at any In-N-Out I ever ate at and I've eaten at many up and down California and east to west where it's found. There is a new restaurant across the I-10 from the original, as are their training and distribution headquarters. I believe Mrs. Snyder still lives close by in the city of Glendora, in eastern SGV, although Mr. Snyder passed away a time ago, I think some of the children live in OC, Irvine or something.
If you want good Mexican food you must go to El Cholo there is one inPasadena but the original is still better, If you want a more fast food type, then go to Poquito Mas near universal studios across from Miceli's their pork burrito is good mojado style is better,
and if you want Deli Canters is good since Langer's closes around 4pm. Have a good trip!