Boston Chowhound in LA
I will be in Santa Monica in two weeks for a few days and would love a few recommendations-- any restaurants/hidden greats/culinary bookstores-- all would be great!
My current short list includes:
a shrimp taco place that's a fave in west hollywood (blanking on name right now)
the santa monica farmers market...
Not sure if this is chowhound approved, but I like Border Grill in SM for their tacos and everything else. It's the "Border Girl's" place.
Monte Alban, on Santa Monica Blvd. between Bundy and Barrington in West LA -- pretty much Santa Monica-adjacent and well worth the very short drive. I'm not sure how much Oaxacan food is available in Boston, but I'm willing to bet that Monte Alban's offerings are better than any Oaxacan in New England. And if you've never had Oaxacan food, you are in for a treat.
The traditional choice would be one of their moles (I particularly like the red, but the black, green and yellow are also dynamite), but I'd suggest the barbacoa de chivo -- a big chunk of tender, delicious goat served in a dense, red, not-too-spicy but incredibly flavorful broth, served with a side plate of chopped onions and cabbage to mix into the broth, a little bowl of green salsa to spice it up if you want to, and tortillas. Just a wonderful dish.
You could easily combine a trip to Lucques, AOC, Grace or Jar with a visit to the Cook's Library. All are excellent restaurants, well worth a visit, and, as requested, a culinary bookstore. If it were me, I'd go look at books, then head over to Lucques for a late lunch. (Suzanne Goin's BLTA is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten, anywhere, ever.)
If you want something you'll never find in Boston, and are willing to drive (and possibly wait) a bit, two suggestions are Din Tai Fung, for amazing Shanghai (soup) dumplings, rice cakes, and steamed soups, and Tacos Baja Ensenda, for absolutely superb fish and shrimp tacos. Neither are anywhere near Santa Monica, but both are worth the drive.
Also, arguably the best pastrami sandwich in the country can be found at Langer's Deli, in a somewhat grubby section of central LA. I know you've got pastrami in Boston, but trust me, this is better. (See: http://chowhound.com/topics/show/60237 .)
Hope you enjoy your stay in Los Angeles.
Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Din Tai Fung Restaurant
1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
7360 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048
8373 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Don't come here without going to Sabor A Mexico and Surfas in Culver City! A close drive from Santa Monica/Venice.
Best mexican at Sabor, and good sammiches/chef eating and cooking supplies at Surfas
you can get info on the location of Surfas at www.surfasonline.com, the Boston Globe choose it as one of the best restaurant supply stores in the US. Sabor a Mexico was chosen as having some of the best tortillas in LA recently by the LA Times. Don't miss Tender Greens while in Culver City www.tendergreensfood.com
My current favorite in SM is Abode. It's on Ocean Ave, right across from the Pier.
If you like coffee, Caffe Luxxe on Montana is a must.
As mentioned, Musha is good for izakaya type of food.
Bay City on Lincoln has great sandwiches.
AOC is wonderful but depending on the time of the day and traffic, it may take you over an hour to get there. A nice substitute is Upstairs 2 on Cotner in WLA.
In Santa Monica,
Bay Cities for sandwiches for lunch or Father's Office for a unique burger
Melisse on Wilshire for upscale French
Skip the Montana restaurants, unless you want banana cream pie at Babalu
Tacos Por Favor or Tacomiendo (unless you hit up Babita or Guelaguetza)
If you're in Venice,
Lilly's French Cafe
Farther away that would be worth driving for...
Jitlada Thai or Sanam Luang
Los Balcones de Peru
Babita and Guelaguetza
Soot Bull Jeep or Sa Rit Gol
Saddle Peak Lodge
... come stay for a month :-)
I love Boston chow, Boston Hounds and the ball fans at Fenway Park.
Here are some recs that IMO introduce L.A. flavors.
L.A. is the home of the Chinese Chicken Salad and IMO the best version of this is at California Chicken Café. This place can have a line (at any of their 7 locations) during lunch, but they move the line fast. Very large salads, fresh fruit salad, Wraps, and rotisserie chicken but the Chinese Chicken Salad is a must try. Probably the most popular in LA as evidenced by the rapid addition of new locations over the last few years.
California Chicken Café
2401 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
To understand how L.A. views using chili on food, stop at Tommy's for breakfast and order the "Sausage Breakfast Sandwich." and request it on a English muffin. This sandwich includes a Sausage patty, egg, cheese, chili, tomato, onions, pickles, and mayo . I think this may be the closest food item L.A. has that can compete with Boston Speeds Hot Dogs as a local treasure.
The Original Tommy’s
1900 Lincoln Blvd.
To understand L.A. food culture you MUST try one of the most popular local foods -- donuts. LA probably eats more donuts than the rest of the country. One donut stand that gets much love is Primo's.
Primo's Westdale Doughnuts (Glazed donut and the Buttermilk Bar)
2918 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Mom always said, "sometimes you have got to feed your soul."
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles (Nuff said)
5006 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
I like to hit two targets with one stone. A nice California beach drive and good seafood at a decades old landmark.
Neptunes Net Seafood (This is seafood in a true Calif. setting. OMG, Take this drive! The beach across PCH from here is in so many movies..)
42505 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, California 90265
Mass. has some great old roadside Dinners. L.A. is the nations capitol of Classic Googie cafe's from the 1950's. Googie ambiance and cafe food does not get better than Pann's.
Pann’s (Fried Chicken wings and waffles, pea soup, Chicken Fried steak, Hash and eggs, Burgers and shakes all in a Googie Dream)
6710 La Tijera Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Cross Street: La Cienega Boulevard
The next two places are in Downtown L.A. and can be visited at lunch time or night when the traffic is not a big problem. I mention these following places not only because the food is classic LA but also because I know the kids will have a good time. They are very near each other.
Philippe the Original (Home of the French Dip sandwich, Also try the Lamb dip)
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Olvera Street was the first street in old LA. It is the real deal and some of the food there is also the real deal – Mexican Food. I love these two places for food but it is fun to spend a little time and walk the whole little street.
Cielito Lindo ( Taquitos )
E-23 Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
15 Olvera Street
Los Angeles, CA
My Boston trip under my old handle