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first time in LA, but only for 24 hours

My husband and I will be in LA for 24 hours and are looking for suggestions for a lunch and a brunch, and maybe a delicious snack (a donut perhaps?). It is our first time in LA (unless you count my trip as a 2 year old when I picked a mushroom, ate some, and stuck up the rest up my nose).

This is sort of what we are looking for:

Saturday lunch somewhere between LAX and downtown LA (we are staying at the Omni)

Sunday brunch that is good for hangovers somewhere between downtown and roads that point north (We are driving to Carmel that afternoon, so something convenient to the 5 might be good) )

Sunday snack (donut?) north of brunch also on the 5?

We are poor, and are the kind of lax vegetarians that don't ask if the beans were cooked with pork or the soup with chicken stock. Places that are excellent people watching are a plus. maybe vietnamese or latin american?

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    1. re: Servorg

      For brunch on the way out of town on Sunday I am recommending Twin Palms in Pasadena. Ordinarily I wouldn't say dinner at this place but I think the brunch is an excellent value and the setting is very nice:


      1. re: Servorg

        Do you know the price for the sunday brunch buffet? Couldn't find any prices on the website.

        1. re: Josh90004

          It was $20 pp but you might want to double check that with them by phone.

          1. re: Servorg

            I just checked with them. $19.95 for adults (if you want unlimited champagne and / or mimosas you need to add another $7 to that).

    2. you're poor but are staying at the OMni?
      I second Rahel...really yummy and a good buffet.
      To get to Carmel from LA, you're better off going up the 101 and having a prettier, more scenic drive up the coast through Santa Barbara.
      pasadena really isn't on the way-you'll take either the 405 or the 5 to the 101.

      If you are on the 101 in the San Fernando Valley, you can get brunch at:
      Universal Hilton's Buffet (on weekends)
      Le Pain Quotidean in Studio City

      Dupar's in Studio City

      Panera Bread in Studio City

      Belwood Bakery Studio City

      El Torito (yeeecch Sherman oaks)

      The Studio City Farmer's market on Ventura Place in Studio city (great fruit, veg, cheese, crepes, pastries, tamales, breakfast burritos, grilled corn and more!

      Gelson's Hot Bar in North Hollywood

      Jinkey's Sherman oaks

      Leda's bake Shop Sherman oaks

      Marmalade Cafe Sherman Oaks

      La Frite Sherman oaks

      More than Waffles in encino

      Gelson's in encino

      Sona's in Encino

      Cici's cafe in Tarzana

      Bea's Bakery/and the attached deli in Tarzana

      they're all good places for a snack, too.

      I know there's more, but I forget.

      1. Beware, I-5 is bereft of dining opportunities other than fast food, or Denny's, a quicker drive than U.S. 101, but in my book not chowish and more stressful than 101. Post a query on the California board for recco's north of L.A. county up to and including Carmel.

        If you take the 101, you could jog over about four miles east at the Buellton exit and pay a visit to Solvang, an ersatz Danish village, and OD on Danish pastries (that and other opportunities can be found on the California board).

        1. You could have dim sum for Sunday Brunch at Ocean Seafood, in Chinatown, which is both close to the Omni and the 5 fwy.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bob Brooks

            For dim sum in Chinatown, I'd go to CBS or Empress Pavilion over Ocean Seafood. CBS is at Spring and Ord. It has a parking lot, too. I'd get there before 11.

            1. re: hpcat

              I used to favor Empress Pavilion but quit it completely after the last two visits were characterized by items that were cold and greasy. Much hotter and fresher at Ocean Seafood.

              FWIW, I think you need to be at Empress before 10 if you don't want a ridiculous wait.

          2. Totally OT, but you really need to take the 101 instead of the 5. To get to Carmel, it's better to stay towards the coast and the 5 goes WAY inland. Plus, the 5 is boring and ugly. ;)

            If you take the 101 N, you get to pass my neck of the woods, and we have some FABU restaurants in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo areas. Diner's paradise ... and SB/SLO are just off the freeway. In Santa Barbara, the infamous La Super Rica Taqueria (Julia Child's fave Mexican) comes to mind off Milpas.

            But while in LA, I would say it would be fun to do sushi (so huge in LA) and Pinkberry.

            1. relizabeth, if it's your first time in LA and it's only for 24 hours and price is a factor, I highly recommend making your Saturday lunch stop at the original Farmers Market at Fairfax & 3rd. It's an LA institution, ideal for people watching, with a ton of great, inexpensive eating options, many of which should be lax-Veggie-friendly.

              You'll find plenty of threads debating which are the best places to eat there, but in general, just for the experience, you can't go wrong.

              1. LAX and downtown LA is s huge spread.

                Sunday Brunch near highway 1 (Joes on Abbot Kinney in Venice, BLD)
                Saturday lunch, BLD in mid-city west.
                Near LAX, north end caffe in manhattan beach. Its own rosecrans, about 4 miles south of LAX.

                Joes, North End Caffe, and BLD are some of LA's finest neighorhood cafe/brunch/bistros. You cant go wrong with them.

                if you are veggie, elf cafe is always good but it is in a less than tourist friendly area. Another great innovative neighorhood spot. Its right off the 5 in slighty seedy echo park off of sunset blvd.

                if you must stick to the I-5, got to Portos Bakery in north hollywood on magnolia blvd. Another great neighorhood ethnic cafe.

                All of the plaecs I have mentioned are interesting and great for people watching. If you want the quintessential people watching SCENE, try Ivy on Roberston blvd in los angeles. Great street, decent brunch, frequented by celebrities, nice patio.

                As someone suggested the farmers market at 3rd st and fairfax is also good.

                1. Since you're only going to be in LA for 24 hours, if you want to visit a place that is legendary for many reasons, you can try Pink's Hotdogs in Hollywood. They have a vegan hot dog on the menu. Their address is 709 N. La Brea Blvd., L.A., which is near the corner of Melrose and LaBrea.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: foodie21

                    I AGREE WITH YOU ON THIS ONE ...
                    ( PINKS )
                    It's a must do for out of towners
                    It is an L A thing ...

                    1. re: BRIANTHEFOODUDE

                      Um...they have 24 hours in town and you want them to spend 2 of them waiting in line for a VEGAN hotdog? I like Pink's and I think it definitely has it's place and purpose, but the wait to reward ratio is so blown out of whack. Drive by if you need to check it off your sightseeing list but DO NOT waist hours in line for it.

                      1. re: wutzizname

                        NO NO NO NO NO!!!
                        on PINKS.
                        Why waste your time in LA trying to eat a friggin hot dog when you could probably get a better one in your own hometown at a ball game!!!
                        Travel for REAL food.
                        Pinks is for people who saw it on TV and think it's a great place.
                        Why wait in line for a dog with a bunch of people from out of town?

                  2. For a Latin American suggestion, why not try Versailles? It's a Cuban restaurant, and their signature dish is the garlic chicken. I've had it, but I'm more partial to their chicken and yellow rice. I also love their black beans and plaintains. There are several of them around town, but the two most convenient locations for your trip would be the one in Culver City at 10319 Venice Blvd., or the Los Angeles location at 1415 S. La Cienega. You can find out more at their website www.versaillescuban.com

                    Edited to add: unfortunately, the only vegetarian dishes they offer are the rice, beans, plaintains that can also come with a salad. Sorry, I'm a carnivore by nature and keep forgetting the vegetarian requirement of your request!

                    1. For Saturday lunch, I'd suggest checking into your hotel and walking a couple blocks away to the Grand Central Market. While definitions of excellent people watching vary - my idea of interesting people watching would take me here over the Ivy any day of the week.


                      It's one of the oldest markets in Los Angeles with a wide variety of food stalls. Lots of options, most of them cheap and vegetarians can do fine (altho' maybe you'll change your mind visiting Roast-to-go or Ana Maria's when you see their carnivorous offerings.). In addition to great Mexican options, for more Latin American there's also Sarita's pupusas and an empanada place (is this still there?). And juice bars and fresh produce.

                      Then take a wander around the neighborhood and visit the Bradbury building, the Central Library, and all the other downtown sights.

                      Then you can splurge on a nice Sunday brunch somewhere else!

                      Enjoy your trip!

                      Grand Central Market
                      317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ks in la

                        I second this idea! And even though you're at the Omni, check out the Biltmore Hotel for a touch of vintage elegance; have a drink in the bar.

                        As for the Sunday traveling snack - by all means, take the 101 and stop in Santa Barbara at La Super Rica for a couple of tacos.

                        1. re: ks in la

                          Chinatown (just north of 101 Fwy) is a fun place to wander around, people watch and has quite a few Vietnamese places as well. Philippe serves a great bowl of beans :-).

                          Since driving and parking in LA can be a pain, may I suggest doing an MTA Red or Gold line trip. Look at these topics for suggestions:
                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/436632 - Red/Purple Line
                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/436841 - Gold Line

                          Philippe the Original
                          1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                          Asian Noodles
                          643 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                          Grand Central Market
                          317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                        2. The Farmers Market at Fairfax & 3rd (there is a popular new outdoor mall attached to it; "The Grove" or as we call it "The Growth", like a tumor). People watching, some bits & pieces of old LA still there and lots of food options. It's right in the middle and a great lunch spot. My vote would be for Singapore's Banana Leaf (with an obnoxious Pink Berry - if you must - in the stall next door). Cheap & delicious food. My vegetarian sister loves their gado gado, as do I.


                          The 101 is the more interesting drive, but either way it's a longish drive and things close early up that way. Solvang is not kitsch enough to be fun. Andersen's Pea Soup Restaurant in Buellton is the most interesting thing in the area and it's not much more than a novelty with oyster crackers floating in it.

                          The 5 is a wasteland, save for long haul trucks and point to point commuters. If you take the 101, you'll want a map of some sort and you'll want to distinguish the 1 (PCH) from the 101 northwards of San Luis Obispo. I personally love the PCH and I would prefer to meander that way, through Big Sur, but it's very slow going, limited petrol and even less people watching.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ahuacatl

                            Agreed with the Farmer's Market! Plus Bob's Coffee + Donuts is fabulous! And the French Crepe Company rocks too.

                          2. Best donuts hands down are found at Frattelli's in Beverly Hills - Italian coffee and donut shop - out of this world. http://www.frittelli.com/index.html - it's worth the trip

                            Question - why are you staying downtown?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: prainer

                              No, the best donuts are at Primo's in L.A., and you don't need a bank loan to buy them.

                            2. If you're heading down the 101, I would suggest stopping by Natas Pastries in Sherman Oaks. I just tried five of their Portugese-style pastries for the first time and am already planning to go back next week to try some of their other pastries and cakes. Just their natas are worth going for - nice egg-custardy flavor in a flakey puff pastry cup. A little cinnamon and powdered sugar goes well with it along with an espresso. You can get one of their "Portugese" specialty combinations where you can get any combination of natas, queijadas, pasteis de coco, pasteis de feijao, or malasadas for a discounted price. I picked up the 16-piece for $25 - a very good bang for the buck - that's about $1.50 per.


                              1. Pete's downtown is not far from your hotel and great for cocktails and munchies. Good bloody marys, blue cheese fries, and mac & cheese!

                                Pete's Cafe & Bar
                                400 S Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                1. For Sat. lunch, I might also offer Newsroom Cafe on Robertson for good reasonable veggie options as well as people watching.

                                  Guelaguetza as a Mexican option, or even Los Balcones de Peru on Vine for Peruvian fare.

                                  Thai at Jitlada or Sanam Luang.

                                  Second the recs for Rahel.

                                  Good hangover breakfast at
                                  Bay Cities if you head up the 1
                                  The Griddle Cafe
                                  Fred 62
                                  Hugo's [WeHo or NoHo]
                                  Pho So 1

                                  For the snack--
                                  second the rec for Nata's
                                  Love the donuts and apple fritters at K's Donut Emporium in Sherman Oaks

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Emme

                                    Oh this is so exciting. Thank you everybody for the tips (and by all means, please keep them coming!)

                                    To clarify things somewhat:

                                    We are in town for a wedding- Saturday night- and have wedding block prices at the Omni.
                                    I'm a New Yorker, and have plenty of Pinkberry, hot dogs, diners, etc. Until recently, we were living in London so we had plenty of Indian food and, oddly enough, Portuguese egg pastries. While in London, I would listen to the KCRW (?) food podcast and be drooling with what was in season in the middle of the cold wet dark winters, so I think a trip to a farmer's market is a must.

                                    Generally, I prefer places that are not specifically vegetarian and definitely not vegan, but places that have some meatless items because it has been an integral part of their cuisine for centuries.

                                    This will be my husband's first time in California. (He is German, but has been living in London for several years, and will be moving to NYC in 12 days).

                                    1. re: relizabeth

                                      If you have time, go to the Saturday Farmer's Market in Santa Monica .
                                      Only from about 9 to 2 in the afternoon or so. Most Farmer's Markets are on Sunday.

                                      I really stress you want to drive up the 101 and not the 5 to get to Carmel. On the way, if you miss Santa Monica, you can stop either at the Sunday Studio City Farmer's Market:
                                      Park in the Von's parking lot.

                                      You can get a good snack or brunch from the food vendors and some great fruit to take with you. Artisan Cheese Gallery, a fabulous cheese sop, is right next to it. Ask someone where it is and they'll point where to walk..literally 10 seconds.

                                      Encino Farmer's Market is also on Sunday, but a little bit farther from the freeway.


                                      not as good snacky wise as Studio city, but great chicken, boiled peanuts, sometimes pupusas and tamales. Good produce as well!

                                      1. re: relizabeth

                                        Just so you know, Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax is eating and shopping, not a KCRW fresh market. The real fresh markets aren't open daily.

                                        Agreed, the Santa Monica market is a really good one and would fit the KCRW descriptions. Hollywood has one now too and it's good people watching:


                                        Really good pupusas can be had there.