Visiting LA for the First Time
I'm a 20-something New Yorker visiting LA for the first time, and looking for suggestions on (moderately-priced) places to eat. I want to avoid most of the touristy stuff (i.e. no studio tours or stalking celebrities) -- I think -- but I do want to plan a "food itinerary" that takes me to a number of different neighborhoods so I get a sense of the city. I eat all kinds of food, and I'll have a car.
I'll be on my own for a night or two, with a family member for another night or two, and then spending time with a friend from Alhambra (who hasn't actually lived in LA since high school, so we both need suggestions.)
If you get to Brentwood/Santa Monica, you could do Amandine for a fantastic croissant for breakfast, Bay Cities Deli for lunch and Father's Office for a late afternoon snack, and Warszawa for dinner :-)
In West LA, Primo's for a buttermilk bar breakfast, Guelaguetza for lunch, and Orris for dinner.
In Venice, 3 Square for breakfast, 26 Beach for lunch, and Chaya Venice or Beechwood for dinner, and Jin Patisserie.
In WeHo/Hollywood, Griddle Cafe for breakfast, Mozza or Lucky Devils for lunch, Bin8945 for dinner
Doughboys for breakfast, Jitlada Thai for lunch, and Los Balcones de Peru for dinner, and Mashti Malone's for dessert.
BLD for breakfast, M Cafe de Chaya for lunch, Pane e Vino for dinner, and MILK for dessert.
In the valley, K's Donut Emporium for an early breakfast, Carnival for lunch, Nata's Pastries for an afternoon snack, Boneyard Bistro or Il Tiramisu for dinner, and Aroma Cafe for a dessert.
modest suggestion: by nyc standards, la is huge. sign up for a morning bus tour. anything less than four hours is worthless. it's important to get a handle on the lay of the land. you have a car so a few board searches after the tour should answer all your questions.
re: steve h.
FWIW, a bus tour is good because you can also spot little food places more easily when someone else is driving.
That said, maps.yahoo tells me it's about 50 miles from Tottenville to City Island, two extremes in NYC (not even in suburbs). Similarly city of LA - San Pedro to Mission Hills (about the biggest extreme within the city) - 42 miles.
NYC isn't just manhattan. And if you include the SGV here, might as well include the suburbs there. ANd it gets pretty big.
I took one of those with my grandmother once when she came to visit years ago. The bad thing was, our options for lunch were the Hard Rock Cafe at the Beverly Center (which no longer exists) or the Santa Monica Pier.
If you get the pier, stay away from the mediocre food on the Third Street Promenade or the pier itself. If you want to splurge, go one street past the Promenade to Border Grill. It's not as cool as it was years ago, but it's probably your best high-end option. If you want to keep it cheap, go to Hot Dog on a Stick at its landmark beachside location at the foot of the pier. Yes, there are Hot Dog on a Stick stores in other places - heck, corn dogs aren't even a native SoCal food - but this is the original, icnoic HDoS store.
Oh, and if you're visiting Grauman's Chinese Theater and have a mind to eat there -- don't. The dining options around there are really pretty poor.
1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Hot Dog on a Stick
1633 Ocean Front, Santa Monica, CA 90401
I know you want to avoid the touristy stuff, but a trip to the Farmer's Market is a great bet. Tourists and locals alike fill the outdoor food stalls. I think it should be the centerpiece of visiting the Mid-City area. Other moderately-priced eats in that area include the aforementioned Celadon and BLD, just to name two.
Here's an itinerary I wrote for another thread just in that vicinity:
Other food neighborhoods to check out (and some restaurants that will help you get a feel for that neighborhood)
Koreatown (Guelaguetza, Beverly Soon Tofu, Soot Bull Jeep)
Sawtelle (Kiriko, Orris, FuRaiBo)
Culver City (Fraiche, BottleRock)
Thai Town (Jitlada, Ruen Pair, Sapp Coffee Shop)
Hollywood (Hungry Cat, 25 Degrees, Musso & Frank)
For someone that was bi-coastal for work of a couple of years and a NYer -- the three best things in LA/Hands down-- Mexican (especially fish tacos), Sushi and IN and OUT burgers. These are the three musts in LA. My favorite sushi -- there are many now in LA is Sushi Roku -- my favorite one is near the Beverly Center. Mexican -- there a few places of course I am blanking - but one comes to mind - El Cholo. There are In N Out all over. Things not so great in LA -- Pizza and Bagels.
Wow, thanks everyone! It seems like the "east side" and Hollywood are the foodie areas, huh? (Also, I should have mentioned that my aunt is in North Hollywood, so I'll be there in addition to Alhambra.) Are there other neighborhoods (Santa Monica?) with interesting restaurants?
(Also, I was cracking up about the Pinkberry commentary. We do have them here in Manhattan -- there's one eight blocks from my apartment. It might be worth driving by one in LA just to see if the lines are as insane!)
I was also surprised how many people mentioned Asian and Mexican. Any good fusion places? What about Italian, salads, or seafood? Just to mix it up!
Thanks again -- I'm embarrassed to say that I know very little about LA neighborhoods; I think it's a lot more complicated than NY too.
You want Italian? Besides Pizzeria Mozza, you can go to Osteria Mozza, the hottest place in town right now. You're coming from Mario Batali's fiefdom of New York, so it seems odd to go to another Batali place, but the magnificent cheese dishes co-owner Nancy Silverton makes at the Mozzarella Bar - where the seating is first-come, first-served and probably the best in the house - are the real stars, honed over the years from her guest-starring stints at JAR and La Terza as well as at her former restaurant, Campanile. Other Italian stars here are Angelini Osteria and All' Angelo.
Fusion food? Meh. L.A. got over than in the '90s, thank goodness.
As for seafood, for a city perched on the ocean, L.A. really has a dearth of good seafood restaurants, especially affordable ones. Sure, there are Providence and Water Grill, but they are really expensive luxury restaurants. Gladstone's on the PCH is a glorified Red Lobster that is only notable for the view. One of the few seafood places of note that is not a sushi bar is The Hungry Cat at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, from the same chef as Lucques. Serving big platters of raw seafood, creative twists on New England-style seafood, and what may be the best burger in the city - as well as creative cocktails made with freshly-squeezed fruit juices - this tiny place nestled in a Hollywood development is often packed. The portions can be miniscule, and it's not a bargain, but it is good seafood in a town with few options. Otherwise, I'd also recommend the Mexican seafood creations at La Serenta de Garibaldi in Boyle Heights, east of Downtown. They serve fresh salmon, sea bass, and such in sauces made from huitlacoche or roasted tomatoes crushed in a molcajete, or huge prawns, or shrimp enchiladas and fish empanadas. Mariachis wander the pretty white-washed rooms. Make sure to get the flan.
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
The Hungry Cat
1535 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028
6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
7166 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046
La Serenata De Garibaldi
1842 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Honestly, Italian is just plain better in New York.
That said, the San Fernando Valley (where NoHo is) is a hotbed of ethnic delights. I'm going to have a hard time picking just one or two of each one, and this is all east of the 405!
Argentine: Lala's, Ventura Blvd. near Radford, Studio City.
Brazilian: Picanha Churrascaria, Palm and 3rd, Burbank.
English: Robin Hood Pub, Burbank Blvd. near Hazeltine Ave., Sherman Oaks.
French: Le Petit Chateau, Lankershim Blvd. near the 134, NoHo.
Israeli/Kosher: Cafe Eilat, Burbank Blvd. and Whitsett, NoHo. (Again, the choices are slim compared to NY.)
Japanese: Tama, in Ventura Blvd.'s "Sushi Gulch", or even AYCE at Midori is better than Roku.
Korean: Duk Su Jang, Sherman Way and Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys -- but honestly, just go to Koreatown, it's not much further and it's so much better.
Lebanese: Skaf's Grill, Laurel Cyn. & Oxnard, NoHo, or Carnival, Woodman Ave. near the 101, Sherman Oaks
Mexican: Mariscos Colima, Vanowen St. near Tujunga, NoHo
Moroccan: Marrakesh, Ventura Blvd. near Coldwater Canyon, Studio City.
Persian: Shamshiri, Central and Stocker, Glendale, and Mashti Malone's for ice cream and faludeh, in the 100 block of North Brand, Glendale.
Peruvian: Las Quenas, Sherman Way and Bellaire, NoHo
Salvadorean: Pupuseria del Valle, Victory Blvd. near Main St., Burbank
South African: Springbok Grill, Victory and Woodley, Van Nuys (OK, this is west of the 405, but still!)
Thai: Krua Thai, Sherman Way between Coldwater Canyon and Fulton, NoHo
Vietnamese: Pho So 1, Victory and Sepulveda, Van Nuys
re: Das Ubergeek
In the valley - TONS of mexican places. the thai selection is great.
for lebanese- i'd still take Carnival on Woodman (betrween moorpark and ventura) over skaf's.
for late night-ish, Kyushu ramen on sherman way near the 405 (you do have a car) has a great selection of sake's and killer ramen (including the bone broth kyushu variety). Also, cheap and fun (save your money for clubs for fun/hip, music whatever) is kuishimbo on ventura just east of van nuys, 2nd floor of the la reina center. Skewered japanese dishes (kushiyaki) plus a variety of other stuff, including the japanese lemon soda that has a marble in it. watch the price and avoid the raw fish.
For sushi in the valley - I'm a big fan of the new nami sushi, in the strip NE corner of Moorpark and Van Nuys - go all the way tot he east side of the strip. not cheap. BUT for cheap (hawaiian) - japanese dishes, daichan on ventura in studio city. DAICHAN JAPANESE FOOD
11288 VENTURA BLVD
very very cheap.
There's an hungarian place nearby, hortobagy, which is pretty good also on ventura.
For menudo cheap in the valley, try el jerezano on hazeltine - good tacos as well - no margaritas, not catering to that crowd.
EL JEREZANO RESTAURANT
5937 HAZELTINE AVE
For seafood - a few ideas.
One is ocean avenue in santa monica. Sit at the bar, get some stuff. it's not cheap but it's good and cheaper than the water grill or providence. for something different, stick to local pacific fish - they will have a board of what's fresh.
You can try to find "sand dabs". cafe bizou (location in valley and santa monica and pasadena) has them as does chez jay in santa monica (only get that at chez jay, nothing else on the menu is good imho, and get a bloody mary there) - they're local. you can google for more info on the biology of the fish.)
I already mentioned serenata de garibaldi for mexican seafood, but many other places around town have "mariscos" and great seafood cocktails mexican style (vuelve a la vida, or coctel campechana are good ways to go).
up the coast a bit, neptune's net is a fun drive - near the county line - gets you out of town, past malibu see the coast, and two sections - one does fried food and burgers (not bad, theburgers) the other has live shellfish and soup and corn. For a local experience, get either the local crab (rock crab, hard to get if you don't crab it yourself) or the pacific spiny lobster (no claws, not as famous deservedly as the maine lobster - more like a big crayfish, but you don't even always find it in restaurants here and rarely in new york
Last - and this was profiled on the radio show offramp (unfortunately, who needs the longer lines) is the Fisherman's Outlet in downtown LA. A particularly non-descript industrial area, great ceviche, you can choose if you want your fish grilled or fried, fresh fresh fresh (go for local beasts that don't show up in New York) lunch only
I got the website from
Finally - if you're looking at trends that are alive in new york with fusion and foams and waters and adria influences and all about paris ten years ago, consider saving up for Noe at the OMNI hotel downtown (don't do this) - very pricey and one of the few places in town where they have the sweet foie gras and the bitter coffee ground vanilla bean and star anise rubbed hangar steak kind of stuff
looking at the menu, i see that it's calmed down a lot. it's WAY expensive (consider the bar for the scene which is UP upscale) but this is the kind of thing that seems very new york and other places lately (meaning the last five years or so).
but that's your fusion - my god they have ramps. no one here has them really or cares about them - very union sq market.
Oh in the valley - a bunch of vietnamese places near burbank and sepulveda. some pho some have the 7 course beef deal. check it out.
And in general - hip places, mediocre food. eat well, and then go drink or hang at the hipsterhangs
(almost forgot - yai on hollywood for thai is good - hole in the wall cash only
YAI THAI FOOD
5757 HOLLYWOOD BLVD
and for nobu matsuhisa style food at half the price,
1106 N LA CIENEGA BLVD 201
started by chefs who left matsuhisa's.
I would always take Skaf's (either location) over Carnival, but it's like asking which glass slipper to wear.
Hortobagy closed. The owners decamped to Csardas in Hollywood and the building now houses an Indian restaurant, besides the fact that you can get very good Hungarian food in New York.
Definitely second Daichan -- it falls off my radar a lot, which is odd since I used to be able to walk to it from home, but it's really very good.
Tacos La Fonda (it's a truck) is in the car wash at Vanowen and Vineland near 6 PM. To the OP, taco trucks are our answer to dirty water hot dogs -- fantastic and dirt cheap.
Ok I expect opposition and flaming for this but w/e. I'll try to give you a quick heads up on the food in L.A. to my knowledge, and I'll give you my picks and try to work with your perceived budget to give you a good food tour of L.A. from one 20 something to another. Please keep in mind i am an Eastsider, born and raised so someone will need to flesh out the Westside for miss NYC here.
My first Generalization is about the general areas. "West Side" - Better higher end dining, More Sophisticated food, not to say there aren't good local/hole in the wall places. Just imo this is the west sides strength. East side is more Hole in the wall and ethnic joints and in general a much cheaper area to eat. Its not to say whats a foodie area etc. its just different strokes for different folks. IMO you can find any cuisine you want in L.A. is just about finding it and making the trek to it. Granted we have some places we're weaker than then others ( looking at this board, jewish deli's, pizza, and indian food) but you can find anything here.
Specific strengths - L.A. is a burger City. We have great Burgers. When talking L.A. mexican Tacos are king. and We probably have osme of the best asian cuisene in the U.S. I high end can go toe to to with anyonew as well
That said I'll try to sweep through each 'area' with what i would do when taking someone around.
East Side - Strengths Asian specifically Chinese and Vietnamese we arguably do this the best in the country. Mexican food
1) Babita- Arguably the best mexican restaurant in the city. It might be a bit expensive for mexican though I would skip and save your money for one of the Westside places since you can def do mexican on a lower budget.
2) Mexican -First and foremost tacos are king here. with that i'll give you a burrito joint lol. Manny's El Tepayac comes to mind. L.A. Institution, grab a friend and order an hollenbeck and split it. this place is known for big burrtitos and its not "L.A. Mexican" but its own beast. While you're out here get a real fish taco ( dunno what you have in NYC but i think of rubios and cringe) good choices are Tacos Baja Ensenada and El Taco Nazo. For other L.A. mexican you can hit up the boards. if you're feeling adventurous hit up a taco truck during the day or a truck and/or taco stand at night. This is probably the best mexican the city has to offer. you can search for locations of 'regular' trucks/stand on the boards.
3) Dim Sum with a friend- When you're in town you gotta do dim sum and do it while your in Alhambra/SGV. This area has probably the most selection and highest quality Chinese in the country and no its not like NYC Chinese. I recommends dim sum cuz its probably one of the most popular and unique Chinese food experiences. If you've never been go to NBC or 888 since they're more traditional and you can see what you order (they bring it around in carts). Aim for this at breakfast/brunch time.
4) Other places i like in the area. Saladang Song in pasadena for great ambiance and good food that won't break your wallet. Fossilman's Ice Cream (L.A. Institution they've been doing it themselves for like over 50 years). Coffee shops in South Pas. Marstons, Julienne for breakfast. Lots of Burger Joints. i would say Pie and Burger, or Tops for the Kobe beef, also the hat is an l.a. institution but i would skip it unless you like greasy pastrami. A little more north and central is Porto's for great desserts and Cuban faire and very cheap prices.
5) Places to chill - Old town ( food is lacking though) Eagle Rock, Los Feliz/Silverlake - Argueably Central L.A., but this is were the hipsters lie. Nice trendy restaurants and bars which won't break bank. I would go here if oyu wanna go out at night but don't wanna drive westside, imo its better then Alhambra Main and Old Town Pas. Restaurants off the top of the head. Malo, Rambutan Thai, Cobras and Matadors, GIngergrass.
Central L.A. - Strengths, Thai , and Korean, Downtown Eateries
1) Thai Town- Next to Silverlake - Go if you want good, basic thai ( the two mentioned above are a little more "dressed up" and not hole in the wall though i wouldn't call them fancy. Rec is Jitlada.
2) K-Town or Koreatown - Go for the BBQ or Soondobu ( spicy tofu soup). Probably one of the best k-towns in the country. Check the boards for recs.
3) Downtown - Some cool bars are springing up like the Edison. One good palce to eat in the area is the Grand Central market. Just a fun cheap way to experience a lot of what L.A. has to offer.
4) Philipes - L.A> Institution. Cheap eats and supposed birthplace of "the french dip" get the lamb over the beef imo. While your there you can take a quick food tour where you can hit Olvers Street for mexican food and/or snackies. Chinatown is right there too though imo SGV as Surpassed it for chinese cuisine. Just down Alameda is the Fisherman's Outlet mentioned below. and a few blocks furether is J-town aka Little Tokyo. imo this is a good place to go. Good food ( honda-ya, daikokuya, several sushi places) and a lot of fun little shops to peruse.
Westside - Strengths, Farmers market, High end Dining, Jewish Deli's, Oaxacan and Ethiopian, L.A. Institutions
1) Institutions- original Tommy's, Pinks, Titos Tacos, Johnnies Pastrami, Apple, Pan, etc. Each has their supporters. the only one i would take an out-of-towner is pinks cuz its probably the most famous l.a. Landmark Eatery and its relatively close to Melrose though other could probably give you better suggestions in that area.
2) Jewish Deli's - Canter, Langer,s etc. NYC probably has better so i'll skip over those.
3) Santa Monica - Promenade is a fun Place to hang out with the boardwalk and shops. Plus its right by the beach. I don't know the eateries that well but if you go sunday an i think thurs night there are farmers markets which are great options. I know AOC is there, not sure what else.
4) Westwood Village- Cool place to chill lots of fun shops and its right by UCLA. I would go there to walk around and while there stop by Diddy Reese for some fresh cookies and Ice Cream Pies. Totally worth it imo. i don't know much about anything else in that area. I like native foods but unless your a vegan you should pass not a place i would take someone on vacation.
5) Ethiopian - Little Ethiopia is over there. i wouldn't take someone personally. its good but i think there are more memorable places i would take an out of towner. Just my 2 cents everyone has thier own opinion. You can search the boards. I go to Mercado cuz i just don't taste much of a difference in the food for the price maybe i'm just uneducated in the subtleties of ethiopian cuisine.
6) south Bay- Lots of Japanese food here. i would pick here or j-town but not both unless you love japanese.
7) Sushi - West probably has it beter than eastside. Go to Sushi Zo if you want sushi here. Concensus best is Urusawa but i doubt you wanna spend $200 a head.
8) High End - Spago, Providence, Grace, AOC, Mozza, Hatfields, Craft, the list goes on and on. I would save up for one of these places as your splurge night. Probably Spago since its a name everyone back home has probably heard of, the food is great, and its quintessential fusion like you mention in your post.
Lastly, one place i do like on the west side which is relatively cheap in my limited knowledge is California Chicken Cafe. One of the best Chinese Chicken Salads in the City imo
Anyways that my quick breakdown. Please add to it, especially westsiders. Hopefully that helps give you a better picture of the L.A food scene in a nutshell. Sorry for the long post.
You're listing Tommy's and Langer's WESTSIDE joints? No, no, no. Eastside, mon ami. Eastside. The Beverly/Melrose restaurant corridor (AOC, Mozza, Grace, etc.), Little Ethiopia, and Hollywood - all Central. Los Feliz and Silver Lake, which are west of Downtown, are listed as east of the "central" Downtown on this list.
roku? you've GOT to be kidding. sure, the location@ the bev center may be fine for us locals who just want a standard sushi meal, but it's a chain, and hardly worthy of a visit during someone's first trip to l.a.
and the santa monica location is disgusting. i've had bad food and worse service both times i've eaten there. sorry, but when it comes to questionable raw fish i draw the line at two strikes.
I'm a NY transplant now living here in Los Angeles and I'm happy to have found that LA has some really good eats to offer. In my very humble opinion LA's strengths would be:
1. Mexican - Babita?
2. Vietnamese - Golden Deli?
3. Korean - We have northern korean cuisine at Yong Su San, or southern og korean bbq sizzling over hot coals at Soot Bull Jeep or Dae Sung Oak or at dozens and dozens of other places all over K Town
I'll say it: Go to Pizzeria Mozza. It's not Mario Batali's joint; the pizzeria is really Nancy Silverton's. The pizza's great, and no one's making anything like that in New York. I'm sure I'll be pilloried for it, but that's how I feel.
The recommendation for Gingergrass is good, but, if you're Downtown (or in the San Gabriel Valley and just want someplace closer), Blossom is just as good as substitute.
And I'm always surprised how no one ever puts California cuisine on these L.A. food itineraries. You can get Chinese, Vietnamese, et al in New York. It's almost certainly not as good, but it's there. But we have our own style of food, and a trip to Lucques, Hatfield's, Campanile, Spago, or the like really ought to be on the list. I'd recommend going to Lucques, which is probably the most reliable and quintessential expression of the form around, inflected with the Mediterranean influences and seasonal ingredients that define the genre, and there is the prix fixe Sunday Supper on Sunday night - three courses for $40 - if you don't want to lay out a huge amount but still want a great meal. If Sunday doesn't work, though, Hatfield's has a Market Menu at $42 that is a similar deal that is good all week long.
And have a burger. Have lots of burgers. Chicago and New York have spent decades shouting back and forth about which city makes better pizza and, to a lesser extent, hot dogs, while Los Angeles has quietly been perfecting the hamburger. From the fast food chain trifecta of In-N-Out, Tommy's, and Fatburger to little takeout stands like Mo' Better Meatty Meat Burgers to gourmet burgers at The Counter, Father's Office, The Hungry Cat, and 25 Degrees, L.A. is the Hamburger Capital of America.
Get some of the amazing ice cream at Scoops. Have a pastrami sandwich at Langer's - even New Yorkers, with their surfeit of delis, stop in their to get a sandwich when in town. It's that good. And have coffee at Intelligentsia - they were going to open their first branch in New York, but they chose L.A. instead.
Oh, and where is the one place guests who visit me from out of town love more than any other place I ever take them? It's not dim sum. It's not sushi. It's not California cuisine or regional Mexican. It's not even In-N-Out. Without fail, it's always Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles.
6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
6703 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
426 S Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Roscoe's House of Chicken
1518 N Gower St, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029
712 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
you're from NYC so you probably already tried the pinkberry....=)
west hollywood/beverly hills - JAR on beverly boulevard - awesome steaks. not too expensive (www.thejar.com)
UCLA - go to diddy reise cookies and get an ice cream sandwhich with all the other students.
Pasadena - Saladang Song for Thai Food
Korean BBQ - I hear Parks BBQ on Vermont Avenue is good (nice to non-koreans =))
Glendale - Porto's Bakery
Sa Rit Gol in Koreatown. Good variety. Cheaper and less variety, Beverly Soon To Fu in Koreatown.
SPlurge a little at Izayoi in Little tokyo for izakay food. Make sure to order from a variety of cooking styles.
Philippe's for French dip sandwiches. I like lamb - ask for double-dipped. Go way retro and get the potato salad and the purple pickled hen's eggs.
Drinks are a nice way to see places that might be out of your budget. The bars at the Bel-Air HOtel, Musso and Frank's in Hollywood, Michael's in santa monica, Cicada or the biltmore or the checkers hotel downtown.
serenata de garibaldi for sunday lunch in east LA or La Parilla on Sunset near Echo Park.
If you ask about silverlake, plenty of folks will chime in.
in westwood, have dinner one evening at shahrzad on westwood (1400 block). Little Tehran. good food.not too expensive.
some other chinese in the area -
yunnan at yun gui on Garfield, one block north ofGarvey, west side of the street
across teh street on garfield, in the mall, giang-nan for huaiyang ("shanghai" food) and jia-wei for real good sichuan. On Garvey, 1/2 block east of Garfield, cafe eight - guilin style rice noodle dishes.
Garfield and valley - MPV Seafood - yue-cai (canton/HK, seafood and other dishes).
If I'm reading the post correctly, this is a 20-something girl who's looking for quality food but I would think would also like a fun/hip atmosphere. With all due respect, the list of the posters is a terrific foodie guide, but if you're looking for more of a hip list (with cute boys), here's my picks.
Cobras & Matadors (2 locations, Los Feliz and L.A.) -- tapas... tres hip
Malo - Mexican tapas... terrific
Dusty's (don't scream and hollar -- she's young). Pretty good food and great, hip vibe. You'll prob see a rock or movie star or 2, if you're into that.
Stella's - SL (more expensive version of Dusty's). French Bistro
Fred 62 - Los Feliz breakfast/brunch/lunch (food is decent, again it's about the "experience" -- featured in many tv/movies)
Hungry Cat -- very expensive seafood. i couldn't afford this place in my 20's. Maybe you can. More of a 30/40 something crowd.
Magnolia -- tres hip.
The Bounty -- bar with good food. reasonably priced! I'd probably go here after a movie at the Arclight (a must if you're a film buff).
Have a great time -- I remember many a trip to NYC in my 20's!
Alhambra is a great place to be: you will be close to tons of great Mexican and Chinese food. Also, it's centrally located, so it would be pretty easy to drive to other restaurants.
Off the top of my head, here are my recommendations:
Dim sum: 888 Sea Food or Sea Harbour (Rosemead)
Cantonese dinner: Elite or Empress Harbor (Monterey Park),
Cantonese/Chiu Chou breakfast/lunch: Kim Ky (San Gabriel)
Cantonese/Chiu Chou dinner: Seafood Village (Temple City)
Hong Kong: Tasty Garden (Arcadia)
Shanghai: Jin Jian (aka J&J) (San Gabriel)
Chinese/Vietnamese seafood: Newport Seafood Tan Cang (San Gabriel)
Chinese/Korean: Dumpling House (Temple City)
Chinese Dumplings: Luscious Dumpling (San Gabriel)
Vietnamese (southern): Pho Superbowl (Alhambra), Golden Deli (San Gabriel)
Vietnamese (central): Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa (Rosemead)
Vietnamese (family style): Phong Dinh (Rosemead)
Vietnamese (sandwiches): Bahn Mi Che Cali (Rosemead)
Ice cream: Fosselmann's (Alhambra)
Check out my restaurant reviews for more info: http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv
Spending time with a friend in Alhambra? Geez - you've hit paydirt! You'll be in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. Tons of posts on various Chinese cuisines as well as other Chow Honor Roll members out that way.
Just off the top of my head - Sea Harbour, Capital, 888 for dim sum; Mei Long Village, J&J or Green Village for Shanghainese/xiao long bao; Fosselman's for ice cream. You can also search under, "San Gabriel Valley," or "Alhambra." You should get a ton of hits. Ipsedixit, Das Ubergeek, Chandavkl and Monkuboy - where are you folks? I need the real experts to step up!
For Thai food in the heart of Thai Town / Hollywood: Jitlada
For Sushi in a little out of the way area of West Los Angeles: Sushi Zo
For Korean BBQ Park Korean BBQ in Korea-town
Sushi Zo is good but Sushi Yasuda in NYC still holds the crown. If you have time then try Zo and be surprised by how much cheaper it is. But otherwise for sheer quality, variety of fish, and attention to detail, Yasuda is still unmatched when it comes to pure nigiri and sushi rice.
Mexican is great as is korean (Beverly Soon Tofu). Easily beats any NYC versions. Chinese goes without saying and you have more than enough suggestions.
I'll throw in AOC which I liked better than Lucques. Spago for the quintessential LA dining experience.
You could make an argument either way for Pizzeria Mozza. The pizza is LA style and the overall product is good, but there are plenty of NY pizzerias with better, chewier crust.
Philippe's is a good suggestion. I like the pork or lamb better than the beef. It's a fun spot for lunch. Lots of character.