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Visiting for the first time

  • r

We're visiting family in LA in January and it'll my first time in LA. I'm mostly looking for well priced (aka cheap under $50 for two w/out alcohol) food. My wife doesn't really like Asian and she doesn't like Sushi. Unfortunately I really like both. She likes pretty much anything else, especially Indian, Mexican, and pizza. Maybe there is some street food where we both can find some things we like? I'm from Pittsburgh and there isn't a lot of good sushi out here so I would like to try at least one good sushi place on my vist. We really enjoy finding all the good chowing ethnic places in a city and don't usually do fine dining. A great bakery for several morning breakfast visits would be great, as would a place just for some good desserts. We'll have a car and GPS navigation and don't mind driving. Also, is my anticipated budge of under $50 for two per meal a good price point or does it need to be higher?

I did a search before I posted but couldn't find much.


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  1. Los Angeles is spread out and HUGE. Even if you have a car, you will not want to drive far for breakfast or even dinner (rush hours last forever). You probably want to plan your excursions for lunch -- easier traffic. So whereabouts will you be staying?

    2 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      We'll be staying very near Hollywood.

      1. re: Rick

        In 'n' Out burger fer sure.

        I'd say a lunch at Philppe's is in order... supposed home of the french dip, a broad menu and unique scene make it a 'hound must when in LA.

    2. Here's a list of restaurants that you can eat for under $25 pp as per Michelin Guide. It's not comprehensive at all, but a good reference.


      1. Being "very near Hollywood" these would be some suggestions:

        Langer's Deli -- Alvarado at Seventh (caddy-corner from MacArthur Park, parking lot a block east). Many say this is the best pastrami on rye in the country. Not a mile-high piled sandwich, but succulent and perfect in its way. Supplement with a bowl of matzoh ball soup or an order of well-done fries.

        Carnitas Michaocan -- North Broadway at 19th (above Chinatown) -- take Sunset all the way into downtown then left on Broadway, north thru Chinatown til 19th -- Bandini's "The Great Taco Hunt" blog gave them the top rating a year ago. A covered patio where you order at one window and pick up at the other. Good carne asada, great al pastor from a rotisserie, and the best complex hot smoky wonderful salsa roja anywhere. Fill up on tacos and burritos and quesadillas and special nachos with quac and meat and bring a lot home. Beats the hell out of any sitdown Mexican in town at dirtcheap prices.

        You are very close to the original Tommy's Burger on Rampart and Alvarado for a chili-cheeseburger. You can also find an In-and-Out Burger on Sunset for a double-double (if you must order fries, get them well-done).

        A terrible tragedy that you may not have company to eat Asian. The best Chinese is further east, but Hollywood is Thai-town. Will your wife join you at Palm Thai on Hollywood Blvd. to see the Thai Elvis while you scarf some great food? Can you get anyone to join you at Jitlada?

        enough for now... best wishes and good luck

        1. Yuca's Hut for one thing -- the cochinita pibil in either taco or burrito format.

          2056 N. Hillhurst Ave.
          Los Angeles, CA
          323 662 1214

          1. It's certainly not the best sushi (even remotely) in the city, but if you want to have some sushi/Japanese and still have something for your wife to eat, try Katana on Sunset. It's "robata" style so they have plenty of cooked/BBQ foods.

            4 Replies
            1. re: soccerandlost

              I might be able to get her to do dim sum. What are some of the best dim sum places in town?

              1. re: Rick

                For dim sum go to Sea Harbour in Rosemead.

                1. re: Rick

                  There is, of course, disagreement and controversy on these boards re dim sum. I have always enjoyed the dim sum at the Empress Pavilion, at the north end of Chinatown, though lots of folks hold out for places in Monterey Park. One of the reasons I like the Empress is that it's big and crowded, and always reminds me of being in Hong Kong. They open at 10 every day (I think) for dim sum, and if you get there before 11 you probably won't have to wait; if you get there at noon, on the other hand, you might have to wait for 45 minutes. On the other hand, my experience has been that you'll have a bigger choice if you get there later. But if it's just you and the missus, there will be plenty of choice no matter when you come in, i.e., two of you won't possibly be able to have everything offered and so you will have good stuff in any event. And of course the great thing about dim sum is that the two of you will eat and eat and eat and eat, and after the meal it will look as if World War III took place on your table -- and the bill will be $22. Maybe less.

                  1. re: Rick

                    You know, I really envy you -- coming to Los Angeles for a first visit and being attuned to eating all kinds of stuff. L.A. is probably THE best city in the world for somebody with eclectic taste. Have a ball!!!

                2. For breakfast, Nate'n Als in Beverly Hills, go early and catch Larry King, and one of the Little Rascles, Jackie Cooper, great grub. The Bacon and Hash Browns, world class.

                  1. Don't go to Pinks, it stinks

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: drsmoke

                      Amen! But Skooby's on Hollywood Boulevard rocks. In fact, it's one of the best alternatives when scoping out the Chinese Theater/Walk of Fame area.

                    2. Great bakery? In L.A.? Does your GPS lead you to an alternate universe where such places exist? Seriously, this is the land where bakeries are few and far between, at least for a place this size, it seems. Even when such good bakeries exist, like Boule, they have a tendency to open at 10:00 A.M. They certainly don't live in Hollywood. There is the fantastic - and fantastically expensive - Breadbar on Third Street, which serves up some of the best croissants and breads and light breakfasts in a bakery setting in the city, but it's in one of the most frighteningly traffic-clogged sections of the city. If the baked goods alone will sate you, I'd recommend going instead to Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction, which serves Breadbar's pastries along with what might be the best latte in town.


                      I passed the LA Mill coffeehouse on Silver Lake yesterday, and it's still not open yet, but it's should be open when you arrive. They will have pastries and food in a menu devised by the chefs from Providence. As you'll be in the Hollywood area, I'd say this is another good bakeryesque option:


                      Be wary of breakfasts in Silver Lake otherwise. Mile for mile, it is home to more crappy diners than any other part of L.A. No matter how homey and inviting it looks, and no matter how many hip young folks in ironic t-shirts who are inexplicably not at work at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning are sitting there having breakfast, don't be tempted. It's still crappy.

                      Susina Bakery at Beverly and La Brea also serves great breakfasts and has beautiful pastries. The interior is decorated in a beautiful art nouveau style, is very comfortable, and they have a very nice staff, unlike another infamous L.A. bakery that shall remain nameless. *Cough* Sweet Lady Jane *Cough*


                      The recommendation for dim sum is a great one. Many of the items one can find are appealing to diners who wouldn't enjoy sitting down to a plate of stir-fried such-and-such. Moreover, it's a great experience if you've never had it to go to one of the enormous cart service rooms, especially on a weekend morning. When I brought my family out, it was the hit of their visit. I took them to Empress Pavilion, the bête noire of Chowhound, last time because I was also taking them to Chinatown. They loved it. The one advantage to Empress Pavilion is that it's, well, in Chinatown if you want to see it. Otherwise, someplace like Ocean Star would fit the bill well. Timewise, it's not much more of a drive.

                      A lot of bad things are written about Empress Pavilion here. I think much of it reaches into hyperbole. If you decide to go the Chinatown route over SGV, don't feel bad.


                      There's a lot of good Mexican food in the city, but just as Texas excels at, well, its Tex-Mex dishes, California excels at burritos. You just don't find better burritos anywhere else. (I wonder if my fellow Angelenos realize this?) If you like Mexican, you should get a really good burrito, and the best burrito argument is as lengthy as the best burger argument. So it might be best to cut to the two frontrunners: Yuca's in Los Feliz (which won a James Beard Award, by the way) and El Tepeyac in Boyle Heights.


                      And speaking of burgers, L.A. has the best burgers in America. You read that right: L.A. has the best burgers in America. Not only do we have In-N-Out - which, despite its speedy-sounding name, has to be the slowest fast food chain ever - but also Fatburger and Tommy's. I'd recommend doing a search on "best burger" on the L.A. board and seeing the results that come up. It's a very passionate subject.

                      Indian? Meh. The Indian food in the part of L.A. you'll be in isn't that great. The one place I enjoy is Paru's on Sunset, which is vegetarian and features a some Southern Indian dishes. But the good stuff's out in Artesia.


                      It's a shame you can't get out and explore the Thai food in that part of town. Not only does it fit into your budget, it's also a real star in L.A.'s dining landscape. Or Korean barbecue, another treat in the city that's rare other places.

                      As for pizza, Angelenos often lament the lack of good pizza. Or they're constantly hunting out New York-style pizza. Of course, I see no sense in coming from the East Coast to eat East Coast food. It would be like flying from L.A. to New York to eat at CPK. Oh, and please, for the love of God, don't eat at CPK! It's quite literally the same damn pizza as you'd buy in the freezer case at the grocery store. One pizzeria with a loyal following in Eagle Rock is Casa Bianca. I can't address it directly as I have yet to get there, though it does have long waits at peak times. It's an old-school place that has its share of devotees and detractors, but it may be worth checking out. One place for a uniquely L.A. pizza experience that would require some elasticity of budget - and a reservation - is Pizzeria Mozza. This is bleeding into the fine dining range, although there's no dress code or anything involved, just more money. But man, are those pizzas good, well worth bumping up the $50 price tag for one meal.


                      And for dessert, take a drive to Scoops in east Hollywood for what has to be the best ice cream in town. Ice cream in January? Why not? It's L.A. The weather will probably be on your side, so take advantage. If you get to Beverly Hills, visit Paulette for her delicious French macarons, or, if you're in Venice, stop into the lovely garden at Jin Pâtisserie for their delightful French pastries infused with Asian flavors.


                      Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant
                      145 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 201, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                      5140 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                      Pizzeria Mozza
                      6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

                      2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                      Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
                      3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                      712 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90029

                      Casa Bianca Pizza Pie
                      1650 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041

                      Susina Bakery & Cafe
                      7122 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                      8718 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                      Jin Patisserie
                      1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                      Paulette Macarons
                      9466 Charleville Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

                      El Tepeyac Cafe
                      812 N Evergreen Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                      Empress Pavilion Restaurant
                      988 N Hill St # 201, Los Angeles, CA

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Woolsey

                        A few more:

                        One other L.A. institution I'm always taking my out-of-town guests to - it's not a Chowhound darling, but it's always a huge hit with them - is Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles. It's not as good as it once was; it seems that once anything gets on national television, it's never as good as it once was. Still, it's good fried chicken and excellent cinnamony waffles. The original hole-in-the-wall location on Gower, with its quirky rec room vibe is a unique experience. Chris Tucker's character got himself killed over Roscoe's in the film "Jackie Brown," it's can be that tempting. In fact, my Southern family seems to love Roscoe's more than the Southern food they can get back home:


                        Los Angeles is home to the most Louisiana emigrants in America, or at least it was until before Hurrican Katrina, and as such, it has some of the best Creole food in the nation outside of Louisiana. The best of them is probably Harold & Belle's on the northern edge of South Central. A pool hall that served red beans and rice and just kept expanding, they have some of the best, most authentic Louisiana cooking around. The prices are not cheap, really, but for the $20+ for an entrée, one gets a mountain of food, something that's easy to share. Again, it's a stretch of the budget, but it's something pretty unique to the city (unless you're going to New Orleans sometime soon). There are more such restaurants around. A board search can lead you to other recommendations. Just avoid the wretched Gumbo Pot in the Farmer's Market. It's not authentic at all.

                        And I second the excellent recommendations for Phillipe's and Langer's.


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

                        Langer's Delicatessen
                        704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

                        Harold & Belle's Restaurant
                        2920 W Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018

                        Roscoe's House of Chicken
                        1518 N Gower St, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                        1. re: Woolsey

                          Sure, Phillippe's has historic interest and the sawdust on the floor, lines, and communal tables have oldtime atmosphere. But coming from Pittsburgh, home of the stuff everything into a monster sandwich, I predict that you will feel ripped off by the measly few slices of beef (or better - pork or lamb) on the fist-sized rolls dipped into the jus at Phillippe's. Even two of them won't fill me up for a hungry lunch. Combine with a scoop of potato salad or cole slaw and their good lemonade, and you now have an expensive sandwich meal.

                          FAR better to stop in at Langer's and try the perfect pastrami on rye.

                          1. re: nosh

                            I agree that the Philippe's sandwich is a bit on the petite size, but the French dip is also one of those dishes that is uniquely L.A. Moreover, it's good to keep in mind if they're visiting nearby Olvera Street, which has very few, if any, notable dining options.

                            I also agree that I'd go to Langer's over Philippe's, but there's nothing worth seeing over there.

                            1. re: nosh

                              Yes, go to Langers but be sure to order the pastrami "hand cut."

                            2. re: Woolsey

                              Well, if you can get to Surya - there's some decent Indian food to be had. http://www.surya-india.com/
                              There's also a little cheaper but good Indian food at India's Oven on Beverly Blvd. just west of La Brea Ave.

                              I beg to differ with Woolsey regarding Paru's - the food is too home style and not very good at that. We're from India and so might be a little biased. The atmosphere is a little too new-agey for me but if you can get over that, the service is warm and hospitable.

                          2. As with all first time visitors, I recommend you go to the 3rd Street Farmer's Market. It's got plenty of street food to pique all interests, and it's wedged in between two fantastic restaurant streets (3rd and Beverly).

                            For pizza, I'll recommend either Vito's on La Cienega or Village Pizzeria in Larchmont. Both are pretty equi-distant from Hollywood.

                            For Mexican, I like the taco stand Cactus Taqueria near the corner of Vine and Willougby. Otherwise, you'll do fine going to the Loteria Grill in the 3rd Street Farmer's Market.

                            For Sushi, there's Sushi Ike in Hollywood and Hirozen on Beverly. Both are very good.

                            For a great bakery, in addition to the likely rec of Susina and Milk, I'll also throw out Doughboys since it's a great breakfast place also. Their red velvet cake was chosen by Oprah as the best in the country, but I actually prefer their hummingbird cake instead.

                            I believe you when you say that you did a search, but in all likelihood, you weren't sure what you're looking for. Using Hollywood or near-Hollywood as a center point will cast a w-i-d-e net.

                            I don't think there's any really noteworthy Indian places, but perhaps your wife will enjoy Persian and Thai, both of which are in close proximity to Hollywood (and as was previously noted, Thai Town is *in* Hollywood). The current darling of the board is Jitlada Thai, but I'll send first timers to Ruen Pair to help them get their bearings, as I know many Angelenos that are perfectly comfortable ordering panang curry and pad thai noodles.

                            Ike Sushi
                            6051 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                            Village Pizzeria
                            131 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

                            Vito's Pizza
                            846 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                            8385 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                            Doughboys Bakery
                            1156 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

                            Farmers Market
                            6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                            950 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038

                            1. L.A. must-eats...

                              As previously mentioned...
                              In-n-Out Burger (yes, get fries well-done)
                              El Tepeyac (Mexican)
                              Phillippe's (as mentioned)

                              Add other LA institutions...
                              The Original Pantry near Downtown (diner food)
                              Micelli's on Ventura Blvd (in the Valley, Italian)

                              I'm sure there are others... I need more coffee to think straight.

                              Buy a copy of the LA Zagat Guide, or subscribe on-line if you're carrying a laptop. Fairly reliable ratings of local restaurants.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: FoodWineTravel

                                I'd recommend the original Miceli's on Las Palmas just around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard instead of the Universal City location. It's more scenic, more romantic, more convenient, more historic, and just overall better suited to out-of-town visitors. They've got the Walk of Fame right outside the door, and it's convenient for one of the famous martinis at Musso and Frank's.

                                The Universal City location is convenient for meal near Universal Studios - there's no good dining at CityWalk - but then the Hollywood location is pretty close to there, too.


                                1. re: Woolsey

                                  I ate at Miceli's once -- about 4 years ago -- and it was easily the worst Italian food I've EVER had.

                                2. re: FoodWineTravel

                                  You know, they might have some history or other interest, but the food at most of the above places is below average...

                                  If you don't mind traveling to West LA I think Nizam does a great cheap Indian lunch buffet..way less than $10 pp. Not sure if they have it on weekends, though.

                                  Downtown Los Angeles, if you decide to visit (you'll need to factor in pay for parking or take the Red Line from Hollywood). There's a newish pizza place, Pitfire Pizza, near City Hall that is pretty good. It's quite close to Little Tokyo so you maybe you can get some sushi to go.

                                  Empress Pavilion or CBS Seafood are fine in Downtown LA for dim sum. Go around 11:30 am.

                                  If you're downtown, Olvera Street actually has a cheap place worth visiting, Luz del Dia, for things like the carnitas tacos. Even the Golondrina Cafe is good. If you go to the Farmer's Market, Loteria is good although a bit overpriced. But you still won't spend $50.

                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    Thanks everyone! The website links and the addresses are especially useful for a visitor trying to plan a trip. I showed my wife this thread and she said she'll try some Thai food since it's supposed to be so good here. We've been to Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and she thought it was OK (I loved it), so I'll probably only get one shot at Thai on my visit. So is Jitlada the place to go?

                                    1. re: Rick

                                      The whole "Best Thai in L.A." discussion could go on endlessly. Jitlada is popular right now because they've introduced a menu serving rare specialties from Southern Thailand and were written up by a food critic with an almost cultish following here. Other restaurants with their own cheering sections include Sanamluang, Sapp Coffee Shop (for the beef boat noodles), Saladang Song, and Torung. I'd recommend doing another "best Thai" search on the L.A. board for research.

                                      Below is the review that helped along the big Jitlada craze:


                                  2. re: FoodWineTravel

                                    Not the Pantry! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Yes, it is an L.A. institution, but geez, is it terrible (except for the cole slaw), and WAY too expensive in light of how lousy the food is.

                                    If you want an L.A. institution, and one where the food is decent, go to Musso & Frank on Hollywood Blvd. Sit in the room where the grill is, order a martini, and think about seeing Raymond Chandler or Clark Gable at the next table.

                                  3. I would suggest the Griddle Cafe on Sunset Blvd & Fairfax in West Hollywood. Perfect if you're in the mood for a hearty breakfast.

                                    1. From Hollywood, you can easily get to Cafe Verona, a nice breakfast/lunch place (they close at 5 or 6 p.m.) on 2nd & La Brea. Really wonderful frittatas, French toast & polenta, and for lunch, tasty panini & salads. There's a small lot out back where you can park free; there's also free street parking for 2 hours on the side streets that parallel La Brea. You asked about bakeries, and from Cafe Verona you can walk a few blocks south to La Brea Bakery and sniff out some options. It's small, and stuff tends to go pretty quickly.

                                      1. If it's not too far, you might want to check out Monte Alban, on Santa Monica Blvd. between Barrington and Bundy in west LA. It's a very, very good Oaxacan restaurant -- Oaxaca being a state of Mexico, known for its complex moles -- and easily meets your budget and "likes pretty much anything else, especially ... Mexican" criteria. If you decide you don't want a mole dish, I strongly recommend the barbacoa de chiva -- a big chunk of delicious, mild goat in a complex, dense, red-but-not-spicy-hot broth.

                                        1. One more tip. If you get good January weather (clear and crisp, as is often the case), park near the central library downtown on 5th St., go across the street and walk up the so-called "Spanish Steps." Go through the bank building on the right into the California Plaza, enjoy the fountains there, then walk down the steps on the other side -- next to the Angels Flight tracks (too bad Angels Flight is still not running ... oh well). Cross the street, go into Grand Central Market, and have lunch at one of the great food stalls inside. Browse around for while, then leave the market on the other (east) side, onto Broadway. You have now magically zipped from 21st-centuryLos Angeles to 20th-century Mexico City. Turn right (south) and walk along Brpadway to 5th St. Turn right on 5th, walk a block, cross, the street and stroll through the lobbies of the Biltmore Hotel. Exit the hotel onto 5th and continue west back to the library. This is a terrific walking tour for tourists and residents alike, and gives a great idea of what a sprawling, diverse, and rich (in every way) city Los Angeles is.

                                          1. Defintely go to El Tepyac, closed on Tuesdays, great machaca. Also go to Farmers Market, you and your wife can get different foods, but stop by Little Johns and get their fresh english toffee. Definitley go to the beach and walk around. Maybe you can get your wife to go for korean bbq, grill yourself and the beef is great. Love Soot Bull Jeep, but wear old clothes real charcoal.