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Jan 18, 2008 01:26 PM

Dark, atmospheric, vintage hidden gems

We troll the back streets of LA's suburbs looking for that hidden gem (at least in the way we define it)... Dimly lit, atmospheric bar/restaurants that are off the grid and undiscovered by most. We'll go anywhere from the ocean to Rancho Cucamonga; Chatsworth to Yorba Linda. It doesn't matter. The thrill of the hunt to find a new experience is what fuels us...

Some past finds:

The Dal Rae / Pico Rivera
The Safari Room / Devonshire
La Paloma / La Verne (For the bar)
Parisienne / Duarte
Lowenbrau Keller / Mid City/Downtown
Villa Sombrero / Highland Park (OK, doesn't meet all the criteria, but we like it, nonetheless.)

We don't care if its full of blue hairs, long hairs, just no velvet ropes.
We eat at the finest restaurants, and some of the most questionable.
In other words, we're open...

Does anybody have any suggestions that we may not know of?

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    1. re: Servorg

      What about the Buggy Whip in Westchester by LAX? And the North Woods Inn -- is it out someplace on the north east side of the greater LA area. You have undoubtedly gone to Musso & Frank but what about The Sherman Room in the San Fernando Valley?

      1. re: Servorg

        There are two North Woods Inns. One in San Gabriel and the other in Covina.

        1. re: Velvet Elvis

          Add another location to the list - La Mirada/La Palma off the 5 Fwy.

        2. re: Servorg

          Also Dan Tana's in WeHo and Micelli's in Hollywood and even Taylor's on 8th Street in Koreatown.

          1. re: Servorg

            Adding Taylor's on 8th (?) near downtown. I LOVE the Buggy Whip during stone crab season (now). I don't eat meat so can't vouch for the steaks. The atmosphere is very old school-naugahide (SP), waitstaff (some clearly past their prime but fun) with bowties and a singer/pianist set up in the bar room called Peter that takes requests. Oh and they have oysters!

            1. re: Densible

              imho, at the buggy whip, the rest of the food is meh

              1. re: Densible

                ooo stone crab? steamed with butter?

              2. re: Servorg

                The Sherman Room has got to be one of the diviest places in the Valley, beyond those that are downright scary. The place is small and dark, the food comes in three colors, brown, dark brown and white. No veggies here other than potatoes. But I love it. For what it is, the food is decent, and you feel like you've stepped back to a time when the Valley was all a bunch of new suburbs. Mostly blue collar people sitting in those red booths, eating steak, and washing it back with Miller High Life. The other places listed here are good, but the Sherman Room is pretty unique.

                Sherman Room
                16916 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA 91406

                1. re: writerinla

                  Nice paean to the type of place that is rapidly vanishing from the dining scene in LA. Here is a link to a previous review / thread on Sherman Marching to the Sea (via Van Nuys).


                  1. re: Servorg

                    That's a great post, describes the place well.

                    One thing that gets mentioned is the prices - it's rare (no pun intended) to get a good steak that's under $20 in LA, much less 15.

                    I mostly go there for the bar - the great bloody mary, the martini - the drinks are cheap and strong.

                    You're right, it is the kind of place that's vanishing...

                  2. re: writerinla

                    Well said, and now I am obsessed with going.

                  3. re: Servorg

                    Been to all but the Sherman room, which is a highly appreciated suggestion... I am definitely going within the week (I also saw the description below...)You are certainly on the right path with North Woods in, Steak and Stein, Thanks.

                2. Vito's in Santa Monica? It's not as good as The Dal Rae, where I have just returned from, but it's got a lot of tableside preparation, lots of blue hair, dim lights, and all the other things you associate with a forgotten time.

                  1 Reply
                  1. You might try La Cave in Newport Beach. It's like stepping back to 1955. Traditional continental cuisine, almost pitch dark atmosphere, and live jazz/standards in the evnings. Love the place.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: socaldiner

                      Another old-school Newport Beach restaurant is The Arches. Dimly lit, been there for ages, great old-shool dishes like Lobster Thermidor.
                      May I also suggest Centro Basco in Chino. It's an old Basque restaurant, doesn't look like much from the outside, you go inside and think you're in the year 1960 (at least). Dark, murals on the wall, a great bar. Great Basque food, you can either dine family-style at long tables (Basque style), or in the Dining Room.

                      1. re: aurora50

                        Last time 2 or 3 times I've driven by The Arches, it was surrounded by storm fences, plastic sheeting and other words, CLOSED! I was shocked...I've been going there for about 30 years and it's been threre for about 80. Please somebody post that it's reopened!!!

                        1. re: onedrummer

                          Your lucky day: The owner opened a new place, also called "The Arches," in the old Aubergine space in Cannery Village.

                          1. re: onedrummer

                            they have opened at another site and from what i have read are remodeling the old site. they are included in this week's newport restaurant week too!

                            1. re: justagthing

                              OMG I just read your posts!!! The old Arches -
                              - What happened???? Did it get flooded, damaged, what???
                              Anyone know???

                                1. re: New Trial

                                  Thanks, New Trial. That really blows my mind, the Arches was at that location forever. So the owner just decided to reopen in another, smaller place - ?
                                  And if I'm reading correctly, the Aubergine people are now planning to open in the old Arches place??????

                                  1. re: aurora50

                                    I am dubious whether the Goodalls ever followed through; however, the owner of The Arches has opened a second location, I think where Le Quai used to be, called Arches on the Water:

                                    1. re: New Trial

                                      The Goodell's DID follow though and their place is called A Restaurant (in the old Arches space) I hear it's excellent.

                          2. re: aurora50

                            Centro Basque? Right ON, we'll check it out. That is EXACTLY what I wanted to find out through this posting

                            1. re: popeyejackson

                              Great! Let me know when you've gone, I'd like to know how you liked it!!

                          3. re: socaldiner

                            The Alley on PCH & Balboa is another great red leather booth place. The barkeeps rock. Fun local place without all the plastic surgery victims you usually find in the OC.

                            1. Colombo's on Colorado in Eagle Rock

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: martyR

                                Have to agree here. Great Live Jazz and Salsa. Old school Martini's and my Fav. Burger in town. Other good things, the calamari and the rolled lasanga

                              2. Kelly's on 2nd Street in Naples (Long Beach). Red naughahyde booths and the whole 60's feel. A step back in time.