Venice/MDR Cheap &/Or Unique Eats
My family is visiting this coming weekend (Thur through Tue). We'll probably grill out a few nights, but I'm looking for recommendations. Here are some of the parameters we're looking to have accomplished. Don't need to address all the points, but the more the better.
1. Venice, MDR and Santa Monica
2. Cheap eats
3. Ethnice (Mexican to French to Indian and Korean - and everything else)
4. Great food (of course)
My partner and I just moved from Chicago - so we're trying to build up a stable of restaurants to go by ourselves and also take friends and family.
In the last few weeks, we've eaten at:
- Abbot Kinney Pizza Company
- Alejo's Trattoria
- Hana Sushi
- La Cabana
- In and Out (by Costco in Culver City)
We're living on the walk streets in Venice and so would definitely prefer places that we can walk to or a short drive (don't want to drink and drive!)
Any thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated!
I have been here from NYC. I find the restaurant scene generally lacking. Where in NYC you can find those restaurants with a danny meyer influence. Professional waiters, service staff who will actually not reach across a diner. Here I find for the most part, posers as waiters and they are wondering what they are doing serving me. I ask for a new table immediately. or I leave. I liked the gorbals, the tasting kitchen, in and out is ok, but I want to rename it yes no burger so only transplants will go to it, as the lines are too long. the pizza is well horrible. it has to be bad water and bad air. bagels forget about it. bread right behind the bagels although I do like those pretzel rolls. China Beach is good. None of the korean truck guys can hold a candle to David Chang from Momofuko. The best bread I have found at the beverly hills cheese shop or at Guidi
Marcello, which has everything from italy, also has good bread. I find most products from the numerous farmers markets good. The sushi place on washington Kufuni is ok. Better yet at downtown japanese village. chinese food is poor, must go to montery park, san sabriel or torrance area. Joanies Coffe is good as is that place on the Beach which serves Blue Bottle. I do miss equator books. im still looking for those places where grandma, or her clone, is cooking in the kitchen, i dont care about the decor, i dont want waitresses who introduce themselves, i just want good honest food made from real ingredients, so i do more cooking today. Don't mind me I'm thinking of doing a restarurant column called, I don't have to do that again"
1649 10th St, Santa Monica, CA
Stop trying to re-create NYC in LA. You're doomed to disappointment. Take each city as it's own and enjoy what it has to offer. In LA, that means great japanese, great Mexican, great Chinese, great Thai, great farmers markets, etc. It does not mean great service, great pizza, great bagels, etc., so I'd suggest stopping your futile search for those things.
Glutton - agree. Every city is different!
I can't get the stellar mexican or thai food I am used to at the drop of a hat in NYC - but no big. NYC has other fab things. As LA has other fab things then NYC.
Oh and for good chinese "must go to Monterey Park?" How about - Monterey Park - YAY! The scope of food there is simply amazing, and I love that I can get a multi course live alaskan crab dinner - or a stunning $2.25 bahn mi.
Has our NYC friend tried Lucques? One of the best examples of California cuisine, beautifully done.
And if you want food that a grandma cooks? Well, then you have to leave the westside. Not snippiness, it's just what high rents do. Try the mid-city, try the east side. Try (gasp!) the valley.
I totally get that great food is a heartfelt desire. But if you want a specific type of great food, you may need to broaden your milage. Then nirvana might just be yours!
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
As much as I sympathize with you for all the shortcomings that LA and the Westside have (I'm a multi-generation native Westside Angeleno - maybe a dozen or so of us left in the Westside?), I was born into all the miseries that the Westside dishes out so I just don't know better I guess.
Who's Danny Meyer? He obviously has no influence here - he's a son of St. Louis who decided to make his mark in your home town - I can hear Sinatra singing, "New York, New York." So I have to wonder if he can make it there, why can't he take the call of Horace Greely and Go West? Probably because he likes, no loves New York. He and New York are a perfect fit. I think Mr. Meyer would not find LA to be such a good fit at all.
Personally, I think it's an issue of styles clashing. Mind you, I apologize for my naive conjecture as I've never been to your home town, but here's a knucklehead's perspective. New York is New York, and well, LA is not New York. New York is a hulking metropolis with centuries of culture-building primarily influenced by Europe. New York is a big-shouldered vertical mass - it has big bones that stay put. No one can substantially change much of anything in New York barring a major calamity (I mean no disrespect but a disaster like 9/11 comes to mind). Even New York's arteries are clean and clear (okay, maybe not so clean but New Yorkers are pros at turning a blind eye to cosmetic transgressions) - predictable and reliable public transportation. And because aside from what amounts to a social manicure here, or a cultural pedicure there, I think the rhythm of life in New York follows a much more predictable pattern like the four seasons.
Los Angeles has big wide hips. And hips that shake. LA has had a somewhat uneasy relationship with stability and predictability, and from most outsider's perspectives, we have no seasons. I recall a comedian from the Midwest quipping about this where his only clue to the changing seasons in LA were by noticing the billboards advertising Christmas goods. We have a difficult time pacing ourselves as our weather in general is one long continuum. Getting ready for an LA winter for most is remembering where they left their sweater. It's as if we build, build some more, stand back and let it set in, figure out that it doesn't work there, tear it down, and build something else that does work - for a while. Nip and tuck or major reconstructive surgery -it is in our blood. And this whole process is repeated endlessly. Earthquakes, traffic, sprawl, enormous population growth and iterating sections of this collection of towns over and over again. We also have to work at figuring out what foods actually are in season. Where in your fair town many local fruits and vegetables would be considered seasonal items, they are present year round in the local farmer's markets. Poor us, because as wonderful as that may seem, we have to remember what actually is best at what time of the year, and know when to pass on certain things otherwise (lookin' at you, white-shouldered strawberries).
Our recent cultural influences were primarily from from those who did take the call of Mr. Greely - migrants from the East Coast, the South, and the Midwest - particularly after WWII and the various recessions since then. For many of the same reasons that drove those whose stories culminating in The Grapes of Wrath have driven migration to LA over and over again. Many immigrants from war-torn lands arrived at this time as well, but were socially subjected to the backwaters of LA - white was right and was de facto law. The Spanish and Mexican influence which took place long before the mad post-war rushes still is with us today. Former ranchos, the mission and their connecting routes and the plazas laid the basis for what are now many of our towns and roads connecting them. But as fate would have it (and Mr. Mulholland's huge water grab), LA was never confined by the edges of an island. Subsequent waves if immigration from Asia, Latin America and the broad "Middle East," have brought a deeper and richer landscape to this town (IMHO) but with more people comes even more growing pains that not one politician has the ability or guts to deal with in any pragmatic fashion.
LA is too geographically enormous and disconnected to have one center, and because there really has been no one central mass in LA, Westsiders depend on structural and social satellites like Abbot Kinney in Venice, Main Street and 3rd Street in Santa Monica, Downtown Culver City, and to a much lesser extent (for now) Westwood Village and Century City. Yes, there is a revival going on in Downtown LA, but Westsiders will probably always view this as an occasional curiosity unless (and hopefully soon) the public transportation system is truly addressed throughout ALL of metropolitan LA.
I apologize for running on and on, but I guess I have to impress upon you (and any other New York transplants with similar notions) that as little as I know about New York, I have a pretty strong sense of my view here in the Westside. The waiters that you bemoan are mostly immigrants from east of our Sierras - your fair city included. Many ARE posers - they are aspiring fill-in-the-blanks. Waiting is a way to make ends meet for them - that's it - no aspirations of being true professionals at this humble yet noble practice. I find that the most competent professional waitstaff that I've been exposed to are either sweet old ladies in coffee shops and diners (they are literally a dying breed), or the Latino or Asian immigrants who actually do this as a profession, or at least find it a cultural imperative to treat others with respect. I think because the dining culture here in LA (as opposed to eating) is so shallow relative to New York, that there really isn't a huge demand for well-mannered properly-addressing waitstaff. If a poorly dressed punk like me can walk into most restaurants in the Westside without even a visual dressdown by the staff, I think we can check off stylish dining as a relative weakness here. Even the restaurant owners dress casual (have you ever seen Fran at Gjelina dressed up?). We have places with great food, but a very very casual vibe - it's the Westside of LA - not New York.
I have a theory about why folks in New York tend to dress up far more than in LA. In New York, your person - your body - and what you where is your billboard, your facade, your image. Because New York is a very public place, whether in the subways, walking downtown, etc., one's sphere of privacy is very limited and projecting who you are is standard. LA is the exact opposite. We consider visual privacy and elbow room to be a given - it is one of the things that drives our sparwl. We also drive cars - those are our image-makers. We wear our cars. We project who we are by what (and unfortunately how) we drive. Our casualness is more like our underwear. Who needs uncomfortable undies?
As for addressing other weaknesses in the Westside food scene, I'd have to say that if you're comparing NY with LA, I've tried to politely lay out in miserably long detail that LA is not NY. I know some believe that bread is far inferior in LA because there are no highly skilled bakers here. I think like you that chemistry has a strong hand in this, but also like to believe that the notion of the difference in chemistry doesn't so much produce badder bread but different bread. We have good bread here - good LA bread which is not good NY bread. I love the various breads at Bay Cities, Le Pain Du Jour, Huckleberry, La Maison Du Pain, 3 Square and Amandine. And if you expand your notion of bread, drop by any local panaderia, Chinese, Japanese, Armenian or Persian bakery. The breads they offer are specific to their ethnic desires of good bread, and they are good in their own way.
Certain ethnic cuisines are well-represented (Japanese, Mexican, Persian, Middle Eastern), while others are sorely shy (great Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean). Much of this has to do with the corresponding ethnic populations who would support their cultural eateries, while others just come down to the bottom line. And that is why we have Koreatown, Thai Town, Little Aremenia, Glendale, the San Gabriel Valley, et al. Where New York may have certain blocks that are made up by a certain culture, we have whole sections of cities, we have whole towns, and God we have whole valleys that are immersed in specific cultures. And if Kifune (plz not Kufuni) is the best you can do for sushi, please try Mori, Sushi Zo and Kiriko for comparison. A lengthy and torturous trip down the 10 to J-Town is not needed. Momofuku (again plz not Momofuko) is a different concept in a different place - New York. Kogi is the original food truck that created a whole new industry niche, and the wanna-be clones really need a thing or two or three to learn about capitalizing on one's image, quality and gestalt. I don't think Roy Choi ever mentioned that he was Momofuku-izing Asian cuisine. This is his own deal. I feel he continues to create multiple iterations of what he began with. I think David Chang's approach is more subtle and refined, while Roy's approach is more brash, bold and pan-Pacific. Is Andres Segovia "better" than Angus McKinnon? I'd be ignorant to make that call.
Coffee in the Westside has made leaps and bounds over the past few years. I too miss Equator, but those that are filling the ilk of Intelligentsia and Funnel Mill have vastly improved the offerings. Remember - LA is a continuously evolving place.
>>im still looking for those places where grandma, or her clone, is cooking in the kitchen, i dont care about the decor, i dont want waitresses who introduce themselves, i just want good honest food made from real ingredients, so i do more cooking today.<<
Nostalgia is wonderful and if that's what you're craving, then there's no place like home.
9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034
11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA 90064
La Maison Du Pain
5373 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
Le Pain Du Jour
828 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
3 Square Cafe
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
930 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA
405 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
Main Street Cafe
12939 Main St, Garden Grove, CA 92840
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
What a lyrical homage to your fair city. I have found it is not true that "everyone is from somewhere else" here. In fact, those I have most liked over the years, now, have been "from here". I think some of this has to do with as you say, honoring what is this place and not looking to recreate somewhere else here. Chicagoans don't go to NYC looking for Chicago, for example; it's incumbant upon you to figure out what Rome is when you're there (so to speak).
Good luck exploring authentically!
Uh, Chang's restaurant group is called "Momofuku." And I assume you're talking about Momofuku-ko. Unfortunately, L.A. won't support a restaurant designed around 3-hour $175 prix fixe meals other than one or two ultra-luxe sushi or Japanese specialty places. We just don't have the geographic or the demographic concentration of an NYC. Dave Chang is kicking ass – he's a god. But I don't think it's valid to compare what he's doing to something Roy Choi cooks up in a taco truck.
There's world-class innovative talent cooking in L.A. Right now. But those chefs will never see the same kind of platform available to chefs in NYC – or Chicago or even San Francisco. So they have to adapt and find different concepts in order to survive in this market. Sometimes – a lot of the time – the attempt is cringe-inducing. But it it forces risk-taking and that makes L.A. one of the most dynamic food scenes in the world.
Born and raised on the westside.
26 Beach Cafe makes a great burger, chicken breast sammie and wonderful salads. I used to work across the street from their original location and I mainly ate lunch there maybe 3-4 times a week. Hinano's makes a decent burger if you like In-n-Out burgers, 26 Beach burgers are far more upscale. C&O was my breakfast go to place so I can't comment on dinner there. Kifune's was my favorite sushi bar, but this was where I'd eat dinner 3-5 times a week there so the sushi chefs knew exactly how I wanted my dishes prepared. Kifune also has good value Japanese lunches for teriyaki or tempura or combo dishes. Alejo's shrimp diablo was my fav pasta dish. Siamese Garden was my go to place for a romantic date place. Inside they had a couple of booths that you could close a curtain to give your table a sense of privacy.
I moved out of the MdR area about 10 years ago, so things could have changed at the above restaurants. At Kifune's, I used to spend so much money ($2-3k/mo) there, when I'd go tuna fishing in Mexico, when I'd return, I'd throw a sushi party at Kifune's using the fish I caught using the bluefin, yellowfin, albacore, yellowtail and dorado I brought home and they would not charge me for the fish I caught and we'd still run up bills of many hundreds of dollars for an evening. 10 years later, I inquired about throwing another party there, but the owner didn't remember me, nor the head sushi chef and they refused...
3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292
15 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
301 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
405 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
On Abbot Kinney:
Gjelina - Simple American/European fare - Go at 5:30PM limited menu or at 6PM for full menu to see if you can get seated without a reservation.
Three Square Cafe - Simple German inspired casual eatery.
Lemonade - can be hit or miss - but a cafeteria diner place good for cheap casual quick eats. Their banana layer cake is amazing.
AXE (not open now, but rumored to never open) - simple organic California food - delish.
Near or on Rose Ave:
Venice Beach Wines - cute wine bar with light eats.
La Isla Bonita Taco Truck - usually in front of Storage Place on Rose. Cheap fast easy taco truck - try ceviche. Their tacos come with Pinto Beans.
Sauce on Hampton - local everyday hangout - good straightforward food.
Venice Beach Wines
529 Rose Ave, Venice, CA 90291
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA
Sauce On Hampton
259 Hampton Dr, Venice, CA 90291
Keep in mind that the taco truck mentioned above (La Isla Bonita) is parked there during the day. It's great. If it's nighttime, then you need to check out La Oaxaquena, which parks on Lincoln, just south of Rose. or you could go to La Playita at any hour for their ceviche.
On a tuesday night last week, we were able to be seated at Gjelina without a reservation after waiting for 20 minutes. We arrived at 7:15, so it was peak time. The food was excellent. It's one of those places that has such a cool interior and all the waiters are so cool that you want to just hate the place. But the food is so good, the service competent, and the space so beautiful that you just can't hate it. Even me.
3306 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA
1234 Lomita Blvd, Harbor City, CA 90710
for mexican from the oaxacan region, i like monte alban on santa monica. it's very inexpensive, but delicious.
in mdr, i have had very nice sunday brunches at cafe del rey. i think sunday brunch is probably the meal that they do the best. (and it's always enjoyable to dine with a waterfront view.)
for amazing espresso drinks, check out caffe luxxe on montana in santa montana. their coffees come out perfect every time.
11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Cafe Del Rey
4451 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
925 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
beechwood (bar only - the restaurant is strange)
axe - abbot kinney
joe's - abbot kinney
hal's bar - abbot kinney
akbar on washington
baby blues bbq
pam's place on venice for v. good thai
c&o is disgusting - huge portions of food that tastes like nothing but garlic and cheap olive oil.
it's a wasteland IMO, but the marriot's new bar is actually really nice and has pretty good food.
ye old kings head bar on santa moinca near ocean has some tasty food (lamb samosas in particular) - english pub
musha on wilshire - japanese fusion-ish. it's v. good.
chinois on main (expensive) - wolfgang puck
drago on wilshire - italian
chez jay on ocean - italian
I soured on Hal's a year or so ago, as well. I found the live music nice, but the food was pretty ho-hum and the bar scene seemed to be the restaurant's priority. And it's a pretty creepy bar scene, frankly.
the other Abbot Kinney options -- Joe's, Lilly's, Axe, etc. -- are all far superior. And I had dinner at Beechwood last night and it was really good, as usual. I wish it got more mention on this board.
yeah - food was not so good. burger was v. tasty. "hal's fries" were fine - but i don't know what was different about these fries. i had the hal's pizza (mushroom & too much truffle oil): eh. dough had a pastry element to it and the topping was ok - but a bit too much truffle oil. caesar salad tasted like it was simply heavily coated in mayo even though they had an anchovy on top. really just disgusting.
service was terrible. they would not let us sub. onion rings for fries (even offering to pay) and i asked them not to actually split the salad and it came out split. waiter kindly offered my so a second drink, but didn't even look at me for an answer (yes please). and - last but not least (and actually first) - i checked in with the "hostess" and she asked if my party was there. i said yes. she asked if we had a bar tab. i said my so was at the bar. she said i needed to go to the bar and close out the tab before i could be seated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we were both there! we were ordering drinks. and i have to go tell the person i'm meeting to close out their tab before i can be seated and order my own drink? insane. as for the music - fine, but they took about an hour to set up and it was a bit annoying to listen to the tapping of this and that while they were sound checking.
i will probably never be back. but - strangely - i remember it being good a few years back.
Lots of suggestions here thus far... mine include santa monica and mdr and venice, so take what you like and leave the rest! :-) I assume you'll be more apt to drive for the few days the fam is in town!
Take the family to Bay Cities Deli up Lincoln in Santa Monica.
Or, bring them up to Tacos Por Favor or Tacomiendo for some Los Angeles Mexican goods. Or, Gilbert's El Indio
Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch for down home cooking
3 square bakery
firehouse (for healthy breakfast fare)
For americanized healthier chinese food, try out Mao's Chinese Kitchen.
ford's filling station
meltdown is unique for grilled cheese, though i'd rather drive to campanile on a thursday
cafe del rey
lula on main
up in santa monica on main, via veneto is worth a trip
i think the tudor house is unique as is ye olde king's head for british fare
For Italian, try Piccolo, which is just off the northern end of the Venice boardwalk.
Figtree Cafe (on the boardwalk itself) is a pretty reliable brunch place with some people-watching thrown in (seriously, what's up with the older guy in the short shorts, the ridiculous bike, and the giant blue parrot?).
I second the recommendations for the La Oaxaquena taco truck and La Playita -- both are fantastic.
26 Beach on Washington is a reliable spot for comfort foods -- salads, burgers, sandwiches, etc.
Beechwood is a more trendy spot for drinks and appetizers -- it's good.
Joe's on Abbot Kinney is probably the best restaurant in the area and their brunch is a great deal.
Antica Pizzeria in MDR is a good spot for traditional Neapolitan pizza -- don't let the fabulous mall decor fool you.
If you're willing to drive a few minutes to Mar Vista and Culver City, then your options will increase dramatically -- Japanese, tacos, Ethiopian, nouveau American, etc. Same with West LA -- you'll have tons of options if you're willing to drive a few minutes there.
went to antica pizzaria on friday night.
the pizza napoletana was terrific as was the grilled vegetable platter.
the bruschetta, despite looking great, tasted meh.
(i wonder what the folks at il forno --the one in santa monica near the counter-- do to make their bruschetta so consistently good. )
Some other places that might be worth a mention and are close to each other are Axe and Joe's on Abbot Kinney - both are very good but are closed mondays. Both take great care in sourcing their ingredients - much of it from local farmers.
Two other places that are in located close to each other and worthy of a trip are Gallego's for great Mexican food - especially the barbacoa (Venice Blvd, one block west of Centinela) and Mitsuwa food court (northeast corner of Venice and Centinela) for shoyo ramen, sanuki udon, and Yoshoku cuisine (get the "hamburg" plate with gyoza).
Something that might be fun is having an izakaya-style (Japanese style pub food) meal at Musha in Santa Monica (Wilshire and 4th Ave). I'm not sure where your family is visiting from, but izakaya isn't that common except in cities where Japanese communities tend to form, and Musha is in a subset on to itself.
424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
Gallegos Mexican Deli
12470 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066
3760 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA
- Best Indian: Akbar on Washington near Lincoln.
- For a very neighborhoody French experience, check out French Market and Cafe on "lower" Abbot Kinney.
- Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln is my favorite BBQ in the city. Search the board for lots of discussion on them. (Don't listen to the naysayers. :)
I tried Agra last nite. While spicy, the chicken "tomato masala" was ketchupy. the balthi was spicy but uninteresting. the nan was good tho. much worse than those two wonders, al noor and al watan. if there's any super dishes there, i would try it again, but barring that, im not impressed.
If you liked Alejo's for Italian you might want to try C & O for big portions and good value.
I've heard good things about the burger at Hinano's, also close to the ocean on Washington.
You didn't mention Rose Cafe, which has a classic Venice vibe, parking (a huge plus), and good breakfasts, bakery items, and salad combos for lunch.
Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln has some good items (the pulled pork, the ribs) and sides and a pleasant, bohemian atmosphere that fits the neighborhood.
Also near that Costco is one of the few remaining Togo's, whose made-to-order subs are much bigger and better than the ubiquitous Subways or Quizno's. Get the hot pastrami or the roast beef, turkey and cheese.
I think the reality is that there's no food around here that's anything special. I think my favorite place is China Beach Bistro. That doesn't sound like a very Chowhoundish thing to say, but it works for me--like the five spiced chicken, the veggie fried rice, the satay. There are at least two decent Thai restaurants: Siam Best and Wirin. Mao's Kitchen has some good items. Asakuma offers good sushi delivery. I like to walk to La Fiesta on Pacific for a burrito.
On the Boardwalk Delizia is tasty but expensive.
I beg to differ. There is plenty of fabulous food in the vicinity, and certainly much better Mexican than La Fiesta! I live a block away and would never eat there again.
I'm a big fan of China Beach too. Considering the dearth of Vietnamese cuisine on the westside, they do a very good job. The food is always fresh and well-prepared.