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NYC chow'er visits LA

  • j

i'm a NYC poster who will be in LA on business for 10 days starting sunday. that leaves lots of time to eat, but where ?

looking for recomendations.

travel = under 35 by car (the only way in LA) from century city.
amb & hood = some spots can be grimy, but some nice (for the co-workers, not me.)
food = only the best examples please
price = doesn't matter either way - high/low

looking these catagories: korean, mexican (tacos and/or platos), soul food (fried chicken and/or ribs), seasonal creative, thai, special chefs, and any other obscure recomendations.

any information (postbacks, links to articles, emails [jonathan gold & michelle fuchs are you out there], tips) would be greatly appreciated.

i usually tour direct here in the big apple, but need guidence to do the same for my work folks in LA.

thanks a ton in advance

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  1. I'm going to assume you mean 35 minutes in fair-to-middling traffic, so you have given a VERY VERY wide area culinarily speaking. We have West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Fairfax district, Santa Monica, West LA, South Central, Koreatown, part of the Valley... I mean, it's a WIDE area.

    So, here we go:

    Platos: El Cholo. People swear by the one downtown but the one on 11th St. and Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica is a nicer 'hood and the food is the same. Their El Cholo margaritas are made with Cuervo 1800 but you can call whatever you want (Hornitos, Sauza, &c.) and are only $6.50. You'll miss green corn tamales (May-October) but they have such great food.

    Thai: If you have people who aren't familiar with Thai, Thai Beer on Bundy Ave. and Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA is a good intro to gringo Thai. If you're into the more Thai experience, go to Samanluang in Thai Town on Hollywood Blvd. There are a number of threads that have info on Samanluang.

    Ribs: There is a place on Pico Blvd. just east of Centinela Ave. in West LA in a building that looks like a chili bowl. I forget the name but it's good food.

    The quintessential LA tourist soul food experience (i.e., locals do it once) has a bit of a line, but it's such an odd combo that you have to try it. Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (one's on Hollywood Blvd., another is (I think) on Normandie in South Central) is a weird flavour combo that works.

    Tacos: Tito's Tacos on Washington Pl. and Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City. Right next to Johnnie's Pastrami and Lucy's, so you have your assortment of oh-so-healthy specialities.

    Very LA: Mélisse on 12th St. just south of Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Michael's on 3rd St. just north of Wilshire Blvd. and the Promenade, JiRaffe at 5th St. and Santa Monica Blvd. Very Californian chefs without the prices someone like Puck or Splichal can command. Röckenwagner on Main St. & Ashland Ave. in Santa Monica is pricier but is very good.

    Very LA Weird: Inn of the Seventh Ray on Old Topanga Canyon Rd. just north of Topanga Canyon Rd. in the tiny artsy fartsy hamlet of Topanga. To get there is a bit of a drive, but shouldn't exceed 35 minutes unless there's bad traffic.* The ambiance and decor are INCREDIBLE and the food is pretty decent if weird (the menu is listed in order of esoteric vibration, with vegan first and red meat last). Definitely worth a visit.

    * Directions: Take SM, Olympic or Pico Blvd. west and make a left on Overland Ave. Get on the 10 westbound and continue through the tunnel onto PCH (the 1). Make a right on CA-27 (Topanga Canyon Rd.) which is a curvy twisty hilly road. About 7 miles up you'll coming into town. When you see the post office, make a soft left onto Old Topanga Canyon Blvd. and the first right into Inn of the Seventh Ray.

    Link: http://www.mapquest.com

    6 Replies
    1. re: Dave L
      More of Everything

      Another place that will fit two of your qualifications is Palms Thai in Hollywood (thai food/weird). There are lots of threads on this place re: the good food and the Elvis impersonator.

      1. re: Dave L

        As a native So. Cal. resident currently living in New York, I need to warn you that the French/French influenced chow in LA is a step below the New York scene. Places like Melissa and JiRaffe are good but nothing exraordinary. I would hate to call them quintessential LA. Spago and Chinois also serve very good food, but they're more renowned for being a Puck establishment than anything else. Having said that, I think Spago Beverly Hills has more of a LA feel (in terms of both food and decor) than JiRaffe. As for Rockenwagner, I wouldn't recommend that place to anyone. The infamous crab souffle was overly salty and quite dissapointing.

        For pure food, stick to the ethnic foods. They may not be as nicely decorated, but it's hard to find an equal in NYC. And to satisfy those pesky co-workers of yours, I'd suggest Spago, Chinois, Lawry's, and maybe even Patina. Again, these recommendations would more satisfy the "LA feel" requirement than the best food in LA requirement. Joes has declined since its humbler days. And do check out the Quintessential LA thread.

        I've never been to R-23, but that might be a place that can satisfy both your food and decor requirement.

        And finally, if money is no object, give Ginza a shot. It's LA's response to Alain Ducasse.

        1. re: Porthos
          michael (mea culpa)

          The Ginza reference is Ginza Sushi-Ko, 218 N. Rodeo Drive (yeah, that Rodeo), BH, 310/247-8939. Call now, bring money.

          1. re: Porthos
            PRSMDave (Dave L)

            I hesitate to call JiRaffe French-influenced... it's very Californian to me. Melisse is a bit French influenced but again it seems more Californian than French.

            Also, as someone who lived in France, I can tell you that New York's take on French food isn't really very French at all. It's modeled on a few belle-cuisine placed like Bocuse and Troisgros et al., but French cuisine is as varied as American - viz. Normandy vs. Provence, Alsace vs. Bourgogne

            If you want a FRENCH experience, go to France. Go to some little town and eat at the bistrot there. New York and LA French are just variations on what people perceive as French food, and they both have their own positives and negatives.

            I'm sorry you had a bad experience at Röckenwagner... I went for the white asparagus feast and was totally happy with my food and service. Granted it was a couple of years ago, but YMMV (your meal may vary).

            1. re: PRSMDave (Dave L)

              Rockenwagner is not a good place to suggest. The food is not very good unless Hans is in the kitchen,,,which is never. The asparagus are good but where is the challenge there? Mine were even a bit tough. I bought some at the Farmer's Market and cooked them in a bit of broth, a splash of olive oil and they were better. Hans has been trying to get the spark back every way possible when all he needs to do is remember that he is a talented chef. Create a new exciting menu and get back in the kitchen. He once was the most creative chef on the Westside. Before he went Hollywood.

          2. re: Dave L

            The rib place on Pico Blvd. just east of Centinela Ave. in West LA in a building that looks like a chili bowl is Mr. Cecil's.

          3. For fried chicken there's Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch in Marina Del Rey. And Pann's a great googie coffee shop near LAX. (Perhaps when they rebuild New York, they can put in some googie architecture. It would certainly be an improvement to the buildings that are still standing there). Both these places leave the skin on the chicken (unlike Sylvia's. What's the deal with that?) and both make excellent macaroni and cheese. Enjoy.

            1. For a GREAT ol' timey steak and potatoes place, try Taylor's on 8th street near Western Ave. (In Koreatown.) Not too expensive, in fact; one of the best things on the menu is the cheapest---the London Broil-----decent wines by the glass, great martinis, etc. Plus old style freaky ambiance! Don't miss it! Have a great trip!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Plushy

                What an entertaining thread.
                "...old style freaky ambiance!"

              2. There are some excellent threads already here. Check out (with start dates)
                1. The Cheapo Challenge - 10/23/01
                and Cheapo Eats- Santa Monica, starting 10/24/01
                2. Quintessential LA - 7/12/01
                3 Visiting LA, where to eat 9/10/01
                4. New Yorker spending week in la also 7/12/01
                Those are ok for a start. Also, check out westside discussions which are all pretty close to Century City.

                1. I have two suggestions for you. One is upscale and is a 5 minute drive from where you are staying in Century City. La Cachette at 10506 Little Santa Monica Blvd. in Century City. Phone: 310-470-4992. Classic French in a beautiful room, (see if you can get seated in the fireplace room).

                  The Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel located at 9641 Sunset Blvd. Phone: 310-276-2251. The pink lady looks absoutely fabulous after her remake. The hotel and grounds are worth seeing, even if you don't eat there. If you want a wonderful breakfast go downstairs and eat at the counter in the Fountain Coffee Shop. They kept the original jungle motif wallpaper and you might just end up sitting next to someone you have seen on TV or in the movies.

                  I put in a link that gives a bit of background about the connection of the hotel to the hollywood stars and movies it has hosted. At the bottom of that link is a link to the hotels own web site. The hotel is about 10 minutes from where you are staying. If you like "kitch with style" you'll love the BHH.

                  Have a wonderful visit. One warning, Woody Allen would have to edit the remark about LA's contribution to culture being able to "turn right on a red light." Lot's of signs going up that say, "no right on red", so keep an eye out when ignoring them. Also the LAPD and Beverly Hill PD give jaywalking tickets out like candy on Halloween.

                  Link: http://www.seeing-stars.com/Hotels/Be...

                  1. m
                    michael (mea culpa)

                    It's true there have been other threads in this regard. So what. I'd echo the comments on Palms Thai and La Cachette. Suggest you get on Zagat's website for addresses and phone numbers (don't pay any heed to their ratings and comments). By "35" I'm assuming you mean within 35 miles which is not that far by car in these parts. If it's a bigtime chef, splashy ambience, whole 9 yards thing you want, there's Patina, Bel Air Hotel, L'Orangerie, Spago Beverly Hills, Chinois, Granita and Valentino. If it's game, Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabassas. There's excellent catfish at Shiro in South Pasadena. Great sushi at R-23 downtown. Venetian and frequently celebs at Locanda Veneta near Beverly Center. Reportedly good meals and great views and art at Getty Center on the crest of the valley, technically in Brentwood. Nice seaside feel at Geoffrey's in Malibu. Carribean at Cha Cha Cha on Virgil and Melrose. Different takes on Mexican at Guelaguetza in West LA and Koreatown, Serenata de Garibaldi and Serenata Gourmet in West LA and Santa Monica, Border Grill in Santa Monica and Ciudad downtown, and La Cabana at Lincoln & Rose in Venice. Burgers at Tommy's, In N Out, Fatburger--all over, Cassel's in Koreatown, Apple Pan in West LA. Or, if you just want a good fruit smoothy and a sandwich adjacent to the freaky current ambience, go to The Juices Fountain on Vine in Hollywood.

                    1. The Pantry for all american breakfast 9th & Figueroa Downtown

                      26 Beach Restaurant Weekend Brunch French Toasts, Amazing Hamburgers and really Great Eclectic Salads & Pasta 3100 Washington near Lincoln in Venice

                      Nic's Martini Lounge on Canon in Beverly Hills
                      Great Martinis and Awesome Food, Try the Oyster Apps, and the Steaks

                      Dr. Hogly Wogly Tyler Texas BBQ on Sepulveda near Roscoe in the Valley

                      Pink's Hot Dogs on LaBrea at Melrose for a Chili Dog

                      Ragin Cajun in Hermosa Beach for Great Cajun 422 Pier Ave just a bit south of LAX

                      El Tepeyac for really good mexican funky but safe neighborhood, no liquor on Evergreen in East LA

                      Border Grill for Awesome authentic Mexican, Great margaritas and Truely inspired cooking Make reservations
                      in Santa Monica on 4th Street

                      1. OK, I'll take a small crack at this one, too ...

                        For what it's worth, I'm a 4th-generation Angeleno who's spent some years living and working in NYC as well, and my general impression is that the French, Italian, East Europe and steakhouse fare is better in the Big Apple, while the other stuff is better here in LA. With that in mind:

                        Korean: If you're going with your beer buddies, Soot Bull Jeep. If you're looking for something nicer for family/coworkers, the place of the moment is Manna (but move fast before the ZaGatsbys swoop in). If you want to impress a date, Yongsusan.

                        Mexican: As noted earlier, El Serenata or Border Grill for the fancy stuff, Guelaguetza for the weird stuff, El Tepeyac or El Taurino or El Gallo Giro for the cheap stuff.

                        Southern/Ribs: Aunt Kizzy's and JR's are good places to start (anyone know if Chef Marilyn's Place is still around?)

                        Seasonal creative: What makes you think LA has seasons? :)

                        Thai: I'm partial to Sanamluang (noodles) and Kruang Tedd (everything else) in Thai Town. (Plus, the red-blooded hetero male in me thinks the babes at KT match up to those at Chan Dara, without the attitude ... OK, so shoot me.)

                        Special chefs: A few too many (and they're ready for their close-ups, Mr. DeMille)

                        Other obscure recomendations: Messob and Nyala on Ethiopian Row (Fairfax south of Olympic), Little Malaysia in El Monte, Shamshiri (Persian, on Westwood), Malvasia in Long Beach (one of the few pan-Mediterraneans that's actually good)

                        1. A must for dead on authentic, blue collar and great mexican.
                          El Abajeno
                          4513 Inglewood Blvd.
                          Culver City

                          Combination burrito, Beef w/extra salsa

                          1. One thing I haven't seen mentioned, which is a point in LA's favour vs. New York's, is that people here are much less uptight about dress codes here.

                            It was something of a shock to go to Chinois, realise I was wearing blue jeans and a polo shirt, and was seated anyway. In fact, I can only think of a few restaurants (not counting ones that are also nightclubs) that have strict dress codes.

                            Nightclubs, of course, have them... they seem to cater to the People in Black.

                            1. m
                              michael (mea culpa)

                              There's some good recent threads on Armenian cuisine in Glendale (it's close enough). For something in that vein on the grimy but good and garlicky end, try Zankou Chicken (even got a mention in a Beck song on "Mutations") in Glendale, Hollywood or Van Nuys.
                              Hollywood itself is full of faux dive bars like The Room, The Burgundy Room, Bob's Frolic Room, Three Clubs, Jumbo's Clown Room, etc. You never know what sort of tattoos or piercings you might encounter. And for interesting music and decor, Spaceland (sometimes called Dreams) in the Silverlake area.

                              1. m
                                michael (mea culpa)

                                In addition to food, you might want to visit the Watts Towers which recently opened after years of restoration and controversy. Although much is made of the Hollywood sign, and whether it will or won't be painted red, white & blue (apparently, it won't), if anything symbolizes the diversity of Los Angeles, it is this unique work of folk art produced by an Italian immigrant which stands in a poor Latino/African-American neighborhood. It's been compared to bottle art and to Gaudi. It reopened to controversy over an adjoining art exhibit (hastily, moved away). You should see it while you can and so you'll have something to tell a lot of right coasters who think they know L.A. This is a daytime activity given the area and because it's better seen in the light. You might even make some chowish discoveries in the area.