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Please help me love the westside!

I'm a Northeast L.A. kind of girl, but am *thisclose* to accepting a job in Santa Monica at 20th and Colorado. Generally I do not venture west of La Brea, so I'm pretty clueless about the wide world of food out there on the far-western frontier.

I'd like to start compiling a list of new places to try, and am open to suggestions that fit the following:

No Italian, sushi, vegetarian, or sandwiches. I'm diabetic and have to limit carbs; I also have an aversion to tomatoes or anything raw. And I'm an unrepentant carnivore :)

Low-key, not pretentious, not a scene. I prefer hole-in-the-wall, ethnic-dive types of places.

Bonus points for good Thai or Mexican, my two favorites.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Port Royal Cafe 1412 Broadway, Santa Monica

    1. West LA Mexi has been well covered in lots of other posts but my favorites
      are Tacomiendo (Pico/Gateway), Monte Alban (SM Blvd), Lares (Pico), La Playita (stand on Lincoln), La Isla Bonita (truck on Rose) and La Oaxaquena (truck that parks on Lincoln by Rose after 7pm).

      Japanese Non-Sushi/Low carb
      Yakitori -- Nanbankan (SM Blvd/Corinth), Yakitori-Ya (Sawtelle), Sakura House (Washington near Lincoln)
      Musha (Wilshire/second)
      Manpuku (Sawtelle) - Yakiniku
      Korean BBQ - Wharo (Lincoln)

      1. Unfortunately, the strongest offerings on the Westside are those you have excluded. The westside is not known for its ethnic dives, and there *are* a number of great sushi, italian, and sandwhich places. Also, Santa Monica has what some consider to be the the best farmers market in town -- the Wednesday market is where a lot of top chefs shop, but since you have excluded "raw," I'm guessing farmers markets are not your bag either.

        In the carnivore vein, you might like The Galley, which is an old-school steak and seafood place. It's got a divey vibe, and the food is good, although pricewise it certainly won't fall in the "hole-in-the-wall" range. Chez Jay is more of a bar, but they also do steaks, and it's definitely divey.

        Westside Mexican choices have gotten a little better of late. A few places to check out would be Tacos Por Favor, on Olympic between 14th and 15th, and Monte Alban or Guelaguetza for Oaxacan. I seem to recall there's a newish taco stand on Lincoln that got good reviews on this board, but I can't remember the name.



        Tacos Por Favor
        (310) 392-5768
        1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

        11127 Palms Blvd
        Los Angeles, CA 90034-6502
        Phone: (310) 837-1153

        Monte Alban
        11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

        1. Try Paco's Tacos on Centinela just south of Washington. Great, authentic mexican!

          1. Thanks for all of your suggestions so far. I'm feeling a lot less hopeless about my Mexican food prospects - was afraid I was doomed to a future of La Salsa lunches!

            2 Replies
            1. re: garvanza girl

              Heck no, gg!
              Colorado/20th to Tacomiendo is 10 mins and worth every ounce of gas. Tacos por favor is even closer (but not as good).

              I work near there too. We love to oder Bay Cites Italian sandies for lunch.

              1. re: Ciao Bob

                Bay Cities Deli on Lincoln is not just good for sandwiches, where the long lines are. The hot side on the right, closer to the entrance, rarely has a wait. Some of the items have carbs, like the lasagna, but they do a fine pot roast, or eggplant parm, and their meatballs are great (though you have to buy a certain amount before they come down in price).

                I like Tacos Por Favor (on Olympic at 14th) better than Tacomiendo, because their tacos come with hefty quantities of meat and I prefer their salsa roja. My favorite is Taquieria Sanchez on Centinela south of Washington, in Culver City, mostly for their superlative shrimp tacos and carnitas at good prices. El Super Taco, on Santa Monica Blvd. at Brockton in the same minimall as Monte Alban, has good cheap tacos served with grilled onions, and they offer a fantastic habanero salsa.

                My favorite westside Thai is Thai Boom on Venice between Overland and Sepulveda in Culver City -- very friendly service, and they will spice things up if you ask. Siam Chan on Santa Monica Blvd. at Colby is good for delivery. There have been some recent posts on Emporium Thai on Westwood saying it is excellent and has some connections to Jitlada in Thai Town.

                Nook Bistro on Santa Monica Blvd. at Barry is my go-to nice restaurant in W.L.A. Others like Literati 2, Josie, Violet, or others, but Nook has generous portions, good service, a fun vibe and better food for much more reasonable prices.

              1. re: greengelato

                I too love the Westside. Air quality alone makes it worthwhile. Here's just a start:

                Burgers: The Counter or Father's Office for burgers. Apple Pan is a bit further from your office, but a good on-the-way-home choice. All are good in their own way.

                If you like French, there is Le Petit Cafe on Colorado which is homey and open for lunch as well as dinner. You can probably get a steak frites there (or steak salad if you want to nix the frites). Further east, on Westwood Blvd betw Wilshire & Santa Monica, Soleil.

                There's a German/Polish deli on 11th & Wilshire, J&T European Deli with sausages, pate, and if I remember correctly, quite a variety of head cheese.

                Korean: there's a hole-in-the-wall Korean place in a strip mall across the street from Santa Monica College on Pico near 17th. Not sure what it's called, I think the sign just says Korean Food or something. It's reasonably solid, and you can easily go low-carb there.

                Brazilian - Sabor on Pico (is this still open?) was okay.

                Indian: Annapurna on Venice near Motor, Chandni Wilshire & 20th - okay, caveat, both are vegetarian, but I'm not and the food at both is rich and flavorful enough that you don't miss the meat. Chutney on Barrington & Pico for tandoori chicken. I like All India sometimes on the 2nd floor of a strip mall on Bundy & Santa Monica.

                Persian: the strip on Westwood is Tehrangeles - Sharhzad, Shamshiri, Flame, etc. Al fine. Further west, Darya is lunch-close to you, Javan is in between on Santa Monica west of Sawtelle. Kebabs galore.

                Cajun/Creole: I like Uncle Darrow's in Lincoln near Washington, but that might be a stretch for lunch.

                Cuban: possibly too far for lunch, but Ayalas on Venice west of Overland is good for Salvadoran/Cuban (I like their pupusas), Versailles if a bit further east for garlic chicken and pork, El Rincon Criollo further south on Sepulveda.

                Near Ayalas, Coppelia Bakery has decent papas rellenos and tasty roast chicken. Venice Bakery has papas rellenos too, and both have good smoothies. Not sure if this is too carb-y for you.

                So this is off the top of my head. There are many, many more.

                1. re: mungus

                  When you say Sabor are you referring to the one that was in Santa Monica just a bit west of where the 10 Frwy crosses Pico called Sabor 2? If so they have been gone for quite a few years.

                  1. re: mungus

                    Great list, thanks! That steak salad sounds perfect, and I'm totally planning to check out the kebab places as well as a few others.

                    1. re: garvanza girl

                      FYI, it's not a steak salad, I meant steak with salad. Also, this is not a cheap place (meaning <$9 lunch) in general, although you can find some less expensive stuff that's good like the chevre salad.

                      I forgot to mention The Talpa on Pico east of Bundy. Mexican-American standbys. I like the chorizo and eggs, the bean and cheese burrito, the menudo and the salsa that comes with the chips - spicy!

                      Oh, and the chopped salad at La Scala on San Vicente in Brentwood.

                      Yeah, I was thinking Sabor might be gone.

                    2. re: mungus

                      I would stay away from Le Petit Cafe. I was there about 2 weeks ago and was super disappointed. The only highlight was the French Onion soup. Otherwise both my salmon and my friend's salad were weak in flavor and sure looked better than they tasted. Maybe we hit them on an off night but too much money for poor food.

                  2. Are you kidding me?! The westside is the best side of L.A. Come on over!!! Better air quality. More diversity. More choices. Generally, I do not venture east of Fairfax. Pacos Tacos on Centinela has AWESOME mexican food! Yummy! Mexican food is my favorite, so I' pretty picky. Good stuff! Cafe Brasil on Venice or their location on Washington. Good grilled chicken, grilled lamb, and grilled steak. The best fried plantains. Try The Counter in Santa Monica for a good burger. I know you said, no sandwiches but Johnny Pastrami on Sepulveda has a mean pastrami sandwich. So good. A lot of people like Tito's Tacos on Washington. IMO, it's okay but the lines say otherwise. Check it out. Form your own opinion about their beef taco. Hope this helps. I wish you much success with your move and your new job.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nonigirl1

                      Thank you for the recommendations and the well-wishes!

                      Funny you should mention Tito's - I know it has its fans, but I've been there once and was pretty horrified my the food. I think my (admittedly ignorant) opinion of westside Mexican was based solely on that experience.

                      And yes, the better air quality and cooler temps are not to be discounted :)

                    2. second recs for monte alban, tacos por favor, bay cities... also gilbert's el indio for mexican

                      thai is so ridiculously tough - i'd say thai boom is the best there is

                      26 beach isn't hole-in-the-wall, but lots of options

                      aunt kizzy's is down in the marina (in case you go after work or take a long lunch)

                      for polish, and a great happy hour, warszawa at lincoln

                      for healthy fare, i like firehouse in venice

                      Baby Blues BBQ on Lincoln... no extra sauce for you I assume

                      Fritto Misto will sub veggies for noodles in all pasta dishes (sorry for the italian rec but it's low carb friendly)

                      punch grill is more expensive but good

                      snug harbor or bread and porridge for breakfast fare

                      uncle darrow's


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Emme

                        Another great list, thanks! That's pretty cool that Fritto Misto will make that substitution - haven't seen a lot of places that do that.

                        1. re: garvanza girl

                          for a one or two dollar charge actually, most places will... especially if you're gluten intolerant or diabetic... just ask!

                          1. re: garvanza girl

                            il fornaio will also sub veggies for pasta - i've been doing it there for years.

                            a few more to add to your list:
                            back on the beach [for breakfast or lunch on the sand]
                            cora's coffee shop
                            rose cafe in venice
                            figtree cafe in venice
                            bangkok west

                            when you have time to explore, it's worth a trip up pch to malibu. the food isn't always spectacular, but man, you can't beat the view at some of those places.

                        2. Hate to scare you off but I live in Highland Park and sometimes work in Santa Monica and the drive is HELL. Please think long and hard before taking on that drive. Think 1 to 1 1/2 hour in the Morning and 1 to 2 hours home in the Eve. And if its raining over 2 hours. That being said Love Bay Cities Deli and Paco's Tacos. Also 17th street Cafe on Montana has a to die for Chopped Salad.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: PurpleTeeth

                            Heh, thanks for the commute info :) I know, it's absolute insanity, but the job opportunity is fantastic, and I love where I live, so - I gotta do it. Now that I'm armed with dining suggestions, I'm a lot less worried - at least I have places to take refuge after work while waiting for traffic to die down.

                            1. re: garvanza girl

                              Just a heads up. I didn't realize when I moved but agreed love the eastside. FYI a great wine store I often hit up to kill time on my way home is Wine Expo on Santa Monica Blvd. Best selection of Bubbly in the City IMHO. Also on Weds I go in early to hit the Farmers Market on Arizona and 3rd.

                          2. Lots of great suggestions already. But unrepentant carnivore, then make sure to pop into Brasa Braza on Venice. Another post mentioned the dinner priced dropped to $18. Not the best churrascaria around, but pretty solid and a great value at that price.

                            Driving home in a protein coma overload is a whole nother problem.

                            In that general direction on Venice is also Smitty's Fried Chicken. Good fried chicken and combo meals at an outstanding price.

                            On Santa Monica Blvd, not too far from the Monte Alban and El Super Taco suggestions (which I heartily second along with Tacos Por Favor) is Terried Sake House. The yakitori skewers are pretty good, not as good as the Nanbakan suggestion. But Terried is much more low key.

                            There's also a closer Tacomiendo location on Gateway and Pico if you don't want to go further south. Pico is also good for cutting across town. It's even on the south side of the street, you can pop in for a meal and get back on the road.

                            There's also an Indian place on the Northwest corner of Santa Monica and Bundy, I'm blanking out on the name.

                            L&L Hawaiian bbq on Lincoln and Pico which is kind of close to 20th and Colorado. Their bbq plates are chock full of meat and you can always give away the rice and mac salad to someone else.

                            Also right off Santa Monica Blvd is Siam Chan which has gotten some good reviews here for decent Thai which is hard to find on the west side.

                            1. What's all this commotion about the westside being so grand? Breathing good air is negated by ingesting mediocre food!

                              In terms of chow, the westside's culinary landscape has many choices yet very few, consistent stand-outs...especially affordable, divey, ethnic spots which you're interested in.

                              Solid Thai restaurants don't exist here. When I have a craving, I consider Thai Nakorn in OC before I subject myself to any spot here. Although, I would suggest Ayara Thai near LAX, but it's beyond the westside and has westside prices. :)

                              Mexican: I'm curious if any of the westside's Mexican spots can even hold a candle to those which you might be eating at now in Northeast L.A. (btw, where the heck is Northeast L.A.?). Personally, I haven't found a solid, go-to spot for Mexican here but I'd love to.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: dynamike

                                I've heard that about Thai on the westside - still, you gotta eat! So I'm looking for the best of what's available; I'm not going to drive to OC or Thaitown or NoHo on my lunch break :)

                                Northeast LA is north and east of downtown - it encompasses areas such as Lincoln Heights, Hermon, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, and Garvanza. Here's a good map for reference: http://www.nelanet.org

                                I'm currently loving the Mexican fare at My Taco.

                                My Taco
                                6300 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

                                1. re: garvanza girl

                                  NELA for life! I don't envy you the commute but that's not to say that between here and there you couldn't stop off and find some great food. If you are dying on the 10 jump off and go north to pico and hit up Dino's for the amazing if incredibly salty chicken and fries (no fries for you) and don't forget Papa Cristo's greek restaurant and deli (the lamb!). Also Culver City (away from the new town center) and the smaller communities like Playa del Rey have hole in the wall restaurants that are just waiting to be discovered.

                                  1. re: tooth

                                    i live in playa del rey.
                                    imho there are no great restaurants here waiting to be discovered.
                                    i do believe, though, that your suggestion of dino's chicken is the ultimate best suggestion so far.
                                    their chicken is fabulous and cheap.
                                    nothing else like it in town.
                                    on the way home.

                                2. re: dynamike

                                  More Westside envy blah-blah-blah - talk to me when you can pull your oxygen mask away from your face...

                                  Add Mariscos Chente to the list for solid and unique Mexican, Westside or anywhere else.

                                  See Nosh's post from 12Feb for Emporium Thai...

                                3. Ethnic, Divey, hole-in-the-wall, Carnivorie friendly.......near 20th & Colorado:

                                  Hungry Pocket - For falafel & kabobs - hold the pita.
                                  1715 Pico Blvd., (310) 450-5335

                                  Monte Alban - Oaxacan/Mexican - for Moles, etc.
                                  11929 Santa Monica Blvd., (1 block east of Bundy, North side) (310) 444-7736

                                  Boosa Nova - Brazilian - Carnivore friendly - too far to drive? They now deliver to your area:

                                  Chinios on Main - Not a hole-in-the-wall or un-pretentious; however, if the steak salad shouded good to you, then I heartly suggest the Grilled Szechuan Beef in a spicy shallot cilantro sauce that comes with plenty of leafy greens:

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: JBC

                                    Is there something wrong with the HP's Pita? Never had anything there but I have thought I might do lunch there one day.


                                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                                      No nothing wrong with the Pita that I can emember, It's just that the O.P. ("garvanza girl") wanted no carbs or sandwiches - which I interprited to mean no bread or dough preparations.

                                      1. re: JBC

                                        Precisely. Thanks for the suggestions - that grilled Szechuan beef sounds wonderful, despite the fact that it's a Puck restaurant and those kinds of places scare me :)

                                        1. re: garvanza girl

                                          Be ye not afraid !!!!

                                          Except for thier prices - It is, or was, $29.25 @ Lunch; $38.50 @ Dinner! Ouch! However, their dishes are designed for sharring....

                                          1. re: garvanza girl

                                            If you are gluten intolerant, on Washington Blvd just west of overland there is a bakery called the Sensitive Baker. Haven't tried it myself, but drive by every day. Not near SaMo, but I read it's the only one in L.A. (Don't know if that's true).

                                            Also, Mi Ranchito on Washington east of Centinela is delicious.

                                    2. Hi. So you ask for good dives and folks shout about Chinois, Joe's and such. That's exactly our problem here on the Wside. Good high end food, lousy cheap except Mexican which is everywhere and never a prob.

                                      -Santouka. Awesome Ramen located in the Japanese supermarket on Venice.

                                      - Curry in a Hurry. Takeout Indian on Venice 3 blocks E of Lincoln. World's most amazing Naan and it's embarassingly cheap.

                                      - Pam's Thai. On Venice just East of Abbott Kinney.Solid thai.

                                      -Johnny's French Dip. Sepulveda. As previously mentioned.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: The Chewy Kid

                                        A note on Pam's Thai--it used to be Rosalind Thai on Lincoln near Venice. We ate there several times and loved the food--until...we noticed our waitress clearing uneaten rice from tables and returning them to the rice cooker! If a restaurant recycles the cheapest food on the menu, can you imagine what they do with the meat? Great spring rolls, though. Too bad I'll never eat them again.

                                        1. re: dhemmingway

                                          This must be a pretty common practice - I worked in a couple Asian restaurants when I was a teenager and they all did this. Another place I worked in recycled the uneaten bread off of tables, either from the bread basket or toast at breakfast.

                                      2. I'm a NELA guy working on the Westside. I even went to Garvanza Elementary. Your limitations will make it difficult, but not impossible. You should try Wahoo's. Great fish tacos. Not sure if it is a chain, but I like it. Tacos Por Favor isn't bad, but it's overrated.

                                        1. I shy away from carbs too.

                                          My favorite Thai would be near you on Pico... Chan Dara West L.A.
                                          The duck dinner is incredible. Curries very nice too. Summer rolls are yummy.

                                          Tacomiendo makes a list of top Mexican restaurants in L.A. and it is also Pico-adjacent.

                                          A little west of you there is a dress-up-go-out place that is really terrific - Jiraffe. Even the fish stew was gorgeous, with a touch of pernod I think. We usually get the rack of lamb.

                                          Up on Wilshire would also be Akbar, an Indian joint. We love the chicken tikka masala (who doesn't?).

                                          Third Street Promenade has a 'decent' (used to be better) spot that is such an amazing space to be in, it would be worth it for that alone... Tropical Asian fusion called Monsoon.

                                          A much better version of that, which is still a great space but not quite as amazing (in that it's not a Balinese palace basically), is in Culver City, called Akasha. You must get the short ribs, ideally the lettuce wraps too and if you have any carbs leave it for the alcohol and get a French Kiss (ginger martini) ... gorgeous.

                                          Also on Pico there is a nice hole in the wall... like a hole in the wall you can bring people to... called Lares. It is Mexican. I wasn't all that wowed but everybody else in my party liked it.

                                          1. I second Fritto Misto in SM, and Wharo in MDR, but the service, and the food, at Baby Blues is not nearly as good as Mr. Cecil's on Pico in WLA. And Kaya Sushi has much more than sushi (was just there last night; had the sol dot bi bim bop) and has two locations: inside corner mall on Wash. Blvd. & Glencoe, and 2251 E. Maple Ave. in El Segundo (great food and service, both places).
                                            Jinky's (2nd St. & Sta. Monica Blvd.) has a large menu, centered around homemade chili (usually 6 daily varieties) and eggs, and you must get a Godmother sandwich at Bay Cities (I get a number and wander around the store and look at all the yummy stuff while waiting to be called).
                                            Not a dive (in fact, it's more high end) is Casa Sanchez for Mexican (killer mole, and so far the only Mexican place that has drinkable coffee).
                                            Aunt Kizzy's is gone. I used to go to Panini next door for their southwest chicken salad and burgers, but their coffee quality took a nose dive. Also in the Marina is Nichol's - good basic food, but their service isn't as good as when I worked there (ahem!).
                                            Urth Cafe on Main Street, for a place-your-order-take-a-number-and-put-it-on-your-table
                                            eatery, has better and food than a lot of full service places. Don't fall for the valet; park on the street somewhere yourself.
                                            And there're SO many places in downtown Culver City, so stay tuned for further updates
                                            (Surfa's restaurant supply is on Wash. & National- very dangerous financially). Just discovered Dijonnaise a few door's down from Father's Office. So far, they have the best escargot (DON'T order it at Marcel Marcieu on the SM Promenade), but I think the service is still in training; the busboys were more attentive than the server.

                                            Keep us posted !

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Michelly

                                              Aunt Kizzy's relocated to the old Killer Shrimp mini mall. Are you saying that they are gone from there now or do you mean that you didn't know they had relo'd?

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                Didn't know they relocated. Will drive by new location. Thanks!

                                              2. re: Michelly

                                                Dijonnaise has had really good rabbit in a rich gravy with very nice skinny fries. It's more pared-down and croissant-shop-like at breakfast and I think maybe lunch as well.

                                                1. re: Michelly

                                                  Whatever happened to that Johnny's NY Pizza (I think), down the street from the old Killer Shrimp, I think it was next to a Wacky Wok or something. That place (the pizza place) had stealthily beautiful salads and calzone, the kind of food only a perfectionist owner comes up with for such a small, basic place.

                                                2. Since this old thread was resurrected, just thought I'd throw in LaRocco's Pizzeria (on Main St. Culver City) for a solid NY slice. I went last weekend, and was fairly impressed. The crust was very good - I'd put it in my top 2 for LA, and overall I'd put it in the top 4.

                                                  1. tender greens in culver city has great food.. steak salads... very low carb.. etc... etc... and reasonable for the size of the orders...

                                                    1. Awesome old thread. More favs I didn't see listed:

                                                      Arsenal Bar
                                                      12008 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                      Tamara's Tamales
                                                      13352 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                      Zankou Chicken
                                                      1716 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA

                                                      Gilbert's El Indio
                                                      2526 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                                      Outdoor Grill
                                                      12630 1/2 Washington Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                      Cha Cha Chicken
                                                      1906 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                                      Little Hong Kong Cafe
                                                      2129 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                                                      Hole in the Wall Burger Joint
                                                      11058 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA