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Visiting LA from DC

My husband and I will be spending 2 days in LA in June and I'm looking for some restaurant recommendations for lunch and dinner. We are staying near Beverly Center and will have a car so we are flexible on location. This is our first time to LA so we are looking forward to checking out the city. We are open to any cuisine and are looking for moderate price range, about $11-20 for lunch and $20-35 for dinner is acceptable. Also, any suggestions for places we can grab a drink at night would be nice as well. Not into club/young Hollywood scene but looking for hip place with 30-something crowd. Thanks!

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  1. I suggest having yourself a nice Korean dinner somewhere in Koreatown, because it's not a cuisine that's terribly common in DC (or so I remember). I wouldn't bother with our Ethiopian food, because it's something DC does really, really well.

    Perhaps upscalish Mexican -- Babita, La Huasteca? May be slightly higher than your price point.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Frida is good, its relatively near their hotel, and can be within their price point... its also a steady improvement over D.C. Mexican places like Rosa Mexicano... I liked the Nopales Salad, Handmade Tortillas, Shrimp Pozole & Cajeta Crepes.

      La Huasteca is within the price point, and Plaza Mexico could be a cool thing to see if you are from D.C. but that is a long drive for a quick 2 day visit.

    2. I'm a big fan of Bar Marmont on Sunset. Great, moderate-priced menu, and a 30-something bar crowd that's hip without being clubby.

      Bar Marmont
      8171 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

      1. Okay this is a bit tough--to recommend only a few restaurants because there are so many, so I'm only going to provide guidance as to what to find here and let other chowhounders, who I'm sure will chime in, make recommendations on specific restaurants.
        Generally, speaking if you want to try ethnic foods you can't find(or can, but not strong in) in DC, then try Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Thai.
        If you are not into the "Hollywood scene" but want hip then it gets a little bit tough, but doable. Generally speaking most lower end restaurants on the westside(west hollywood, santa monica, etc.), but really also OC, nowadays, will have a lot of the Hollywood scene present and the young club goer scene present, since most of the "hip" clubs are in that area, and so are those in the Hollywood business machine. You might do well with some higher end restaurants, but really I found similar restaurants in DC. The Pasadena area in that regard also reminds me of the DC personality, a little more reserved but very well educated customer base and not too old but not too clubby hollywood hip crowd--more mature so to say--It is generalizing but I've been to all these places over the years and that's what atmosphere I've found(there is a world of difference between westside LA and DC). Also note that you can generally get better Japanese on westside, better Chinese near Pasadena environs, Korean in between, and Mexican all over. Also--don't fear the freeways, just don't drive during rush hour peaks (if possible; early morning and early evening) and you'll be fine.

        1. Fun places to grab a drink at night near your hood:

          Tasca (very cool wine/tapas bar)
          3rd Stop (good unpretentious gastropub)
          Nic's, Lola's (good martini joints)
          Trader Vic's (not the original BH location anymore, but still worth a visit for the drinks)

          945 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

          Tasca Restaurant
          8108 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

          3rd Stop
          8636 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

          Nic's Restaurant & Martini
          453 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210

          Trader Vic's - Mai Tai Lounge
          9876 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

          1. Agree that in your price range, you probably want to concentrate on ethnic gems. Look just a few threads up on this board -- there is a post for an AYCE (all you can eat) Korean BBQ with a detailed description, a positive review, pictures on the poster's blog page, it fits into your price range, and Koreatown is a straight shot east from the Beverly Center.

            Being from D.C., you gotta try an In-and-Out Burger, if for no other reason than to be able to experience it and know what all of the talk is about. If you are going to spend an afternoon at the Getty Museum in Brentwood (a must see) then there is one on the way in Westwood Village just down from UCLA, on Gayley. From the Beverly Center, there is another to the northeast on Sunset, just east of La Brea. Get a double-double, split an order of fries ordered well or crispy.

            Spend a couple of weeks just checking out this L.A. board. Many of the higher-end restaurants and almost all good sushi are beyond your price range. But you can decide whether you want to sample outstanding Thai (Jitlada) or on weekends experience very good Thai with the unique Thai Elvis (Palm Thai). After morning rush or on weekends, it is about a half-hour on the freeway to the San Gabriel Valley (SGV) to the east for amazing dim sum or authentic regional Chinese (be sure you are skilled with MapQuest). There is upscale Mexican seafood at east and Santa Monica locations of La Serenata de Garibaldi, and cheap hole-in-the-wall taco and burrito joints all over, except really in West Hollywood near where you are staying.

            Print yourself out a good map so you get a lay of the land, read the board for awhile to get some ideas, look up some individual restaurant websites, and then post more specific questions when you get closer to your trip.

            7 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              La Serenta de Garibaldi? That place is very mediocre... I think I would rather recommend mediocre places like Border Grill & Pacifico's over that Serenata. Now the original in East L.A. is a completely different story... if it weren't for the drive I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                I concur that the Westside branches are not as good. I don't know that I would recommend Border Grill over La Serenata Westside -- that's going a bit far -- but the East LA original is much better.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I guess the thing I hate about La Serenata is they blanket all their seafood with melted cheese & serve everything with mediocre versions of Arroz a la Mexicana & Beans... that faux pax is one thing at the old school Mexican-American places... but its just wrong at a Mariscos place. Border Grill... at least in form its a lot more like real Mexican (although the entrees tend to be catered way too much to the Over 60 gringo crowd with Mashed Root vegetables served on so many dishes) even if execution has been off for many years.

                  In any case... in a pinch... I would not hesitate to send someone to Border Grill for Ceviches, Plantain Empanadas, Lamb Chop Tacos & Pastel Rufina... particularly on Friday nights when they have the 3 piece Bolero-Jazz band going.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Ah. My love at La Serenata is the huachinango con huitlacoche, which doesn't have any cheese at all on it.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      That sounds like a recent addition? The last time I ate at the Westside Serenatas was 2001 and I was never compelled to retry it.... there was definitely no huitlacoche dish on the menu at that time... I would really have noticed as huitlacoche was still extremely rare in L.A. at that time.

              2. re: nosh

                If you are recommending In&Out for burgers then I should also mention that Tops and Pie N Burger are also places to head for a premium burger.
                If you are looking for high end places for dinner let us know please.

                1. re: b0ardkn0t

                  C'mon...I made the reasons for a quick lunch at In-and-Out very clear: First, they don't have them in the D.C. area. Second, it could be reasonably convenient on the way to the Getty or in the other direction from their hotel. Third and most important, it would allow them to experience and have a reference point about a product that a lot of people talk about and a standout in its field. Nobody outside of the neighborhood talks about Tops or Pie N Burger. Sure, Pinks serves a pretty mediocre hot dog, in all of their various and sometimes ridiculous combinations. Carney's is a much better chili-dog, more convenient, and also unique in its train car. But Pinks is perpetually profiled on FoodTV and travel shows, and bear in mind that traveling is remembered through photos and experiences, such as waiting in the Pinks line and seeing those signed head shots on the wall.

              3. I say Bar Marmont on Sunset. Easier to get reservations there than Chateau Marmont.

                Hip, good crowd and amazing food! The "Damn Good Burger" is just that - Damn good!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: BrentwoodBabe00

                  Here is my problem with Bar Marmont -- Yes, the burger is good. And yes, the scene is upscale and interesting without being too crass. But the burger is well into the teens, and you have to couple that with a valet parking charge that is like $18!! Do NOT under any circumstances try to park on a side street or in the neighborhood -- there are tight limits and pick-up trailers galore to haul you away for over $200 in fees. The poster implied they are trying to keep costs within limits -- hard to do at anywhere along Sunset (other than Carney's with their free lot) because you are going to pay in valet and tip, cab, or retrieving your car.

                  1. re: nosh

                    The burger is $16, about the same as most tablecloth restaurants with a burger these days. Though I much prefer the Oxtail Bruschetta ($14) and the Winter Chopped Salad ($13).

                    And a cab from the Beverly Center to Marmont is under $10 each way.

                2. What days are you here? If it's a Sunday, hit Lucques for the Sunday Supper prix fixe.

                  Agree w/ ethnic recs, esp Jitlada for southern Thai, Guelaguetza for Mexican or Tacos Por Favor or Monte Alban (actually this might be my first pick). You could hit Musha in Santa Monica.

                  Try Griddle Cafe for a decadent breakfast or brunch.

                  If you happen to want to be in Santa Monica for lunch, I'd say Bay Cities Deli or Father's Office would be memorable.

                  Lou on Vine and Cube are both good for small plates and controllable ordering.

                  If you'd spend just a bit more, I'd try Angeli Caffe for Italian.

                  Good for lunch, Newsroom Cafe would be great for fresh fare and some people watching on Robertson!

                  Welcome to LA!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Emme

                    Some good recs above. Griddle Cafe for breakfast and Newsroom for lunch. The latter is a short walk from where you're staying.

                    For lunch you should also definitely pay a visit to the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax (about a mile due east of the Beverly Center). It's a unique Los Angeles institution, great for people watching, with a couple dozen casual dining options (I recommend the Mexican at Loteria Grill, or Singapore's Banana Leaf, among several others.)


                    1. re: wutzizname

                      Loteria Grill is a bit overrated and not as good as it once was... but its hard to argue against a place that Conde Nast described as having one of the Top 5 dishes in North America... not that I think much of Conde Nast... but Top 5 are big words - of course it makes me wonder if they have ever sent somone to Mexico if they think Loteria's shredded beef tacos are the best in North America =)

                  2. I would second the 3rd and Fairfax Farmer's Market. Also, if you go to check out Venice Beach, brunch at Joe's is reasonable and excellent. I would also recommend some Thai food in Hollywood, either Jitlada or Sanamluang. Jitlada for the southern Thai specialties, Sanamluang for regular Thai fare.

                    1. Even if you don't end up eating at the Farmer's Market, I recommend at least going there. For better or worse, it's a microcosm of Los Angeles and you get a real taste of the city by strolling around there and the Grove.

                      I think AOC should be at the top of your list if you're staying near the Beverly Center. Definitely a hip crowd, with varying ages, but all fans of wine and the food of Chef Goin.

                      8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                      1. I lived in DC during my early 20s for work and the food I missed the most from SoCal were tacos, In-N-Out Burgers, and Asian cuisine. So, I would definitely recommend tacos from Loteria at Farmer's Market (no, they aren't the BEST tacos in LA, but the Farmer's Market is a great destination and the tacos are good) and In-N-Out Burger (there are definitely better burgers in LA, but this is a must try - the closest to Bev Center is Sunset and La Brea). For Asian cuisines, I would go with Thai in Hollywood. My favorite for Thai on a budget is Ruen Pair (thanks to SauceSupreme for the rec a while back!). It is super cheap - about $5 a dish and the service is excellent. Beware that they do not serve alcohol, but do allow you to BYO. Korean in Koreatown is another great recommendation (with many great choices mentioned already in this post), but it is further than Hollywood from the Beverly Center.

                        I agree with the recommendations for AOC and Bar Marmont. However, it could run you more than $35 each if you get carried away with ordering at AOC and drinking at Bar Marmont (the drinks are pricey). Since the valet at Bar Marmont is $20, I would take a cab from your hotel. Although the cab will be more than $20 with tip total, it is well worth it to not worry about DUIs or towing! Bar Marmont is not clubby, but it is a bit of a scene and is very LA, which is why I think you should go and experience it.

                        I also recommend Bread Bar for breakfast and/or a sandwich since it is so close to Beverly Center. I just ate there today and had the egg, cheese, and ham croissant on a baguette. It made for the perfect breakfast sandwich and the service and coffee are excellent too! There is a parking lot in the back of the building as well.

                        Hugo's Restaurant is another great lunch spot in West Hollywood and close to Beverly Center. It is healthy fare, with great brunches as well. It has a very LA menu and my out of town guests always love it there (I do too!!). I love the turkey burger, corn tamales with eggs, and the salads.

                        Enjoy the weekend!

                        1. I'm from Reston currently living in Los Angeles. Try Basix on Santa Monica near La Cienega (about a mile from where you are staying). The mojitos are fantabulous and if you get there anytime between 4-7 on a weekday they (as well as their delicious crabcakes) are $4. There is a patio facing Santa Monica Blvd that makes for great people watching AND they make a terrific pizza as well as bistro steak.

                          Vivoli Trattoria on Laurel and Sunset Blvd is a quaint and romantic italian spot. Dinner is to die for and is well within your price range. Be absolutely certain you get their dessert (nonna or tartufo) Right across the street is a deli called GREENBLATT's. The food is ungodly overpriced, but it is a cozy little place that has an outstanding wine collection. The guy who wrote GREAT GATSBY was a regular there, so it has some history to it.

                          I too agree that you must hit up The Farmer's Market. The line at Pampa's Brazilian BBQ is well worth the wait. Talk about some delicious beef. There are a couple of bars in there that are open late. You can grab a drink and see LA in action.

                          I agree The Griddle Cafe on Sunset makes the best pancakes in the state. The chances that you will see a celeb are very high too. If you choose to eat breakfast there, however, be ready for some frenetic energy. This is not a cozy place.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bonnie D

                            You guys rock! Thanks for all the advice. I'm looking forward to researching all of your suggestions. And I must mention that I have had In-and-Out before...on the last day of my honeymoon in San Francisco. Yes, my husband insisted we find one. While it was good, I must say I am bias towards Five Guys...a local burger joint in DC metro area. If any of you are in DC, you must give it a try! Thanks again for all the replies.