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Good, nice, affordable dining in dwtn LA

Okay, here's the situation; I'm going on a 1st date with a girl that I really like and want to impress. She works downtown and we have plans dwtn later in the evening. It'll have to be an early dinner because our plans start at 7:30p. I'd like to take her somewhere w/ a nice decorum and good food. If we were going out anywhere else in LA I would have tons of ideas of where to take her. I'm familiar with many great restaurants dwtn, but unfortunately they're all very pricey. Any nice, trendy, romantic, delicious, affordable restaurant suggestions downtown would be much appreciated. The cuisine doesn't matter. We're both open minded and adventurous eaters. Thanks guys.

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  1. Pete's cafe? I've only been for their late night menu, but I like the vibe and LOVE the bleu cheese fries.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ironykettle

      Second Pete's. Their Mac n Cheese is TDF, and I think they'd have enough variety in their menu to accommodate various eating preferences. Plus the vibe is very nice.

      1. re: Amuse Bouches

        funny, i'm not a pete's fan, AND i can't stand their mac'n'cheese... it's not homestyle old-fashioned, but rather froofy if you ask me, so if you like yours non traditional, then go for it, but if you like the orange-y, cheddary type, look elsewhere. also last time i was there, the chicken was sooo dry, and had the tiniest breasts ever on a half chicken i'd seen. the couscous thing was decent though. i've also had a terrible time with the service, many of whom i've found indignant, and seemingly disturbed and irritated when i've inquired about the ingredients of a dish (i'm gluten intolerant) or to the availability of a dish... before the eagles concert, my friend asked about which pot pie was on special, and the waiter said lobster and walked away. my buddy ordered the lobster pot pie. ten minutes later the server returns to say, oh by the way the lobster pot pie won't be ready for 45 minutes more...and almost got away before my friend could ask to order something else (another troubling inconvenience for aforesaid waiter). after he changed his order, another thirty minutes went by and no food showed up... when we found our waiter hanging around the corner at the bar, he told my friend, oh it's not my fault i'm done with my shift now. mike is your waiter now. needless to say, the evening ended with us speaking with the manager and a gift certificate to return for desserts... no thanks.

        1. re: Emme

          I"ve had mixed results with Pete's as well. When they were new, you kind of put up with their inconsistencies because there wasn't much else available around there, but now there are too many other places down town to have to deal with Pete's.

    2. If she's ok with Japanese, I think the best combination of delicious and affordable can be found at an izakaya spot like Iyazoi, Haru Ulala or Honda Ya. All could be fun for a date. Otherwise, as you note, most of the popular restaurants downtown are pretty expensive.

      Haru Ulala
      368 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

      132 S Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

      Honda Ya Izakaya
      333 S Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

      4 Replies
      1. re: Chowpatty

        Second an izakaya. Of the three, I'd pick Honda-Ya for this occassion. Izayoi is on the more expensive side. The Honda-Ya space is much nicer than Haru Ulala and the prices are about the same. Plus Honda Ya seems to be the current hotspot in Jtown. Easy seating if you go early.

        1. re: slacker

          I love IZAYOI!
          We were there again last night and I found it totally reasonable for the price.
          2 of us and only $40...we had simmered pork belly; deep fried fish skeletons; this thing that I always get but don't know how to spell and it's not on the menu; live sweet shrimp with their little fried heads; some eel; a cut roll; some green tea; a glass of sake...really good night!

          1. re: tatertotsrock

            Wow, I couldn't get out of there for $20pp, but for $25pp including tax and tip, and including a beer, I could get very full at Haru Ulala.

            1. re: slacker

              If I were ordering sushi at Izayoi, the bill would have been much bigger...however, we were coming from drinking a bit o' wine at Silverlake Wine and just wanted some yummy salty snacks...the pork belly is only $8 and the little bones are no more than $6 or something...I only ordered 1 sake, my friend had tea...now, the $40 was before tax and tip.
              I have to say that I was not a fan of the quality of food at Haru Ulala and it was a bit smelly the 2x we popped in there...not my cup o' tea...but a lot of people really enjoy it.

      2. Colori Kitchen, but only open for dinner Thu-Sat

        1 Reply
        1. re: burntcrisp

          Oh. This won't blow her socks off in an "OMG look at the view of downtown", but more of a "wow, this food is awesome" kind of way. Then again, affordable and trendy/romantic rarely go hand in hand.

          That said, split a ciopinno and get a few bottles of wine = great success. Oh, and their cesear salad is fantastic.

        2. Where are you going after? If you have already bought tickets to some sort of big event, you don't need to spend a lot for dinner. And she may offer to split or pay anyway. So keeping that in mind, you should be aware that the happy hour at McCormick and Schmick's is in a nice room, you can have a drink, and happy hour cheeseburgers and fries are like two bucks.

          1. I haven't been, but plan to soon. Check out Blue Dahlia at 738 E. 3rd Street, near Zip Fusion Sushi. The patio looks both casual and romantic. Beef short rib burger is reportedly the bomb.


            1. How about R23?

              Urban chic atmosphere, good food (sushi), and it won't blow the budget.

              1. how bout hama sushi? decor is... well, authentic is prob the word. it's just a tiny sushi bar... but it's good!

                1 Reply
                1. re: e_ting

                  I was there on Sunday. Probably not the best day for sushi but anyway...

                  I thought it was ok. nothing special. Salmon was ok, sushi rice was ok, nori kinda stale. mackeral was horrible however.

                2. What about sitting at the Ciudad bar? I know they have $4 Happy Hour Drinks till 7, and I don't remember their bar food being that expensive.

                  1. I second Ciudad. Cool, modern and hip, plus eclectic interesting food. And assuming your plans may be on that side of downtown (Disney, Staples, Nokia, etc. etc.) it's easy access to all. In fact they may even have a shuttle to the arts centers so you only have to park once.

                    Something fun, funky and hip with surprisingly good and inexpensive bar food is the Redwood Room, once a L.A. Time hang out redesigned with a kitschy/cool pirate motif. 316 W. 2nd St.

                    And though I haven't been for dinner, I'm a converted fan of Fred Eric's Tiara Cafe (127 E. 9th St.). At first when it was only open for lunch I figured it for one of those places focused only on the bridge and tunnel daytime downtown denizens, but now with its great weekend brunch, hip fashion district crowd, eclectic and clever menu complete with expected Fred Eric-isms, I'm now a fan. Dinner wed -sun 5:30-10PM.

                    Who's tried dinner?

                    Oh, and for a special meant-to-impress event, I'd give thumbs down to Pete's. It's a very important place for the historic district in downtown, a perfect neighborhood spot but the service and food, though usually just fine, can be spotty. If you live nearby and walk a few blocks to it, that's acceptable. But not for a first date, downtown adventure.

                    1. how about taylor's steak house

                      3361 w. 8th. st., between western and normandie

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: fgrade


                        He said he wants to "impress" her ... not depress her.

                        Plus, I think Taylor's is the antithesis of "trendy".

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Taylor's is NOT at all trendy, but not at all depressing either. Taylor's is a classic old steak house and probably one of the best buys for good steaks.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            taylor's clientele has changed in the past few years (although the remaining regulars can be seen on occasion), service is good, food is good, prices are good, and even though it cannot be called trendy by todays standards, it does have many other qualities one could want to have for a first date

                            perfection does not exist

                        2. I second all the recommendations to go for happy hour. Redwood Bar and Grill on 2nd and Hill has great happy hour until 6:30 or 7:00 (???) and it's nice and dark inside. Other happy hour places are Nick & Stef's, Zucca, Daily Grill, McCormick, Arnie Morton's. But I love the Redwood Bar and Grill (although it is primarily a bar w/ booths and has less of that "corporate" feel to it).

                          1. It's not fine dining but the food will be good and plentiful, byob, quiet but not posh, fun if you do the Mongolian firepot. Service is as indifferent as any great value Chinese restaurant. The place is JR Bistro in the mall between Hill and Broadway, same mall as Ocean Seafood. As Chinatown is pretty dead in the evening, it'll be quiet even if you sit outdoor. Their regular menu is comparable in quality and price to the better places in San Gabriel but they do offer a firepot which is not on the menu and which is what I'd go for. Their firepot is a great value-- tasty, plentiful, good quality, wide assortment, and fun as it bubbles and you swish your food in the soup. Expect to pay $25 pp for incredible amounts and variety of food.