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What do you think of Rachael Ray's picks?

Here is the list of choices from LA:

Fred 62


Aroma Cafe

eat. on sunset

El Cholo

Clifton's Cafeteria


Cobras & Matadors

The Original Pantry

Canter's Delicatessen & Restaurant

Sweet Lady Jane

Square One Dining

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  1. What is she picking, what is the basis for this grouping?
    To me it looks like a list that you would be better off avoiding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: carter

      The episode was called "Around the Clock in LA"

    2. Did I hear Rachel correctly...? Did she say that Gyu Kaku was shabu shabu?!

      I went to the Gyu Kaku in HB last week. I think you can get a better value for your money elsewhere plus we had some pretty horrendous service.

      1. Yikes, that's a list alright. Except for Fred62, I would avoid all those spots.

        1. OK that's just horrifying. This is like our list of "Places to Avoid". Well, maybe except for Clifton's I can tolerate that place. In each of those categories, there is a better alternative.

          1. My likes on the list include: Fred 62, Cobras and Matadors (Hollywood location) And Square One, I mean, that place is GREAT!!!

            I like the coconut margaritas at El Cholo a LOT. And it's a fun place.

            She is making this guide for her audience, not a bunch of foodies. I think Clifton's would disappoint most average diners, you have to really get into the history and kitsch value. Canter's is another historic thing, I don't like it, but most of my friends LOVE it. Gyu Kaku is fun, just because we all know it as a chain, it's a decent place. Mr and Mrs. Smith from Tulsa, OK might not enjoy trying to figure out which place in Koreatown is actually decent, but they can find a Gyu Kaku in a part of town they are comfortable in, and enjoy it. Original Pantry is also historically fun, they have good ham and french toast, and it's 24 hours.

            As for Sweet Lady Jane, I admit I was impressed when I first moved here 6 years ago. The display of cakes was gorgeous. I know people have had rude service there, but I never have. I just kind of lost my taste for their average cakes after a while. But if you are coming from a place that only has a Marie Callenders, you are going to be impressed with Sweet Lady Jane.

            Besides, this list keeps the tourists away from all your favorite places, right?

            6 Replies
            1. re: annalulu

              The only IMO to go to El Cholo is for green corn tamales, but they're only May to Sept (exact dates?)...

              1. re: annalulu

                I guess us folk from Tulsa have no taste?

                1. re: Firegoat

                  Well, geez, lookit where you LIVE! (no just kidding!, Tulsa is wonderful)

                  Seriously, I think the intent of the post was that the typical Ray fan is not necessarily a person in search of really great flavors on the chowhound level. Her main audience visiting LA may be more interested in what they'd think of as an "Experience" . Imagine sending a starry eyed tourist to Sabor A Mexico or Yum Cha cafe. Not a good scene.

                  Also, in order to have a successful show and become the mega grin she has, she appeals to the lowest common denominator. People who's idea of fine dining is a night out at Applebee's. And no, that's not resrticted to Tulsa. There are quite a few of those in LA, really.

                  1. re: Firegoat

                    Regarding your "no taste" comment:

                    It's not a matter of having "no taste". It's a matter of the events in your life shaping the basis by which you measure new experiences.

                    I lived in suburban New Jersey for 18 years and central Missouri for 4.5. In both places, the most exotic food I ever ate was Taco Bell. Six months before I left Missouri for LA, the town's first Indian restaurant opened. My meal there was an absolute revelation. Parts of my mouth that I never knew existed came alive.

                    It was not until I moved to LA (and had been here for 5 or 6 years) that I began to open my mind past what I had gotten used to eating.

                    It's just a fact that people from less populated areas of the country (like the midwest) generally do not have the immigrant population density which can provide an authentic and diverse ethnic food experience.

                    In LA, we are lucky to have massive Korean and Chinese populations which provide us with opportunities to not just eat "Chinese" but various permutations of regional delicacies. In Koreatown, we have a restaurant that prepares imperial cuisine. Although I'm sure Tulsa has a Korean population, my uneducated opinion is that it is likely not large enough to support a restaurant which serves a style of Korean food which is so specific.

                    It is in this regard that people from smaller cities simply have less opportunity (and less inclination due to peer influence, etc.) to diverge from the standard "middle class" restaurant experience-- and this is what Rachel Ray's audience expects. So when she espouses Gyu-Kaku, she is speaking to those people in Tulsa (and elsewhere) who have never eaten *GREAT* Korean BBQ (or more specifically, the blander Japanese version of KBBQ which Gyu-Kaku makes), so Gyu-Kaku becomes a wildly exotic but still very "safe" (i.e. clean and filled with middle class white people) experience.

                    For those of us who have been eating authentic, fantastic Korean bbq for years now (some in restaurants that are pretty grimy holes and would scare away Rachel Ray's core demographic), Gyu-Kaku provides nothing new or exotic.... I see it as half the food and half the quality at twice the price.

                    So, it's not that people from Tulsa have no taste. It's simply that the cities in which we live shape our life experiences. The vast majority of non-Korean and non-Japanese Americans will likely find Gyu-Kaku an exciting and exotic change of pace from the regular Red Lobster/Applebee's/Friday's/local diner rotation.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      By the way, I've created a new thread addressing this on General Topics... please post replies there.


                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Please respond on this issue to Mr Taster's post on the thread he links to above, rather than here on the Los Angeles board, so that we can keep the discussion on this board focused on local chow.

                        Thank you!

                2. Wow, the fact that El Cholo and Cobras y Matadors is on here shows she's an even bigger idiot than I ever expected. I guess it really is true, anything affiliated with Oprah is evil....

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: ElJeffe

                    Really? I'm more turned off by Canter's and Toast, but C y M seems to get mixed but mostly good reviews on the board ...

                    1. re: ElJeffe

                      El Jeffe,

                      Please explain why you are an Opponent to Cobras and Matadors. Personally I have always went to the Beverly location. Consistently had a good meal, fun, loud vibe and great corkage policy. May not be Authentic, however a fun time, good food and great atmosphere. Whats not to like.. Perhaps you wont travel nor like anything unless its outside your door ( I remember your Pizza post.. )

                      1. re: Foodandwine

                        C&M is fine is you want a fun atmosphere. But if you are going to a Tapas restaurant for tapas....then C&M doesn't even really qualify. I've lived in Spain and had a lot of good tapas, but you don't need to be a food snob or live anywhere near Spain for good tapas. New York, Chicago, San Francisco all have great tapas. For some reason, it just can't be found in LA (and yes, I've been to Bar Pintxo, which is better but just average). So I just do not agree on the good food part.

                        1. re: ElJeffe

                          El Jeffe.. Gracias por su respuesta.. Would you say Bar Pintxo is better or worse that C & M. I havent been and would like to try it if you feel its worth the drive ( ha ha ) Take care..

                          1. re: Foodandwine

                            We have family in Spain and have found Viva Madrid in Claremont is good for tapas and the wide selection very authentic

                            1. re: Ernie

                              Claremont? You have got to be kidding . . . . I didnt think they had anything there beyond Koo Koo Roo . . . .

                              1. re: blackbookali

                                Claremont is a great little college town with some excellent universities, but there is no Koo Koo Roo there

                                1. re: Ernie

                                  Ernie, have you tried the Euro Cafe in Claremont? Supposedly it's Portugese food (or Portugese influenced may be a better word). I have not been there but some friends had recommended it to me.

                                  add: found a web site - http://www.eurocafeclaremont.com/

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    No, haven't tried Euro Cafe but the Portuguese items sound very interesting!

                                    1. re: Ernie

                                      It seems that food from the Iberian peninsula is being well represented in Claremont. If you do have a chance to try Euro Cafe I hope you'll post your impressions.

                                  2. re: Ernie

                                    totally went to the Koo Koo Roo there. my buddy graduated from Pomona college : - P !!!! we would get the chicken sandwiches like ALL DA TIME. great stuff fer a college student budget . . . not sure if its a legit option for some look for tapas in LA though . . .

                                    1. re: blackbookali

                                      Really? No Claremont locations listed on their Web site:


                                      And yes, Viva Madrid is good for tapas even if it is too far a drive for some people

                                      1. re: Ernie

                                        good? OR GREAT? i feel like this board deserves a "destination pick" - no?

                                  3. re: blackbookali

                                    If RR's picks help weed out the tourists and tunnel-visioned West-Siders from my favorite quality SGV and IE restaurants, then more power to her.

                        2. I am such a fan of Aroma during the weekdays when they're not busy. Very yummy sandwiches. Very yummy cakes. The rest of them... *shrug* Canter's is good, but nothing to write home about except seeing D-list celebrities every time I'm there. I prefer Billy's in Glendale as far as delis go. El Cholo's kinda foul. eat is overpriced. Sweet Lady Jane doesn't suck, but it's not on my top recommendations list. Haven't eaten at the rest of them.

                          1. This looks like a list compiled by someone whose tastes were established in the 50s. Maybe even the 40s. Meh. I bet she likes Jell-o served on a leaf of iceberg lettuce with a dollop of mayonnaise on top.

                            1. Annalulu has is spot-on: Rachael Ray is making a list for HER AUDIENCE, which is not the Chowhound crowd. Let me shed some light on the difference: I took my parents to Mozza one day when they were visiting last. The next day, I took them to Terroni. Which one did they like better? The much-inferior Terroni. My mom is an enormous Rachael Ray fan. Her favorite L.A. restaurants are Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles, Soot Bull Jeep, Empress Pavilion (I took them to NBC in Monterey Park - my mom still vociferously prefers Empress Pavilion), and Langer's. Despite all the hours she's logged watching Food Network, she had no interest in dining at Comme Ça. Or Lucques. Or Jar. Or anything remotely Japanese. Had Rachael Ray made a list that ticked off Hatfield's, Ocean Star, Angelini Osteria, Urusawa, Jitlada, and Babita, most of her fans would think she was suddenly trying to be Anthony Bourdain.

                              It does seem oriented for the rather unadventurous tourist, too. The list seems to break down to:
                              - "more-interesting-than-average" MOR dining (Fred 62, Square One, SLJ, Toast)
                              - historic locations (Canter's, Clifton's, The Pantry)
                              - non-threatening ethnic (Cobras, El Cholo, Gyu-Kaku - more bland Korean BBQ than the real thing; meatier, more cooked Japanese than sushi)
                              - one "nice" reastaurant that's not bank-busting (eat.)

                              Is the Aroma the bakery one in the Valley or the Serbian one on Overland?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Woolsey

                                There are two Aromas in the Valley. Ray was talking about the one on Tujunga

                                1. re: Diana

                                  Ah. I didn't really think she was adventurous enough to go to the one on Overland...

                              2. I get half off at El Cholo on Western in LA and it's still not worth it, despite the senoritas greeting you with cozy Spanish. I think they give Trojans half off because they could go to La Barca and get much more food and be much closer to campus. I went to a restaurant way inland across from a mall I think with J.C. Penney's or some department store. That might have been El Cholo La Habra. I don't know but it was so hot, and the lovely waitress who worked there offered me a free coke. I know that's stretching, but I want to be fair . . . Good service is good service.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: apple7blue

                                  It's not just for Trojan students, who patronize La Barca out of location and stupidity. Alumni and staff get the same discount, too. The discount isn't some La Barca competition thing; La Barca is miles away from El Cholo, and the reasons for going to either are completely different. It's a USC loyalty tradition that actually works in El Cholo's favor as many USC students still go there after they graduate, and many USC staff functions are held there. It's a tradition for many alumni before or after a USC game, for example. El Cholo is building brand loyalty with the discount.

                                  1. re: Woolsey

                                    What's stupid for being a college student and not wanting to spend money to go to El Cholo and getting much larger portions at La Barca? I am sure the connection to El Cholo goes back to when it was on Santa Barbera or now Martin Luther King Jr., the southern boundary street of Coliseum park area. I am not sure how giving half off builds brand loyalty. Discount shopping is not associated with brand loyalty. At USC, no one talks about El Cholo, I only heard of the discount from the Chowhounds threads and decided to check it out. Everyone talks about La Barca, and professors have treated me there. That is the default place if no one else can think of a better place.

                                    Regardless, the enchiladas I got at El Cholo were small in portion and as some people have described in threads as bland non-threatening food. It was not bad though as some people have described. The enchiladas from La Barca were pretty good portions even if the food was nothing spectacular, it was decent fare. Plus it's like a few minutes from campus, I can walk there. I much prefer the atmosphere of El Cholo, hence it's suitability for holding functions and treating out of town guests to. La Barca was great for me but it fits some people's description as hole in the wall, but it's hardly that. I think you can definitely find more "authentic" food. On the other hand, I am not as adventurous as trying the tamales of vendors who sale their wares by announcing their food in laundromats or sell out of jimmy rigged shopping carts or baby carriages near an intersection by busy thoroughfare. Many of my fellow students feel uncomfortable even going to King Taco, which is not really an adventurous place to eat at. So I also understand what some people have said about food being for certain audiences. There are of course plenty of people who swear by Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, hahaha . . .

                                    1. re: apple7blue

                                      El Cholo advertises its USC discount in the annual campus guide, and the discount is well-known by students and alumni I think. Even though I'm with Emme on the tamales being "the" food reason to go, I have no problem paying El Cholo for margaritas and chips. Slightly influenced by the disount...perhaps:)

                                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                        Heh, I think we are few of the students who pick it up and look through it. I didn't see El Cholo in it. I found some other places though. The discount is what attracted me there to check it out. Yeah, I heard the green tamales praised. I think there is an El Cholo in OC by Newport Beach, I planned on getting the tamales there. Anyways, they are not year round. So I have yet to try them. As you say later in the thread, it makes for better television. Which is visual, so best to show a place with spectacular looking food or visually appealing environment . . . I am just surprised she didn't add any famous hot dog places . . .

                                        1. re: apple7blue

                                          I think the El Cholo in OC is the one in Irvine. I'm not a fan of the place, but many of my friends like it and I can see why she picked it.

                                    2. re: Woolsey

                                      There's nothing stupid about La Barca's $2 margaritas within walking distance of a college. What's stupid is how I used to wait in line (!!) for that place.

                                      Maybe it's the out-of-staters, the sheltered, or the unadventurous, but after growing up in southern California, I treated El Cholo like I would any mexican chain; you know what you're getting, the 1/2 off is nice, but it's not going to blow you away. I actually prefer the food at El Cholo to La Barca, but I wouldn't say my focus at either was ever something solid.

                                      1. re: MeAndroo

                                        From the enchiladas, I prefer La Barca because the portion size, and it's more cheesy and they put peppers inside also. The beans are slightly better too. Both don't have a black bean option, which I prefer over pinto beans, but I guess I am in the minority on that preference . . . I treat it the same way. The line at La Barca can be avoided by reserving, just from my experience. One good thing about El Cholo is down the street, an Asian shopkeeper sells Fosselman's ice cream . . .

                                        1. re: MeAndroo

                                          There's a reason for the $2 margaritas....they taste like water. The food is below average at best.

                                    3. I stopped paying attention to Rachel Ray when she recommended the Stinking Rose for good Italian in LA.

                                      1. I agree that this is the list for a national, fairly unadventurous audience. Rachael Ray seems to put more emphasis on atmosphere than on food. I'm sure this makes for better television.

                                        1. Wow, I can see picking Clifton's and The Pantry and even El Cholo as a part of LA's history, but for nearly every listing there, there are clearly better choices. Rachel Ray has done a poor job covering LA and Hawaii, two places I have some knowledge of. Then again, it is easier to find the best places in Austin, TX than it is a place like LA.

                                          1. They are to die from.

                                            I mean seriously, El Cholo?

                                            1. Most of these places are great places to catch up with friends. I barely know who Rachel is but this list seems to fit her audience.

                                              I think most of you people should wait for Rachel's small portion unpronounceable expense account west of Labrea picks.

                                              1. I watched part of this show and she wasn't actually at any of the places they were showing. It was all clips of places with her doing voice over so she was just probably reading whatever copy was set in front of her and didn't actually pick any of the places herself.

                                                But then again I didn't see the whole thing because I ran out of beer bottles to throw at the screen.

                                                1. Square One - not getting all the animosity for this one. Granted it's not perfect, but I like it a lot. (I'd be fat and broke if I lived closer to them lol )

                                                  Fred 62 - It's okay, in a pinch. (if it's after midnight/really late,etc. and you're in the area )

                                                  Aroma - It's a nice place, and some of the food is alright, but the service leaves something to be desired and the coffee is so-so.

                                                  Canter's - aside from a few of the bakery goods, overpriced and overrated.

                                                  I haven't been to any of the others, so I really can't comment.

                                                  1. El Cholo? I'm no Mexican snob, but it's no better than fair. Oh, hell, I'll admit I actually like the food better at El Torito.

                                                    And I don't get Toast being included on any list. There are zillions of great places for breakfast in L.A. and it's just average.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: nick_r

                                                      true, but I just realized that I have seen a celebrity every single time I've eaten there (only a few, but still. . .) that would make it a decent casual place to put on a list like that.

                                                    2. I can not stand Rachel Ray. She is such a bummer all around...
                                                      BUT. I've lived here my whole life and love food and as horrifying her choices might be, I love all the old timey historic places she picked. But yes, its very much for memories sake...Love Canter's, love the pantry and I love Cliftons...El Cholo even doesn't bug me that much for margarita's and fun with others...But, I also take people to El Coyote because it's where Sharon Tate had her last meal...so...

                                                      1. I'm not crazy about her picks, but if I were advising out-of-towners as to good places to people watch, maybe RR's picks would make my list. But if my guests were foodies...

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Golem

                                                          Rachel Ray has no professional food training so yes, her pick of restaurants in L.A. is a sorry selection of mediocre finds but she is giving options that will be "universally" accepted. I’m just sorry she didn’t mention some of the really great smaller restaurants out there that deserve the attention and instead she keeps the others in business.

                                                          El Cholo and La Barca are both good for chips and margaritas. Most people eat so much at the start they can barely touch their plate at either. Both are good for a drunk time to be had by all Trojans and others alike. I still go to El Cholo after football games. If you are going to walk to La Barca from campus make sure it is in a large group.

                                                          1. re: Merbear

                                                            Why the large group? I walk there by myself all the time, so I am asking . . .

                                                        2. The picks are not as bad as some are claiming. It's obviously not the best food in LA, but for a tourist, that's a fine list of fun places to try. I enjoy most of them myself on occasion.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: alnyden

                                                            i agree. Actualy i think Cobras & Matadors is a decent pick for tapas. Good value for the money.