on dating + (hound approved) dining. strategery and the dreaded "asian circle," or is it just me?
as chowhounds, we can all pretty much agree that food is everything. every meal o' the week. eating is so basic, so imperative, that few things in life are more important. in fact, i can but think of one - MATING. as such, when it comes to finding a place to eat, the ONLY times when other factors (besides quality of the food), should ever be taken into consideration are when one is - as my english friends like to say - "on the pull."
that said, it's pretty apparent that LA is probably the least pull-friendly town in the world for the gastronomically inclined. not because there aren't great restaurants around, but simply because, to get to most of them, you have to drive clear across town no matter where you're coming from!
nothing kills a vibe quicker than walking out of a damn good yakitori joint or oxacan-molestravaganza to suddenly find yourself... in a desolate strip mall in torrance or el monte. in fact, i'm guessing that that's how the dreaded "asian circle" arose. i don't know if your peoples do it, but mine certainly do - where you and your friends stand around in a huddle outside a restaurant for two hours after the meal, shooting the shite about nothing while deciding where to go next.
needless to say, that won't do on a date. in any other major city in the world, you could probably get some kick ass food relative to your locale, stumble into a bar for a kip, then proceed straightaways to snogging in a nearby park, all without having to tip the valet.
in LA, you can always DRIVE SOMEWHERE ELSE, but damn if that ain't inconvenient, and not just for drinkers.
i live at the bottom of a tonkotsu vat, so this doesn't necessarily apply to me. but where would you go that is ped-friendly (ambulators, not children) AND chow approved?
third street santa monica is nice, if you don't mind dining at buca di beppo or monsoon.
the grove? is there actually anything good there? i've heard a good thing or two about that french bistro-y place next to the wanna-be bellagio water fountain but ain't ever tried it, as it reeks of faux-ness.
hollywood and highland? sure, if CPK is your thing. hardly chowish.
i guess you could say i'm looking for the proverbial kick-ass-northern-chinese-hot-pot, that's right next to the city-square-with-the-ice-skating-rink-and-the-jugglers. kind of like finding the supermodel who's also a harvard grad, without having to compromise. does it even exist?
suggestions? you know, for my less dorky friends who actually have social lives ;).
Only place that comes to mind is around Mission Street in South Pasadena - a good mystery book store, great wine store, and several (I've heard) very good restaurants within walking distance.
Welcome to LA.
We're slaves to our cars in everything we do in our everyday lives. The vast expanse of LA does afford us some great ethnic foods and diamonds in the rough.
Face the fact that everything here is GUD (Geographically Undesirable)....I dated a girl for 2 years who lived 30 miles away until I found one 10 miles away.
On the other hand....
I've visited friends in San Francisco and Manhattan and it never seemed to me as good as we have it here. You have to have a plan of action of where you're going to go and how you're going to get there because just hopping in your car (if you have one) isn't an option because you can't just roll up somewhere and park your car like we can do here. Most people have small places so you just can't hang out at their place so you have to go find a place to dine and hang.
Everywhere's a compromise--pick your poison and appreciate what we have.
I'm sorry, but I really have to defend New York. As a NYer (and as somebody who's lived in LA briefly before), I've got to say that LA was such a bitch to get around. I was staying in K-town and ate Korean and Mexican until I got sick of it (granted, the Korean and Mexican is so much better than what you get in New York). Many times, I yearn for some mole at Guelatzaga (sp?) or soon tofu at Beverly. The Grove, which is nearby, has absolutely nothing -- unless you're a fan of the Cheesecake Factory. And other areas are really very difficult to get to. I found the best thing in NY is a wonderful subway system. I never feel like I need a plan of action. Just hop into a subway and you're at your destination a few minutes later. So easy, quick and cheap. And if you live in Manhattan, you can walk everywhere.
But I do agree with monku that just appreciate what you have. I miss fresh masa!
I have to follow Miss Needle's example and defend San Francisco. You apparently weren't observant enough on your visit (or maybe your friends are all transplanted Angelenos) that San Franciscans engage in an exotic pastime called walking and are blessed with the resources to make it an entertaining pastime.
And somehow I got the impression that "just rolling up somewhere and parking your car" was just what rameniac was trying to get away from.
You might want to put Abbot Kinney on your list of soon-to-be pull-friendly streets. This street already has enough restaurants/eateries, a few bars and a coffee shop that fill some of those requirements - heck there's even the dreaded PB now - most women love this place... I don't know how many of the stores actually stay open later so this may be a minus, but I believe a lot of the shops stay open late one friday a month. Art galleries seem to be making a resurgence here and most are actually pretty nice - they're in buildings that are architecturally significant. G2 just opened on the corner of Abbot Kinney and Milwood. Sandro Gebert next to Hal's is opening soon (I think end of this month), and Steven Smith (the fashion photographer) has opened a gallery in the first floor of his studio/residence/shagpad located a few doors south of Stroh's. And Trek Kelly has his studio across the street from Steven Smith. I don't know how much progress has been made but there's a wine shop under construction a couple of doors north of Jin as well. A few doors north of this place is a recently vacated building that looks like a shoe-in for another art gallery. And a mixed-use building is just about to open at the corner of Abbot Kinney and Venice. There's a few spaces on the ground floor that are set up for retail/commercial. Now the only thing missing is a kick-ass ramen stand... ;)
My first thought was Main Street - I like Library Ale House the best (weak knees for good beer) and some other decent eats are on the street, along with some shops that offer distractions. But I felt it was too obvious. It gets quite crowded and I personally think the Chowhound restaurant quotient is higher on Abbot Kinney. I feel it's pretty hard to get a bad meal on this street. Now if Rameniac is dating someone who is accepting of more breadth and not too concerned about the level of dining, then Main Street is a great choice.
Musha is a fun choice - I like your stroll to Renee's and if you still feel like strolling, you can turn around and walk to 3rd Street. It's definitely pedestrian bumper pool there, but sometimes a first date needs that...
There are decent enough choices on Main St, though my first pic, Via Veneto is not really first date, unless it's a first date with your best friend from childhood who you finally realize you're in love with... I do like La Vecchia Cucina, Firehouse (esp if she/he is a healthy eater or got dietary issues), Lula, World Cafe (for really casual and good drinks) 3rd St is definitely pedestrian.
Of course for an afternoon date, late lunch at Le Marmiton and a stroll down Montana with great stores to promote conversation like The Dog Bakery.
Well you can catch food at a restaurant on the PCH like Moonshadows or Geoffrey's (food is only okay at either place), have a few drinks and then try to walk down to the beach to make out on the sand or wait for the grunion to show up if the timing is right.
Or downtown Culver City area; La Dijonnaise for bistro faire (or Don Jorge's on Venice and Cattauraugus for okay tacos) and then a show at Jazz Bakery or (when it finally opens) a couple of pints at Father's Office. Or Sabores De Oaxaca at Venice and La Cienega and then flitting into various art galleries on La Cienega before settling into the Mandrake bar for some excellent Moscow Mules.
Unfortunately the things I suggested don't have astounding food, but they seem like interesting overall dates. Generally I cook more than I go out.
I absolutely can't stand the "asian circles," especially when people continue to stand around even if a decision has been made on where to go next.
We also called it the 'parking lot fellowship.' I think there are some streets in which you can do some walking after eating, but would not have all that you are looking for, like you mentioned, usually not as chowish. I do enjoy 2nd St. in Long Beach and Main Street in Huntington Beach, but what I wish is that we had an area like in Vancouver, Robson Street. Oh well! I look forward to finding something interesting if anyone knows of any.