Car-less conventioneer CH ISO great food
Hi LA CH-ers -- New Englander here, coming out for a convention in late May. I've been to Los Angeles a few times but always get stuck at expensive, somewhat stuffy and "safe" travel guidebook business dinners, and while that food has been amazing at times, I'd love to branch out on my own on this trip, CH-style. But I could really use some help.
Could you recommend some unpretentious spots with great food that aren't too terrible of a cab ride from downtown...staying at the Westin Bonaventure. Priorities are quality food, no uncomfortable "scene," inexpensive or moderate. Anything goes in terms of cuisine, good Mexican would be a particular treat, but Korean, Southwestern, Vietnamese, *real* "California," anything else special to the region would be much appreciated. (We can't get banh mi around here, for example. Or In-n-Out burgers, for that matter.) I'd also splurge on excellent West Coast sushi. Thanks so much, and I'd be happy to reciprocate if you ever drop by the NE board. :)
Just a little info on being at the Bonaventure: you're 2 blocks from the Red Line at 7th/Fig, so you have access to the Metro rail network. A few suggestions include:
Red Line - Westlake/MacArthur Park Stop - Langer's for a pastrami on rye. It'll run you about $11 for just the sandwich, but it's been argued that it's the best in the country.
Red Line - Vermont/Beverly - Koreatown - there are myriad recommendations on this board, and many people more knowledgeable than I.
Walking - Grand Central Market is located between Hill and Broadway where they intersect 3rd and 4th. Very inexpensive, lots of street mexican food along with random other latin, asian, and american style food.
There were some threads focused on the train lines a while back. This is the Red Line one, but you can search for the others as well.
Besides the red line (subway -- very limited) and the bus system, the way to get around downtown is the DASH system, small buses that run about four different routes and only cost 25 cents. Mostly during daytime hours -- I don't know how late they run. But they will make outer parts of downtown, Chinatown, and Little Tokyo accessible. L.A. is NOT a cab town -- you can get picked up at the hotel, but it may be difficult to get back.
Great, thanks nosh and Diana. I am probably mostly dealing with weeknight dinners, unfortunately. Maybe one daytime excursion. But you've given me a better understanding of what neighborhoods I can easily access and that will help w/searching the board. Anything to avoid marked-up room service or another boring business dinner. :)
You're not far from Olvera Street, which is touristy but actually has good Mexican food. Do a search for Olvera Street on this board and you will find a lot of recs. I also like Senor Fish in the downtown area for tacos, but Olvera Street is definitely more fun. I'm not that familiar with the sushi options downtown, but Izayoi has good lunch specials. Actually, you may want to do a search for Little Tokyo on this board. I believe all of these places are reachable via DASH buses. Some of these places are probably within walking distance for daytime, but there are sections of downtown that aren't safe to walk alone at night.
One weeknight dinner place to consider, which would be both easily accessible and provide a very L.A. experience, is Traxx at Union Station. I cannot vouch for the food, but there are plenty of hounds who've been there. If it's a warm evening, their outside patio looks particularly inviting.
My sushi recommendation, in nearby Little Tokyo, is Sushi Go 55. Sushi Gen is also a favorite of many locals (also in Little Tokyo).
Right across the street from your hotel is Ciudad. The food isn't the greatest, but there are some good options, and it is a very L.A. place without being a scene at all.
800 N Alameda St Ste 122, Los Angeles, CA 90012
445 S Figueroa St Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90071
Sushi Go 55
333 S Alameda St Ste 317, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Take the Red line to Hollywood/Western and walk the six or eight blocks to Jitlada, for fantastic Southern Thai food. Or go to any one of a number of pretty good Thai places in that area. Or go to Paru's, for Southern Indian.
And I second the recommendation for Yum Cha for lunch. (They close at 5, and don't have much selection after 3 or so.) Also, CBS (also in Chinatown) probably has better Chinese food than you'll find in most of New England.
If you take the Dash in the evening, be sure to check the schedule; IIRC they stop running fairly early. You can always take the red line back, though.
You can take the Purple Line to Koreatown, though I might suggest Wilshire/Vermont and Wilshire/Western as better places to search for Korean food than Vermont/Beverly. Specifically, from Wilshire/Western you could go to Park's BBQ, which is 4 blocks south at the corner of San Marino and Western, or to the mandoo place next to BCD Tofu House at 8th and Western.
From Wilshire/Vermont it's a six block walk to either Sokongdong or Beverly Tofu House, which face each other across Olympic Boulevard at New Hampshire St. (one small block west of Vermont). Slightly closer is Soot Bull Jeep (5 blocks' walk at Catalina and 8th), but you will smell like a forest fire when you're done.
From Wilshire/Normandie it's four blocks' walk to Honey Pig, on the corner of 8th and Kingsley (2 blocks south of Wilshire, 2 blocks west of Normandie)
If you take the Red Line, and you get off at Hollywood/Western, it's a four-block walk to Jitlada, which has amazingly good Southern Thai food. In fact, if you walk just a couple of blocks east from Hollywood/Western you'll be in the heart of Thai Town and can eat whatever strikes your fancy -- boat noodles from Sapp Coffee Shop, for instance. There's even a Thai dessert place, with lots of coconutty pandan-y goodness.
Langer's closes at 4. Macarthur Park is not safe after dark.
If you want a slightly longer adventure (but still just a $5 day pass), take the Red Line to Union Station and switch to the Gold Line (tracks 1 & 2), then head up to South Pasadena (the stop is called Mission), where there are a number of very good, cute Californian-type restaurants. You can also take the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena which is very good for walking around and not so good for interesting eats.
GCM is great for lunch but closes at 5pm. The Place link lists several of the stands with their own links.
Next to Macarthur Park are Chicken Itza (Yucatecan) and Mama's Hot Tamales, the latter with tamales from all over Central America. Don't worry, 'dark' will be pretty close to 8pm, just leave the Hawaiian shirt, shorts and camera at the hotel :-\.
Grand Central Market
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
2501 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90057
Thanks, everyone! Everything sounds great. I'm psyched to get out and see more of the city. I'm very into the idea of Koreatown, Thai Town and Little Tokyo -- and tamales! All stuff I can't get in quantity or quality where I live.
And don't worry, I'll leave the Pilgrim hat and buckle shoes at home. :p
I think you are on the right track in focusing on Asian and Mexican food. I am from LA and going to grad school in New England. I gave up trying to find comparable Asian or Mexican out here. Since I've been on this coast awhile, I can't help with specific recommendations.
Enjoy your trip.
I would try to take the bus out to the San Gabriel Valley at least once... for Pho, the gf's recs are Golden Deli (good, but very, very busy), or Pho 79 (almost as good but much less crazy). Lots of good Chinese of various types as well. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/510836 is one recent thread with some good Chinese places.
For Japanese, I'd try to check out an Izakaya if you can. I don't know the ones in Little Tokyo, but I think you can find some recommendations if you do a search on the board.
I was also going to point out Chichen Itza; I'm going to guess that there are very few specifically Yucutan restaurants in New England. If you cab it from the Bonaventure, it's a short cab ride (2 or 3 miles, I believe) Frankly, unlike some other posters, I'm not convinced you'd be taking a big risk by taking the subway to the MacArthur park stop and walking 5 blocks. The relative unsafeness of MacArthur Park isn't what it once was. While I would not advise my 75 year old aunt to walk around there at 10:00 pm unescorted, my wife and I have street-parked my Passat on the side-street next to the restaurant and walked around the corner in winter (i.e., well after dark) many times and nobody's ever said "boo" to us. Maybe subway there, cab back?
All fantastic suggestions. Don't waste your time looking for a meal in the hotel, it's so much more interesting beyond! If you get a chance, stroll down Broadway on a weekday - this thoroughfare is an amazing slice of LA life that will probably be altered with gentrification. Check out Clifford's Cafeteria for a glimpse at historic LA (not for the food, though!).
Just wanted to update. Ended up at Ciudad the first night as it was just across the way from the Bonaventure. Potent sangria, and the food was good, certainly the best around that location, I'm betting, but I was also looking forward to branching away from the hotel on subsequent nights. Had medicore dinner of carne asada in a Third Street pub in Santa Monica not worthy of mention (transport circumstances dictated), but then had great convention center tacos for lunch (outside stand, in the courtyard between halls, if anyone ever ends up there, go with the carnitas); Sushi Go 55 for dinner, which was awesome, from the starter pickles down to each lovely, perfectly fresh piece of nigiri with excellent rice, and the best uni I've ever had. Spent my last night at In-n-Out Burger in North Hollywood...which was an LA experience all its own, but quite tasty and couldn't beat the price.
Walking (yes, walking!) past Sushi Gen, I realized I had been taken there a few years ago, and it was also a great experience.
If I had it all to do again we probably would have stopped along Wilshire for cheesy spicy corn on the cob...but I'll have to save that for the next jaunt.
Oh, and I don't recommend sprinting from Little Tokyo all the way back to the Bonaventure on a full stomach of oshinko, sushi and asahi, but again, erm, transport circumstances dictated. At least we made it back safe and sound.
Thanks, everyone, for your help!