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Best live/eat neighborhood in LA

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  • figg May 2, 2008 09:13 AM
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(I am stealing this idea from the Boston board.)

I am moving back to LA this summer after years of living in places with good public transportation (Boston and San Francisco). I will be working downtown so I am hoping for a decent commute. I want a wide range of price options and types of food. I would love a place where I won't even have to (or want to) drive on the weekends (not sure if that is possible in LA). I also love having a local independent coffee shop where I can walk in and the workers know me. So basically some place friendly with good food, all in walking range. I want to avoid chain restaurants and the really trendy places.

Thanks!

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  1. You want ALL that?! Ha! Welcome back to LA...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Joe Blowe

      No debate among the hounds on this topic (LOL):

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/402949

      And some other ideas / thoughts to consider in making a chowish choice:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/374943
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/69224
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/415178

    2. DTLA is definitely the spot you wanna be at. But you're gonna need to drive ;)

      1. Gotta represent for Silver Lake, although Echo Park and Los Feliz are both viable too. Easy public transportation or driving to Downtown, walkable, plenty of independent coffee shops, large choice of restaurants -- they're not all great, and not all reasonably priced, but it's pretty hard to find all that in one area. With all due respect to Downtown, I'd rather spend my weekends walking around the lake to Lamill or riding my bike to Griffith Park than walking around Downtown.
        Also worth considering: Living in Downtown itself, of course, Koreatown, South Pasadena.

        1. I think it's possible to do all of that, but the commute is a necessity. The bus system is great, but if you're looking for rail, then you'll be limited. As soon as the new MTA line extends to Culver City, that might be what you're looking for, but until there's a rail line that connects Santa Monica with Downtown, it ain't gonna happen.

          You could actually argue that Chinatown might be the way to go: lots of Mexican, Chinese and Vietnamese at your doorstop, and surely with the construction downtown, lots of Classic and New American.

          I'm personally a fan of Hollywood. It's tourist trendy as opposed to local trendy, but I'm okay with that since I pretty much avoid Hollywood Blvd between La Brea and Vine (with a few notable exceptions). The red line stops here, lots of buses, and of course the foot walking is easy. Thai Town is at my doorstep, and soon as I cross Melrose, I enter a whole 'nother realm of destination eats.

          Culver City has a lot of good options at various price points, and puts you in striking distance to Santa Monica and Koreatown, so in the immediate vicinity you'll have a lot of options. Again, commuting will suck until that rail line is extended.

          Welcome to LA. Fortunately the foodie Boston transplants I know are cooler than the other Mass-holes that seem to have arrived and do nothing but complain.

          1. I live around the 6th and La Brea area (90036) and it meets many of your requirements -- I can easily walk to La Brea Bakery, Campanile, Luna Park and also Trader Joes for groceries. If I'm in the mood for a slightly longer walk, I can get to Milk and Insomnia for coffee and treats and to the Farmers Market, which has numerous food options. A very quick drive gets me to Mozza, Larchmont (for killer sandwichs and one of the most interesting wine selections in the city at Larchmont Wine and Cheese), and to all the many options down Beverly -- Jar, Grace, Hatfields etc. 3rd street (A.O.C) is also right by. And then there's Pico, which has a ton of great food and a fantastic little French coffee shop called Maison du Pain. And at La Brea and Olympic is a taco truck that is superb. You're right by the entrance to the 10 or, if traffic's bad, you can also take 6th all the way to Downtown. It never takes me more than 20-25 minutes to get down there -- although to be fair I rarely head that way during peek traffic so you'd probably want to scope out those times.

            2 Replies
            1. re: toothsome

              I, too, currently live in the 90036 and recommend that zip for easy walks to wide range of food/price options and a decent (freeway free!) car commute to downtown; it is also possible to walk in the 90036 to Melrose/Beverly/Third/Wilshire bus routes to/from downtown.

              As for South Pasadena, I lived there for ten years and while it was a lovely "small town" to live in (for the most part) as it was before the Gold line and better restaurant options came to town. SoPas has three, count 'em, 1-2-3 full-sized grocery stores (Bristol Farms, Vons and Pavillions, the latter two being across the street from each other) in a city of three-square miles. And the commute from SoPas to downtown was my shortest-longest commute; 8 miles door-2-door averaging approx 45-1hr during peak driving times; 15 minutes off-peak.

              1. re: yinyangdi

                Having lived in 90036, I gotta tell you, getting to a freeway in any direction -- not the most fun in the world.

            2. I'd say the SGV. There are several options for commuting: 1) Gold line stations in Pasadena or South Pasadena to go to Union Station downtown; 2) El Monte Bus Terminal with Foothill Transit or MTA buses that will go just about anywhere downtown. You can find great Chinese, Mexican, and Vietnamese food in the area. I'm sure there are plenty of other good types of restaurants, but these are the ones I frequent the most. Also, the food is some of the cheapest you can find in the greater Los Angeles area.

              1. I'd say Los Feliz or Silver Lake, followed by Echo Park or the Hancock Park-ish area (less so the latter than say, 10 or 15 years ago, when there was substantially less traffic).

                1. Hancock Park/Windsor Square meets all of your criteria.

                  1. I'm thinking Pasadena near the Gold line by old town.

                    1. Honestly this is impossible.

                      I kind of like where I live downtown, Second and Main. Little Tokyo is perhaps the highest density section of high quality food in Los Angeles. There is a nice casual cafe called Banquette. But that's about the extent of it. To me, the benefit of living downtown is that it is closer to the SGV and Artesia than pretty much anywhere else people who work downtown live.

                      Silver Lake is good option. I used to live there. But let's face it--you're probably not going to walking to a whole lot of places. Maybe 2 or 3. I think Silverlake is the center of the casual gourmet L.A. food scene (L.A. Mill, Intelligentsia, Cheese Store of Silverlake, Silverlake Wines). Beats the hell out of the Westside.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: aventinus

                        But in the Westside our air is still breathable... you can't buy new lungs...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          you do have a point...

                          1. re: pfoods

                            I honor those neighborhoods for their food, personalities, and cultures. If and when the day comes where public rapid transit becomes the rule, solar cells cover all of our rooftops, and plug-in hybrids are as often seen as facelifts on B-list celebs on the Westside, then these above-mentioned neighborhoods will score a 10 in my book...

                      2. Welcome back figg. ..."local independent coffee shop where I can walk in and the workers know me." My first thought was to suggest that you look into whether Pann’s or Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil has an empty storage room that you could hang a hammock in and your problem is solved. Then it came to mind that it might be a good idea to consider what meal of the day is most important to you. If a coffee shop breakfast is your thing then the San Pedro / Long Beach area is hands down the best place to live in L.A. For example, the list below is a list of places that are not simply very good but IMO are way over the top. A breakfast list like this does not exist any other place in LA – maybe San Diego. I am considering moving to Long Beach because of this list, the ocean air and because of the freeways there like the 405 which gets you to the West LA traffic jam and all the food there and also down to OC. for Vietnamese food and the Orange Crush. The Harbor Fry goes to LA faster than most and the 605 goes up to the SGV for Chinese and Mexican foods.

                        Any one of the places below are a San Pedro / Long Beach coffee shop version of the friendly ambiance of a Boston pub. Like that song says...
                        "Be glad there's one place in the world
                        Where everybody knows your name,
                        And they're always glad you came;
                        You want to go where people know,
                        People are all the same;
                        You want to go where everybody knows your name."

                        Breakfast in San Pedro

                        Gaffey Street Diner
                        247 N Gaffey St
                        San Pedro, CA 90731
                        (310) 548-6964

                        Pacific Diner
                        3821 S. Pacific Avenue
                        San Pedro, CA 90731
                        310-831-5334

                        Omelette & Waffle Shop
                        1103 S Gaffey St (near W. 11th. St.)
                        San Pedro, CA
                        90731-4035
                        (310) 831-3277

                        Rex’s Café
                        2136 S Pacific Ave (near 22 nd. St.)
                        San Pedro, CA
                        90731-5922
                        (310) 519-7190

                        Lighthouse Café
                        508 39th Street.
                        San Pedro, CA
                        (310) 548-3354

                        Breakfast in Long Beach

                        Jongewaard's Bake 'n Broil
                        3697 Atlantic Ave
                        Long Beach, CA 90807
                        (562) 595-0396

                        Egg Heaven Cafe.
                        4358 East 4th St. (Corner of East 4th and Ximeno St.)
                        Long Beach, CA
                        (562) 433-9277

                        Chuck's Coffee Shop (good breakfast and burgers)
                        4120 E Ocean Blvd
                        Long Beach, CA
                        (562) 433-9317

                        The Potholder Café
                        3700 E. Broadway
                        Long Beach, CA
                        (562) 433-9305

                        Coffee Cup Café
                        3734 E 4th St (at Grand Ave.)
                        Long Beach, CA 90814-1658
                        (562) 433-3292

                        Eggs Etc
                        550 Redondo Ave
                        Long Beach, CA 90814
                        (562) 433-9588

                        Oh, before you leave Boston please eat a smoked chop with some eggs for me at the counter of the Deluxe Town Dinner.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: JeetJet

                          haha I LOVE that I knew this was you posting before I saw your handle. Nice post...makes me feel starting a breakfast club in LB:)

                          To the OP. What is the most important? Commute, coffee shop, apt?

                          I like living by the beach, because of the cooler temperature (I don't love a/c) cleaner air (asthma means that matters), by the airport - because I travel a fair amount. Luckily, LA has enough good food that you will find a great neighborhood that you love.

                          1. re: JeetJet

                            I'll add Schooner or Later to the Long Beach list based on their pancakes alone.

                            1. re: JAB

                              Those pancakes you mention. What ar they like? Do they have any slight chew likr the flap jacks at Original Pancake House or Pie and Burger's pancakes?

                              1. re: JeetJet

                                No, they're fluffy and not rubbery and very tasty. Sorry, I can't compare to either place as I haven't been. I'm usually disappointed when ordering pancakes but, not this time. I couldn't keep my wife from my plate even though she had their signature "mess".

                            2. re: JeetJet

                              I love Long Beach, and I've been to a lot of these places and they're great. However, the commute to downtown, whether by car or light rail, is HORRENDOUS. I think I took 5 years off my life the year I commuted to downtown from Long Beach. Don't know what it's like from San Pedro, but would imagine it's just about as bad.

                              1. re: onebite

                                It's pretty bad, but there is an express bus that a lot of people take, or there's carpooling.

                                1. re: onebite

                                  5 years off maybe, but 15 added on and thousands of $$$ saved on not operating the air conditioner because of the clean cool air near the ocean. IMO the 10 fry either East or West of DTLA leads to some good food but is the worst "parking lot" to drive to DTLA. San Pedro might be better. Ernie shuld check in here.

                                  1. re: JeetJet

                                    Yes, the 10 is horrible, even worse than the 710 or 110. Like I said, I really liked Long Beach, just hated the commute.

                                    1. re: JeetJet

                                      When I had to be in DTLA at 9AM, the commute from San Pedro was awful, usually at 1-1.25 hours each way by express MTA bus or car. I now start work at 10AM and the commute is much better, usually 35-45 mins by car

                                      1. re: Ernie

                                        I found that the commute home during rush hour is what killed me. I'm tired, hungry, and it just took forever.

                                2. Hahaha...Mass-holes. That was funny.

                                  Used to work downtown in a big office so have heard many commuting tales.

                                  As far as commuting to downtown, I would not go west of Hancock Park area. Traffic is just too bad.

                                  Long Beach does have the Blue Line light, which is okay as long as you don't have to come back home too late at night. Gets kind of intense when it goes thru Compton. However the walkable neighborhood with good restaurants that most people know from LB is Belmont Shore, which is too far from the rail line and freeway on ramps.

                                  I would go with West Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Pasadena. Living in Downtown wouldn't be completely out of the question, either.

                                  1. I have lived near Hollywood and Vermont in Los Feliz for the last eleven years, and for most of that time I haven't had a car.

                                    I work in North Hollywood near Vineland and Camarillo; I hop on the Red Line to the NH station every morning at 7:50 and I'm at work by 8:30 -- leave at 5 pm and I'm always home before 6. If I had to commute downtown it would probably be just as fast if not a little faster, although the trains in that direction are a bit more crowded.

                                    Food-wise I'm very happy with what's within walking distance ... Figaro, Alcove, Yuca's, vermont, the Kitchen, Les Amis, Il Capriccio and Il C. Pizzeria, Palermo, Pattaya, Niko Niko, Yai Thai, Fred 62, Cobras Y Matadors, Square One, Electric Lotus ... I wish there was better Chinese delivery than Chi Dynasty but I guess I can't ask for everything.

                                    There may be better neighborhoods for walking to good food ... 3rd St/Beverly/Farmers Market area, or Santa Monica, or (maybe) Silver Lake, but for me, none of those has a reliable direct transit connection as does Los Feliz.

                                    1. I think the key is that you are working downtown, so the westside is out for commuting reasons. I live in Silver Lake and used to live in Pasadena.

                                      I would actually recommend South Pasadena or Silver Lake/Echo Park based on these pros/cons:

                                      South Pasadena
                                      pros:
                                      1.Can take the Gold Line/bicycle to work
                                      2. Several Nice coffee shops, foodie stores (Nicole's Gourmet, etc.) and restaurants on the high-mid to high end.
                                      3.Great video rental store (Videotheque)
                                      4.Thursday Night Farmer's Market which is a nice scene
                                      5.Quiet, safe and pretty (lots of gardens, flowers, oak and Jacaranda lined streets)
                                      6.Close to the SGV asian food scene
                                      Cons:
                                      1.No nightlife to speak of, no bars that are closeby (except in Highland Park)
                                      2.Not much in the way of low-mid to cheap food options (except Highland Park)
                                      3.Kind of a more couples-with-kids place (which is a con only if you're single)

                                      Silver Lake/Echo Park
                                      Pros:
                                      1.Good cheap to high end food options (lots of taco trucks, stands, etc.)
                                      2.Good food related shops
                                      3.Plenty of bars, nightlife
                                      4.More singles friendly (again, a pro if you're single)
                                      5.Short drive to Downtown, with regular bus routes as well
                                      6.Lots of hills, pretty houses that are well gardened but not as picturesque as South Pas
                                      7.The SL reservoir and the Echo Park itself
                                      Cons:
                                      1.It's rougher around the edges than South Pas
                                      2.Kind of scene-y and hipster-y if that offends you
                                      3.Not on the Gold or Red Line
                                      4.Further from the SGV

                                      If you don't mind the grit and safety isn't a priority than Highland Park may be good for you as well. There are coffee shops, bars, a farmer's market and some of the best mexican food in the city but it isn't always so safe.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: oro3030

                                        "I think the key is that you are working downtown, so the westside is out for commuting reasons."

                                        Not entirely true. My husband lived in WLA and commuted downtown for years on the #10 freeway express Big Blue Bus...a very reliable option.

                                        1. re: petradish

                                          Your husband may have survived it, but the commute from the westside to downtown is not fun, and there is no express land on the 10 freeway, so even though he wasn't doing the driving, there still is a ton of traffic.

                                          If you are anywhere west of the 405 freeway (i.e. Mar Vista, Venice, MDR, Santa Monica, etc.), you can guarantee it's going to be a minimum drive of 45 minutes up to an hour (or longer) if the traffic is particularly bad or it is raining, there's an accident, etc. If the original poster doesn't mind spending 1.5-2 hours a day commuting, then I guess the westside is not out.

                                          1. re: DanaB

                                            I agree with you about the heavy traffic and can't speak to living in MV, Venice, MDR...but I said it was reliable and possible from West LA, not fun. However, when you have a guaranteed 80 minutes of daily "me time" to fall asleep, meditate, etc, whilst being driven to work, it can be a positive experience :-) Hubby wasn't the only one doing it, as the bus was full of fellow commuters and he met some nice people to boot on that particular bus line.

                                            The neighborhood around Sawtelle Blvd./microtokyo has many interesting, walkable options: Japanese, Persian, Oaxacan, Italian, etc. You can walk or take a blue bus to Santa Monica (pubs, beach, farmer's market) or Westwood Village on the weekend. Late night Ktown fun is a straight shot down Olympic.

                                        2. re: oro3030

                                          South Pas is a very good suggestion.

                                          As for Silver Lake, word is that the 201 bus is going to be cancelled soon, which means you'll have to be walking distance from Sunset to use public transportation.

                                          1. re: maxzook

                                            A friend pointed out that the 92 follows Glendale Blvd. between Rowena and Sunset, which gets you close to Blair's, the Edendale Grill and the Red Lion (as well as the Coffee Table and Astro's, of which the less said on a foodie blog the better).

                                        3. Why not just live in downtown LA?

                                          Lots of indie coffee shops have opened up recently in downtown, incl. First Cup Caffe, Mia Petite Bakery,

                                          All sorts of good eats have popped up in downtown, from the oldies (e.g. Pete's, Roy's, Sixth Street Bar & Grill, Cole's) to the more recent (WoodSpoon, Redwood Bar and Grill, 626 Reserve), to the newer ones (Lime Cafe, Tranquility Base, Bottega Louie).

                                          Plus, there are probably a dozen more eateries and specialty markets slated to open by summer 08.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            I guess I am just drawing from my knowledge of friends from both SF and Boston that living downtown wouldn't meet what the OP's requirement for a friendly neighborhood would be but then I could be wrong. South Pas and SIlver Lake sem more like those places. Also, I guess you can't beat the commute if you live and work downtown.

                                            1. re: oro3030

                                              Well, if "friendly" means suburban, then you're right DTLA would be a poor choice.

                                              But, DTLA really isn't just one monotonous urban sprawl that is the financial district. There's quite a few distinct micro-hoods that make up DTLA, e.g. historic district, arts district, fashion district, J-town, etc.

                                              Living in DTLA definitely isn't for everyone, but it's definitely changed quite a bit in the past few years (there's even a Ralphs with outdoor seating!).

                                              1. re: oro3030

                                                It is true there are some areas of downtown that are like living in a post-apocalyptic hell but areas like the historic core are VERY friendly and neighborhoody. I have a couple friends that live in the historic core who love it. Frankly, it is actually too close-knit for me. Everyone knows each other...getting stopped on the sidewalk to chit-chat is not my cup of tea...and wanting a private dinner at Pete's or Banquette? forget about it!

                                                The food in the area is good. Rocket Pizza, Blossom, Pete's, and Warung are all decent.

                                                There's a liquor store on 4th and Main that sells good wines. Bars are fun and mixed.

                                                Subway adjacent with the Pershing Square stop.

                                                Don't cross downtown off your list.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                And in addition to all of those, there's easy access to the Viet/Chinese/Mexican offerings right at your doorstep if you're in DTLA.

                                                1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                  If one doesn't mind the incessant, and unannounced, street closures on the weekends for filming, DTLA is really a great spot for those who want easy access to good eats, as well as a centralized location to other parts of LA.

                                                  Plus, with the real estate market these days, they're practically giving away lofts ... some even come with a free Mini Cooper (yes, "free").

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  You go, ipse. DTLA is indeed an excellent choice, esp if OP is single or no kids. Rents relatively inexpensive cf rest of LA. 25-ct DASH service provides excellent means of getting around during weekday business hours (& later during the days & weekends, if LADOT ever reads its mail.) Splendid eating variety – cheap to Water Grill – within walking distance from almost anywhere in DTLA. Extremely easy freeway access to all compass points. Vibrant singles scene. Lots of happening free entertainment, esp in summer. Nexus of culture on Grand Ave – MOCA, Disney Hall, Colburn, Music Center. Contrary to Westside prejudices, air is clean & -- surprise, surprise – streets are safe.

                                                  Nick’s north of Chinatown has a shabby diner vibe that would fill the OP’s need for a coffee shop where everybody knows your name.

                                                  Major downside: awful, awful public schools & no reasonable alternatives.

                                                  1. re: Mr Grub

                                                    Concur.

                                                    Only consider DTLA if you are single or have no children. One thing DTLA is not for is families with children.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Plus, Central Library is awesome. Okay, that's not related to food, but it's true!

                                                3. Work downtown and take the Red Line home to Hollywood. I do. Solar de Cahuenga is a great local coffee shop that is often busy, all times of day. Pleanty of dining option ins Hollywood that aren't for the tourists.

                                                  1. We are looking for a new house, and I DREAM of living in Eagle Rock. My husband's new commute takes him to Commerce. Right now we live in Sherman oaks, and the valley actually ahs a lot of foodie options, but not a great commute. Even as close a move as Eagle Rock would be better for him!

                                                    Plus, I am still close enough to the Valley to hit up my favorites now and again and still get the benefit of Eagle Rock's dining glory.

                                                    Also considering Monterey Park.

                                                    I'd love Hollywood, but the housing there is too little for too much!