Best live/eat neighborhood in LA
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.