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May 5, 2008 07:39 PM

Foodiest Spots in L.A.

I recognize that this might be an annoying post, but I'm hoping that some people may be able to identify the real "foodie" restaurants in L.A. I live in New York and I'm visiting L.A. in a few weeks. Despite having read plenty of guidebooks, websites and Chowhound threads, I still can't tell what the best places for serious foodies are in L.A. I'm not looking for the hippest or trendiest places, but the most interesting and delicious (and possibly locavore-ish). For example, if this is of any help, if someone were to ask me for this type of recommendation in New York, I would think of places like Franny's, Momofuku, or even Blue Hill (on the high end). Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. Probably nobody has responded because we aren't serious foodies. The places you mention seem much less hip and trendy than what I'm accustomed to. I recommend Ivy at the Shore.

    2 Replies
    1. re: aventinus

      OK, I cannot resist weighing in here. Let's face it, LA really doesn't hold a candle to NY when it comes to dining out so you have to seek out those experiences which you simply can't replicate back home. For that reason, in my humble opinion, you can skip Providence, Sona, Ortolan, Patina (especially Patina, so overrated). There are simply too many similar and superior choices in NYC. Sushi is the ultimate so cal cuisine (healty, tasty and pretty). For high-end, I like Mori and Nishimura. But there's no need to spend that kind of money for raw fish in LA. Try Sasabune in West LA or Tama in Studio City for great selection at fair prices. I would also trek out to Monterey Park for more exotic Asian. There are long entries on here with specific recommendations. And there really is still something that can be classified as California cuisine in LA (although the Bay Area trumps us, no doubt). Lunch at Joe's or a late night snack at The Hungry Cat will let you go home with a sense of how the locals really eat. Last but not least, despite the tour buses and the kitsch, I would go to the Farmer's market at 3rd and Fairfax. Loteria has good lonchera-style Mexican and you don't have to eat it in your car. Plus the vibe of the whole place is worth the parking hassle. Ask around for other Mexican options since we do that better too (I like Las Barcas in Huntington Beach but that is not likely to be on your itinerary).

      Happy eating.

      1. re: aventinus

        You are kidding right? Ivy at the Shore has been a joke in my family since moving here 12 years ago.....................

      2. Because I'm the type that still wants to offer something constructive, let's begin with the following: where are you staying, how long will you be staying, will you have a car, what is your budget, and how many in your party? Identifying restaurants is easy, but matching them with logistics tend to be the hard part.

        1. Well, I would say people are reluctant to answer this question because NYC "Foodies" are not the same as L.A. foodies.

          I go to NYC a lot. I have friends I've known for 30 years who consider themselves Foodies and we always have a great time eating together. BUT, the stuff they swoon over and the stuff WE swoon over are from two different worlds.

          Also, we are hesitant to suggest anything because NYC Foodies tend to want the same kind of things they eat in NYC. This isn't NYC. (duh) And I've found that ex-NYers and visitors from NYC get very upset if the food isn't what you're used to in NYC.

          So maybe we should just ask you, "WHAT is it you're interested in trying?"

          I have to warn you: In these parts, the "hottest" restaurant of the moment amongst Local foodies is likely to be a place where most of the menu isn't even in English!

          16 Replies
          1. re: Reeter1

            Perhaps I should clarify that I'm not interested in eating NYC-style -- in fact, on the contrary, I want to go to whatever the most L.A.-ish places are. That's, well, kind of the point. I'm interested in trying anything, including non-English menus, if needs be. I'm staying with a friend in Venice but we're willing to go anywhere, of course.

            1. re: eboges

              I don't think you're going to find much agreement on what is LA-ish or even what it LA. My two cents worth -- there are a few places that most people on this board will agree are true event restaurants, e.g., Providence, Melisse or Urasawa. I'd try to go to one of those regardless of whether someone deems it inferior or superior to similar NYC rests -- these places ahve been and are likely to contine to be at the top of the conversation about LAs best. Everyone's tastes and experiences are different (taco trucks are very LA, but there are a lot of other very LA things I wouldn't recommend). Its tough not to recommend two other types of restaurants -- Vietnamese and Indian, which the greater LA area does quite well -- OC is home to a large Vietnamese population. And if you happen to go to OC, you may want to try Onotria, which is something of a Wine Country/locavore destination that is fairly popular among many self described foodies.

              1. re: eboges

                There are more diverse Asian foods here in LA than any other city. Thai, Korean, Filipino, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, and all the different regions within. If you're hungry and appreciate friendly owners, I suggest this awesome Korean BBQ restaurant. They offer an all-you-can-grill selection of 13 meats. No buffet here. All food is delivered straight from the kitchen to your table. Sides are delicious and continuous, just ask. They also offer other meals aside from grilled.

                Fresh Korean BBQ
                17623 Sherman Way
                Van Nuys, CA 91406

                $16.95 for the all-you-can-grill

                1. re: eboges

                  pink's hot dogs. naw just kidding. i'm being mean. don't go there.

                2. re: Reeter1

                  I feel exactly the same way. The worst thing I've come across in dealing with NYC foodies is their idea of good Chinese food.

                  Anyway, NY does fine dining better than LA, so I usually steer clear of that kind of thing for New Yorkers (and San Franciscans). I'd say Langer's, but then they usually start talking about Katz. Throw Phillippe's on the list, Daikokuya, a good taco truck (maybe El Taquito Mexicano), and dim sum (I usually go to 888). There are probably a few other ethnic foods I'd throw on the list if I knew how long you were gonna be in town.

                  1. re: andytseng

                    Most of the threads I've seen on this boards about east coast style Chinese food are from people who fully admit that they know the food they're looking for is not authentic or the best-tasting food. But sometimes, you have to scratch that nostalgic itch.

                    Personally, I'm from the East coast and much prefer "real" Chinese food, and I certainly don't crave those awful egg rolls I grew up with. However, there are some dishes that remind me a little of Americanized Chinese dishes I grew up around that do scratch that itch for me.

                    Recent thread with some good suggestions for Chinese places in the SGV to try - I would suggest making a day of it - have some Taiwanese / Northern Chinese style breakfast at Yi Mei or Dim Sum somewhere, check out the asian supermarkets, Wing Hop Fung, maybe Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, and in between, check out some of the regional suggestions from this thread:


                    To the OP: LA is a great place for ethnic food, and I think that's what you want to look for. There are a number of threads about what ethnic food visitors from out of town should check out, so you should search the "archives" for these threads and check out some of those places (definitely a good city for Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Persian, possibly Thai).

                    I would definitely check out Grace, though not sure if they emphasize local produce as much as they used to.

                    I think the /overall/ quality of food (and overall value) is better in NYC, but LA has some great options if you're willing to search for them.

                    Agreed that posting about trendy buzzwords like "foodie" and "locavore" is going to get you more snarky remarks than helpful ones, and honestly, if I could think of a few funny ones, I'd stick them right here myself.

                    1. re: will47

                      I cannot agree with you that the overall value of food is better in NYC. Look at the vast swath of cheap yet outrageously delicious Asian and Mexican foods we have here, from Koreatown to the San Gabriel Valley.

                      The cheap stuff in NY (at least in Manhattan and Brooklyn) is not terribly diverse. (By cheap I mean you can stuff yourself for $10 or less). For example, in LA consider the glory of the Shandong style beef wrap at 101 Noodle Express-- $6 buys you enough to fill one hungry dude. Or the $5 xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at JJ in San Gabriel. Or the $6 soontofu at Beverly Soon Tofu (of course you can also stuff yourself on the unlimited panchan for free as well). In NY, it's much harder to find stuff this diverse, good, and cheap. (Not to disparrage NY's cheap eats.... but generally to get something in Manhattan or Brooklyn that's cheap and filling well under the $10 mark, you're going to Chinese, pizza, hot dogs, bagels, etc. You have to go way out of your way to Bed Stuy, Brighton Beach or the outer reaches of Queens to find the cheap ethnic treasures that are so bountiful here.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Last time I checked beverly soontofu is around 9-10 bucks but that's still really cheap for what you get.

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            But in LA, to get to most of the places you're talking about, you typically have to go much further from wherever you are (geographically, at least; in terms of time, it might depend on the time of day). And finding the good places in LA requires some research - there are plenty of stinkers.

                            I'm vegetarian, so my views might be skewed (I think NY has better options for vegetarians and vegans overall), since I can't eat much in the way of Mexican or Korean food (though the soon Tofu on Sawtelle has done a water based one for me), or a lot of the Japanese food. And I'll further admit that since I grew up over there, it's possible that I just prefer the food around there because it's what I encountered first. Or maybe I'm pickier now.

                            But anyway, I wasn't so much saying that NY has better cheap eats, but that the *overall* value of what you get for what you pay (if you go into any place, whether high end, middle of the road, or low end) is usually pretty good in NY, unless maybe you're in some super touristy area in Midtown. In LA, it's a crapshoot - you can go somewhere middle of the road or fairly expensive and still not get good food.

                            If you want to talk cheap eats, I think there are some pretty good Thai, Eastern-European / Jewish, Italian (non-pizza), Indian, and Middle Eastern places in Manhattan, just to mention a few things beyond Chinese food, pizza, hot dogs & bagels. Both cities certainly have their strengths and weaknesses ethnic-food wise, but I think NY does better in a lot of the areas that LA is good at than vice-versa. Not only that, but restaurants in NY tend to stay open a lot later for the most part.

                            And in NY, there are some great concentrated areas - Korean in Midtown around 34th, Indian in midtown and again on E 6th st., Little Italy, etc. The mix of stuff available in NY is also mind-boggling, even if both cities have a few areas that are head and shoulders above the other.

                            There are plenty of places I love to eat in LA, and there's probably some stuff that I'd miss or have a hard time finding in NYC or another city. But overall, for me, if I were going to bet on picking a restaurant randomly and having it be good, I'd put my money on NYC.

                            1. re: will47

                              I strongly disagree. To compare midtown Manhattan Korean to the wealth of offerings in LA strikes me (and I'm Korean) as profoundly wrong. In NYC, as in LA, you have to schlep long distances to get the good stuff (e.g., Queens or NJ for Korean, Indian, Chinese, etc.). The best burrito I had the entire time I lived in NYC was at Chipotle. Since moving to LA, I haven't set foot in a Chipotle. There are three or four places, all within walking distance, that would immediately be the best burrito in NYC. And don't get me started on more authentic regional Mexican...

                              Don't get me wrong, I love chowing in NYC -- I'm actually there right now. Just had an amazing Italian dinner at Apizz -- the kind you can't easily get in LA. I miss my bagels, Israeli falafel, Sicilian slices, and roomali rolls. Ultimately, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this 'hound has put on a good 15 pounds since moving to LA.

                              PS: A perfect illustration of my point is Sripraphai in Queens. One of, if not the best Thai in the greater NY area. It would be merely average by LA standards.

                        1. re: andytseng

                          if the OP is looking for ramen, i'd go with asa, gardena, or shin sen gumi over daikokuya, which has fallen off lately. there's also santouka, but they've already got one in new jersey.


                          1. re: rameniac

                            I too have been avoiding Daikokuya lately, passing it up for the consistently delicious glories of Santouka. However we found ourselves in Little Tokyo the other day during the "in between" hour of 3:30 when many places are closed, and wound up there.

                            Aside from the fact that they've got new menus (with higher prices.... the standard ramen is now the same price as tsukemen at $8.50), we were pleasantly surprised to find that the quality of the soup was rich and flavorful and the gyoza charred to a lovely deep browned crisp. It was a one-off visit, so I can't attest for consistency, but that specific meal was great (and this is coming from a guy who spent literally every day of May 2007 eating ramen from Tokyo to Kagoshima :)

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              lol where did you go in japan? imho daikokuya can't even begin to compare with an average ramen shop in kyushu. their broth is "ok" on a good day, but it's their noodles that i don't care for. they use these generic squiggly yellow noodles that are much better suited for a lighter shoyu ramen. but in their tonkotsu, they just sort of sit there and gain mass and i never wind up finishing the meal.

                              unfortunately, daikokuya's tsukemen was all sorts of wrong the one time i had it. tsukemen soup should be extra-concentrated and have a tighter tare to broth ratio; instead, daikokuya used the exact same tonkotsu as in their regular daikoku, which totally doesn't hold enough flavor if all you're doing is dipping. guess i should give it another chance at some point. but i'll have to ask for double tare!

                              1. re: rameniac

                                * Mr Taster takes out his map of Japan *

                                We ate at many random little joints, and many random "ramen streets" all over the country, so it will be hard to pinpoint any specific ones other than a few standouts. It's all sort of one big noodley blur at this point.

                                We started in Chiba (stayed with a friend) then to Tokyo, Yokohama (Ramen museum!), Nikko, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto (ramen street above the train station), Osaka, Hiroshima (a fun little gritty "ramen alley" stuck between two buildings), Fukuoka/Hakata (surprisingly, not our favorite), and Kagoshima. The one standout bowl was at a place in Kyoto called Karako... you can read about it here... fried chicken and tonkatsu ramen.... ohhhhh lawdy was that good.


                                Please reply to that thread so that we don't get bumped for going off topic.

                                Mr Taster

                      2. If you want interesting and locavore, try Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga. Probably best for lunch on a sunny day (all the good seating is outdoors), but you can do dinner there too. Great place.

                        Inn of the Seventh Ray
                        128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd, Topanga, CA 90290

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nick_r

                          Oh my, it is not possible that you are speaking of the food at Inn of the 7th Ray. Sure it is a wonderful place to relax but unless you want Chicken Ala King over Uncle Ben's from the weekend buffet I would be embarrased to recomend it for the food.....great place to catch a buzz though!

                          1. re: Robhungry1

                            Inn of the Seventh Ray is serving very good food now under a new chef.

                        2. I don't think any of the suggestions above are very helpful, sometimes people on this board have a strange aversion to the word "foodie" that turns them snarky. The restaurants most commonly associated with the locavore movement, Slow Food and such in L.A. are Mozza, Lucques, Campanile, Josie, Hatfield's, Fraiche, Lou on Vine, Grace, jar, Providence, to name a few. That should certainly give you something to start with.

                          17 Replies
                            1. re: Chowpatty

                              Thanks for this polite response chowpatty. I have been interacting with this board for several years & lived in LA for 17 & I am shocked at the earlier responses. I have no idea why people are freaked out by the term 'foodie'? I proudly cosider myself a foodie & to me it just means someone who's into great food whether it be caviar or a hot dog! Anyway, I'd add Melisse (Santa Monica; very pricey french food & the best meals of my life) to the list & since you are staying in Venice maybe Beachwood is a fun place w/decent food to hang out. For the best sandwich in LA, check out Bay Cities Deli (also Santa Monica) & ask for the godmother if you enjoy an italian style sub. If you want some authentic Mexican (Oaxacan) try Monte Alban.

                              1. re: dotrat

                                I understand the "foodie" cold shoulder. Self-defined Chowhounds tend to go for eats a little less architectural, a little messier; less linen, more formica; and tend to distinguish themselves -- at least in their posts here -- by a certain socioeconomic accessibility.

                                That said, I agree with some suggestions, not others. No point sending a New Yorker to Mozza, as most corner pizzas in NYC are as good or better. Same with pastrami, Italian style subs, and Phillipe's. Get things you can't get in NYC: great Chinese in San Gabriel, great dim sum, great Mexican, great Korean, great California cuisine, great sushi. On the high end (again, tough competition for a New Yorker), Lucques is great but I'd recommend places with a real sense of place as well as local ingredients: how about Chinois on Main and Saddle Peak Lodge (not Inn of Seventh Ray, unless you're a seriously new agey vegan type)? I'd add Citrus at Social, which is both delicious, uniquely French-Californian, and in a classic Hollywood building. For dim sum, Empress Pavilion is still the go-to. Definitely hit a taco truck. For high-end Korean, Chosun Galbi. For hole-in-the-wall Korean, Beverly Soon Tofu. I'd also hit a classic California-style sit down Mexican: I think Lares is the best on the Westside.

                                Let us know how you do, eboges.


                                1. re: jesstifer

                                  Inn of the Seventh Ray is certainly not only for "seriously new agey vegan types." I'd look at the menu and website, at least, before making that assessment. I think it's a great place for a variety of palates, and a uniquely Californian place that's well suited to out-of-towners.


                                  I don't work for them. I just think that someone who routinely eats at the best places in NYC will probably be more interested in something more off the beaten path than in a place that offers the same kind and quality of food they can get at home.

                                  1. re: nick_r

                                    the food is not bad, and the locale is lovely, but a place that has a soup "Created by the vibrations of each day" on the menu has a new agey kick. Fortunately for tose of us not in the clouds, the Inn of the Seventh ray on the surface is a very nice eating spot with pretty good food. Service can vary.

                                  2. re: jesstifer

                                    As a New Yorker, I'd actually still suggest Mozza, it's really in line with the places the OP mentioned as far as vibe. Also the have some good things aside from pizza, and their pizza it definitely a different spin than typical NY pies.

                                    Also, I'd suggest a place like Father's Office. Sort of makes me think of Momofuku in vibe...

                                  3. re: dotrat

                                    I agree w/ Bay Cities and Monte Alban very much.

                                    Since you'll be in Venice, you might stop into 3 Square and Jin Patisserie for some pastries and sweets.

                                    For Japanese in SaMo, try Musha.

                                    I also agree about hitting ethnic fare - Thai (Northern and Southern), Mexican, Ethiopian, Korean, Dim Sum in San Gabriel, Peruvian... I'd likely skip Italian and sushi since NYC does those pretty darn well.

                                    For a gastrically trying breakfast, head over to Griddle Cafe on Sunset, but prepare for a wait unless you go early.

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          Looks pretty not very good tastewise. Haven't been able to find anything like Payard in LA.

                                          Tried, Jins, Boule. Any other suggestions for patiserries?

                                          1. re: Sgee

                                            It's probably not technically a patisserie, but Amandine on Wilshire is worth trying for French baked goods. My cousin is a professionally trained pastry chef, and she liked it the most out of the various bakeries and patisseries (including Jin) that we tried when she was in town.

                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                              Agreed - they do "everyday" pastries (croissants, danishes, rolls) extremely well. Nothing really gussied up but at the same time very presentable.

                                              I try not to but always give in to their banana-filled pastries. Their banana-chocolate danish is the size and shape of the bow of a battleship - wonderful stuff and nice to share. And that smallish-looking chocolate-banana tart holds the key to banana nirvana... The three-inch pastry shell is a substantial puff pastry thing that flutes up with its cut edges - when baked those cut edges form crispy little nuggets of pastry that counter well with the unctuous pastry creme, shredded coconut, mound of banana flambe, that is topped off with a garnish of chocolate chunks. That I don't share. They also have a strawberry-orange tart with pistachios is that is built in almost identical fashion. One could not put any more on to those mini pastry shells without the laws of physics being challenged... Their cakes and tarts in the case are always perfect for me - just enough sweetness, fresh flavors, and easy on the eyes. This is a bad place for dieters...

                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                Right now, I'm obsessed with their blueberry "bakery tart."

                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                  I will definitely give that one a try next time. So you aren't on a diet either, I see... :)

                                            2. re: Sgee

                                              Amandine is good but it's not Payard - you might try Provence Patisserie and Cafe - 8950 West Olympic Blvd, Bev Hills 90211

                                              1. re: prainer

                                                Have any of you been to Porto's in Burbank (i think). Cuban food and bakery, a wealth of pastries, breads, baked goods, tarts etc. I only sampled a few items, but the overall quality looked quite good, and the few things i had were fantastic.

                                    1. re: Chowpatty

                                      I second Providence, Luques, and Mozza. I love Osteria Mozza, but seeing as how you have Babbo and all the other Batali places in New York you might skip that one. However, if you decide to go there, sit at the mozzarella bar where you can talk to Nancy Silverton if she is feeling so inclined.