Visiting LA & looking for quintessential Hollywood experience!
I am meeting some friends out in LA in July and we all LOVE to dine out. We are looking for a true fine-dinning experience but are a bit overwhelmed by the number a "great," not to mention expensive, choices out there. We don't mind spending what it takes, but want to make sure we get our money's worth. We are from all over the country and want to go some place uniquely LA/Hollywood too. Please help!
Former Hollywood resident here:
I tell people that the great compromise of having quality food and a "Hollywood experience" where you have a high percentage chance of star-spotting is to just go to Osteria Mozza. Sitting just on the border of Hollywood (technically it's in Hancock Park), I think it's the quintessential modern quote-unquote Hollywood restaurant. Why is that? Because it's LA through an outsider's lens (in this case, a New Yorker).
When I hear people asking for a Hollywood experience, I think to myself that they're intentionally looking for "glamour, glitz and camera tricks".
If you're looking for the quintessential Hollywood evening, then whether or not you went to a show at Pantages/Hollywood Bowl or went club-hopping on Cahuenga, an evening should include booze. You can go for kitsch-classic like Frolic Room or Musso & Frank or go more contemporary at The Hungry Cat and Bowery.
If you're looking for *my* real Hollywood, it has to encompass the notion of Hollywood being the place where, as Jonathan Gold once put it (in describing Los Balcones del Peru) the velvet rope meets the ghetto. Starlets go clubbing on Cahuenga. Locals go clubbing on Santa Monica. Screw Katsuya: go to Sushi Ike. Late night eating at Bossa Nova, Ruen Pair, 25 Degrees or Canter's. Dinner at Jitlada followed by a Hungry Cat digestif.
Now that I've moved away and I have the perspective of distance, I think Hollywood is, for better or for worse, the soul of the city. Again, reiterating Jonathan Gold's notion of velvet rope and ghetto, it's a fundamental part of LA's aesthetic (high production mediocrity, poaching tourist dollars and difficult parking, and some truly magnificent gems underneath it all at both the high-end and low).
Pizzeria Mozza is even more celeb-infested than the Osteria.
The quintessential ``Hollywood evening'' is probably still at Koi, which has tasty Matsuhisa-ish neosushi, more a/m/w's per square yard than anyplace on earth, enough nooks so that celebrities can pretend they're having a private evening but enough lighting so that you can be sure that they are not - because if that's what they wanted, they wouldn't have gone there in the first place. (If you have either the beauty or the pull to get into Foxtail, Bar Marmont or Hyde, you probably don't need us. Bar Lubitsch is a good compromise.
And there's always breakfast at the Griddle, which sometimes seems like a reality-show clubhouse; or coffee at Newsroom or Urth in West Hollywood, which attract papparazzi like fleas.
For most tourists the "quintessential Hollywood Experience" goes like this.
Arrive in Hollywood:
"Wait, THIS is Hollywood?! It's so grotty! What's with all these people in fanny packs, and tourists, and homeless, and drug dealers, and costumes! Where are the stars?"
They then go into some place on the Strip or Hollywood Blvd, pay too much for mediocre food in a place where the only stars were in movies like "Pirates of the Carriboner", then go cram into a club full of wanna bees and leave, way poorer than before.
For a chowhound, the experinec is to look for good food, and forget about "Hollywood"
IF you wanna spend the bucks:
Mozza (osteria or Pizzeria)
To spend $$ for mediocre food, hype and maybe a few regular or porn stars:
The Magic Castle
For less $$, good food:
Moun of Tunis
Ethiopian on Fairfax
The Original Farmer's MArket
The Griddle for breakfast
Cafe M de Chaya
Dim Sum in the SGV
For good food in LA, you gotta drive a little. there's a lot outside of hollywood.
i don't think there's a lot of hype around geisha house anymore. besides, it's always been more of a nightlife destination with pretty edible food rather than a restaurant for serious dining. and i have never heard any hype whatsoever about yamashiro or the magic castle - food or "star"-wise. (the only thing i have heard about yamashiro recommended for is taking out-of-towners for a drink to see the view.) as for the ivy (at robertson,) it is mediocre food for too much money. but one is pretty much guaranteed at least a b-list celeb sighting (not so sure about the porn stars, though) if lunching during the week. dinner's a complete waste, for sure.
I agree it would be good to know what exactly you have in mind when you say uniquely LA/Hollywood. Are you looking to see celebrities? Are you looking for "only in LA" decor? Are you looking to come across a young Hollywood scene? And how important are these things versus the fine dining experience and food quality?
If you're looking for celebrities and want fine dining, I agree Spago is maybe your best bet. Cut probably as well (haven't been there.) But these are in Beverly Hills, not Hollywood. If number one goal is to see celebrities, you should probably just go to the Ivy, but know you'll be getting overpriced so-so food in exchange for a definite sighting (again in Beverly Hills.)
I do agree on Geisha House if you're looking for "only in LA decor" and to be smack in the middle of a hot Hollywood scene. It's not cheap, but I wouldn't call it fine dining. Any hot sushi place could be a good bet for a happening Hollywood scene, and if there's any food LA excels at, it's sushi. You could even go to the original Matsuhisa. That's some of the finest food LA has to offer and a decent chance at celebrity sightings. But it is sushi, there's little to no decor, and it's in Beverly Hills. But it's a world famous restaurant.
Musso and Frank's is old school Hollywood, so if that's what you're looking for, although it isn't the most outstanding food and isn't the hottest place on earth, it may fit the bill. It definitely has a lot of charm and history.
I'll also throw out The Hungry Cat which is in Hollywood and is a bit of a hot entertainment industry scene. The food is really good, and it has a very LA/Hollywood feel. It's too casual to be considered fine dining. But that actually is more unique to Hollywood/LA - although fine dining exists here, I think the more casual dining experience is more the more quintessential dining experience.
For an "only in LA" experience I would have to choose The Restaurant at the Getty Center. Good at lunchtime, but spectacular in the evening around sunset (they stay open until 9pm on Fri and Sat). You can get great food practically anywhere in the country these days, but for a real memorable "experience", try the Getty.
The only other truly Hollywood experience I can think of is the Coffee Shop at the Beverly Hills. Sitting there and knowing that Lucille Ball used to come in there for breakfast all the time.....cool vibe that you just don't get anywhere else.
Okay I know I am going to get "Blacklisted" for this but you gotta do Pinks, (ducking for cover)
My 19 year old son is as we speak driving cross country with a buddy from Louisville, (where they attend college) and we said, "Well you have to take him to Pinks". I will not comment on the food, (although I will admit I have a sick love for those snappy dogs) but the scene is totaly LA...and the people you meet in line at like 1 am...unforgetable.
When I think of a "uniquely Hollywood place," the first thing that comes to mind is Musso and Frank's, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood (1919) and hangout of the stars from Bogart to Brad Pitt. Fine dining? Maybe, maybe not, but it's history:
Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
This is other than what you are looking for, but the quintessential Hollywood experience is having a slice of pizza at Greco's on Hollywood Blvd., late at night, with random people asking you for money while you are eating your slice. It's the only place in LA where I've eaten that begging continues both in front of and inside the establishment.
I recommend the Bona Vista Lounge at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA for a nice night view of the city of LA. I've only been there for drinks, and they are reasonably priced ($8-15 each). I believe they also serve dinner upstairs.
How about a concert at the Hollywood Bowl where you take your own picnic? This is my favorite LA concert venue, and you get a nice view of the Hollywood sign while you watch the show. You can even bring your own wine. :-)
not fine dining - but some fun hollywood experiences with pretty tasty food:
1. drinks/food at the rainbow - sunset near doheney;
2. drinks/food at bar marmont - sunset near crescent heights;
3. drinks/food at dan tana's - santa monica near doheney (maybe a show afterwards at the troubadour).
4. drinks/food at katsuya hollywood/vine complex;
5. drinks/food at koi - la cienega near santa monica;
6. drinks/food at geisha house - hollywood bl./cherokee;
7. drinks on cahuanga/hollywood bars with some fairly gnarly pizza at cahuanga/hollywood (or wander over to gower for chicken/waffles at roscoe's);
8. drinks/food at katana on sunset;
9. drinks/food at cat & fiddle on sunset (or drinks at cat & fiddle, food at hungry cat); and
10. drinks/food at musso & franks - hollywood bl. near geisha house.
Not to get too philosophical, but by "LA/Hollywood" do you mean studio heads eating steaks, people in Chewbacca uniforms out front, or hipsters text-ing across a table?? It sort of matters, but regardless...
I was recently dragged to Geisha House in Hollywood (1st time), and like several previous posters, found it to be pretty good. Nothing I'd willingly go back to without out-of-town guests, but it may fit the bill, esp. for a group. Here's why it's sort of a fantasy-Hollywood place, at least for people who love reality TV and get a-flutter when they see clip-art of the Hollywood sign and palm trees:
It's right in downtown Hollywood.
The room looks like a combination of a movie theater lobby + strip club.
It has loud music and attractive waitstaff.
The food is sort of pan-Asian with an 80s Calif. twist (I think someone at the table got a "teriyaki chicken roll" which was sort of like a wrap. But also sort of good.
Here's why it is a crowd-pleaser:
Strong and good drinks ($10-12).
Lots of room.
Decent food ($20 for entree w/ side).
Big tables, just like at [insert chain] back home!
Side note: park on the street and your car will be towed in about an hr., which will set you back you about $300.00 (note to out-of-towners!). Valet and pkg lots are both $8.
Hollywood, ca, Hollywood, CA 90028
re: cant talk...eating
I enjoyed your post the details and information were helpful and entertaining.
Doubtful that I'll ever get there but it was fun to read about. I enjoyed Spago
for a fabulous lunch last year taking a limo in from Disneyland where we were
staying then on to Chicago. It was bright, fun and the food was amazing. They gave us a whole box of cookies for the car ride back!
My first inclination was to recommend Spago. Not Hollywood, but relatively nearby in Beverly Hills. Famous proprietor, Wolfgang Puck, and one of his best chefs and pastry chefs. A good chance of encountering celebrities. A great tasting menu is available, but not essential to make the most of the experience (as it pretty much is at Providence). Puck's flagship, with superlative service.
I gotta admit I am jaded when it comes to Hollywood dining. Velvet ropes, huge valet parking fees, scene over substance. If you must do Hollywood I'd go for oldtime, classic Hollywood -- Musso & Frank's. However, let me throw in a caveat -- if you are a big fan of "The Hills" then reject my advice and head to Dolce or Ketchup or Mr. Chow or The Ivy.
agreed, i don't have LA places but these are a few spots i take friends to (or ask to be taken to!)
Providence for an elegant meal,
elf cafe for true silverlake
2135 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
cliffs edge for a lovely night out side:
palate in glendale for the wine and the "new buzz" feeling:
also--good cocktails and great service-
There is nothing really quintessential/unique about LA or hollywood.
For me, a great night in hollywood is tickets to see Wicked at Pantages Theatre and dinner at Melagrano right before. That is bound to make a memorable trip to hollywood. If you can't go to wicked, then check at the hollywood bowl at list.
If you want to go more casual in tinseltown, there are about 20 small theatres in the greater hollywood area (la times "the guide", la citybeat, or laweekly can help you find a good play to watch), the ford ampitheatre, and the egyptian theatre have some very very solid programming all summer long.
back to the food
For casual-ish eats, I like Bowery or Lucky Devil's (Get the milk shake).
For other food options there is 25 degrees (burgers), hungry cat (seafood), magnolia (eclectic).
In July, the Kress or Cafe Was might be open, but I can't vouch for the food yet obviously.