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The prices these days and disappointing meals

We went to Americana yesterday for the first time (I know, I know) and had lunch at Frida. Spent over $100 for 3 people on mediocre Mexican food. Shoulda known better. But how about Langham Huntington Hotel for lunch, formerly Ritz, a special occasion a few months ago, expensive for a barely average meal? (note that the hotel public areas looked a little worn compared to old times, as well). There have been more of these experiences than I care to remember.

To be positive, we enjoyed lunch at Anisette recently which seemed a good value for the excellent quality. But that's in Santa Monica (traffic & gas). We also enjoyed Wilshire for another occasion a few months ago.

But the pricey, blah food experiences are painful these days, & though I enjoying cooking a lot, I really appreciate meals out for the occasional break.

But what to do?? Anyone else feeling this way? How can you be sure your money won't be wasted?

I would appreciate any new recs for areas near Mt. Washington for delicious meals which don't break the bank during these times. Nice ambiance is appreciated. TIA

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  1. Define Nice Ambience. I read Frida, Ritz and Anisette and I think to myself that you're looking for something more than merely nice on the ambience scale. Lower the brow a little and you can eat really well at an ethnic joint.

    5 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme

      Okay, perhaps I didn't pose my query well. The brow is lowered.

      If we are going to splurge on lunch for a special event, we are disappointed to spend high prices on a mediocre meal.

      I was hoping for suggestions.

      1. re: Babette

        Did you happen to catch this recent review of Cliff's Edge? While this is a dinner report I think you might enjoy yourselves at brunch there eating outside on their beautiful patio.


        1. re: Servorg

          Thank you. We haven't tried Cliff's Edge yet but that's the kind of suggestion I was hoping for. Any tips for what to order?

          1. re: Babette

            I tried the poached eggs on the crab hash with the red and green salsas and thought it was tasty. Their whole brunch menu looked pretty good to me.


            1. re: Servorg

              Great burgers and Bloddy Mary's on the brunch meno too.

    2. I'm not familiar with Mt. Washington but I empathize. The SO and I are regulars at Square One and we've noticed a strong price jump, the saving grace being the food is as good as ever there so it's still worth it, just on a less frequent basis.

      I consistently find myself at a loss when it comes to eating out in Santa Monica/Venice. The places that aren't mediocre are expensive, and the ethnic options leave much to be desired.

      1. Ah, I see where Mt. Washington is now. You're definitely in range of both Lot 1 and Palate. I had a good dinner at Lot 1 (it was their 3rd day, so some kinks to work out) and a great lunch. My dinner was very solid at Palate, and both restaurants are fairly priced imo

        4 Replies
        1. re: fooddude37

          I will second the recommendation for Palate, however, it is NOT inexpensive. My party felt that, for the quality of the food, the price was warranted, but it was $80 per person (including tax and tip).

          1. re: DanaB

            I noted that it is fairly priced, not inexpensive. I feel that Palate falls in the same price range as Lou. If you eat a full meal accompanied by wine, it will not be cheap. It is in juxtaposing that with a meal at the Huntington Hotel or Anisette that it becomes "fairly priced" in my book.

          2. re: fooddude37

            I sympathize; the Chowspouse has taken me to a bunch of out-of-town business meetings this year, and I mostly have been way happier, everywhere from Boston to Vancouver to LA in Chowhound rec'd holes-in-the-wall than in the various "fine dining" establishments, at which we have dropped beaucoup (often deductible) bucks.

            I'm walking a fine line between chowspouse's demand for ambiance and my demand for bang-for-buck these days...

            So, to answer your question, and respond to some of the suggestions:

            Though their food is interesting, the consensus seems to be that Lot 1 won't be "inexpensive", unless you and other members of your party tend to eat like wanna-be-runway-models. . . . and the "ambiance" is . . um. . . unusual.

            15 is worth a go, for you, even outside of the "special", which, as noted elsewhere, is now $19, not $15. Their wines by the glass a re pretty good, too...

            Aroma, like 15, doesn't look like much on the outside, but they're perfectly presentable on the inside, and they apply the $$$ they're NOT spending for Santa-Monica-"almost-ocean-view" rent to getting really good ingredients for their specials.

            Chichen Itza never disappoints, always priced reasonably; see if the tasting menu's back up.

            Clif's Edge is "pretty", and the food's pretty good.

            There's more, but I've got to go earn a living, so I can eat in places like these....

            r gould-saltman no avatar

            1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

              Thanks for these suggestions. We will put 15 and Aroma on a to try list and will explore Lot 1 further. And thanks for the reminder about Chichen Itza.

          3. I too an tired of spending above average prices for below average meals. Have you tried the Taix french restaruant? Not too far from you. Sunset and Alvarado. They have a website. Good food, good service at a bargain price.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Baron

              This is a topical thread for me too. Last week someone asked me what restaurants were my CURRENT favorite. I was somewhat stumped. I've had some crummy experiences at the best, from Spago to Roy's to most places around the valley where I live. Sigh...at these prices, I expect everything to be high quality and well prepared. There's just no excuse! I did like my recent meal at the Lobster, and also at the Nook, but I was hard pressed to add more. Getting to restaurants in mid-LA is geographically undesirable, but the cost of some of the others nearby makes me cringe!
              I'm cooking at home a bit more now. Compudad seems to prefer it!

              1. re: Baron

                We will check it out, thanks. I know we were there many years ago when we lived in Silverlake. What is good to order these days?

                1. re: Babette

                  Last time I was at the Taix, I had the best trout almondine in ages which came with perfect mashed pototoes and vegies. They do a fresh soup of the day and a special entree each day which on Friday was clam chowder. Fresh and perfect. And they dont just give you a cup or bowl, but a whole terine which they will refill. Their french bread is very good as well as is the service. The lunch and dinner prices are a real bargain,They also have a huge collection of wines at fair prices. Wish I lived closer.

                  1. re: Baron

                    I love the Clam Chowder at Taix, wish they served it every day? Does it still have no potatoes?

                  2. re: Babette

                    The roast chicken at Taix is also very good.

                    1. re: Babette

                      I'm afraid that the food at Taix is somewhat hit-and-miss. There are those of us who never quite got over their switch from sourdough bread with the soup. While the Chowspouse still favors the soup, and the roast chicken's pretty consistent, their duck has been OK sometimes, and once or twice so over-cooked as to be nearly inedible.

                      Certainly, when they're on, they can hardly be beat in the "bang for buck" category...

                      1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                        Sad to hear the negatives about the Taix. I’ve only been a few times over the years for lunch so I guess I’ve been lucky, as I’ve always enjoyed the meal and the check. It’s not Spago, that’s for sure, but you can carry on a conversation without having to shout. And it is a little like a geriatric ward which lends to the history of the place. I think it's one of LA’s oldest restaurants. I will give it another try.

                      2. re: Babette

                        the pot roast is dreadful - as in shoe leather dreadful!
                        I think it may be a Sunday special, or at least it was when I had it.
                        Truly avoid at any and all costs.
                        In fact, most of their food is nothing more than ho-hum!
                        Wine list is ok, yet I can find that in many places that serve MUCH better food. and the ambiance is even worse, as in old folks home worse!

                        1. re: carter

                          Couldn't agree more about Taix's food.

                          Only reason to go to Taix is to rubberneck at the city's powerbrokers and their lunch time "dates" ...

                    2. I agree with all of you, I am tired of spending money on mediocre food. My hubby and I like a lot of smaller restaurants. One of our favorites, out of the way is La Casita Mexicana, inexpensive but the quality is always up there and it is fresh. If you want to spend more, the place that has never disappointed me is Pane E. Vino. They have a beautiful patio, and the prices are not bad. The steak is about 38, but it is really good and comes with roast potatoes and fresh veggies. They have great pastas, chicken, fish at resonable prices. They don't rush you, and very relaxing.

                      Also enjoy Cayenne, on Beverly, everything under $20, and it is really good. Try their breakfasts too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: paprkutr

                        La Casita Mexicana is "out of the way" for most people, but it's great! My boyfriend and I made the "trek" out there last week. Great prices, delicious food. You can't really ask for more.


                      2. Since I don't live near your neck of the woods, can't offer specific suggestions, but second the earlier poster about ethnic food, especially family run joints. I'll give just a few examples of many, Enrique's for Mexican chow in East Long beach, Al Noor for Pakistani in Lawndale, and Cal Fish in Gardena, Cypress & Irvine for simple but spanking fresh fish with Mex accents. These and myriad others give you fair bang for the buck -- reasonable prices, nice people, generous portions, caring if not fancy preparation. In fact, most of our chowing out these days is in family run ethnics and frankly, we're loving it.

                        1. I celebrated 4th of July with my wife and her siblings at Napa Rose. I ordered what chowhounders recommended such as the rabbit bratwurst, though it wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. Mushroom risotto was undercooked and too salty, had to send that one back to the kitchen along with another over salted tai snapper of my sister in law's. The risotto came back cooked but the chef were once again very generous with the salt, either that or the stock itself is dreached in salt. My lamb was also salty but I didn't bother sending it back. The only winner of the night was my wife's salad, it was vey refreshing with the sweetness coming from the dried cranberries and saltiness from the blue cheese. For a bill close to $300 with drinks, it was very dissapointing.

                          I think I saw fellow chowhound kevineat but I wasn't sure.

                          1. You may already be familiar with these places, but I love the food at Farfalla (Italian) and Tropicalia (Brazilian) on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. Tropicalia is definitely the less expensive and more casual of the two. You can't go wrong ordering off the specials menu at Farfalla--their fish is always good and any of the apps with burrata are fantastic. It's just fresh, solid Italian food.

                            What about Bistro Provence in Burbank on Pass? It's in a Vons shopping center, but the inside is quite nice. They have pretty good French-style food for very reasonable prices. I believe it's three courses for less than $30.

                            1. I walked into Frida at Americana, looked at the menu, and walked out. Overpriced food is maddening. And by overpriced, I mean cost compared to what you get. I think in terms of opportunity cost: for those same dollars I could get a fabulous meal at x or x.

                              Lot 1 is a hop, skip and jump from Mt. Washington, or just a hop and skip. The food is so creative, really wonderful, and an exceptional value for the price.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: slacker

                                Well, you might want to hold your thoughts regarding Lot 1, as Centeno is leaving on July 31, as in Thursday, as in tomorrow!

                                1. re: carter

                                  yeah. So sad. "Going underground"??? This is really bad news for the L.A. food world. And for my personal taste buds. I'll be there for the last supper.