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Casual Dinner, near Hammer Museum in Westwood?

  • c

I'm going to meet a friend of a friend on Thursday evening at the Hammer Museum. Since I don't know the area that well, I was hoping for a few suggestions for a casual, inexpensive place to sit, eat, and chat!

My go to place in Westwood is Ambala Dhaba, but that seems a little uninspired...

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  1. If you are eating early, I recommend Palomino. It is adjacent to the Hammer Museum so you can park in their building's lot and validate. Palomino has a nice room on the side with the bar, with plenty of seats at the bar, at communal high tables in the middle, and at small tables near the windows. They have great discounted happy hour food, with half-price bar food and $5 pizzas from their woodburning oven, as well as some drink specials. They also have an early-bird special for dining in the spacious dining room. Avoid prime time, however, as prices are much higher and the food just isn't worth it. I don't recall whether they have another late-night happy hour that kicks in later.

    Most of the other places in Westwood Village are either expensive or chains. Napa Valley Grille is nearby and quite nice and airy, Tanino is up on Westwood in the old Alice's Restaurant gorgeous space, there is also some sushi on Lindbrook and that amazing room that used to be Eurochow that now serves sushi and small plates -- all pretty expensive. If you want to eat in the Village, my favorite by far remains Thai House, on Gayley across from Whole Foods. Quiet, civilized, excellent service and good food at basic ethnic prices.

    If you are going to venture beyond the Village, there is a lot of the area's best Persian food along Westwood Blvd. between Santa Monica Blvd. and Ohio. Some like Sheherzad, Flame or Javan (on Santa Monica Blvd. west of the 405), but my favorite is Shamshiri, on the east side of Westwood Blvd. just north of Santa Monica Blvd. Huge portions, good value, tasty ground beef kabobs and chicken shawarma, nice grilled veggies, refreshing shirazi salad to start, and fresh flatbread and immense mounds of rice. Best strategy is for one of you to get a grilled dish and the other something stewed and share -- you'll still probably have leftovers.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      I agree with pretty much everything Nosh said. Happy hour at Palomino is a great deal, right by the Hammer. Some of the other places Nosh mentioned in westwood village wouldn't meet your "inexpensive" criteria, other than Thai House, which I agree is a good pick. I also like Mr. Noodle for Thai/Asian food--while it isn't as good as Thai House, it has the added bonus of being located next door to Diddy Riese (good, cheap cookies and icecream sandwiches). If you feel like sandwiches and salads, Damon & Pythias is a good choice.

      1. re: Nicole

        Nicole, thanks for mentioning Diddy Riese, the former 25-cent cookie place. (Now they are three-for-a-dollar.) I love their chocolate-chip cookies, and their sugar-cinnamon cookies were excellent on their $1.25 ice-cream sandwiches. Just wish they'd do oatmeal raisin without nuts, and (dream of dreams) start some sort of curb service. Don't know what's going on, but the last couple of evenings we've passed there the lines have been immense.

        I don't think Mr. Noodle fit the OP's request for a place to chill and talk -- it is bright, rudimentary, and more of a feed-the-mass-students type of atmosphere. And while I understand the appeal of Damon & Pythias for individually chosen composed salads and sandwiches, I always feel that they are slightly overpriced for what they are.

      2. re: nosh

        completely concur with the shamshiri grill recommendation.
        consistently good food with huge portions at very reasonable prices in a nice restaurant.
        they are located on westwood blvd just north of santa monica blvd, very close to the museum.

        1. re: westsidegal

          Close to the museum if driving. Certainly way too far to park once, walk there, and then walk back.

          1. re: nosh

            when in LA, i tend to think that one is going to be driving everywhere.
            when i'm in NYC, i tend to think that one is NOT going to be driving anywhere. . . .
            yes, you are correct--i assumed that cjla will be driving.

      3. Inexpensive is a relative term, but Sprazzo on Westwood Blvd, south of Wilshire, is good, reasonably priced Italian fare. Pastas and entrees are mainly in the $15-20 range. The room is quiet and a great place to chat. I had not been there in several years until a friend's birthday last Friday, and I was reminded what a little gem this restaurant is. The salads and entrees food were uniformly excellent, though I might have skipped the desserts. The bread was served with a garlic hummus that was thoroughly addicting (but extremely garlicky). Parking is validated at the Borders across the street, though they also have a valet.

        The dinner menu is here: http://www.sprazzo.net/dinner.html

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jwsel

          I strongly second Sprazzo. One of our favorite neighborhood Italian food places in LA and at a very fair price.

        2. Palomino's is a good rec, it was the first thing that came to mind, although it might be loud if during the peak happy hour rush. I wasn't as impressed with the food at Napa Valley Grill when I went there about a month ago although the atmosphere is quite nice. Emporium Thai on Westwood, just a few blocks north of Wilshire (a five minute walk from Hammer), is casual and inexpensive and would be a quiet place to talk. I particularly like their chicken coconut soup -- about as rich and flavorful as I've ever had.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowmominLA

            Beware of Palomino after 6 pm though - it gets very loud and crowded in the bar area. You should be ok for dinner, but the main attraction is the happy hour, and it's quite popular (as in way too popular).

          2. To the East on Wilshire is Blvd. 16 in the Palomar Hotel. Attractive place with great service and good food. www.blvd16.com

            2 Replies
            1. re: New Trial

              Blvd. 16 is in the revamped former Doubletree Hotel, is fairly new, and got a fairly good review in the L.A. Times recently. But it is far from inexpensive -- probably higher than Napa Valley Grille or Tanino.

              1. re: nosh

                At least on the dinner menu I saw for Vlvd 16, the prices were more on a par with Palomino (though with far fewer selections); Napa Valley Grille and Tanino (unless you stick to the pastas) are the higher end.

            2. Have to chime in my complete disagreement with Palomino.

              Service is horrendous, food is awful, happy hour is weak. And I gave it 3 chances!

              1. Danube - if you can't loosen up over Bulgarian food, there's no hope.

                5 Replies
                1. re: condiment

                  Condiment, you've got to be joking. This was the worst meal ever. It was like a meal my 85 year old Aunt would whip up and serve. Bland and dried out.
                  Boring ingredients, iceberg and a couple tomatoes is not salad! Bread was stale, meats were low quality. Service was curt and the atmosphere is zero.
                  Avoid at all cost.

                    1. re: Fresser

                      I have to agree that Danube served me a very disappointing meal, like you describe.

                      My favorite places in Westwood are Shamshiri and of course Diddy Riese.

                      1. re: aventinus

                        What is with Diddy Riese lately? Every time I pass by, even a couple of occasions when I was thinking of dropping in, the lines have been immense. This afternoon, about 3:15, a line out the door and at least two or three people wide all the way past Socko's. A weekday evening about 9:30 a couple of weeks ago, huge long line. And UCLA isn't even in regular session. What gives?

                        1. re: nosh

                          The line moves surprisingly fast, though. Even with really long lines I don't think I've ever waited more than 10 minutes, max. Usually the wait is under 5 minutes.

                    1. Hi All--

                      We went to Palamino's. We split one appetizer, the roasted garlic with cambozola, and one pizza, the sausage with roasted mushrooms. We each had a glass of wine. With tax, before tip $20.

                      The room was crowded, but we had a table tucked against the window, so it didn't feel claustrophobic to me. The service might have seemed slow, if it were lunchtime, but for a happy hour, everything seemed right. We lingered, and chatted, and no one gave us the bum's rush out the door, although they could've used our table. (I tipped extra for that kindness...)

                      The pricing's nice for their food specials, I was a little disappointed in the limitations on the drinks. If I'm remembering correctly, the only beer to get a discount is Bud Light. I wanted a Sierra Nevada, but ended up with a glass of house red wine instead.

                      Seeing as the Hammer is free on Thursday's, and usually has programming in their courtyard starting around 8:00, it's a nice LA evening. I recommend trying it!
                      Thanks everyone for your input!

                      Palomino Euro-Bistro
                      10877 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                      Armand Hammer Museum
                      10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA