I'm a former Angelino who will be visiting soon and another friend and I who now lives in the Bay Area want to take two people out to somewhat of a celebratory dinner in the NoHo, Studio City, Sherman Oaks area for dinner on a Friday night.
We can spend up to $25 a person plus drinks.
I would like a place that's not a chain and is not ear splitting but where we can have a really good ethnic meal like Middle Eastern, Thai-Calif, South American (not Mexican), Jap-Italian, Asian-Fusion, Indian, or Cuban-Chinese and have cocktails or at least wine/beer.
I am starved for some really good off-the-charts ethnic food.
I would encourage Thai or Middle Eastern because I think those are the two best readily available ethnic foods in the area.
For Middle Eastern you have lots of options from relatively upscale to some real dives. The most upscale is Alcazar, then you have a middle ground place like Carnival, Cedar House and Skaf's which is divey but has excellent food. Carnival and Skaf's are BYOB, I believe.
I think the NoHo Thai Town is better than the one in Hollywood. However, unlike Hollywoodm, many of the really good Thai spots don't have licenses to serve drinks but many allow you to BYOB as long as you have a receipt. Of those, I think Sri Siam and Krua standout - Krua having the best noodle dishes and Sri Siam besting them (and the rest IMO) at nearly everything else.
There also happen to be some good Peruvian places nearby, including Puro Sabor, Las Quenas and El Hatuchay.
Definitely no good Chinese or Indian in the area - at least of which I am aware. You have to go to a whole other Valley for good Chinese and Viet food and as for good Indian, that is a whole other chain. Don't even get me started on Val-Ital because the Italian restaurants in the SFV are mediocrity defined.
Bon chance et bon appetite!
Krua Thai Restaurant
13130 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91606
Cedar House Cafe
4805 Whitsett Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91607
4356 Woodman Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Sri Siam Cafe
12843 Vanowen St, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Plain Italian: Spumanti in NoHo is newly re-opened and excellent. Il tiramisu in Sherman Oaks is also excellent.
JApanese: Not fancy, but Daichan Japanese Sould Food in Studio City is really good. Iroha non sushi menu is OK. For Sushi, you can't meet your budget, so I won't bother.
BBQ: Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks. Also has bistro fare. Really dang good. Best beer menu in the Valley, and possible most of Los Angeles, barring Naja's Place and Lucky Baldwin's. Niether of those two spots have great food, though. So BB is tops for me!
Carnival in Sherman Oaks
Carousel in Glendale
Cedar House Cafe in Studio City
Indian or Pakistani (god forgive me for the combo, but the food is similar):
Gungadin in Studio City.
Clay Oven in Sherman Oaks
Salomi in NoHo
Puro Sabor in Van Nuys
El Katracho in Van Nuys
Simon's Cafe in Sherman Oaks
the Great Greek in Sherman Oaks il have to do
Ca Dario in Studio City
I don't eat Thai for fear of peanuts, thus I dare not recommend!
Cuban Chinese is more a New York thing. not seen one in LA.
I don't know how to qualify Max, so I best leave it out.
Sherman Way west of the 170 is kind of a Thai Town north ... my personal fave in the area is Sanamluang but I can also speak for the others linked below, and I know there's more. (You will probably have to byob at most of these places.)
And I can second everything on Diana's list -- come to think of it, Diana, have you and I ever disagreed on *anything?* ;)
ps other than the spelling of Spumante, that is ...
Sanam Luang Cafe
12980 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
11049 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601
12924 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Sunshine Thai Cuisine
13212 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
Cha Chaa Ti Restaurant
12936 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605