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Amazing Hole in the Walls near Westside??

As much as I love going to a nice fancy restaurant for a great meal, I almost prefer more finding the amazing hole-in-the-wall place. These places are great because they usually aren't ridiculously expensive (meaning I can go often) and often reward you for taking a risk with amazing food. I live in Santa Monica, but am willing to try places both near and far from here. The places I'm looking for can range from literally a taco stand somewhere that might not appear to be the most sanitary place around (hopefully it is just in appearance) or a one off restaurant that is unknown by anyone but locals. Oh and I like all types of food so don't hold back on recommendations.

Here are a few places that I already know about and love.
- Tacos Por Favor (SM)
- Cha Cha Chicken (SM)
- Philly West (West LA)
- The Counter (SM)
- Baby Blues BBQ (Venice)

Thanks!

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  1. If you are seriously looking for hole in the wall places then I give you:

    Hole in the Wall Burger Joint
    11058 Santa Monica Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90025
    (310) 312-7013

    Hidden behind the Winchell's Donuts (basically on Bentley) in the mini mall on the SE corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.

    Previous Discussion Here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/562464

    17 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      One additional hidden gem (I know they are open for lunch, but I don't know about dinner) is Attari Sandwich shop. While the address is on Westwood Blvd. the shop is actually just east of Westwood Blvd. on Wilkins. This write up is from Low End Theory (a CH legend of yesteryear) in 2004, but all the information is still good and the food is still delicious.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/62421

      1. re: Servorg

        I second the burger at Hole in the Wall (tasty meat, and a delish pretzel roll), and the tongue sandwich at Attari (tender meat, fresh, crusty bread). Two of my local favs.

        1. re: Servorg

          I went to Atari late yesterday afternoon, after doing my part to stimulate the economy. I had the tongue sandwich, which was recommended on this site, as well as a side of their eggplant. Both were very, very good and I will go back, when I'm in the area.

          1. re: paralegalgs

            Glad you enjoyed it and that you reported your visit. What area of LA do you normally dine at (in?)?

        2. re: Servorg

          I had no idea this Hole in the Wall place existed -- thanks for the tip!

          BTW, try the ash soup at Attari if you haven't already -- it's divine. I also like the veggie sandwich (koo koo sabzi?).

          1. re: a_and_w

            Tried Hole-in-the-Wall burger yesterday and was really impressed! My turkey burger was cooked to order and incredibly juicy. I actually winced because the juice was so hot from the burger being fresh off the grill. Pretzel bun was fantastic, as was the pickled zucchini. The patty seemed well seasoned, but I couldn't tell if the salt came from the pretzel roll or the patty itself. Didn't try the fries based on reports here, but they actually looked pretty good -- I'll be giving them a shot next visit. The burger was a bit pricey (around $10) but worth every penny, imo. Many thanks to Servorg for the tip!

            1. re: a_and_w

              I still have that coupon for a free drink that i have to use. since the turkey burger is also good, i'll have to try (had too much beef in the past couple weeks., etc.

              1. re: kevin

                yep -- if i remember correctly, it was for either free fries or a free can of soda with the purchase of a burger. i think the coupon was good to the end of the month, maybe even the end of the year. sorry to be so vague -- its in the car on the passenger seat, but last time i considered trying it i went to zankou instead.

                1. re: nosh

                  yeah, i have it in my glove box too, i'll probably get the soda instead of the fries.

                  to cut some calories, and the fries as everyone has mentioned are supposedly pedestrian, i think it may expire by the end of the year.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Where did you guys get the coupon?

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      It came in the Sunday LA Times a couple of weeks ago as part of their ad bundle.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        darn, i tossed it before looking through it. bummer.

              2. re: a_and_w

                I finally tried Hole in the Wall tonight (as I was thwarted in my other attempts on Sat night and Sunday due to their "banker hours"), and was pleasantly surprised.

                I went with the beef patty on Pretzel bun, and thought the burger was juicy and I really liked the chipotle mayo and zucchini pickles. I thought that the pretzel bun was good, but almost a little much. Had to really open my mouth for each bite :)

                The slight downside was the price, $8 for burger, and an additional buck for avocado, bacon, onions, etc. All things considered still nowadays though, it's still a good deal, but I think for the price, Philly West's burger trumps this one.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  I had almost the identical burger that you did, but also added the sauteed mushrooms - awesome burger. We were in the general area and I didn't recall what had moved into the former house of Dainties, but I recalled something being mentioned on this board. When I saw "Hole in the Wall" on the sign, I knew I hit paydirt. The "Flatbush & J" painted on the wall next to the driveway confirmed that this would be a burger well defined. These are the same folks who ran the "Dainties" cupcakes out of the same location. As much as I miss the cupcakes, I truly enjoyed the burger. My wife ordered the beef burger and the patty is huge - it seemed almost twice as thick as the turkey patty, and was very juicy and flavorful. If you're really hungry, this is the way to go.

                  The fries are a steal at $2. While not spectacular, I'm not complaining for that price. The sweet potato fries were a little too "soft" for my tastes, and are $2 as well. We will definitely be back when in the area...

                  http://www.holeinthewallburgerjoint.com/

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    If you found H - i - t - Wall Burgers without actually "looking" for it I am awarding you the Magellan award of distinction! ;-D I only finally spotted it when trying to get from our Vet's office along Animal Hospital row on Sepulveda Blvd. back to our suburbian enclave of "Ocean View" LA (Mar Vista) and home by cutting back south on the first through street off of SM Blvd. (and even then you better be looking or you'll miss it).

                    1. re: Servorg

                      I used to stop by regularly when Hole in the Wall was Dainties, so the Magellan award is still up for grabs. :) It's the same folks who used to make cupcakes - they just reinvented themselves. Susan, the lady behind the register, says that the cupcakes were turning into a real pain in the arse with all the different flavors and putting serious artisan efforts into making the base for each flavor. They wanted to continue doing something out of their hole in the wall, but didn't want to choose something that would directly compete with others in the adjacent strip mall. Figuring that burgers were absent from the main food groups there, they decided on the quintessential LA meal. It's turned out much better for them. They've been able to simplify their their business strategy as well as see booming business at the same time - particularly their lunch crowd.

                      As much as I miss their cupcakes, their juicy burgers will definitely ease my nostalgia...

              3. re: Servorg

                Add me to the new converts to Hole in the Wall. I had an appointment in the neighborhood today and decided to try it after reading the posts here. Great burgers. Thick and unbelievably juicy. The sweet potato fries were great too. My only complaint was about the pretzel bun. It was good, but broke apart and I found the saltiness a bit too strong. I'll have to go back to try the turkey burger.

              4. Gilbert's El Indio (SM)

                Monte Alban (West LA)

                1. for indian food (vegetarian)
                  samosa house
                  Samosa House
                  11510 W Washington Blvd
                  Culver City, CA 90066
                  Phone: (310) 398-6766

                  1. in santa monica, across the street from SMC on pico, treat yourself to a falafal sandwich at
                    the Hungry Pocket.
                    amazingly good and amazingly cheap.
                    be sure to try their homemade piquante sauce.
                    they will also squeeze juice to order for you.
                    terrific falafal.

                    33 Replies
                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I wouldn't describe Hungry Pocket's (or Zankou's???) as a great falafel; far from it. Better, but not perfect, is Falafel King, in the Promenade's food court.

                      Attari, Monte Alban--- agreed.

                      After some more SGV exploring I am longing for something along those lines in terms of dreamily good seafood in this side of town.

                      1. re: epop

                        I think since Oriental Seafood on LIncoln in MdR changed owners then went out of business, I'd say no luck, epop... The best I've seen so far that is non-SGV and that is close to the Westside is Sea Empress in Gardena. !5 minutes from the 90...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Re: Oriental Seafood: The original owner/chef sold it years ago and started up JR's. He then sold that to Hop Wu. Last I heard he was setting up something in Chinatown. Haven't heard anything about that, but this bit of information does us no good, since we need something on the Westside.

                          1. re: Ogawak

                            I personally liked OSF even after the first change of ownership. The last change of hands seems to be what did them in. We lost interest after that - seems a lot of others did as well. It's now a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf...

                        2. re: epop

                          is falafal king at the food court related to the really awful falafal king on sawtelle near sepulveda?

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            um, sawtelle and sepulveda are parallel. the only other falafel king that i know of is in westwood village on broxton.

                            1. re: wilafur

                              if you were to check a map, you would see that sawtelle and sepulveda are not parallel at all points. they meet in culver city south of roll 'n rye, north of sorrento market.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                ah that is correct, however, that do not think westside when i think of that area. lols.

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  really a falafel king in culver city at sawtelle and sepulveda?

                                  anyhow, you're probably write it is pretty awful. and if i'm not mistaken it used to be better at least and cheaper but now has gone seriously downhill. i'm talking about the location in westwood.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    She is mixing up Falafel King with King Kabob.

                                    King Kabob
                                    5500 Sawtelle Blvd
                                    Culver City, CA 90230
                                    (310) 390-1599

                              2. re: westsidegal

                                I don't think so. They've a Westwood location on Broxton which I haven't been to.
                                That said I haven't had a killer falafel in LA.

                                Sawtelle doesn't meet Sepulveda, I think.

                                1. re: epop

                                  Sawtelle actually comes together with Sepulveda up by Fox Hills Mall in Culver City.

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    achso, yes. my brain didn't go there

                                  2. re: epop

                                    Sadly, I have to agree with you re falafel in LA. It's become one of my first stops when I travel to NYC. Ezra's falafel and hummus is as good as ever, and he seems much happier these days.

                                2. re: epop

                                  Hungry Pocket is a nice choice in the area but nothing I'd go out of my way for. Note that their hot sauce is Mexican salsa, not middle eastern hot sauce.

                                  I like the falafel at Zankou as a side if they're freshly fried. It's a good accompaniment for the tarna wrap and the perfect vehicle for garlic sauce.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    a and w -- the hot sauce at Hungry Pocket does indeed have some green leaves in it that may be cilantro. but in no way does it taste to me like a Mexican salsa. it is indeed primarily red, but doesn't taste strongly of tomato -- my bet is that the color and much of the flavor come from roasted red bell pepper and other red chili. it packs a hot punch and zing, but tastes nothing to me like the very good hot sauce/salsa roja served at the bar at Tacos Por Favor, a few blocks N/W at Olympic at 14th.

                                    and how do you get the falafel balls at Zankou to be fresh-fried? do you have to go right when they open at 10? will they fry up a couple on request even when there are a bunch sitting underneath the heat lamp? i'm a pretty good customer, but I figure I use up just about all of my brownie points there groveling for extra containers of the garlic paste!

                                    1. re: nosh

                                      Hmmm...the hungry pocket hot sauce tastes like a picante salsa to me. It's definitely more mexican than middle eastern in my estimation -- no one would confuse it with, say, amba.

                                      By freshly fried falafel at Zankou, I don't mean fried to order. They fry batches throughout lunch and put them in a big metal bowl under the heat lamp you mention. If you're lucky, and the falafel is fresh out of the fryer, it can be tasty. As with all falafel, however, the quality declines the longer it sits.

                                      I don't think the counter ladies like me -- they always charge me for the extra garlic sauce.

                                3. re: westsidegal

                                  As far as falafel at a hole in the wall goes on the westside i think the best is Habayit.
                                  Always fried fresh to order. So good, great hummus, perfect Israeli salad. I love this place. Its hidden in the corner behind the 7-11 on pico blvd just east of bundy. Definitely check it out.

                                  Also Totoraku is quite the hole in the wall and its incredible, but very expensive but yes, it is certainly an amazing hole in the wall on the west side.

                                  1. re: ldodb

                                    ah, will try out habayit.....still searching for an awesome falafel sandwich. thanks!

                                    the only problem with totoraku is that you need to be "in the know" to get a ressie. =)

                                    1. re: wilafur

                                      I got that almost. All I need now is the dough, and also make sure you can eat Raw Beef Liver (not necessarily steak tarttare).

                                      1. re: wilafur

                                        Here's the info for Habayit. Enjoy!

                                        -----
                                        Habayit
                                        11921 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                        1. re: ldodb

                                          Do you know their hours? They're always closed when I drive by there...

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            I just added their hours to the 'Places' link above.

                                          2. re: ldodb

                                            please give me another landmark. i know i will remember when my memory is jogged, but i'm just not coming up with a 7-11 on Pico just east of Bundy. south side of the street? there is cecil's bbq, then a series of storefronts. going west is trader joe's. now i know that bundy and centinela get mixed up around there... i know there is a 7-11 adjacent to the taco place but that is south of santa monica blvd. help me find it, and what makes the falafel great? does it have a zesty hot sauce like Hungry Pocket or a really great garlic sauce a la Zankou?

                                            1. re: nosh

                                              It's not a 7-11 but a Go Mart (or something like that) in the little mini mall right on the NE corner of S Westgate and Pico exactly one block east of Bundy. Habayit is tucked into a narrow space along the back wall toward the east end of the mall, and like Nook is very hard to spot.

                                              I have to say that I dropped into Habayit a few months ago to try the falafel based on board recommendations and was really underwhelmed. I didn't post about my visit based on my feelings of meh. Obviously, YMMV.

                                              "If" you go I'll be interested in reading your take on it.

                                              1. re: nosh

                                                North side. No picante or garlic sauce, though they might have amba or zhug.

                                                I agree with the Habayit rec, especially if you're craving Israel-style falafel. It's nothing earth shattering, but it scratches the itch. I just wish they had more salads available as toppings on their sandwiches. Also, the shawarma is not my favorite.

                                                1. re: a_and_w

                                                  I had only been to Habayit a few times years ago as Magic Carpet was way better and worth the drive; however, I'd go back now that Magic Carept's closed. I remember enjoying the purple vinegar cabbage freebie and the kibbeh.

                                                  I recall the parking around there being a little difficult as there is a laundromat and spaces are taken on the street because of that.

                                                  1. re: noshie

                                                    rip magic carpet.
                                                    i still miss the supurb eggplant salad.

                                                  2. re: a_and_w

                                                    they have the green sauce, the green hot sauce. it's spicey but not amba (it's not orange, nor does it have mango in there).

                                                    it's on pico directly across from chan dara.

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      I believe that's zhug, a yemenite hot sauce.

                                              2. re: wilafur

                                                i've heard there are a couple places in Anaheim hills for falafel that are great. My Israeli friend dislikes Habayit so I haven't tried it but should, I suppose. After having everybody's lousy falafel I've given up.

                                                Made falafel at home tonight though, in fact. Outrageous.

                                                1. re: epop

                                                  habayit is not that great in my opinion, it;'s not cheap either. which sucks.

                                          3. Not sure how a chain like the Counter becomes a hole in the wall, but Ok. Try Maxwell's in MDR.