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Please Help...recent SF transplant about to go crazy

My fiance and I recently moved down to LA from SF. I must admit, the cheap eats and ethnic foods are a lot better here in LA and OC, but we certainly miss the SF/Bay Area food scene. Can anyone recommend good restaurants that are in the mid-range price range (i.e. $80-$100 for 2 people)? And we'll drive anywhere in the LA and north OC area. If it helps, are favorite mid-range places in SF were: Townhall, Antica, Ame, Slanted Door (for fusion, not for real Vietnamese food of course). We also liked Sociale (in Laurel Heights). We're open for any kind of food, just not steak houses.

Also, can anyone recommend great dessert places (much like Tartine Bakery in the MIssion)? We tried Milk after so many people suggested it and it was so mediocre.

Any tips, suggestions, or help would be great. I'm seriously losing my mind! :) Thanks!

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  1. And please, absolutely no chains!!

    7 Replies
    1. re: cal4ever

      as a SF to LA transplant myself it would save you if you tried not to look for SF in LA. i did that and truly set myself up for disappointment -especially with tartine. you will not find a tartine replacement here. i think the closest would be if you combined boule with city bakery? in any case, i would look for what SF doesn't offer in bakeries like Amandine which carries light tasting sweets preferred by Asians. I'm pretty sure it's owned by Japanese people. there's Susina on Beverly but its it's own animal and can't compare to tartine but they have delicious croissants and berr cakes.

      so there you go. my recommendations. Boule, Susina and Amandine. I can't speak to any restaurants b/c i literally haven't eaten out recently. good luck!

      1. re: trolley

        Uh...Japanese-French bakeries like Amandine are everywhere in SF generally and Japantown specifically. In fact, Amandine is more French than most of the places I have in mind. You won't find any red-bean pastries mixed in with the croissants.

        1. re: a_and_w

          Really? Name some as good as Amandine, because I am going back up to NorCal soon and haven't seen anything good.

          1. re: choctastic

            Do a search for Andersen Bakery, which has a branch in Japantown. The Japanese influence is more obvious than Amandine -- they have the aforementioned red-bean pastries -- but the basic idea is the same. To clarify, however, I'm not suggesting it's as good as Amandine, which is probably my favorite bakery in LA. Just that there are plenty of European bakeries in SF that cater to the taste of asians.

          2. re: a_and_w

            i haven't been back to SF in a few yrs so perhaps there are quite a few now. sorry if i'm out of date! i'm from japan and most "European" style bakeries are like amandine that sell cakes and then there are japanese specific sweet shops that sell red bean pastries, yokan, etc. the japanese population here is big on amadine. they advertise in all the local japanese newspapers and reviewed constantly. quite a few of the people who work there are japanese as well.

            1. re: trolley

              Well, I was just in San Francisco and I didn't see anything like Amandine anywhere, definitely not in Japantown.

              1. re: trolley

                No worries -- sorry if my reply was a little off-putting! I have definitely noticed how popular Amandine is with the local Japanese population. And as I mentioned to choctastic, it's my favorite bakery in LA.

        2. I don't know where you reside in SoCal, and if it is OC then my advice is not geographically applicable. But my recommendation for the best food value in W.L.A., with really great food at very moderate prices, is Nook Bistro. Most entrees range from about $18 to 20, with a gourmet burger at $12 and a ribeye at $26. All come with sides and are generously portioned. Good ceasar salad, mac'n'cheese, and mussels to share as starters. Very popular, good service, nice wines, good buzz but two-tops are relatively close together. Tucked in the back corner of the minimall on the S/E corner of Santa Monica Blvd. at Barry, a block east of Barrington.

          There is nowhere like Tartine in SoCal. There are places for cupcakes like Sprinkles, there are ice cream places like Scoops, there are hoity-toity bakeries with attitude like Joan's on Third and with gorgeous product like Boule or Jin. There are a lot of Mexican panaderia, and there is the excellent Cuban bakery Portos in Glendale and Burbank. But there is nothing like Tartine. My favorite is Amandine, on the north side of Wilshire a block west of Bundy. Fantastic croissant. A nice menu of quiche, omelettes, soup, and sandwiches. Some very nice tartlets and mousse pies and some baguettes and rolls and maybe some scones. Nothing like the crowds and lines of Tartine. If you want a great croissant or a simple slice of quiche an good cup of coffee, you can be very happy. If you expect the variety and creativity and abundance of Tartine you are going to be sorely disappointed.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nosh

            Nook is an excellent suggestion. I'd add Orris to that list, as well.

          2. Not sure how you got out of Ame for under $100 for two. The appetizers are close to $20 and the entrees are $35+.

            My favorite in the $50pp price range would be Pizzeria Mozza. It's a personal preference but I like the pizza there better than A16.

            Just to get you started there's also:

            Ford's Filling Station
            Anisette
            Fraiche
            Lucques sunday supper
            Jar
            AOC (if you're careful)

            No need to lose your mind. Aside from Manresa, Oliveto's Truffle and Whole Hog Dinners, and Koi Palace, LA has everything else covered and then some.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Porthos

              Porthos, good point. I don't think you can get dinner for two at Ame for under $100 today, but I remember having dinner there when it first opened for under $100. I may be confusing it with another restaurant though. I've definitely been there for lunch spending less than $100 -- but that's with no wine. :) And please tell me about AOC -- why the warning? Please keep the recommendations coming. I think we'll be here in LA permanently. Again, many, many thanks!!

              PS
              I'm surprise you say that about Koi Palace. There really isn't anything in LA that's better than Koi Palace -- I'm really surprised by that.

              1. re: cal4ever

                The warning with AOC is that you can really rack up the bill trying to order everything that looks good there and with the stellar wines by the glass list. Actually, go ahead and apply that warning to Pizzeria Mozza too.

                Check out burumun's recent visit to AOC: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572687 and about 864 other reports if you do a search.

                Koi is special and it's not a knock against dim sum places in LA, it's just that Koi is that good. Koi aside, I prefer LA dim sum places to SF ones.

                In response to A&W below, there are a couple of cal-italian dishes at Campanile that remind me of the SF Cal-italian restaurants (eg. fresh pasta with tomatoes, pea shoots, and rock shrimp...very similar to a dish I had at A16). Plus, the chef was one of the first to cook with burrata, way back before the burrata craze hit NYC or SF. I still dream of that grilled pannini with burrata and caramalized, balsamic dressed radicchio. You can do lunch at Campanile for under $50pp.

                Osteria Mozza has a cal-accent not present in Batali's east coast restaurants but definitely NOT similar to Oliveto. I like the pastas at Babbo and Lupa first and foremost, then Quince, then OM, then Incanto, then Oliveto (except on those truffle or whole hog nights where Oliveto moves in just behind Babbo). OM however, is going to be over $50/pp.

                Maybe others could help out with cal-italian suggestions since I've only recently moved back to LA and have been doing mostly sushi and dumplings.

                1. re: Porthos

                  Koi is an anomaly up there. It's great and has gotten even better imho. I know that they poach waiters and probably chefs from SoCal.

                2. re: cal4ever

                  Porthos is right. LA Chinese food is on balance clearly superior to SF. But Koi Palace is the top dog.

                3. re: Porthos

                  Porthos, do you have any recs for places that do Cal-Ital like Oliveto or Delfina?

                  1. re: Porthos

                    Had Sunday Supper at Lucques this past weekend, and it was terrific. My wife and I sat on the patio at a semi-private table. The wait staff was great to work with and you only really have to make two choices the whole night. Which of two entree's you'd like, and what wine you'll have.

                    The menus for Sunday Supper are posted on their website on Wednesdays and for $45 you get a starter, entree and a desert.

                    Lucqes has a nice wine list, and the chef actually has recommended bottles at the bottom of the Sunday menu.

                    I look forward to returning soon.

                  2. Hello, have you tried the Angeli Caffe? Wood fired pizza, excellent pastas, fresh, high quality ingredients.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: moto

                      Angeli Cafe is great for carry out lunches, and early dinners after a show. They have a nice selection of rustic Italian dishes and stone fired pizzas.

                      Right now to help keep customers coming in they are offering 15% off lunch carry out orders.

                    2. Are you a San Francisco native? How long did you live there? Do you have other city or regional cuisines in your background that we should know about before offering recommendations in Los Angeles?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: sbritchky

                        Yup. San Franciscan native. Grew up there, went to undergrad and law school there. Haven't really lived anywhere else. There's really nothing in particular I'm looking. Good food is good food. I guess if I had to be more specific, I'm looking for restaurants that you may find in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley. I don't want to eat somewhere that's a "scene" unless the food is absolutely fantastic. Just a places that serves fresh, high quality ingredients with some creativity in their dishes. (I'm not looking for cheap ethnic foods though. I think we've already discovered those places on our own.)

                        1. re: cal4ever

                          (I'm not looking for cheap ethnic foods though. I think we've already discovered those places on our own.)

                          Really? I think most of the regulars on this board who have been living in LA for a looooong time wouldn't be confident of making that assertion.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Servorg, I'm not say we found THE best ethnic places in LA, but we have found ones that we are very happy with. We have had great luck with cheap ethnic restaurants, but very bad luck when it comes to mid-range restaurants. Don't take what I said as a knock against LA ethnic cuisines -- b/c clearly, that's not what I meant. There's just so many great cheap ethnic restaurants here that it's hard to go wrong.

                            1. re: cal4ever

                              Chowhound being all about a quest for "the best" you might want to let the LA hounds know where you are going for ethnic eats anyway. You never know what may come of it. What general area are you living/working in?

                              1. re: Servorg

                                We live in Orange (for now) and work in downtown LA. In terms of ethnic foods, we've been frequenting Little India in Artesia, and Little Saigon in Westminster. Our favorite places in Little India so far are Woodlands, Bhimas, Jay Barat and Rajdhani (though I prefer that thalis at Bhimas). Are they the best? I'm not sure, but they are better than any of the Indian places up north! Udupi Palace is another great alternative. In Little Saigon, we've gone to Pho Loang Thrang (I'm butchering the spelling) and Brodard's. We also like Albertaco's for its unhealthy, greasy, and amazing CA burritos.

                                And thanks for all of the links, these next few weekends will be great!!!!!

                                1. re: cal4ever

                                  You will want to keep an eye out for posts by Das Ubergeek who lives down your way and has done some great hounding for ethnic food in that locale (especially Vietnamese - but plenty of other types as well). Also there is an (now occasional) CH poster by the name of Elmomonster who used to be on CH all the time, but has a brilliant blog covering your area and is very active in sussing out great ethnic eats (plus more upscale as well). I'll get the blog url and post it here for you.

                                  Add: http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/

                          2. re: cal4ever

                            I agree wholeheartedly with Servorg (and Servorg knows like few if any here). Unlike San Francisco, LA (a broadly defined area) is vast and sprawling - I would guess much bigger than even the whole surrounding Bay area. The number and depth of immigrant communities in LA would take the average eater decades to properly sample.

                            I may be partial here, but when you mention, "Just a places that serves fresh, high quality ingredients with some creativity in their dishes," I can't help but think of the better Japanese joints around West LA, the South Bay, LIttle Tokyo (J-town) and a smattering all over LA and Orange county as well. The quality of ingredients, the focus on execution, and the plating are often exceptional. Orris was already mentioned, but places like Robata-ya, Musha, Inaba, Izakaya Bincho, Shin Sen Gumi Robata-Yakitori, Sanuki no Sato, Yuzu, Otafuku, Kagura, Haru Ulala, Honda-ya, serve small plates or menu items that fit your criteria and get varying amounts of praise on the LA board. Some of these places aren't cheap, but at the same time, one can usually gauge one's spending by ordering at izakayas. Ordering small plates of food and enjoying them with a nice drink or two or three is just a nice way to enjoy food and conversation, while efficient in ordering in increments up to your satisfaction.

                            My one-stop shopping site for great local (and some not so local) reviews is:

                            http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/

                            The site belongs to one of our most prolific posters as of late. Exilekiss has a strong focus on Japanese joints - most superb in quality - but also will give his take on anything from humble Mexican street food to Pakistani halal cuisine to Michelin-rated restaurants - all amazing in their own rights. After you've scoured his site, I think you'll find Servorg's words to be prophetic - they usually are, as are many of our fine posters. Keep an open mind, an ear on the rail ties, and your nose downwind... :)

                          1. While there might not be a place exactly like Tartine, mayhaps the next best thing would be a place with someone who used to work at Tartine? I believe I've read that Rustic Canyon's pastry chef used to work there. Her desserts at RC are awesome.

                            1. I agree that Zoe, the pastry chef at Rustic Canyon is amazing. Their new bakery, on Wilshire 2 blocks down for the restaurant is supposed to open in February. In the meantime you can go to Rustic for dessert. Additionally I strongly second the recommendation for Angeli Cafe. We have been driving there from the west side for years because the food is always good and the prices are reasonable. I would also suggest Boule on La Cienega for dessert of the pastry variety and several flavors of sorbet and gelato that change regularly. Finally Joan's on Third is terrific for a variety of cakes and cookies and there is no attitude form the fine staff who regularly see me and my kids and are always super friendly. They also carry 4 or 5 different kinds of good gelato , the flavors change seasonally.

                              1. Welcome to L.A.! Someone recently asked for a listing of recs in Fullerton that would be good for you.
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572231
                                If you're into seafood, I would suggest The Original Fish Company in Los Alamitos, once you've exhausted your options in Santa Monica and Malibu. Their menu is updated based on the fresh catches, and I love LOVE their clam chowder...rich, creamy, and full of clam pieces.
                                As for dessert, these are not upscale options, but I believe that they're delicious:
                                Porto's Bakery (Glendale, Burbank) - The cheese rolls and dessert selection is to die for!
                                Big Sugar Bakeshop (Studio City) - Great simple, homestyle desserts. I love their brownies and blondies.
                                Diddy Riese - Fresh-baked cookies in the heart of Westwood. Not as cheap as they used to be, but amazingly awesome when they're warm and wedged between a scoop of ice cream...yum.
                                http://www.diddyriese.com/home.php

                                -----
                                Porto's Bakery
                                315 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

                                Porto's Bakery
                                3614 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

                                Big Sugar Bake Shop
                                12182 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91604

                                Los Alamitos Fish Co
                                11061 Los Alamitos Blvd, Los Alamitos, CA 90720

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: attran99

                                  This is great!!! Thanks!!! I knew that I could rely on fellow-chowhounders! :)

                                  1. re: cal4ever

                                    The suggestions offered are all great options - and all over the L.A. map. So it would be easier to offer more practical advice if you mentioned what area of L.A. you're in. Using your criteria, you'll find many viable options in almost any area - Santa Monica, Eagle Rock, Silverlake, Downtown, Studio City, etc. Discovering new places is always fun, but driving all over L.A. for a simple meal will get tired after awhile, especially when you may be missing out on gems in your own backyard