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LA restaurants with "ambiance" for out of town visitors?

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hi everyone,

what are places west of la brea and north of the 10 with good food and "ambiance" (not sure what that really means) to take out of town visitors to? like the kind of visitors who eat mostly at places like Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen and Mimi's Cafe?

basicallly this means that hole in the wall ethnic places with awesome food (i.e. the kind of places i live for) are out.

i want to take them to places they'll think are "nice" without sacrificing the food aspect. basically, this should be an "LA for Beginners" type of deal.

places like Luna Park are good, because they are nice to hang out in and the food is relatively non-threatening.

thanks so much everyone!!!

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  1. www.fatfishla.com
    They have good food and drinks and a nice ambiance. Its located in West Hollywood on Robertson so itll give them a feel for the LA scene.

    1. What about Cafe La Boheme on Santa Monica Blvd just east of La Cienega? Beautiful room and good food.

      1. A Bev Hills spot like Grill on the Alley may work?

        1. We always try to dine at The Getty Center Restaurant with friends who come from out of town, they always enjoy the food and of course are impressed with the surroundings. It's like going to a restaurant and hitting one of L.A's best tourist attractions at the same time.
          The dining room is open for lunch, but lately it's only open for dinner on Saturday evenings. The more casual garden cafe is good too, and is open from 11 to 3 every day.

          1. I like to take out of towners to Asia De Cuba at the Mondrian on Sunset (I think it's the Mondrian, it's across the street from House of Blues.) It's communal family style eating, and although the idea of Asian Cuban fusion sounds intimidating it's really not, I've taken the blandest eaters there and they're cool with heaping plates of different varieties of fried rice, pretty straight preps of meat and fish etc. The mojitos are killer and the all white room and view of the city is very "Hollywood" and "Nip/Tuck"-ish so it gives the feeling of having "done" the Hollywood thing without velvet ropes, doormen or spending an arm and a leg.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PinotPlease

              I agree... this is a good place to take out of town guests... although they may freak out at the prices. My all time favorite salad is served there... it's this salad with bananas, crispy calamari, and hearts of palm. Ridiculously good. I also will have to agree that they've mastered the mojito.

            2. How about AOC and then Milk for dessert?

              2 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Hearing where they usually eat, I think steak is a good choice, how about Mastro's in Beverly Hills?

                Italian would seem like a safe choice, how about Caffe Delfini down on Channel Drive near the beach?

                Also, how about a fancy burger with fries, I like the Counter, but others like Father's Office.

                They might like seeing Culver City, lots of places there to eat they may like, you could walk around and menu browse (Fraiche, Akasha, Ford's Filling Station, Tender Greens, the Culver Hotel has a bar menu and looks like a great place)

                Down in Venice, there is 26 Beach Street Cafe, I haven't been there in a while, but they had lots of stuff including a great selection of salads, this one with chicken, asparagus and a sesame dressing was great. Its outside too, like a 1/2 block from the beach.

                1. re: noshie

                  26 beach cafe closed a long time ago.
                  they still serve their delicious food at 26 beach restaurant which is located at 3100 washington, about a block west of lincoln.

              2. When my cousin came out from Chicago I decided I wanted something with real ambience and good to great food. I finally narrowed it to two choices, the Bel Air Hotel or Saddlepeak Lodge. I chose Saddlepeak and she was blown away by the ambience, the drinks and the food. Come well heeled because you are into a minimum of $100 per person.

                1. How about Hal's in Venice? Or James Beach? Fun spots...food's not intimidating & great vibes.

                  1. well, the big weekend came and went.

                    on friday we took them to ford's filling station, thanks Noshe for suggesting that place, it was great!

                    for saturday, after lots of debating and suggestions by me (they almost went for dinner at the getty, thanks to whoever mentioned that) one of them said "are there any nice mexican places?"

                    so...i took them to chichen itza on 6th street and they loved it!!!! too bad there aren't a lot of places like that nearby.

                    thanks to everyone who replied, i'm going to keep all your responses on hand for the next time they come to visit.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ceviche

                      Any report on the actual food you ate? Inquiring minds (and salivary glands) want to know. Thanks.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        summary of what we ate at chichen itza is here:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5405...

                        at fords filling station we had:
                        - their private label IPA. according to our waittress it's not made in-house, but rather is made specifically for Ford's by a local brewery. it wasn't as hoppy as i would like, but it was decent.
                        - flat bread appetizer with cheese and serrano ham. very good but VERY rich. definitely only order if you're going to be splitting with at least 4-5 people.
                        - fish and chips - good quality, flaky fish. fries were good too. it also comes with fried asparagus and fried onion rings. everything tasted good, it was just too much fried stuff. probably would be better with just fish, fries and cole slaw or something.

                        overall i think this is a good, solid choice for out of towners. i think the whole culver city area is a good place to take people, because there's a lot of activity and it feels almost alive in a "big city" way without being too much for non-city types to handle. also the fact that there are so many places in short walking distance probably would be helpful if any finicky eaters decide that they don't like the place that was picked out.

                        i personally didn't think Ford's was super great. i like salted, cured meats as much as anyone, but i guess i like them better in smaller quanities.

                        i'll post the rest of what we had shortly.

                        1. re: ceviche

                          Thanks for the follow up on the food. I agree with your assessment regarding Fords FS. I think they have some dishes that are pretty good, but overall we have difficulty finding a reason to go back very often.