Low-Key and Tasty in West LA.
This post is inspired by the fact that on Fridays after a long week at work, my husband and I often feel like going out to eat, but sometimes get lazy. We usually don't have a reservation or don't know where to go, and definitely don't feel like changing out of jeans, so we end up limiting our options or not going out. .
We like Tlapazola because it is walking distance for us, they have good specials, and great house margaritas.
We have tried Nook a couple of times, but have received things overcooked each time and are not dying to go back.
We got both these suggestions off Chowhound and are looking for any more that you may have!
-Must be casual or have take-out.
-Any cuisine is okay
-We live in West LA near the intersection of the 10 and the 405
That's the same routine that my wife and I have on Fridays most of the time. Casual and catch up to each other after a long week.. We lived on Sawtelle near you for a while and I still work in that area. With your criteria, there's a bunch of places. Most of these have been mentioned before so I won't go into super detail.
On the Sawtelle little Osaka stretch are several options with takeout. The two curry places, both have their supporters, go to both and see which you prefer. Sawtelle Kitchen we liked to pop in for even just a quick dessert.. Blue Marlin I've done lunch take out so dinner should be no problem. There's also a decent conveyor belt sushi place inside the Olympic Collection.
Depending on how early you get going, you won't have to wait too long to grab a table at Furaibo. That's a great place to relax and start the weekend. Get a pitcher of beer, start sampling all the different small plates.
In the general direction of Nook, there's Monte Alban if you like moles. Definitely better than Tlapaloza. It's a longer walk but I think it's worth it and you work off the meal.
Have you tried the happy hour at Il Moro? I've been in there with jeans but a button down shirt and I fit in. Live music on Fridays and they have some better than average finger foods all for the price of one drink. Good beer selections too. Cool place to start the evening before walking to some place on Sawtelle.
That's what I can think off the top of my head with your casual or take out criteria in mind.
I'm sorry to hear you've had bad experiences at Nook, as I like it very much. I do have to report that I sent a friend there for dinner tonight and he just told me they took the shrimp and grits off the menu, which is one of my favorite dishes in the city. Heartbreaking. Second all of Jase's suggestions and would add Don Antonio's and Gilbert's not too far down the street.
I've liked just about everything I've tried at Nook, but some of their menu decisions are disappointing. I loved their shortribs, which they changed a year or so ago to a potroast. Now that I understand, but they also altered the comforting rich wine-gravy by adding a frou-frou horseradish gremolita. Their panko-topped mac'n'cheese is excellent, a great dish to share as a starter. I'm not a mussels lover, but those who are have said Nook's version is one of the best. I've enjoyed their chicken paillard, though I thought the mustard in the sauce was strong and would have preferred more lemon. Good soups and salads, and I love their fried onion strings. Don't understand them taking the shrimp and grits off the menu at all -- it was a distinctive and tasty alternative.
I really enjoy Yabu on Pico just west of Barrington on the south side of the street.....almost walking distance. They have a limited sushi menu but I really enjoy their soups (with house made soba), beef tataki, asparagus, miso cod & many other menu items. I usually call for a reservation even if it's just a short time before dining (30 minutes) as they are small & often busy.
Ultra-casual, almost a dive -- Philly West on the east side of Westwood Blvd. just south of Santa Monica Blvd., free shared parking in the back. The Philly cheesesteak is good, the half-pound flame-grilled burger even better, either about $6.
Hu's Szechwan, National where it makes a 90-degree turn in Palms, east of Overland and just north of Palms. Get the spicy dumplings to start, the kung pao shrimp or chicken and the eggplant or stringbeans in garlic sauce, or the twice-cooked pork. Great lunch combos.
Thai Boom -- north side of Venice at Midvale. Get the yellow chicken curry spicy, or the special shrimp in dry red curry butter, or the pad se eu. Get the eggplant, chicken or shrimp dishes, avoid the beef -- tends to be dry.
I echo Monte Alban
Fritto Misto for low key Italian in SaMo
Cafe Dana on Montana
Shamshiri in westwood
Sunnin Lebanese Cafe
Baby Blue BBQ
Jack Spratt's Grille on Pico
Babalu on Montana (though sometimes a wait)
Enzo and Angela at Wilshire/Barrington
Mao's Kitchen in Venice
I had a GREAT dinner tonight, totally blown away by El Super Taco (the Pico and Sawtelle location.) Fish tacos were good, and chicken torta. I've been there before, and it wasn't as good (we had tacos with carnitas, and torta asada that time.) Maybe they're a little inconsistent, but today it was so good that it deserved to be mentioned (and it's close enough to where you live that you should try it once, at least.)
We often end up at Nanbankan on Santa Monica, just west of the 405, or at Musha on Wilshire and 4th in Santa Monica.
Terried Sake House
on Santa Monica Blvd, between Colby & Federal
Get their tofu steak II, squid leg sautee, grilled corn, and kickbutt daily specials. Watch the Lakers on their (tiny) TV, knock back a Sapporo or three... Who knows, chances are good that you might even see me & Mrs J.L. there any given night (though that may deter you from going hehehe)!
Here's two less excuses within walking distance - right across the street from each other: The Sf Saloon on Pico near Gateway and Cheng Du. I like 'em both.
Fine burgers and fries at SF and pretty good semi-Szechuan at Cheng Du. Don't laugh - their orange chicken is exceptional. Also their beef noodle soup, which I think is only served at lunch, is great.
I've had my ups and downs with Cheng Du, the former Chung King on Pico. i think they are a bargain at lunch, when they serve big portions at very low prices and start with their excellent hot'n'sour soup. But I disagree with you about their orange chicken -- I had a craving for it last month (due in part to that orange chicken thread) and while Cheng Du's was definitely crispy, to me it was sort of tough and quickly got monotonous. I like their Mongolian beef or shredded pork with broccoli in garlic sauce a lot better. They are much less a value for dinner, and overall I much prefer Hu's.
There are some good suggestions going already.
I'll add Rustic Canyon. Before you dismiss this outright, I'll say that I've never had a problem getting seats for two at the bar area without reservations (although, when we decide to do the bar there we generally get there no later than 7). If you're looking for a lot of food then this isn't the place. If instead you want a few interesting wines by the glass, or perhaps a superior beer, a couple of dishes to to share, and maybe a dessert from one of the best pastry chefs in town then I think you'll like this place. Stay away from the pricey entrees and it shouldn't set you back any more than Tlapazola or Orris. And despite it's looks, it's pretty casual.
The happy hour at Border Grill is still excellent for flavor and value if you're out early enough.
There's also Place on Sawtelle and Musha on Wilshire.
Point of clarification: The restaurant is called Place Yuu, not Place.
Nook can be a bit too "Chow-pretentious" at times, for lack of a better term.
The whole Sawtelle corridor is fair game for you guys if you're near the 10/405 intersection... It's a nice area in which to live, if you like eating out a lot.
Cheng Du is currently a thumbs down for me. I like Hop Woo on Sepulveda & Olympic much better.
Like it or not, jeans are often the "de rigeur" uniform of L.A. dining it seems, so you're safe with jeans almost anywhere.
Good Mexican in a very casual environment at Tacomiendo on the south side Gateway Blvd. just after it Y's off of Pico going west bound (in the strip mall with all the car repair places across from the very high end sushi joint Mori).
Also for mostly take out, although they have some tables and I do see plenty of people eating inside, Chutney for Indian (on the SE corner of Pico and Barrington with the mattress place).
Along with Monte Alban for Oaxacan there is also Juquila on Santa Monica Blvd. across from the car wash just east of Barrington on the north side of the street.
If you don't over do it by having one of their specials you can get good and reasonably priced Italian food (good pizza) at il Forno on Ocean Park Blvd. (great little outside patio when the weather is warm) in the mall that also has The Counter (not bad burgers but a bit over crowded most of the time) at 29th IIRC.
You can get pretty good sushi and other cooked Japanese dishes (I like some of the smaller appetizer plates like the spicy tofu, the shrimp with garlic sprouts and the green lipped mussles with crab) at U-Zen on Santa Monica Blvd. just east of Bundy on the north side of the street across from Monte Alban.
Outside of the Chinese places already mentioned (Hu's, Hop Woo, Cheng Du) there is Lin's just barely east of Barrington on the south side of Pico. Not bad/not great/but serviceable.
We like the burger at the tiny (and hidden) Hole in the Wall Burger joint just east of Sepulveda Blvd. around the corner from the Winchell's donuts on Santa Monica. If you order fries or sweet potato fries you will only need ONE order between the two of you. Get the regular white bun and either the beef or the turkey is good. Mostly outside seating - so go when the weather is nice.
If you can get over to try Mariscos Chente (in Mar Vista) on Centinela just north of Culver Blvd. on the SE corner of Gilmore and Centinela by all means go. Great Sinaloan seafood (mostly shrimp) dishes and seafood cocktails.
11619 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
2901 Ocean Park Blvd Ste 102, Santa Monica, CA 90405
2406 S Barrington Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90064
11462 Gateway Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Il Forno Caffe & Pizzeria
2901 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405
4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066
U-Zen Japanese Restaurant
11951 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Hole in the Wall Burger Joint
11058 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Lin's Chinese Cuisine
11668 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
I always forget at least one place I want to recommend...Raku is in the mini mall with the 7-11 on the SE corner of Barrington and Olympic. It is a Koran style Izakaya - basically pub food. Good and if you need a place that is open late they tend to serve until at least 1 AM.
11678 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
I don't think anyone mentioned Yakatoria on Olympic and Sawtelle. Yum! Le Saigon for Vietnamese on Santa Monica Blvd. and Javan for Persian.