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Four days in LA--your top picks?

I'm going to be visiting LA over Memorial Day weekend with two friends (we're all in our 30s) and we're staying at the SLS. While our diggs are swanky, our dining picks don't need to be. We'd like to try a mix of glam LA (think The Ivy, Chateau Marmont) as well as hidden gems (something by the beach where they serve killer fish tacos). Recommendations for restaurants and bars (cozy, great atmosphere, the occasional star-spotting but not too too trendy) are greatly appreciated!

Btw--we're coming from DC, so if you ever need suggestions for a trip here, let me know!

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  1. My parents just were out here for about 4 days, and though none are high class, we ate at the following and all are very good:

    BigMista BBQ (great ribs & brisket)
    Father's Office (burger & sweet potato fries)
    El Chato Taco Truck (al pastor, carne asada and chorizo tacos, and also an amazing quesadilla)
    Square One (very good breakfast, though a little pricey for bfast. French toast and pancakes were delicious)
    SM Farmer's Market
    The India Restaurant (delicious North Indian food, with a great lunch buffet)

    I would also recommend Langer's pastrami.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mdpilam

      I would second a couple of these, Father's Office (not just the burger and sweet potato fries but great beers) for sure and The India Restaurant (a bit of a haul down to Artesia but worth it, best Chicken Tikka Masala I've ever had) is excellent.

      Also might add Oinkster, which is over in Eagle Rock, for burgers or pastrami, and great belgian-style fries. Also in Eagle Rock, is a great Polish place, called Polka; it is cozy and small and has great hearty Polish food and big ice cold Polish beers. Not too far from good bars in Silver Lake and Los Feliz (Los Feliz has a great area for bar crawls, including Tiki Ti, a great tiki bar but with odd hours, so check first; Good Luck Bar, a little Hollywood hipster-esque but fun and good cocktails, and the Drawing Room nearby for a classic hipster dive).

      Another fun hangout is the Cat and Fiddle on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood - English pub with great outdoor patio, decent pub food, good beers, fun rocker/casual crowd (have seen Johnny Rotten, Morrissey, and Sandra Oh there, although not on the same night, ha ha). Drinks on the Rooftop of the Standard Hotel Downtown, or at the Standard on the Sunset Strip, are gauche but you get a sense of the completely trashy Hollywood industry side. And the Standard downtown has a great view. Also near downtown, in Chinatown, the Mountain Bar is a funky artist hangout, although weekend nights the entertainment is kind of annoying. Spaceland, a music club in Silverlake, often has great bands and is a nice hangout, usually reasonably priced tickets.

      On the fancier side, Campanile and A.O.C. are excellent. In general have not found much amazing high-end dining in LA, but these two are great.

      If you want to spend some time checking out other options, particularly for different ethnic foods, I highly recommend looking at the LA Weekly website, and Jonathan Gold's food column on there (http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/), his "Where to Eat Now" section is particularly helpful. He is the first food critic to ever win a Pulitzer, and ranges from the top of the line to the taco truck. Will give you a good overview of options, and there are so many hole in the wall kind of places in strip malls that it is difficult to come across otherwise...

      Enjoy!

      1. re: yellojello

        wow--fantastic suggestions! Thanks so much.

    2. If you want star gazing, Matsuhisa on a Fri/Sat is a winner.

      Also, you must go to the Original Tommy's and get some chili burgers and fries.

      2 Replies
      1. re: A5 KOBE

        If stargazing is your reason for going, then Tuesdays through Thursdays are better. Many celebs & stars stay home on weekends, as the city is besieged by gaga amateur paparazzo and like-minded tourists.

        They do venture out on a tad more on weeknights for a bite.

        1. re: A5 KOBE

          Haven't been to Los Angeles in a long time (since 2000) - but last trip we stayed at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills - and there were a fair number of famous people having drinks/snacks on the patio dining area at "cocktail time". It's a pretty sedate scene - your drinks and nibbles will cost a bunch - and there are no guarantees you'll see anyone (at least anyone you recognize - when we were there I recognized some of the people - like the whole CNN staff in town for the DNC - but not the movie stars :)). YMMV. Robyn

        2. If you want great fish tacos then head AWAY from the beach and make your way to Baja Ensenada or Taco's Nazo or perhaps Senor Fish in Eagle Rock for a third place choice.

          -----
          Tacos Baja Ensenada
          5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022

          Senor Fish
          4803 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

          El Taco Nazo
          9516 Garvey Ave, South El Monte, CA 91733

          1 Reply
          1. re: Servorg

            I second the above. There are no good fish tacos near the beach! Tacos Baja Ensenada make the best fish tacos around, but Senor Fish (there is an outpost in downtown LA across the street from the Japanese American Museum) is more accessible.

          2. My #1 pick for an out-of-towner is right in your hotel: the Bazaar. Do a search on this board and you'll find lots of reviews. This would be for one of your more glam nights, but it isn't overly trendy.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Nicole

              Bazaar is owned by Jose Andres, who has many restaurants in DC. Might it be redundant for the OP? Conversely, maybe Bazaar is more of a conglomeration of his talents? Just a thought...

              1. re: bulavinaka

                That's a good point. It's such an original place in L.A., but it may not stand out in the DC dining scene, I have no idea.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Yes, that's a good point. However, I've read such great reviews about Bazaar and it's in our hotel, so we will definitely check it out.

                  1. re: foodiejourno

                    Great - I'm always figuring you folks in DC have all the Andres cuisine that you can handle in one town. But good food is good food. Definitely don't let me stop you - just do us all the favor of reporting back.

              2. Saveur Magazine just ranked Muss and Franks and one of the 12 restaurants that matter in America. Being a huge fan, I loved the attention and think as an LA icon, it is a great place to go. If you are here on a Thursday, go at lunch. You can still have one of their martinis, best in the nation; their amazing caesar salad; any grilled meats and Thursdays they have their chicken pot pie, also terrific.

                I'd also give Lucques a try. Consistently one of the best restaurants in LA.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Tom P

                  I'm guilty of not having been to Musso & Franks in ages. The last time I was there, I had a nice bouillabaisse. Do you know if they still serve that? And yes, I enjoyed their caesar salad as well.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Yes indeedy, a very nice bouillabaise, still served as it was in 1944 *- only as Friday's dinner special.
                    Lotta wisdom in Tom P's post. Obviously, only the OP and traveling friends can decide if it makes their final cut, but M&F's is a must to make the "For Consideration" list of every Chowhound traveling to LA. Why ? Here's why: http://www.mussoandfrankgrill.com/ *Check out 1944 menu on website.

                    It should go with out saying, so I'll write it down: If you live in the area, go at least once.

                    1. re: ilikefood

                      Wow - they sure do, don't they? And I remembered ordering it for the first time just because the name sounded French... Thanks!

                  2. re: Tom P

                    Thanks for making me remember that I haven't been to Musso and Frank for quite a while. I'll have to correct that oversight sometime soon -- wait a minute, I see that they're open until 11:00 p.m. tonight!

                    Incidentally, that's an unusual collection in the Saveur article you reference. Joël Robuchon as well as Musso and Frank?

                    1. re: Tom P

                      As much as I like Saveur, their LA picks have always been off. They once called BH Cheese Store one of the best places "to by American Cheese" in America. What a sham.

                      I am fond of Mussos but it does not belong on that list.

                      1. re: JudiAU

                        Mussos is for history and a martini. It's not for food. Chateau is for people watching and a glass of something sparkly in the garden. Again, not for food. There are places you go in LA because they are part of the character of the city (the coffee shop in the Beverly Hills Hotel for example) and there are places you go for the food -- Mozza, Father's Office, Hungry Cat, A.O.C, Comme Ca, Langers etc. . For a great, fun weekend in LA, I'd do a bit of both.

                        1. re: JudiAU

                          But Joël Robuchon is not for food, either, JudiAU, despite what the Michelin tire man says. It's for pretending you're rich and foodwise while chowing down on undelicious foams, fantasies, and other theoretical dishes. I'd much rather go to M&F for a martini and a shrimp cocktail.

                          Now, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is another matter -- really excellent tasting menu paired with uncomfortable counter seating.

                          1. re: JudiAU

                            i completely concur with JudiAu and toothsome: Mussos is NOT for food

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              It just depends on the food. No one does a better Caesar in town. Same for the pork chops... thick, juicy, perfect. And I love their Filet. And their french fries. And the flannel cakes, and breakfast in general... lots of good food to be had amidst a few land mines on the menu.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                If you go back and look at the April issue of Saveur you will see that the reason Frank and Musso was chosen was because of it's iconic place in the LA Market...not because it was the most incredible restaurant in LA, or because it even had amazing food. Every restaurant in that issue is in there because it is unique...Robuchon at $500 a plate and Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn at the other end. Every single food magazine did hot chefs and hot restaurants and in this economy they abandon that mission to stick to 3 easy chicken recipes, 4 ways to make mac and cheese and how to whip up in expensive bugers...boring. Saveur remains about the experience of authenticity, heritage and tradition and all the recipes to create them in home. Considering all that, the restaurants they chose, although probably had some subjectivity to them were chosen for a purpose. I have been a reader for years and it was just the only food magazine to win and editorial award for their Breakfast around the world issue. I hope they continue to dare to be different.