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First west coast trip

Hello. I live in the UK and have planned a visit to the west coast with the better half next month. 2 days in Vancouver, 3 days in Vegas and 4 days in LA. It's my first time in Van and LA but not Vegas. I have been trawling through endless chow/citysearch pages to plan our eating itinerary. I compiled a big list for LA simply because of the variety and choice available. I am particularly after things I can't get here in the UK.

I have tried to narrow down the list based on location (we're staying around West Hollywood) and budget (no Urasawa!) but it's still pretty long and we don't have enough time/physical appetite and budget to try everything. So basically I wanted to get some of your thoughts/opinions/tips on my list - places you would focus on/skip/go for lunch/go for dinner/be redundant etc. We're not huge eaters and don't mind spending on quality food but at the same time I don't want to have to eat bread and milk for the next 3 months so we're happy to do cheap and cheerful places as well as the more expensive. We'll be driving so distance is not a big problem but would prefer not to travel huge distances/get stuck in jams too much.

I have planned 1 omakase dinner and 1 izakaya dinner in Vancouver already since it's apparently a sushi town.

So onto the list: (I also have some specific questions at the end)

Breakfast:
Griddle Cafe
Jinky's
Du-Par's
IHOP

Burgers&Dogs:
Father's Office
Pinks
Carney's
Comme Ca

Deli's:
Philippe
Langer's

Steak:
Mastro's

BBQ:
Big Mista's
Zeke's
Baby Blues
JR's

Mexican:
La Casita
Tere's Mexican Grill
Chichen Itza
Tacomiendo
Tacos Por Favor

Sushi:
Zo
Mori

Trendy joints:
Bazaar
Hungry Cat
AOC

Questions:
1) Having read exilekiss's excellent comparison between Zo and Mori, I really want to try Mori but his bill was quite off-putting. Is it possible to have omakase at Mori and pay $80-120 per person inclusive? We'll probably just have a little house sake and not ask for repeats (being small eaters). I'm after more a traditional style meal with great quality fish (a few staples + exotics) without overly saucing/fancifying it. Or do you think it's better to go to Zo for that price range? Incidentally I ruled out Sasabune because I wanted the whole "itamae" experience.

2) We have limited time in LA and I've focused my research there but are there somethings that I can get in Vegas that are equally good so that I can free up some slots for more eating in LA?!

3) We wanted 1 of the nights to be more of a hip night out in LA (hence the Trendy Joints) somewhere where we can experience the LA vibe/scene (whatever that may be) and not necessarily have amazing food. I read many good things/recs about Bazaar but am worried that it will be similar to the excellent spanish that we get here/I've had in Spain. Do you think that is the case and if so what other places would you suggest.

That's it. Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for all/any thoughts.

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  1. Hi Boshek
    1. For breakfast, I would cross IHOP off your list. I don't think it adds anything, and if you want a diner-type/pancake experience, Dupars is much better.
    Are you particularly pancake fans?
    2. About Bazaar, I should preface to say that I haven't eaten there, but from what I've heard, I think the food has its own modern unique take. I have, however, been in the space and it's certainly an interesting scene that could be a draw on its own. If you're specifically looking for a trendy night out, I think it's the best on your list. I suggest you make reservations now though, as they're still not very easy to get.

    On your list, I would say that Father's Office is certainly worth trying, however, if you're looking for a good burger, it may be more geographically convenient from WeHo for you to try LA's newer spot: Umami Burger.
    I have no doubt others will give you more comprehensive suggestions.
    Have a great trip!

    1 Reply
    1. re: hyacinthgirl

      Agreed about IHOP. Whoever controls that franchise's menu has eliminated any sense that they used to serve actual food. F*cking butterscotch, whipped cream, cotton candy surprise pancakes with fudge chunks and sprinkles...please. They have the United States by their sugar-addicted balls and are not letting go. Shameful.

    2. That's quite a well-researched list!! I would recommend the Counter over Carney's unless you want to experience the novelty of Carney's... otherwise, it's worth passing on. Also along the lines of novelty is Pink's which I would replace with Fab's Hot Dogs (try the ripper there). In any case, you may just want to add the two places to your list and squeeze out two more meals while you're visiting:)

      Have a great trip and enjoy the city!!

      1. For your burgers section, I'd toss 25 Degrees into the mix as an option seeing as how you're in the West Hollywood area. They've got a great range of customizable burgers and IMO beats out Father's Office in terms of pure burger enjoyment. I still would recommend FO though, simply for their fantastic selection of beers as well as their other appetizers and entrees.

        For the delis, Langer's is a great choice although I disagree with the whole #19 love. The coleslaw and cheese I feel simply distract one from enjoying the unctuous pastrami and the perfectly toasted rye bread. I prefer it neat with just a healthy slathering of the mustard and if you must have coleslaw, you can always order it on the side. I'd also suggest either Bay Cities or Eastside Market and Deli if you want exposure to an Italian style deli.

        I also see that you don't seem to have many ethnic choices which I believe is what makes LA such a great place to eat. There's everything from Ethiopian to Korea and everything in between. Is there a particular reason for that? Is it because you don't like those types of food or are they foods you can enjoy in the UK? If the latter reason, I'd still say to try them in Los Angeles because I think the experience would be loads better here. For example, dim sum in the San Gabriel valley or korean bbq and soontofu in Koreatown.

        1 Reply
        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

          Yes, we have such great ethnic food in LA! I highly recommend checking out Koreatown. I can't speak to where, you'll find that in other responses, but you would be missing out of the true local experience if you don't check out some ethnic grub while you're here.

          Edit: I just read your post down below so I understand if you don't hit up some Asian ethnic places.

        2. Good list, I have to chime in and agree about the proposed eliminations of IHOP and Pink's.

          I highly recommend an evening trip to Koreatown. How about Park, or Chosun Galbi?

          A word of warning, the San Gabriel Valley has fantastic food, but it's really not the biggest tourism destination.

          Also, regarding Langer's I recommend one person ordering a plain pastrami, one person ordering #19, and splitting both. Heck! Get a bowl of their chicken matzah soup, too!

          1 Reply
          1. re: cjla

            For the San Gabriel Valley somewhat true, although there is the LA County Arboretum in Arcadia, The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens(extensive) in San Marino, Descanso Gardens(also extensive) in La Cañada-Flintridge, and the largest Buddhist monastery in the Western Hemisphere (Hacienda Heights). Still in general if the OP is going to be in West Hollywood, the SGV is somewhat far away (though you can find food not easily found in Vegas), and most likely you can find Hong Kong type cooking in London (though not sure on Taiwanese and in general other Chinese regional cuisines, though you can find similar fare in Vancouver). For the most part the original list was good especially considering if you want to remain local to where you're staying.

          2. I think Mastro's is a great steakhouse, but you can also get a great steak meal in Vegas. I know Carne y Vino, Mario Batali' s new steak house, has gotten great reviews. You've done a lot of research. I hope you enjoy your stay in the city of angels.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

              When in Vegas, my preferred steakhouse is SW at the Wynn. It kicks ass on every other steak house I have ever had the pleasure of eating in. Amazing food, ambience and service.

              1. re: lotta_cox

                Folks, please hold off on the Vegas recommendations. Vegas is covered on the Southwest board, and we ask boshek to start another thread over there for Vegas tips.

            2. For trendy places, I would skip The Hungry Cat (too many bad recent reviews, including my own) and head instead to Rivera downtown. GREAT Latin food in an upscale and trendy environment. I am a huge fan of The Bazaar. I have been there thrice, and every time has been amazing. The menu has a balance between classic Spanish dishes and "new way" or modern takes on Spanish food. Personally, if I were coming to LA I wouldn't want to miss it.

              1. Are there things that I can get in Vegas so to free up eating in LA? Now that is smart!

                Breakfast:

                Your first stop for breakfast really should be Pann’s. They serve American style breakfast but also fried chicken wings and waffles -- great food. The architecture inside and out is classic Googie. http://www.panns.com/ourstory.htm

                Donuts, How could you come to L.A. and not have a true L.A. breakfast? Go to Stan’s Donuts and try them all. Apple Fritters and Peanut Butter Pockets
                Westwood Village, California
                10948 Weyburn Avenue
                (310) 208-8660
                http://www.stansdoughnuts.com/

                For a breakfast sandwich you will never have a chance to try anyplace but here in L.A., go to Original Tommy’s. See a picture of it next to the breakfast burrito iat the top of the Home page – Perfect L.A. creation. They took the English Muffin idea and made it better with what they put inside of it. http://www.originaltommys.com/

                Griddle Cafe – Yes, but the wait is not worth it if you are there at prime time (weekends

                )

                IHOP – This is a bad chain and not in line with anything else on your wish list. You might be thinking of “Original Pancake House.” That place is also a chain but well run with pride from local owners. Try the 49er flap jacks – very good. http://www.originalpancakehouse.com/

                Burgers&Dogs:

                Father's Office. Think, “If you can’t impress them with your burger, Razzle-Dazzle them with your rules.” Have it their way or take the highway -- more like, Big Brother’s Office. Better burgers abound all around.

                Pinks. Big crowd, as in “by the bus load.” I go just after opening in the morning and there is no line – no wait. I like the “Three Dog Night.” Otherwise, for the best chilidogs in L.A., go to Carney’s. http://www.pinkshollywood.com/pgz/gre...

                Carney's. Best Dogs in L.A.. Nuff said! http://carneytrain.com/hotdoglinks.html

                Deli's:
                Philippe. Not worth the drive from the Westside.
                Langer's. This place is worth a drive BUT they are only open for lunch. I would just forgetaboutit and go to Nate'N Al and then take a nice walk around the nab, maybe do a little shopping?$?$?$ http://www.natenal.com/

                Chinese Chicken Salad was created in L.A. and Imo, the best one is in your area. California Chicken Café. Also, very good wraps. http://www.californiachickencafe.com/

                Steak: I would eat steak in Vegas so to free up LA time to return to Pann’s for more chicken and waffles or maybe try Roscoe’s -- that’s some good eatin. http://www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com/

                1 Reply
                1. re: JeetJet

                  I would agree that if you want a Chinese chicken salad, California Chicken Cafe makes a great one. But I wouldn't come to L.A. for it. Fish tacos, on the other hand... at least stop by a Rubio's for fish taco takeout.

                2. If you are staying in West Hollywood and want a dog I would stick with Pinks. They have good dogs and a lot of different combinations. A lot of people here complain about waiting in the long lines there. While it may take a while to get through at noon other times of the day are not that bad. You can get better dogs elswhere but Pinks is an institution and since this is your first trip here I would think that you would want to experience that rather than just getting a slightly better hot dog in the states.

                  1. Thanks everybody for the comments - very useful. I will amend my list accordingly!

                    @ hyacinthgirl: yes I'm a huge fan of pancakes (the plain fluffy buttermilk variety) - something that I _cannot_ find here. I make them myself but hold back on the butter to make my conscience feel better so they never come out quite as fluffy.

                    @mrshankly: thanks for the tip. I'll pass on Pinks and try Couter and/or Fab's. I found out what a _real_ hot dog was and then proceeded to fall in love with them whilst visiting Portillo's in Chicago a couple of years back so I'm definitely going to hit those 2 spots even if it means I need to move up a waist size.

                    @ taiwanesesmalleats: yes I agree that I haven't make many ethnic choices.. I am chinese and come from Hong Kong so when I visit North American I tend to prefer to do the whole Burgers/Steaks/HotDogs/Pancakes etc. thing ie. my list! The korean and chinese is not bad here but I get a lot of that when I go home too. There is also decent choice of other ethnic foods in London but the things on my list are things that one just cannot find in London. I would definitely check out your recs if I were staying for a longer period of time in LA but I will bear them in mind if I find I'm "American'd out".

                    re: steaks. actually that was what I was really considering - to enjoy my steak whilst in Vegas and save LA for other meals. All this discussion is making me look forward to my trip even more!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: boshek

                      For a classic LA burger then you might want to also try In-N-Out (local no frills burger chain with fresh ingredients and milkshakes, also can be considered one of the original drive-thru eating establishments in the US), though you can now find them in Vegas as well (though not too many even though there's been a presence in Vegas for a while now, and their supplies are shipped in from the LA area, in fact from where the original restaurant was founded in the 1940s in the San Gabriel Valley).

                      1. re: boshek

                        IHOP is really not worth your time.

                        When in Vegas, you can give this place a try:

                        http://www.hashhouseagogo.com/

                        Never been, heard good things, and just look at those pictures!

                        You can impress your friends with how screwed up American food is!

                        I don't think there's an Original Pancake House near where you'll be, but there was recently a thread on this forum about best pancakes in LA so if you dig that up you'll find some nice places close to where you're staying.

                        I agree if you're from Hong Kong skip the Asian ethnic stuff. You could always hop over to Thailand or Seoul for a weekend to get that from the source.

                        One thing you might consider is Vietnamese Cajun. It's distinctly American and something you won't get anywhere else, not even in Vietnam. A recent fad the last few years, it was popularized by Vietnamese who lived in Cajun country where a lot of refugees were settled originally and missed the crawfish boils there. There's really not that much that's particularly Asian about the food except that the restaurants are owned by Asians and serve mostly Asian customers. For that you'd have to go out to the SGV. I'm not sure there's much difference between them all, but the one I associate with being the original is The Boiling Crab who have a branch in Alhambra.

                        1. re: boshek

                          Here's a pretty good thread debating the best pancake places in LA. The Original Pancake House gets a lot of mentions.
                          I'd also throw in John O'Groats as a good breakfast pancake place, though it's a bit west of you.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5879...

                        2. I can't believe no one mentioned Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles! It's an L.A. institution. Try the Herb's Special, 1/2 chicken and 2 waffles. And be sure and put some syrup on your chicken! Trust me!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bigmista

                            I love Roscoe's, and while I am not a breakfast fan, I would eat there before any of the previously mentioned restaurants.

                          2. Boshek, I usually get out around $120pp after tax and tip. Once I was at $150 after requesting multiple repeats of o-toro. E-kiss can't help himself at Mori and frequently goes after the premium sake list with a vengence. If you curb your sake enthusiasm, you'll be able to meet your price point. I would recommend going to both Mori and Zo but definitely Mori if you had to pick one. Go on a Tuesday or Friday. Tell Mori you are visiting him from the UK. He's very friendly and will personalize the meal for you.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Porthos

                              Hi Porthos,

                              But... Good Sake and Mori-san's amazing Knifeskills and fresh Fish go hand in hand. :)

                              Boshek, in all seriousness, I'd recommend going to Mori as well. Great place. As a point of reference, a dear friend of mine just came back from Mori Sushi (they ordered only 1 small bottle of the cheapest House Sake (they didn't tell me the name of it)), and it ended up being ~$175 per person (including tax and tip) for the full "Omakase" course (including cooked dishes).

                              One of these days I'll have to do Nigiri-only Omakase with no Sake to bring the bill down a bit. :)

                              1. re: exilekiss

                                Who can blame you? I usually just do a beer but yes, that sake list is very hard to resist. If you must do sake, the Kura No Hana is a very reasonably priced junmai daigino around $60.

                            2. I won't repeat what others have already said, but I would suggest a better Taqueria than Tacomiendo or TPF. Not that either of these are bad, on the contrary, they are good, but I think there are better options for taquerias in LA. I would suggest La Taquiza (great burritos and al pastor and strawberry agua fresca worth the drive itself), or possibly Carnitas Michoacan.

                              I would also suggest possibly eating at a Taco Truck; not sure if you have them in the UK, but these produce some of the best tacos in the country. My favorites would be El Chato, Taco Zone and El Pecas.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mdpilam

                                I would agree with taking TPF and Tacomiendo off the list, how about adding a Oaxacan place (Monte Alban, Guelaguetza?) and Mariscos Chente, nayarit/sinaloan place?

                              2. Hi boshek,

                                Nice research and a big extensive list already. :) I can't speak for Vancouver, but I'm not quite sure what it being a "sushi town" and thus booking Izakaya food there has in common (different sub-cuisines of Japanese food), but you might consider trying some of the best Yakitori / Kushiyaki and Izakaya in L.A. and then compare it to Vancouver on your trip.

                                For Izakaya:

                                * Izakaya Bincho - lots of reviews on the L.A. board. It's just good, down-to-earth, made-from-scratch cooking (classic Japanese Pub style) from Tomo-san. :)

                                Yakitori / Kushiyaki:

                                * Torihei - This is a new Yakitori *and* Kyoto-style Oden specialist that just opened up in L.A. :) It's pretty cheap as well ($1.75 - $2.80 or so for various skewers / Oden items).

                                I also responded to your Sushi question in the Porthos response in this thread. :)

                                Enjoy L.A. and have a fun trip! :)

                                -----
                                Izakaya Bincho
                                112 N International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

                                Torihei
                                1757 W. Carson Street, Torrance, CA 90501

                                1. Have a tremendous trip! Bear in mind that Langer's is essentially a one trick pony - the pastrami reigns supreme (avoid the 19) but the rest of the menu is just deli food, matched or exceeded by others in LA. Specify hand cut pastrami. Pink's is indeed an experience you'll find only in LA, but you may find that the dogs do not justify the lengthy wait. My preference at Philippe is the lamb dip, primarily because I love lamb and it's the only meat that is hand cut to order. At Mastro, do not miss the mac and cheese. Be sure to report back on your choices and experiences.

                                  1. Breakfast:
                                    Griddle Cafe - good
                                    Jinky's - good
                                    Du-Par's - ok
                                    IHOP- good

                                    Burgers&Dogs:
                                    Father's Office - good not great / nice for happy hour
                                    Pinks - ok if small line
                                    Carney's - not worth trip to valley
                                    Comme Ca - definetely put in yes column / at the very least get food and drinks at bar

                                    Deli's:
                                    Philippe - skip - way overrated
                                    Langer's - great - don't worry about neighborhood - you will be blown away by the pastrami

                                    Steak:
                                    Mastro's - don't know

                                    Trendy joints:
                                    Bazaar - SKIP
                                    Hungry Cat - Definitely SKIP
                                    AOC - SKIP
                                    Save your money - Bazaar is overrated -- I would try to get a Wolfgang Puck experience in -- at either Spagos or Cut (Cut Bar appzs are really good as well)
                                    and you MUST eat at Pizzeria Mozza (go for lunch)

                                    Sushi:
                                    Any place you pick will be much better than UK so I would throw a dart and you will be fine (or pick nearly anywhere - minus Teru - on Ventura boulevard between Coldwater and Tujunga)

                                    Vancouver:
                                    Reserach boards - I ate at some GREAT places when I was there- what a great city

                                    There is a lot of so-so opinions listed above so do trust me -- though the Roscoe's Chicken in Waffles is a unique LA experience and you should also walk around the farmer's market at the grove -- try the fresh corned beef (you can't miss it)

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: radman123

                                      Since the OP is staying right by WeHo they don't have to go to the Valley to try out Carney's (they will be right next to the Carney's on the Sunset Strip in WeHo).

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        thanks Servorg for the proof reading

                                        so let me rephrase - Carney's is now not worth the trip down the street from your hotel

                                        1. re: radman123

                                          They have the best chili cheese dogs in LA. If you like CCD's it's a great place. If not then of course all dogs are off.

                                    2. ...I'm after things in L.A. that I can't get in merry olde London...

                                      Comparing the available cuisine options in London versus L.A., the following came up:

                                      Cuisine type . / . # of locations in London . / . # of locations in L.A.
                                      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Hot Dog ~ 3 . versus . 134
                                      Hawaiian ~ . 1 . versus . 49
                                      Southern & Soul ~ . 24 . versus . 216
                                      Cajun & Creole ~ . 0 . versus . 5 to 10

                                      The 24 Southern & Soul in London were actually Argentinian, Latin American or South American not what people in the U.S. would consider S & S. Also, with no Cajun or Creole, you might want to consider trying Harold & Belle's:

                                      http://www.haroldandbellesrestaurant.com

                                      Hot Dogs ~ Seems a natural choice - although there is certainly no shortage of sausages, or bangers, in London. Pink's is probably L.A.'s most well know outside of L.A., but not really the best - one of the very FEW places to lose a throw-down to Bobby Flay. The Oki Dog mentioned above is probably the most unique local dog offering, unless you'd consider a Gator or Rabbit & Rattlesnake dog more so. BTW, the Oki is short for Okinawa:

                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addic...

                                      Steak ~ Have it in Vegas.

                                      Hip Trendy Joints ~ It seems whenever the blue boys from Chelsea are in town, they head over to Asia de Cuba in West Hollywood. It might be just for the view & local vibe though as they do have a location in London.

                                      Un-Hip & Un-Trendy Joints ~ Or places that have old local flavor - i.e., 60's Beach Dives or places that have the look and feel of a old Frankie Avalon movie. Chez Jay's in Santa Monica would qualify and the only thing to have is the Sand Dabs = a member of the flounder family only found along the U.S.'s west coast.

                                      http://www.chezjays.com

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: JBC

                                        Just my 2 cents worth. The Original Pancake House it absolutely worth the drive from where you are to Redondo Beach i think is your nearest location. Get the Dutch Baby or Cinnamon Apple Pancake...Awesome!
                                        I have to agree with the recommendations that while you are here in Los Angeles you really should try something like an Original Tommy Burger. The atomic orange grease soaking through the paper wrap....its indigestion in a bun...but so delish. I would share one burger and save room for Langers! I too am not a fan of the #19, but instead like the 43 iirc. Its their awesome pastrami on grilled rye with sauerkraut and nappy cheese. Ask to substitute swiss cheese for the nappy cheese and get some russian dressing on the side...HEAVENLY.
                                        Also a bit of a drive from where you are in Dr Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas BBQ. I think their brisket is terrific. And as long as you are driving out to the San Fernando Valley I also recommend Fab Hot Dogs. Share a ripper and then go for the kill with an LA Street Dog or a Rueben Dog. Fab-u-lous!
                                        Sounds like you are in for a delicious time. Have Fun!

                                      2. Honestly, your list is damn good. I wouldn't take too many of the "improvements" here to heart; except the crossing off of IHOP.

                                        The one, true, original, LA-invented item that you must have here, and nowhere else, is a chili cheeseburger -- which you should really have at the Original Tommy's on Beverly and Rampart. In'n'Out, fine for fast food, but no chili.

                                        And if you've had dogs in Chicago, I'd question waiting 45 minutes or more at Pink's. If I was pressed for time and distance, I'd kill two birds with one stone, getting my chili cheeseburger (nearly as good as Tommy's) and hot dog (arguably better than Pink's) at Carney's. No need to go to the Valley, there's one on Sunset in the heart of the Sunset Strip.

                                        Please, don't go to Oki Dog, it is, with all due respect to those who love it, disgusting. Have fun!

                                        http://lafoodcrazy.blogspot.com

                                        1. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts/rec's. I'll do a trip report and report back in due course!