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NYer Staying in Santa Monica visiting family in Van Nuys (11/22-11/27)

For the week of Thanksgiving I'll be in L.A. We are staying at the Fairmont in Santa Monica and my Family lives in Van Nuys. We love going out to eat and experiencing different atmospheres, cultures and foods. We also love to cook too so we appreciate very well made cuisine along with beautiful presentation. I don't care if there is a social scene, I just care if people go there (and keep coming back) for the food and service. So weather it be a hidden gem or a 5 star restaurant I want to know about it. I love seeing a city the way it's locals see it and not the way it's tourists see it. I hope someone can provide me with great restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!

I am planning on going to the Getty Museum for the first time and would love to know some other culturally rich places to explore. I also wouldn't mind some ideas for chill, Brooklyn/hipster vibe night spots that I can hit up with my brother. So if you have ideas for that too I would really appreciate it!

***I'll have a car but don't want to travel more than an hour (40 miles) out of the way. My mom and uncle need to be able to get something plain grilled and steamed for health reasons.

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  1. No need to travel beyond Santa Monica to get what you seek.

    Here's a list of places:
    Musha - local foodie Japanese tapas place
    Huckleberry - breakfast or lunch
    Cynthia's on the Corner - breakfast or lunch
    Anisette - breakfast or lunch (weekend breakfast only)
    Chaya Venice - dinner and bar scene
    Cache - dinner and bar scene
    Penthouse - view and bar scene
    Viceroy - bar scene
    Otheroom - bar with hipster vibe

    I'll let others add to this list, but it's a start.

    -----
    Chaya Venice
    110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291

    Musha
    424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Otheroom
    1201 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

    Chaya
    525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

    1 Reply
      1. re: saradoesmakeup

        FIG, the restaurant at the Fairmont actually has a great cheese selection as well as very good house made charcuterie. But if you want to go to a cheese store, there's a fantastic one on Montana and 7th in Santa Monica called Andrew's Cheese. Andrew is super friendly, as is his staff, and it makes a really nice lunch to grab some bread and cheese or some of their sandwiches and walk down to the bluffs overlooking the ocean.

        1. re: mollyomormon

          And Salute on Main Street in Santa Monica is nice for cheese and meats as well. It's an enomatic wine bar with a loungey vibe.

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          Main Street Cafe
          12939 Main St, Garden Grove, CA 92840

          1. re: Juji

            The Yard is another place for great cheese selections because it's all from Andrew's Cheese Shop - so you can have that great cheese with wine.

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            The Yard
            119 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

      2. Hi Sara

        Your answer to the following questions will help us to guide you.

        1) Do you read and enjoy Robert Sietsema's food column in the Village Voice?
        2) Have you ever been gone out on the 7 train to partake of the gastronomic cornucopia of Queens' multicultural neighborhoods?

        Mr Taster

        9 Replies
        1. re: Mr Taster

          Mr. Taster

          1. No I do not-I will check it out though. If I am looking for a place to go in a pinch I usually go to nymag.com or my zagats guide
          2. I have partook (is that a word?) in the "gastronomic cornucopia" that is Queens however VIA car and not train. I have friends from lots of different cultures/countries and count on them to guide me in the right direction when it comes to Queens.

          I live on long Island and work in Manhattan

          1. re: saradoesmakeup

            Ok then, Robert Sietsema is sort of like New York's Jonathan Gold (of LA Weekly's "Counter Intelligence" column) who recently won a Pulitzer for writing about precisely the kinds of hidden restaurants that don't get written about by food critics. Also, our own Thi Nguyen started writing passionate reviews on Chowhound a decade ago, and is now a contributor to "The Find" column in the LA Times. These are good places to start when finding the multicultural foods of Los Angeles.

            To my mind (and a lot of Chowhounds' minds as well) the real hidden treasures of LA lie in our extraordinarily vast tapestry to cultural enclaves. So to say you want to see the city as the locals see it, I must ask-- which locals? The trendy local foodies from Santa Monica are generally not going to send you to Little Saigon for awesome com tam or bun bo hue, I promise you that. However they will send you to the Nom Nom Vietnamese truck, because "fancy" catering trucks are now Hipster-Approved (tm). (Never mind that we have had awesome catering trucks serving regional Mexican specialties for years, which are still as-yet undiscovered by the hipsters, who avoid the non-fancy trucks like the plague.) And don't get me wrong, it's not like Nom Nom is bad. It's simply a less "intimidating" version of something that has been available in LA for decades... a secret to all but the tens of thousands of people who already knew about it before banh mi came rolling down the streets of Santa Monica.

            If you want Chinese food, don't go to Chinatown. Search for "San Gabriel Valley", which is a community of a dozen typical American suburbs, except that nearly everything is in Chinese (like a mega-sized version of Flushing). You will find restaurants specializing in specific regional dishes of China... try China Islamic for a change of pace.

            In Koreatown there is excellent Korean food (better than I ate in Korea), from Korean BBQ to goat stew to soondubu and raw marinated crab. There's even a restaurant which serves traditional Korean Imperial cuisine by waitresses wearing hanbok.

            In our 3 or so Thai Towns (one of which is very close to your family in Van Nuys-- try Swan on Sherman Way in North Hollywood), there is incredible Thai food... not just the typical satay/pad thai/Bangkok or Americanized style Thai dishes that you find everywhere, but you can find restaurants here that specialize in regional Thai cuisine... the Laotian influenced dishes of Northern Thailand and the spicy, cuminy Malaysian/Indian influences of Southern Thai food.

            And of course if you want Mexican food, you can pay $4 for a taco in Santa Monica at the Border Grill, or you can head to the Breed Street night market in Boyle Heights where vendors serve not just tacos but all manner of incredibly fresh, delicious food. Freshly fried churros, pozole, tacos, etc etc and the food is all the more spicy from the marginal legality of the experience.

            My suggestions are well documented in Chowhound's massive database, and all you need to do is search for them out. But a warning, these are not hipster enclaves. These are not places you go for service or ambiance. You go there for the food, the culture, and the food. Did I mention the food? You can eat incredibly well for less than $10 per person.

            Oh, and maybe finish your evening off with a $15/1 hour Chinese foot massage. That's always nice.

            Have fun!

            Mr Taster

            -----
            Border Grill
            1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

            China Islamic Restaurant
            7727 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA 91770

            1. re: Mr Taster

              Thanks Taster...will let you know where I go!

              1. re: Mr Taster

                I agree with Mr Taster, with the caveat that if you are looking for restaurants with great ambiance, lavish décor, wonderful cocktails and price tags to match, precious little of that list will be of interest to you. Mr Taster knows what he's talking about, though, that's for sure.

                Also, sadly, the Breed Street night market has gone, but some of the vendors are nightly at a different location in Boyle Heights. Definitely not much like that in NYC. Find their exact location and hours on Twitter (@breedstscene) http://twitter.com/BreedStScene

                While you're up in Van Nuys, consider going to Puro Sabor on Van Nuys Blvd. It's Peruvian food and it is absolutely outstanding. I love the causa rellena (stuffed potato) and the ceviche is amazing. Don't forget to drink the clove-y chicha morada and eat leche asada (custard) or picarones (squash doughnuts) for dessert. For your relatives, Peruvians are dab hands at roasted chicken.

                Definitely, definitely go to Mariscos Chente, which is about 15-20 minutes south of Santa Monica. It's a total shack and when you drive up you will be doubting my sanity, but walk in and you will be rewarded with the most amazing Mexican seafood in LA. Shrimp dishes for sure (usually $12ish for a big dish with a dozen giant sweet shrimp brought back in a cooler from Mazatlan), or if you're with someone order a pescado zarandeado (a whole snook [fish] that has been butterflied open, marinated, and grilled in a cage. It's just... it's stunning. They usually run about 2 kilos and the price is $18 per kilo but it is so, so worth it. Don't forget to order beer with your food. Your mom and uncle can have their very good pescado a la plancha (grilled fish).

                You will be very close to a part of LA we call "Tehrangeles" due to the massive Irani population. Javan is a good place to start, with beautiful flavoured rices and kabobs (which will do your relatives just fine).

                Are there particular ethnicities you'd like to find? We are not so good on eastern European or African as New York, but just about anything else is do-able.

                -----
                Puro Sabor
                6366 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

                Mariscos Chente
                4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  Good god man, that's tragic.... I had not heard that the Breed Street vendors had broken up. First Wat Thai, then the assault on taco trucks, now this.... imagine what the street food culture in LA would be like if these sort of entry level food ventures were actually supported by our government. I mean come on, they're selling food to hungry people, not torturing cats.

                  *sigh*

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I don't even know what it is but hearing that it closed made me really upset. I was so excited to be like Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre foods and go to an outdoor street vendor market place. However on twitter I think it said some of the vendors are on chicago and 4th. I really hope this is true!

                    1. re: saradoesmakeup

                      Here's a great writeup on the Breed Street night market with photos.

                      http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2008/10...

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        you're making me really hungry...mouth is watering, stomach is growling...mmmmmmmmm

                      2. re: saradoesmakeup

                        It is. If you go to the Twitter site in my post above you'll see where they are and who's there on a given night. Nina's is honestly the place to go.

            2. Just a friendly reminder, Folks, this forum is all about finding food and drink in the greater L.A. area, posts outside of the scope of the discussion have been removed. We are not the venue to discuss local tourist attractions.

              2 Replies
              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                sorry about that...they did mention the restaurants and tea rooms at those museums though and I found it quite helpful.

                1. re: 1newyorkguy

                  thanks newyorkguy but I'll have my GPS and family who lives there to show me around!

                  Also I just realized in my original post that i wrote weather when I meant whether. I hate grammatical errors.

                  Das Ubergeek- thank you so much! I don't care about ambiance, I just want good food and an experience. I just hope the rest of my family goes for it. Perhaps my brother and I will escape and do our own thing.

              2. Don't know if you're eating all your meals with mom and uncle, but to add to the aforementioned suggestions...

                For Oaxacan, in West LA, try Monte Alban.

                Also in West LA, for inventive organic, and more expensive fare, try Wilshire http://www.wilshirerestaurant.com

                You might travel down to Venice... Gjelina, Lilly's French Cafe (for breakfast or lunch), 26 Beach (for breakfast or lunch

                )

                For lunch, you're right near Bay Cities Deli for a major sandwich.

                If over in Van Nuys, you should try Puro Sabor for Peruvian.

                -----
                26 Beach
                3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                Monte Alban
                11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                Wilshire Restaurant
                2454 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                Lilly's French Cafe & Bar
                1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

                Puro Sabor
                6366 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

                Gjelina
                1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291, USA

                Sabor Restaurant & Bar
                847 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                1 Reply
                1. re: Emme

                  thanks emme!

                  I prob wont be eating all my meals with them, well hopefully I wont.

                2. Hmmm, for stuff a bit better than NY, there's a specific set.

                  Portos is a must. Croquettes and guava pastries are very cheap and the best things on the menu.

                  Jitlada for Thai. It's a favorite of Matt Groening, Jonathan Gold, and me! It's like eating gourmet at 1/2 the price. Feels like a hole in the wall. Watercress salad, lamb curry, amazing.

                  Wako on Olympic... pork cutlet for $10 that's heaven on earth. Plus they got a mortar and pistol gimmick. You all will like.

                  Musha was a good suggestion. Cheese risotto might make you want to never leave Santa Monica. lol. jk, but it IS good and also a great gimmick when they make it for you from a solid bowl of cheese at your table.

                  For fun, try Diddy Riese or Sprinkles.

                  Boiling Crab is within 40 miles but far, but great. Same with Din Tai Fung and Zelo's.

                  -----
                  Jitlada
                  5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                  Musha
                  424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tenxtone76

                    Jitalda was featured on The Next Iron Chef

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                    Jitalda Restaurant
                    5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                  2. ***UPDATE***

                    Border Grill- Amazing service and amazing food. It was a lot like a restaurant in New York called Besito. I always refer to it as fancy innovative Mexican. I was hoping for more authenticity, like perhaps going to a Mexican grandmas house for dinner. I still give it 5 stars because everything was delicious and fresh.

                    Bread and Porridge- great breakfast and very large portions. Kind of expensive though. The omelets were inventive and tasty. My brother would have hoped for pieces of bananas and pecans in his pancakes. They just had the flavor or the aforementioned ingredients.

                    Taco Baja Encenada- it was worth the 1 hour drive there and the 2 hour drive back!! This felt very authentic and I really felt like I was in Cabo. My brother and I both got the combo plate with the fish taco and shrimp taco. I loved the shrimp taco better and my brother loved the fish taco. It was the best tacos to date for me. We also ordered the rice water drink and it was like drinking rice pudding. It was so delicious and really cut down on the spice of the hot sauce.

                    Gjelina- WOW the ambiance and decor are amazing. The service was also amazing as well. The sunchoke appetizer was to die for and so was the grilled asparagus salad. We ordered the Gruyere, caramelized onions and arugula pizza which was quite tasty however i did not care for the mushroom, goat cheese and truffle oil pizza. There was an herb on it that really bothered my taste buds. The jewel of this meal was really the butterscotch pudding with fleur de sel. OMG most orgasmic and amazing thing I have ever tasted in my life!!!! I recommend going if only for that!!

                    So this morning I think we are going to Amandine for breakfast though we might just skip and have zone bars. We have been eating a lot and I don't think my stomach is happy.