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Visiting SFer asks: What LA institutions are worth visiting?

t
t.susannah.chen Nov 15, 2009 12:35 PM

Hi LA Chowhounds,

I'm from San Francisco and visiting a friend who lives in Downtown LA (forgot the neighborhood, but somewhere near The Gorbals and The Varnish), and I can't wait to visit some of LA's food institutions. I'll eat just about anything. What's worth visiting? A specific Roscoe's Chicken location? The Original Pantry Café? Langer's for Pastrami? A certain dog at Pink's? I'd love to hear any of your thoughts. I'm headed to downtown LA this Friday.

Also, does anybody know if it's doable to try to get into the The Varnish on a Friday night? We'll be celebrating a friend's passing of the bar.

Thanks everyone in advance!

-----
Original Pantry Cafe
877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

  1. t
    t.susannah.chen Nov 23, 2009 10:59 AM

    Thanks, Chowhounders, for your support. My second half of the trip turned out to be even more epic. We headed to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for some soup dumplings, which were better than the ones you can get in San Francisco. My go-to SF place is Shanghai Dumpling King on Balboa Street — but you can tell that they add sugar to the dumplings. Here, I don't believe they did.
    After a light meal of pork and pork-and-crab soup dumplings, we planned to head back into the city to grab a drink at The Edison, which had been too crowded to hit up the night before. But we had a change of heart on the freeway when we discovered the brand-new Frysmith Truck was nearby — so we took a sudden detour and headed down Figueroa in Highland Park to try some Kimchee Fries. They were delicious. As a friend said, "I don't think I've ever tried a flavor combination like that one before." The fries were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and maintained their texture for the 20 minutes we were chomping down on them. They were topped with a delicious combination of fresh kimchi (not too heavily-fermented), a spicy orange sauce, shredded pork belly (YUM), and cheddar cheese. And there was no line.
    We headed into downtown, and were ready to stop by Philippe's to conduct a comparison French dip test after a disappointing dip at Cole's. It was closed. So we headed down to the Edison, which had a line for days — only to find ourselves face to face with the one, the only, Kogi BBQ truck. Since it's the great-great-great grandmother of all street food trucks, we decided there was no way we could ignore the fate, and we got in line to order. A friendly person ahead of us in line recommended the off-menu Blackjack Quesadilla over the Kimchi Quesadilla, and the Short Rib Tacos. They were both delicious.

    Since the Edison was out of the question with a ridiculous line the second night in a row, we headed to Wurstkuche. There, we had our fourth and last meal of the night, sharing a Rattlesnake and Jalapeno sausage between the four of us. It didn't taste anything like rattlesnake, but it was delicious, with (what I guess to be) oregano, thyme, and peppercorns. There was definitely some fat marbled into there. And my Floris Apple Ale was the perfect refreshment to go along with it all.

    The next day, we woke up late and had to head to the airport, so we only had one meal left in LA. We passed up Roscoe's (!!!!) in favor of Daikokuya Ramen, which had an insane, one-hour wait at 4 pm. And I thought the ramen fanatics were crazy in San Francisco! It was worth the wait, though, with a perfectly — I mean, perfectly — soft-boiled egg, chewy, toothsome noodles, and creamy broth.

    My stomach felt like a rock (I will be eating nothing but salads this week), but I thought I'd died and gone to foodie heaven this weekend. Thanks, all, for your fantastic suggestions. I will be coming back to them for my next trip down south!

    10 Replies
    1. re: t.susannah.chen
      JAB Nov 23, 2009 12:35 PM

      No fries at Wurstkuche? If not, you really missed out.

      1. re: JAB
        t
        t.susannah.chen Nov 23, 2009 05:05 PM

        I would have, but you know, it was my fourth meal of the night! Noted for next time!

      2. re: t.susannah.chen
        m
        mc michael Nov 23, 2009 12:45 PM

        Great report! You improvised very well. Actually--I know you meant "the only" in the sense of emphasis--there are 3 Kogi trucks, I believe.

        1. re: mc michael
          t
          t.susannah.chen Nov 23, 2009 05:07 PM

          Yes, I'd learned that there were four. But still, what were the chances?! I mean, zOMG, I wasn't even following them on Twitter!

          1. re: t.susannah.chen
            m
            mc michael Nov 28, 2009 01:53 PM

            Sometimes you just get lucky!

        2. re: t.susannah.chen
          Mr Taster Nov 23, 2009 01:36 PM

          "Since it's the great-great-great grandmother of all street food trucks, we decided there was no way we could ignore the fate, and we got in line to order."

          Point of clarification.... The Kogi truck is the great-great-great grandmother only to LA's foodie/yuppie-Yelper-Twitty crowd. Catering trucks (as well as pushcarts and taco tables) have been part of the immigrant fabric of LA for a long time. The *only* thing that has changed is that it is now suddenly socially acceptable (and even fashionable) to eat at taco trucks. It's interesting to note that the lowly taco tables and pushcarts are now relegated to taco truck circa 2005 status. This recent "discovery" of catering trucks smacks of Columbus "discovering" America.

          For years (if not decades) prior to the arrival of Kogi, many LA Chowhounds (and non-Chowhounds who grew up with street food as part of their culture) were grubbing Oaxacan cecina tlayudas, cemitas and al pastor tacos from the countless little catering trucks scouring the City of Angels. Nothing was stopping any of the current Kogi-ites from patronizing them, yet they by-and-large did not. Why not? Is the food not delicious? Not accessible? What kept the Kogi-ites away?

          By the way, I am not saying this to discount the advent of Fancytrucks™. I think their arrival has added a breath of fresh air into LA's food scene (particularly in the Miracle Mile area where I work), and I'm especially delighted to now see the Kogi-Twitts actually giving the local taco trucks a shot (the ones that have been parking here for years). I just don't know why it's taken people this long to open their minds to something "new" when it has been right in front of their faces all along.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster
            m
            mc michael Nov 23, 2009 01:55 PM

            The trucks went from something referred to as "roach coaches" (and thus avoided) to an event that you followed on Twitter. It seems it's not enough to be a humble all purpose traveling griddle kind of truck any more. You have to have a specialty. The other day I saw one on Sunset that had been re-purposed with some sort of hot dog name and motif and was specializing in dogs and Philly cheese steaks.

            1. re: mc michael
              a
              annapurna7 Nov 23, 2009 02:04 PM

              I still like the good ole roach coaches that serve a mean taco al pastor and a cheesy tuna melt...you never know when you're in the mood for both. ;)

              I get food from the truck that come by my work in Culver City from time to time. They make a great chicken sandwich and always have fresh fruit.

            2. re: Mr Taster
              t
              t.susannah.chen Nov 23, 2009 05:08 PM

              That's what I meant, the yuppie Twitty crowd. The roach coaches are a different category entirely. Kogi and Frysmith were great, but they were really just the icing on the cake. The highlight was definitely Langer's. Thanks for the suggestions Mr Taster - you couldn't have been more spot on.

              1. re: Mr Taster
                b
                bu dat Nov 28, 2009 01:48 PM

                yeah - i loved this report!!!! but stopped at "great great grandmother" and was like . . . .uh, don't you mean great great granddaughter (who's not on birth control?). i'm old, but my junior high school had roach coaches for lunch everyday 30 years ago and yummy truck eating has been an la thing for a looooooooooooong time. thankfully - it has taken off into a new artform which is really fun - but it's not new. we should give props to the originators as well as the evolvers. i think it's warren buffet that said - there are originators, imitators, and idiots. let's hope that, unlike the cupcake, we can stay in the middle stage for a tasty while.

            3. j
              jpie Nov 22, 2009 10:58 AM

              I think Fab Dogs in Reseda has Picks beat by a country mile-I we live walking distance of Pinks-but I drive :)

              http://www.fabhotdogs.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: jpie
                c
                carter Nov 22, 2009 03:54 PM

                Wurstkuche in downtown LA has the best hot dogs in LA, period.
                And also the best Belgian, or any other, Fries.
                3rd & Traction, just east of Alameda, and a few blocks south of Union Station.
                Forget Pinks even exists. Fabs Dogs if you want a traditional one, but otherwise....
                And a great selection of beers, btw.

                -----
                Wurstkuche
                800 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

              2. t
                t.susannah.chen Nov 21, 2009 06:07 PM

                So it's one day down, one more to go here in LA, and I'm having an absolute blast. Last night we hit up Cole's and the Varnish. The Varnish was incredible, with perfectly balanced drinks — I had a ginger-tequila drink in a highball glass and thought the barspoon/metal straw hybrid things were so badass I bought two to take home. Cole's was underwhelming; I had the beef French dip (no cheese), but also tried it with goat cheese, cheddar, and a plain pastrami. I thought the best part was the atomic pickle. The beef seemed dried out. And I didn't get why you can bring French dip sandwiches into the Varnish, but absolutely no sides whatsoever. Still, I was completely blown away by the drinks at the Varnish. I would argue that they're better that the ones we get at Bourbon and Branch and elsewhere in San Francisco, and rival the equally-incredible drinks I've had at The Violet Hour in Chicago. We then headed out to The Library, which was fun but served the worst drinks on the planet (even a rum and coke was horrible!), followed by the Pantry, which served unpredictably large portions of mediocre food. My pancakes were decent, but their Philly cheesesteak, Fries, and French toast were sort of gross. I felt like I could taste the 86 years of remnants left on the griddle where my food had been made. Still, it was a night full of epic destinations, and a total blast!

                Today we hit up Langer's, which blew my mind. The pastrami was unctuous, tender, and juicy, not to mention the perfect temperature. And the bread! Soft and steamy on the inside, and crispy on the edges. I tried the #19 but also an egg cream and someone else's plain pastrami sandwich with Gulden's mustard. I also tried the corned beef and the potato pancakes. Everything was killer — they just don't make delis like this anymore. I wanted to order everything, from the creamed herring to the matzoh brei and chopped liver. I mean, where else can you get this stuff?! The only shocker was the $90+ tab for four. Who knew how quickly things add up at a Jewish deli?

                After a 7-mile run on the beach in Santa Monica, tonight, we're headed to Din Tai Fung for some (lighter) soup dumplings. Any recommendations? Then we're hoping to hit up the Edison. Hopefully the more mellow dinner will allow us to save room for an epic brunch tomorrow. Roscoe's, perhaps?!

                10 Replies
                1. re: t.susannah.chen
                  m
                  mc michael Nov 21, 2009 11:00 PM

                  Thanks for the report. You are doing well. Probably the best thing about the Pantry is buying one of their heavy coffee cups for a souvenir.

                  1. re: t.susannah.chen
                    J.L. Nov 21, 2009 11:17 PM

                    Good call on Langer's. Your description of your experience at The Pantry was generous.

                    Skip Din Tai Fung, and go to Dean Sin World or J&J for their XLB instead.

                    Edison is fun - a cool speakeasy vibe...

                    Tell us more later. Thx for reporting back!

                    1. re: t.susannah.chen
                      Servorg Nov 22, 2009 04:12 AM

                      If you are looking for an epic brunch then the Griddle Cafe on Sunset in West Hollywood would be a good choice.

                      -----
                      Griddle Cafe
                      7916 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046

                      1. re: Servorg
                        wutzizname Nov 22, 2009 07:18 AM

                        The Griddle is a good choice if you want excellent, enormous versions of essentially standard breakfast dishes amid the Hollywood crowd (think: Dottie's or Home Plate in San Fran, but with a Pauly Shore sighting).

                        Roscoe's is a great choice for something slightly different, and more unique to L.A. (read as: institution, with a Penn Jillette sighting).

                        You'll do well with either one. Though you won't do it quickly. Both will probably have you waiting at least an hour on a Sunday.

                        1. re: wutzizname
                          uhockey Feb 21, 2010 08:25 AM

                          I entirely disagree with this - I don't think you're finding Black Magic or Golden Ticket pancakes anywhere....and I saw Dustin Hoffman (far cooler than Pauly Shore) there. :-) It is also about 4x the size of Dottie's and without the daily changing specials that make Dotties Special.

                        2. re: Servorg
                          groover808 Nov 22, 2009 07:43 AM

                          Maybe I got the wrong thing at Griddle Cafe, but I went awhile ago and my omelet was awful. Completely overcoooked "shell" of eggs over some filling, it seemed like the eggs were cooked completely separate from the filling. The guy's chocolate chip pancakes were good, but just plain overwhelming, could only finish 1.

                          1. re: groover808
                            Servorg Nov 22, 2009 07:58 AM

                            I stick to the pancakes with a side of bacon. And concern for my general health restricts such intake to once or twice a year...but it's good. Overwhelming is exactly what I'm looking for when I go to the Griddle.

                            1. re: Servorg
                              m
                              mc michael Nov 22, 2009 08:19 AM

                              The Griddle is definitely from the more is more school.

                              1. re: mc michael
                                Servorg Nov 22, 2009 08:23 AM

                                Guess we won't find Jerry Brown eating there... ;-D>

                                1. re: Servorg
                                  m
                                  mc michael Nov 22, 2009 08:31 AM

                                  Ha! Very unlikely.

                      2. l
                        Lmo1823 Nov 18, 2009 10:16 AM

                        Cole's is awesome. And The Varnish is inside Cole's. Once inside Cole's, you'll see people walking through the space and going into an unmarked door. That is The Varnish. I was just there two Fridays ago. Not the craziest scene, but a good drink. There was about a 10 minute wait at 10/11 pm. Cole's and The Varnish would be a great one-two punch. Also, The Association, which is supposed to be quite good, is right next door to Cole's. It also has an unmarked door, but is a replica of the one from 10 Downing Street. You can't really miss it. And I've heard Church and State is excellent.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Lmo1823
                          n
                          nomo_fan Nov 19, 2009 04:47 AM

                          Go to Langer's. There's nothing in SF like it.
                          Go to Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo. For the price, there's nothing in SF like it.
                          Go to Koreatown and eat at Chosun Galbee (kal bi), Park's (kal bi or kal bi tang or Tokyo X) OR O Dae San (kal bi jim) OR Yong Su San (Korean prix fixe). There's nothing in SF like it.
                          Go to Scoops and then tell me whether Humphrey Slocombe or Scoops is better.
                          Don't go to Pink's, the Pantry, Cole's, Phillipe's, Roscoe's, and Griddle Cafe. (lots of hype)
                          With so many great breakfast joints and "normal" sandwich shops in SF, you'll feel as if you wasted your time.
                          Go to Pie 'n Burger, but not right now. Wait till the summer when their fresh peach pie comes out.
                          For Mexican, go to Babita or Mariscos Chente. I love the kitsch and the playfulness of Gardens of Taxco (although many others don't) AND one of my new favorites is Gloria's Cocina Mexicana in Downey (their molcajete plates and their fajitas).
                          When I lived in SF, I always missed Tommy's but none of my NorCal Friends could figure out why.
                          But my friends always loved going to THE HAT. Don't get their pastrami. Get their chili fries. It seems as if SF establishments haven't gotten this dish right like THE HAT.

                          1. re: nomo_fan
                            a_and_w Nov 19, 2009 07:14 AM

                            Great suggestions with the exception of Yong Susan (testes of Korea!). You're right that there's nothing like it in SF, but I really wasn't impressed with the food.

                            1. re: a_and_w
                              J.L. Nov 19, 2009 09:49 AM

                              I'm really hoping that's a typo about Korea...

                              1. re: J.L.
                                a_and_w Nov 19, 2009 10:08 AM

                                It's a typo, but not mine LOL! Look at the top right of this page:

                                http://www.yongsusan.co.kr/en/menu-1/...

                                Amazingly, someone on chowhound caught this mistake several years ago. Kind of floors me no one has corrected the error in all that time LOL!

                                1. re: a_and_w
                                  J.L. Nov 22, 2009 01:50 PM

                                  Thanks to that link, I am now floored as well...

                                  "Testes of Korea, Testes of YongSuSan, Now you can see it in the LA."

                                  Copyright ; 1998 YongSuSan

                                  Wow. I'm speechless. Someone bring me my sunglasses.

                        2. choctastic Nov 17, 2009 06:00 PM

                          If you get to Langer's, make sure you ask them to hand-slice it for you. I know, I know. Everyone says they do it anyway. But apparently they are special and I am not, because when I did not ask, I did not receive. Instead, I got machine-sliced. I did not like machine sliced. It was not as soft and luscious as hand-sliced. It was not as thickly sliced, either.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: choctastic
                            t
                            t.susannah.chen Nov 19, 2009 11:32 AM

                            What's the difference?

                            1. re: t.susannah.chen
                              m
                              mc michael Nov 19, 2009 02:00 PM

                              Hand sliced is thicker and tastes good.

                          2. a_and_w Nov 17, 2009 11:21 AM

                            I urge you think more in terms of LA "cuisines" rather than "institutions." As in SF, many "institutions" are mediocre (e.g., Pink's, Pacific Dining Car, etc.). I urge you to try Korean, Japanese, Mexican (esp. Oaxacan), and Thai, which are our comparative advantages relative to SF.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: a_and_w
                              steve h. Nov 17, 2009 12:03 PM

                              a_and_w has a good point. Maybe consider a drive from downtown LA to the Getty Villa in Malibu. The panini at the cafe is very good. Shortly before dusk, drive up Malibu Canyon Road to Saddle Peak Lodge for excellent game, pastas and wines. It's hard to beat sun, surf, art, canyons, food and twisty roads all in one day. It kind of shouts "LA" to me.

                              -----
                              Saddle Peak Lodge
                              419 Cold Canyon Rd., Calabasas, CA 91302

                              1. re: steve h.
                                a_and_w Nov 19, 2009 10:11 AM

                                Absolutely love steve's suggestions. Also, I forgot to mention Persian food as one of our strengths.

                              2. re: a_and_w
                                m
                                mc michael Nov 17, 2009 09:27 PM

                                Good point. Question is are we going for photo opps (here's me pissing on Pinks) or for the food?

                              3. JAB Nov 17, 2009 05:26 AM

                                I think that Dino's has reached institution status and is worth visiting for their chicken special.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JAB
                                  n
                                  Norm Man Nov 18, 2009 11:19 AM

                                  I second Dino's Burgers. The Chicken Plate at Dino's Burgers is one of my favorite meals.

                                  Chowhound Abby declares Dino's Chicken Plate "the most amazing chicken dish I ever had." Abby's review of Dino's Burgers:

                                  http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/20...

                                  Dino's Burgers
                                  2575 W. Pico Blvd
                                  Los Angeles, CA 90006
                                  (213) 380-3554
                                  http://www:DinosChickenandBurgers.com

                                2. s
                                  Sharuf Nov 17, 2009 01:12 AM

                                  What about Barney's Beanery? For a visitor, isn't that worth going to for the historical Old Hollywood vibe?

                                  1. badhomecook Nov 16, 2009 08:46 PM

                                    Nobody's mentioning Greenblatt's on Sunset? OK, not downtown, but on Sunset next door to the Laugh Factory and all that other Hollywood stuff so you might as well make the trip. Open late late late. Go in for a bowl of Matzo ball soup or a deli sandwich or a grilled cheese on rye. Sit upstairs and order yourself a nice glass of wine (famed wine cellar downstairs). You'll often see "industry" folks throughout the night. Been there for more than 50 years, which is an eternity in LA-La land.

                                    Tacos? Go East. Find a taco truck. It's all good.

                                    Great sushi? Katsuya or Asenebo in Studio City. Again, a bit of a drive from downtown, but Jebus, you're in LA. Shut up and get on the 101...

                                    -----
                                    Katsuya Hollywood
                                    6300 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                                    1. m
                                      MahiMahiFish Nov 16, 2009 12:56 PM

                                      I strongly disagree with the suggestions to visit The (Cr)Apple Pan for hamburgers. That place is terrible!
                                      Not far from downtown in Pasadena is Pie 'N Burger. Excellent hamburgers, shakes, fries &, of course, pie.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: MahiMahiFish
                                        o
                                        Ogawak Nov 19, 2009 10:56 AM

                                        I guess it's good there is room for different opinions. I would easily take the Apple Pan over Pie N Burger in a heartbeat. But then I would would take Jongewaard's over both. I personally found Pie N Burger way overrated for both pie and burger.

                                        1. re: Ogawak
                                          choctastic Nov 20, 2009 06:59 AM

                                          Jongewaards has good pie. They also have a good red velvet cupcake.

                                      2. t
                                        t.susannah.chen Nov 16, 2009 11:14 AM

                                        Thanks everyone a million times over for the suggestions. This is amazing, and I can't wait make a list so I can figure out the logistics of getting around everywhere.
                                        I heard from a friend that Johnnie's Pastrami is great — but does it top Langer's? It sounds like Langer's is a winner.
                                        Also, any thoughts on the Varnish? If anyone has any experiences, I would love to hear them.

                                        -----
                                        Johnnie's Pastrami
                                        4017 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                          wienermobile Nov 16, 2009 11:32 AM

                                          Johnnie's is good but Langer's is great.

                                          1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                            n
                                            namstermonster Nov 16, 2009 12:04 PM

                                            nothing tops langer's here. the varnish is great. it's basically a small room at the back of cole's .. drinks are pretty awesome but good luck trying to get in w/a large group on a fri nite. last time i went on a fri nite w/5 other ppl and it took about an hour and a half to get in. ;p

                                            1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                              peppermonkey Nov 16, 2009 12:49 PM

                                              Langer's is not only the best pastrami I've eaten but the best sandwich period.

                                              1. re: peppermonkey
                                                h
                                                Harry Nile Nov 17, 2009 02:42 AM

                                                Sensible statement. Whether or not I agree that Langer's has better pastrami than at, for example, the old Pastrami King of Kew Gardens or the old Sam and Hy's in Skokie or better sandwiches than at, for example, White House in Atlantic City or Schwabl's near Buffalo or Mother's in New Orleans, you are perfectly competent to say whether or not Langer's has the best pastrami and best sandwich in your experience. (My own experience is different, by the way.)

                                              2. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                J.L. Nov 16, 2009 03:22 PM

                                                Nothing tops Langer's pastrami in America.

                                                Disagree about R23 - Their quality has slipped, in my opinion. Little Tokyo has good izakaya - I'd suggest Raku Plus or Haru Ulala...

                                                -----
                                                Haru Ulala
                                                368 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                R23
                                                923 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                                1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                  Mr Taster Nov 16, 2009 03:59 PM

                                                  There are 2 types of pastrami in LA:

                                                  1. The "fast food" style pastrami in which the brisket is boiled or steamed into the texture hard rubber and then thinly sliced so that it is edible. This is served at places like Johnnie's, The Hat, and countless anonymous burger stands around LA (where they top hamburgers and hot dogs with pastrami).

                                                  2. The "Jewish deli" style where the collagen in the brisket is slowly steamed into tender gelatine submission. The pastrami is more thickly sliced here, because thinly slicing meat this tender would make it fall apart. However, most Jewish delis in LA really don't put that kind of care into making their pastrami, and they fall somewhere between type 1 and type 2. Langer's is solidly type 2.

                                                  It's really not appropriate to compare pastrami type 1 with pastrami type 2. They really should be evaluated within their own categories... e.g. compare Johnnie's with The Hat, and then compare Langer's with Canter's.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  P.S. Canter's is dreck.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                                    mollyomormon Nov 16, 2009 04:05 PM

                                                    Agree with Mr. Taster that comparing the two types of pastrami is impossible. That said, in no way is Johnnie's a destination whereas Langer's most definitely is.

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                                      t
                                                      t.susannah.chen Nov 17, 2009 12:32 PM

                                                      Wow Mr Taster, thanks -- very educational. I can picture the difference already.

                                                      1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                        a
                                                        annapurna7 Nov 18, 2009 12:31 PM

                                                        If you are in Culver City and are able to try Johnnies, by all means, do so.

                                                        Is it in the same realm of Langers? No, but it still a good sandwich worth trying.

                                                        1. re: annapurna7
                                                          1newyorkguy Mar 30, 2010 07:21 PM

                                                          I tried Johnnies while still eating meat. It is repulsive and a rip off.

                                                    2. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                      q
                                                      QualityMart Nov 17, 2009 12:28 AM

                                                      It's already been said but I'll confirm: given your situation it's not at all worth it to track down Johnnie's. If you happen to be right near it, maybe, but there are a bunch of other places I'd go to near there first anyway. And it's not even in the same league as Langer's.

                                                      1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                        j
                                                        Jase Nov 17, 2009 09:35 AM

                                                        Langer's over Johnnie's. I wish it was the other way around since I live a lot closer to Johnnie's and their hours are a lot more convenient too.

                                                      2. o
                                                        Ogawak Nov 16, 2009 08:29 AM

                                                        Some good rec's already: These are other institutions I might add (and we're talking Institutions here, not the latest and greatest)

                                                        Grand Central Market for good Mexican food.
                                                        El Tepeyac in East LA for burritos
                                                        In & Out (don't know if it has hit the Bay Area yet) double double and fries animal style
                                                        Apple Pan for a burger and pie
                                                        Pann's for fried chicken instead of Roscoe's
                                                        Randy's donuts

                                                        I second
                                                        Phillipe's lamb
                                                        Tommy's at the original Rampart and Beverly
                                                        Langers #19 pastrami sandwich. YOu can take the metro Red Line right to Langers from downtown.

                                                        The Pantry is best for breakfast, IMHO.
                                                        PInk's is the ultimate tourist trap. If you gotta, you gotta.

                                                        Have a great trip and happy eating

                                                        -----
                                                        Grand Central Market
                                                        317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                                        1. q
                                                          QualityMart Nov 15, 2009 10:29 PM

                                                          I'm from SF originally so maybe I can give some perspective ...

                                                          The Original Pantry is worth doing when done the right way: after a long night of drinking downtown, no earlier than 2am. The food is perfect in that case (go for some grease, or maybe some pie a la mode), and the atmosphere there is sort of fascinating ("no lock on the door") and makes you feel like you've stepped into a time machine. The definitive LA institution in the truest sense of the word, but not worth waiting in line for during normal hours or anything like that.

                                                          Drive by Pinks just to say that you saw it, and if the line happens to be short (not around the corner) then maybe do it for the heck of it, but it's really quite dumb as far as institutions go.

                                                          For Langers, you should do it, but call in an order and then do a curbside pickup. First of all, the sandwich is great but there's no reason to spend the time actually going in there and sitting down. It's just a typical old-school deli. Plus the neighborhood there is not a great place for lost out-of-towners to be parking somewhere and wandering around. (And Langer's doesn't really have long hours anyway.) If you want to do a sit-down deli experience in an LA institution, go to Canter's. Nothing like it in SF, but if you've spent time in New York it'll feel familiar.

                                                          If you go to Roscoe's go to to the one on Gower at Sunset.

                                                          I agree with The Griddle Cafe as the best brunch-type place in LA ... the french toast and/or pancakes are insanely good (and huge).

                                                          Agreed also with tracking down Kogi, well worth the hype IMO.

                                                          Get Sushi in Little Tokyo.

                                                          For tacos there are a million options, but I'll thrown one out there if you're staying downtown and you have a car, drive down to King Taco on Washington for lunch. Simple joint, sort of in the style of a fast-food place, very typical LA institution when it comes to tacos. Incredibly good meat quality and salsa.

                                                          -----
                                                          Original Pantry Cafe
                                                          877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                                          King Taco
                                                          645 E Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: QualityMart
                                                            s
                                                            shelbo Nov 16, 2009 08:29 AM

                                                            Re: Langers - totally disagree! You need to sit down and eat your sandwich while it is still warm! Don't worry about parking or driving - from downtown take the subway! It's a quick trip which will let you off 1/2 a block away. And you can tell your friends in SF that you rode an actual subway in LA, and it's even better than BART!

                                                            1. re: shelbo
                                                              Servorg Nov 16, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                              Langers has a parking lot at the northeast corner of 7th Street and Westlake which is validated for 1 hour and has someone watching the cars.

                                                              1. re: shelbo
                                                                n
                                                                NAspy Nov 22, 2009 01:58 PM

                                                                And the neighborhood is leagues better than it used to be. There used to be practically a murder a minute there around 20 years ago -- now it's just the usual immigration scam hockers, and is a more typically working class commercial district.

                                                                The deli and the waitstaff are half the fun

                                                              2. re: QualityMart
                                                                t
                                                                t.susannah.chen Nov 16, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                                Any particular places for sushi in Little Tokyo that I should know about? Thanks!

                                                                -----
                                                                Little Tokyo Restaurant
                                                                150 E Bonita Ave, San Dimas, CA 91773

                                                                1. re: t.susannah.chen
                                                                  p
                                                                  pinpei Nov 16, 2009 12:26 PM

                                                                  The aforementioned R23 in Little Tokyo is fantastic.

                                                                  As a native Angeleno who went to school and lived for many years in the Bay Area, I would second the following:Tommy's (the original location @ Beverly and Rampart) and the Apple Pan - both are LA institutions and LA is a hamburger town; Langer's - another LA institution and there is no deli in SF that is comparable. Surprisingly, I think the Chinese food in LA is better than what SF has to offer, especially in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV).

                                                                  I would avoid Musso & Frank and the Pacific Dining Car (except for breakfast). Yes, they are LA institutions, but you have the Tadich Grill which is much older and much better. Also, unless you like bad food and long lines, avoid Pink's. If you must have a dog, hold that craving until you return home, and get thee to Berkeley for a Top Dog.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Apple Pan
                                                                  10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                                  R23
                                                                  923 E. 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                                                  1. re: pinpei
                                                                    j
                                                                    jesstifer Nov 16, 2009 12:53 PM

                                                                    This post is incredibly accurate. Tommy's, Langer's are musts. No to Musso's, Pantry, and Pacific Dining Car. There's plenty of great sushi in SF, so I'd skip that. I think our dim sum is better than any in SF, try Empress Pavilion or CBS Seafood if you can't get to SG Valley.

                                                                    But shockingly, no one has suggested our awesome Korean scene, which barely exists in S.F. Soot Bull Jeep would be the "institution," but I'd recommend a bulgogi or squid combination dinner at Beverly Soon Tofu or a Beef Genghis Khan at Seoul Garden, very close to downtown, instead.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Soot Bull Jeep
                                                                    3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

                                                                    Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant
                                                                    2717 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                                                    CBS Seafood
                                                                    700 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                                    Genghis Khan Restaurant
                                                                    24506 Lyons Ave, Newhall, CA 91321

                                                                    Seoul Garden
                                                                    4200 Chino Hills Pkwy Ste 130, Chino Hills, CA 91709

                                                                    Empress Pavilion Restaurant
                                                                    988 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                                    Dining Car
                                                                    PO Box 5381, Santa Barbara, CA 93150

                                                                    Pacific Dining Car
                                                                    2700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                                    1. re: jesstifer
                                                                      Will Owen Nov 16, 2009 03:04 PM

                                                                      Don't know for sure if our dim sum is better, but I do know it's cheaper. We went to 888 in San Gabriel with visiting dim sum freaks from up north, had a table of seven, and as we kept ordering the visitors watched the chop marks pile up on the bill with visible alarm. Finally they began insisting on splitting the tab with us, for which I thanked them but refused. When they saw that the total was roughly $67, they were flabbergasted - surely there was a number missing? No, $10 or less per head is pretty much standard in most places here.

                                                                      1. re: jesstifer
                                                                        q
                                                                        QualityMart Nov 17, 2009 12:21 AM

                                                                        Korean barely exists in SF? I wouldn't say that's accurate at all. Of course nothing in this country compares to the veritable city that is LA's Koreatown, but I don't think it'll be completely foreign to an SF native. What's amazing about Koreatown is the vastness of it. I agree it's worth checking out, at least driving around, and any of those spots are very worth doing.

                                                                        SF does have amazing sushi, but wandering around Little Tokyo at night and eating sushi there is a uniquely LA experience (think Blade Runner) that fits well with the op's request.

                                                                        I have to completely disagree with you about Chinese food ... absolutely no Chinese food in LA proper is worth going to given the op's request. (Unique LA institutions.) Yes SGV as a whole trumps pretty much all in the Bay Area, but SF greatly trumps LA proper for Chinese food and LA's Chinatown is a sort of a joke. Definitely skip it. SGV or bust for Chinese food.

                                                                  2. re: QualityMart
                                                                    Mr Taster Nov 16, 2009 03:16 PM

                                                                    Tsk tsk, QualityMart! You cannot take your sandwich to go because of the special way Langer's prepare the bread..... they "steam toast" it so that the middle stays soft but the edges are wonderfully crispy. If you get your sandwich to go, much of the gestalt of this unique method of preparation is lost, and subsequently so is a large portion of the sandwich's gestalt.

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                      q
                                                                      QualityMart Nov 17, 2009 12:14 AM

                                                                      Well, I'm sure you're not totally incorrect, but as someone who has only eaten in once but done curbside a dozen times, I can say that I still think it's the best pastrami in LA either way. It's defnitely not a write-off to do curbside. Plus, who said anything about waiting? I start wolfing that sucker the second it crosses through the window! Helps if I'm not driving. :) The bread still retains a decent edge crispiness when eaten right away.

                                                                      Ok, so amendment: if you have the time and street-savvy to either metro it or deal with parking in a sort of crazy (as in busy) and slightly chaotic neighborhood (think 16th and Mission times, I dunno, 5), enjoy a sit-down meal there. But if you can't, do curbside. :)

                                                                      1. re: QualityMart
                                                                        choctastic Nov 17, 2009 05:57 PM

                                                                        Even though I agree with Mr. Taster (I can't remember when that parking lot was full, but I don't go to Langer's anymore as a vegan), the fact that you go to such lengths to get a Langer's sandwich earns my respect. I'll utter words that I myself got to hear in high school, "U R 2 cool".

                                                                        1. re: choctastic
                                                                          peppermonkey Nov 19, 2009 01:52 PM

                                                                          Vegan! What has convinced to endure such self-torture? Though I enjoyed your posts, I may have to unfollow you now choctastic. Just on principle.

                                                                          1. re: peppermonkey
                                                                            choctastic Nov 20, 2009 06:58 AM

                                                                            Vegge Grill in Irvine made it all possible. That and hot vegan guys. I repeat. Hot. Vegan. Guys.

                                                                          2. re: choctastic
                                                                            choctastic Nov 20, 2009 07:11 AM

                                                                            Erm, I meant to say I NEVER got to hear those words. Not sure how the most crucial word in that sentence was left out.

                                                                      2. re: QualityMart
                                                                        a
                                                                        aizan Nov 16, 2009 10:42 PM

                                                                        n/m servorg said it already.

                                                                        1. re: QualityMart
                                                                          j
                                                                          Jase Nov 17, 2009 09:34 AM

                                                                          I'd quibble with the Kogi reco. Having out of towners chase down a truck that could have long hour long lines is equivalent to your Pink's warning. Not to mention the request for an institution. Is Kogi really an institution? If it's about trying the food, just go to the Alibi Room. No lines and they can have a drink while waiting for the food.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Alibi Room
                                                                          12236 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                                          Kogi
                                                                          Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                                                          1. re: Jase
                                                                            choctastic Nov 17, 2009 05:58 PM

                                                                            Yeah, if you don't get there right when they say they're going to be at a location, it could be a two hour wait for a relatively mediocre taco.

                                                                        2. b
                                                                          bu dat Nov 15, 2009 10:18 PM

                                                                          i'm just talking institutions:

                                                                          Yes:
                                                                          cole's (even though not og owned - space is old and food is great)
                                                                          philipes (dueling with cole's about first french dip. food not as good - but the mustard and chocolate pie are to die for)
                                                                          langer's
                                                                          dan tana's
                                                                          musso & frank's (never had the food - but the cocktails are fun)
                                                                          formosa
                                                                          beverly hills hotel
                                                                          clifton's cafeteria (food's not great - but it's worth it to keep this place afloat)
                                                                          anywhere on olvera street (food is subpar - but decent and the place is amazingly historical)

                                                                          No:
                                                                          pantry - ugh
                                                                          pinks - double ugh and you have to wait

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: bu dat
                                                                            Mr Taster Nov 16, 2009 03:11 PM

                                                                            Mustard and chocolate pie... what a combo!

                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                          2. m
                                                                            mc michael Nov 15, 2009 02:05 PM

                                                                            Good recs so far. I'd probably go to Tommy's at Rampart & Beverly before going to Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles (nearest is in Hollywood). But the recs you have are better. Other good pics would be Sushi-Gen for its lunchtime sashimi special, R23 for sushi and atmosphere, 7Grand (excellent bar), Golden Gopher (rowdier bar), Nickel Diner (for diner grub, including the maple bacon donut, the scene and hopefully a chance to get some stories from the proprietor, Monica). Maybe a trip to the Grand Central Market for some good tacos, sopes, etc. from Roast to Go or Ana Maria's would be tasty. In the "other" category, there's Julian Casablancas playing this Friday at the (very old institutionwise) Palace Theatre on Broadway, down the street from Broadway Bar. Tickets at Ticket Master. Oh, and if you get a chance to get a bacon wrapped dog from a street vendor, go for it.
                                                                            http://maps.google.com/maps/place?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=sushi-gen+los+angeles&fb=1&gl=us&hq=sushi-gen&hnear=los+angeles&cid=10866569737196945776
                                                                            http://www.originaltommys.com/tommys_location_losangeles.php
                                                                            http://www.yelp.com/biz/roscoes-house-of-chicken-and-waffles-los-angeles-3
                                                                            http://www.r23.com/
                                                                            http://www.grandcentralsquare.com/
                                                                            http://nickeldiner.com/
                                                                            http://www.sevengrand.la/
                                                                            http://www.goldengopherbar.com/
                                                                            http://www.thebroadwaybar.net/
                                                                            http://www.losangelestheatre.com/down...

                                                                            1. Emme Nov 15, 2009 01:39 PM

                                                                              It's not yet an institution, but a great celebratory restaurant downtown would be Church and State.

                                                                              Agree with Providence and Griddle Cafe as recs.

                                                                              Skip Pink's... go to Oki-Dog on Fairfax instead.

                                                                              Are you interested in Mexican (what's your driving radius)? Mexican Seafood (Mariscos Chente)? Oaxacan (Monte Alban)?

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Emme
                                                                                t
                                                                                t.susannah.chen Nov 16, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                                                I might have a driving radius (I will be visiting a friend, so I won't be the one driving) but if you have some great ideas, please do share! I don't know where we're going yet, so it's totally possible that we could find ourselves in other fun parts of the area. Thanks!

                                                                              2. wienermobile Nov 15, 2009 01:39 PM

                                                                                Langer's pastrami is one of the best sandwiches you'll ever eat. It won't disappoint.

                                                                                1. uhockey Nov 15, 2009 01:25 PM

                                                                                  Griddle cafe

                                                                                  Providence

                                                                                  Both are "don't miss" destinations in LA.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                                                    lil mikey Nov 16, 2009 12:32 PM

                                                                                    Agree on both.

                                                                                  2. h
                                                                                    Harry Nile Nov 15, 2009 01:19 PM

                                                                                    If you want a real LA institution, go to some restaurant that has just opened to great clamor and will be forgotten in 15 minutes.

                                                                                    Seriously, if you find yourselves looking for an excellent breakfast in the wee, wee hours near downtown, try the 24/7 Pacific Dining Car ( http://pacificdiningcar.com/ ) for steak and eggs. Warren G. Harding was president when this well-known steakhouse opened in 1921, and the only thing they've changed is the prices. Dinnertime is hit (order simple) and miss (anything that requires a cookbook), but you can't go wrong at breakfast with the fillet and eggs, fried potatoes, and toast with good jams.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Pacific Dining Car
                                                                                    1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                                                                    1. J.L. Nov 15, 2009 01:06 PM

                                                                                      Skip Original Pantry. Skip Pink's (unless you like people watching).

                                                                                      If you get into town by afternoon on Friday, go to Philippe's the Original (near Chinatown, by Union Station) for a beef or lamb French dip sandwich, try their sinus-es-on-fire horseradish, and a bowl of their superb New England clam chowdah (Fridays only).

                                                                                      Do have the heavenly pastrami at Langer's (I'm partial to #19) - I just got back from NYC (Katz Deli's pastrami just isn't as good as Langer's, IMHO)

                                                                                      If you have the $$$$$, get thee a reservation at Urasawa in Beverly Hills for Hiro-san's ethereal sushi kaiseki ($350+ per person).

                                                                                      Do try the Kogi BBQ truck (go to www.kogibbq.com to see if a truck will be near you) - Saturday nights there is usually one in Koreatown (not far from downtown).

                                                                                      Do try the Father's Office Burger and sweet potato fries (Culver City location is better - www.fathersoffice.com

                                                                                      )

                                                                                      San Gabriel Valley for good non-Cantonese Chinese food (Giang Nan or Mei Long Village for Shanghai, and China Islamic for northern/western fare).

                                                                                      Enjoy L.A.!

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Urasawa Restaurant
                                                                                      218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                                      Original Pantry Cafe
                                                                                      877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                                                                      Mei Long Village
                                                                                      112 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                                                                      China Islamic Restaurant
                                                                                      7727 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA 91770

                                                                                      Kogi
                                                                                      Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                                                                      Father's Office Bar
                                                                                      1618 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA

                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: J.L.
                                                                                        J.L. Nov 16, 2009 12:55 AM

                                                                                        Oh I forgot to mention Persian food in "Tehrangeles", on the westside. For Persian, I like Javan, currently. Raffi's, if I'm in the Glendale area.

                                                                                        Also, Zankou Chicken, with its garlic sauce, is not to be missed.

                                                                                        Good sushi can be found throughout the city, not just in Little Tokyo (examples include: Shibucho in mid-city, Kiriko, Mori Sushi and Sushi Zo in West LA, The Hump in Santa Monica, and Urasawa in Beverly Hills)

                                                                                        Afterclub - 2AM - Skip the Pantry - head to Pacific Dining Car on 6th St. - also open 24/7, with better food and people watching. Excellent Eggs Benedict.

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Urasawa Restaurant
                                                                                        218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                                        Kiriko
                                                                                        11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                                                        Shibucho
                                                                                        3114 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057

                                                                                        Pacific Dining Car
                                                                                        2700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90403

                                                                                        1. re: J.L.
                                                                                          Mr Taster Nov 16, 2009 02:47 PM

                                                                                          Great recs with a few modifications

                                                                                          - Go to Pinks. Just don't go when people typically want to eat hot dogs (typical mealtimes and late nights on weekends) unless you don't mind waiting an hour for a hot dog. Go at 2pm on a Tuesday, and also order the curly fries which are really, really good.

                                                                                          - The pastrami indeed is heavenly at Langer's, which is precisely why you shouldn't cover up the flavor and tender texture of it with the gloppy Russian dressing, Swiss cheese and coleslaw (which is what the #19 sandwich is... a quasi-reuben, not a proper pastrami sandwich). Especially since this is your first time, just get the ordinary pastrami sandwich with a dab of Gulden's deli mustard, and let the pastrami speak for itself. That's all you need.

                                                                                          - The cream pies at Philippe are fantastic, and the lemon meringue is one of my favorites. Also, the lamb is really the way to do. I've tried the other meats and they tend to be too dry. Also, a lot of people like to tell you to to "double dip" the bread, but in my experience it makes the bread too soggy.

                                                                                          - Don't forget Cole's, which is older than Philippe's and also supposedly invented the French dip sandwich. They've just done a revamp, and quality of their food tends is higher than Philippes, and so are the prices. (The bacon potato salad is terrific). Do the trivia game on their website and you might win a free sandwich (both my wife and I did)

                                                                                          http://colesfrenchdip.com/

                                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                                          -

                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                            wutzizname Nov 17, 2009 05:23 AM

                                                                                            I am not humble. In my opinion...go to Philippe's for the history and the pie. Go to Cole's for the lamb.

                                                                                            And for the love of all that is wholly...do NOT wait in line at Pink's. Those are hours you can never get back. Drive by, take a picture, and keep driving. I live around the corner and I can assure you, 2 PM on a Tuesday is not an off hour. 9 AM is. But even if there is no one in line, personally, I'd keep driving. The last time I made the mistake of giving it another shot, I could not get through one dog. Literally. It was like wrestling with a chew toy. Grrrr.

                                                                                            1. re: wutzizname
                                                                                              wutzizname Nov 17, 2009 05:29 AM

                                                                                              N.B. Do go check out the Original Farmers Market on 3rd & Fairfax. And maybe the Dresden Room or a drink.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Dresden Room Restaurant
                                                                                              1760 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                                                                                              1. re: wutzizname
                                                                                                Mr Taster Nov 17, 2009 06:22 AM

                                                                                                Now now, let's curb the hyperbole. There certainly will not be a line at 9am because they don't open until 10 or 10:30.

                                                                                                I live in the neighborhood and can assure you that at weekday off hours, the likelihood is good that you will not have to wait very long at all.

                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                  wutzizname Nov 17, 2009 09:20 AM

                                                                                                  I believe they open at 9:30 everyday. And I wasn't suggesting there'd be a line then. But today at 2...

                                                                                                2. re: wutzizname
                                                                                                  blackbookali Nov 17, 2009 08:30 PM

                                                                                                  The lamb at Coles is RIDIC. I get mine with goat cheese and, always, double the meat.

                                                                                                  1. re: blackbookali
                                                                                                    wutzizname Nov 18, 2009 02:34 AM

                                                                                                    Ditto the goat cheese. I tried that on the waitress' rec and it is shockingly good.

                                                                                                  2. re: wutzizname
                                                                                                    h
                                                                                                    hong_kong_foodie Feb 20, 2010 09:21 PM

                                                                                                    The couple of times I've gone to Pink's, I have deeply regretted the time I have wasted standing in line for food that is so ordinary and forgettable.

                                                                                                3. re: J.L.
                                                                                                  j
                                                                                                  jpie Nov 22, 2009 10:50 AM

                                                                                                  Hi J.L. What are the must tries at China Islamic?

                                                                                                  1. re: jpie
                                                                                                    J.L. Nov 22, 2009 01:46 PM

                                                                                                    Sesame bread with scallions, hand cut noodles (some like lamb, I like the beef), 3-flavor won ton soup. Hearty stuff...

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