Upcoming trip: most LA Research done & just looking for a bit of input..
Hello LA 'hounds. First off, thanks much for the many informative posts to be found on this board that have already been so helpful. I'm going to be coming to your town on Xmas day and will be there until New Year's Eve + I've done what I think is a good bit of background research already. What I'd like to do here is list off roughly where I'm thinking of eating while I'm there and what I'd really appreciate is just a little bit of feedback along the lines of pointing out can't miss extras that are nearby where I want to go/am staying or any recent downhill reports I may have missed. If you really feel like there's somewhere I'm missing out on feel free to chime in with that as well, though I'm at least relatively confident that I have some good spots--though there is one area I could use at least a little help.
One side point of interest is that I do live near the Mass/RI line where there is only scattered decent Asian food and almost no Latino food (there was one ace Mexican restaurant, but the owner died and the family moved backed to Mexico) so what might not be totally top notch for you is likely to be pretty good for me on those spots. Thus, the very finer points of certain places being better than others in those areas is really not a huge concern. Additionally, I'm mainly in "under 25$" Ultimate Poll territory here--there seems plenty in this range to satisfy me, so I'll save the fancy places for next time, I think. But I would really appreciate any input you could give on the Latino stuff especially--the choices there are insanely overwhelming.
I'll be staying in Koreatown for the first part of the trip and then will be downtown at the Kyoto Grand for two nights. We're also probably going to the Huntington one day. We also should have wheels all week, since a friend has the week off and offered to chauffeur.
Anyway, enough back ground + FWIW here's a general guesstimate of where I've found that looks promising. Yes, I know that I will list far more places than I can possibly eat at while I'm there--you do understand this sickness, I believe. Thanks in advance for any extra info!
--for Koreatown, I'm leaning towards Sokongdong for soon dobu, Beverly Soon Tofu for grilled stuff, Dan Sung Sa for more casual things and/or Ondal 2 for crab stew. (I think the latter is on the fringe of Koreatown, but that's OK). The Northern Korean set meals at YongSuSan is a dark horse candidate.
--in Little Tokyo when we're downtown, it looks like Sushi Gen for sushi, Izayoi for pub food and Daikokuya for ramen. I also plan on checking out Fugetsu-do for mochi.
--the day of the trip out to the Huntington, I'm thinking that it makes sense to go to Elite for dim sum beforehand, do the gardens + the lithograph show there and then probably Mei Long Village for xlb etc on the way back. I've got a mountain of other places noted for SGV for things I can't get here--Giang Nan for Jiangsu, China Islamic for hand cut noodles, Seafood Village or Golden Deli for Chaozhou, Lu Din Gee for duck, Luscious Dumplings, Qingdao Bread Food...I could go on. I'm not that familiar with the geography, so while I think I'm well sold on Mei Long Village on the return trip I could easily work in some chow crawling for anything special along these lines nearby.
--places that I really, really want to go and would prioritize over others: Langer's, Jitlada, Mariscos Chente, maybe Monte Alban. Phillipe's also almost makes it here since I dearly love classic institutions, but I probably won't go hugely out of my way for that one if it's not convenient during the week. I'd also eat at the Kogi Truck, but only if it parks right nearby some night.
--For Mexican etc besides the two above, I do def. plan on hitting Grand Central Market when I'm downtown. Otherwise, this cuisine is where I am most adrift given the vast sea of choices. I would prefer places near or easy to get to from where I'm staying--I know from downtown I can now get to East LA via Gold Line, which might be promising. But otherwise I'm a bit at sea here--El Parian for goat tacos? Weekend Carnitas at Metro Balderas? Moles La Tia? Guelaguetza? Los Cinco Puntos? The staggering array of legal and illegal taco trucks? Help! Here again I'd lean towards places that have stuff that I can't get in the east--cemitas, huitlacoche, tasty offal cuts etc. Any pointers for me in this range most appreciated.
--one last note is that I think it's very possible that we'll hit the Hammer Museum to see the Burchfield show...this area seems like a bit of a chow wasteland, but it appears that Alcazar Express would be a solid lunch choice. And I guess that the original Stan's Donuts is fairly close, too. Am I missing anything else that's up this way?
Anyway, that's a rough sketch of what I'm thinking about the week or so before I descend upon your fair city. What say ye?
i agree with andy tseng about ktown... either sokongdong or beverly is great for soon tofu (grew up wif beverly all the way) but don't do both, esp not for bbq. go to a bbq rest for bbq.. park's is my fav but yes, it'll be slightly more than $25 (not tooo much more if u're careful). if not park's, there are begillion other bbq specialty places in the area. just to name a few: moo dae po, su won, cho sun, etc. for mexican (in addition to the places everyone else has posted) there's la serenata de garibaldi and la casita mexicana. i also agree with all the philippes discouragers.. that place solely rides on its name/history. not good in the least bit. and i'm very glad to hear that u're sticking with langers!! <3 that place :)
Re: san gabriel valley leg of trip: There are 3 restaurants in the sgv(near huntington) that are truly unique in the US in my humble opinion: Chong Qing for great sichuan food at 100 San Gabriel Blvd. San Gabriel, CA (there are more than one Chong Qing). Din Tai Fun in Arcadia for the best xlb (this place is a small chain from Japan/Taiwan and is world class. Lastly is the best upscale mexican in LA: Babita in San Gabriel. Oh and Moles la Tia is great too(not only for fresh good food but their horchata is also amazing(Much better than the usual). I believe these are the most memorable places in the SGV. While MLV and others are pretty good food...I don't think you'll find anything uniquely good about them. Good luck and happy holidays in LA!
Agree re: Phillipe's: I like it but it's like Pink's: The food is ok but not worth the hassle generally (lines etc.) If you want the phillipe's historical experience with a great french dip meal and a nicer atmosphere and table go to its long time rival: Cole's french dip on 6th st. Try the bourbon pecan pie for dessert if you have room.
If you still have Elite on your radar for dim sum, be prepared for A WAIT. I took a group there on a weekday morning and the wait was 45 minutes at 10:30am.
Mei Long Village and J&J are my favorite stops when I go for the $15 Chinese foot massage at the same little mini-mall. Only 1 block away is PA Pa Walk for the most fabulous Taiwanese mango shave ice you will every taste. It's hard to see from the street...its hiding behind the elevator shaft in the center of the ground floor.
I think you can attribute your wait to two main factors. Elite is very popular for the obvious reasons. Also, unlike the more traditional dim sum places, Elite is much smaller in size. Where big round tables for eight or more is the rule at most of these places, Elite has a mix of table sizes that might offer more efficient overall use of their limited space. The tradeoff is limiting the number of larger parties that they can accommodate at one time.
Where to begin. First, you don't have to go all the way to Ondal 2, when the original Ondal is probably a short walk away from your Koreatown hotel, and features the same menu. Also nearby and worth a visit is Dino's Burgers for their chicken plate (one of the best meals for $5 in LA, IMO). For something a bit different than your standard Korean, you should consider going to Feng Mao Mutton Kabab.
If you're staying at the Kyoto Grand, a couple other classic institutions you might consider are Clifton's Cafeteria and Cole's. If you do go to El Parian, while the carne asada tacos are really good, if you have room (or people to share with), try the carne asada plate, which will always be made to order. I like the birria, but it's not worth the detour like the carne asada.
The westside isn't such a wasteland, depending on what you're looking for. Like others have said, go for Persian food. Shamshiri, Javan, Attari sandwich shop, among others, are all worth visiting. Go to some of the Persian ice cream shops for desserts (get flavors like rosewater saffron, or orange blossom). You could also try the Apple Pan (another LA classic institutions), though it's a divisive topic around here.
1712 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dino's Chicken and Burgers
2575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90006, USA
11500 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Attari Sandwich Shop
1388 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
3901 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
3160 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Being in the food industry all my life, whenever I travel, like yourself, I like to seek out classic institutions...not so much for the food itself, but to see the operation. While on many frequent trips to the west coast and LA in particular, two places I sought out in the past after reading about and seeing on many television food shows were....
Pink's and Phillipe's.
If you are like me and want to go see it in operation, by all means go....but I can tell you the two places are two of the most over-hyped places I have ever been to across the country.....Phillipe's in particular. At least for Pink's i have stated I would go back if there were no line or a wait of no more than 10 minutes....I found their hot dogs to be good in general. Phillipe's on the other is not worth waiting on line for at all. The meats are marginal at best and the bread is terrible for a famous sandwich, but I will concede this may have to do with timing. On my one and only trip to Philippe's, I had all four of the following:
beef, pork, ham and lamb
All four were dry and tough.....the ham was the best of the lot....and in truth, the last one I really wanted to try of the four. We passed on the turkey.
My recommendation is to hit a cheap barbecue place in Chinatown instead.....
If you are getting as far west as Westwood, and you have wheels, it seems a shame not to head to the beach--particularly if our gorgeous warm weather holds. Not a brilliant chow-ish part of town (at the low $$$ range) , but there are options on Main Street in Santa Monica. Or you could start on the beach with breakfast at Back on the Beach, or on the boardwalk in Venice (names escaping me now) and then work your way back to Weswood. There are a lot of threads on Santa Monica and Venice options on this board.
I'm not sure if this is what you meant, but I wouldn't go to both Sokongdong and Beverly Soon Tofu. They're pretty much the same. I might throw in one of the korean fried chicken places just to try it. Or Park's BBQ if you wanted to do straight korean bbq. Park's would definitely be more than $25 though.
Also, I would recommend a regular taco truck over Kogi. Especially if they still have the long line (don't really know). Just go to one that's close to where you're at. They're all the same.
Langer's is a must. It's just a few minutes from Koreatown, so you should be able to make the trip.
Your research is to be commended! I'm surprised that you're not making a trip to Din Tai Fung for XLB. It's located in Arcadia, and is pretty close to the Huntington (I love that place!). I can recommend Luscious Dumplings...I took my discerning Vietnamese-Chinese parents there and they loved it. Do make sure you get the noodles there, too...it's warming and comforting.
There are mixed reviews about the Kogi truck, but I rather like it, and would suggest that you give it a try. It's one of the latest rages in L.A., and would be a pretty cool story to tell your friends at home. I would suggest arriving half an hour before the truck arrives to avoid ridiculous wait times. I believe that the burritos provide a better value than the tacos (though the meats are very good), but my favorite menu item is the kogi sliders (but it's a small portion for $5 when you compare it to the $5 burrito).
While you're in the SGV area, I would suggest that you hit up a Vietnamese banh mi (sandwich) shop. Lee's is the biggest chain, but I believe Top Baguette is really good, too. Get a combo (french jamon with head cheese) or grilled pork, and get the works (pickled carrots and daikon, onions, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers)...the French egg yolk mayo and pate are already included as standard.
The 'Hounds are right...nothing great around the UCLA area, but Diddy Reese cookies are quite magnificent. There's nothing more delightful that two warm cookies sandwiching your favorite Dreyer's ice cream. Enzo's is acceptable in the area for quick and simple Italian fare...my husband was an undergrad there and swears by their chicken parm.
Based on the research you've done, you're in for a great few days of L.A. eating. Have a wonderful trip!
Wow, you have done your homework. it took me a few years of living in LA and marrying a Native Chicana (Dommy) before I became so well versed. Normally for folks coming from my home area (Wrentham, Mattapoisett) I wouldn't necessarily make some of the recommendations in your Post for fear they would be scared off but you seem to get it.
just some added observations:
I'm not a fan Phillipe's. I have a meeting there about once a month and generally will eat before I get there. While their lamb dip is decent and the mustard is outstanding you have too many places to go on this trip and your next trip to waste on Phillipe's
If you are going out to the West side for Mariscos Chente (and I suggest you do) about a mile north on Centinela at the Corner of Venice is a Mitsuwa Market with a Santouka Ramen stall inside. Get the Toroniku (special Pork) ramen with the Shio (salt) broth. it is all much better than Daikokuya and worth the Trip.
If you are going to Monte Alban or Moles La Tia for Mole you might Consider Guelaguetza as better than both of them and closer to Koreatown for you. The on on Olympic has the liquor license with an interesting selection of mescal if that is important to you.
Some Fabulous economical Yucatecan food (one of the hardest to find and get right of Mexican regional cuisine) you might look into La Flor De Yucatan Bakery (see exilekiss' recent post) Or the Mercardo de la Paloma where you can find Chichen Itza and as well as the Peruvian Mo Chica and Oaxacan ice cream for dessert , there you can order several dishes from the various stands and get a wonderful sampler of different flavors.
If you get to Ondal 2, I'd like to hear your thoughts. We've got to get a large group together in order to try some of their dishes.
Now if we could only get decent fried Ipswich clam rolls out here I would be happy
3014 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
Mercado La Paloma
3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007
3655 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007
La Flor De Yucatan
1800 S. Hoover Street, Los Angeles, CA 90006
3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066
4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066
I think you MIGHT win Best Research 2009 for all that.
A word of advice: while the XLB are great at MLV, after a big dim sum meal at Elite you're probably not going to want to indulge in a bunch of dumplings. Maybe I'm wrong, but usually I'm all xiao-chi'ed (small-eats'ed) out after dim sum. Maybe head to someplace else for dinner? Giang Nan won't do you wrong, or go for some nice light (relatively) food at Seafood Village (go to the Temple City one, it's best and easiest and you can point at pictures on the wall).
I'm going to incur some wrath here but while I think Langer's is excellent and straddles the "best" line with Katz's, it... straddles the "best" line with Katz's. You can get amazing pastrami without flying from New Bedford to LA for it, so given that you have limited meals, I'd say go for Chente or Jitlada, two things not easily duplicated in cities only two hours' train ride away from you.
As for your East, I suggest you follow @breedstscene on Twitter. This is a group of vendors who, having been booted out of a parking lot on Breed Street in Boyle Heights, have moved to 4th and Chicago most nights. There are street crepes, there is barbacoa de borrego (i.e., lamb, not goat) and then there is Nina's, which is in a class all its own. She has a big lump of masa dough which she will make for you into tortillas for tacos, into sopes (think really thick tortilla with a lip) or into Mexico City-style quezadillas (like masa turnovers, not at all like those horrible things sold at Toxic Hell). You pick your fillings: huitlacoche, simmered squash blossoms, picadillo (spiced ground meat with corn and peas and warm spices), cactus paddles... whatever she can get, and tell her if you want it fried or on the griddle. Top it with shredded lettuce, cotija cheese (salty and powdery, like what green-can Parmesan aspires to be) and thin Mexican sour cream, and then top it with your choice of salsa, including a salsa de semillas made of pumpkin seeds, crushed dried chiles, peanuts and sesame seeds that is out of this world. At $2-$3 per massive item you can't really go wrong.
At the barbacoa table, order however many tacos you want. This is pit-roasted lamb that's cooked until it literally falls off the bone. If they offer you pancita (tripe), though, say no... it's not very good. Whatever you get, make sure you get a cup of consomé with al-dente chickpeas in the bottom... it's excellent.
I talked to Nina a week or two ago and she was going to try to go back to Breed St and Cesar Chavez... I don't know what happened because I haven't had a chance to go up there recently. Check their Twitter for location.
re: Das Ubergeek
You probably like my research since it leans so heavily on your posts! But I think your advice here + your older Giang Nan review from last year may have made me change my mind about the return trip chow spot. I do love dumplings, but I think you're right on about something else for dinner being preferable. + thanks also for the twitter rec and Mexican vendor suggestions, that sounds v. promising.
as for langer's, well, it's more like 4+ hours to Katz's from here, so I think I'm still eating LA pastrami! ;)
Once again, thanks to all for the many helpful suggestions in this thread.
re: Das Ubergeek
"I've got a mountain of other places noted for SGV for things I can't get here--Giang Nan for Jiangsu, China Islamic for hand cut noodles, Seafood Village or Golden Deli for Chaozhou, Lu Din Gee for duck, Luscious Dumplings, Qingdao Bread Food...I could go on."
I imagine most of the stuff at Giang Nan will be similar to the menu items at Mei Long Zhen or Shanghai Xiao Chi.... There will be slight variations in style.
I don't know about the noodles at China Islamic, but if you like that sort of thing, you might want to check out JTYH or Kam Hong Garden for knife cut and / or hand-pulled noodles (or mao er duo, at the former). If it were me and I had time, I would check out one of the Northern Chinese / Taiwanese style breakfast places (Si Hai on Las Tunas would be fairly close to the other places you're looking at) for salty dou jiang or doufu hua, fan tuan, etc..
I'm not sure about the ownership (whether it's Vietnamese or Viet-Chinese), but I think if you want Chaozhou food, Golden Deli might not be the place to go (though from everything I've heard, it is a great place to go if you want Pho). Kim Fung has a lot of Viet stuff but does also have some Chaozhou specialties (the guo gao, jiucai rice dumplings, etc.). I think Tony C alluded to a more authentic Chaozhou place but I don't know what it's called.
When your staying in Little Tokyo Phillipe's is a very short drive away.
Take 1st. East (about two blocks) to Alameda make a left, go about a mile and it will be on your left hand side.
Just a reminder Metro Balderas for carnitas is a good choice but you would have to do it either the day after xmas 26 or 27.
I took some out of town friends to a few of the places you have mentioned and this was their take on it. Balderas although the carnitas were excellent the place itself was the least interesting to them.
They really enjoyed going to Cinco Puntos because they loved the tacos and they thought the vibe of the neighborhood shop was great. Make sure you get a good look behind the counter to see how they make your tortillas. The drawback there everything is to go. You end up eating your tacos on the hood of the car in the parking lot. Also the tacos are big one equals two street tacos
Besides the original Breed Street (RIP) El Parian was another favorite. They were not adventurous enough for goat tacos but the carne asada was going to be better then anything they ever had so I took them regardless. Well the carne asada taco ended up being the best they have ever had. That went over so well that they wanted a bite of my goat taco. They ended up ordering one for themselves. They liked the overall experience at El Parian. It's a homey little place the ladies who work their are all very nice. To them, it felt like they had stepped into Mexico.
Personally I'm fine with any of the places on your Mexican hit list. I think coming from RI it's going to be win win no matter where you end up.
Enjoy the city.
re: Das Ubergeek
Here's a link to the LA weekly article on Breed Street and also there's one on El Parian (which he's done before) plus others you may find interesting.
Look under counter intelligence
On a side note I agree with the others that Phillipe's would not be on my lists as a place to eat.
I think the most interesting thing about it can be seen from the outside which is the sign.
Maybe step inside for some sight seeing on your way to Metro Balderas.
for the day you're going to the hammer, i'd recommend either of these two persian restaurants:
1) shamshiri grill
huge menu, everything from stews to skewers, to soups, to specialty rice dishes, to appetizers.
phenomenal price/quality/quantity ratios
2) attari sandwich shop.
more limited menu, prices a little higher, but, imho terrific food.
absolutely get the asch soup.
address is on westwood blvd, but entrance is on wilkiins.
Phillipes is very geographically friendly while your in K-town.
You might also want to check out Langers for Pastrami and The Nickel Diner for a little hip fun.
And finally in K-town, Oaxacan food (an area of Mexico) Guelaguetza.
You've done a lot of work. In Westwood, I'd hit up Ambala Dhaba on Westwood Bl for Indian. A good Mexican near downtown is La Serenata de Garibaldi for good seafood items especially. You might also check El Tejado in East LA. http://www.marisqueriaeltejado.com/ Great raw oysters, pretty good giant seafood platter.
For hand cut noodles in SGV, ditch China Islamic and head over to JTYH.
Golden Deli isn't really Chaozhou, more Vietnamese-Cantonese than Chaozhou, but then that might be nitpicking in your book.
For Mexican, also consider Babita (which i would prioritize over Monte Alban if your travel plans permit)
The OP has definitely done some serious research on our board. I want to piggyback on ipse's post in hopes not only for the poster's reading, but maybe ipse can elaborate or add more info/recs.
Having been the beneficiary of many of your past recs, one that may apply to the OP is buying frozen dumplings from places like Luscious Dumplings or 101 Noodle Express. The quality is exceptional, they're easy to prepare, and the keep (if properly frozen) for a good month or two. I can easily see four bags of frozen dumplings going into the check-in luggage.
Frozen dumplings are definitely a "go" in my book.
But I wouldn't necessarily hit up Luscious Dumplings for frozen dumplings, unless you call way way ahead in advance, which you can do and all would be good. Thing is with Luscious Dumplings is that they only make so much for the lunch crowd and then another batch for the dinner crowd. Small operation, so very little leeway. Thus, if you go the Luscious Dumplings route, definitely call ahead.
101 Noodle Express would be ok as well, although I'm generally not a fan of their dumplings.
Other places to consider would be Dumpling 10053 and JTYH (esp. the lamb ones). But the folks who really specialize in frozen dumplings are the folks at Qing Dao Bread Food. Go there if you want mass quantities of frozen goodies (I would still call ahead though).
Now, if you want frozen XLB (not to be confused with dumplings), go to Dean Sin World (or Tastio). Go. Buy bagfuls. Take home. Eat. Game over.
I once sent some frozen dumplings - via Fedex Overnight - packed with dry ice to some friends in Columbus, OH. They didn't thaw much, but they did thaw just enough that when they refroze in my friend's freezer, they all stuck together in a way that they were never able to get them apart without tearing the skins. There must be some way to pack frozen dumplings for travel, but it's not as easy as it seems like it should be.
If you are going to buy frozen dumplings for shipping, ask that the store sprinkle in EXTRA flour into the plastic bag.
And, if the dumplings thaw partially and then are re-frozen so that they end up stuck together, when you cook them, just drop them into the boiling water frozen as is (usually you should defrost the dumplings before cooking) and then squirt a good amount of sesame oil into the boiling water. It prevents sticking and tearing of the dumpling skins.
You were doing fine till you said that the area around the Hammer is a chow wasteland. With Tehrangeles right there, you've got Shahrzad for Persian. Lebanese-wise, Sunnin is excellent too. Don't miss the cookies of Diddy Riese in Westwood Village.
Sushi-wise, get thee to Mori Sushi. Sushi Gen is OK, but the bar experience at Mori-san's is exemplary. L.A. is the best sushi town in the U.S., and possibly all of North America, IMHO.
If you're in Little Tokyo, go to Kappo Ishito for an excellent kappo meal. Also, try Raku Plus (also in Honda Plaza with Sushi Gen), which serves Japanese homestyle mixed in with a bit of Korean flay-vah.
While you're at MLV, run next door to compare & contrast the XLBs at J&J. You're coming all this way to L.A.... a few more steps in the same shopping center won't hurt.
Oh, and ditch the snow clothes. Here, it's 75 and sunny today, December 19th.
Sunin on Westwood Blvd. is a good choice near the Hammer for Lebanese. If you want to go a bit further afield, but still near Westwood, Simpang Asia is a very good small Indonesian market and cafe on National where it makes a 90-degree turn just a little east of Overland. Across the street from it is the Indo Cafe, which is also a very good Indonesian place.
As for XLB - if you go to Mei Long Village, I urge you to do a taste test with J&J which is just two storefronts up from Mei Long in the same shopping plaza. I far prefer the XLB at J&J, although Mei Long does have a much more extensive menu.
Have fun. Eat well. You have indeed done some good homework.