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Quintessential LA???

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Greeting fellow Chowhounders,

I have heard a lot of wonderful things about LA, but I have never had the chance to visit. Until now that is, well, March. I'll be in LA, for a week in March and I am looking for "must eats" recs. I'm open to both fancy and hole in the wall/ greasy spoons, so long as it's quintessential LA. I would be interested in both old school top chefs and new up and comers. I look forward to your recommendation!

Thank you in advance.

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  1. This first thread should be helpful to you and the second linked thread will take you to the recent 2009 Ultimate Restaurants as voted on by the LA hounds broken down into over and under $25 pp categories. .



    1. Thank you - that's a great start!

      1. this has nothing to do with foodie la - but is a list of quintessential la from north west to eastish:

        geoffrey's malibu
        moonshadows malibu
        duke's malibu
        gladstones malibu
        patrick's roadhouse santa monica
        father's office santa monica
        hot dog on a stick under / next to the pier santa monica
        veince bistro on venice boardwalk
        gjelina abbot kinney
        westside tavern in westside pavillion
        in & out westwood village
        beverly hills hotel - pool restaurant or polo lounge
        spago beverly hills
        nate & al's beverly hills
        grill on the alley bevery hills
        dan tana's west hollywood
        rainbow west hollywood
        chateau marmot - west hollywood
        canter's - near the grove
        loteria - the grove
        el compadre hollywood
        24 degrees hollywood
        musso & frank's hollywood
        cat & fiddle hollywood
        roscoe's hollywood
        thai town
        k town
        langer's - almost downtown
        barrangan's - almost downtown
        king taco - almost downtown
        nick & stefs downtown
        sushi gen downtown
        hama sushi downtown
        cole's downtown
        nickle diner downtown
        traxx downtown
        yang chow chinatown

        2 Replies
        1. re: nachosaurus

          What's 24 degrees? Or did you mean 25 degrees??

          1. re: Phurstluv

            ha ha - yeah. really, i meant the roosevelt hotel. but if you add chow. . .

        2. Here are my picks!

          Good upscale restaurants:

          Awful restaurants that have been around for ages:
          The Pantry
          Musso and Frank

          Authentic ethnic restaurants that appeal to 1% of the population:
          China Islamic
          [Some place that serves xiaolongbao. Is Din Tai Fung too prosaic? Let me agonize about the best XLB for a few months and I'll fill this in later.]

          Niche restaurants unique to LA:
          Pizzeria Mozza
          Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

          6 Replies
          1. re: sillygoosedown

            Those are all good choices, but the #1 choice is "In & Out Burgers". LA is a hamburger town and In & Out is a very unique LA chain. The quality has been good for years and they also have the crazy hidden menu that would be fun for tourists.

              1. re: excel

                In-n-Out Burger's Secret (hidden) Menu ...

                These links may serve to enhance your InO experience. Have fun! (^_^)


                For the record, my usual order:

                - 3 x 2, animal style, medium, whole grilled onion, extra toast, extra mustard,
                chopped chiles, no spread, no pickles
                - Fries, extra crispy
                - Root beer float or Lemon-up

                1. re: degustateur

                  my order
                  cheeseburger protein style w/grilled onions
                  Extra crispy fries, animal style
                  Large Diet Coke

            1. re: sillygoosedown

              I think you're off about 5% on your 1% selections. I also think you are in error about Musso. Just my opinion. Din Tai Fung is not too prosaic. It's just crowded. And it is definitely not a 1% spot.

              1. re: sillygoosedown

                But you don't go to Musso & Frank for the food, you go for the martinis! And, should you go for the food, you can eat very decently there, if you pick up wisely.

                And, if you really want to put in "awful restaurants that have been around for ages", I want to nominate Taix.

              2. Wow guys thanks for the list!

                How about some up and comers?

                2 Replies
                1. re: excel

                  A lot of neat, cool new places in downtown:

                  Church & State - excellent bistro, in the industrial part of LA / ELA
                  Rivera - cool Latin place, with a ceviche bar, in downtown at LA Live, by the Staples ctr
                  La Descarga - a rum bar with live jazz, not sure re: the food
                  Lazy Ox Canteen - in Little Tokyo, downtown, with interesting, eclectic pub food
                  The Tar Pit - another bar with a well known chef and interesting bar food

                  Have fun!!

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    Great list!

                    La Descarga is truly happening. Only a few powerful rum cocktails down the hatch. Enjoyed a Trinidad (Fundadore - Habana) on the patio. Intense, heady vibe.

                2. Tommy's Home of the original Chili Burger. Beverly & Rampart
                  Oki Dog Home of the Oki Dog 2 hot dogs wrapped in flour tortilla with chili cheese & Pastrami
                  Pastrami Burrito Pastrami grilled with Bell peppers, Onions & Cabbage.
                  Dino's Burgers El Pollo Maniaco plate. Pastrami Sandwich

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Skunk2Racer

                    But to make it the quintessential LA experience, I think you should hit these places only after you've been drinking and it's after midnight. 2 a.m. trips to Original Tommy's are deeply embedded into my food foundations.

                  2. Thanks guys! Please keep the recs coming

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: excel

                      "Please keep the recs coming"

                      A goal of yours ought to be to comb through the board and take a look at any thread in which the title intrigues you. For instance, did you notice this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690213 which was recently started? There are literally a hundred threads like that, which have been started over the past couple of months, if you are just willing do some digging (and you will end up with a lot more fish in your creel if you learn "how" to fish the waters of the LA board yourself instead of having LA hounds place the fish into your basket).

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Except for the very newest places, or for downhill situations, all the info is already here on various threads--several times over . What isn't here are posts from excel telling us what he/she thinks of various places. But March is almost here.

                      1. Yes you guys are right, I shouldn't be expecting you to just tell me everything and I'm not. I am combing through the treads as we speak but, it's just nice some times to having at least a starting point. There are so many threads and it seems so scattered, I thought if LA founders could at least recommend the must hits I can start my research from there.

                        I appreciate all the help.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: excel

                          Quintessential LA = Original Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax. Just go and soak it all in! Be sure and stay away from The Grove next door!

                        2. Thanks for the recs so far!! We're only in LA for 4 full days, and one of the days will be spent at Disneyland. So that's 5 dinners and 4 lunches. We've narrowed our restaurant choices to the following, so far, and need your help to either confirm we've made good choices and which ones we should prioritize, or to steer us in another direction.

                          (1) Providence
                          (2) Church and State
                          (3) AOC
                          (4) Soot Bull Jeep

                          Lunch/Snack (could also be dinner):
                          (1) Roscoe's
                          (2) Wurstkuche
                          (3) In and Out Burger
                          (4) Langer's
                          (5) Phillipe's
                          (6) Grand Central Market for tacos
                          (7) Din Tai Fung for dumplings
                          (8) Daikokya for ramen

                          So what do you think? What should we prioritize since obviously we can't hit all these places!


                          13 Replies
                          1. re: excel

                            Don't miss Langer's and remember they close at 4pm.

                            1. re: wienermobile

                              Besides #19, what else should we order at Langer's? (just 2 people are sharing the meal).

                              1. re: excel

                                It's the Pastrami that is king here but you can do some combo sandwiches. My sons like the #44 (their version of a ruben) and the # 6 Pastrami and chopped liver sandwich. Or go all the way with #28 - FRESSER'S SPECIAL SANDWICH Pastrami, Corned Beef, Tongue, Swiss Cheese and Turkey, Lettuce, Tomato and Russian Style Dressing. I stick with the #19.

                            2. re: excel

                              Looks like your spread sheet is filling up. Where are you coming from? I think I'd scratch some of the lunch places in favor of Jitlada. Also, I'd hit Sushi-Gen around 11:15 for their sashimi lunch special. And we haven't touched on the bar scene.

                              1. re: excel

                                Welcome to LA! I hope that you enjoy your stay. A few suggestions:

                                I would highly recommend Park’s BBQ over Soot Bull Jeep. Superior Korean BBQ due largely to the quality of meats used, including Kobe (Wagyu) beef and Berkshire pork selections. Great panchan too. Excellent service. The staff all but insists upon cooking your selections for you to ensure proper preparation and doneness.

                                Park’s BBQ
                                955 S. Vermont Ave.
                                Los Angeles, CA 90005
                                (213) 380-1717

                                Try to fit Pizzeria Mozza into your plans for lunch, dinner or late night. Absolute greatness! Start with a wonderfully flavorful antipasti followed by chicken liver crostinis with guanciale. For the main, be sure to include the fennel sausage pizza with panna, red onions and scallions. The guanciale pizza is extraordinary albeit a bit salty. The Bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere and sage is awesome. Superb service and wine pairings. They’re open continuously from noon to midnight daily. Reservations are essential.

                                Pizzeria Mozza
                                641 N. Highland Ave.
                                Los Angeles, CA
                                (323) 297-0101

                                I would definitely add Mariscos Chente as a priority, probably for lunch (very casual). Incredible Sinaloan/Nyarit style seafood creations by Sergio Penuelos – an up and comer who is already a living legend. Virtually all of the seafood is sourced fresh from Mazatlan and has that unique Gulf taste that cannot be duplicated. The pescado zarandeado, a specially spiced and prepared whole grilled fish, is extraordinary as are his aguachiles and other shrimp dishes. Try one of the delicious smoked marlin tacos for a rare, unique and tasty treat.

                                Mariscos Chente
                                4532 S. Centinela Ave.
                                Los Angeles, CA 90066
                                (310) 390-9241

                                You should also consider Sushi Nozawa, LA’s own, original “Sushi Nazi” - it's his way or the highway! Chef Kazunori Nozawa commands a very traditional sushi bar and serves up some of the freshest and finest sushi to be found anywhere. Mon-Fri, lunch/dinner only. No reservations. Be prepared for a brief standing wait. Sit at the bar and request the “omakase”, Nozawa-san's choice of the day's selections. Trust him, he will do you right. Whatever you do, DON’T ask for a California Roll unless you relish being the day's entertainment. (^_^)

                                Sushi Nozawa
                                11288 Ventura Boulevard
                                Studio City, CA 91604
                                (818) 508-7017

                                Bon Appetit!

                                1. re: excel

                                  I've listed a few alternates below. Aside from the historical value and the great hot mustard, the only one I really don't care for is Phillipe's. I've personally never had any wow moments there. Two sources of info that I've directed you to either directly or indirectly are Rameniac and Exilekiss. Both are very well versed in food and each deserve a bookmark.

                                  Dinner: Park's (Soot Bull Jeep)

                                  Lunch: Pann's (Roscoe's

                                  Cole's (Phillipe's

                                  Santouka or Asa (Daikokuya

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    cole's is much better than phillipe's. by miles.

                                    1. re: nachosaurus

                                      Yeah, I personally dislike the place also for some service issues directed at me from one particular person there. Aside from that, it has it's place in LA food culture, but I would consider Cole's as well for far better versions of these types of sandwiches.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        i agree regarding the la food culture, and i do consider phiippe's a must do for la history (like the pantry, etc.). but, their food is just sub-par. i find it very fun to go to and to take people to - but it's never like some amazing meal. it's a fun place to go to see (as is union station across the street and olvera street nearby).

                                        cole's - which is newly re-opened (thus, breaking the string of openness) - just has much better food.

                                  2. re: excel

                                    I don't know if you've been to Disneyland but it is unlikely that you will leave there in time to do dinner somewhere. Were you counting that day as one of your dinner ones?
                                    I think of Spago as a very LA/California place. Everyone should go at least once.

                                    1. re: sparkareno

                                      I agree - Spago is wonderful. And second the recs for Jitlada. I think I would skip Pann's, though. It is basically food you can get anywhere.

                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                        I know that this is a food board but, Pann's architecture is not something that you can experience anywhere.

                                        1. re: JAB

                                          I totally agree with you on that. Especially since we are losing most of our restaurants that have special architecture.

                                  3. To me, quintessential LA is eating from a taco truck. My favorite is El Chato (Olympic & La Brea, 9pm+) and Taco Zone is probably my 2nd fav.

                                    I would not miss Langer's either. I would go to Umami Burger for lunch one day too. I'd also try to go to Animal - I had one of the best meals I've had in a long time there.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: mdpilam

                                      Going to a taco truck sounds like an awesome idea! I've been given other recommendations....which one is the best? And we would probably go around lunchtime.
                                      How's.....La Oaxaquena (Rose and Lincoln), or the one on S. Soto and E. 7th? Or the ones recommended by mdpilam above?

                                      1. re: excel

                                        I don't know that a lot of the taco trucks being referred to will be around at lunch time.

                                        1. re: excel

                                          If you're going to be in the Westside area around lunch for taco trucks, one option would be the Cemitas truck parked in front of Smart and Final on Venice just west of Hughes. The cemitas from that truck gets lots of love on this board. It's usually there from mid morning till mid afternoon. I like it with the milenesa/beef. But the chicken has its share of fans.

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            This is a good rec as well. I am a fan of the carnitas cemita, but my SO had the milanesa and it was excellent.

                                            Others are correct, the taco trucks are mainly a night thing (except for some around MacArthur Park).

                                          2. re: excel

                                            el Chato is strictly a nightly experience. But it's a good truck.
                                            If you can't find a truck and are on the Westside at lunch time, I really like Tacomiendo http://www.ta-comiendo.com/
                                            I've only been to the Culver City location. It was my favorite lunch place when I worked nearby.

                                        2. Thanks guys for your input....We're coming from Toronto and Seattle. Mariscos Chente sounds really good and I think it's something we're going to add to our list. Thanks for that recommendation!

                                          Is it worth trying spago's or are we better off to go to providence? I only add spago to the list becasue it's Puck and he's the godfather of cali cooking isn't he?

                                          Can anyone give use a recent review on animal?

                                          Thanks again!

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: excel

                                            I like Cut much more than Spago, if you want to experience Wolfgang Puck and are a meat lover.

                                            1. re: wienermobile

                                              would you saying experiencing Wolfgang Puck, whether it's Cut or Spago, it worth bumping providence? A lot of celeb chef restaurants are over rated, are puck's one?

                                              1. re: excel

                                                If you were here longer I would tell you should try both, but if you only have the chance to go to one I'd chose Providence.

                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                  Than you for that! Providence it is...I don't know why but I can't seem to find reviews of Providence?

                                                    1. re: excel

                                                      You asked about an Animal review. I think this is the quintessential review as far as the LA board is concerned: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/620960

                                              1. Is no one going to speak up for El Tepeyac?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: oldusedcop

                                                  Quintessential, indeed. Just not what it used to be. Still, however, a viable recommendation.

                                                2. Thank you everyone for your help and suggestions. We had an amazing time in LA! Loved the food, the atmosphere, the shopping, but NOT the traffic! Ack!

                                                  We just wanted to report back and let you know where we went to eat and what we thought of the restaurants.

                                                  We arrived on a Tuesday night and decided to go to Park's BBQ. Seriously the best Korean food we've ever had!! The banchan selection was amazing, and we loved the fact that the waitresses came and cooked for us. The service was amazing, as they changed the grill plate every time it started charring our food. We ordered the marinated kalbee, the pork belly, and the seafood pancake. The kalbee was just the way we liked it, not too sweet. The pork belly was amazing!!! We did leave it on the grill for quite a bit of time to allow the most of the fat to render and caramelize. It was perfect! The sauce that came with it was SO GOOD. The seafood pancake was excellent too. It had a good amount of seafood in it, and was perfectly cooked, crispy at the edges and softer in the middle.

                                                  The next day, we went to Mariscos Chente for lunch and Animal for dinner.

                                                  At Mariscos Chente, we had the shrimp ceviche, the Peppered Shrimp, and of course the Pescado Zarandeado. We have never tasted shrimp like that before! It was amazingly creamy, sweet, and rich. Our favourite dish was definitely the Peppered Shrimp. There was a lot of black pepper, but it wasn't too spicy or overwhelming. It just enhanced the cooked shrimp so well. And the RICE....oh the RICE! It was sooooo good. It was rich and savoury.....and I've never described rice like this. It might have been a little mushy, but still so good!

                                                  We were so happy that we had the chance to try Animal. It was a Wednesday night when we went, but the place was packed!! We ordered one main dish and about 3 smaller dishes to share, and it was perfect. The highlights of that meal were the Chicken Liver Toast and the Fois Gras Loco Moco. The sauce/gravy in the Loco Moco was slightly sweet and complimented the Fois Gras perfectly. The service wasn't the best, unfortunately. I sat with an empty wine glass for quite some time before I could get our waiter's attention to ask for another glass.

                                                  The next day, we went to Disneyland! We wanted to eat lunch before we went, so we decided to try Cole's. I had the lamb sandwich, while my other half had the beef sandwich. Both of us definitely preferred the lamb sandwich. The sandwiches are definitely the star of this restaurant of course, but they should probably work on their sides dishes. The coleslaw was NOT good. I've had better from my local Safeway. And the fries were only ok. We understand that you go to Cole's for the sandwiches, but most people order sides along with the sandwiches, so they should pay a little more attention to them.

                                                  At Disneyland, we snacked on the famous Turkey leg, which was actually really good! We also had Churros (notice the plural!). Yum!

                                                  After we left Disneyland, we went to Roscoe's for a late dinner. We've never had chicken and waffles before, so for that it was great! The combo is very good! We've had better friend chicken though.

                                                  The next day, we had In and Out Burgers for lunch. Yum! Definitely good burgers for that price. For dinner, we went to Providence. A good experience overall. Food was good, of course, but service was only ok. Please tell me if this is normal for LA or not, since we aren't used to this....but we were seated at our table, asked if we wanted drinks. After the drinks were brought to us, along with some bread to nibble on, THEN a few minutes later, we were asked if we were ready to look at the menus. We just aren't used to that! At all the fancy restaurants we've been to, the wine list and menu are brought to the table as soon as we sat down. We just found it a little weird, but weren't too put off by it. Both of us ordered the 5 course menu, and ordered their recommend salt-baked prawns as well. The food was good, but the time between the courses were not even. We feel that when you have a multi-course menu, the timing between each course should be equal. ie. once our plates are cleared, the diners should expect to wait 10 to 15 mins for the next course. With our experience, we waited 5 mins between the 1st and 2nd course, and 20 mins between the 3rd and 4th course. It felt uneven. Unfortunately, the worst dish of the 5 course menu, was the meat dish. The chef definitely works with seafood better!

                                                  Our last day in LA was pretty comical. We purposely didn't make any plans just in case we were all "fooded-out". We ended up just saying, "what the heck!" and waited in line at Pink's. There's 2 hours of my time I'll never get back!!! We did see a "celebrity" there though! David Hoffman made an appearance for a charity. Woo hoo! =P

                                                  Thank you again for all your suggestions. We had an amazing time and will be returning soon to go to the places we didn't get a chance to go to! (Like Langer's! It's a MUST for our next trip.)

                                                  Park's BBQ
                                                  955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

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

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: excel

                                                      How gracious of you (two) to report to us...thank you!

                                                      And thank you for being so kind to the City of the Angels. We appreciate it!