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3 Restaurant Reccs needed: Specifics Within!

Hello dear LA chowhounders! Longtime SF chowhounder here, throwing myself on the mercy of your wisdom and experience.

My family and I are getting together in LA during the 3rd week of June, and we have a passel of special needs and conflicting opinions about what and where to eat. I'm looking for suggestions for all three nights.

For all nights there will be one person who is vegan *and* gluten-free, and one person who only has the use of one rather shaky hand (this means she needs to eat stuff like risotto or stew that can be eaten with a spoon and will stick to the spoon, or Asian dishes with lots of cut up pieces that can be scooped up, or lamb chops or chicken prepared in such a way that it can be picked up to eat it, or finger-food. Anything that needs to be stabbed (like salad), cut (like most meat), or twirled (like pasta) is not doable for her.).

I am the vegan/GF person and as long as I can somehow meet my caloric intake for the evening I'm not particular. I'd love to go somewhere with awesome choices for me, but family harmony is MUCH more important to me on this trip than fine dining. Bonus points for any place of the sort that I can call a couple days ahead and ask them to prepare something that meets my needs, something which more "chef-y" restaurants are usually happy to do.

Several members of my family, including me, love restaurants which focus on fresh, local, seasonal food, and I know there's a great scene for that in LA these days, but probably not in our price range/the areas we'll be in. But anything like that would be very exciting. Being from SF I'm pretty comfortable with any cuisine, and as long as the food is good I think (I hope!) the rest of my family will be, too.

Restaurant #1: Something near LAX, in the price range of around $13/entree. We'll have our largest group of people this night, around 8-9. This night really won't be about the food, more about the company. The restaurant the LA-dwelling family member suggested for this night is Truxton's Westchester, but at the request of some other family members I am looking for something "better." What does that mean? I'm not too sure... Classier? More creative? Maybe not so much with the burgers and pizza?

Restaurant #2: Near the Ahmanson Theater, at the Music Center in Downtown LA. Something really delicious would be great on this night. We could go up to around $20 an entree.

Restaurant #3: We'll be in the 90025 zip code, which my Googling tells me is West LA/UCLA area. I think we could do up to around $20/entree this night, too, but more moderate would be better.

Thanks so much in advance. Any suggestions that seem like they might work would be so appreciated, and then I can go do the work of actually digging into the menus to make sure there's something that everyone can eat. If you ever come to SF, hopefully I can return the favor!

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  1. fwiw, even though the menu at truxton's is meat centric, they do have one dish that will fit your needs AND that one dish (a grilled tofu with vegetables) actually tastes good. even though i am not vegetarian, that is the dish that i order when at truxton's.

    (can't remember what they offer for the person who has manual dexterity problems.)

    1. the other restaurant in the LAX area that would meet your needs for something more exotic is AYARA THAI CUISINE.
      they have a whole section of the menu (FROM THE WOK) with dishes that can be made with tofu.
      you will need to specify that fish sauce is not used on your food, but i'm sure they will be able to come up with something tasty for you.
      all the dishes from that section of the menu are also 'cut up' so that someone with a big spoon can eat them. (as a matter of fact, that is how i NORMALLY eat my prik king when there.)
      you will have your choice of brown rice or white rice (i.e. gluten-friendly).
      also, there is A LOT of finger food offered there: sate's, rolls, etc. there are seafood soups, etc.

      this is a small restaurant, so you will need to get this arranged ahead of time for a party of your size. it is a pretty restaurant, but i wouldn't say that it's classier than truxton's.

      1. since i'm GF and a dear friend nicknamed me Mariposa a long time ago, i feel it's my duty to chime in and help out my fellow butterfly ;)

        for Restaurant #3, go for Persian. you'll be in the right neighborhood, it's typically a safe bet for GF and vegan options, and the family member who is limited to one hand will have plenty of stews, kebabs, and easily "forkable" things to choose from...plus there's always the option of scooping things up with bread. 3 CH faves that should all be within your budget - Shamshiri Grill, Shaherzad & Javan. you can search the LA board to read all the feedback about them.

        (BTW, Mariposa + GF + SF = any relation to the bakery?)

        Shamshiri Grill
        1712 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

        1422 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024

        7 Replies
        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          i've never been able to get a straight answer about what kind of fats the persian restaurants use in their rice/stews.
          sometimes they say it's vegetable oil (which would be ok for a vegan), but other times they say it's butter (not ok).
          i have a suspician there's butter in there. . . .

          1. re: westsidegal

            i thought about that, but i guess worst-case scenario one could stick with things like baba, dolmades, hummus, etc...i know Shamshiri actually has vegan items marked on their menu, or at least they used to.

            Shamshiri Restaurant
            19249 Roscoe Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              (shamshiri is on my regular rotation.)
              as i recall they call that section of the menu VEGETARIAN, not vegan.
              i thought about the hummus, but mariposa can't eat the bread, so she'd have to eat the hummus with a spoon.

              the big question, it would seem to me, is whether the rice is made with butter. if not, mariposa could have the adas polo specialty rice (i have them make it for me with brown rice), which would contain lentils as a form of protein. there is another specialty rice dish that is made ahead of time (only with white rice) that contains legumes (can't remember name of dish or details).

              i find it hard to believe that there is no butter in that delicious rice. . . .

              1. re: westsidegal

                "i thought about the hummus, but mariposa can't eat the bread, so she'd have to eat the hummus with a spoon."
                i can't have the bread either - i always eat the hummus & baba in restaurants with a spoon...or if i see dishes garnished with tomato or cucumber slices i'll request a plate of them.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  hadn't thought of that.
                  good to know for when i am searching for GF choices for my GF friends.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    you can always pick my brain when it comes to GF issues - i've become rather resourceful by necessity :)

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      thank you so much!
                      although i am not GF nor even a vegetarian, i often have to plan dining outings for groups that include GF, vegetarian, low-saturated-fat, low calorie, members.
                      i am learning as i go along.

        2. We've been pretty impressed lately with Second City Bistro in El Segundo, a small town just south of LAX. It's on a quiet street in a sleepy corner of the town, parking is pretty easy (street plus public no-pay parking lot across the street and to the south), and it's very safe around there. The kitchen is very competent, the wait staff is friendly, professional and accommodating, and the ambiance is casual but neat. They have a couple of really good burgers - nothing to fru-fru - just well-executed. Beef and lamb, and you can order rare to well-done. The fries are excellent as well (regular and the best sweet potato I've tried). If the member of your party with the dexterity issues likes and can do fries, this would be a good one - for you as well.

          I don't know what the limits are of the person with the dexterity challanges, but SCB has a daily rack of lamb that is always good. It's not common for a place to offer a daily rack of lamb, but SCB seems to have this cut nailed. We went Friday night, and the special for that night was the rack rubbed with Cajun spice, and finished with a teriyaki glaze and blackberries. I was kinda thrown by the combo when our dear waitress told us about it, but intrigued as well. Long story short, it was killer. I ordered it medium rare, and it came spot-on medium rare. The rack comes in a pair of three ribs, and if someone cuts the ribs individually, your party of interest will be fine.

          They do have some nice soups, as well as a nice steamed clams app. I think these might fit the bill as well.

          They only have one vegan dish, as far as I know - linguini with a variety of vegetables. But you might try calling if you're interested in this place. I think they'd be able to accommodate you. They have nice salads as well - some with meat, most vegetarian-friendly. So nixing the cheese from one of their app or entrée salads would be a cinch. Oh yes, they have pretty nice wine list as well. A fair amount from NorCal (I hope that is a complement to you folks up there!).


          Second City Bistro
          223 Richmond St, El Segundo, CA 90245

          5 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            I just reread your post and realized your price-point for entrées is around $13. SCB's entrées tend to start around $13, so I need to temper my rec with this caviat, but they're well worth it. Sorry about that...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              second city is not set up to serve ANY vegan forms of protein. also, the GF vegan wouldn't be able to eat the pasta. not much left to eat after that. green salad for dinner?

              also, how, do you see the manual dexterity person eating a rack of lamb without "stabbing" or "cutting?" (op said that the person can't stab or cut)

              bulavinaka, i know you like this place, but am truly puzzled about how it's food could work for this group, and to top it off, virtually all the regular entrees are substantially more expensive than the op's budget.
              whenever i've gone there the tab, all in, normally runs about $40/pp, sometimes a little more.

              imho, it's a 'fine-dining-wanna-be' kind of restaurant that obviously rings your bell, but i don't see the fit here. . .

              1. re: westsidegal

                You're right - I was sloppy in my assessment. I guess the buzz phrase that caught my eye was:

                >>or lamb chops or chicken prepared in such a way that it can be picked up to eat it, or finger-food.<<

                SCB has a great rack of lamb that the kitchen would gladly cut into separate ribs for the diner. They also have the clams and mussels that would work, and they seem to regularly offer risotto on their daily specials as well.

                But I wonder what makes you feel SCB is a >>'fine-dining-wanna-be' kind of restaurant<<? It's just a place (Bistro is in their name) that offers good food, good wine, good service in a casual atmosphere, no? I don't think they've ever claimed to be anything else. Lots of regular customers there, as its location kinda calls for that. I go because I feel it is NOT trying to be something that it is not.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  i drew that inference because of the general price level.
                  far higher than casual dining, but a little lower than fine dining.
                  their assortment of menu items also seems to lean that way to me too in that the preparations are fussier than one would expect from a casual dining restaurant.

                  please know that i don't dislike second city at all. i was sloppy in my phrasing because i didn't mean it in a pejorative way, yet as i reread my comments now, they certainly do sound pejorative.
                  my apologies for that.

                  1. re: westsidegal


                    I know they are priced higher than a traditional bistro, but I think their ingredients and serving sizes put them there. They remind us a lot of places one finds up in the general Bay/Wine Country area: not too big or small, cozy and casual, and good wines to go with their good food. They also remind us of Metro Cafe in the fact that the kitchen is strong, the ingredients are good, and the food, while nothing whimsical, is just solid - SCB just pumps up the portion sizes. I know this place isn't for everybody, but it hits a sweet spot for us.

            2. For the restaurant by the Ahmanson, you might try Ciudad, though it may be above your price range. ($20 for entrees is almost impossible at any of the nice restaurants downtown). Ciudad's dinner menu is http://www.ciudad-la.com/pdf/Ciudad_D... . I'm not that big a fan of the food, but you could make a meal out of some of the salads and sides, plus they indicate that they will do less meat and dairy. The person with the shaky hand could probably eat the rabbit paella, soups, empanadas, ceviche and some of the sides.

              I am not a fan of Ciudad and find their food rather lacking, but it is one of the only restaurants downtown that I can think of that comes close to fitting your criteria.

              445 S Figueroa St Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90071

              1. This is not an easy question, but I understand. (I have friends with MS who don't go out to eat very often because they don't want to impose, and still less do they want someone cutting up their food for them as though they were babies.)

                For your LAX dinner, may I suggest Izakaya Bincho? It's a Japanese "pub" with more concentration on the food than the drinks. You will need to specify that your food not be floated in dashi broth, but you could have agedashi tofu, grilled mochi, vegetarian spring rolls... and your relative could have finger foods such as fried chicken, roasted ginkgos or eggplant sandwiches, or easily-scoopable things like their excellent ricotta-and-tofu "pudding" or even the buta no kakuni (braised pork belly, so soft it can be eaten with a spoon).

                It's hard to tell if this will meet your price point, because it's not full servings but rather small plates. The plates run from $5-8, so I think you'll probably be fine.

                For your dinner downtown, I suggest Rivera. It's slightly above your price point (entrees are $22-28) but I think you will have a great dinner. While the entree section isn't particularly vegan friendly (there is a plate of various vegetables with different sauces), you could frankly make a meal out of the sides, with calabacitas, quinoa with spinach, white or black beans, carrots en escabeche. Add some of their housemade tortillas (made from nixtamal, not from flour) and you've got a dinner as fine as any Aztec warrior's. They're very "chef-y" (the chef, John Sedlar, is a great guy) so a call sufficiently in advance to request vegan food may pay off.

                Your grip-challenged guest should probably aim for softer foods such as puerco pibil (pit-barbecued pork that has been cooked in banana leaves; it has the consistency of pulled pork), piquillos rellenos (stuffed small peppers that are easy to eat by hand), lamb chops or ceviche.

                I haven't eaten near UCLA for a very long time, so I don't want to offer suggestions that may be outdated. Enjoy your trip!

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

                4 Replies
                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  do you know for sure that the frijoles at rivera are made with no lard/meat/pork fat?
                  what about the rice?
                  most latin restaurants do use animal fat of some sort.

                  although i like the idea of izakaya, i don't think of the redondo pier as being 'near' LAX.
                  to mariposa: if you do end up going to izakaya bincho, be sure to check the days the restaurant's schedule. in addition to having a weekly day that they are closed, they also have a tuesday or two every month that they close.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    For heaven's sake, do you really think someone who's committed to a vegan life is not going to know to ask these questions in advance? A quick call to the restaurant outside of peak hours: "Are your beans made with animal fat or broth?" Also, where did I recommend that the OP order rice?

                    Seriously, you've now responded to every post except Jwsel's with criticism, and the same complaint you made about mine goes for Jwsel's. Of course most Mexican restaurants use animal fat. They also use animals. That doesn't mean that animal fat ends up in every dish, and the nice thing about a place like Rivera or Ciudad is that they are likely to be able to customise a dish that normally WOULD have animal fat in it to not have animal fat in it, and without a potential language barrier.

                    As for Bincho, it's 15 minutes from LAX with normal traffic and is dark every Monday, and the last Tuesday of the month. It's on their website.

                    To the OP, my apologies.

                    I also suggest, though it's slightly further, M Cafe de Chaya in Culver City. The M stands for macrobiotic, and the food is very, very good (I say this as an unrepentant eater of animals and someone with little faith in the taste fo the so-called "diet restaurants"). No dairy is permitted, and the only meat that is found is segregated from the rest of the food (things like cold poached salmon). There's a salad case full of frankly amazingly good cold foods such as quinoa with beets, vegan cole slaw, kale salad, soba noodles with peanut sauce (not sure if buckwheat trips your gluten-free need), dilled tofu. They serve bento boxes and bowls with brown rice, breakfasts (though I have to say I don't care for the tempeh bacon). There is plenty that can be scooped with a spoon.

                    M Cafe is a very informal place; you order at the counter and the food is brought to you. There's a huge middle table and a great patio at the Culver City location, and you can wander around the neighbourhood afterwards. Prices are significantly below your budget; things like bento sets are $8-$9.

                    There are two other locations: Melrose is kind of far out there, but the Beverly Hills store might work for your 90025 dinner; it's about 10 minutes east of UCLA.

                    Akasha would be another choice, also in Culver City. The selections for a GF vegan are a bit more limited here but this is also a very chef-y place (the chef's name is Akasha Richmond and she is a genuinely approachable person) so you may be able to customise the menu a bit. It's more "spendy" than M Cafe, but also more upscale and a full waiter-service experience.


                    M Cafe de Chaya: http://www.mcafedechaya.com
                    Rivera: http://www.riverarestaurant.com/
                    Izakaya Bincho: http://izakayabincho.com/
                    Akasha: http://www.akasharestaurant.com

                    9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

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

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Das, great call on M Cafe - didn't even cross my mind!

                      so you recommend Akasha? i never made it there before i moved away, and i've heard mixed reviews from friends whose palates i trust...

                      9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        third the M Cafe recommendation.
                        lots of good choices, high quality food, good prices.
                        good, natural, solid fit with mariposa's stated needs.
                        no additional vetting would be required for M Cafe de Chaya.

                        das, even with my own recommendation of ayara i was careful to point out where the weakness in the recommendation would lie (possible use of fish sauce).
                        just trying to be helpful to mariposa.

                  2. Thank you all so much for your help so far! I have made a list of all your recommendations and will start placing them on a map and checking menus. If you feel so inspired, keep the ideas coming, I just wanted to hop in with many thanks and gratitude!!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Mariposa

                      Lots of great dialogue here:

                      For meal # 1, I second the recommendation (in order of my preference given your needs) for Ayara Thai, Akasha (which I love), and Truxton (not bad really, full bar, great service, and depending on night of the week may give you their private room), and M Cafe.

                      For meal #2, this is tough given your criteria and the price point. I like the idea of Rivera, but it does get pricy fast. Cafe Pinot has a lovely space and decent food; chef could accommodate your needs, but might be pricey than you like. I haven't loved Ciudad, but it might be o.k. I think Lazy Ox Canteen is a fun and has great food; but look at their menu/prices to see if it can accommodate you.

                      For meal #3, I like Nook Bistro (I like the vegan stew there as well as lots of other things, but look at the menu online), followed by Literati 2 (not the cafe; call for the menu details though:310-479-3400). I also end up at Shamshiri fairly often.

                      Nook Bistro
                      11628 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 9, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                      Cafe Pinot
                      700 West Fifth St., Los Angeles, CA 90071

                      445 S Figueroa St Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                      Shamshiri Restaurant
                      19249 Roscoe Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324

                      9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                      Literati 2
                      12081 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                      Lazy Ox Canteen
                      241 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                        I agree with several of the others - definitely look into Akasha in Culver City - Akasha Richmond is a vegetarian chef by trade and there.

                        Also somewhat near LAX is Chaya Venice which has a nice selection of vegetarian options:


                        Boy do I love your San Francisco restaurants!!!!!!!!

                        Chaya Venice
                        110 Navy Street, Venice, CA 90291

                        9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                        1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                          I would second Nook Bistro for meal #3 in west la area. Great food and ambience. . . and they definitely have wonderful veggie/vegan options. If you plan to go there, however, you must make a reservation asap as they fill up rather quickly. Good luck!!

                          Nook Bistro
                          11628 Santa Monica Blvd Ste 9, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                        2. re: Mariposa

                          West LA is centrally located to a lot of other areas. As some have mentioned or endorsed, M Cafe (very casual) and Akasha (more full-service) are good choices, are in Downtown Culver City (DTCC is about 10-20 minutes from the middle of 90025), and would probably meet your dietary and price considerations. My sister is a vegan (not GF), and she really likes both places.

                          Another place that we took my sister to is Mezza. It's also located in DTCC, serves Lebanese food, and does offer vegan options. The menu does have meat intensive dishes of course, but they do offer a fair share of vegan (I think at least a eight that are or can be requested to be GF). She really enjoyed this since she never really considered cuisines from the Middle East to have many vegan options and had never ventured into it before.

                          I just pulled up their website and it appears that it has been totally revamped, along with its menu. Their deep-fried cauliflower is no longer on the menu (can't hurt to ask as Das Ubergeek knows you always do :)), but they've added a lot too. It might be worth viewing this to see if anything rings your bell. :)

                          I hope you enjoy your stay!

                          Mezza Grill
                          9901 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                        3. For the downtown (Ahmanson) night, Shojin-the vegan Japanese place is close and probably perfect. They do very nice sushi and other finger friendly foods. Some fake meat stuff-probably w/ gluten but a very wide assortment of other dishes too and should work with your price point.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Layne Murphy

                            if you do go to shojin, when you make your reservation ask them, "on what level of the parking structure should i park?"
                            the parking is free, and i can't remember which level of the structure has a ramp that takes you directly to the floor on which shojin is located.

                          2. For Restaurant #1 (LAX area):

                            Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, Mexican food & cocktails.

                            Entrees range from $9 (combination plate) to $15 Camarones Rancheros/ Mojo de Ajo/ Empanizados/ or Caldo de Camaron y Pescado.

                            Many dishes are served with rice & calabacitas (zucchini, corn, tomatoes, onions & cheese) instead of rice & beans. Beans are fried in soybean oil.

                            Eight out of 18 entrees can be eaten with a spoon; that's not including the burritos & combination plates (chile relleno/ enchilada/ taco/ tostada).

                            Clean; cantina atmosphere. It's not as busy as it deserves to be.

                            For the diner with the shaky hand -- if mobility is also a problem, the restroom is easily accessible (probably ADA compliant). (I share your concerns. Someone needs to make an Americans with Disabilities Zagat guide.)

                            This is my go-to Mexican restaurant. It's true that most of the customers are office worker gringos, but I still like it.

                            150 S. Sepulveda Blvd
                            El Segundo, CA 90245
                            (310) 648-7212

                            Teresa's Mosaic Cafe
                            150 S Sepulveda Blvd Ste G, El Segundo, CA 90245

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: vickie2172

                              I second Teresa's. Wonderful homemade tortillas.

                              Teresa's Mosaic Cafe
                              150 S Sepulveda Blvd Ste G, El Segundo, CA 90245

                              1. re: vickie2172

                                thank you vickie2172 for the review.
                                sounds like 'my' kind of place.
                                will try it within the next couple of weeks or so.