Greatest Concentration of Chow-worthy Places
- sweeterpea Jun 10, 2010 09:12 AM
Hi LA area chowhounders, we will be flying into LAX later this year and staying in LA for a few days. We would like to know if there's an area to stay in to be close to a big concentration of chowhound places -- or is this impossible? Our family loves to try different foods, the kids are used to travelling and experimenting with new foods. We will be renting a car as well.
Thanks! and pretty recent too. We are interested in good Mexican (where we are in Canada has bad to mediocre Mexican) but otherwise open to all foods. We are open to all price ranges, except for extremely expensive( ie. over $200.00 for two) or overly formal restaurants where men must wear a jacket.
Very good recent thread on Mexican food here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7104... and no worries about overly formal restaurants in LA (overly formal means your jeans without the holes in them - or maybe it's with the holes in them these days that makes them formal? I can never remember)... ;-D>
Not to be snarky, but is there anywhere in Canada with GOOD Mexican food? I've had some interesting nouvelle-Mex in Vancouver/Victoria (imagine a Berkeley burrito, but sillier) but nothing up to local standards. Of course, if you ARE from Vancouver, then you probably don't need to come here for great Chinese (and if you're from Toronto, you almost certainly have better Italian and Greek than you'll find in L.A., but I digress...)
Prof. Salt has a good area breakdown, though I'd venture to suggest that the best concentration of good Japanese food is in neither Little Tokyo nor Sawtelle, but in Torrance/Gardena. (Torrance might not be the most thrilling place to visit, but it is convenient to LAX, the South Bay beaches, Palos Verdes, Long Beach, O.C. etc. and has some nice minimal-elegant hotels targeted to Japanese business travel)
Other, smaller concentrations worth noting:
Cambodian: Long Beach (Anaheim Blvd. area)
Filipino: A bit scattered, but Carson and West Covina have some good options
Ethiopian: Fairfax (south of Olympic)
Central American & southern Mexican: east Koreatown & Pico-Union
Hehehe - My vote goes to...
1st place: Sawtelle.
2nd place: The corner of New & Valley in Alhambra/San Gabriel (containing the mini-mall at 301 W. Valley Bl & Focus Plaza & San Gabriel Hilton's mini-mall).
3rd place (tie): La Cienega's "Restaurant Row"
3rd place (tie): Little Tokyo (esp. Honda Plaza on 2nd St.)
My vote is for 2nd place (above) - stay at the San Gabriel HIlton on Valley and Del Mar! Easy access to the world of Chinese, really good Thai (Paradise, on Las Tunas west of Mission), the awesomeness that is Misson/Las Tunas (Newport, Kinburg, Golden Deli, etc.), good Mexican to the southeast (Tia Gladys on Mission/San Gabriel, others in Rosemead/So. El Monte).
Where would one stay near the Sawtelle corridor? I'm drawing a blank though I'm sure there are good options (and not the 405-adjacent kind).
Little Tokyo doesn't strike me as particularly diverse, though we just ate very well at Lazy Ox and I keep hearing of good places down there. It's a lot closer to the Westside than San Gabriel is.
I'd avoid Restaurant Row at all costs (shouldn't be hard) - chains or chain-like tourist monstrosities. Sort of in that mid-Wilshire chow-vortex.
The best neighborhoods for nice hotels are very rarely the best neighborhoods for ethnic dining of any kind. This is L.A., so plan on renting a car and driving regardless of where you stay. Don't want this to turn into a lodging conversation so on to specific areas to look:
The cities east of Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra, Monterery Park, San Gabriel, Arcadia) hold the single biggest concentration of Chinese emigres in North America. Just about every Chinese regional food is at your disposal.
East Hollywood is home to Thai Town, the biggest concentration of Thai immigrants outside of Thailand. Also in the East Hollywood / Glendale area is Little Armenia.
Koreatown is located west of downtown LA, with Wilshire Blvd as its main artery. The biggest concentration of Korean immigrants in the US. Again, pretty crummy hotels for the most part.
Little Saigon in the Orange County cities of Westminster and Garden Grove- the biggest concentration of Vietnamese outside Vietnam.
Westwood is home to UCLA and many Persian and Lebanese restaurants. They call L.A. Terhangeles for a reason.
There's a street in West LA called Sawtelle that is home to many Japanese restaurants. There's also Little Tokyo, but it's more touristy and old school Japanese-American area than the Sawtelle strip.
Good Mexican food is a more dispersed throughout the region, and the great ones aren't as centrally concentrated as the other ethniticities. Destination-worthy places include: Mariscos Chente (Culver City and Inglewood) La Huasteca in the city of Lynwood; La Casita Mexicana in Bell, Antojitos Carmen in Boyle Heights, for starters. There's also some Oaxacan joints in West LA worth checking out, but I don't consider them as must-see than these ones.
La Casita Mexicana
4030 Gage Ave, Bell, CA 90201
3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262
10020 Inglewood Ave, Lennox, CA 90304
Little Tokyo Restaurant
150 E Bonita Ave, San Dimas, CA 91773
2510 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033
re: Professor Salt
As usual, I completely agree with Professor Salt.
I would add Artesia in southwest Los Angeles as a concentration of Indian restaurants (you can easily do a search here on this board) and the street of Fairfax south of Olympic as a concentration of Ethiopian restaurants.
Regarding Mexican, while there are few destination-worthy places, there is a concentration of Mexican/Latin-American residents and restaurants in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights (both just east of downtown, east of Hwy 101).
with a car, this isn't a bad suggestion at all... given that the OP doesn't mind a bit of car time -- hey you'll see the city...
samo/venice puts you in the immediate vicinity of:
gilbert's el indio
lares on pico
the wonders of Sawtelle
Church and State
going into the valley
oh gosh there are so many more, but my pea brain is fried...
544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071
5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
3 Square Cafe
1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
15720 Imperial Hwy, La Mirada, CA 90638
19249 Roscoe Blvd, Northridge, CA 91324
Renu Nakorn Restaurant
13019 Rosecrans Ave, Norwalk, CA 90650
8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069
6366 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401
700 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017
For lodging I'd suggest looking at El Segundo first. Several good hotels and you can launch onto the I-105 freeway to go east, north or south.
All good chowish suggestions so far, but search this board more for:
Hawaiian - Gardena has quite a few places, all informal
American BBQ - Jaybee in east Gardena and Bodacious Q in Carson, just for starters. Keep in mind that good BBQ and upscale neighborhoods are mutually exclusive :-).
Vietnamese - scattered many places except for the Westside. The Westminster area in OC is known as Little Saigon. Alhambra/San Gabriel is a smaller version if you are in that area. Closer to LAX, Gardena has quite a few pho joints.
637 E University Dr, Carson, CA 90746
"We just got back from the bbq trail in Texas ...."
I don't know if you're still with us, sweeterpea, but did you post your Texas BBQ experiences? I couldn't find anything on chowhound. I'm interested, because I'll be hitting the Texas trail again shortly.
If finding good Q on your LA trip becomes more important, search this board for Big Mista and witness the enthusiasm that many of us have for his work. No need to worry about getting a hotel nearby, however, because Big Mista and his crew set up at varioius farmers markets over the course of a week. (My favorite is El Segundo.) See: http://bigmista.com/vending/ . Hunting them down is well worth the effort.
You've got to start this with where hotels are, since you need a place to stay. From there you can head out to the food. East Hollywood only has budget motels, Silver Lake has none. The closest motel to Sawtelle is at Santa Monica & Sepulveda, which isn't too bad, but it's not a particularly interesting walk and you're bang up against the freeway. East LA doesn't have tourist grade motels. Koreatown has some places to stay on a budget level, but definitely not the nicer places.
Since you're driving, you don't actually have to stay in a strong chowing neighborhod, although walking to places is nice.
You might consider splitting your stay. Stay part of the time in Downtown LA, part in Santa Monica. Stay Downtown and you'll have good-decent access to Downtown itself, Little Tokyo, East LA, Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Valley. Santa Monica has many good places and it's close to Sawtelle and not too far from Culver City. You'd also get to see two different sides of LA.
If you want to stay in only one spot, I'd opt for Hollywood. It's almost halfway from Downtown to the ocean. It's not a top chow neighborhood itself, but it's improving and it's near Thai Town, the Farmers Market, and Silver Lake, and not too far from Koreatown. Hollywood even has a fairly decent route over to Eagle Rock and Pasadena. You can get out to the San Fernando Valley, which has some notable chow zones, from Hollywood, though the freeway will be congested at rush hour.
Don't know if the OP has left yet, but I stand by my original statement - stay in El Segundo if you plan to travel longer distances like, say, to Orange County.
Decent El Segundo hotels start at about $85 (Travelodge) and go up from there. You are more likely to find good, safe, cheap/free parking options for your RAC. Compared to downtown getting onto the freeway and going to elsewhere Fast is trivial; well, maybe not to west LA. The beach is a very short drive and Lincoln Blvd to Santa Monica can be faster during 'rush hours'. MTA rail (Green Line) is also an option if you want a break from driving.
Downtown is a good, centralized option but traffic on surface streets and the nearby convergence of freeways is usually a PITA. You do have very good public transportation options since Union Station is the MTA rail and bus hub.
Hollywood is Not recommended for a car travel base. The I-10 and 101 freeways aren't that close and they are the often the best parking lots in the area :-(.
I would suggest you just stay in a nice hotel in a central location (e.g., downtown) and make trips to the San Gabriel Valley (large variety of excellent Chinese restaurants); Thai Town (especially the Southern Thai menu at Jitlada); perhaps Artesia for regional Indian; perhaps a sushi place (LA really excels).
5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027