A week in LA, I'm stuffed
Spent a week or so in LA, and since so many of you are so good about sharing your experiences in Hawaii, I thought I would return the favor.
Canters Deli: Located on Fairfax a couple of blocks north of the Farmer's Market, Canters is one of a few contenders for the best pastrami in Southern California. I'm not gonna debate the relative merits of Canter's vs. Langer's, I like them both, but Canter's is open 24/7, and I know how to find it better. The staff is friendly, the food is authentic deli (ok, maybe not kosher) and the portions are above generous. It's not cheap, but if you are from the boondocks like Honolulu, you just can't get food like this at home. Someday I'll have to order something other than a pastrami sandwich. Thank goodness my friends let me taste off their plates. This is a definite must for me when I visit LA, even at a 45 minute drive from my mom's house.
In-n-Out Burgers: What...on chowhound??? Yep. Went twice at indecent hours of the morning when not much else was open in the corner of LA I was in. Double Double combo, not animal style, just right off the menu. The burgers are good, the buns are soft and tasty, and the condiments are fresh. Yeah, I do like the fries, fresh and fried once. Yes the texture is different, but I like it. Is this the gourmet hamburger of the century? Nope. Is it good fast food? Yep.
Sinaloa Tacos #3 on Carson between Vermont and Normandie (I think). I got an Al Pastor Taco and some kind of beef burrito, enjoyed them both. Mom ordered the Chile Relleno burrito, it was really good. This is the real stuff, not microwave-mex. Mom and I were the only white people in there. It is not fancy, too big to be a hole in the wall, and the place was clean. The staff was helpful and our food came up pretty quickly. Very reasonable price, and I understand it is open 24/7.
Nori's Japanese Grill: In Thousand Oaks. Pretty good Korean Owned Japanese restaurant with a limited but competently prepared menu including several bento dishes, decent noodles, and good sushi. A couple of Korean dishes thrown in for good measure. This is one of my nephew's favorite places (ages 5 and 7.) Definitely a place to go back to.
The Counter: If you are 'chain-averse' this is the chain to go to for burgers. The meat is ground fresh, the buns are fresh baked, and the condiments are always fresh and tasty. You can choose from a huge variety of toppings, cheeses, sauces, etc, and they have a variety of meats. Ground Turkey, Ground Beef, Chicken Breast, or a daily special (that day it was lamb.) My burger was cooked to perfection (rare for me, medium-well for my brother.) Mom go chicken breast no bun (served salad style). I have no idea where we were except it was just a little south of Thousand Oaks proper. They are great with kids.
The Dragon: Located on S. Vermont in Korea Town (in LA) The Dragon serves Korean Style Chinese Food. Korea has a thousands of years old relationship with it's neighbor to the northwest, and this style reflects that relationship. It is probably the second most popular type of restaurant in Korea. If you are looking for beef broccoli and general tsao's chicken, this is not the place to go. If you are looking for kal-bi and bi-bim-bap, this is not the place to go. but for jjajang-min and tang-su-yook, this is the place to go (noodles in spicy black bean sauce and korean style sweet and sour pork.) This time my friends ordered sizzling rice soup, sea-cucumber with mushrooms, and some sort of pork dish. They bring cabbage and radish kimchee to the table as well. Maybe not what I would have ordered, but it was attractively prepared and delicious. We had some candied sweet potato for dessert,not quite what you get under the marshmallows at thanksgiving. If you have never tried this style food, I recommend that the the adventurous give it a go.
Pina's Mexican: At the corner of 25th and Western in San Pedro. This place serves a better than average range of "traditional" old california mexican food. Not what you find south of the border, but not touristy with sour cream and guacamole on every dish either. I've had better, but it was more than decent. Still haven't found a fantastic 'cal-mex' place in the south bay.
The BBQ Shack and Grill: On Gaffey between W. Santa Cruz and W. Sepulveda in San Pedro. I'm not an expert o BBQ, but this seemed pretty tasty to me. I had the brisket with spicy sauce (it was spicy), mom had the chicken with mild sauce. I got a side order of beans, mom got cold slaw,and I had a coke. Both orders came with a side of bread, and while not enormous the portions were generous. All that for under $15 (plus tip). It's easy to miss and parking is an issue, but the food was good and the service was very friendly. It's fairly new, I hope they make a go if it.
Gaffey Street Diner: At the north end of Gaffey right after it meets the 110 freeway. This place was featured on the food network,and for good reason. I got the chili size, yummmm. Mom got a california melt which had a huge portion of real turkey, a green chile, and jack cheese on thick slices of bread. She managed to eat half. Have I mentioned that her fridge and freezer now have enough leftovers to last here a few weeks? If you haven't had biscuits and gravy, this is the place to try them.
Think: There are 3 "Think's" in San Pedro, we went to the one on 5th, between Pacific and Harbor. Really wonderful food, I don't know why this place isn't on chowhound more often. Mom and I both got the French Onion Soup (it was a chilly evening.) Rich and flavorful thick with caramelized onion, and topped with melted cheese and bread. So tasty. Mom had the special which was a panko crusted red snapper on a bed of mashed potato and some vegetables. The fish was cooked to perfection, the panko light and crisp, the fish moist and flavorful, no mushiness. I'd say equal to any snapper I've had in Honolulu. I had the rack of lamb, medium rare. It was also served over mashed potatoes, with some zucchini, asparagus, and carrots. The lamb was so good, pink and moist but fully cooked, no gaminess... just wonderful. This place has got to be one of the best kept secrets in LA. The other two are supposed to be more upscale, but this seemed near gourmet to me. A definite return visit on future trips.
There were a couple of favorites I missed on this trip (hey, thanksgiving was in there somewhere and my sister-in-law did a bang up job on that). Pacific Diner out on Pacific at 38th in San Pedro (real monte-cristo sandwiches) and Baja Fish on Gaffey, some of the best fish tacos I ever had.
I did manage a couple of trips to Trader Joes, a real treat for someone from Oahu.
I figure if I stop eating now I can fit into some of my clothes by Christmas.
611 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731
Gaffey Street Diner
247 N Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731
1430 W 25th St, San Pedro, CA 90732
3821 S Pacific Ave, San Pedro, CA 90731
1420 W 25th St, San Pedro, CA 90732
Thanks for the comments folks. I get to LA once a year or so. Mom would like it if it were more often, but as you know its a long plane ride and hard to get away (and yes, mom is in San Pedro.) i have had the CFS at gaffey st. Diner and the biscuits with gravy, and a couple of other things, but this time the chili just sounded right (it was COLD there last week.) You folks really have to give THINK a try, can't recommend it highly enough, and very reasonable prices. For two of us, including the app (onion soup) and a glass of wine each, tip it was $65 plus tip. You can't find that kind of food for that kind of price in HNL. I appreciate the recs on dim sum and hawaii foods too. Still hoping for recs on cal-mex. Chile Rellenos, Chili Colorado Burritos (no rice or beans), chili verde, tamales. Really miss that stuff. Places like Sinaloa or that place on Bandini near 1st in San Pedro are great, but not the mexican food I grew up with.
The counter in HNL is indistinguishable from the one I ate at up in TO. Very good, and for you TV watchers, the fanchise is partially owned by Daniel Dae Kim (lost and hawaii 5-0). We have Island's burgers here. They are OK, but for the price I've not been overly impressed. There are constantly rumors about TJ's coming to HNL, but nothing serious. I wish they would, everyone from HNL comes back with TJ's stuff in their suitcase, either for themselves or as omiage.
Really great to see names I recognize in a different bord. Thanks again!
Aloha brah, welcome to LA. Just got back from HNL a few weeks ago. In regards to In-n-Out Burger, you're absolutely correct. Can't see the hype everyone says it to be? I still think Kua Aina's or even Big City Diner in Hawaii has better burgers than them. Canter's or even Langer's have pretty good Pastramis but like you said, they are quite expensive in my opinion. I personally like Steve's in Torrance or Classic's in Gardena for their Vienna style pastramis at half the cost. But that's just my own taste. I know you're probably not too interested in Hawaii style foods since you're here on the mainland, but the southbay has a lot to offer like what Monku says. Bruddah's in Gardena will make you at home if you're feeling nostalgic. But if I was a visitor from the islands, I'd like to see what we here in LA would find interesting. Nothing fancy but different from the islands. I sense you're staying near the San Pedro area, so for burgers I would recommend Islands on PCH and Crenshaw next to the Trader Joe's. where you can also pick omiyagi to take back home. Go further up north on Western for Japanese food, just pass 162nd Street, and you'll find Azuma's for great Izakaya. Always crowded but the food is great and not too expensive. For dim sum, go east on Redondo Beach Blvd. in Gardena at the Sea Empress. A little above average in cost but good selections. A more economical place on PCH is PV Palace. I would rate it OK. But if you're into dim sum. you'll need to venture up north to the San Gabriel Valley for the good stuff. Anyway, hope you're enjoying yourself...aloha!
1033 W Gardena Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247
16123 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90247
8420 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Thanks for the report, KaimukiMan. I greatly appreciate your helpful posts on the Hawaii board since my wife and I visit Hawaii every year. Keep up the excellent work.
Don't know if you plan to visit LA again soon, but:
Since you can find Canters, you are near some other great places, notably Animal for their unique take on meat, and Golden State for some great burgers and some Scoops ice cream flavors and shakes.
Sinaloa on Carson might become a stop for me since I work near there.
Thanks for the info on Korean style Chinese restaurants. Certainly a little-mentioned cuisine.
When are they going to get a Trader Joe's in Honolulu? They have Whole Foods. Also how you do you like the Counter in Honolulu?
It seems like you spend a lot of time in San Pedro. I like Gaffey Street also. The BBQ Shack has also been mentioned. Think is now on my list as well. You might try Pavich Brick Oven Pizzeria next time, without question the best pizza in the South Bay. Also Porky's for BBQ and fried chicken.
Thanks again for the report.
The Golden State
426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036