HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Coming to LA for a short trip... would love to experience the local food

Hi there

We are a small group of 3 (no kids) flying to the US for a short holiday in mid Feb (2 days in Universal City and 3 days in Ananheim).

During our stay, we'd really love to experience the best that LA has to offer in the reasonably priced segment (i.e. max of $30 per dish).

Things we'd love to try out are :

Steaks (incl. ribs)
Sea Food

Would appreciate any recommendations you can provide (non-smoking places only..)



  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi Syd, and welcome to the LA Chowhound board. As you may (or may not realize) the LA Chowhound board resembles LA. That means it is huge, spread out and chaotic. ;-D> So when you ask for recommendations on very well represented and hotly debated cuisines/food like "burgers" or "Japanese" or (most broadly and hotly of all probably) "Mexican" you are calling for something that is going to take you a month of nightly reading just to survey.

    To give you an idea of the depth and breadth of these areas lets just start with one (out of probably hundreds) of threads on burgers: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701081

    As you can see, narrowing down your choices won't be an easy task. That said a lot of the narrowing may well come down to "geographic serendipity" - in other words, where will you be in relationship to the choices available and how much time do you want to spend driving (and waiting) in traffic?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Servorg

      Another example of the passion and breadth of the LA board. This thread is about fish tacos. So, while the greater board discussion of Mexican still exists and is discussed at even greater length covering things like Oaxacan and Yucatecan and Sinaloan food, this one is looking at only fish tacos: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/676627

    2. Would appreciate any recommendations you can provide (non-smoking places only..)
      In Los Angeles County all restaurants are thankfully non-smoking. And beginning March 8th 2011 you can no longer smoke in any outdoor dining areas.

      3 Replies
      1. re: wienermobile

        Smoking in the enclosed portion of a restaurant is banned statewide, as is smoking within 20 feet of the entrance or an open window of a public (i.e., government-owned or government-leased) building. The patio ban is strictly Los Angeles City, though, and Universal Studios is not in Los Angeles City (it's on unincorporated land in Los Angeles County).

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Strangely enough U City is actually 70% unincorporated LA County and 30% LA City. Now that's a "mash up." ;-D>

        1. One question: will you have a car? I would assume you will, but please let us know just in case you are planning on using public transportation instead...

          2 Replies
          1. re: rmb123

            I recently took the 2 hour Disneyland "Express" bus from downtown LA . Not recommended.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              I did too! It was definitely NOT the happiest ride on earth.

          2. lots of good places off the redline if you're @ Universal

            Langers, Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo/Arts District, various DTLA spots, thai town, ktown...

            kinda old but here's a start:


            1. Sticking to your price range, and close to Universal (nothing is close to Anaheim)

              Umami or Father's Office for a burger
              Jar for a steak in that price range
              Sea Food, go to Hungry Cat
              Mexican, Loteria Grill
              Japanese, if you have a car, head to Musha in Santa Monica

              The Hungry Cat
              1535 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028

              424 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

              1 Reply
              1. re: yogachik

                Agree withj Umami, and Fathers Office as the go to burger places.
                Jar and Hungry Cat I think are both well above the price range (the last seafood main I had at Hungry Cat was $37) I would instead recommend Taylor's for steak, and either Chinese or Mexican for seafood.
                You will be close to Nozawa and (while not my favorite place for esoteric sushi snob reasons) is something you will likely enjoy. It's a bit much for dinner, but sit at a table for lunch and it can be in your price range.

                The Hungry Cat
                1535 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028

              2. Just as a general tip, you want to avoid the eateries on CityWalk unless you are simply starving.

                1. I just wanted to say that I'm not sure where you're coming from, but make sure you try some unique things too, like the food trucks. kogi is one that I'm thinking of -- it's Korean-mexican fusion food, and while it's not going to knock your socks off, it's unique to LA. We have a lot fo fun and unique food trucks, and also some great taco trucks that serve authentic fare.

                  1. And of course if you're in Anaheim, you must check out the vast pantheon of offerings in nearby Little Saigon.... this board has volumes of info on Little Saigon.

                    Oh, and Ma's Islamic for Islamic Chinese food in Anaheim.

                    Mr Taster

                    Ma's Islamic
                    601 E Orangethorpe Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      For a truly authentic experience, I recommend this small taco crawl: Go to Tacos Tamix (Pico & Westmoreland) and get some al pastor tacos, then drive up to 1st & Beaudry and go to Mexicali Taco Co (stand) and get a vampiro and cachetada (I usually get the asada and chorizo, respectively). A delicious and cheap night of dining, LA style.

                      Mexicali Taco & Co
                      1820 Industrial Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021

                    2. Not sure how strictly you'd like to stick to the cuisines listed, but if you're game for pizza consider either the Ciaoti Pizza Cafe on Tujunga Ave in Studio City, about 10-15 minutes from Universal. Even better is Pizzeria Mozza, currently my favorite restaurant- make a reservation. This one's on Highland at Melrose, 10-15 minutes from Universal.

                      In Hollywood, maybe a 15-20 minute drive (mostly because of traffic), consider the Griddle Cafe on Sunset near Fairfax. Free parking behind the RiteAid. Utterly awesome breakfasts, they are known for their pancakes but I love the breakfast tacos.

                      Totally agree with Loteria recommendation- the Grill is on Hollywood Blvd and would be closest for you from Universal. Maybe 10-15 minutes. But Loteria was originally a stand at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax and Third, and I believe the original is still there.

                      Not a burger expert, I'm sure you will learn plenty by reading the thread suggested above. Close to Universal in Hollywood are 28 Degrees (excellent) and Lucky Devils (never been there). In Studio City, I believe Laurel Tavern's burger makes some of the best burgers lists. The Counter is also in Studio City- the burgers won't blow your mind but you can build your own and get exactly what you want. Any of these joints would be within 15 minutes of Universal.

                      Lucky Devils
                      6613 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                      Laurel Tavern
                      11938 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                      Pizzeria Mozza
                      641 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                      1. Besides, what do you mean by "local food"? Or do you mean "local food joints"?

                        1. Thank you very much for your replies and recommendations :)

                          To answer the questions asked :

                          We're flying from Sydney. At this stage we are unsure whether we'll be hiring a car given that we'll be spending a good 3 days in Disneyland and 2 days touring LA... not much time for shopping around really (which is why we are unsure if we need to hire a car during our stay...)

                          and yeah I mean local food joints (thanks for correcting me)

                          How good/bad is public transport during the day/at night.. what are the places that are best to avoid?

                          I am aware that my initial question is very broad and I appreciate that there must be heaps of varieties within each category of cuisines/food I've listed .. let's say that we'd prefer eating in the vicinity of where we will be staying (i.e. within 10 to 15 minutes drive of Universal City/Ananheim... )

                          thanks heaps!

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Syd_2011

                            You must get a car. Yes it will sit most of the time. But your trip will be much more enjoyable. You can take the Red Line (subway) from Universal to Hollywood and that would get you near some great eats. 28 Degrees for example is practically just across the street from the Red Line station. But otherwise it will be very awkward to get around and in Anaheim you will be largely confined to chain restaurants. If you are willing to splurge for one meal, Napa Rose at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is excellent. It's above your desired price point however.

                            Napa Rose Restaurant
                            1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

                            1. re: heathpack

                              Don't you meant 25 Degrees?

                              25 Degrees Restaurant
                              7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                Yeah. My bad. 25 Degrees

                                25 Degrees Restaurant
                                7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                                1. re: heathpack

                                  Don't feel bad...it was only 3 Degrees of Separation (Kevin Bacon Burger anyone?)...

                            2. re: Syd_2011

                              If you plan to explore LA while in Universal City, you will need a car. Public transportation is very limited. Within 15 minute drive of Universal you have a decent variety of what LA has to offer, although great steaks at $30 per would be impossible.

                              The Sierra Cafe at the Universal Hilton is actually one of the better buffets I've seen, even better than ones I've experienced in Las Vegas. There is a lot of seafood like king crab, and Chinese dim sum. It's a buffet, so it's not the highest quality but it is pretty good. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

                              The Hollywood area offers up some options, although parking is always tough.

                              25 Degrees for good burgers and indifferent service
                              Lucky Devils also has burgers and great custard shakes, although I haven't been since the ownership change.
                              Baby Blues BBQ has good ribs
                              Scoops Ice Cream is a real LA experience. The most unique and delicious ice cream flavors ever
                              Thai Town for the best Thai in LA. Rec: Jitlada, Sapp Coffee Shop
                              Koreatown is just a little farther away for great BBQ. Rec; Park's BBQ. I highly recommend this, although the Kobe beef will put you over $30.
                              I second the Pizzeria Mozza rec, although it's very crowded

                              Keep in mind, exploring LA's food treasures would require a lot of driving, as in 1 hour drives or more. I have only offered what I think is best in a 15 minute radius.

                              Please report back. We'd love to hear from you.

                              25 Degrees Restaurant
                              7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                              5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                              Lucky Devils
                              6613 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

                              Sapp Coffee Shop
                              5183 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

                              1. re: Ogawak

                                I'll be the dissenting opinion and say that you can hit up A TON of food stops using the red/gold lines.

                                You can visit: Hollywood/Thai Town/K-Town/Langers/DTLA/Little Tokyo/SGV/Pasadena using public transportation. You guys are simply too lazy to walk - hell we walk to Park's from the redline station.

                                I know this because I have a car, the GF has a car, and we still make it a point to use the redline where possible.

                                Note that this applies to LA only. When you go to OC you WILL want a car.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  They only have 2 days in LA. The issue is not laziness, it's time and efficiency.

                                  1. re: Ogawak

                                    factor in traffic/parking and LA on the redline is great

                                    as an added bonus you get to WALK around los angeles and not just drive by everything.

                                    OP is clearly on a budget, so OP could spend a few days in LA w/o a car before getting a car and heading down to teh OC. Just depends on how OP was planning on getting to Universal/Anaheim from the airport and which one is first.

                                    1. re: Ogawak

                                      Although they can do a red line from U City right onto to the gold line http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/436841 and fulfill most of their desired dining needs without ever setting foot into a rental car.

                                      Concentrated Gold Line List: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/666415

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        also let's be real here, the op is TRAVELING WITH A FAMILY. they'll want to see stuff - not just drive from one eatery to the next.

                                        You could easily go from Uni -> Thai Town OR k-town, head down to DTLA to check out LA Live, then head BACK to hollywood, and finally back to Uni.

                                    2. re: ns1

                                      Yes, thats part of the point. Will need a car to get to OC and need a car in OC, so just get a car from the outset and increase your options.

                                      No where near lazy, ns1. Huge walker. I consider 7 miles just a little stretch of the legs. Also have no fear of public transport, I ride the train every day to work. However, OP has limited time and monkeying around with public transport when he'll need a car for the second half of the trip anyway is a false economy, IMO.

                                  2. re: Syd_2011

                                    Echo the sentiment that you'll want a car. With your limited time window, public transportation just isn't very feasible.

                                    For Mexican near Anaheim/Disneyland, highly recommend Los Chilango. Das Ubergeek posted about that. Hole in a wall about 3-4 miles from Disneyland. It's also pretty close to a freeway exit. It's inexpensive but has some amazing dishes and variety. Make sure to ask for the fresh hand made tortillas. Try the huitlacoche in a quesidilla. Also get the alambre. You could budget $20 a person and still order a large variety of items to try. Owner is very friendly and informative.

                                    I try to make a side trip there every time I go down to the convention center which is right next to Disneyland.

                                    Los Chilangos
                                    1830 W Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801

                                    1. re: Syd_2011

                                      Welcome to LA. Here are some good places that are within 10 to 15 minutes drive of Universal City:

                                      Katsu-Ya (Japanese) -- must try spicy tuna over crispy rice

                                      Carney's (Burger & Hot Dog) -- dine on a train

                                      Aroma Cafe (Breakfast, Desserts, Coffee) -- delicious home cooked food in a beautiful backyard of a former home

                                      Gelato Bar -- delicious gelato next door to Aroma Cafe

                                      Boneyard Bistro (BBQ, Ribs, Burger) -- I've actually never been but read good reviews here on the board

                                      Ramen Jinya (Japnese Ramen
                                      ) http://www.jinya-la.com/ramen/

                                      Boneyard Bistro
                                      13539 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

                                      11680 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                                      Ramen Jinya
                                      11239 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                                    2. The Original Farmers Market on Third and Fairfax is a true taste of LA. With stands serving everything tacos to gumbo at this great 1930's landmark. Great for people watching and everyone can try something different. Open daily.

                                      Farmers Market
                                      6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                        Absolutely, but remember that the Farmer's Market is filled with culinary landmines.

                                        These places should be avoided at all costs.
                                        Bryan's Pit BBQ - Just AWFUL. It even smells foul.
                                        Monsieur Marcel
                                        French creperie
                                        Sushi place
                                        The soft serve ice cream counter that charges $4-5 for a minuscule, children's sized dipped cone

                                        Places to try:
                                        Magee's corned beef and cabbage (one of the original farmers market vendors, still in business)
                                        Singapore Banana Leaf (the laksa in particular is delicious)
                                        Moishe's (way overpriced, but their dark meat chicken kebab, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush are phenomenal)
                                        DuPar's for a real American pancake breakfast done right (after one meal of these you'll understand why we're so fat as a population)
                                        Bennett's Ice Cream - also way overpriced at $4 a cone, but at least they're adult sized, and they do have some delicious and unique flavors.
                                        Bob's Old Fashioned Doughnuts - get the old fashioned cake donuts with coffee (great for dunking). Their cinnamon buns are quite good as well.
                                        Loteria - expensive, but they do have several very tasty stews that are worth trying out. The burrito is a better value than the tacos, and the freshly made aguas (fruit juice drinks in plastic jugs) are delicious.

                                        The Brazilian BBQ place is hit or miss.... their meats are often overcooked (the chicken in particular is usually bone dry), but they can be good. Not great, but good.

                                        Patsy D'Amore's pizza is OK, but don't even think of buying a calzone there. Truly awful.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        Bennett's Ice Cream
                                        6333 W 3rd St # D, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                        Moishe's Restaurant
                                        6333 W 3rd St Ste 336, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Great list but don't forget Littlejohn's Candies at The Farmers Markert for some of the best English Toffee you'll find anywhere.

                                          1. re: wienermobile

                                            Oh yes of course.... Littlejohn's english toffee is phenomenal. And expensive.

                                            Mr Taster

                                          2. re: Mr Taster

                                            Also, the new Spanish tapas food place is pretty good and authentic. Love their croquettas and huevos estrellados.

                                            1. re: trvlcrzy

                                              Thanks for trying this out-- I've checked out their menu several times but have yet to eat there. Glad to know that we might actually have a reliable source for good Spanish food in mid city Los Angeles.

                                              Mr Taster

                                              1. re: trvlcrzy

                                                Hmm... I'm a bit skeptical. Will try it with Mrs. J.L. (who grew up in Madrid) and report back.

                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                Have to respectfully disagree with Banana Leaf. A fair amount of Singaporeans and Malaysians live in Oz - my guess is that OP's offerings back home are broader and better. Banana Leaf is Singaporean/Malaysian 101 - great intro for beginners.

                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                  That makes sense. I wasn't considering from an AUS perspective. Agree that they can give it a miss.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    I know your intentions are good - how often does one actually find Singaporean or Malaysian cuisine here?

                                              3. re: wienermobile

                                                That 's a good recommendation, wieney. OP should know though, that this is one of the biggest tourist destinations in LA, hence the high prices for mediocre things that Mr. Taster points out in his list.

                                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                                  And coming soon to The Farmers Market next door to Dupar's is Nancy Silverton's Short Order Burgers Stand. (and I can't wait.)

                                                  Farmers Market
                                                  6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                    Hey, I just hope that they will keep the same days and hours as Dupar's (24/7/365).

                                                    1. re: wienermobile

                                                      Oooooo, now there's a reason to visit that tourist trap again!!

                                                2. For desserts, two favs for you -

                                                  Porto's Bakery, in Burbank. AMAZING cuban baked goods - and sandwiches - cheap. It's an LA fav.

                                                  And Scoops on heliotrope. High end ice cream for low end prices. If you had extra time, I'd send you to Fosselman's in Alhambra, but it is a drive. Scoops you can do.

                                                  Porto's Bakery
                                                  3614 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505

                                                  1. Bludso's for pork ribs and smoked chicken. Easily the best ribs in LA.

                                                    Head to Umami burger for a great burger.

                                                    Hide sushi on Sawtelle for great sushi at reasonable prices.

                                                    OC is a bit harder but if you head West on the 91 fwy you can find many great restaurants in Gardena. I suggest checking out Pollo a la Brasa. It is a bit of a dive but serve up some great Peruvian style rotisserie chicken cooked over wood. Some of the best chicken ever.