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What are your favorite dives and cheap eats WORTH THE DRIVE?

I have some time on my hands and want to revisit favorite oldies and explore new cheap eats in and around L.A. I've already checked past Chowhound posts and have come up with the following list:

MEXICAN: Tacos Por Favor, Tito's Taco's, Yucca's, Babita's, Lares, Monte Alban
DONUTS: Primo, Donut Man
ICE CREAM: Fosselman's
PIZZA: Tomato Pie, Masa's (Chicago pizza)
BURGERS: Apple Pan, Umami Burger, Billy's Grill
ASIAN: Jitlada
DELI: Langers
FRIED CHICKEN: Pann's
PUBS: Ye Olde King's Head, Lucky Baldwin
ROAST CHICKEN: Rustic Canyon (thanks, exilekiss), Versailles

So, what do you think? Any additions you would suggest? Any places I should remove from the list? Please keep in mind I'm looking for places good enough that it's worth taking the time to drive.

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Ye Olde King's Head
116 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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

Apple Pan
10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Monte Alban
11927 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Donut Man
915 E Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740

Tito's Tacos
11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

Lucky Baldwins
17 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

Tacos Por Favor
1406 Olympic Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

Umami Burger
850 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Billy's Grill
5162 Van Nuys Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Masa Restaurant
2063 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

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  1. drop tito's like a bad habit, replace with RFT or MTC
    asian - dean sin world

    We did some pizza tasting this week and gotta say...Tomato Pie Grandma > Bronx Pizza (SD) > Vito's

    33 Replies
    1. re: ns1

      Okay, I'll take Tito's off my list.

      What are RFT and MTC?

      1. re: brandygirl

        I'll hazard a guess that RFT is Ricky's Fish Tacos but I haven't a clue about MTC (except to guess that it might be Mexicatessen, but that doesn't make sense because it's actually Cacao Mexicatessen (and Cacao is a great place that should definitely make your list no matter what ns1 meant).

        One more great place for Mexican food is Teresitas in ELA.

        -----
        Teresitas
        3826 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

        Ricky's Fish Tacos
        1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

        Cacao Mexicatessen
        1576 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

        1. re: Servorg

          A friend told me about Teresitas quite a while back, and I had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder, Servorg!

          1. re: brandygirl

            You are more than welcome. You've gotten a lot of really great recommendations here. I'm excited to hear which new ones you end up choosing and to read your reports on them as they occur.

        2. re: brandygirl

          Al Watan for the Lunch or Dinner Special. Great blending of flavors and food for so little money. Top bet for me..

          -----
          Al Watan
          13619 Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

            1. re: Foodandwine

              Al Watan is so worth the drive for haleem, biriyani and tandoori. Still have to try Al Noor though.

              -----
              Al Watan
              13619 Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

              Al Noor
              15112 Inglewood Ave, Lawndale, CA 90260

            2. re: brandygirl

              RFT = Ricky's Fish Tacos
              MTC = Mexicali Taco Co

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

              Ricky's Fish Tacos
              1400 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

              1. re: ns1

                Ah, thank you for the clarification. Both of these are new to me.

              2. re: brandygirl

                Don't take Tito's off your list. Just stick with the tacos and the bean and cheese burritos, and of course the salsa (red and green both necessary).

                1. re: swimfin

                  Maybe it's me, but I just don't get that place. The beef in the tacos tasted like steamed beef, nothing else. Salsa was pureed and cold. It was so bland, I think the cardboard box it came in had more flavor.

                    1. re: ns1

                      I think there are a number of folks whose first experience with Mexican cuisine was a taco at the school cafeteria. I suspect Tito's replicates that experience which, for them, was pleasant. Personally, I'd rather eat the wrapper but that's just me.

                      1. re: Steve2 in LA

                        +1

                        Some of it is nostalgia from the UCLA students when that was one of the few late night places. But the tacos are disgusting. Grey mystery meat. My reaction was "What the $%^ is in here?"

                        1. re: Steve2 in LA

                          I actually find the .99c tacos at Jack in the Box to be far superior to Tito's if I'm looking for mystery taco meat tacos.

                          1. re: ns1

                            I have never had Tito's Tacos but after having to remove the filling of a Jack in the Box taco so someone could have a "vegetarian" taco when I was 19 years old (working at a Jack in the Box) I doubt Tito's tacos could be any worse. I could never eat those (Jack in the Box) tacos again.

                            -----
                            Tito's Tacos
                            11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

                            1. re: ns1

                              "I actually find the .99c tacos at Jack in the Box to be far superior to Tito's if I'm looking for mystery taco meat tacos."

                              Wow, ns1. I had no idea you could get a taco for less than a penny at Jack!

                            2. re: Steve2 in LA

                              Steve, don't be a snob, give in and embrace Tito's in a warm loving hug.

                            3. re: ns1

                              And not just you, or you either! And I live just around the block. Tito's gives Taco Bell a good name!.

                              1. re: fkingford

                                That's what I was thinking, they make taco bell look yummy.

                            4. re: Phurstluv

                              phurstluv, imho, the reason you don't "get" that place is that the food they serve is just this side of yuck.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                imho It's even worse than that....I think its the other side

                                1. re: sdv231

                                  However one reacts to the "Tito's Tacos" litmus test the fact remains that it holds an iconic place in the lore of Los Angeles food, and as such it will always be a place that the uninitiated will want to try in order to make up their own minds about it...

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    I agree....my taste,or lack of, are not posted to deter anyone from trying anything. There are many who have very differant opionions of what good food is. Just look at Olive Garden, usualy a line to get in :)

                                    1. re: sdv231

                                      and cheesecake...and BJ's....

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        You and sdv are comparing it to the "dreaded chain" experience. I offer the perspective that it is precisely because it is anything but a cookie cutter approach that partly accounts for the mystique, and hence, popularity of Tito's. The same can be said for Pink's or the Apple Pan (among others).

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Servorg, I really wasnt comparing it to a "dreaded chain" experience , but rather just a comparision of "bad food". I hope you enjoy every bite with a smile on your face, I'm just in that crowd that just doesnt get it.

                                          1. re: sdv231

                                            there's more than one way for food to make you feel glad to be alive (or wish you were dead).

                                    2. re: Servorg

                                      Exactly, which is what I did. What I don't "get" is that there are lines for that food. But I like Pinks, which most think is horrible too, so there ya go.

                                2. re: Phurstluv

                                  Can't agree with most of you; while Tito's tacos are indeed boring, I love the chile con carne. Yes, it's old school mexi-american, but I really like their braised chuck in the secret mole sauce, and I'd even try to make it at home if I knew how they did it. So thumbs down on Tito's tacos, thumbs up on Tito's all-meat burritos. And I like the salsa, which is in fact, pureed pico de gallo. It's salty with a minimal amount of heat and goes great with fresh chips. Not great salsa by any means, but a very good accompaniment to their burrito.

                                  -----
                                  Tito's Tacos
                                  11222 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90230

                            5. re: ns1

                              I think Vito's fresh mozzarella pie is worth the drive within a 60 mile radius.........

                              1. re: Schweinhaxen

                                I've had Vito's pizza and you are right--worth a drive.

                              2. Eastside Italian market and deli - just west of chinatown - great italian sandwiches especially the # 7.
                                http://www.esmdeli.com/

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: malibumike

                                  Thanks for this suggestion and the website link. The #7 sandwich sounds great!

                                2. I'm probably one of the few people on this board that thinks Umami is terrible, so would drop that for sure and replace with Big Mike's

                                  -----
                                  Big Mike's
                                  17845 Clark Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Ernie

                                    I don't think it's terrible, but in no way would I consider it worth a drive.

                                    1. re: Ernie

                                      I tried Big Mike's in Belllower afer seeing Ernie's recommendation several times on this board. I was disappointed with Big Mike's though. The burger was huge but dry -- I watched the cook smash it down several times -- thus squeezing all the juices out of it. The hot link was also overcooked and the bun was dry and cracked into pieces halfway through. I had a much better Cheeseburger with a Hot Link at Hawkins House of Burgers in Watts.

                                      -----
                                      Hawkins House of Burgers
                                      11603 Slater St, Los Angeles, CA 90059

                                      1. re: Norm Man

                                        I've never heard of Big Mike's before.
                                        Is Hawkins the place known for the biggest hamburger in the world with everything including the kitchen sink thrown in?

                                        -----
                                        Big Mike's
                                        17845 Clark Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706

                                        1. re: brandygirl

                                          The "Hawkins Special" may not be the world's biggest burger but it is seriously big. The "Hawkins Special" consists of three 1 lb. Burger Patties, Pastrami, Hot Link, 2 Fried Eggs, Chili, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickles, Mustard and Mayo.

                                          Pictures of the "Hawkins Special:'

                                          http://foodbeast.com/content/wp-conte...

                                          http://static.px.yelp.com/bphoto/ouGx...

                                          1. re: Norm Man

                                            Yep, that's the one. Good to know their regular hamburgers are good.

                                        2. re: Norm Man

                                          I agree with Norm about Big Mike's... a HUGE burger but dry and flavorless. Very disappointing and I will not return considering the long drive. In fact, I'd say I was surprised that Big Mike was in business still after tasting the burger. However, Big Mike is a really nice guy and very generous with his portions and offerings.

                                          Keep Umami on your list... terrible it is not and it is certainly worthy of being on the list. You might want to add the Hellman Burger at Pete's Cafe and Bar downtown as well as the York Burger at The York in Highland park.

                                          I have a fondness for Tito's but I can see how some may not like it. Either way, it's worth giving a taste considering you haven't tried it and may find it tasty.

                                          -----
                                          Big Mike's
                                          17845 Clark Ave, Bellflower, CA 90706

                                          1. re: Norm Man

                                            Any place that smashes a burger down on a griddle where juices are leaking out is a disgrace to burger making. Umami maybe overrated but one thing it is not is dry, or incompetent in the kitchen.

                                          2. re: Ernie

                                            Agreed. Umami is 90% hype and the food quality isn't worth it.

                                          3. Pann's for that great Patty Melt.
                                            http://www.panns.com/

                                            Portillo's for Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago hot dogs.
                                            http://www.portillos.com/

                                            Bay Cities Italian Deli for sandwiches. I just love that just baked bread.
                                            http://www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com/

                                            and Sweet Rose Creamery for ice cream.
                                            http://www.sweetrosecreamery.com/

                                            -----
                                            Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                            6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                            Portillo's Hot Dogs
                                            8390 La Palma Ave, Buena Park, CA 90620

                                            Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
                                            1517 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

                                            Sweet Rose Creamery
                                            225 26th St #51, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                            31 Replies
                                            1. re: wienermobile

                                              And my guilty pleasure The Hat.
                                              http://www.thehat.com/

                                              -----
                                              The Hat
                                              491 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                              1. re: wienermobile

                                                Make sure to get a Chocolate Cake Shake if you are heading to Portillo's...

                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                  I'm gonna say Pann's for everything, unless it's the "waffles" part of chicken & waffles that gets you going; I'm no waffle connoisseur, but I find these bland to the max. But for everything from a mere burger to their Daily Special to a full dinner, these guys have everything except enough salt on their vegetables. And we know how to deal with that.

                                                  Less worth a long drive but not bad if you're 20 minutes away is Harry's 24-Hour Family Restaurant in Burbank, on San Fernando just north of Burbank Blvd. Similar bill of fare to Pann's, cheaper, not quite as well executed but generally delicious. Friday's soup du jour is chicken tortilla, and it's simple but the best I've ever had. Korean-owned, Latinos in the kitchen, the people synergize very well. CF Steak is really good, but get it as breakfast (served anytime, of course!), because their hash browns are good but the mashed potatoes suck swampwater.

                                                  -----
                                                  Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                  6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    I usually go to Porto's or Bob's Big Boy when I'm in Burbank, as those are the only places I know. I'll check out Harry's next time. Thanks.

                                                    1. re: brandygirl

                                                      A recent Burbank discovery for me is Pinocchio's, the restaurant that shares space with the Monte Carlo Deli. It's a few blocks east of Porto's, on the north side of Magnolia. Our Alfa club met at Autobooks a few weeks ago; when that was a block from Porto's we'd walk over there for lunch, but now it's at the corner of Catalina, so we moved our lunch as well. Good choice - hot and cold sandwiches, pastas and other entrées, reasonably-priced bottles of wine they'll open for you. I had a dish of macaroni in sauce with a grilled sausage that was pretty good, and a $6 half-bottle of adequate vino. The food came with a decent salad and lots of good bread, I believe for about $9. That's fifteen bucks for a hot lunch with wine. The sandwiches looked good, too, and the deli is more comprehensive than most, with fresh meat in the case along with the usual charcuterie.

                                                      3103 W. Magnolia is the address, which puts it right at five blocks east of Porto's.

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        They have gelato there too. I also got veal shank there.

                                                    2. re: Will Owen

                                                      completely agree with Will Owen about the waffles at Panns.
                                                      you can get comparable or better waffles from the frozen food section at any grocery store for less money and less driving.

                                                      For waffles, i seem to recall that John O'Groats had some good ones. . . .

                                                      -----
                                                      Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                      6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                                      John O'Groats
                                                      10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        I often meet friends at John O'Groats. I'll try their waffles next time.

                                                        -----
                                                        John O'Groats
                                                        10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                        1. re: brandygirl

                                                          They have exceptional fish & chips and fish tacos, IMHO.

                                                        2. re: westsidegal

                                                          Uncle Bills Pancake House in Manhattan Beach has a good rendition for the round medium thin kind of waffle.. ( depending on your budget it may not be considered cheap )

                                                          1. re: Foodandwine

                                                            Uncle Bill's has a great cheddar & bacon waffle. Sounds strange tastes wonderful.

                                                            -----
                                                            Uncle Bill's Pancake House
                                                            1305 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

                                                            1. re: wienermobile

                                                              as wonderful as their cheddar and bacon waffle is, imho, after you've tried their cheddar and bacon french toast, you are unlikely to go back to the waffle.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                I will definitely try Uncle Bill's Cheddar Bacon French Toast. Thanks
                                                                http://www.unclebills.net/

                                                            2. re: Foodandwine

                                                              Perfect! I've only driven through Manhattan Beach once and have been meaning to go back for some shopping--now I have a perfect excuse. Thanks.

                                                              1. re: brandygirl

                                                                When in Manhattan Beach you also might want to try the incredible Kahlua Pig Monte Cristo Egg Rolls at North End Cafe. You're in for a real porky, crispy and cheesy deep fried treat.
                                                                http://www.northendcaffe.net/

                                                                -----
                                                                North End Cafe
                                                                3713 Highland Ave Ste 1, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

                                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                                  OMG, their menus looks truly fabulous, both breakfast and lunch. If their food is as good as it sounds, I may move in.

                                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                                    I just watched Guy go there on DDD and they had those Egg Rolls and I put it on my list to try. Thanks for the rec!

                                                            3. re: Will Owen

                                                              When is the last time you had a waffle at Pann's, Will? It seems to me that they have revamped their waffles (had a couple of bites of my wife's two weeks ago when last we dined there) for the better.

                                                              -----
                                                              Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                                                              6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                Could very well be. They made some detail changes a couple of years back, and I've been there only twice since then, always by myself. And I don't order waffles for myself.

                                                            4. re: wienermobile

                                                              I completely forgot about Bay Cities! I've heard about their special Godmother or Godfather sandwich. The ice cream flavors at Sweet Rose Creamery look amazing--Raspberry Linzer Cookie, Blood Orange Sorbet... And The Hat looks like a perfect place for lunch before hitting Donut Man for dessert. Thanks!

                                                              -----
                                                              Donut Man
                                                              915 E Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740

                                                              Sweet Rose Creamery
                                                              225 26th St #51, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                                              1. re: brandygirl

                                                                GODMOTHER genoa salami, mortadella coppacola, ham, prosciutto, provolone with THE WORKS - mayo, mustard (yellow, honey or dijon), onions, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, Italian dressing & mild or hot pepper salad on freshly made Italian bread.

                                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                                  It's a good sub, but not worth the drive if you don't live on the Westside, not to mention the wait for parking. It's people like you from the eastside that make it hard for us westsiders to park there!!! (JK, LOL)

                                                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                                                    disagree........the Godmother is the best sandwich in all of L.A. worth the drive from ANYWHERE

                                                                    1. re: sdv231

                                                                      Their bread at Bay Cities is just so good. I always buy and extra hot loaf to go with my sandwiches,

                                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                                        So do I. I just don't think I'd make the drive from the other side of town.

                                                                      2. re: sdv231

                                                                        The Godmother is the most overrated sandwich in LA. The idea of tainting fine cured Italian meats with mustard, mayo and pickles... really???? Yes, the bread is good but you've got to let the cold cuts shine and not bury the flavor with all sorts of greasy condiments.

                                                                        1. re: JeMange

                                                                          Do you eat hamburgers without accoutrements too?

                                                                          If you want a purist sandwich go to Roma's.

                                                                          FWIW I hate the bread the Godmother's on. It breaks my teeth. After 3 Godmothers, I'm also in the "overrated" camp.

                                                                          1. re: ns1

                                                                            And then there are those who think the bread used on the GM is "limp and spongy" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4657... lol

                                                                            1. re: ns1

                                                                              1) There's a difference between a burger and a sandwich loaded up with cured meat.

                                                                              2) IMO, the bread is the best thing about the Godmother, as it's got a chew to it.

                                                                              3) A little oil and a splash of vinegar is fine but mayo, mustard etc, they're just antithetical to the kind East Coast, Italian deli cold cut sandwich the Godmother is attempting to ape.

                                                                              Keep it simple. Let the signature ingredients (not mayo out of an industrial tub and mustard from a squeeze bottle) dictate the flavor profile.

                                                                              It's all a matter of preference, obviously but my taste runs towards bold flavors based on simple ingredients. For example, the idea of more than two toppings on a pizza (something pioneered by gross chains like Pizza Hut) is anathema to me for the same reason.

                                                                              1. re: JeMange

                                                                                They aren't "aping" anything, and we aren't on the East Coast.

                                                                  2. re: wienermobile

                                                                    Bay Cities is AMAZING. The Godmother sandwich with every salami known to man. The hot meatball sandwich with provalone and pepperoncini.And, while you're waiting in the very long line, you can buy great Italian wines, fresh, hot bread and cheese with truffles.

                                                                  3. I would add my favorite cheap eats -- the half chicken plate at Dino's Burgers

                                                                    Dino's Burgers
                                                                    2575 Pico Blvd
                                                                    Los Angeles
                                                                    (213) 380-3554

                                                                    http://www.DinosChickenandBurgers.com

                                                                    Other locations in Azusa and Pomona

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Norm Man

                                                                      Dino's on Main Street is way better than the Pico location.
                                                                      2817 N Main St, Los Angeles

                                                                      1. re: monku

                                                                        If only I felt the same way as that location is so much closer to my work but, I'll make the drive to KT every time.

                                                                        1. re: monku

                                                                          Main better than Pico? Bizarre claim.

                                                                          Perhaps you're talking about the burgers, which I've never had.

                                                                          If you want the chicken plate, the Magic Orange Sauce at Main doesn't hold a candle to the manna on Pico.

                                                                          1. re: BeenThereAteThat

                                                                            I have to agree. I've only been to the Main St. location once and found the marinade not as compelling in terms of tickling my taste buds as at the Pico version.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Main St Cafe
                                                                            450 Main St, El Segundo, CA 90245

                                                                            1. re: BeenThereAteThat

                                                                              Not to mention the difference in fries.

                                                                          2. re: Norm Man

                                                                            I may have to add this to my list. But their website does not list one on Main St..

                                                                            1. re: brandygirl

                                                                              Believe the Azusa and Pomona locations are run by the daughter of the Pico location owner.
                                                                              The Main Street location is run by the brother of the Pico location.

                                                                            2. re: Norm Man

                                                                              AMEN! I go to the Azusa location. Delicious!