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Recommendations for some friends visiting LA foodwise for the first time? (Starting out in Arcadia)

gwyner Jun 12, 2011 01:04 AM

My friends are coming to LA from Vienna for 4 days for a wedding. They're staying in Arcadia, but they'll have a car, so if a place is far, it should really be worth the drive. Where do they need to go? (Planned trips involve picking up a friend in Burbank on a Sunday morning, and I think the rehearsal dinner is Korean (not sure if Korean BBQ or not)) A mix of affordable and expensiveish would be great.

I'm already planning on sending them over to Sea Harbour since they're so close to it and have never had Dim Sum. I'd love to convince them that they in fact *do* like Mexican food (Mexican food is terrible in Vienna!), but I need a place that's pretty guaranteed to be excellent. We were thinking of sending them over to Street or AOC for a more expensive dinner, though I imagine that's controversial. :) I'm at a loss for Thai that would be worth the drive. I've never been to Pho 79 but I know they're right next to it. They probably should have In-N-Out, and for my wife, Philippe's is a pretty essential LA experience. Help! There's just too much for 4 days!

8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Philippe the Original
1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Pho 79
29 S Garfield Ave, Alhambra, CA 91801

In-N-Out Burger
2114 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

742 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038

sea harbour
3939 Rosemead Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770

  1. b
    Bradbury Jun 12, 2011 09:11 AM

    If your friends are staying anywhere near Baldwin & Duarte in Arcadia, they can, in the space of about 150 meters (for our European friends) have a "roving lunch" of Taiwanese tapas at Liang's Kitchen, the beef roll & hand-torn noodles at 101 Noodle Express, xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, and a red bean pastry at J&J Bakery. YMMV, but this strikes me as more of an authentic SoCal dining experience than Sea Harbour (which gets mixed reports here)

    For guaranteed-to-be-excellent Mexican, there's Rivera, which is quite pricey, and La Huasteca, which might be a bit too far out of the way for first-timers. Reasonably good compromises closer to Arcadia (assuming they want a nice "sit down" experience) might be Babita in San Gabriel, Cacao in Eagle Rock, or El Portal in Pasadena.

    As for Arcadia-convenient Thai, I'd suggest Saladang Song in Pasadena. Not quite as mind-blowingly good as Jitlada and various other Thai Town faves, but better ambience and parking.

    Din Tai Fung Restaurant
    1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

    La Huasteca
    3150 E Imperial Hwy, Lynwood, CA 90262

    El Portal
    695 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

    363 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

    1. ipsedixit Jun 12, 2011 09:19 AM

      For Mexican, go to Babita, which is in San Gabriel, just south of Arcadia, and a stone's throw away from Sea Harbour.

      I think for a more expensive and adventurous meal, try either Animal or Saam.

      For Thai, go to Jitlada. I would avoid Saladang Song or any other Thai in the SGV (incl. Daisy Mint). If you are going to one Thai place in LA, then Jitlada should be it. Worth the drive.

      As to other quintessential LA experiences -- in addition to In N Out and Philippes -- make sure to goto Pink's for some hot dogs.

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

      1. s
        sushigirlie Jun 12, 2011 09:44 AM

        I like the pizza at Zelo in Arcadia better than any other pizza in LA, including Mozza.

        I agree with ipsedixit re Jitlada being the #1 Thai option, with three caveats. First, Asian food in Europe tends to be less authentic and spicy than what we have here. Second, the service at Jitlada is usually horrible. Third, if they're the kind of people who are going to order standard dishes like pad thai and satay chicken, there is no reason, in my opinion, to drive all the way out to Jitlada; nearby options may be as good or better.

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

        2 Replies
        1. re: sushigirlie
          Bradbury Jun 12, 2011 10:55 AM

          Agree with you w/r/t Zelo, but as pizza (and Italian in general) in Vienna is pretty good, I'm not sure I'd take someone there if they only had 4 days in town.

          As for Jitlada, it comes down to whether or not they have a local available to drive them there. I agree with Ipsedixit that it's the best Thai in LA, but sometimes you have to make compromises if logistical hurdles arise. And a for a first-timer in LA, staying in Arcadia, getting to Jitlada without a direct freeway route, parking, and figuring out the menu in your second (or third) language can be a bit of a hurdle without either a guide, or a rich sense of adventure...

          1. re: Bradbury
            Peripatetic Jun 14, 2011 02:07 AM

            If one evening they don't feel like driving far or having Chinese, then I'd definitely suggest Zelo. Bradbury's point about good pizza in Vienna is true, but Zelo has a style of pizza that's very different than anything you'll find in most of Europe, and the skateboards on the wall add another level of novelty.

            I'd also consider taking European visitors to Le Roy's The Original in Monrovia for French dip and tater tots -- dishes (and ambiance) you won't find in the Old Country. But don't let them drink the coffee, or they'll be horrified. Better off going to Intelligentsia in Pasadena for that.

        2. b
          bulavinaka Jun 12, 2011 09:53 AM

          Vienna is quite the perfect city from what my wife has told me. Very formal, clean and representing the archetype Western Europe, both new and old. My usual wardrobe of casual clothes (clean short pants, some sort of t-shirt or casual button-up) would result in my being ushered out of the city according to her. Are your friends willing to lay back to LA mode and take in the local culture, or do you think they'd still prefer pristine settings in a more "cultured" environment? I say this because there are at least a few good choices that I'd prefer, but also have alternatives that would be diametrically opposed in their feel.

          Sea Harbour would be my personal choice - they'll find it to be very orderly, pristine and incredibly entertaining to the taste buds. If only for the more classic frenetic dim sum experience by cart, I'd try 888. For many, the visual and olfactory experience that carts bring is something not to be missed. Either way, I think if you accompany them, show them the ropes, and govern the number of choices, pacing and the amount of food, they'd appreciate the experience multifold.

          Skip Philippe's and head over to Langer's for a far superior sandwich experience. IMHO, Philippe is about sawdust and cheap coffee. As for their sandwiches, they're just ok for the price, but if I had limited time in this town and loved good food as opposed to dropping back into the past for just a moment, I'd take the good food. Philippe is old and in a better part of downtown-adjacent, but Langer's is old as well. The only catch is it's downtown-adjacent area is more ethnic, and is peppered with some severely homeless folks who are in survival mode in and around MacArthur Park. IMHO, this is a facet of the real LA - no lipstick on a pig so to say. If a Langer's experience might be a little tough on your friends, I'd default to Cole's for a similar feel of nostalgia but with more of a speakeasy feel and better food than Philippe.

          Mexican cuisine is a wide open area. Would El Torito be a huge improvement over their current status on Mexican cuisine? I only ask that to attain some sort of baseline, because one can obviously do much better. Babita in San Gabriel or La Casita in Bell would be a vast elevation in their experience (if the cuisine is approachable to them) or Carnitas Michoacan in Lincoln Heights for a far more informal but great food experience. If they want something with a stronger contemporary feel and avant garde cuisine, I'd pick Rivera in DTLA. It will only resemble Mexican cuisine in some ways but definitely Pan-Latin with great attention to detail from beginning to end. And no matter where one goes, Rivera is a very rare gem whose similarities would be hard to find elsewhere.

          The burger rec is perfectly fine, but please explain that In-N-Out's fries are of a particular type that most will either like or dislike. The marketing of "fresh-cut potatoes" is just that IMHO. Fresh cut potatoes do not necessarily make a great fry - it is only one of many steps involved in achieving ultimate success, which In-N-Out does not perform. They may also find the "secret menu" items to be interesting. However, if other choices were to be thrown into the ring, it's almost as broad as choosing one Mexican cuisine experience. Combining the burger with a great beer would be ideal for me. Father's Office? Umami Burger? The Golden State? 25 Degrees? 38 Degrees? Blue Palms Brewhouse? Stout? Rustic Canyon? Morton's? All have burgers that would rival or exceed In-N-Out's, do better on fries, and most that I've listed have very good to great tapped beer selections where they could taste something familiar or try some great craft brews that are only now becoming somewhat available in parts of Europe.

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

          Father's Office
          3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034

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

          The Golden State
          426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

          Blue Palms
          6124 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

          2 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka
            wienermobile Jun 12, 2011 10:01 AM

            Yes, Yes, Yes to Langer's Deli. Best melt in your mouth hand cut pastrami on earth. Open lunch only till 4pm and closed on Sunday.

            Langer's Delicatessen
            704 S Alvarado St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

            1. re: bulavinaka
              Phurstluv Jun 12, 2011 01:37 PM

              I agree w bula re: the burger experience. In the last 20 years since I arrived, LA has had a phenomenal explosion in the burger wars. Once a vast fast food mecca, now gastropubs, chains, diners & hi end places have hitched their wagons onto the mega burger trend.

              If you want In N Out flavor but better fries, try Five Guys, but not sure which location would work for you.

              If you want better than that, any of the above suggestions, and more if you want to weed through a thread by searching for best burgers in LA, you will get a lot of ideas. My personal fave for a chain is Umami's Hatch burger, properly seasoned meat cooked to perfection, oozing cheese, and spicy hot hatch chilies, soft brioche bun. I like the store in Santa Monica on 5th street for service sans attitude and parking. My personal fave for a beer pub with great burgers and a large & interesting variety of beers from around the world, Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks, makes delicious burgers. Right where the 405 and 101 freeways converge, just south of Ventura Blvd.

              Blue Dog Beer Tavern
              4524 Saugus Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

            2. m
              mc michael Jun 14, 2011 06:38 AM

              What are your friends' ages?

              If they make it to Pasadena, they might enjoy coffee and pastry or a sandwich (the egg salad!) at one of the Europanes.

              If they head downtown, they might like walking around the Disney Hall. It's been a while since I've been to Vienna, but if there's any restaurant in LA that feels like upscale Vienna to me, it's Patina. Just a thought.

              I think they'd enjoy a good steak and I'm sure you can think of any of a number of choices for that, or maybe you're gonna grill for them?
              Babita is a good pick foodwise, but they might enjoy a place with music like La Fonda or El Portal.

              1. raytamsgv Jun 14, 2011 09:35 AM

                I think Sea Harbour is an excellent idea. Din Tai Fung is also a great choice.

                I personally think Golden Deli is better than Pho 79 because it has a greater variety of food. But if you want a nicer, cozier, and less chaotic atmosphere, try Vietnam Restaurant on Las Tunas Dr. in San Gabriel instead. The parking is also much better.

                Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                Golden Deli
                815 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                Las Tunas Restaurant
                3603 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

                3 Replies
                1. re: raytamsgv
                  crystaw Jun 14, 2011 10:43 AM

                  Golden Deli also has a location in Temple City that has a nicer and less chaotic atmosphere. Plus, it's closer to Arcadia than the original location. I don't have much experience with authentic Thai food, but my family and I like President Thai in Pasadena. It's quite popular and a stone's throw away from Arcadia. You should get very attentive service there.

                  There are also two newish izakaya (Japanese bar food) restaurants in the area if you think your guests would be into that. One is called Hinotori on Duarte and Baldwin. I think the food is better at this one and has a homier atmosphere. The other is called Oto Oto in Monrovia on 5th and Huntington. It has a much hipper atmosphere (and $1 sake shots during Happy Hour).

                  Golden Deli
                  815 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                  President Thai Restaurant
                  498 S Rosemead Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                  1. re: crystaw
                    mc michael Jun 14, 2011 10:59 AM

                    There's a President Thai on Rosemead and a smaller PresidenTwo on Colorado. I think Daisy Mint in Pasadena is better than the Presidents.

                    President Thai Restaurant
                    498 S Rosemead Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                    Daisy Mint
                    1218 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

                    1. re: crystaw
                      raytamsgv Jun 14, 2011 02:26 PM

                      I think that Vietnam restaurant (340 W Las Tunas Dr, not the one kitty corner from Golden Deli) is a better experience in terms of the ambiance and food than Golden Deli Express in Temple City. GD Express has a nice, modern decor. But I would think the visitors from Austria might want something more pseudo-traditional decor such as the one found in the Vietnam restaurant.

                  2. Ciao Bob Jun 14, 2011 03:57 PM

                    Chang's Garden in Arcadia is fabulous.

                    I would not reccomend Street - even Vienna has fusion and this is exactly the type of fusion one gets in Vienna - BAD.

                    AOC is delightful, though Spago is probably a better choice for first-timers to LA.

                    8022 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                    176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                    Chang's Garden
                    627 W Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91007

                    1. c
                      catbert Jun 15, 2011 03:10 PM

                      when it comes to arcadia, my picks would be chang's garden, tasty garden, garden cafe, and ten ren. i throw in ten ren because i love a good tea drink. din tai is recommended by others, but i find them over-rated for my taste, still, a lot of people like them

                      i personally do not care for vietnam restaurant, pho 79, or golden deli. i rather recommend com tam thuan kieu (vietnamese broken rice (p.s. try the egg rolls)) and noodle guy (pho) if you're going to do vietnamese all the way in SG. although, if you're willing to go farther and want more pricer, there is lee kam kee. the problem i have with them is that they've been inconsistent. sometimes they taste really good, other times, pretty disappointing. but if you're going to sg anyways, might as well stop at newport if seafood is their thing.

                      president thai, not my thing, but a lot of people i know love it, so if i had guests, i'd take them there. it's close to arcadia on rosemead.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: catbert
                        Peripatetic Jun 15, 2011 05:20 PM

                        Have you been to Thuan Kieu recently? On my last visit it was barely better than cafeteria food. Golden Deli and Vietnam Restaurant aren't nearly as good as Vien Dong in Little Saigon, but they're the best I've been able to find in the SGV so far (besides Pho Minh, RIP). Golden Deli's spring rolls are excellent. I like Pho 79's charbroiled pork but they seem to put way too much added MSG in their pho stock. I wish more places had charbroiled pork pho.

                        Definitely agree with the recommendations for Newport Tan Cang and Tea Station (Ten Ren). I like atmosphere at the Tea Station at San Gabriel Square ("The Great Mall of China") better than the Arcadia location, but the teas are the same at both.

                        1. re: Peripatetic
                          Phurstluv Jun 15, 2011 06:26 PM

                          I know all of you are quite versed in the splendors that is the SGV Chinese Food Bonanza over there, but OP has stated she/he is already sending them to Sea Harbour, and they are having Korean for the rehearsal dinner. Aren't there other options in the Arcadia area that they can go to that would be a bit different, than more Asian?? Are there no worthy Mexican places we can send them to? What about some nice dinner spots, like Maison Akira, Parkway Grill or Arroyo ChopHouse, are those all gone, or no longer contenders? Haven't lived in Pasadena in a while, so I don't feel comfortable rec'ing those since its been too long since we've eaten there. But seems like we can come up with a little more diversity of ideas, no??

                          Maison Akira Restaurant
                          713 E. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91101

                          Parkway Grill
                          510 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

                          1. re: Phurstluv
                            ipsedixit Jun 15, 2011 08:03 PM

                            Lots of people, myself included, have mentioned Babita as an option.

                            We've also thrown out Zelo's. And if the wants to go the fine dining route (which she did not mention), then I'd add The Royce to the list.

                            And, yes, while Parkway Grill, et al., are still around, when in the SGV for a visit and wanting to experience the best of the area, it's Chinese, Taiwanese, Canto, and maybe Vietnamese.

                            Everything else would be a waste of an out-of-towner's visit -- esp. on a first visit -- with the exception of a few places named above (e.g. Zelo, Babita, etc.), everything would be a waste of a meal

                            Parkway Grill
                            510 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              Peripatetic Jun 15, 2011 08:50 PM

                              Have to agree with Ipse on this one. I've spent quite a bit of time in Vienna on business, and I can't see places like Maison Akira, Parkway Grill, or Arroyo Chop House having anything of culinary interest to offer to Viennese visitors.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                mc michael Jun 20, 2011 11:41 AM


                                1823 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                        2. k
                          kd1133 Jun 20, 2011 09:23 AM

                          If you are already all the way out in Arcadia and are going for Dim Sum - why would you not go to Din Tai Fung, considered one of the best Dim Sung places in the world - theirs is one of if not the only Chinese restaurants awarded a Michelin Star. There was only one location in the US (they are presently opening another in Seattle), the rest are in Asia.

                          Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                          1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kd1133
                            raytamsgv Jun 20, 2011 11:45 AM

                            I hope you realize that saying Din Tai Fung serves dim sum would be considered "fighting words" to some people. Also, there a number of Chinese restaurants that have received Michelin stars:


                            Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                            1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

                            1. re: raytamsgv
                              Ciao Bob Jun 20, 2011 01:37 PM

                              Would calling it Dim Sung be even worse?

                            2. re: kd1133
                              Peripatetic Jun 20, 2011 12:56 PM

                              My recommendation would be to skip Din Tai Fung in favor of Sea Harbour or Elite. I like Din Tai Fung's XLBs (xao long bao) but other dim sum offerings, like their pork buns, are second-rate.

                            3. Das Ubergeek Jun 20, 2011 10:21 AM

                              I'm going to dissent and say to go the extra few miles to Elite rather than Sea Harbour. I just went to SH on Saturday and while it was better than, say, Empress Pavilion or Ocean Star, it was not some life-changingly wonderful dim sum experience—many things, especially the fried ones, had that stale-oil taste that pairs so well (roll eyes) with soy sauce.

                              Babita is a good choice; so would be any of the places in East LA, such as Guisados or Antojitos Carmen.

                              Antojitos Carmen
                              2510 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033

                              2100 E. Cesar E Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90033

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                Porthos Jun 20, 2011 02:38 PM

                                Agree with Das. Elite over Sea Harbor. Not that there's no wait at Elite, but the wait at Sea Harbor for dim sum can climb upwards of 2 hours which can put me in a pretty foul mood. I like the baked pork ribs in parchment paper at Elite better than the standard pork rib prep at Sea Harbor. Everything else is about equal in quality. The only thing that is vastly superior at Sea Harbor over Elite is the XO tripe at Sea Harbor.

                                1. re: Porthos
                                  ipsedixit Jun 20, 2011 07:46 PM

                                  Really need to order items not on the standard menu at Sea Harbour to truly appreciate its magnificence.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Porthos Jun 21, 2011 12:05 AM

                                    Been to Sea Harbour about 5-6 times for dinner and 10-12 times for dim sum. We've done the advanced order thing (Buddah Jumping Over the Wall, etc), off the menu thing, etc. Pacific cod to pacific cod, king crab to king crab, they're about equivalent. Elite just happens to be cheaper and in my experience, the managers friendlier and more willing to bend over backwards. Literally, a manager at Elite asked me if I wanted him to go and get a king crab right now, as in this moment while I was dining. Whereas at Sea Harbor, if it's not available, don't bother.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      namstermonster Jun 21, 2011 12:04 PM

                                      ipsedixit - are you referring to ordering things not on the menu for dim sum or dinner? if dim sum, which dishes? thanks~

                                2. p
                                  pley Jun 21, 2011 03:25 AM

                                  Definitely agree on Sea Harbour. Currently much better than Elite. Those two used to be neck and neck for me, but Elite has fallen a bit.
                                  Din Tai Fung for sure.
                                  If pizza, I'd opt for Bollini's, hands down. Some of the best pizza around. No need to leave the SGV for great pizza.
                                  Ton Chan (right next to Golden Deli) has great ramen.
                                  Cacao Mexicatessen for Mexican, creative, delicious, affordable. I'd pick Cacao over Babita. For high end Mexican food, Rivera, which I'd also pick over Babita.
                                  Jitlada for Thai, but only if they can handle the spice level of the Southern Thai portion of the menu. The non-Southern Thai dishes are not very good and could be gotten anywhere.
                                  Was at Vietnam House a couple weeks ago for the first time, and it was just mediocre; don't know a really good Vietnamese place.
                                  And yay, Phillipes!

                                  Din Tai Fung Restaurant
                                  1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

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

                                  Vietnam House
                                  710 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                  Cacao Mexicatessen
                                  1576 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: pley
                                    Bradbury Jun 21, 2011 01:37 PM

                                    One more idea for Vietnamese: in case they're not in the mood for a steaming bowl of pho (which wouldn't surprise me on an Arcadia summer day), I'd suggest Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa on Rosemead & Mission for DIY nem nuong rolls. Delicious, dirt cheap, hard to find in Europe, and great on a hot day with the huge plate of cold greens and a sour iced drink...

                                    Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa
                                    9016 Mission Dr, Rosemead, CA 91770

                                    1. re: Bradbury
                                      ns1 Dec 12, 2011 11:59 AM

                                      love NNNH

                                  2. t
                                    theOracle Dec 12, 2011 11:50 AM

                                    This is a quintessential Pasadena experience. Great food, lovely, romantic ambiance. The best time to visit is the Sunday Buffet Brunch--a real gastronomic treat. Call for reservations.

                                    (626) 796-9501

                                    Maison Akira Restaurant
                                    713 E. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91101

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