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Jun 24, 2011 11:46 PM

I am so bored , stop the hype

Please help me. I am from Santa Cruz, CA. I am going to be working in LA for the next three weeks'
I would like to eat some spanish food not mexican, Any ideas ? Also food trucks , and any place from Malibu to Long Beach. Traveling single.Looking for the cooks who love and suffer for their food.

John P

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  1. Considering the size of SoCal, Spanish cuisine is underrepresented IMHO. If you consider Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, then we do have Spanish, but if you're looking more for Spanish food that's not so avant garde, then La Paella, Tasca and Tinto are more in that direction, but they seem luke warm on this site. Food in the spirit of tapas has become very popular in LA, but actual Spanish tapas are not common either. Bar Pintxo and Manchego and Cobras and Matadors might work. The one place that keeps me coming back for Spanish food is La Espanola Meats in Harbor City. It's not a restaurant - more like a warehouse, but a special warehouse in that they specialize in importing Spanish food products and also make their own chorizos and jamon. They also have a small storefront attached to the warehouse where one can pick up all things Spanish, as well as order bocadillos, sliced chorizos and cheeses, as well as paella (this is ordered on Fridays for Saturday pick up). Dona Rosa is the matron of the house, and she takes great pride in her business. It's basically take out, but there's a rudimentary covered patio area on the side of the warehouse where many gather to eat their food. You can purchase a bottle of wine or beer from the storefront as well, and considering most of the patrons who eat there are Spanish, it doesn't take much imagination to slip off into a lazy afternoon on the Iberian peninsula. We've done this a few times and the only shortcoming from my perspective is that I don't have the capacity for conversational Spanish, let alone Spanish Spanish.

    Food trucks have been sporadically touched on, but this is the most recent thread that I'm familiar with, and might be a good primer for you to take deeper:

    There are more than a good handful of good to great new wave lunch trucks, but I'd pay special attention to poster Das Ubergeek's list and comments on the old school loncheras. You mention that you're interested in Spanish rather than Mexican, but you might want to revisit this notion as some of the best offerings in LA are Mexican cuisine, and some of great offerings are from the loncheras. As much as I love Santa Cruz - I am enamored by your fair city in its laid-back character and wonderfully crafted food and beverage, I think Mexican food - stuff that Angelenos would consider to be Chow-worthy - is somewhat in shorter supply there. I live in the Westside, and my consistent favorite is Angelica's Cemitas Originales whose specialty are Cemitas Poblanas, which I've mentioned on a regular basis. I do mention it and some of my other thoughts on the subject here in another food truck thread started by a young visitor from Philidelphia:

    Tasca Restaurant
    8108 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

    Cobras and Matadors
    7615 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

    La Espanola Meats
    25020 Doble Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90710

    La Paella
    476 S San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

    Bar Pintxo
    109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    2510 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    4 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      Thanks so much for your input. La Esponola Meats sounds great. BRAVO !!

      1. re: bulavinaka

        Since you'll be staying in Culver City, Angelica's Cemitas Poblanas is a cinch. Two brothers own their own trucks. One parks on Venice Blvd just west of Clarington (in front of Smart & Final) from about 11AM-3PM, while the other parks on Inglewood Blvd just north of Braddock (in front of the Top Valu shopping center) from about 4PM-10PM. I'd give a slight edge to the Venice Blvd truck, but both are very good. They are both usually pretty quick - five minutes, but if there's a crowd, grab a soda and expect a wait...

        A couple of other lonchera trucks worth trying are La Oaxaqueña Taco Truck and La Isla Bonita, both located in north Venice at different time frames. La Oaxaqueña parks on Lincoln blvd, just south or Rose Ave from around 4PM until midnight. La Isla Bonita parks on Rose Ave just west of 4th Ave around 11AM-3 or 4PM. Both generate a fair amount of business so be prepared to wait if you go at their respective peak hours.

        For the "gourmet" food trucks, twitter is your friend.

        Some of these trucks have somewhat fanatic fan bases. The trucks tend to congregate around areas of heavy foot traffic. I'm not very familiar with where they congregate but I work in Venice, around Abbot Kinney, and they do start to park along the street around mid-afternoon. The highest concentration is on weekends and on First Fridays (a promotional day for the local businesses that has become wildly popular). Other Westside places that I've seen them congregating is on Olympic Blvd, just west of Bundy around lunch time, and on Sawtelle Blvd, north of Olympic.

        Cemitas Poblanas
        401 S Indiana St, Los Angeles, CA 90063

        Smart & Final
        10113 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

        La Isla Bonita
        3630 Saviers Rd, Oxnard, CA 93033

        1. re: bulavinaka

          As there are so many alternative cuisine recommendations being made, I'd like to propose Rivera Restaurant in Downtown L.A for Spanish Food, specifically the Sangre Room. John Sedlar is the original High End Pan-Latin Chef in this town (Bikini and Abiqui were my intro to non-taco stand South American cuisine - and I grew up just outside of Santa Cruz). The potential is also there at this restaurant to explore the relationship between Euro-Latin cuisine and Pre-Columbian/Mayan/Aztec cuisine within one tasting menu. Just a thought...

          1. re: FranklinJefferson

            Great call, I was also thinking of John Sedlar last night, and lost him when I went to make my list the a.m.

        2. Instead of tapas, we have tacos, sopes, gorditas, etc. Try em. You'll like em.

          1. i agree with bulavinaka, this city's strengths don't include lots of good, reasonably priced, spanish food.
            (when i tried bar pintxo, i was underwhelmed.)
            my favorite cook who "loves and suffers" for the food he serves is, in fact, mexican, and serves exceptional mexican seafood in the style of nayarit and sinaloa---not spanish food.

            15 Replies
            1. re: westsidegal

              That sounds great. Where is it ? Also any suggestions for dinners from Santa Monica to Long Beach along the coast.

              1. re: emglow101

                the chef's name is Sergio.
                normally he takes tuesdays and wednesdays off, so don't go on a tuesday or wednesday
                the restaurant is MARISCOS CHENTE which is located in Inglewood on West Imperial Highway near the corner of Yukon

                n.b. this is NOT tex mex food, this is a regional style of cooking that is not served with beans and focuses only on seafood.

                the closest place to the coast that i go that is "reasonably priced" is a part of a small chain that serves chinese-inspired food : MAO'S KITCHEN in venice. this is not the authentic chinese food that one can get in the san gabriel valley, but it is quite tasty in it's own right.

                if you are willing to go as far inland as Lincoln Blvd near the marina, I like 26 Beach Restaurant for their "reasonably priced" burgers, and even more for their very inventive and well-executed entree salads.

                Costs more, but i join the majority of the board in my love of Musha in Santa Monica for Izakaya. they open at 6pm. be SURE to have a reservation if you plan to walk in any later than 6:30. Normally I can get out of there for about $40/pp all in.

                for the most part the price/quality/quantity ratios available "along the coast" are not as favorable as those that can be found a bit farther inland.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  Thanks I was down there last year. Inland is OK staying in Culver City

                  1. re: emglow101

                    In culver city i normally hit up K-Zo for japanese food.
                    they serve both sushi, salads, and cooked dishes.
                    ends up costing me about the same as Musha: different style of food.

                    9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                    1. re: emglow101

                      Culver City? Now we have more to work with. You're very centrally located - so many options within 20 minutes, just about everything within 40 minutes.

                      Westsidegal's list is a great start. One thing westsidegal didn't mention about herself is that she has a high bar when it comes to food. If she thumbs-up a place, slam dunk. Another is she is a pescatarian - she knows quality seafood. As far as I know, Mariscos Chente has no equal in SC. The chef she speaks of - Sergio - is a pretty iconic guy among those who are familiar with his skills. To get a feel for their food and locale, here's a comprehensive thread, but please note that there are more than one location, and that Sergio is at the one that westsidegal describes:


                      SC has a fair amount of good burger places. However, 26 Beach is known for their burgers being of very good quality (that goes for their food in general - another place where the folks take a lot of pride in food and service) and more so offering very unique takes on burgers - California Roll Burger is one that will cock your head sideways but worth a try. If casing out the burger side of LA interests you, it may be worth skimming over these two very long and comprehensive threads:



                      26 Beach
                      3100 Washington Blvd., Venice, CA 90292

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        While I whole heartedly agree with all the other recs, I wouldn't call Mao's a slam dunk. The ingredients are of poor quality and drowned in excessive grease, often with overly sugary sauces. I live a couple of blocks away and wouldn't eat there, I doubt it's worthy of a visit from an out-of-towner.

                        1. re: hrhboo

                          although i don't agree with your assessment of Mao's Kitchen (or, at least of the dishes that i normally eat there), i WOULD use your exact words to describe the food served at the chain PF CHANGS.
                          add the word "bland" to the list, while you're at it.. . .

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            I also like Mao's. The yellow coconut curry with sole or tofu is excellent -- chock full of fresh vegetables and good flavor. Also good are the dumplings (steamed or pan-fried) and the fried rice. I agree with you that it's one of the best low-cost options close to the coast.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I'm not sure what PF Chang's has to do with this thread but I agree.

                              To me, Mao's is to Chinese food what Alejo's is to Italian food, large portions of sub par ingredients masked in gloppy sauces.

                              1. re: hrhboo

                                1) completely agree with you about alejos
                                2) mao's is not chinese food, it is chinese-inspired food
                                3) all of the restaurants at which i ate when visiting Hong Kong used much more grease and the food was much more heavily sauced than what gets served at Mao's. maybe i ate at the wrong restaurants in Hong Kong. My current roomate just returned from a 4 week internship in China and he, too, reported that most of the food that was served to him was much more oily/greasy and saucy than the American version of Chinese food with which he is familar.

                            2. re: hrhboo

                              Agree that Mao's is not worth the time and money (uneven food and service). And OP's title is especially apropos in terms of Mao's-- "stop the hype."

                              1. re: comedor

                                never have i heard "hype" about mao's
                                judging from my experience and sushigirli's experience, maybe a lot depends upon the specific dish that is ordered.
                                the free corkage, and relatively low prices for that location, also appeal to me.
                                normally i wouldn't send an out-of-towner there, but when both criteria of "coastal" and "reasonably priced" are requested, then mao's looks appropriate to me.

                                i can't think of even one restaurant that is "coastal" AND "reasonably priced" AND has really phenomenal food that is different/better than the food available in NYC.

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  Not getting the NYC reference, sorry...
                                  Agree about the oil in many Hong Kong restos, but not necessarily the sauces- but then, they vary based on the dish.
                                  And so we slip into the territory of "total package" versus "food alone", and "authenticity" versus "close-enough." I'm often troubled by the ultra-purist debates, but I confess that I have those tendencies, too. (And one just happens to be Chinese dishes-- and some across-the-menu dining at Mao's in the course of selecting a caterer for a party left me unimpressed and wondering why people praise it). Yet, it sounds like you have "total package" reasons for going to Mao's, and that's great. I think all of us have some of those places and dishes, too.
                                  I guess all I'm saying is that I don't think anyone at Mao's is suffering for their food (their piercings remain an open question...).

                                  1. re: comedor

                                    agree with you on that,
                                    1) nobody there is "suffering" for their food.
                                    2) i go to mao's only as a result of the total package --i'd never go there if the drive was long or the prices were higher or if there was a more authentic/better chinese restaurant closer to me at the same price level.

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      I agree. A big part of the total package for me is that it delivers to me. Mao's floats my boat in many other ways. For example, I love that I can get cashew nuts in my fried rice and that most dishes can be made with fish or one of three types of tofu.

                  2. emglow101,

                    Your fair city has a wealth of fresh agriculture and nice food choices where dogs are welcome on the patios. We're going back this August for a week and half because we really enjoyed our break there last August. I think the weak link in the general cuisine scene there is not having a number of ethnic options from various cultures, which is kind of the opposite over here in LA. I don't know if you're interested, but if so, incredibly good (and inexpensive) Chinese is available in the whole of San Gabriel Valley (about 40 minutes away from general Culver City area), Thai is all over but the best is located in the general Hollywood area (about 25-30 min), Persian is in Westwood (10 min), Korean in Koreatown (25-30 min), Middle Eastern all over but particularly in the San Fernando Valley/Glendale area (20-30 min but Mezza is in Downtown Culver City, Kabab Grill on Venice/Motor in adjacent Palms area), Japanese is in West LA (10 min), Little Tokyo (25 min) but a ton of options in Torrance/South Bay (20-30 min). Of course, Mexican can be found throughout so much of SoCal, but the densest communities tend to be around the general Boyle Heights/Lincoln Heights/Huntington Park areas (25-30 min).

                    Your plea for, "Looking for the cooks who love and suffer for their food." are often found in these ethnic eateries - old ways die hard. :) The ethnicities tend to congregate and form communities in certain geographic areas so "Muhammad must go to the mountain," so to say...

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      exquisitely written and 100% accurate, bulavinaka.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        I would add Little India in Artesia to the mix.

                          1. re: sushigirlie

                            I forgot about Vietnamese food. North OC (Fountain Valley and surrounding areas) is Little Saigon. I haven't been down there for food in over a year, but poster Das Ubergeek is the resident contributor for this category and other great recs/observations. A closer option, although not nearly as deep, would again be in the San Gabriel Valley, mostly around Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park and Rosemead. Again, if any interest the OP, please chime in...

                        1. Thanks for all your replies. lots to try. Any comfortable place you can have a piece of line caught fish cooked simply.