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Needed: Quintessential LA

Leaving in a week to visit LA with two girlfriends. We're all southern and have limited knowledge of the LA area. We're for sure hittting In N Out and Pink's. We have reservations at STK. What are some "very LA" places we should be sure not to miss? Thanks!

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  1. a) greater L.A. is massive, and traffic-wise, can be daunting; will you have a car, and if so, are you willing to navigate the freeways; and if not, venture on public transportation?

    b) car or no car, what general area are you staying? This will likely determine both recommedations and your subsequent choices.

    c) In n Out and Pinks are burgers and dogs -- do you aspire toward anything more challenging, be it ethnic specialties (asian, mexican, middle eastern, etc.) or classics (Langers, Phillipes, etc.). Any restrictions, things y'all won't eat?

    d) budget or spendy?

    Just some things to consider, if you want useful responses. Good luck...

    1. Despite some controversial omissions and inclusions (and restaurants that are now out of business, despite the list having been published in Nov 2010), this is a fine place to start.

      http://www.laweekly.com/2010-11-11/ea...

      Oh, and your question comes up quite frequently, so I recommend doing your due diligence on the LA chowhound board to flesh out this list.

      Welcome to LA!

      Mr Taster

      1. Here is a place to start, Eater LA's July 2011 38 essential restaurants: (this is a good list)
        http://la.eater.com/archives/2011/07/...

        Welcome to LA. and some good eating.

        1. These threads may help:

          "What/where can I eat that is unique to the LA area?" (31 replies):
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794016

          "unique only in LA regional specialty" (86 replies):
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684116

          They're more about foods than places, but may still be helpful.

          1. On your visit, I highly recommend you try at least one place specializing in south-of-the-border food, be it a sit-down Mexican restaurant, a taco stand, pupusas, etc. As others have mentioned, which specific restaurants/stands you go to will depend on where you are staying, how much money you want to spend, etc.

            1. >>What are some "very LA" places we should be sure not to miss?<<

              Based on your list of three places that you intend on going to, the title of your post, and the phrase above, I still don't get a good feel as to what would be fitting recs for you and your girlfriends. Lots of folks like burgers, hot dogs and steaks. Also, while you can get the standard answers on this board (various ethnic cuisines, various LA "institutions," etc.), LA is a huge place particularly when considering the geographic scope of this board, and also consider that food is a moving target in this town.

              LA is a collection of towns. Each town tends to have differences from one another that can be subtle to significant - many are deep in culture and ethnicity, and the food is one of the best signals as to where you are. And it is this depth and breadth of cultural diversity that makes LA such a great food destination. Cuisines from Armenia (which has a strong connection to Middle East/Mediterranean), Chinese Asia, Ethiopia, Japan, Korea, Mexico/Latin America, The Middle East, Persia, Thailand and Vietnam have strong representation in Southern California.

              California is gifted in agricultural bounty. A trend that continues to grow is farm-to-table/seasonal menus. Places that focus on seasonal ingredients will go to great lengths in sourcing premium examples. Some places will highlight a handful of ingredients, while others will bolster their kitchen with so many organic/seasonal/unique items that the Sysco truck is never seen behind their buildings.

              "Gourmet" food trucks are a recent trend and younger folks in particular are fond of the whole new culture surrounding it. With that said, don't discount a visit to the traditional loncheras.

              Wine has a huge footmark in California, and many restaurants have great wine lists, but beer has become huge in this state as well, particularly in the past 10 years. San Diego County is known for their depth of breweries, but Northern California probably has the edge in terms of focus and quality - some argue the best in the nation if not grouped with the best in the world. All of these beers are showcased at a growing number of places in LA.

              Another emerging trend is upscale Latin cuisine. Until recently, the status of food from Latin America has been relatively casual for the most part in terms of presentation and atmosphere. Mom & pop eateries still dominate these cuisines from Latin America, but places like Rivera and Picca offer incredibly well-executed menus in very contemporary dining rooms and are bolstered by drink menus with an equal amount of thought and focus. We enjoyed a great meal last weekend at Picca. I don't know if anyone would consider it quintessential LA yet, but I think Peruvian cuisine is done well in this town, and Picca epitomizes how this otherwise seemingly humble cuisine can be showcased.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bulavinaka

                another exquisite description, bulavinaka.
                absolutely accurate and beautifully written

              2. obligatory pinks sucks and is a tourist trap

                12 Replies
                1. re: ns1

                  Don't you think though, that looking at it from their perspective, that they'd regret it if they didn't go? If it were me in their shoes, I'd go, and based on some more Chowish recs, I'd give maybe one or two other places a whirl. In fact, I'd throw in Wurstkuche or Stein Garten as an extension (no pun intended) of the current hot dog scene.

                  -----
                  Wurstkuche
                  800 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    i agree that pinks is quintessential LA, but as a foodie it makes a little part of me die on the insides. i went, TWICE, when I first moved to LA and I'll never go back.

                    for my $$$ I'd skip all of the hotdog places, go to langers (i realize this is not an apples to oranges comparison), and find an LA street dog at night.

                    1. re: ns1

                      Local don't let locals go to Pink's, of course.

                      But I'm with bulavinka on this issue. If you're making the trek to L.A., DO go see Universal City, and DO go experience the madness that is Pink's.

                      Judging from jlmann's OP, not sure what his/her "hound-ish vs how tourist shrine-ish" ratio is...

                      1. re: J.L.

                        If a hot dog is what you are looking for may I recommend the Corn Dog in the red wagon on Main Street in Disneyland. (or Corn Dog Castle in California Adventure). Good Dog if you're making the trip to Anaheim.

                        -----
                        Disneyland Resort Anaheim California
                        190 W Center Street Promenade, Anaheim, CA 92805

                        1. re: wienermobile

                          Amen to that, great corn dogs.

                          (I've never been to Pink's and it's not even on my "list".)

                          'Quintessential L.A'. to me is the Santa Monica Farmer's market, Joan's on Third, Clementine, Julienne, Jiraffe, One Pico, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, Huckleberry, Parkway Grill, Breadbar, Bay Cities, Vanilla Bakeshop, Amandine...just to name a few. I drive from the OC to visit these places.

                          -----
                          Jiraffe Restaurant
                          502 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

                          One Pico
                          1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                          Parkway Grill
                          510 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105

                      2. re: ns1

                        >>...but as a foodie it makes a little part of me die on the insides. i went, TWICE, when I first moved to LA and I'll never go back.<<

                        I totally agree with you here, but I think many who visit LA seem to have this on their check list. That's really my only point. I'm sure there's a fair amount of LA folk who go, but it's like a place where visitors drive other visitors to go. And once they've gone, they'll either be mesmerized by it all (esp if they run into some celebs) or they'll just shrug their shoulders and never go back.

                        I tried to keep my initial post in the thread as general as possible - hopefully give jlmann a brief overview of some things to consider. But again - I'm with you - if Langer's is missed, that's a big miss.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          I think Pink's is on everyone's list b/c it was so hyped that Michelle O and the girls went there on their trip to LA

                        2. re: ns1

                          FWIW I Love Pinks.

                        3. re: bulavinaka

                          <<<Don't you think though, that looking at it from their perspective, that they'd regret it if they didn't go?>>>
                          in a word: NO.
                          wasting time, calories, and money on Pinks would be awful.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            Wurstkuche isn't great either, but at least you get to do some people watching. I don't really think of hot dogs when I think of LA--isn't that an East Coast thing?

                            -----
                            Wurstkuche
                            800 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                            1. re: mstinawu

                              A few years ago, very few places existed offering serious sausages of any kind - franks/hot dogs included - not anymore.

                          2. re: ns1

                            Agreed. Even if I was a visiting tourist, I would've been mad to have taken my vacation time to go eat at this "LA institution". Expensive and overall sucky.

                          3. based on the time of year, Neptune's Net on Pacific Coast highway. Get the clam chowder, fried clams or snow crab legs and watch the view. Have a great visit!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                              Great rec, LA Buckeye Fan. Visitors can do some baywatching and eat well too.

                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                get the shrimp cocktail and sit outside.

                              2. We need to know your approximate age, budget, location and what "very LA" means to you. LA is very big and very diverse.

                                1. Spago, Gjelina, Pizzeria Mozza

                                  -----
                                  Spago
                                  176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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

                                  Gjelina
                                  1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                                  1. There are different levels of "very L.A." There is very LA, as in it has been in LA for 60 to 100 years. There is very LA as in it is the hottest thing of the moment for food and then there is the very LA that is the hottest thing of the moment regardless of how good the food is, stars and famous people go there.

                                    I love these restaurants, they have survived all the fads and trends. They aren't the most glamorous places and some people love to belittle them, but they have survived for a reason. The people in LA love them.

                                    The Original Pantry Cafe
                                    Philippe the Original
                                    Pink’s
                                    Cantor’s
                                    Musso and Frank Grill
                                    Miceli’s
                                    El Tepeyec
                                    Tommy’s
                                    El Cholo
                                    Greenblatt’s Deli
                                    Dupar’s
                                    Bob’s Big Boy
                                    Randy’s Donuts
                                    Taix French Restaurant
                                    Apple Pan
                                    Dan Tana’s
                                    Langer’s
                                    Nate n Al’s

                                    The "very LA" places that are hot are likely to be very expensive as well.

                                    Some of the questions people have asked about budget, car, etc are pretty good.

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

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

                                    Dan Tana's Restaurant
                                    9071 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                    Original Pantry Cafe
                                    877 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                    Taix French Restaurant
                                    1911 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026

                                    50 Replies
                                    1. re: scottca075

                                      "The people in LA love them."

                                      Speak for yourself. One horrible restaurant after another IMO.

                                      1. re: sushigirlie

                                        Langer's is horrible? Musso and Frank is horrible?

                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                          yes, musso and frank is horrible.
                                          in my old expense account days i used to take prospective clients there because the menu was "safe."
                                          the prospects were not "wowed" but usually could find something they would eat.
                                          from my perspective, the martinis were good, but i just moved the food around on my plate.
                                          if i had that expense account now, i wouldn't be returning there because much better choices have arisen.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Some items at Musso and Frank are pretty bad, but if you choose well, your meal will not be "horrible". It's a danger that visitors won't know how to choose well, but that's where Chowhound comes to the rescue: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/544056

                                            1. re: Peripatetic

                                              there was nothing there that was so good that it was worth what was being charged, imho.
                                              all but one time i went there i was using an expense account so i wasn't that concerned. the one time i had to actually pay my own money, i was pissed.

                                          2. re: Peripatetic

                                            I've only been to Musso and Frank once. In my mind, it competes for worst meal I've had in LA.

                                            As for Langer's, I eat poultry and seafood only--I don't eat pastrami--so there's that. But what I have eaten at Langer's has been mediocre. (Not horrible, I grant you that.)

                                            1. re: sushigirlie

                                              there is only 1 reason to go to Langers...

                                              for a non-meat eater, I'd recommend the fries and a cream soda lol

                                              1. re: ns1

                                                >> there is only 1 reason to go to Langers...

                                                Some might argue that.

                                                http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2010/10...

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  And they would be wrong. Langers is a one trick pony. The matzaball soup is terrible, so bland and flavorless. And I could get a better corned beef sandwich from most supermarket's deli counter.

                                                  1. re: reality check

                                                    Langers is the recipient of the coveted James Beard Foundation award. The America's Classics Award is presented each year to a select few restaurants noted for timeless appeal, beloved for quality food that reflects the history and character of their communities.

                                                    1. re: wienermobile

                                                      that's nice - i still wouldn't go there for anything other than pastrami.

                                                      //edit
                                                      okay I lied. I must admit my usual order @ Langers involves a #19, some corned beef hash, some fries, and a cream soda.

                                          3. re: sushigirlie

                                            i'm with sushigirlie on this:
                                            on the entire list there are only 2 restaurants that i'd consider for anything at all, much less recommend to someone who's spent a lot of money to get/stay here.

                                            the ONLY ones on that list that i would go to are:
                                            langers
                                            nate 'n als

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              I've been to ten of the places on scottca075's list, and here's how I'd characterize them:

                                              Philippe the Original - decent, not great
                                              Pink’s - decent, not great, though not worth waiting in line with hundreds of tourists
                                              Cantor’s - meh, can be horrible
                                              Musso and Frank Grill - decent, many misses, very good martinis and beef dishes.
                                              Tommy’s - decent, not great
                                              Greenblatt’s Deli - some outstanding items, e.g. Reuben
                                              Du-Pars - meh, some okay items
                                              Randy’s Donuts - excellent, some misses
                                              Apple Pan - good but pricy, outstanding pie, service and queuing system are minuses
                                              Langer’s - outstanding if you stick with pastrami

                                              I wouldn't call any of them outright horrible (though Cantor's and Du-Pars might come close). IMO it's a disservice to visitors to dismiss them all as "one horrible restaurant after another".

                                            2. re: sushigirlie

                                              Thank you for proving my point, right on cue.

                                              The people of Los Angeles do love these places. When I go to the Pantry in the morning at 6AM, it is all Angelenos eating there. When I head up to Philippe's at lunch, the lines are mostly Angelenos. If I take more time and drive out to Evergreen, it isn't tourists lined up at El Tepeyec.

                                              You can speak for yourself, as obviously you since since Los Angeles has kept these places open for generations while thousands of other places have come and gone.

                                              Philippe's will be double dipping when Melisse, Wolfgang and Bazaar have gone the way of Chasen's and the L'Orangerie.

                                              1. re: scottca075

                                                Just because they're busy doesn't mean they're chow worthy. You ever been to a mcdonalds at 7 in the morning?

                                                anyway, the fact that these places are so polarizing should tell the OP everything they need to know.

                                                Also: EL CHOLO!? SERIOUSLY!?

                                                1. re: ns1

                                                  That Chow is full of pretensions?

                                                  Yes, El Cholo, way seriously.

                                                  1. re: scottca075

                                                    if i were visiting LA, i would take offense at an el cholo recommendation in an area full of great mexican picks.

                                                    el cholo is not quintessential LA (unless you consider going to Paseo, shopping at Coach, and eating at El Cholo quintessential LA)

                                                    quintessential LA is something like bandini's epic taco blog.

                                                    http://www.greattacohunt.com/

                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                      El Cholo merits a place on an LA list for historical reasons; contemporaneously, not so much.
                                                      http://www.laobserved.com/archive/200...

                                                      1. re: ns1

                                                        Of course El Cholo is quintessential L.A. It has been open since 1923, is still owned by the family and has served generations of Angelenos. What other Mexican restaurants in L.A. have 88 years of continuous operation under one family? La Golendrina is close, but I am not sure they have had the same ownership the whole time.

                                                        1. re: scottca075

                                                          sorry, i can't get past the food to care about the history.

                                                          1. re: scottca075

                                                            Now La Golondrina is a restaurant I will defend.

                                                            -----
                                                            La Golondrina
                                                            17 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                            1. re: sushigirlie

                                                              La Golondrina is mediocre and would have closed long ago if it were not where it is, but given its history, it is worthy to be treated with respect and thrown in the mix of quintessential.

                                                              -----
                                                              La Golondrina
                                                              17 Olvera St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                              1. re: scottca075

                                                                There are many mediocre dishes, but the chips, guacamole, hot creamy salsa, margaritas, and quesadillas made with homemade flour tortillas are good. And I love the cheesy mariachi guys. (Did you know they play fake guitars? LOL)

                                                                I've probably had ten meals at La Golondrina, usually with big groups, and it's always been a good time.

                                                            2. re: scottca075

                                                              whenever they opened, their food has been terrible ever since i first tried it in the 70's. ( maybe in 1923 the food was good.)

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                I first tried it in 1962 or there abouts and have been back every year, several times every year since then. It is a great many things, terrible it isn't. Terrible restaurants don't survive. Tens of thousands of restaurants in LA have come and gone since El Cholo opened in 1923; some were truly terrible in terms of food and closed because of it; some were terrible in terms of service or management and they closed, some just had time pass them by and they closed, but El Cholo has survived and persevered because they deliver good food and a good experience. I've never said El Cholo was LA's best Mexican restaurant, just its oldest and therefore quintessential.

                                                      2. re: scottca075

                                                        Wolfgang, for one, is here to stay! And i actually chatted him up today at Santa Monica Seafood. He absolutely stopped me from having the skin cut off of my salmon!!!

                                                        1. re: VenusCafe

                                                          You saw Wolfgang Puck at Santa Monica Seafood? If so, he just lost some street cred with me then.

                                                          1. re: J.L.

                                                            Although there may be many reasons for Wolfgang to forfeit street cred with you,
                                                            please tell me, WHY is being in Santa Monica Seafood one of them?

                                                            1. re: VenusCafe

                                                              Santa Monica Seafood is the last place I'd go to for seafood. I respect Wolfgang Puck as a chef, and I'm glad he chatted with you (he has always been affable when I've run into him as well), but every time I've wandered into the store, I've found the selection at Santa Monica Seafood to be overpriced and underfresh.

                                                              I'll take 99 Ranch Market's seafood section over SMS anyday.

                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                Regarding Wolfgang... when he was so adamant about my not removing the skin,
                                                                I obeyed! I recalled how he recently left the judges table, and actually took one of the cooks back into the kitchen to show her how to cook an egg, I think it was.
                                                                Thanks for your input about SMS. I've been going there for decades now, and have not ever found freshness to be a problem. The variety is simply stunning to this pescatarian. Prices are something else. 99 Ranch Mkt is not on or near
                                                                any of my routes.
                                                                Is Malibu Seafood on your sanctioned list?

                                                                -----
                                                                99 Ranch
                                                                17713 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA

                                                            2. re: J.L.

                                                              J.L. what fish store should he be shopping in, because I'll go there too.

                                                            3. re: VenusCafe

                                                              I highly doubt that there will be a second, third and fourth generation of Puck's in the kitchen. I don't see Cam or Byron following their father in the business and it is hardly a family restaurant business any more, it is a food empire.

                                                              1. re: scottca075

                                                                Yeah, it really is an empire. Puck even pushes his lines of cookware, kitchen appliances, books, canned goods, etc., etc., etc. He does do foundation work too though - I think that would bring back at least some credibility in many minds.

                                                                1. re: scottca075

                                                                  That empire talk kind of makes my case for him being entrenched.
                                                                  Never thought that the kids following dad was a necessary aspect of that.

                                                                  1. re: VenusCafe

                                                                    My point was, I doubt there will be a Spago in LA 80 years from now the way that El Cholo has survived as a family business, the original Spago is gone already. The Puck empire might not survive Wolfgang's life as he and Barbara and the other shareholders are more likely to sell out and retire. They don't have the family commitment the Salisbury's do.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Spago
                                                                    176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                    1. re: scottca075

                                                                      I'm glad you used the 'c' word...commitment, but I interpret it differently.
                                                                      Both restaurants display commitment; Spago no less than the other.
                                                                      But the difference is between a restaurant built on excellence becoming an empire,
                                                                      and a restaurant centered around mediocre fare that struggles through the years,
                                                                      and requires commitment to survive.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Spago
                                                                      176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                      1. re: VenusCafe

                                                                        I don't think that El Cholo is exactly struggling. There is a market, whether we like it or not, for establishments that serve mediocre food. Not everyone is as particular as most of us here are about food quality, and El Cholo, with it's attractive rooms, unchallenging cuisine, and full liquor license, satisfies many. Like Pinks, Canters, and El Coyote, it is "quintessential LA".

                                                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                          Peri, any restaurant going for that long is guaranteed ongoing
                                                                          struggle. El Cholo is definitely quintessential, and fun too! My call on
                                                                          the mediocre fare has more to do with their target customer than the
                                                                          actual food.

                                                                          1. re: VenusCafe

                                                                            Is El Cholo good....went once to the Whittier store and was underwhelmed, am I missing something?

                                                                            1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                              how much you enjoy the food at el cholo is directly related to how much alcohol you drink

                                                                              1. re: ns1

                                                                                See the Law of Inverse Proportion: Mexican Food Edition, whereby the quality of Mexican food is inversely proportionate to the quality of margaritas.

                                                                                This has been posited by many others on Chowhound over the last decade (or more.)

                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  quality not necessary, only quantity.

                                                            4. re: sushigirlie

                                                              "The people in LA love them."

                                                              Speak for yourself. One horrible restaurant after another IMO.

                                                              ________________________________________________________

                                                              The OP asked for "Quintessential LA" ... which does not necessarily mean the "Best of LA"

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                Exactly. A visitor has to elect whether to see LA as a local, as a tourist or as a foodie. Or the combo platter!

                                                            5. re: scottca075

                                                              I agree with the usefulness of this 3 part analysis. May not agree with all the picks foodwise, but do agree that they fit in the analysis as presented.

                                                              If you are under 40, I'd suggest you try to get into either Animal or Son of a Gun. Both qualify in the second and third Very LA.

                                                              -----
                                                              Animal
                                                              435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                              Son of a Gun
                                                              8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                              1. re: mc michael

                                                                Animal is on my list!

                                                                1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                  There you go. Might be an easier get mid-week.

                                                                2. re: mc michael

                                                                  i would add another category:
                                                                  small, familly-run, ethnic food gems.

                                                                  the OPs, though, would have to be adventurous eaters.. . .

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                    It's never too early for them to start. I think making converts on this board is our duty! Poster emglow101 is a classic example. Although he wanted seek out places where the chefs were passionate about their food, he is someone who initially was reluctant to sample LA's Mexican cuisines and looked what happened:

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792216

                                                                    And the glowing praise:

                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794681

                                                                    And now you've changed emglow101's life forever! Put another notch on your Chow fork, westsidegal!

                                                                  2. re: mc michael

                                                                    Mm.. Son of a Gun.. Go if you are in an artery clogging mood--and sometimes I am.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Son of a Gun
                                                                    8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                                3. Ok we're all 25. Will have a car. Visiting Malibu one day and Disney another. Willing to go wherever. Been to LA once and our best meal was Geisha House. That and STK are prob the top of our budget but anything up to and on that level are fine. Just something I can't get at home.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Geisha House Restaurant
                                                                  2773 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jlmann

                                                                    "Just something I can't get at home."

                                                                    Difficult to suggest something you can't get "at home" unless you give a clue or two where exactly that might be? Is it bigger than a bread box? Animal, vegetable or mineral? Actually Animal would be right at the top of my list (even their vegetable dishes are great)...

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Animal
                                                                    435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                      Well said, Servorg. Sounds like the girls would like Sushi Roku (several around) or Katana. Not the best food, but LAish in a tinsel town way. Better would be Animal for meat or Son of a Gun for seafood. JMHO.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Katana
                                                                      8439 W. Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                                                      Sushi Roku - Santa Monica
                                                                      1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                                                      Son of a Gun
                                                                      8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                                      1. re: mc michael

                                                                        What about Koi? Don't you think that would tickle their fancies (whatever those might be)?

                                                                        -----
                                                                        Koi
                                                                        730 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                                          On the nose!

                                                                    2. re: jlmann

                                                                      OK guys, I'm going out on a limb with this one. But if you're really looking for something that represents a significant part of LA and our population, here it is.

                                                                      Disneyland is extremely close to LA's Little Saigon (Garden Grove and Westminster). There is some OUTSTANDING Vietnamese food, with flavors that you might not have experienced before. I know that the first time I tried it, I felt like I had woken up parts of my tongue that had been asleep my whole life.

                                                                      And in Los Angeles, you probably have the chance to taste some of the best Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam (I spent a month in VN and can personally attest to that)

                                                                      One of the most interesting aspects of Vietnamese food is how they integrated French staples like baguettes and coffee info their diet (they used to be a French colony).

                                                                      The modern result of this is the glorious Vietnamese baguette sandwiches (called Bánh mì) and the wonderfully strong and sweet cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese lced coffee mixed with condensed milk.)

                                                                      You will have the opportunity to try a really fantastic representation of a Veitnamese sandwich (and a solid version of the coffee) at a little family run hole in the wall shop (take-out only) with some of the best baguettes in all of Los Angeles.

                                                                      (I'll warn you now, you might be intimidated at first when you see the dingy little shop, but have faith, ignore your instincts and walk right in :)

                                                                      But here's the insane part. These sandwiches only cost a couple of bucks. WAY cheaper than places like Subway, and their bread is actually baked fresh (not brown and serve). They're dirt cheap and insanely delicious. Since there's no place to sit down here, I suggest you bite into them in the parking lot, so you have the opportunity to smuggle some in to Disneyland :)

                                                                      I suggest you order one bánh mì thịt nướng (Vietnamese sandwich with grilled pork) and one bánh mì xíu mại (crushed meatball sandwich). I've never gotten it at this shop, but you might want to try the bánh mì xá xíu (BBQ pork sandwich, Chinese style). It's not southern style BBQ, but it is delicious.

                                                                      If you feel self conscious, look for a younger person. The kids of the owners speak English well. If you can get past the cultural barrier (which really is just in your mind-- lots of non Vietnamese order these sandwiches, even if you're the only non-Asian in the place, so try not to feel self conscious), you will be greatly rewarded. And let's face it, even if you don't like it, you've only shelled out $3, had an experience you might not have anywhere else, and you can tell your friends back home about the weird food you tried in crazy California :)

                                                                      One last tip, since English is sometimes difficult to use in Little Saigon, I wrote these suggestions to you in Vietnamese so that you can print them out without having to speak it. (And trust me, if you've never spoken Vietnamese, you *will* mispronounce it!) You can even make a joke of it when you go there. I'm sure they'd love to teach you how to say a few words.

                                                                      Also, they make these sandwiches on two different kinds of bread. The baguette is a little more expensive, but worth it (I think there's a "buy one get one free" deal for the other, slightly inferior bread). The baguette is so light and crispy on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. Really wonderful stuff. (I understand they mix in rice flour with wheat flour to get the baguette so light).

                                                                      http://www.yelp.com/biz/banh-mi-cho-c...

                                                                      Be aware, they close around 7 or 8pm so you probably won't be able to try it if you leave Disneyland late.

                                                                      If you go, (and I hope you do), please write back. We love to hear about first timer experiences.

                                                                      Have fun, guys!

                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                        Great suggestions and great link...

                                                                    3. i think "quintessential LA" is interpreted differently by different folks.

                                                                      1. there is the quintessential LA that means (to me) food representative of what LA does best and/or what LA specializes in or offers as unique specialties

                                                                      2. the other quintessential LA that reflects the places that appear in guidebooks, places that are labeled as institutions (regardless of food offerings), places with notoriety/reputations/name recognition that afford "bragging rights" or "instant 'oh that place'" to friends back home

                                                                      I believe the OP is more in search of #2, but maybe I'm wrong.

                                                                      Some restaurants/eateries/whatever simply fall under "sightseeing" for me. Case in point, Pink's. You go see the Empire State Building in NYC (yes, I know that NYC has AMAZING food, just drawing a comparison), and you go see the line at Pink's. I wouldn't eat there, wouldn't plan a meal around it. But, drive by. If you want to wait in line and have a dog, to say you did, go for it. Go for the experience, not the meal/snack. I would say the same about somewhere like El Cholo - am not recommending, but just a place that seems to be known, like Tito's Tacos.

                                                                      Go have drinks at Yamashiro to overlook the city. Skip the food.

                                                                      Have lunch on Robertson Blvd. (Cuvee, Newsroom, Michel Richard, etc.) then go shop and watch for limos and paparazzi outside the Ivy (unless you want to eat there)

                                                                      Go to Bouchon Bistro for lunch or happy hour. Good people watching then walk Beverly Hills.

                                                                      Go to the Farmer's Market at Fairfax/3rd

                                                                      The Food Truck rec is a good one. Find something that interests you and track.

                                                                      The Griddle Cafe for overly decadent breakfasts

                                                                      For 3rd St/Melrose/West Hollywoody scene, have brunch or lunch at Little Next Door or Joan's

                                                                      More in the #1 camp, my suggestions for those would be (in budget):
                                                                      -Mariscos Chente
                                                                      -Animal or Son of a Gun
                                                                      -Jitlada for Southern Thai
                                                                      -Monte Alban
                                                                      -Musha
                                                                      -Kiyokawa or another place in Little Tokyo
                                                                      -Tavern or Playa
                                                                      -somewhere for tacos - search board depending where you'll be
                                                                      -maybe Father's Office or Bay Cities Deli
                                                                      ...others have made lots of good recs as well. these are just a few, narrowly encompassing thoughts.

                                                                      have fun here, wherever you decide to go. please let us know how you're trip goes.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Father's Office
                                                                      1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

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

                                                                      Yamashiro
                                                                      1999 North Sycamore Ave., Hollywood, CA 90068

                                                                      Bouchon Bistro
                                                                      235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                      Son of a Gun
                                                                      8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Emme

                                                                        You ought to be a culinary guide - sign me up!

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          you make me blush... i think i'd be better off signing up for *your* tour of LA! your posts never fail to inspire and your recs spot on.

                                                                        2. re: Emme

                                                                          The Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is a great suggestion. LA's original food court since 1934. Everyone can try something different and still dine together. Tacos, gumbo, Corned Beef, donuts, Brazilian BBQ, English toffee and much more all in one place. A little taste of LA. Great for people watching. Open everyday and right next door to The Grove Mall & connected by their free trolly.
                                                                          http://www.farmersmarketla.com/

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

                                                                        3. I realize this is not a food question but you've all had some great suggestions, I have to ask. The Edison, Villains Tavern, and La Descarga are on our to-do bar list. Are those good? Any others?

                                                                          -----
                                                                          La Descarga
                                                                          1159 North Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                                                                          30 Replies
                                                                          1. re: jlmann

                                                                            The Varnish

                                                                            -----
                                                                            The Varnish
                                                                            118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA

                                                                            1. re: jlmann

                                                                              Varnish is cool. Doesn't open till about 8 pm (Cole's out front is open though). Edison is good and often has good happy hour specials and snacks. It gets crowded so the time of your arrival and whether or not there's an event there are considerations. Recommend you check out La Cita for the LA vibe.

                                                                              http://www.myspace.com/93410706

                                                                              -----
                                                                              La Cita Bar
                                                                              336 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

                                                                              1. re: mc michael

                                                                                Unless they've (Varnish) let their website go out of date they say they open everyday at 7 PM.

                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                  I stand corrected. An hour longer to drink.

                                                                              2. re: jlmann

                                                                                Seems you are TMZ readers, or want to go where the paparazzi camps.

                                                                                Nothing is more quintessentially LA in the summer than Nobu or Taverna Tony's or Tra Di Noi - all in Malibu.

                                                                                1. re: yogachik

                                                                                  What about sitting on the patio at the Ivy on Robertson as well? Aren't some of the papparzzi actually famous themselves now? lol...

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Ivy
                                                                                  113 N Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                                    Boa, Katsuya, yadayadayada...

                                                                                2. re: jlmann

                                                                                  Some places that are scene-y _and_ actually have decent food:

                                                                                  - Urth Cafe, Melrose Ave location (as seen frequently in Entourage)
                                                                                  - Intelligentsia, Silver Lake location
                                                                                  - LA Mill
                                                                                  - Pizzeria Mozza
                                                                                  - Umami Burger, Hollywood Blvd location

                                                                                  Urth Caffe has okay-ish coffee, decent salads, and outstanding coconut cream and pumpkin pie. You could probably IMDB half of the people there (of course not all actors, and more b- and c- list). It's good starting or ending point for a walk down Melrose Ave.

                                                                                  Intelligentsia Silver Lake is a different scene altogether -- more hipster than Hollywood, but worth checking out to see another side of LA. Coffee is outstanding -- rarely disappoints. No food, snacks only. Alternatively, you might want to check out LA Mill which has more food offerings and a little bit of a ladies-who-lunch atmosphere.

                                                                                  Pizzeria Mozza is more about the food than the scene, but it still satisfies out-of-town guests who are more interested in people watching. It's an older crowd, though. Outstanding pizza, some of the best in the country.

                                                                                  Umami Burger has a hint of Geisha House ambiance (more low key, though), and the burgers are outstanding. Don't be surprised if service is sloppy, but they've always been good to me when there's a problem.

                                                                                  1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                    Sorry, but Umami is the most overhyped, underperforming restaurant in Los Angeles.

                                                                                    1. re: scottca075

                                                                                      I don't know, dude, that Manly Burger is the quintessential cardiac plug. Plus being the 5th taste Umami should numerically qualify as quintessential.

                                                                                      1. re: scottca075

                                                                                        scottca075 wrote: "Umami is the most overhyped, underperforming restaurant in Los Angeles"
                                                                                        ---
                                                                                        scottca075, what changed since you listed Umami among the places you like three months ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3383...

                                                                                        1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                          I didn't say I didn't like it. I said it is overhyped and underperforming. People go expecting an overwhelming experience and it just isn't so. Is it among the top ten burgers in LA, maybe, I listed 14 different places in that post, is it "quintessential L.A."? No, that would be the Apple Pan.

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

                                                                                          1. re: scottca075

                                                                                            As has been mentioned a few times in this thread, the semantics of "quintessential" are non-obvious. The OP has implied that her preferences run more for places like Geisha House and STK rather than places you or I might consider quintessential. It's with that in mind I recommended Umami.

                                                                                            1. re: Peripatetic

                                                                                              "The OP has implied that her preferences run more for places like Geisha House and STK rather than places you or I might consider quintessential. It's with that in mind I recommended Umami."

                                                                                              Exactly. That's why places like The Ivy on Robertson or Koi on La Cienega came to mind (after I began recalling the places that the OP had listed being "hits" with them on their last visit).

                                                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                I have a feeling that the OP had no idea what she was getting into when she asked this question :)

                                                                                                I also have a feeling she was expecting a bunch of Yelp-style personal but uninformed opinions. Instead, she has unleashed the full force and passion of the LA Chowhounds.

                                                                                                jlmann, Chowhound is different than other food websites. Chowhounds were debating furiously over food like this since the mid-90s, which was before the "foodie/hipster revolution" took over. (You were about 11-12 years old at the time ;)

                                                                                                As you can see, LA Chowhounds will discuss the minutiae of a question ad infinitum. On Chowhound, it's first and foremost about the food, not about the scene. Places like Geisha House are first about the scene, and second (or third...) about the food. There is a big difference.

                                                                                                So my opinion is when you come to ask LA Chowhounds for advice, use us as a resource to find the best food. Use us as a way to expand your horizons, to creatively explore other cultures and customs through food. Use us to become more knowledgeable about the foods you eat and where they come from.

                                                                                                But don't ask us to agree on where to find a good hot dog.

                                                                                                Pink's rules!

                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                  amen.

                                                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                                                    I feel compelled to point out that I was being facetious with regard to the hot dogs. There actually is quite a broad consensus among Chowhounds about Fab's and Carney's being towards the top of the pile. Others like Slaw Dogs garner mixed reviews.

                                                                                                    My true feelings about Pink's are well documented over several years here on the Los Angeles Chowhound board, and it is really more of indifference rather than that of vitriol. Pink's really is fine if there's no line (a rare occurrence). They have nice snappy skins and that pop of juice. The chili is of the viscous flour-thickened meat paste variety. Pink's dogs are better than the average dirty water dog from the street carts of Manhattan, but not better than the best of LA.

                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                      you're just a quintessential chowhound.

                                                                                    2. re: jlmann

                                                                                      For bars, if you want a true legendary LA bar, go to the Formosa Cafe'. It's been in countless movies, and features in a major scene in "LA Confidential." It's where old Hollywood stars used to frequent. It's touristy at certain times, but if you go there in the mid- to late afternoon, you'll mingle with more locals, including on occasion the celebrity type. It's a very fun, old-school place. It's not about the food or even the drinks, per se, but the ambiance. Very LA/Hollywood and a fun neighborhood to boot.

                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                        Yeah, The Formosa Cafe and Pacific Dining Car are two of the oldsters I forgot and I should throw in El Coyote just to spike some blood pressures.

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Pacific Dining Car
                                                                                        1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                                                                        1. re: scottca075

                                                                                          El Coyote has good tequilas, beyond that, not so much. They even have an almond flavored tequila.

                                                                                          1. re: scottca075

                                                                                            "Yeah, The Formosa Cafe and Pacific Dining Car are two of the oldsters I forgot and I should throw in El Coyote just to spike some blood pressures."

                                                                                            Scott, I'm with you on El Coyote. The original poster was looking for quintessential LA, not great cuisine. Anybody going to El Coyote for Mexican food will be very disappointed. Anyone going there for 1950's era Americanized Mexican food (the menu still refers to the rice as "Spanish rice") at low cost and for a great young LA feel, who "gets" what the place is about, will be happy.

                                                                                            -----
                                                                                            Pacific Dining Car
                                                                                            1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90017

                                                                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                              i didn't get the idea from their original post that they were thinking of "historical old-time LA restaurants: the good and the bad."

                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                I took the OP to be looking for something "very LA," not necessarily great good, not that the two are mutually exclusive.

                                                                                                I have not seen a lot of raves from you on this thread, Westsidegal. What restaurants in LA do you like?

                                                                                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                  Ooh Ooh I know this one! Mariscos Chente (when Sergio is cooking) & Gjelina!

                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                  Mariscos Chente
                                                                                                  4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                                                                  Gjelina
                                                                                                  1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                                                                                                  1. re: J.L.

                                                                                                    Edit: Mariscos Chente on W. Imperial Highway where Sergio "resides" will soon = Coni's Seafood.

                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/804277

                                                                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                                                                      add FIG (especially Fig at Five), and you've got it!
                                                                                                      (planning to go there with a couple of girlfriends on Friday)

                                                                                                      before Carlos left Cafe del Rey, i would have included them too, but without his pastry, the view of the boats can't carry the load by themselves. . . . .

                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                        Had a blast at FiG at the Fairmont, alfresco by the pool--FABULOUS setting.

                                                                                                        1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                                                          yup, Fig's on my regular rotation.
                                                                                                          i'm pretty well hooked... .

                                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                            I'd love to stay in one of those cabanas along PCH. If I knew people from out-of-state, I'd recommend this place, fabulous "California experience".

                                                                                        2. Nothing says "LA" quite like Clifton's. The decor shrieks "fake" in a nice old fashioned way and the surroundings are the new face of the city, nothing like the Wonderbread enclaves elsewhere.

                                                                                          Food is not what it's about, the vibe is. Anti-scene, if you will.

                                                                                          Park elsewhere and take the subway to Pershing Square and hike over the 3 or so blocks

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Akitist

                                                                                            The food is pretty bad, but I do agree that Clifton's is an interesting place.

                                                                                          2. Welcome, Jlmann:

                                                                                            Chowhounds is a website where you can discover the very best tastes in often out-of-the-way places and away from the usual tourist places. Bulavinaka and others are excellent sources of information for those things. it is what makes Chowhounds special and unique.

                                                                                            It sounds like you and your girlfriends are looking for the essentials of a first time visit to LA. Here are my recommendations for that. Keep in mind, I'm not necessarily directing you to the best food, just great experiences.

                                                                                            In N Out and Pinks are indeed quintessential to the LA experience. For hot dogs, I would recommend Carney's or Fab Dogs.

                                                                                            Tommy's Hamburgers at Beverly and Rampart. The original.

                                                                                            Randy's Donuts. It's the giant donut you often see on TV or the movies. The donuts are very good to boot.

                                                                                            Milk or Scoops for ice cream. Milk has great shakes, floats, etc. Scoops has some of the most interesting ice cream flavors on earth. These are really great and very LA.

                                                                                            Gladstones Malibu. Not very good seafood, but the view of the ocean is fantastic. For other ocean views, I would recommend The Lobster in Santa Monica or Geoffrey's in Malibu.

                                                                                            El Tepeyac, East LA. The best burrito, and maybe the biggest.

                                                                                            There are several excellent Pie and Hamburger diners in LA. Apple Pan in West LA, PIe N Burger in Pasadena and Bake N Broil in Long Beach.

                                                                                            Phillipe is known for inventing the French Dip Roast Beef. But their lamb is the best.

                                                                                            Donut Man in Glendora has great Strawberry and Peach donuts.

                                                                                            Farmer's Market on Fairfax is also essential. Lot's of fast food places to eat.

                                                                                            Other "quintessential LA" places: Griddle Cafe, The Counter, Umami Burger,

                                                                                            Since you ladies are from the South, I won't mention BBQ or fried chicken.

                                                                                            You haven't mentioned Sushi, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai or Vietnamese, so I won't rec unless you ask. Just know that LA has some of the best in those dishes.

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

                                                                                            Donut Man
                                                                                            915 E Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740

                                                                                            Randy's Donuts
                                                                                            805 West Manchester Ave, Inglewood, CA 90301

                                                                                            El Tepeyac Cafe
                                                                                            812 N Evergreen Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033

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

                                                                                            Gladstones Malibu
                                                                                            17300 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Ogawak

                                                                                              Nice post. Agree with just about everything you say. But, honestly, El Tepeyac is not the best burrito. An eyeful, an experience, a big honking burrito to be sure. Just not the best. But the place is definitely quintessential.

                                                                                              1. re: Ogawak

                                                                                                Yep - great info for a first-timer - except the part about that bulavinaka cat - LOLing! ;) Thanks for the plug, but I'm just a good student of folks like you...

                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                  you obviously bought a lot of vowels.

                                                                                                  1. re: mc michael

                                                                                                    Thanks for selling me some...

                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                      that was a trade. you owe me three chili dogs and a frosted orange.

                                                                                                      1. re: mc michael

                                                                                                        Deal - I'll meet you at Pink's... :)

                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                          You may as well just bite the heart meat and go to Coney's for an "offal" experience...

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Coney Dog
                                                                                                          8873 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                            how does that go.... heart meat it's a love meat?

                                                                                                            1. re: mc michael

                                                                                                              As Brenda "Coney" Lee sat with her chili dog just millimeters from her open lips she sang in her mind:

                                                                                                              People all around but I don't hear a sound
                                                                                                              Just the lovely eating of my heart...

                                                                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                As Nikki Lane would sing, that heart is gonna be "gone gone gone."

                                                                                              2. I'm coming in very late on this discussion, and the posters have definitely pointed you in the right directions.

                                                                                                I second or third the suggestions to try different tacos from the slew of taco trucks you'll find set up along 3rd Street, Vermont Ave., Western Ave., and surrounds (for starters) and basically all over the city around Mid-town and east. The tacos are small, inexpensive and the trucks stay open late, so it's a great late night bite to grab. Try lengua (tongue), cabeza/cara (head or face) as well as carnitas (fried pork) tacos. This is real, very authentic type of Mexican food, and a real LA experience.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                  Here's the latest: Philippe The Original. This is Los Angeles.
                                                                                                  Now on to get you some tacos...

                                                                                                2. wow! you guys are ruthless

                                                                                                  1. I'd really like to hear from jlmann about what she thinks about this Pandora's box she has opened :)

                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                      n/m, delete this post plz.

                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                        I have a feeling she's waiting for the dust to settle... perfect time for a salted caramel square from Huckleberry and a side of good Southern bourbon...

                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                          I second caramel square from Huckleberry and bourbon.

                                                                                                          1. re: sushigirlie

                                                                                                            Third.