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Suggestions for an LA nube for a place near Six Flags Magic Mountain/Valencia and sushi in Little Tokyo

We've never been to LA but we're staying there for two and a half days before flying out for our two week Honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand. As we're coaster junkies from Florida, we're not going to Universal, Disney or anything else that we have here and are opting for the newer coasters at Magic Mountain over Knotts Berry Farm.

Our itinerary sans food is almost complete but I need your help finding the appropriate restaurants.

Day 1) We're arriving around 1 pm. We're going to take a quick touristy drive around the beaches and want to stop for great authentic sushi in Little Tokyo for lunch. We're definitely going to spend and hour or two at the la Brea tar pits and then want to hit up the Getty for a couple of hours before getting some great authentic Mexican (not TexMex, or American Mexican, but the native foods recently brought up from Mexico). Your suggestions would be helpful!

Day 2) Getting up early and driving out to Vasquez Rocks (because it's quasi on the way) and then going to Magic Mountain for the day. What's your suggestions for lunch in the park and dinner afterwards in that area?

Day 3) Catching a Conan taping and probably doing some touristy star tours/Beverly Hills/Rodeo drive. What's your suggestions for here?

In general we're not trying to spend a lot eating in LA as we've got Sydney and NZ on the agenda and are paying a pretty penny for the places down under. So outside of the sushi (and if there is a great cheaper option for authentic not fusion sushi we'll do it) we'd like to keep it cheap.

If we can fit it in our drives and times Id probably like to try Pinks, Roscoes chicken and waffles and whatever your alleged creator of the French Dip is called. But those are secondary to 1) great authentic sushi and 2) great authentic Mexican.

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  1. We always stop at The In-n-Out Burger off the 5 just before Magic Mountain. Warning, the food in the park is not very good so eat before or when you leave the park.

    In-n-Out Burger
    26401 Bouquet Canyon Rd
    Santa Clarita, CA 91350

    Good food can be found at the Getty in both the restaurant and the cafes.
    Pink's is not worth the over hour or more wait, try Carney's in the train car on the Sunset Strip for great chili cheese dogs.
    Check out the Original Farmers Markets at 3rd and Fairfax, Open everyday and lots of cheap eats. It's like a taste of LA from Tacos to Korean and everything in-between.
    You also might like Ricky's Fish Tacos open for lunch only Friday-Sundays. Always check
    his twitter first as his hours can vary.
    http://twitter.com/#!/rickysfishtacos
    Welcome to LA.

    -----
    Getty Center
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049

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

    Carney's Restaurant
    8351 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

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

    7 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile

      Thanks!

      And I get that Pinks isnt worth it's reputation, frankly I think that's true of In-N-Out burger compared to Five Guys let alone a quality nonchain burger, but it's a landmark institution. I'm sure if you visited Atlanta with a name like wienermobile you'd hit up the Varsity and it's pretty dreadful!

      That being said we don't have time for all of the iconic spots, so if you think the French dip or Roscoes is a better use of our time to get in a cheapish iconic restaurant we'll skip it. I

      1. re: Warpear

        Yes the Varsity is on my list to try someday so I do understand.

        We have two famous decades old French Dip sandwich spots both in Downtown LA.
        Philippe the Original with a good Lamb dip with homemade hot mustard and Cole's, a little more pricey but they serve cocktails. There are may fans of each and here at chowhound there is a constant debate of what is better. I grew up with Philippe so that is my choice, but you can't go wrong at Cole's either.

        But even better just minutes from downtown LA is Langer's Deli for the best pastrami in the world. And I am not kidding....That's where I would go.
        http://www.langersdeli.com/

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

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

        Cole's
        118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

        1. re: wienermobile

          Yeah Phillipes was the one that came fuzzily to my mind from various travel/food shows. I have to say, having to fly down to Miami and Boca about every other month, I do get quality Jewish delis that I'm sure would compete heavily with your versions (I certainly liked them better than Katz and the other delis I've been to NYC). However you (and some other reviews) have sold me on the pastrami. I am now definitely intrigued to see if it's the "best in the world" (as an aside, my favorite BBQ place in Florida does BBQed pastrami and BBQed corned beef briskets that sounds very weird until you try it. The wet brine preparation makes the brisket the most amazing thing youve ever had (don't tell the Texans).

          So I'll go with Langers and then see if I can fit Phillipes in if I can.

          1. re: Warpear

            Langer's is open Monday- Saturday only till 4pm. You won't be sorry.

            1. re: Warpear

              don't miss langers (which I find superior to Katz), skip philippes (which I find inferior to big macs)

              1. re: Warpear

                Here is a side by side comparison of the dip sandwiches at Philippe's and Cole's at this link:
                http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

                1. re: wienermobile

                  Thanks for the article!

                  Do you or anyone else have a Rec for late night izakaya? We're probably going to eat a lighter and therefore cheaper sushi early dinner one night and then go out later for drinks and izakaya.

        2. Your itinerary for two days might be a bit ambitious, as it covers an awful lot of miles in L.A. traffic. Arriving at LAX at 1:00 P.M., then driving around the beaches (presumably on the west side) and then going all the way downtown for lunch, then back to mid-city to visit the tar pits, then back to the west side for Getty may not be do-able in the four hours or so of available daylight. I just ran this itinerary by my spouse and her comment was "are they renting a helicopter"?

          Others with more knowledge than I might chime in here, but I'd suggest you might find good sushi in the Sawtell neighborhood on the west side, rather than traipsing all the way downtown.

          Pink's isn't too far from the tar pits, but it's just a hot dog stand with good PR.

          For Mexican seafood you might check out Mariscos Chente or La Guelaguezta for authentic Mexican.

          14 Replies
          1. re: ChinoWayne

            Google says I can do it but I forgot how much your traffic purportedly sucks so I'll probably ditch the beach drive by. We've got the best sugar white sand beaches right next door to me at Grayton and we're already doing Bondi in Sydney and whatever the black sand beaches are called south of Auckland. So that is by no means a must do. Outside of using the airport and going to Magic Mountain, the only other thing that sells us versus an extra day in Sydney or NZ is the touristy studios/stars/etc... So if you think we don't have time we'll cut out the coastline entirely. We were just took a week vacation in northern and central Cali (San Fran to Big Sur and everywhere in between) so we've done that. Plus, I usually hate the crowded big city beaches like Miami anyways and prefer the more secluded ones.

            So cut that out of my itinerary as of now.

            Would we have time in your estimation to spend an hour in the tarpits, and an hour or so in the Getty plus get lunch in Little Tokyo? We're just trying to get some quick sightseeing in, not spend hours at any location.

            1. re: Warpear

              No purportedly about it, traffic does suck. Am I reading right that you want to do the Getty and the Tar Pits museum the same day as landing at 1? Those close at 5:30, it will be impossible for you to do both and do a sushi lunch. Also where are you staying that night? Near LAX?

              My suggestion for logistics is to do sushi lunch in the Sawtelle/Little Osaka area, you have options there that rival Little Tokyo, unless you just want to walk around Little Tokyo for the sights. If you're trying to watch your budget, Hide is probably the best bet, they are also open through the afternoon. The only caveat is they are cash only. Hide is considered by most here to be in the upper end of second tier. Mori is considered one of the top places in LA but they are closed between 2:30 and 6. Some of the hard core sushi people can probably chime in with other suggestions.

              After lunch, you can either head to Getty or the Tar Pits. Depending on which direction you choose, that will determine Mexican options for dinner.

              For your 3rd day, Beverly Hills area, what type of food and budget did you have in mind?

              1. re: Jase

                Yeah, we're only planning on spending an hour to an hour and a half at both (Getty and tar pits) . I'm sure they would both take hours and hours to do properly, but we're just looking for a few photo ops as truthfully the only thing we're really deadset on is Magic Mountain (yeah I know, how totally unfoodie of me to also like immature things like roller coasters but in my defense I also brew my own beer from the grain, make our own cheese (not just simple mozzarella but aged cheese like Tomme with white truffle and savory). We're just really killing time on Day 1. So Day 1 is just a quick (as possible) drive to a few photo ops, then out the door.

                As far as the sushi, Ive seen lots of posts about how great and authentic LA sushi is and how awful San Fran sushi is on Chowhound (haven't been to LA yet, but I would strongly disagree about the quality of San Fran sushi, I thought it was great and at a relatively great price. I got fresh monkfish liver, uni, Suzuki, tai and others for less than I pay for crappy tuna "fusion" rolls in Florida.

                If you know a great and authentic (meaning non-"fusion" rolls with mayo, chicken, steak, cheese etc...) Sushi place that is near or on the way to those locations and you think it's on par or better than the one in Little Tokyo, then I'll go there instead. We just want to compare LA sushi to San Fran, NYC, Miami etc... LA definitely talks the biggest game, so I'm interested in seeing if they back it up. As far as price, I'm trying to keep my expenses in America relatively cheap because have you SEEN the prices for food in Sydney and New Zealand? An expensive restaurant in LA (which is probably double that of Miami) is only a middling restaurant down under. Their prices are ridiculous (and not just for food, $130 American to see a cave, seriously...a cave!), so since I'm going to be paying what I view as an obscene amount of money for two weeks Down Under, I'd rather go middling to cheap on our meals in LA. So if I can keep the tab for two under $100-150 I'd be happy.

                A friend did Rec the place that was busted recently for serving under the counter whale meat, but I'd rather not pay that much unless it's that substantially better (the most I've dropped for 2 people is $500+ at Commanders Palace in New Orleans (well worth it) and that doesn't even get you in the door at Momofuku in Sydney (it's easily quadruple the NYC branches prices). So I'm trying to be cheap(ish) and spend no more than $30 a head on the nonsushi and $50-75 a head on the sushi.

                As far as where we're staying the first night, I haven't picked it yet but as our Day 1 is going to be Dec 31st and we're probably going to find some place to party (any suggestions?) and then getting up early the next morning for Magic Mountain we're just looking for a cheap/cheapish motel to rest our head for a few hours probably midway between down LA and Valencia.

                1. re: Warpear

                  No, you don't understand. I'm not casting aspersions on your chow credentials or anything stupid like that. I think it's physically impossible to have a 1 p.m. landing time, drive to tar pits, drive to Getty and do a sushi lunch all by 5:30. That 4.5 hour window may sound like a lot but it would probably take you around an hour to go from LAX to Tar Pits from the time you get off the plane, get car and park. From Tar Pits to Getty assuming there's no accident on the way, you could maybe make it in 30-45 minutes before you get caught up in the 405 traffic crush.

                  I could be wrong and others can chime in to correct me as needed, I just don't think it's possible and that's with trying to squeeze in a lunch. Logistically if you stay close to Westside to do lunch and then go to Getty, Mori will fill the top end requirement you're seeking. Hide is pretty good, I categorize it more as a top end neighborhood joint but I don't know if any serious sushi eater would consider them a contender for top honors.

                  I'm not a hard core sushi hound, you can do a search for Mori on the board and you'll see some other names pop up in that search that vie for top honors depending on your tastes. All the ones that come up won't have the fusion cream cheese type rolls.

                  That said, Mori did sell recently even though I think he still works there? Regulars can confirm if quality has stayed the same. The challenge is they are closed after 2:30. The place with the whale meat was called the Hump and was never particularly held in high regard by hard core sushi aficionados.

                  Okay, landing on Dec 31 a Saturday, you could actually pull off the Getty/Tar Pit double header. Traffic will be a lot more manageable. But the problem you have then is there won't be a top end sushi place open for lunch, not on a Saturday. You're probably better off doing a Mexican lunch and the sushi dinner. That gives you better timing and flexibility to go to whatever sushi place you decide on. You could also maybe hit a couple taco trucks for some great Mexican.

                  Mexican lunch in between LAX, Getty and Tar Pits, I would usually recommend Monte Alban. Oaxacan and specializing in moles. But I haven't been in a few months and last couple of reports said it was inconsistent and a bit downhill. Possibly go south of LAX to Marisco Chente for mexican style seafood. I'm sure westside gal will chime in, she's the most vocal cheerleader of that place. Their snook and shrimp dshes are fantastic and not something you easily find elsewhere if at all.

                  Sorry, kind of tired and those are thoughts off the top of my head. I'm unable to pull up search links and that kind of stuff. Hopefully this will spur some other suggestions from others.

                  1. re: Jase

                    Thanks! That's the kind of local knowledge I was looking for.

                    With 530 as a cutoff, I think you're right that Mexican makes more sense for lunch. That way we can fit in Little Tokyo For the sights, shopping AND sushi.

                    1. re: Warpear

                      Warpear, there are really no sights, shopping, OR sushi in Little Tokyo. Okay I lied, there's a few sushi joints, but not nearly as many as on the westside

                      stay on the westside.

                    2. re: Jase

                      Oh and just to clarify, I'm already factoring an hour into landing, getting luggage and a rental. Our flight lands at 11:50 AM on Dec 31st. We MIGHT be out the door by 1230-1245 but 1 is a safe start time. So I'll be doing this driving at 1pm on Saturday.

                    3. re: Warpear

                      Perhaps you should do sushi at the end of Day 2. Pick a place in the Valley to stay on your return from Magic Mountain, the Sportsman's Lodge is quaint in a kitschy sort of way, and then you can hit sushi alley on Ventura Blvd. For traditional there is Nozawa or Asanebo (pricey, but Michelin rated), or Katsu-Ya for more innovative selections. Katsu-Ya almost always has celebrities in attendance, but it can be very crowded. Or you could hit up Chiba which is my favorite. Good-luck.

                      1. re: ebethsdad

                        Thanks, I might do that.

                        1. re: Warpear

                          If you do decide on this make reservations at Katsu-Ya now. Order off the specials board. The spicy tuna on crispy rice is a signature dish. Its good. You can blow off Beverley Hills after this. Save money for Down Under.

                    4. re: Jase

                      Oh and 3rd Day/Beverly Hills, I'd rather not pay a ton as I've said I've got to save cash for $30 meat pies from the road. Lol, I wish I was kidding. And we're going to be running around like all hot and sweaty tourists so we're not going to be dressed for five star priced restaurants as I'm not bringing a suit on an almost three week trip.

                      But really, my budget is on a sliding scale, I make a decent but not movie star income ($200k) but I'd much rather pay $5 for a 9 out of 10 burger than $500 for an 8 out of 10 Wagyu filet. If there is a really neat place where we can add to my name dropping list I'd probably go as long as I'm spending around that same sushi meal price ($100-150), but unless there's a quintessential and delicious place in that price range youd rather Rec, I'd probably be happier saving half or two thirds of that money for abalone in New Zealand.

                    5. re: Warpear

                      Sorry, but other than my general comments above, I'm not going to go in to any more of the general tourist stuff, as that (general toursim) discussion is frowned on here, since this is really a food discussion site.

                      1. re: ChinoWayne

                        I concur on that.

                        As others have mentioned if it ain't a holiday break day, going from LAX to the Tar Pits, grabbing a sushi lunch and then back to the Getty and checking that out by 530 is most likely not going to happen as LA traffic and timing is concerned. Unless your sushi lunch is no more than 30 minutes, and you spend like 15 minutes checking out the tar pits and about 30 minutes at the getty. But for the getty you might at least need 1 at least considering, you will probably have to wait more than a few minutes for the trolley that takes you up there as well as the trolley that takes you back down to the parking lot.

                        Mariscos Chente is sort of near LAX so you could hit that up. But if you do order the Pescado Zareando there, which is one of their famed dishes it will take 30 minutes to prepare as it's noted on the menu.

                        So you do have a tight time crunch.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Big Mista occasionly has BBQ Pastrami at the El Segundo Farmers Market and it is wonderful.

                          -----
                          El Segundo Farmers Market
                          Main St and Pine St, El Segundo, CA

                  2. For sushi in Little Tokyo, I really like Hama. The majority of the restaurant is taken up by the sushi bar where you order directly from the sushi chef in front of you. They don't serve the crazy rolls/teriyaki/etc. and explicitly have signs saying so at the entrance. It's nothing fancy, but a great neighborhood place and not very expensive.

                    My favorites are the unagi (I love how they heat it so the edges actually crisp), and the spicy tuna/salmon/hamachi hand rolls. I don't usually order spicy tuna anything, but they do something to theirs that's different and it's delicious.

                    -----
                    Hama Sushi
                    347 E 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: matikin9

                      Agree...it's a solid spot, like hide on sawtelle.

                      Mako is much better, as is Sushi Gen, but they considerably more expensive...like virtually twice the price.

                    2. Folks, we are going to have to ask you to confine this discussion on this thread to food available in the L.A. only.

                      Thanks.

                      1. I'll take the Magic Mountain area food recs. Unfortunately,most of what you see off the freeway will be chain restuarants. If you take the Lyons exit off the Interstate Five Freeway and drive east about 3 miles is the Egg Plantation. Good for breakfasts. There is also the Way Station that is just a block further down. Greasy spoon with good hashbrowns. Also Lilly's Cafe which is only about 3 miles down on Lyons. Get a side of their homemade salsa.

                        For lunch and dinners...I like Karma, indian food that is just off Magic Mountain Parkway on Cinema Drive. Sisley's is attached to the mall, and has good italian food

                        And if you want to try a different chain burger, there is a Tommy's burgers just past the park on the old road. Tasty chiliburgers. Also the in n out burger closest to the park in a different location than the link in the thread. You would also exit the Five freeway at Lyons and head briefly west to the closest in n out. It's just a few exits before Magic Mountain.

                        Have fun in both LA and down under.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                          Thanks!

                        2. For sushi in little tokyo, please go to Toshi Sushi. They are excellent. There are better and also much more expensive places in the westside, but Toshi is a real standout in Jtown, and prices are very good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pley

                            really?

                            never heard it was any good compared to say a Mori on the westside.