$200 - Dinner for 4
Anywhere from Downtown LA to Malibu, and Sherman Oaks & Studio City. I'd like to keep it to around $200 for 4 people but we'll pay a little more if we need to.
Taking 2 out-of-towners, one who has never been to LA.
Any type of cuisine works for us.
Wonderful shared plates at MB Post. Charcuterie, Cheese and Larders, Seafood dishes, Meat dishes, and the great veggies and house–made breads,. Order around 3 dishes each and you are right on your budget. A block from the Manhattan Beach Pier for a walk after dinner. One great meal at one of LA's best.
FIG is my new favorite restaurant that fits your criteria, especially if you go between 5 PM and 6 PM, when everything but the steak entrees and the chefs tasting menu is 50% off. Last time we went we got 10 dishes and it was under $100 before tax and tip. Going again tonight!
(Shunji is my favorite outside your range, as their $80/pp omakase is the way to experience it, But you could do it a la carte for under... Maybe.)
Farmshop's prix fixe dinners are usually under $60.
When are you doing this? DineLA is coming up with plenty of prix fixe places that fit in your price range.
+1 for Fig, at any time.
even when it isn't happy hour, they are, imho, very reasonably priced for what you get:
excellent food, lovely environment, etc. (actually, i believe that i have PeterCC to thank for the original recommendation!) also, they validate for 3 hours of parking.
i've also had some solid meals at the Misfit in santa monica, but, in total, it is not as wonderful as Fig.
another restaurant i'd consider is Lily's French Cafe and Bar on abbot kinney in venice: very good food, reasonable prices, good portion sizes, pretty environment, good wines both by the bottle and by the glass, valet parking.
also, at Lily's, you wouldn't need to try to steer your party toward "careful ordering" in order to come in at budget ,something which, in my experience, you definitely would need to do at gjelina.
(once had lunch at gjelina with another chowhound and we FLEW by your per-person budget without having any alcohol. at dinner, it would be even more difficult.)
imho, Lily's is far, far, far, better than Nook both in terms of food and service: especially so if you don't want to limit yourself to "comfort food."
Thanks for the kind words, westsidegal, but I've only been on the boards for a few months, so I doubt I was the one who originally recommended FIG to you, but I am as big a fan of FIG as you are, it seems. :-)
I'm sure there'll come a time when we want to do FIG outside the 5 PM to 6 PM hour, and it would still be worth it, but so far, we've had no problems getting reservations during "FIG at Five", so we've gotten to spoil ourselves trying more variety of dishes than we normally would for the amount of money we planned on spending.
+3 (I think?) on FIG. I prefer that much more than a place like Lilly's, or most places on AK for that matter, since parking is a complete hassle most of the time. Also, the crowds are much bigger in that neighborhood. My only one favorite I would go to there, anytime, would be the Tasting Kitchen, we ate everything on their late spring menu, and it was to die for. But I'm sure the cost is above your budget.
Nook Bistro would easily fit your budget. I really like the food, ambience, and service so it is a go-to place for me. (note that westsidegal had a very bad experience some time ago with bad fish) Nook is in the very rear corner of the minimall on the S/E corner of Santa Monica Blvd. at Barry, a block east of Barrington, in WLA. Their website provides a menu with prices -- I like the mac n cheese to share to start, and the short rib (or whatever long braised beef they are cooking) or the chicken paillard as an entree. key lime pie for dessert.
If you go to the higher end of your price range, Gjelina on Abbott Kinney in Venice. Stick to a pizza to share to start,, veggies, a salad to share, and the smaller dishes -- no reason to go to the larger. Get the butterscotch pot de creme for dessert, amazing dish. Can easily walk out close to $50 pp if you go easy on the wine.