I am partial to Sawtelle Kitchen (pork or chicken breast cutlet with curry, green beans in soy butter, red snapper lunch special, various warm salads); Kiriko for both high end omakase and lunch specials; Jinya ramen; also the other ramen place, not of the same level at all as Jinya but brings back memories
I put a Sawtelle list together in 2009 on a similar thread:
But since it's 2012, I will again try to name as many as I've been to, going from north to south, from Santa Monica Blvd. to Olympic Blvd. Obviously, there have been changes since 2009, so here are my $0.02...
Nanbankan*** (OK not really on Sawtelle but 1 block west, on Corinth) - Great grilling.
Cafe Dahab* - Decent fuul & fries.
Nina's Mexican - Not anything special.
Bar Hayama* - Good late night option for sushi & sake, open air fireplace patio.
Plan Check** - Great place to hang out; order the fried chicken, pastrami nosh, Japanese whiskeys.
Ketchy's II** - Great fast food; I like their chili dog & fries.
Mizu 212* - Wagyu beef shabu shabu; a good choice for cooler (shabu shabu) weather.
Chabuya* - Summer ramen & noodles; chicken ramen.
Orris Spaghetti House** - Good stuff; Japanese take on pasta.
Robata-Ya* - Decent.
Slicetruck* - So-so pizza.
Sawtelle Kitchen - OK food, but I never understood why this place was so popular.
Asahi Ramen - I have no clue why there's a line outside. None.
Tofu-Ya - Meh.
Miyata Menji*** - Unorthodox (and tasty!) ramen; definitely worth a try.
Hide Sushi* - Inexpensive but decent sushi = A value.
FuRaiBo* - Izakaya food in a fun setting; try their teba saki.
Nongla** - Solid Vietnamese food, nice service.
Chusi Batusi - Pizza place (not opened yet).
SushiStop - Run for your life.
Tsujita*** - Fantastic tsukemen & tonkotsu ramen (both served at lunch only). Bring your own sudachi for the authentic Tokyo experience (else they give you a slice of lime). ** For their omakase dinners.
Tomo Coffee* - Their WiFi works well.
Blockheads Shavery** - Shaved ice & shaved snow! (I like the black sesame snow) A nice addition to Sawtelle.
Seoul Tofu* - So-so, but better than Tofu-Ya.
Volcano Tea** - A true Taiwanese boba tea house; they can get busy; try the lavender milk tea
Restaurant 2117* - I still eat there after all these years; try the Kobe meatloaf
Blue Marlin** - I like their uni risotto.
Hurry Curry* - Pretty good.
Gottsui** - Okonomiyaki house! Great place to meet friends and have a beer.
Tatsu Ramen - You order your food via iPad (which is cool), but their ramen needs work (which is not cool).
Manpuku* - Not bad.
The closet of a storefront formerly known as Crepe Nazi - I haven't tried it yet under current ownership.
Little Hong Kong Cafe* - Well-executed fast Asian food.
Bear Papa's**/Mousse Fantasy* - Very fresh cream puffs, try their Paris Brest
Curry House* - I like their stone bowl curries
Kiriko*** - Fantastic, superb sushi! Get the dinner omakase and try their homemade ice creams!
Yakitoriya** - Solid yakitori on a street already filled with eateries serving grilled meat
Pinkberry - Yawn.
Morinoya*** - One of the best izakayas in L.A. - Outstanding food.
Daichan Kaiten Sushi* - Fun time with sushi on conveyor belts
Balconi Coffee*** - Sato-san is a master of caffeine; luscious coffees worth lingering over; try the almond latte also.
Mapaya** - My new favorite find: Excellent savory and sweet crepes.
South of Olympic: There are mostly chains: Starbuck's, Champagne Bakery, Panda Express, Which Wich (which I really like), Baja Fresh, SushiMac, Ramen Jinya is supposed to be opening soon also.
* = I was okay the one or two times I went
** = Very good to great food
*** = Excellent
It's definitely open; my partner and I were there last night. Visited the Studio City branch many yrs ago (too long ago to remember very clearly what it was like, other than being tasty and SLOW). Had the Tonkatsu Black, which I think was rich, subtle, and enjoyable. I think I like Yamada-ya better, but the broth at Jinya was significantly less greasy (which could be good or bad, depending on your taste....).
I'll support the Plan Check recommendations. It's hard to go wrong there. I'll also throw my hat in the ring and suggest Nong La which has Vietnamese food. Some might find their pho bland but I think it has a very clean, beef-y essence that I prefer in my pho. The specialty is actually the chicken pho but I haven't tried it yet.
We really like Blue Marlin. My two kids really dig it and we had the 16 year olds birthday celebration there this year.
It's an Japanese Italian restaurant. Very casual. Typically crowded, mostly younger Japanese clientele as far as I can tell.
Everyone in the family loves the various omrice dishes. I also like a spicy pork cutlet dish that's sort of a cross between katsudon and a parmagiana-type dish.
The pasta dishes are quite good as well, sort of Japanese takes on what you'd find in a typical Italian-American restaurant. This is not Spoon House, for what it's worth, at least I haven't come across that sort of watery red sauced spaghetti that Spoon House serves.
It's in the strip mall across the street from Nigjiya/Beard Papa.
Here is a link to the menu:
Note, this is NOT the menu:
Plan Check and their Pastrami Nosh (double smoked pastrami, melty swiss cheese, kimchi mustard, pickles, sunny fried egg) and their smokey fried chicken ( jidori chicken, smoked milk gravy, yam preserves, spicy pickled okra) ...... So good.
I agree wm about the pastrami.
But, I have to say, it's by far the best thing I've eaten or tasted there. Much better than the burger, which was sort of middle of the road for a gastropub burger.
I need to try the chicken, I guess, because I was starting to think that PC was (for me) a one dish restaurant. I do crave that pastrami sandwich though.
I would like to know the best way to eat it. The sunny side egg makes it tough to eat like a sandwich. Once I even flipped over the bread to get the egg inside, but then I had to deal with that mustard on my fingers. It's really a knife and fork sandwich.