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Jul 19, 2012 08:33 AM

First time in LA! Not too expensive,great, non-Italian food recommendations pls!

hi guys,

My boyfriend and I are doing our first road trip in the States the first two weeks of October this year.
We will start from LA and I am looking for inexepnsive, great food reccomendations. I was in San Francisco in May and fell in love with Mama's breakfasts and Mission Mexican food ( especially El Faraolito, I left my heart there!).
We are looking for good places in LA to have simple, unfussed food. Living in London and working in Events I get a lot of the fine-dining stuff, so don't want that. Same goes for Italian food, I am from Italy so that's an absolute no-go!
We will be staying in LA for 3 nights, we are based (like everyone else who visits for the first time) near Beverly Hills but we Are renting a car so we can drive.
I am looking forward to trying Langer's for lunch, when I went to NY I almost cryer after my last Katz's sandwich before leaving....
Any other ideas for simple, nice places we can go to? We like breakfast and dinner particularly.
Thanks in advance, I'll post similar messages on the Las Vegas and San Diego boards as well.

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  1. Make a reservation at Gjelina in Venice as soon as you can for California farm to table cuisine. Eat your veggies. You won't be sorry.

    In Santa Monica Fig, Milo & Olive, Huckleberry & Rustic Canyon are all worth a visit.

    Sawtelle Blvd in West LA has a lot for your budget including the tasty Plan Check and others at this very recent link:

    Maybe a stop at Ricky's Fish Tacos. Open Lunch only Thursday-Sunday. So good

    You will enjoy Langer's Deli Pastrami heaven, They close at 4pm daily and are closed Sundays.

    Welcome to LA.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile

      Mario's for some good cheap Peruvian food

      Leo's Taco Truck (La Brea and Venice) for the best al pastor tacos (only open at night)

      Another vote for Park's BBQ

        1. re: ns1

          Just a quick note re: Leo's... I've always gone on the weekend when there are massive crowds and the carvers are wielding their al pastor knives with the agility of a samurai. I went mid-week for the first time. No crowds-- no spit or carvers to be seen- no pineapple in my taco, and the al pastor tasted old. It was hard to believe it was the same truck, but the electronic sign was hard to miss.

          Looks like I'll only be heading out to Leo's on the weekends with all the hundreds of other people.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            wow I had no idea.

            Went last week on a Saturday and it was poppin' as usual. What I love about Leo's is that everyone and their mom orders the al pastor so it moves quick no matter how long the line.

    2. Langers / Parks Korean BBQ

      offshoot recommendation for Ricky's Fish Tacos for something different

      2 Replies
      1. re: ns1

        +1 for Park's BBQ. Some of the best cuts of meats in town cooked at your table with wonderful Korean flavors.

        1. re: ns1

          even though the pastrami at Langers is better, given the OP's location, it should be mentioned that Nate 'n Al's in beverly hills (probably within walking distance of your digs) makes a mean sandwich too AND has better hours, better neighborhood, and far better selection of menu items beyond pastrami.
          (i.e. imho, they make the very best matzo brei in town).

        2. The Original Farmers Market on Third St and Fairfax is open everyday and is like a taste of LA. Everything from tacos to gumbo to pancakes, Great for people watching and your budget too.

          10 Replies
              1. re: ns1

                <Doughboys red velvet?>

                My favorite in the city.

              2. re: TailbackU

                Short Order is very good, if not too pricey.

                1. re: TailbackU

                  Not fair.

                  Singapore Banana Leaf is good to very good. The corned beef plate at Magee's is good. The Brazilian place is good if you don't order the dry and overcooked white meat chicken. The cake doughnuts and coffee at Bob's are outrageously good. Du Par's pancakes are outstanding. The chicken kebabs (dark meat) with tabbouleh and baba ghanoush at Moishe's is outrageously good (if pricey). The pizza at Patsy D'Amore's next to Bob's is not bad. The ice cream at Bennett's is great (if pricey).

                  Avoid: Monsieur Marcel's, The French Creperie, The BBQ place (if the horrible smell of the place doesn't put you off), Short Order is outrageously expensive for a burger that doesn't measure up to the other FancyBurgers™ in LA. For a vastly superior FancyBurger™ at a much more reasonable price, go to Golden State up the street on Fairfax. For $11-$12 you get a truy outstanding burger with one side, plus some interesting sauces like curry ketchup, hot mustard, etc). Compare this with $12-14 for an ala carte burger at Short Order, plus $3-4 for fries, plus $2 for "dipping sauce"(!). Outrageous.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Golden State in one of my favroite burgers in town. Great fish and chips on fridays too.

                    1. re: wienermobile

                      We had the fish and chips last week, alongside the burger. Burger wins by a landslide. Fish and chips were OK, but were essentially one note and the fish was slightly too greasy. The portion was massive-- rather than multiple smaller filets, we were presented with one gigantic fried fish phallus, nearly a foot long. If we were to redo that evening, we both would have gotten the burger.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        LIke many things in life, size is overrated. In this case, size is the problem. Fish and chips is all about the fry, and the more sides and surface areas to batter, the more fry there is to enjoy.

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Fish & Chips were not greasy at all when we had them.

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        Monsieur Marcel has a pretty good croque monsieur. And the Lahmacun is pretty good at Moishe's too.

                    1. LA is not a melting pot as some would have you believe. It is rather more like a salad where there are many different elements that retain their identity but happen to be in the same bowl. This is to say, there is tremendous cultural diversity; and you can have a “not too expensive, great” meal while enjoying different cultures.

                      Needless to say, due to its geographic location, the biggest groups are Asian and Hispanic. However there are enclaves of everything else from Armenian to Russian to Jewish to Ethiopian, etc. Oddly for such a large city, there is no “Little Italy,” which for you seems to be a good thing.

                      And below the high-level groups are sub groups. For example, Asians are in Little Tokyo, Little Saigon, Koreatown, Thai Town and Chinatown. There are also enclaves of immigrants from these countries in other parts of town (like the many Chinese in the San Gabriel Valley), but within those areas you will find food specific to that particular culture.

                      You can then get down to specific types of food, and each restaurant typically specializes in one type. For example, there are different Japanese restaurants known for shabu shabu, ramen, soba, itsakaya, sushi, etc. And there are Mexican restaurants specifically known for burritos, tortas, moles, tacos, ceviche, etc.

                      You already know everything above, but I wrote it to set the stage for a way to find “not too expensive, great” meals and it is this: Great meals can be had all over town in thousands of restaurants. The key is to go to the most ethnic places. Think about it. New immigrants opening a restaurant prepare the food as they learned in their home country. And the most likely consumers are others who have recently immigrated and want to taste the food they grew up with. But many of these people migrated to the US for economic reasons and in any case they don’t have much money. So in order for the restaurant to stay in business, it has to price the food to appeal to this demographic. Another factor is competition. When a certain type of food is in abundance in an area, there is pricing pressure to stay competitive.

                      Example: Chinese - Hong Kong Café in Monterey Park. You can get a breakfast of 2 orders of congee and a pineapple bun to split for about $11 total for two people, including drinks. If you really want to go crazy, you can order a special drink and another side dish like spam and you’ll break the bank at $16… for two. I think the most I’ve ever spent here is $18 for two. And the food is terrific.

                      Example 2: Thai – Pa Ord Noodle in Thai Town (Hollywood) Two big bowls of delicious Tom Yum noodles for $12.

                      Of course you won’t get this in Beverly Hills for many reasons. And to the west of Beverly Hills are more rich white people (obviously this is a generalization). So, with a few exceptions, in order to get good ethnic food, you’ll have to drive east and southeast, or over the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, to find not too expensive, great ethnic meals. One of the exceptions is Mexican food. It’s not hard to find a decent taqueria or taco truck almost anywhere in town. But the really good ones are in East LA. Another exception is the Japanese area on Sawtelle Avenue north of Olympic.

                      I suggest you think of a type of food you don’t have back home, and want to try. There are very few types of food that aren’t here. Then just go to that part of town, find a tiny restaurant and ask the owner what’s their specialty.

                      For example, if you want Russian food, go to Canoga Park or Encino or West Hollywood. There are plenty of places to pick from. For Armenian or Middle Eastern, go to Glendale. For Indian: Artesia. For Mexican: East LA. For BBQ: Crenshaw. Chinese: San Gabriel Valley. And the obvious Koreatown, Thai Town, etc.

                      Or if you want to take a little bit of the risk out of it, you can post here about specific types of food, or specific areas of town, and I am certain the awesome hounds will reward you with a load of ideas.

                      I envy you for your road trip. It sounds like fun.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: lil mikey

                        lil mikey:
                        beautifully written, perfectly accurate post.

                        1. re: lil mikey

                          BUT - I would argue that there are some chefs in LA doing some very interesting, non-traditional but ethnic-influenced food. Some examples: Chego, A-Frame, Spice Table, Lazy Ox, Baco Mercat, Lukshon, Mo-Chica, Red Medicine - all of which I would recommend to the OP.

                          1. re: aching

                            much of that list (not all) would NOT qualify as:
                            <<simple, unfussed, food>>>

                            just look at the careful plating/stacking of the animal parts ( be it ribs or wings or legs) -- each serving looks exactly like the next, ( sort of like the proper way to stack firewood before you set the match to it).
                            check out how the garnish looks and IS the same day after day.

                            very, very, fussy
                            not saying that i don't like it, just saying that this is not necessarily what the OP requested.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              That is true - of those restaurants only Spice Table would qualify as "simple" food in my book, and even it's not very simple. I was responding more to the idea that "LA is not a melting pot", which I don't completely agree with, although I get the point that Lil Mikey was making.

                          2. re: lil mikey

                            Oh my GOD! Thank you so much! Your reply almost made me cry...(tears of joy, FYI ;o) )

                            I love Mexican food and Japanese, although I am keen on simple stuff rather than complicated Mayo-and-cream-cheese rolls....not very Japanese IMHO.
                            I love steaks and I find traditional Aamerican food intriguing, especially as we don't have it over here. So I would say my preference goes to those 3 countries: Mexico, America and Japan.
                            I have Dim sum all the time, so i'd rather skip that!

                            1. re: MariaLND

                              Of course London has a magnificent Chinatown, but if your Chinese food experience is limited to dim sum and the food from Hong Kong and Guangzhou, you may want to check out the food of the Muslim Uighuyrs of northwestern China, or the succulent braised pork knuckle of Shanghai, for example. To dismiss the whole of Chinese food in LA because you've had dim sum in London is like saying you don't need to try French food because you have eaten a croissant. There is a mindboggling diversity to Chinese regional cooking, and LA is exceptional in the diversity and depth represented here.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: MariaLND

                                Don't worry, no one on this board is EVER going to recommend a mayo-and-cream cheese type place (although those restaurants do serve their purpose).

                                If you want an American style breakfast (high-quality), Square One in Hollywood might be to your liking. They do have french toast, although they're not particularly well-known for that. It's a considerable drive from Beverly Hills, though. Even Brus Waffle might be a good choice (they have fried chicken and waffles, which I'm assuming is something you haven't had before). It's considerably closer to Beverly Hills (in Santa Monica). Both places have a long wait on the weekend for brunch...

                                1. re: ilysla

                                  I actually think there french toast is one of the best things they have there. And if you go on the right day, you can people watch at all of the Scientologists, parking may be tough though on the weekends though.

                                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                                    Yeah, in retrospect, I'm quite sure why I wrote that. I think *I* don't usually get french toast there, but I shouldn't have generalized that. I usually think of Marstons (I realize the french toast there can be polarizing, but I love it) or 26 Beach, when I think of french toast....