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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....

                            2. You can get some excellent dim sum and almost any regional Chinese cuisine in the San Gabriel Valley, which is just east of the city of Los Angeles. I recommend Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park or Sea Harbour Seafood in Rosemead. Both restaurants have English menus from which you can order dim sum dishes.

                              5 Replies
                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        You went out of order, what number am I going to use now!!!


                              1. I personally think of Mariscos Chente as unfussed Sinoloan seafood. worth the drive if you ask me.

                                in beverly hills, Porta Via does a nice non-fussed breakfast/brunch. and purely for experience, there is Nate 'n' Al's.

                                are there any cuisines you dislike or ones you have a penchant for?

                                1. Guys, thank you all so much.
                                  As I said in my reply, I would nail things down to 3 main categories: Mexican, American and Japanese.
                                  I can have Dim Sum over here, but no-one in London can do decent French Toasts or Tacos (apart from Wahaca maybe!)

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: MariaLND

                                    From lilmikey's brilliant post:

                                    "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."

                                    So to help us nail down the best picks for YOU specifically, tell us what particular dishes in those cuisines sound best to you.

                                    Mexican is basically a choice of: Tacos/Burritos/Tortas, Mole, Ceviche/Seafood, Birria/Barbacoa (goat or lamb slow cooked and usually served in a broth).

                                    For tacos you'll be close to all three of the places compared here http://midtownlunch.com/los-angeles/2... I live right near all these places and they all make a solid taco.

                                    Most people recommend Monte Alban for mole and Mexican food in general. I think it's good but I actually like a total hole in the wall called El Jacalito for mole personally.

                                    Barbacoa on weekends at Gish Bac is good, and not too far from you. The best birrias etc are out in east LA, not sure you'll want to drive that far for that.

                                    American is basically a choice of "fast food" type items (which can be done in a gourmet way) or the more fine dining, farm to table style (look at the dinner menu on this page for example http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com/me...


                                    For gourmet burgers I recommend Father's Office. They might not fit the bill for "unfussed" (no substitutions EVER, no ketchup allowed!!) but it's a great burger and they have a GREAT, world class beer selection. This would be an awesome lunch stop (lunch only F-Sun)

                                    Japanese, well your options are basically listed in the above quoted paragraph, you said you didn't really like the mayonnaise-y stuff (I guess okonomiyaki is out of the question!) I think one of our many incredible ramen shops would be a must stop for lunch, the closest great ramen shops to Beverly Hills are probably Jinya and Tsujita (lunch only). The area around Sawtelle and Olympic is called "Little Osaka" and you find whatever you want there. There are threads on CH about this area.

                                    French toast: not sure it's totally worth driving to Manhattan beach for (might be) Uncle Bill's pancake house makes a cheddar bacon french toast. I mean, come on.

                                    1. re: BrewNChow

                                      +1 for Uncle Bill's Cheddar bacon french toast and Cheddar bacon waffles.

                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                        The French Toast at MB Post in Manhattan beach is stuffed with quince and ricotta, star anise macerated pears, chestnut honey. Brunch only on weekends.

                                        1. re: wienermobile

                                          Wow, sounds great. But neither "simple"nor "unfussed" food......

                                    2. re: MariaLND

                                      french toast...
                                      26 Beach - many varieties
                                      The Griddle Cafe (may be too decadent for your tastes)
                                      Square One Dining

                                      1. re: MariaLND

                                        LA is thick with ramen and sushi. You might want to start there as far as Japanese goes. Izakaya and yakitori are not nearly as common - I'm guessing probably the same with the UK. Izakaya Bincho in Redondo Beach and Torihei in Torrance are not close to BH, but well worth seeking out if you want unfancified really good Japanese. Nanbankan, Morinoya and Sasaya are closer - they're in West LA - and are also legit.

                                        1. re: MariaLND

                                          the Marisco's chef that is the center of the "seafood in the style of Nayarit and Sinaloa" world in LA is Sergio who cooks at Coni'Seafood (this is the new name of the place, it used to be called Mariscos Chente's)

                                          here is the link to the Jonathan Gold review


                                        2. Right, I am kind of sad now, knowing i only have 3 nights in LA and I will probably not be able to drag my other half around ALL of these places without looking at anything else in LA....which I would happily do if I were alone, trust me!
                                          Uncle Bill sounds amazing, might have to take a trip down there, although I am more of a "sweet" French Toast kind of girl I firmly believe ANYTHING with cheddar and Bacon in it is worth trying.
                                          Father's office was on my list already. We will be in LA Friday, Saturday and Sunday night though, so I hope we will make it there for lunch one of these days! I am confused though, I thought it was open for dinner as well on Friday and Saturdays?
                                          I LOVE the look of Monte Alban, purely as I love Mole and it's impossible to find in the UK!
                                          Sorry about my comment on Dim Sum, I meant that I know Chinese food quite well (from my trips but also because my dad used to travel to China a lot and cook for me once back).
                                          Looks like I'll have to try Coni'Seafood. Regarding Tacos etc, I will probably spend the months between now and October trying to decide where to go...so many choices!
                                          The real issue is, although we have a car, I will have to plan the food-stops according to what we will do during the day (usual tourists' stuff I am afraid,what else?) so that requires some time looking at maps I think....you made me hungry guys, thank you!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: MariaLND

                                            before driving out to Coni'Seafood, call to confirm that Sergio is cooking that day.

                                            1. re: MariaLND

                                              Uncle Bill's is absolutely NOT worth a special trip down from the BH area. If you really prefer sweet French Toast's usually, I'd definitely recommend going to Griddle a thousand times more(even with the ridiculous waits). Their pancake concoctions are great as well, I usually get pancakes 70% of the time I go and french toast the other 30%.

                                              Now if you wanted to try Bincho, THAT'S worth the drive down to the South Bay.

                                              Father's Office(Culver City) is open throughout the day, Lunch to Dinner on the weekends is what was meant.

                                              1. re: baloney

                                                Uncle Bill's Pancake House is not a culinary destination at all (and I say that as a serious eater who's been a regular there for 20 years), but its an excellent place to go if you want a solid American breakfast in a 100+ year old building with an ocean-view patio in one of LA's prettiest beach communities (the prettiest in my opinion, but I'm biased on that subject too). Their french toast is fine (ie, good but not made with house-baked brioche, etc). I'd skip the bacon, which is your basic nitrate-laden mass-produced variety, but opt for the strawberry and banana topping plus a little jar of pure maple syrup (you have to ask for it specifically and pay a $1 surcharge). Their simpler omelets and pancakes are good, too. From Beverly Hills, take the Beverly Drive to Culver Blvd. to Vista del Mar route for a quicker and more scenic drive and be sure to go early to beat the crowds.

                                            2. RIght!!!
                                              Our trip is getting closer and i am trying to wrap-up all of your recommendations here!

                                              We have chosen an hotel in Beverly Hills (I know, i know...) and I have kinda ended up with the following list, bear in mind that we will have a car and drive around and we will be there Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning:

                                              Breakfast - we will pick 3 between the below once we decide what we are doing each morning. Do you recommend we book? Are they good choices?

                                              Griddle cafe
                                              Blue Jam Cafe
                                              Square 1 dining
                                              Uncle Bill's


                                              Guisados and Sushi Gen (if we go downtown at some point!)
                                              Cousin Maine Lobster (if they are in town on the weekend)
                                              Umami burger


                                              Son of a gun (we made a reservation for the Friday evening when we arrive. It looks cool, seems to have good reviews, what's your opinion guys? A friend told me he went last month and thought it was not that great and i can do better...)
                                              Chicken Itza ( I LOVE Pork Pibil and it's impossible to find over here)
                                              La Casina Mexicana
                                              Guelaguetza (for mole?)
                                              Apple pan and Father Office (are they worth it?)

                                              Please let me have your thoughts. Also, we are missing a solid Sushi place (which we could possibly swap for Son of a Gun on the night we arrive), maybe a good Steak place (although we are going to Vegas after LA, so not essential).

                                              Sorry to everyone on the board for wasting your time, I know you guys gets tons of requests like mine all the time, I have a full-time job and I am trying to balance my research with that...not easy!!!

                                              46 Replies
                                              1. re: MariaLND

                                                Don't swap out Son of a Gun, it's one of LA's best. They have some wonderful dishes you'll find no where else. If you love seafood you can't go wrong (and don't forget their oh so tasty chicken sandwich too).

                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                  great. First dinner sorted then.
                                                  Any tips on a really, really good Mexican to have dinner on Saturday then? Suppose we should have at least 1 sushi experience in LA, or am I wrong?

                                                  1. re: MariaLND

                                                    The linguine with clams in an uni aglio olio is to die for...... Best thing on the menu.... Oder the chicken sandwich to go for a snack later, it's delicious about three hours later......

                                                  2. re: wienermobile

                                                    We do love seafood by the way...although that sandwich is also on my must-order list!

                                                    1. re: MariaLND

                                                      For truly original Mexican I love Coni's Seafood, Check out J. Golds' review at this link and tell them westsidegal sent you. Those smoked marlin tacos are a must. They close at 8pm nightly.

                                                      3544 ½ W. Imperial Hwy., Inglewood

                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                        For some amazing burritos, check out Azteca Tortilleria. Really good hand made flour tortillas freshly made. They crisp the tortilla up so that it is slightly crispy, and the beans are pretty awesome. I love the chile relleno, chorizo, and carne asada burritos. Perfect spiciness.

                                                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                          Contact information, plus some amazing photos of the food at Azteca Tortilleria can be seen here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-azteca-tor...

                                                          1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                            mmmm looks amazing!!! Would you say it's a nice place for dinner?

                                                            1. re: MariaLND

                                                              There are literally two seats. More like a take out place and eat at a park or back at home/hotel.

                                                          2. re: wienermobile

                                                            I read that article and made me feel like i wanna move to LA....

                                                      2. re: MariaLND

                                                        ....and I would also add Langer's Deli to your lunch list. The best pastrami anywhere.... period. (closed Sundays)

                                                        1. re: wienermobile

                                                          I was about to say:
                                                          We will pick of Langer;s sandwiches for our trip to Vegas!!!! I am obsessed with Pastrami and in the UK it's just..well....not Pastrami!

                                                          1. re: wienermobile


                                                            Have you tried Umamicatessen's pastrami? It is pretty good, love the spice, and they cut it double thick. Only really issue I have is that it is a bit too greasy and the rye bread is meh.

                                                            1. re: A5 KOBE

                                                              Yes I have and it's darn good. Agree about the bread. They also serve the same sandwich at Mezze on Sunday nights, But my second choice to Langer's is the thick cut Pastrami Nosh at Plan Check.

                                                          2. re: MariaLND

                                                            If Cousins is not around, there are (at least) two other lobster trucks you can look for: the Lobsta Truck--which I think is a tad better than Cousins, and Lobster 'n Roll.

                                                            Also, perhaps just a couple of typos in your list, but (in case not) the places are called "Chichen Itza" not "Chicken Itza" (which sounds like it would be more of a specialist and probably not serve pork) and "La Casita Mexicana." Two other thoughts for Mexican would be Babita and Rocio's Mole de los Dioses.

                                                            Apple Pan is not really worth a special trip and, while Father's Office is good (especially if you like beer), there are more interesting places to go during your short visit with us.

                                                            For sushi, the best places would be Kiriko, Mori, Shunji and Zo, but they tend to be expensive. Hide on Sawtelle is good and comparatively inexpensive but cash only and rather plain.

                                                            1. re: New Trial

                                                              They are mistakes not typos (but thanks for the politeness!) ;o)
                                                              Apart from them, are Itza and Casita worth going to? Rocio's and Babita look great too to be honest, would you rank them for me? We are probably going there for dinner. I spotted Pork Pibil on all the menus...and Mole so I can;'t decide!

                                                              Hide's menu looks nice. To be honest though, we do have great sushi in London (if you know where to look!) so it's not a MUST.
                                                              Knowing other Lobster trucks are available is good, another thing really hard to find here is a proper Lobster roll (unless you are ready to pay a fortune)

                                                              1. re: MariaLND

                                                                Good lobster rolls are an East Coast thing. We have some here, but generally they are undernourished.

                                                                1. re: mc michael

                                                                  Yeah, figured that out actually. Good, another thing i can tick off so i can concentrate on more tacos!

                                                                2. re: MariaLND

                                                                  They are all quite good. Personally, I would rank them as:

                                                                  1. Babita
                                                                  2. Rocio's (for the inventive moles alone--by the way, she used to be the chef at La Casita)
                                                                  3. Chichen Itza
                                                                  4. Guelaguetza
                                                                  5. La Casita

                                                                  The lobster rolls from the trucks run about $12-14 and are actually quite good even from an East Coast perspective (I lived in Boston for several years). Hungry Cat (which has locations in Hollywood, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara) is a restaurant which offers an excellent one for about $25 with "chips." Son-of-a-Gun has a tasty if overpriced bite-sized version.

                                                                  1. re: New Trial

                                                                    Oh great, thanks for that. Someone below recommended Monte Alban as well...seems quite sweet and the food looks great.
                                                                    Best spot for Pork Pibil?

                                                                    1. re: MariaLND

                                                                      For pork pibil, the choices are either Babita or Chichen Itza--I give the edge to Babita foodwise but Chichen Itza is somewhat closer. Both Guelaguetza and Monte Alban are more traditionally Oaxacan so would probably not offer pibil, which is a Yucatan specialty (between those two restaurants, I slightly prefer Guelaguetza even though I do like Monte Alban. If it matters, Guelaguetza has an excellent selection of tequilas). Not sure about the current menus at the other two places insofar as pibil is concerned.

                                                                      1. re: New Trial

                                                                        Great, thanks.
                                                                        So hard to decide.
                                                                        After Vegas we are driving to the Grand canyon and then to San Diego (possibly stopping somewhere in between unless we feel completely mad on that day). After San Diego we might drive back to LA and spend another couple of days there if we feel the first two weren't enough, so i might try to fit some more places in.
                                                                        Ideally we would do both a Yucatan and a Oaxacan place . I hear traffic is mad in LA, so if Itza is closer we might have to go for that..

                                                                        1. re: New Trial

                                                                          Wow, is there really a place named Chicken Itza? I have heard of Chichen Itza, but...

                                                                  2. re: New Trial

                                                                    Father's Office and Umami occupy the same "gourmet burger" niche -- going to both on a short trip would be overkill.

                                                                        1. re: wienermobile

                                                                          An interesting pick. Not sure if I would rank it above Father's Office, but I think the OP will actually pretty happy w/ any of the 3 (even though I personally wasn't terribly impressed w/ Umani). And, of course, the OP could try Plan Check's pastrami (which I really enjoyed) and then walk around Sawtelle....

                                                                          Skip Apple Pan. It's fine and atmospheric (in a certain way) but not something worth spending time on in this short trip.

                                                                          I prefer Monte Alban over Guelaguetza.

                                                                          Are all of your breakfast choices somewhat similar? They all seem newish American (and very sweet and fatty) to me. If you're going to The Griddle on a weekend, be prepared for a MASSIVE wait. I've actually never eaten there b/c the weekend crowd totally scares me off....

                                                                          1. re: ilysla

                                                                            You are right. Breakfast choices are similar! I love American breakfast and I try to make the most of it whenever I am there! Do they take reservations for breakfast/brunch anywhere by any chance?
                                                                            Monte Alban looks great actually!

                                                                            Plan Check looks cool, I just feel FO is a kind of institution. I have heard lots of people saying what you say about Umani btw...

                                                                            1. re: MariaLND

                                                                              FO is an institution for three reasons imho. Sang Yoon started it all with his bar in Santa Monica. He has an undeterred razor focus on quality and execution. Yoon opened a second one in Culver City/Palms area.

                                                                              First, Yoon brought a serious line up of drinks, mainly craft beers (also some unusual wines and microdistillery liquors), that were unique in quality and selection relative to most other bars in the LA at that time.

                                                                              Second, Yoon elevated the level of food in bars. FO is known for their burger, but one can typically order so much more than just a burger. Mostly small plates, it can range from classic farm-to-table California, to Spanish tapas, to French Bistro and beyond. We were there the other night and did notice a paring down of choices from what we were used to in the past. But still, it's a great line-up of drinks and food to choose from.

                                                                              The third item on my personal list is of controversy. In general, the service issues at FO have caused many long drawn-out battles where the moderators have had to intervene. First, I already mentioned Sang Yoon's undeniable reputation for focus. He has his vision of what should be served but also HOW it should be served. "NO SUBSTITUTIONS" - PERIOD. Many hate FO for this particular issue, and Fathers Office has an unapologetic reputation for this - they honestly don't give a fuck. I personally find this approach fine - take it or leave it. It's Yoon's shop, and if this what he wants to do, and this is how he specifically wants his food to be presented as, it's his call - and he is usually spot on. And a fair amount of restaurants have embraced this policy as well. The one exception I wish they would make is for folks who have allergies (e.g. blue cheese) but then FO would have to cave to every other little change request based on the "allergy" excuse. This type of my-way-or-the-highway philosophy is not unusual if one has eaten in parts of Asia and Europe, so you may be familiar with it.

                                                                              I did mention service being the general area of contention. I will fully admit that I had serious issues with FO from a past dust-up with an arrogant bartender there - I was a former hater. Others have had issues with the surly service in the past as well. The service-related issues seem to surface their Santa Monica location. Since my face-to-face with the barkeep several years ago at the Santa Monica location, I never returned there, but have found the Culver City location to be many degrees more laid back, larger and far more comfortable. The patio area in the front is a major plus. But don't expect major great service here either. It's half-way between self-serve and full-service, and most of the servers here keep things brief and to the point - no touchy-feely warm-up to the bar comfort points here. People will still hover over your table taking dibs on your spot, bus service wants you in and out as soon as possible, particularly when it's crowded, and to be frank, I can't wait to get out of there when it does get crowded. Why do I go? it's all about the craft beers, and as much as I dislike the general culture and vibe there, the selection of great beers on tap are worth the hassle. Russian River Brewery is probably one of the best brewers in the US, if not the world, and FO always has at least a couple of their brews on tap. That alone is worth walking over a mile of broken beer bottles.

                                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                Sang Yoon spoke at a Zocalo event this past Friday. I'm waiting for the video to post on their website so that I can see how many screaming haters asked him Q&As at the end.

                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                  I know you regularly attend the Zocalo events - do screaming hater-types regularly show up when personalities like San Yoon are guests? I can respect the guy for his unflinching stance on the no-compromise philosophy. He leaves no stone unturned in his approaches to food and drink so I think he knows where he speaks from. I just don't care for the sometimes surly and curt attitude that I get from some of the help.

                                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                    I was being somewhat facetious. I figured if there was anyone who would bring the haters out of the woodwork, it would be Sang Yoon (I didn't attend this event).

                                                                                    I personally know of two out of town groups (one couple in town for our wedding, and another went with her parents after her grandparents funeral to try to cheer up) who wandered unknowingly into the dragon's lair.

                                                                                    The wedding couple requested ketchup, and the grieving family made a kosher request.

                                                                                    Both experiences were ruined not so much that they didn't comply with the request, but that the staff was so rude about it. And I like the burger, and I subscribe to the philosophy of "try it the chef's way", and I do find the quasi allergy/gluten/lactose intolerance/entitlement thing extremely frustrating when I'm dining out with picky eaters. I don't begrudge any of that to Sang Yoon. It's the arrogance and the attitude in implementation of the policies that is so off-putting to me. It's a fucking hamburger, after all. Perspective.

                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                      A poor command of English is not an excuse to be rude to customers. Get a server who DOES have a command of the language to explain to the patrons, if you cannot.

                                                                                      Honestly, I've always believed the attitude comes from the top & travels down to the employees. Why else would it happen to others on a pretty regular basis?

                                                                              2. re: MariaLND

                                                                                I normally don't try to make reservations for breakfast/lunch, but I'm sure more upscale restaurants (which I don't think you've chosen, necessarily) will do so. You can try seeing if the restaurants have a website to see if the site mentions anything about reservations for breakfast/brunch.

                                                                                Also, I agree w/ the other posters below that, if you're going to go to Father's Office, go to the Culver City one (unless you like dark, noisy, cramped spaces). The Santa Monica one also used to (still does?) limit the number of people they'll allow into the bar, meaning you used to have to wait in a long line just to get in during peak times.... Bleh.

                                                                                Regarding Umani burger.... Only went once. The meat patty was of high quality, but the bun was oily, the fries and ketchip were too precious by a half (and the fries weren't particularly good), and the batter covering the onion rings was also oily (and was falling off the onion w/ little provocation....).

                                                                          2. re: MariaLND

                                                                            Probably umami -- after hearing years of hype, I was underwhelmed by the burger at Father's Office. But I also went when I was pregnant (and not drinking) so it's possible the beer selection would tip in its favor. I personally finally decided that I'm a burger purist -- I like old school cheeseburgers, with no taleggio or onion jam or what have you. And for that I would recommend Pier Burger on the Santa Monica pier.

                                                                            1. re: Savour

                                                                              Morton's does a fantastic classic american burger.

                                                                              1. re: Savour

                                                                                "But I also went when I was pregnant (and not drinking) so it's possible the beer selection would tip in its favor."

                                                                                I assume being able to eat the blue cheese would've also helped (unless you don't like blue cheese). If your a burger purist, I can understand why you didn't like the FO burger. The first time I had it (at the Montana location), I was really confused b/c it looked more like a meatloaf sandwich to me.

                                                                                To ns1, I hear that Rustic Canyon also has a great (and pricey) burger. Have you had it? If so, would you call it a classic american burger?

                                                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                                                  I have not - I rarely find myself in that area. If I go to RC, I'll be getting a burger and some roast chicken (RC is on my list)

                                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                                    Yes the Rustic Canyon Burger is a really good upscale all American Burger. But it will run you $18 and add $4 more for bacon & $3 for egg so now you are up to a $25 burger.

                                                                                    My favorite Burger is at Golden State and it will only set you back $11.

                                                                                    1. re: wienermobile

                                                                                      $18 @ Mortons is all in, prime beef/bacon/mushrooms/onions.


                                                                                      conveniently enough, they did RC the day before:

                                                                                      1. re: ns1

                                                                                        Hmmm.... Decisions, decisions, decisions.... =)

                                                                                    2. re: ilysla

                                                                                      Oh, I ate the blue cheese (I am not a pregnancy purist!). But I thought it overwhelmed the burger (and I do like blue cheese). Plus the onions were too sweet for my taste. But YMMV.

                                                                                      I think my favorite "fancy" burger is probably Golden State. I wish someone did a really good wood fire burger.

                                                                                    3. re: Savour

                                                                                      I also really do like Umami's Hatch Burger.

                                                                              2. re: MariaLND

                                                                                Son of a gun is incredible. Keep it at all costs. Apple Pan & Fathers Office are NOT worth it, like AT ALL. Especially if you are going to Umami burger.....

                                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                  A lot of folks take issue with Father's Office because they won't make any changes or even allow substitutions to their food. But their menu is so much more than just their burger (hate it or love it). Bone Marrow is excellent. Their mushroom dish is also great along with a wonderful duck confit salad dish that is crave worthy. You aren't going to find these types of dishes at Umami Burger.

                                                                              3. I personally think most of the recommendations here are too expensive, too fussy, and not responsive to the OP's tastes. She specifically mentions... a Katz's sandwich, American Breakfast (eggs, taters and bacon) SF Mission food, and steak. She ABSOLUTELY needs to go to Ricky's Fish Tacos, period full stop. Umami Burger? Well, sure, but I think she'd have a more memorable and uniquely LA/American experience at Original Tommy's or Carneys on Sunset Strip. The other burgers flying around here are delicious, but "gourmet," not "traditional."

                                                                                Unbelieveably, no one's mentioned an LA Street Dog. If she loves Mission Burritos, she's gonna love a street dog. I'd take her to Carney's, and split a street dog and a cheeseburger with her BF. Griddle Cafe over Hugo's, please! And most importantly, I think she should be gently steered away from Japanese, which is the same here as everywhere else in the world, and back toward Korean, which is uniquely vibrant and diverse here. Park's, yes, or Seoul Garden near downtown for the Genjis-kan meal. She also specifically mentions steak. You could do a lot worse than a visit to Taylor's, which is also easy on the pocketbook, or Mastros BH, which isn't.

                                                                                Another choice not mentioned is the original Yuca's on HIllhurst. There you can get cochinita pibil quite the equal of Chichen Itza, plus a fantastic burger and one of my fave chili cheese dogs... all in one stop.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jesstifer

                                                                                  I would never, EVER tell ANYBODY coming to the LA for the time time who is interested more in food (vs. the scene) to go anywhere NEAR the Sunset Strip. This isn't really the appropriate board for this next observation, but that entire 1 mile or so gives me a rash and, IMHO, shows LA at its absolute, plastic, non-cultural worse (independent of culinary quality).

                                                                                  Having said that, I vaguely recall reading on here that Carney's is pretty good. And the Original Tommy's would probably be a very unique experience for someone who's new to LA (at least from what I've read; I've never been tempted to go there myself).

                                                                                  The OP said she didn't want fine-dining b/c she works in events. IMO, that means places that *aren't* like Mastros (which is really pricey) or Melisse, Providence, Osteria Mozza, etc, etc, etc.

                                                                                  I think Square One, for example is simple food prepared to a very high standard that's reasonably priced (although certainly not cheap) and in a relaxed atomsphere. Father's Office is kind of pretentious, but, again, it's a BURGER. If you're going to have a burger, why not have a really good version of one? =)

                                                                                  I can't recall what the OP said about Japanese vs. Korean food (or if she made a reference to have either one at all?). I think either one would be fine, but is Japanese here really the same here as it is everywhere else in the world? Esp in terms of variety, sheer number of places, and price/quality. I think places like a place like Yamada-ya is the definition of unfussy but tasty.

                                                                                  As far as Mexican goes, does LA have SF Mission style food? I know we don't really have Mission style burritos here. Again, she's already sampled SF Mexican food; why not give her a chance to experience something else to see the culinary diversity a California?

                                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                                    "I can't recall what the OP said about Japanese vs. Korean food."

                                                                                    Fortunately, you needn't "recall" it... It's right up there on the thread.

                                                                                    "She's already sampled SF Mexican food; why not give her a chance to experience something else"

                                                                                    I wasn't suggesting she look for SF Mission food here. I suggested that if she likes Mission style burritos, she might enjoy an LA Street Dog.

                                                                                    "This isn't really the appropriate board for this next observation...<snip>...rash."

                                                                                    Well, there's one thing we can agree on!

                                                                                    1. re: jesstifer

                                                                                      Yes, I assumed that the OP had likely stated her preferences previously. My browser collapses all "old" responses and I had no desire to review 80+ replies, Her preference is not stated in her original post (which is all my browser shows by default, plus the new responses since I last viewed the thread).

                                                                                      You have your opinions, and I have mine. I apologize if misread your post. And I meant no disrespect when I wrote why I thought that most of the preceeding recommendations weren't too fussy, too pricey, or "unresponsive to the OP's tastes" and why I thought your suggestion that she visit the Sunset Strip (which I consider to be extremely fussy in general, even if specific eateries aren't) pretty peculiar.

                                                                                      We're all passionate about food on this board, and I think "most of the recommendations" were simply trying to share that love w/ the OP. I think a lot of the recommendations were on-target, but clearly you don't. If we all agreed and never stated dissimilar opinions (and sometimes stated that opinion strongly), it'd be a very dull board indeed....

                                                                                      To the OP, I hope you enjoy your trip and share some reviews w/ us!

                                                                                2. Sorry everyone, I really didn't mean to start an argument here.
                                                                                  My name is Maria, everytime i read "the OP" it takes me a minute to understand you are talking about me! ;o)
                                                                                  I did say I loved San Francisco Mexican and Katz's Pastrami but I am definitely not looking for the same stuff. I was just trying to give you guys an idea of what I enjoyed so it would be easier for you to point me in the right direction, which you have I am sure as I have a massive notebook fll of your suggestions.
                                                                                  I am still a bit confused location-wise, I suppose I will not know until I get there how hard it will be for me to drive in LA and how long it takes to get to the places I want to get to!

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: MariaLND

                                                                                    "I am still a bit confused location-wise, I suppose I will not know until I get there how hard it will be for me to drive in LA and how long it takes to get to the places I want to get to!"

                                                                                    expect major metropolitan traffic and you'll be fine. I honestly find it takes equally long to get from point A to point B in NY/SF/LA...except in LA you drive.