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Suggestions for a "food crawl" for my friend's 40th!

My best friend is visiting me from western New York state for her 40th birthday. We're both foodies, and I was thinking that it might be fun to do a "food crawl"--get a small plate and a drink at several good food places in LA. It will be Labor Day weekend. I'm looking for suggestions for tasty Chow-worthy restaurants that would fit well with this theme. I'm looking to stay in one general area, but they don't have to be SUPER close--a 15 minute drive between each is fine, which could possibly stretch to all over LA, which is fine with me! It's a food tour!

Thank you in advance for any suggestions!

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  1. You might try the Taste Festival with everything all in one place.
    http://events.latimes.com/taste/

    1 Reply
    1. re: wienermobile

      I did see that (and we might do it too! Discount tickets on Goldstar) but I do want to do a special birthday dinner, plus it's a way for me to show her some of LA too (she's never been).

    2. not a direct answer to your question but:
      for the most part, on a weekend night, you won't have much luck just wandering in to most of the higher-end chow-worthy restaurants in this town. and getting small plates (i.e. chinois on main, gjelina, mb post in manhattan beach, milo and olive in santa monica, etc).
      on the other hand, doing an ethnic crawl (i.e sushi, izakya, yakatoria (sp?) might work.
      mexican food is another possibility.

      24 Replies
      1. re: westsidegal

        That could work.

        If I don't go the 'ethnic' route, what might your suggestions be if I did a late afternoon one...like 4-8pm?

        Or, could it be done on Labor Day itself? That's her actual birthday. Do you think places will be closed (it's a Monday and a holiday)? I've only been here a little over a year so I don't really know how places are on Mondays and/or holidays.

        1. re: lindabethn

          Many Japanese businesses traditionally close on mondays. I've found that bakeries usually pick either sunday or monday as their day off.

          imho, posters westsidegal and ipsedixit are leading you down a potentially fruitful path. LA's ethnic groups tend to geographically cluster in areas, so "crawling" from stop to stop can be done by walking or taking short drives within those communities. If you hit up more than one community, then it's a matter of "connecting the dots" between which communities you decide to explore. I don't know if you had a general area or starting point in mind, but three adjacent neighborhood/communities come to mind. All three represent their respective cultures well in the food department - many are specialists - and depending on how shallow or deep you decide to go, one can spend anywhere as little as four to six hours or up to several weekends covering the three.

          ipsedixit has already mentioned Valley Blvd in the San Gabriel Valley (SGV). The SGV is the home to a one of the largest Chinese Asian communities in North America and the mother load of Chow-crawling opportunities. The Vietnamese expat community is well-represented here as well. It is so dense with food opportunities, the majority of which would be unique experiences to most people outside of the Asian community. I typically visit this area about one-four times a month, and I feel that I've only touched on what's available here. I don't consider most of these places to be ones to have cocktails and linger - tea is probably the most common drink - folks tend to eat and leave. And most eateries serve up the dishes in very short time. These aspects would obviously work to your advantage. You may or may not feel out of your cultural comfort zone in many of these places - some can feel like there is no connection to LA, but it only speaks more to their potential Chow-credibility.

          Almost directly adjacent to the west end of the SGV are the Latino communities of Boyle Heights and East LA. Mexican cuisine can be had just about anywhere in LA, but like Chinese outside of its communities, it might be homogenous and altered to meet the tastes of the local market. Like SGV's Chinese and Vietnamese eateries, the eateries in these neighborhoods serve the local communities, so the surroundings, the language and food will be close to what one would expect "back home."

          Depending on traffic, Little Tokyo is about 10-20 minutes from the western edge of the SGV and directly adjacent to Boyle Heights. Little Tokyo used to be the cultural and commercial center for LA's Japanese community (The general Torrance area is now the new defacto "Little Tokyo"). Little Tokyo probably peaked in the 70s/early 80s and slowly contracted, but it seems to have revived in recent years, not only with first-rate Japanese eateries, but also with a fair handful of more contemporary eateries that draw "foodies" from many spectrums.

          Thai Town and Korea Town are very close to the Downtown LA area as well, so you might find these communities as potential candidates for an ethnic crawl...

          1. re: bulavinaka

            Have you ever responded briefly to a question?! ;p)) I love reading your posts, you are very knowledgeable, but I feel like I need to sit down with a fresh cup of joe or cocktail, and put my feet up, cuz this is gonna take a while.... ;0))

            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              >>Have you ever responded briefly to a question?! ;p))<<

              Occasionally.

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                >> fresh cup of joe or cocktail, and put my feet up...

                Sounds pretty good to me! :-) I too love reading bulavinaka's comments!

                1. re: PeterCC

                  I know, he should write a tome, shouldn't he?!

            2. re: lindabethn

              8pm is the middle of the busiest time, so forget that.

              most of the higher end restaurants don't start serving full dinner until 5 to 6pm.
              you would have to hit them all at the same time. . . . .

              hitting a series of high-end restaurants at the busiest time of their busiest day of the week having no reservations,
              is not likely to work well.

              1. re: westsidegal

                {{whispering}} thank you. No one else seems to be looking at the logistics & timing of this whole thing, but you & I.

                WSG is right on the mark...... In order to do this during that specific time, you need to be at those places, all at the same time. Otherwise, just forget about casually trouncing in anyplace that serves halfway decent food (not to even mention those we all RAVE about on the board) and expecting to be seated timely a.) when you arrive and b.) without a reservation. That's just reality.

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  I do understand the logistics (somewhat), but maybe I need to clarify:

                  I'm not even thinking about full-on dinner--again, a bite and a drink at 3-4 places was more my initial thought, and because of that, I wasn't really expecting to sit down.

                  But again, I've only been in LA just over a year and, moving here without knowing anyone, I haven't had the chance to experience a ton of LA dining yet, so please do tell me if even bar areas would be too packed for what I have in my head. And even on a Sunday at 4?

                  Also, they don't need to be "high end" or even the most popular...just some good quality places that would have small plates and a decent atmosphere.

                  I am completely open to the notion that this is just not feasable--but I want to make sure I'm giving the right representation of my idea and get feedback before I rule it out.

                  Thanks for all the input!

                  1. re: lindabethn

                    let's put it this way
                    tonight is wednesday night.
                    i just went to my local gastropub that happens to serve better-than-decent small plates.
                    also, there is no "crawling" to be had anywhere near them.

                    they offer no reservations, just bar seating and seating at two communal tables.
                    there is a scarcity of legal places to park anywhere near them.

                    the bar was three deep at 8pm.

                    decide, where are you going to compromise. price? quality? or going ethnic?

                    1. re: lindabethn

                      So, what you think they will serve you drinks & tapas while you wait in line with the other parties who either have reservations, or are walk ins waiting fora seat at the bar??

                      I guess I just dont get your request. Will there be places with empty bars & open tables IF they serve at four pm?? Yes. Will you be able to get to them & parked in a timely manner, while being on some sort of timeline to get to the next event/bar?? Not so much......

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        As I mentioned a few times, I have only lived here a year and have not eaten out as much as I'd like to. I am honestly saying that I do not know how busy places get here, or what dining out is like here. I haven't found the few places that I've been to to be too bad wait and busy-wise, but I guess that wasn't on a Sunday either. I would naturally assume that the super in-demand restaurants would be packed, but I'm not necessarily looking for that.

                        For example, in medium-sized cities, restaurants are not jam-packed on Sundays. I am gathering from the comments that they are here, and even in the early evening. Also, it is apparent that bar areas will be packed too, which is also not the case in other cities necessarily. Please forgive my ignorance, but that is why I'm asking the questions--because I simply do not know.

                        Thanks for the feedback. I'll have to think about it....

                        1. re: lindabethn

                          Sorry, but LA ain't no medium sized city. You'll learn.

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            Oh, I know full well it isn't! I've been around LA quite a bit in the last year (way more than many locals do, so I'm told), but not really having made any friends here til recently has kept me from going to too many of the nicer restaurants (but I HAVE bookmarked many a CHOW page!).

                            So that wasn't what I was saying...just saying that I've spent much more time in medium sized cities and so that's what I'm familiar with. I wanted to give some of my own background so that my comments make more sense since even asking the question solicited some critical responses. Since I haven't personally experienced the packed-ness of places that you're referring to, I'd have no way of know otherwise, which is why I appreciate the insight. But I DID at least know enough to ask and not assume it would be no problem!

                            1. re: lindabethn

                              not for this one event, but for the future:
                              you don't need to be accompanied to explore the terrific culinary world that is in LA.
                              during the week, early in the evening, it is VERY doable to snag a solo seat at the bar in the majority of the restaurants around.
                              i do it all the time.
                              getting a solo weekday seat at 5;30 or so, is my most successful approach to having good food in LA.
                              virtually any good restaurant that has a bar, will happily serve you dinner at the bar at that hour.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Thanks for the pep talk! It's true, I shouldn't defer. Good to know that an solo meal is doable. I don't normally mind dining alone, but for some reason, I feel the need to kind of holding off on some of the nicer places until I can share them with someone!

                                1. re: lindabethn

                                  life is short.
                                  by scoping out all the restaurants on your own, when the time comes, you will be able to steer your future companion(s) in the right direction and you will be able to avoid being subjected to the awful food that less-discerning people often select.
                                  YOU will be the maven.
                                  also, for all we know, you may meet your future companion by going out!
                                  you are much less likely to meet companions by staying home!

                                  do it starting NOW.
                                  don't let the opportunity slip away.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    This is becoming a very inspirational thread. (No sarcasm.) :-)

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      feels more like bullying to me.

                                    2. re: westsidegal

                                      I'm actually just starting to make friends here, so I've been able to get out to restaurants more! So much to do in LA, I have been de-prioritizing dining out. I shall change that. Point well taken. :-)

                                      1. re: lindabethn

                                        You only turn 40 once and it sounds like a good (and pricey!) excursion for you and your friend. You just blow in and tell them that it's your friends' birthday and who knows maybe an actor will give up his seat at the bar! This is an opportunity not to be missed. Don't be shy......do the town as they say.

                                        1. re: chewbacca

                                          That's what I say! She's my best friend and she lives 3,000 miles away--this will be a great time, no matter which of the several options I choose!

                        2. re: lindabethn

                          I did a crawl through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood in on a busy Saturday night (6 PM to 10 PM) in June, hitting Animal, Red Medicine, and Hatfield's (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/854184). I was able to make reservations at RM and Hatfield's through OpenTable but risked walking in at Animal and managed to snag a bar seat (I could have called Animal for a res, but it was the last week before the foie gras ban, so they had no openings, but that shouldn't be a problem now).

                          Bar seating may be a really good way to go, as they are often more available than tables and most serve full menus. And while none of the above restaurants are specifically "small plate", the food generally works well for sharing.

                          Travel time between each restaurant wasn't a big deal, even though I actually headed "backwards" by going from Animal to RM and then to Hatfield's. Animal had to be my first stop, as I was doing without a res, for the reasons mentioned above. But you could order it more logically, and pepper in more stops in between, like a stop at Mezze or at the bar at Mozza. OpenTable, or more generally, reservations, are a must if you go the crawl route. If you get stuck in traffic, call the restaurant en route, many are generally accommodating to a reasonable extent.

                2. Valley Blvd in San Gabriel between New and Del Mar Ave.

                  24 Replies
                      1. re: lindabethn

                        Find a parking spot in the Focus Plaza lot (its on the SW corner of Valley and Del Mar).

                        Then wander around in the shopping center, where you can get some shanghai food (at Shanghai Restaurant), bbq duck and pork (at Sam Woo) and maybe some pastries at Kee Wah.

                        Then head west on Valley and stop off at either J&J or Mei Long Village for some Xiao Long Bao.

                        Keep walking west and stop at Liang's Kitchen for some Taiwanese stinky tofu, and then maybe some boba and shaved snow at PaPaWalk.

                        If the weather cools off by next week during Labor Day maybe even stop off at Mon Land Hot Pot for, well what else, but hot pot.

                        Then maybe have dinner at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood, or if you prefer Vietnamese then go to Nha Trang, or if you want fusion crap try Dip's Grill.

                        That's just one of many itineraries you could build along that route. There are probably 20 others.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          This.

                          Especially J&J for crab roe XLB then Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village for a XLB comparison but also the stellar pan fried buns (shen jian bao).

                          Then drive over to Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice and hit up Gjelina and Tasting Kitchen for your dinner crawl. The long waits for the bar will allow you to digest and eat and drink anew.

                          Another alternative is to park around Melrose and Highland for your dinner tour. You can grab the Bianco Pomodoro Margherita pizza, corn al forno, asparagus al forno with prosciutto at Pizzeria Mozza. Go next door to Osteria Mozza and grab some version of a burrata bruschetta from the Mozzarella bar. Also try the orecchiette pasta. Then head up the street to Hatfield's for the hamachi croque madame. Maybe beignets for dessert if you like dessert.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            DTLA would be another good area for a food crawl, although the weekend might be a bit dead.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Would "dead" be good, because easier seating and service? Or do you mean there'd be no ambiance?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Hmm...because I like options :-), what would be top recommendations for small plates in DTLA if I went that route?

                                  1. re: lindabethn

                                    WP24, UMAMIcatessen, Gorbals, Wood Spoon, Lazy Ox, Rivera, Bar & Kitchen, The Parish.

                                    And that list doesn't even include Little Tokyo, which would require a crawl all unto itself (and besides, it's "ethnic").

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I've been to WP24--my favorite view of Downtown! :-)

                                        And I have no problem with 'ethnic' whatsoever. Love it in fact. Would prefer to have a mix if I can. Good suggestions--thanks!

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          So I just browsed all those menus--LOVE them! They seem to have better selection than some of the higher-end places.

                                          I think I'll pop down to maybe 2 of those this weekend and see how many people are out. This suggestion is a solid contender! Thanks!

                                2. re: Porthos

                                  the "long wait" for a seat at Gjelina on a weekend night could be in the 2 hour neighborhood, easily.
                                  also, there is nowhere in the restaurant to sit down while you're waiting.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Excellent point. In fact, I think a lot of these places will have waits, unless you happen to be there in he middle of the day, & they happen to be open & serving ;)

                                    But I love your idea, lindabethn, and am considering doing the same exact tour when my buddy of 30+ years comes for a visit in two months. But I plan on spreading it out over four days, since I know how dreadful traffic can be, trying to cross town in the middle of the day.

                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                      I will for sure give a report on how it goes. I was trying to figure out something really cool to do for her--she took me on a great b-day dinner right before I moved her, plus it's her 40th--and I thought this could be a good way to kill several birds with one stone, so to speak.

                                      1. re: lindabethn

                                        Cool. I get it. Can't wait to hear what worked to for you.

                                        1. re: lindabethn

                                          if i were you,
                                          i'd completely ditch the "crawling" idea and go with a solid restaurant WITH A RESERVATION and pay the money that this will entail.
                                          or
                                          ditch the AMBIANCE, HIP, COOL, idea and go ETHNIC.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            I still may do ethnic, I just want my options. And I may do a reservation instead too--the idea came to me last night, so I'm putting the feelers out to see if it's doable! :-)

                                            Also, I think maybe some are overestimating what I'm looking for--I don't need hip or cool...or even that much ambiance for that matter. Just solid food with small plates that is at least "cute."

                                            1. re: lindabethn

                                              those are often MORE crowded because they don't take reservations and everyone who is trying to come in at some kind of budget will be standing in line waiting for a spot.

                                              fwiw, for "cute" but no small plates, i'd grab a burger or an entree salad at 26 beach restaurant. imho, their entree offerings are not very good, but their burgers are and their entree salads are, for the most part, terrific.
                                              the burger or salad will run about $15 before tax and tip.
                                              a glass of wine will be in the neighborhood of $10 before tax and tip.
                                              they normally have valet parking on the weekends.

                                              the decor is shabby chic (very cute) and you WILL be well served to have a reservation.

                                              they are not really near anyplace to which "crawling" makes any kind of sense, but you could go from there to the valet attended lot in front of cafe del rey and grab a drink at the cafe del rey bar (which used to be really pretty until they redecorated it to be "cute." figure about $12 for a glass of wine there before tax and tip.)

                                              of of the problems with "crawling" in this town, is that at each new location you will be on the hook for another valet fee.

                                              being westside oriented, if i were hell bent on "crawling," i'd probably park my car in one of the City of Santa Monica parking structures near the third street promenade (they charge a fixed fee of about $5 or $6) and i'd walk the restaurants in the promenade and in santa monica place.
                                              i've had good food at The Misfit, although haven't been there in months.
                                              you could call it cute in a brasserie sort of way. MAKE A RESERVATION

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                So true. That's one thing the suggested DTLA itinerary has going for it...I live by the metro red line! And we're east coasters, so we don't mind walking :-)

                                            2. re: westsidegal

                                              I guess I'm more partial to the crawl idea, but I definitely agree on the emphasis on reservation. For example, going through OpenTable, I can currently snag reservations for the following restaurants on Saturday, 9/1:

                                              6:00 PM - Red Medicine
                                              7:30 PM - Mezze
                                              9:15 PM - Hatfield's
                                              10:45 PM - Osteria Mozza

                                              If the plan is sharing dishes and getting a taste for each restaurant, the times are totally doable, even with travel (RM and Mezze are fairly close, Hatfield's and Mozza are practically on top of each other).

                                              1. re: PeterCC

                                                Great idea! I'll play around with that!

                                      2. re: Porthos

                                        Always a wait at p.Mozza, and every other place on your list has pages of reservations. Very hard to walk in to the places & be seated right away, unless you have impeccable timing for each place. Rotsa ruck!

                                3. XLB crawl, taco crawl, cocktail crawl

                                  I think the latest eater list would be pretty fun to blow through:

                                  http://la.eater.com/archives/2012/08/...

                                  1. I think that sounds like fun! If this were me I would recommend starting with HH at Bouchon, then Dan Tana's at the bar...and then Wrap it up at Baazar. If you want one more stop at Mezza, Lucques or Fig and Olive. If you need to return to original parking spot have a nightcap back at Scarpetta. How many people are birthday-hopping in your group?

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: chewbacca

                                      I guess I should have made that clear-it's just her and I...I guess I wasn't really planning for table service, but a drink and bite at the bar. Still impossible in a Saturday or Sunday? Even at 4pm?

                                      Not ruling out the ethnic idea-it is a great one!- I just like options :-)

                                      1. re: lindabethn

                                        Chewbacca's recommendation of starting at Bar Bouchon (no happy hour on weekends though, to my knowledge) and ending at the bar in Bazaar is spot-on for sampling good bites in multiple places. I've taken visitors on that itinerary and it always pleases. For a twilight cocktail in between (time-wise, anyway), a martini at the bar at Dan Tana's is a great idea...as are the outdoor patios at the Chateau Marmont, the Sunset Tower, and the Mondrian (although, for the record, I would not wish the last two upon my worst enemy for anything other than enjoying an LA sunset with a drink in hand).

                                        I'd include a stop at Loteria in the Original Farmer's Market for their sampler plate - which is 12 different bite-sized tacos....or, at the opposite end of the Mexican spectrum, you could pop in to the bar at Red O for a couple of small (although not small in price) plates. And contrary to the contrarians, I'd give bar seating at Osteria Mozza a shot on Labor Day weekend, when it may be a little less populated than usual...or, even better, reverse the itinerary so you start there at 5 when they open and work your way west.

                                        Have fun.

                                        1. re: Omniverous

                                          Additionally, as long as you're gracious about it, I don't think anyone at Matsuhisa would mind if you sat at either their sushi or tempura bars for just a couple of small bites/dishes. And...you can get more "chow-worthy" bar food in the Sidebar at Cut in the Beverly Wilshire, just down the street from Bouchon. Peace Out.

                                          1. re: Omniverous

                                            just a warning about chateau marmont:
                                            when my roommate last went there, 3 drinks, out the door, ran over $75

                                          2. re: lindabethn

                                            the high-end, chow worthy restaurants serve food at their bars and are normally packed to the gills at dinner time on the weekends. one of the "small-plates" restaurants that i frequent takes reservations for seats at their bar for saturday nights.

                                            hell, even the little local gastropub that i normally frequent is packed on the weekends. sitting at their bar or one of their communal tables and ordering an assortment of small plates is considered "date night" for many of the locals.

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              Oh, is it ever!! You are so on point. If you don't get there as they open, you're SOL. it gets taken over by hungry locals. Quickly. They are no dummies.

                                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                Wow! I must admit (as I just did in another response), I haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg for dining in LA, so to be frank, I'm pretty clueless about how busy places get, and have maybe only been to 2 of the high-praised Chow restaurants--ever. So I do appreciate the honesty over what to expect.

                                                Clearly Saturday is out. What are you thoughts on Sunday, and about my idea of starting early, like 4pm? Doable? Not? Honesty is what I'm looking for!

                                                Thank you all again!

                                                1. re: lindabethn

                                                  I would do a nice brunch on Sunday, like Scarpetta, or One Pico at Shutters on the beach. Then work my way inland about 4 ish to places in WeHo, like AOC, etc.

                                                  PS - we are not trying to actively discourage you from visiting great places, just trying to give you a clue as to what you may be dealing with. And that your plans may be a bit ambitious, and save you from major headaches.

                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                    And I do appreciate it! Truly what I was looking for. Sorry to throw in so many "well, what if...?" responses--just like to have a full "menu" :-)

                                                    Just to clarify, I don't have any plans or an expectation really--just an idea that you friendly folks are helping me flesh out to see if it could work! I do appreciate all the suggestions!

                                                  2. re: lindabethn

                                                    many restaurants are closed on sundays
                                                    most sushi restaurants are closed
                                                    fig is closed
                                                    lukshon is closed.
                                                    because of this, the remaining restaurants that are open are usually crowded.

                                                    as i mentioned in my earlier post,
                                                    most small plate restaurants are not open at 4
                                                    even musha (japanese izakaya) doesn't open until six.
                                                    (even though it is a VERY modest restaurant with tiny tables jammed together,
                                                    because it serves very good food, you will need to have a reservation.)

                                                    now, i have to admit that the information that i'm proffering is all based on westside experience. i'd guess that any restaurants that are open downtown on sunday would be more likely to have space. again, this is ONLY A GUESS.

                                                    (my two foray's into the downtown world were absolutely not worth the incredible parking fees and certainly not worth the drive from the westside)

                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                      I think you meant to type Musha. Which didn't come through & a newb wouldn't know about. Just clarifying for the benefit of the OP.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        Thank for for this--very good to know!

                                                      2. re: lindabethn

                                                        Saturday is not necessarily out if a.) you decide on a place & a time ( earlier or later are less popular than say six or seven-thirty) or b.) go to a popular place off peak times. Those w ressies at peak times have been holding them for at least a month. Yes, even over labor Day.