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Sep 5, 2012 09:48 AM

Visit to LA from NYC

Hi, coming into town in late October and would love some must eat food spots. Will travel in any part of LA for good food! I do have a few things I'd love suggestions on:

1. Soup Dumplings-- We have Joe's Shanghai in NYC. Anything similar in LA? Would like to try a West Coast rendition.

2. Best Hamburger-- Where can we find the best hamburger in LA? I'm in love with the Minetta Black Label burger and the Shake Shack burgers (although two completely different styles, both monumental).

3. Best Mexican-- So full disclosure, I'm originally from Austin and grew up on cheesy tex-mex. Would like to find something like that, but totally appreciate the cleaner flavors of West Coast Mexican too. Maybe a place that has both?

4. Wild Card-- what one place do we need to try?


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  1. Hi~ I'm originally from NY but haven't lived there in so long that I can only really comment about pizza & bagels :)
    As far as your wild card, I'd recommend Korean food! It's amazing here...Parks BBQ, Soot Bull Jeep, etc...there are tons of amazing places to choose from. Sushi is also amazing here - I'd recommend Kiriko or Mori in West LA, or if you want the little tokyo experience, maybe Sushi Gen or Hama while they're not the best in the city, I love being in little tokyo.
    Mexican... I'd recommend some fish tacos! Ricky's is a stand that's open from 12:30 - 4:30 wed- sunday as long as it's weather appropriate. He's vermont south of sunset or something like that... others may jump in with some authentic mexican food trucks as well.
    i don't eat meat but my coworker LOVES Stout & Golden State for burgers.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Clyde

      I'll take a pizza recommendation too! We're going to be there for 6 days!

      1. re: christinec222

        might as well hit up Pizza Mozza for a good LA stand-by. Hit up Sotto if you want to argue about the authenticity of Neapolitan pizza for a few days on CH.

        1. re: ns1

          re: Mozza, make a reservation... and get the butterscotch budino thingy for dessert. I have a hard time recommending pizza here when you have such amazing spots in NY. But, pizza is improving here and Mozza is a pretty good bet for some good food.
          You may want to try 2 korean spots!!!! definitely try a korean bbq joint and then maybe like the other recommendation- try soon tofu/soondubu. it's really outstanding, but you'd have to go to either Sokongdong as Mr. Taster suggested or across the street to Beverly Soon Tofu. Another Korean dish you may like is bibimbap! Do some research on these things on here and you'll be set!

          1. re: Clyde

            To be fair, when you say "amazing pizza in NY" you mean about 20 pizzerias out of 5000.

            The OP asked for a pizza recommendation...

            1. re: ns1

              II wouldn't go to NYC and seek out Korean food, just saying.

              1. re: Clyde

                Korean is turning up in a lot of the wildcard recommendations. I've only ever had NYC Korean and have always been so/so about it. I'm guessing LA Korean is a whole other animal. Will have to do this when we go out there.

                1. re: Clyde

                  The OP asked for a recommendation, just saying.

                  1. re: ns1

                    ns1, why don't you give her one then? can you do better than Mozza?

                    1. re: Clyde

                      That WAS my pizza rec.

                      I'm not gonna recommend NY style pizza to a NY'er and I said my piece about Sotto ;)

                2. re: ns1

                  I wish we had 20 here in LA, but I'll settle for 10

        2. for the mexican,
          i'd go for mexican seafood done in the style of sinaloa and nayarit.
          warning: in this style
          A)the shrimp are served with their tails peeled, but their heads still attached.
          B)the ceviche is made to order, so the acid doesn't have a lot of time to "cook" it, which means that the texture is more like that of raw fish than like that of cooked fish.
          C) the barbecued fishis is served with the head on and the bones in
          D) the deep fried fish is served with the head on and the bones in

          1. 1. "Soup dumplings" (most menus here translate them more accurately as "juicy pork buns", since they are not technically dumplings). Go to San Gabriel, spin around and point, and the likelihood is that you'll be looking right at some restaurant that serves some iteration of them. They're a Shanghainese dish but have become wildly popular over the last few years, so even non-Shanghainese restaurants are serving them now. But you should get them at a Shanhainese restaurant-- Dean Sin World or Mei Long Village, or J&J next to Mei Long Village. If you go to Mei Long Village, be sure to get the pork pump too. But why limit yourself to XLB? There's so much great, regional Chinese cooking to choose from in the San Gabriel Valley.

            2. Best hamburger is somewhat controversial, but I think you can't go wrong with either Father's Office or Umami Burger, or Golden State (all expensive to very expensive). Or go to In-N-Out for a classic California style fast food burger that won't blow your socks off, but it a helluva sandwich for $2-3. Avoid the admittedly adorable, historic restaurant "The Apple Pan", unless you don't mind paying upwards of $25-30 for a small coffee shop burger, fries, coke, pie and coffee. (However, the banana cream pie is truly extraordinary-- you might want to consider getting a takeaway slice).

            3. Best Mexican-- most Mexican restaurants worth going to in LA are going to cook in the style of someone's abuela and less in the style of a Tex-mex margarita mill. You absolutely won't find the two under the same roof (great Tex-Mex + real Mexican food, I mean-- it would be like having a synagogue and church under the same roof). As for this, pick your region and decide from there. The moles of Oaxaca? (Monte Alban) The haute cuisine (Babita) or little snacks (Antojitos Carmen) of Mexico City? The seafood of Sinaloa or Nayarit (Coni' Seafood- be sure Sergio is cooking the pescado zarandeado when you go)? The funky melange of cultures and tastes of the Yucatan (La Flor de Yucatan or Chichen Itza)? The tried-and-true food of the LA Chicano, LA's immigrant cooking (Manuel's El Tepayec)? Take your pick. If you really want to immerse yourself in the LA's immigrant culture, go to El Mercadito in Boyle Heights or the Alameda Swap Meet. Let your eyes, ears and nose guide you.

            4. Agree with Korean. There's nothing to compare in New York. Try the the soontofu (spicy fresh tofu stew), bulgogi and raw crab panchan at Sokongdong in a Koreatown minimall on Olympic and Vermont.

            Mr Taster

            19 Replies
            1. re: Mr Taster

              Thank you for this! What a great summary. So regarding #1: other than Mei Long Village and the like, what would you recommend in another Chinese regional style? again, 6 days so I'm sure we'll have time to try another. Regarding #3, I'm very interested in the LA immigrant style cooking so I"ll try that.

              1. re: christinec222

                One other hamburger suggestion. Plan Check on Sawtelle in West LA. Great burgers. Had their blueprint burger with smoked blue cheese, pig candy, fried onions, roasted garlic steak sauce, peppercress for $11 just the other day. Absolute knock out. Had their version of poutine with pastrami topping the fries. Another delicious and creative winner. Wonderful beer list (I consumed their St. Peters Cream Stout from the UK (500ml) for $15) and cocktails too. Last item to sell Plan Check are their house made cruller donuts with cinnamon sugar and fresh fruit and cream.

                1. re: christinec222

                  You'd be doing yourself a disservice by limiting yourself to only trying LA's Chicano cooking. These are the huge burritos, beans and rice plates that you're used to seeing, and that you might be able to find serviceable (though not superlative) versions of in NYC. You will likely not be able to find in NYC the kind of intricate, careful, regional cooking that you'll find at La Casita Mexicana, Babita or Chichen Itza,

                  As for Chinese, you really should read this board. It's stuffed to the gills with recommendations for Chinese restaurants, from Xinjiang (Omar's) to Cantonese/Dim sun (Elite/Sea Harbour), the Muslim influence of China's central Shaanxi province (Shaanxi Gourmet, China Islamic), the dough sliced noodles and dumplings of northern Shanxi province (101 Noodle Express), the delicious shared social activity of Little Fat Sheet (Mongolian hotpot), Taiwanese comfort food at Old Country Cafe (pork cutlets) or Sinbala (Taiwanese sausage with raw garlic, shaved ice dessert.) The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on................

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Thank you! will begin to dig in deeper with these recommendations.

                  2. re: christinec222

                    As an Angelino I HAD to go to Shake Shack when I was in NY, so I would encourage you to go to In N Out. It's only 6 bucks all in.

                    I mean at the end of the day we'll both prefer what we have, but it's good to see what the other side has ;)

                    1. re: ns1

                      Totally agree. I also think it would be a complete miss to not have had In-n-Out while out there.

                      1. re: christinec222

                        Just keep in mind that one of the great things about In-N-Out is the customization of the "secret menu". If you've never been, I suggest ordering the burgers "animal-style" at the minimum. Everyone has their preferred prep but a simple Google search ought to reveal how deep the rabbit hole goes...

                          1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                            You can get the complete list of all the variations In_N-Out offers at my favorite food blog, Serious Eats, which, as a New Yorker, should be very familiar to you. If you want to make a Taco run and see some historic sites in CA, go on the 101 to Santa
                            Barbara, about 1 hour north of LA. On Milpas Street, an exit on the 101, is Super Rica, a really good taco place, and you can check out the Mission while you are there.

                            1. re: pizzafreak

                              "Santa Barbara, about 1 hour north of LA"

                              Damn, I must be doing something wrong all these years since it takes me 50% longer than this to make that drive...

                              1. re: Servorg

                                Well, it's about 1 hour from north, north Los Angeles.

                                Just did the trip 2 weeks ago.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Me too. It took us two hours, with no traffice from Pasadena. It takes us 1.5 hours from west LA.

                                  La Super-rica is great, we love it, but there must be something very similar in East LA. Anyone?

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        Same - I can never make it out there during the hours they're open though.

                                2. re: pizzafreak

                                  Even better than La Super Rica is Taqueria La Colmena ("beehive"), also on Milpas St. but a bit closer to the freeway. Everything I've had there equals or surpasses the congruent dishes at La Super Rica, and I've never had to wait in line.


                          2. re: christinec222

                            Would really recommend you skip Shanghainese in LA unless it's Shanghai #1 Seafood Village. There you can do your soup dumpling comparison but do one better and try seriously awesome pan fried buns (aka shenjian bao). These versions are like soup dumplings on steroids and pan fried with a crispy bottom.

                            Mei Long Village is no better than Yeah Shanghai Deluxe and the XLB at Mei Long Village have been horrible for at least 2 years now. Yeah Shanghai Deluxe has a pork pump too. It's probably "rump" on the menu.

                            Also I would add Red Medicine as your wild card.

                          3. re: Mr Taster

                            Golden State is one of my favorite burgers in Los Angeles. (beer floats too).

                            The Umami Hatch Burger is very tasty (and don't miss their cherry almond good!

                            and Plan Check is part of my holy trinity of LA burgers (also try their pastrami poutine).

                            1. re: wienermobile

                              My favorite pizza can be found at:
                              1. Pizzeria Mozza Hollywood
                              2. Stella Rosa Pizza Bar Santa Monica
                              3. Milo and Olive Santa Monica
                              and tied for 3rd Gjelina in Venice

                          4. 2. Up for debate, but if you don't have Umami burgers in NYC, these are a good intro. For fast food type, In n Out is a famous & well loved chain. Tommy's chili burgers are also a delicious example of another well loved LA chain. But practically any decent restaurant has a burger on the menu. But I do have to disagree with my friend above about the Father's Office recommendation. Unless you like your burger a particular way (no ketchup, only blue cheese, caramelized onions, and in the soup nazi style of NO Substitutions EVER!) it's not worth it.

                            4. Agree with all who point you toward Korean. But if that's not your style, you should try to get a reservation at Animal. You won't regret it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              and add Son of A Gun. The seafood version of Animal from the same two wonderful chefs.

                              1. re: wienermobile

                                Thanks, wienermobile. I was going to let you add that one. And I also agree with my hotdog carted friend on the Hatch burger being the bomb at Umami ( only one I crave) and actually I adore the pastrami nosh, pcb burger & fried chicken sandwiches at Plan Check, not to mention their addicting butter lettuce salad. In fact, just about everything on Plan Check's menu is delicious.

                            2. 1. Joe's is to NY as Din Tai Fung is to LA. Note there is a very long wait at both DTF locations which are just walking distance from each other in Arcadia. If you're not looking for the big name, there are a number of other very good/better soup dumpling contenders in the San Gabriel Valley. Any search for 'XLB' or 'xiao long bao' on the board should pull these up - Dean Sin World, J&J are some.

                              2. In-N-Out is our equivalent to Shake Shack - the one that locals grow up on and crave when they move away - and you definitely need to try a double-double animal style if you haven't before. The other thing LA has is the ubiquitous gourmet burger of which we have lots of good ones - Father's Office, Umami, Golden State, Short Order to name a few.

                              I'll leave Mexican to the many other good recs in this thread, but for your wildcard I suggest you have Californian or Cal-French while you're out here - Gjelina, Hatfields, Jiraffe.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: TracyS

                                Din Tai Fung is about as diametrically opposed to Joe's Shanghai as you can get. Joe's XLB are dense, thick and greasy whereas Din Tai Fung's are light, fresh, brothy. It might actually be worth the OP trying them out just to get a sense of the range of what XLB can be.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  I completely disagree with the statement that Joe's XLBs are thick, dense and greasy. I have eaten at 12 of the 15-20 or so places in Chinatown that serve XLBs and have soup dumplings probably about 4-5 times a month. Joe's dumpling skins are super thin and delicate and while the inside is oily, the outside is not greasy and they are not dense.

                                  1. re: christinec222

                                    I'm sorry, I was sloppy in my description. I was trying to communicate that the soup inside was greasy, unctuous-- not the buns themselves. The broth in Din Tai Fung's version is very clean and bright, just the opposite of Joe's.

                                    As for the thickness of the skins, at that time in my XLB development when I ate at Joe's, I primarily had eaten Din Tai Fung's version, whose skins are gossamer thin to the point of translucency. This is unusual even among the top San Gabriel Valley XLB places. I last ate at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown upwards of 6 years ago, so I admit my recall may be suffering. Perhaps I'm remembering that Joe's skins were thick compared to the impossibly thin skins of Din Tai Fung. The bottom line however is that my overall impression of Joe's was very unfavorable.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Maybe they've refined them since then or maybe these ones you're describing are out of this world. Either way, now you have me very interested! ;) I'll give them a whirl and report back.

                                    2. re: christinec222

                                      I've been to DTF in Hong Kong, Shanghai & Tokyo and it's roughly a million times better than Joe's Shanghai, so if LA's are anything similar than I'm sure Mr. Taster is correct. There are much better XLB than Joe's Shanghai even in NYC, although you have to go to Queens.

                                    3. re: Mr Taster

                                      I was more referring to the way that DTF automatically gets named when someone asks about XLB in LA.
                                      I think Joe's stirs the same controversy in NY - it has both its devotees and others who think it's all hype and nowhere near as good as the hole-in-the-wall place that doesn't get press.
                                      Anyone who enjoys XLB definitely has to try DTF at least once to judge for themselves.

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Another one for DTF. It is superb. Also, in order to avoid the line for dinner just come in at 4:45 you will just walk in. Everyone seems to get in at 5:00. Always amazes me. For lunch there is usually no line