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First time in LA: Looking to impress hubby with AWESOME food!!!

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My family (husband and 10,6 year old kids) and I will be in Los Angeles the second week of November. He is European but LOVES Mexican food. I'm from San Antonio so he's had good food there.

I am looking for some incredible places to eat in the City of Angels!!. We will be visiting Chinatown, but we are willing to drive across town if need be for great Mexican food. I'm hoping to find some of those mom and pop taco trucks too.

I would love to hear any recommendations about ANY great food... not limited to just Mexican.

Thanks!!

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  1. If you want Chinese food, I would skip Chinatown altogether. Go instead to the San Gabriel Valley, which is a short drive (in good traffic) east of Los Angeles proper. There, you will find one of the greatest concentrations of good Chinese restaurants in the US.

    Check out this thread for more information:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/818688

    1 Reply
    1. re: raytamsgv

      Perfect, thanks!!

    2. Price range? Location? with the kids or without?

      3 Replies
      1. re: wienermobile

        We will be with the kids. Price range is moderate.. I suppose 10-15 dollars a plate, max? I think this is reasonable... Mexican food is not too expensive where I'm from.

        Thanks for answering!! I was starting to get discouraged!!

        1. re: TheGreekxicans

          Here is a link that will help. Start asking questions, Welcome to LA
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/816433

          and I love Ricky's Fish Tacos! Open Lunch only thursday-sundays.
          https://twitter.com/RickysFishTacos

          1. re: wienermobile

            Fish tacos!!! I used to live in Hawaii and boy, those fish tacos are good! I used to have them right after a dive. Best ever.

      2. Go to East LA and try Manuel's El Tepeyac for burritos, taquitos and Guisados for delicious authentic tacos.

        If you go anywhere west toward Hollywood, you will pay a lot more.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          I can't wait to try the guisados, thanks!

          1. re: TheGreekxicans

            I can understand Guisados, but I'm a bit leery of Manuel's El Tepeyac. I haven't eaten there in years, but I thought it was more a quantity over quality place. Heard some grumbling about the daughter taking over the place a few years back and it had slipped. Where's is westsidegal anyway? I think it's time for our expert on Coni's Seafood on Imperial Highway. The pescado zarandeado is about $22 a kilo as I recall. I've heard it's available in Texas, but I have no idea how it compares to the one cooked up by Sergio which I've had and liked a lot. Incidentally it's been noted some feel calling to make sure Sergio is cooking is a guarantee you'll get the best experience. Coni's isn't in the high rent district so you know. I'm butting out now. I think our visitors might be more interested in the types of cuisine that might not be available in San Antonio.

            1. re: Feed_me

              Coni's would be over their budget of 10-15 a plate.....

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                that too.
                any good seafood place in LA will cost more than 10-15 a plate out-the-door.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  That's true. I guess I wasn't associating seafood as Mexican food? I know.. hmphf.. shows you how much I know about Mexican food. I'm FROM San Antonio, and visit often, but I live in North Carolina... not much Mexican food here!!

                  1. re: TheGreekxicans

                    if you'd like to get a quick idea about how far "mexican food" extends, take a look at this blog by StreetgourmetLA. fabulous pictures of all the food. be sure to click on some of the subjects shown in the column on the right side of the home page.

                    http://www.streetgourmetla.com/

                  2. re: westsidegal

                    Sorry westsidegal, I had no idea about the Coni's thing. I actually appreciated that you know so much about the place and what were the current happenings there. The information was informative I felt. Not going to delve into it further. I don't think the pescado z should be off the table since a kilo of snook should easily feed 2. I have eaten Sergio's and some of the cooking by others so I feel reasonably familiar enough with the food. I'm keeping my mouth shut about my favorite cheap eatery, but it can found easily enough. I see Clayudas are mentioned further below. If the op is interested, I followed Dommy's recommendation and got the clayuda with inhouse made chorizo. Really good and pretty to look at from E.K. Valley in Culver City. Sometimes they have an agua fresca made with pumpkin which is pretty interesting (bits of pumpkin in the drink).

                    1. re: Feed_me

                      the kilo does feed 2, i should know because i had a half of one for lunch today!
                      the rest of that fish, i'm sure, will be dinner covered in those onions. .. .

          2. raytamsgv has already got you covered for Chinese.

            For Mexican go to Babita.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              For $10-15 a plate max, Babita doesn't even come in the running at lunchtime.... Sometimes I wonder, do you guys ever read the comments below the OP?!

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                That would be no fun.

                I third the rec for San Gabriel for Chinese. Kids always enjoy dim sum, especially cart style.

                My kids (9 and 7) love going to the food truck gettogethers. For an LA experience, try the Kogi truck. It's Mexican Korean fusion.

                1. re: boogiebaby

                  Mexican-Korean is interesing and I would love to try it!!! Thanks!

              2. re: ipsedixit

                It's okay, Ipse, my first thought was Babita, but then I remembered the price range. However, to the OP - I think they would find it worth it to spend a little more and try Babita. Delicious! I also agree with the recs for Chichen Itza (interesting food from the Yucatan that you don't find everywhere) and Guelaguetza (known for their moles) and food from Oaxaca.
                I think if they balance out their budget and amongst the trucks and the more expensive places, they should come out pretty even.

                http://www.babita-mexicuisine.com/

                http://www.chichenitzarestaurant.com/
                http://guelaguetzarestaurante.com/

              3. Understand that Texas Mexican food and Los Angeles Mexican food are very like to be be very different.

                I love El Tepeyac, but that is old school Angeleno Mexican, not current Mexican food.

                For good Mexican food that is more contemporary look at Guelaguetza Restaurant (Koreatown), Chichen Itza (University Park/USC), El Compadre (Echo Park), La Serenata De Garibaldi (East LA), Huaraches Azteca (Highland Park), La Parrilla Restaurant (East LA), Juquila Restaurant (West LA), Tamayo Restaurant (East LA, upscale), Moles La Tia (East LA), El Nuevo Rinconsito Oaxaqueño (Pico Union), Antequera De Oaxaca (Melrose), Chichen Itza (University Park/USC) and La Flor de Yucatan (Pico Union). These are some of LA's top Mexican spots and they are all over the map in terms of style, meaning several are regional Mexican food, Yucatan vs Oaxacan, etc.

                Current hot trends in LA are the Gastropub and head to tail dining, look at spots like include Luques, Animal, Son of a Gun, Barbrix Restaurant and Wine Bar, A-Frame, The Spice Table, Waterloo and City, The Curious Palate, Cha Cha Chicken, Eveleigh, Gjelina, Salt's Cure, Starry Kitchen, The Golden State, The Lazy Ox Canteen, Off Vine, The Hungry Cat, Mendocino Farms, The Open Door, The Little Door, Rustic Canyon, Blue Plate Oysterette, Chego, Jitlada, Lukshon and Huckleberry.

                For Chinese in the San Gabriel Valley, Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights has excellent Szechuan style food, so does Ding's Garden. not too far from Shufeng Garden is a good Shanghaiese restaurant called JJ Noodle House. Tan Cang Newport Seafood is more a mixed of Chaozhou Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian restaurant, but great too and the blending of styles really works. For dim sum check 888 Seafood Restaurant and Ocean Star.

                3 Replies
                1. re: scottca075

                  the Greekxicans:
                  be aware that several of the restaurants mentioned in the paragraph that scottca074 starts with "Current hot trends" are delicious, but way over your stated budget. also, some of them. like gjelina, really REQUIRE having a reservation at peak times or you'll be standing and waiting forever.

                  1. re: scottca075

                    Wow, there is SO MUCH I DON'T KNOW about Mexican food. I am from Mexican roots, so I am a bit embarassed that I didn't know there was a difference between Texas Mexican food and Los Angeles Mexican food. I travel to San Diego often for work and the taco places that I've been to do not seem all that different than the taco places back home. I am impressed with the Yucatan/Oaxacan that you mention and I wish I knew the difference!!

                    I really appreciate all the Chinese tips. My kids DIG noodles (because of the movie Kung-Fu Panda and his dad being the owner of a noodle cart, lol).

                    1. re: scottca075

                      I love a lot of these recs, but I've never heard anyone call Mendocino Farms, Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon, Blu Plate Oysterette head-to-tail or gastropub restaurants. Not to mention Cha Cha Chicken. In fact, the majority of the places you mentioned in that section don't really veer towards either of those descriptors, but I'd recommend a decent number of them anyway.

                    2. The best deal in LA at the moment is 800 Degrees pizza in Westwood Village, Great pizza custom made with high quality toppings & cooked in 90 seconds and all for around $10. There is always a line but it moves fast and is well worth the wait. My kids love it.
                      http://www.800degreespizza.com

                      and if you are in the Santa Monica area stop by Bay Cities Italian Deli for some inexpensive sandwiches on fresh Italian bread. Open till 7pm and closed Mondays.
                      http://www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com

                      Wurstküche in Venice (another location in downtown LA) has great sausages including their great tasting rabbit and rattlesnake sausage with it wonderful buttery flavor,
                      http://www.wurstkuche.com

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: wienermobile

                        Thank you! Pizza is always great.Very interesting with the sausages you mentioned! I would love to try it.. when I was a kid, my dad would take me out with my BB Gun to shoot rabbits (yikes!), and my dad loved 'em, but my mom never "made" me try it... so I'm very curious!

                        1. re: TheGreekxicans

                          Tastes like chicken. Really...!

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            I literally LOL'd there. When I was in the service, I went to Jungle Survival Training in the Philippines.. and the frogs (we made a fire and cooked 'em), tasted like Chicken!!!

                            1. re: TheGreekxicans

                              I find frogs a bit more fishy tasting than rabbit. But rabbit is good, and big in French & Italian cooking. I kept rabbits as pets, so I never thought I would eat one, but the only one I tasted was made at a cooking class by Julia Child, so I wasn't going to turn it down. It's pretty good! You were in the service & trained in the Phillipines? Wow, that's very impressive.... Thank you for your service to our country.....and as a Mom, I find that super impressive :))

                          2. re: TheGreekxicans

                            the pizza at 800 degrees, to which i am addicted, is a neapolitan-style pizza with a very thin crust and is soggy in the middle. it, like all neapolitan style pizzas, is made with FRESH mozzarella cheese, not the part-skim, low-moisture commercial cheese that is used at most american pizzerias.
                            expect a line there unless you go around 11:30AM or 3 to 4PM.

                        2. I'm so embarrassingly out-of-date for Chinese food in LA that I can't recommend any places in good conscience. Everything I like fell out of fashion or is not even there any longer. However, I will echo what others have mentioned: Chinatown may be great for art galleries these days but it is no longer a destination for great Chinese food. Head to San Gabriel Valley and get as regional as you possibly can. World class food awaits you there.

                          Scottca075 mentioned a lot of great Mexican options. I'll add or comment on a few. Coni'Seafood is kind of a must go if you have any love for seafood and Mexican food. It may not be what you are expecting. In fact, it probably isn't, but it's truly special food that is cooked with incredible skill. I'm a fan of regional and traditional food when it's done right. Here, it is. Guisados was mentioned, rightfully so. Be aware that a guisado is a stew, so if you like al Pastor or carne asada there are better places for those kinds of things. But while Guisados is incredible, I'm going to put in a word for Bizarra Capital. It's run by the same chef from Guisados, Cook's Tortas, and Dorados (all worthy destinations), but the dinner menu is loaded with items that you just won't find anywhere else. The beer and cocktail list is a nice addition, too. For my money, Bizarra Capital is the most interesting Mexican restaurant in the city at the moment. Another venerable favorite is La Casita Mexicana. I don't have much to say about it other than everything that I've ever had there has been completely on point. Moles de los Dioses is where you want to go for, well, mole. There are two locations and everything that made Moles la Tia great in East LA is at Moles de los Dioses now.

                          You didn't mention Thai food, but it's a strength here. There are a lot of places that would make you happy, but I'll stick to three. Jitlada has been a critical darling for awhile now. They have an excellent Southern Thai menu to explore that shouldn't disappoint. Night+Market is doing some really interesting things, though it seems like they're allergic to vegetables so be prepared for a meaty meal. Sit in the back patio or skip it entirely. Last, Pa Ord is my go to place for noodles lately.

                          Other than that, can you specify a little more about what you are looking for. ANY great food is kind of hard to narrow down. Are you limiting your budget to $10-15 per plate for all meals, or just Mexican?

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: cacio e pepe

                            La casita Mexicana is very good Oaxacan food, but that can be found all over LA, even in west LA., at Monte Alban, so you don't need to trek down to Bell to get that type of food. That is not necessary. And I just didn't find it to be so much better that a trip down there is worth it, unless you are in that area to begin with, which I was last week.

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              Well, we'll have to agree to disagree. I eat at Monte Alban very frequently and I love it. I think La Casita Mexicana is measurably better in nearly every dish they do. I'm also not sure the OP indicated their location, but I could have missed it. Bell may not be that far away. It's not to far from downtown if you aren't wrestling with traffic.

                              I will say that in the mole battle between La Casita Mexicana and Monte Alban, the winner is Moles de los Dioses. And they are very much worth the trek from the westside or nearly anywhere else.

                              1. re: cacio e pepe

                                I find both La Casita and Monte Alban rather average, at best.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  That's 'cause you only have eyes for Babita. :)

                                2. re: cacio e pepe

                                  Monte Alban has a bigger menu, right? I did not notice any Clayudas (?) on the menu at la casita.... I really like the cecina one at MA, very tasty & filling....

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Monte Alban is a "nicer" restaurant in terms of the interior, number of staff, and a bigger menu, but if we're talking clayudas the one at E K Valley in Culver City is imho better. I did some googling and found Dommy's photo of the E K Valley one. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dommichu... It always looks different depending on what Epy Garcia (owner/chef of E K) has available. If you eat meat, I'd say ask for the house made chorizo. I'd also skip Bay Cities Deli which is known for their sandwiches, but I think your tummy space might best be served eating foods from other cultures. Also...if you have the time to research online, I'd check online menus. They might not be all up to date, but I've noticed a number of recommended places are well over your stated budget. She should be able to eat well with the price range you've stated. I think us 'hounds are pretty excited because you've really interacted with us. Looking forward to you arriving and sampling what's out there.

                              2. re: cacio e pepe

                                <<Bizarra Capital is the most interesting Mexican restaurant>>

                                WOW - high praise -- thanks for the tip.

                              3. Go on a Taco Crawl for lunch with your family. Check out the following link for a Taco Crawl that features some of the best tacos in Los Angeles:

                                http://midtownlunch.com/los-angeles/2...

                                1. If by chance you will be taking the kids to Disneyland you might want to head a little further south to Orange for a meal at Gabbi's:
                                  http://www.gabbipatrick.com/

                                  1. Another option to consider would be Korean food. Koreantown is located in Los Angeles itself. I don't normally frequent that part of town. Try this thread for more info: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/428526

                                    1. You've received a lot of great responses, and I wanted to comment on a few of them to maybe help you pare them down.

                                      If you're staying in Chinatown, getting to Bell will generally be easier than getting to West LA, so logistically speaking, when people mention East LA, Bell, SGV, etc... that's more convenient for you.

                                      I definitely would not take visitors to Bay Cities. It is a solid place for locals, but I don't think it really stands out that much. People have delis with sandwiches like that everywhere. Same for El Tepeyac. I don't think that taste is very unique, and I can't imagine San Antonio not having a ManVs.Food-style burrito place. Unless you're a huge Guy Fieri fan, I'd skip it.

                                      I agree that Bizarra Capital is interesting, but I don't know that you would find it as tasty. They can serve you things you may not have easy access to in their huitlacoche and huazontle, but those things aren't really for everybody.

                                      Your original budget of 10-15pp for Mexican sounds like it might stem from the price of your average tacos/burritos kind of place, but as was mentioned before, there are a lot of styles available here, so I think adjusting your mindset a bit about Mexican as "cheap" food can enhance your experience and let you try things like the aforementioned Coni Seafood.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: andytseng

                                        I agree with everything you say here.

                                        El Tepayac and Bay Cities fall distinctly into the "local legend" category. These are places you check out if you live here and want a sense of the history of the scene. I love Apple Pan and Musso and Frank, too, but I wouldn't send an out-of-towner there unless they really wanted to explore that element of LA food.

                                        I think that BC's menu is more than those two items, but there are loads of other Mexican restaurants to try that are probably equally exciting since the OP hasn't explored them, yet. You're certainly right about that.

                                        1. re: andytseng

                                          re: bay cities.
                                          simply not all that.
                                          not worth the hassle if you're a visitor.
                                          i know, heresy to some on this board, but that's my opinion.

                                        2. If you're willing to travel east, there is a great Mexican restaurant in Eagle Rock called Cacao Mexicatessan on Colorado Blvd that specializes in regional Mexican that is not Tex Mex. very family friendly and they do great breakfast dishes as well. Fits right into your budget. For good taco trucks, I'd hit up Highland Park. La Estrella tacos on York has a truck that's permanently parked there and the truck, Tacos Sinaloa on Figuroa has my vote for best al pastor tacos.
                                          If you are near Hollywood, try Square One for what may be the best breakfast in town at the moment.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jdash

                                            Hmmm, a vote for best al pastor? I definitely need to get to Tacos Sinaloa! What time and where does it park on Figueroa? Thanks! My vote for best al pastor goes to Taco Riendo with La Estrella second.

                                            Taco Riendo

                                            5528 York Blvd.

                                            Los Angeles, CA 90042 (Highland Park)

                                            Open Mon-Sun: 8am – 11pm