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Visiting LA for a week, staying in Silverlake, totally clueless about the city

We are visiting for a week, haven't been to LA in ten years, and can barely remember what neighborhoods are near what so don't even know how to ask for nearby areas. We love good food and strange and wonderful experiences- no need for fancy white tablecloths or wine lists. Chinese/Dim Sum or a great brunch for Christmas Day would be especially appreciated, as would a sprinkling of breakfast coffee places to go in the mornings (we're renting an apartment).

Thank you!

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  1. Oh and is there anywhere decent to eat on I5 on the drive from SF?

    1 Reply
    1. re: miabruch

      IMO, I much prefer the 101 over the 5. The added time isn't much but the restaurant offerings on the 101 are far better and the drive itself is far better. On the 5 you are pretty much limited to long flat streches of farmland with nothing but fast food options. The 101 is on or close to the coast with much better food options -- e.g. Santa Barbara for lunch/dinner anyone?

    2. I don't know LA well enough (despite living there for two years - but that was ten years ago) to give recommendations, BUT, I can say to stay the hell away from the Casbah Cafe. It looks like a cool, independent coffee house (right there at the Junction), but is dreadfully overpriced, serves stale food, and has rude staff to boot.

      Never again! I'd rather get my caffeine from a 7-11.

      1. Hi, I lived in Silverlake for over 2 decades. I'm glad you are renting an apartment as there are no worthy hotels in the area. It is an area than has long looked for a resurgence. This one, I think, will prevail in the coming years.

        I moved 2 1/2 miles away over a year ago ... to Atwater Village.

        In Silverlake, hands down the best coffee is at Intelligentsia. I have not found better city wide. Secondly, I would recommend LA Mill coffee on Silver Lake Blvd. Coffee, and to lesser degree, food.

        Personally, my favorite Silverlake food is at Cafe Stella right next to Intelligentsia ... I favor brunch but any meal there is fine.

        I am not as enamored of Silverlake as many. And it has few stellar dining establishments.

        Hope you enjoy your time here.

        1. For dim sum, go to Sea Harbour.

          In/around Silverlake, I would suggest Berlin Currywurts and Park's for Korean BBQ (which is in nearby adjacent Koreatown).

          Intelligentsia has already been mentioned, but for another coffee choice check out DRIP, which again is in nearby Koreatown.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Sea Harbour is wonderful. Go early.

            3939 Rosemead Boulevard Rosemead, CA 91770

          2. Bar brix is a great place to visit. Menu is tapas style, so you can order a little or alot. Order the donuts for dessert, you will not be disappointed.

            1. For restaurants, Barbrix, Blairs for more formal sit down.

              The Black Cow just remodeled and added beer and wine.

              The new Silverlake Ramen is pretty good.

              Forage for some excellent locavore food.

              Berlin Currywurst, I think they have beer and wine now.

              Mother Dough for pizza, and Umami for burgers.

              In Atwater LInk N Hops for sausage and an extensive beer list, and Canele both for weekend brunch and dinner.

              New is Hyperion Public (I haven't been yet.)

              Gingergrass, Viet or Blossom for Vietnamese. Viet has the better and more unique noodles, Gingergass might have the edge on food, and downstairs at Blossom is a "hidden" space with an excellent short wine and beer list.

              Intelligentsia, Proof Bakery, LA Mill or The Fix in Echo Park for coffee. Proof has excellent baked goods and LA Mill does a good breakfast and lunch.

              Millies has a very good "updated old school" breakfast. Gastro diner?

              The Black Cat is a new gastro pub, Cafe Stella has a new high end bar, Bar Stella. Covell Wine bar and L&E Oyster bar owned by the same people.

              Red Lion Tavern for the Beer Garden (cheese whiz happy hour food and German beer too)

              3 Replies
              1. re: cls

                Not to be forgotten, Pazzo Gelato.

                1. re: cls

                  This is a great list for the Silver Lake / Los Feliz / Atwater Village area, and I'm especially fond of Forage, Canele, L&E Oyster Bar and Bar Covell. I'd also add Village Bakery on Los Feliz, and I love the cocktails at Big Bar.

                  1. Check out Sqirl cafe and store at 720 N. Virgil


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Servorg

                      The LA Times has a nice spread of photos of the food at Sqirl (plus some interior shots as well) which can be found here: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                    2. Thanks for all the suggestions thus far- we'll be spending some time on the West Side (Venice, Topanga) so suggestions from there are welcome too!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: miabruch

                        Venice - try to get a res at Gjelina if you can. Also the Venice Farmers Market on Sunday mornings is great fun and great food.

                        1. re: miabruch

                          Venice does not have a lot of "cheap" options, but the do have a plethora of "gourmet casual" (read, pricey, but in a T-shirt and flip flops).
                          Don't miss the extremely locals-oriented places owned by longtime Venice residents Oscar and Norma along Rose av- Venice Beach Wines and Oscar's Cerveteca, two of the more inviting places in Venice!
                          Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney has some exceptional and inventive food and wine, but can be a madhouse.
                          Gjelina is very good, simple, market-oriented food but can be even more of a scene and has a maddening "no substitutions nor subtractions" policy.
                          Superba Snack Bar on Rose is quite good for inventive pastas, and I've had a great meal there, but I should mention I've heard terrible things about their policies on larger parties ($65 per person minimum BEFORE tax and tip when I've never broken $50pp eating until stuffed)

                          1. re: jdwdeville

                            And someone just recommended Cafe Gratitude on Rose to me, from another thread here. BTW.

                            1. re: Margaret Santa Monica

                              Personally, I find Cafe Gratitude a bit irritating with their positive affirmation ordering ("I'll have an iced coffee" "you mean, I'll have an I am Bold" "Whatever. Just bring me an iced coffee") and the whole Question of the day thing ("and the question of the day is, What do you love about children").
                              But to each their own. Just don't drink the Cool-aid.

                              1. re: jdwdeville

                                I know! That's the first thing I thought when I looked up the menu online. Do they say it with a straight face? It's like that old Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley...!

                                1. re: Margaret Santa Monica

                                  They say it with a non-blinking, totally straight face. Like the place only employs pure believers.

                                    1. re: Violatp

                                      It is exactly a cult. Just do a web search for "Cafe Gratitude" and "Landmark Forum".

                          2. re: miabruch

                            Santa Monica and Venice area:

                            Milo & Olive
                            Stella Rosa
                            Rustic Canyon
                            Sweet Rose Creamery
                            Bay Cities Italian Deli
                            Tacos Por Favor
                            Superba Snack Bar
                            and the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market

                            West LA:

                            Seoul Sausage
                            Plan Check
                            800 Degrees
                            LA Fundamental

                            and if by some chance you are in the Downtown LA area
                            Langer's Deli for the best pastrami & rye on earth.

                            Welcome to LA!

                            1. re: wienermobile

                              Definitely Bay Cities for the Godmother / deli in general, Tacos Por Favor for hard shell tacos, Huckleberry for breakfast - homemade donut, fried egg sandwich or green eggs and ham - and Sweet Rose for the salted caramel small batch ice cream.

                          3. In the middle of Silver Lake is the excellent L&E Oyster Bar- not cheap by any means, but casual and great quality.
                            For Italian I really like Speranza on Hyperion- low key, very tarditional food. Try the pasta with bottarga and anchovy.
                            Someone mentioned it above but it deserves repeating: Mother Dough has one of the top 3 pizzas in LA IMHO.
                            Also, even if for drinks and ambiance alone (though I find the food more than capable) check out Edendale- a bar/restaurant in an old firehouse with solid comfort food. And Grand Cru grower Champagne by the bottle for $50!
                            I really like Red Hill in neighboring Echo Park for weekend brunch, but I'd avoid the buzzy Cortez unless you have some lottery winnings burning a hole in your pocket.
                            Also not Silver Lake but close- you could visit the tap room at Eagle Rock Brewery on Friday when they have food trucks in the lot and sample some good local brews at the same time...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jdwdeville

                              I've been in Silverlake for 20+ years, and raised a Chowhound kid there.

                              My thoughts: Italian: Michaelangelo, Cappricio (on Vermont) DiCarlo's Pizza (on Hollywood) and Aroma (Silverlake and Sunset).

                              Dim Sum: the hot number in the SGV changes, it seems, weekly. Sea Harbor is good, but I also like Elite and NBC.

                              Breakfasts have long been a weak point, in my view in Silverlake, although Square One is nearby, and I haven't tried the new Diner, (in the spot that was the SL branch of Kojkomo, after it was the SL branch of Eatwell, after it was Seafood Bay, 25 years ago), or "Modern Eats" yet...

                              Hit some food trucks, and Thai Town.

                              1. re: silverlakebodhisattva

                                Rich, check out Sqirl for breakfast. Yelp photo of one of their dishes here: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/q97MIG...

                            2. hi miabrunch - good luck on that drive down! my advice is to get the starbucks app and figure out how to use it. i'm not a big fan of starbucks, but, seriously... it's kind of a wasteland out there. there are lots of fast food stops - i guess the food would be fresh at least, given how they are so busy.

                              there is split pea andersons in santa nella (about 2 hrs. from SF) and harris ranch (another 1-1 1/2 hrs further down the road toward LA). that's if you want a serious sit-down.. when you get to the grapevine there are places just off the road. somewhere out there - i think closer to bakersfield - there are one or two big signs for a vegan indian restaurant, but i've never tried it. good luck. i'd say bring snacks...

                              you could also just wait until your hungry and then try to yelp something! we have pretty good luck with that method.

                              1. Go to Cafe Tropical for perhaps the strongest Cuban coffee in town, and get a slice of that amazing cheese and guave pie to go along.

                                In neighboring Echo Park, I am a big fan of Masa for their pretty damn close to authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. The service can be inconsistent, but I always leave there perfectly contect.

                                1. A lot of great things have already been mentioned, so just consider these a +1 w/ my own thoughts.

                                  L&E Oyster Bar is a great neighborhood joint with solid oysters and prepared items.

                                  Intelligentsia probably made the first delicious cappuccino I had in LA (and it's still good). I feel like Intelligentsia had a significant role in advancing coffee in LA, so I would go if you care about those kinds of things, but if not, there are a few other places where you can get the same level of care towards coffee, like...
                                  Proof Bakery, which is where I would go if you wanted coffee and baked goods (Intelligentsia's pastries are nothing to write home about). Skip the lunch sandwiches at Proof and stick with the pastries.
                                  If you wanted more substantial food with your coffee, you can try Sqirl, which Jonathan Gold just wrote about.
                                  My favorite breakfast/brunch at the moment is at Canele, where the coffee seems kind of an afterthought, but the food is great.
                                  Along the same lines and worth an honorable mention is Square One Dining, although I think Canele has them beat in every facet save the hot pancake toppings they list on the chalkboard at Square One.

                                  For dim sum, Sea Harbour and Elite are the favorites on this board, and the place that may get thrown in the mix is King Hua, which you can usually do without the at times 1 hour wait for the other 2.

                                  1. If you want a really good sandwich try the Eastside Market and Italian Deli not far from Silverlake try the #7 here is the website.

                                    1. Silverlake is like 1 mile from Thaitown, some 50 odd restaurants serving the best, most authentic Thai food outside thailand.

                                      Browse the threads for the best recs.

                                      1. Havn't been to Taix(pronounced Tex) on Sunset in Silverlake is very comfortable , they used to have a good soup and salad combo and if Fernando, the bartender, is still there he makes a very good drink.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: malibumike

                                          Shouldn't that be pronounced "tay?"

                                          1. re: cls

                                            Actually it's "tays"

                                            But whatever, as a visitor from out of state, Taix is most definitely not a destination restaurant.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              No it is not pronounced "Tays", many people from my old employer, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California pronounced it your way, I know that it is Tex from an article about it and when we went in I confirmed it with the manager. Much like calling Target - Tar-Jay. People just like to Yuppify things.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  I stand corrected.

                                                  The concept of yuppifying Taix is blowing my mind right now.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Lows FEE-liz.
                                                    Laws ANN-jill-ous
                                                    San PEE-dro

                                                    I've always called it Tex, for similar reasons.

                                        2. There are a few great places to stop off of the I5 in Bakersfield.

                                          The town has terrific Basque restaurants!
                                          Wool Growers Restaurant
                                          620 E 19th St
                                          Bakersfield, CA 93305

                                          Noriega Hotel Restaurant
                                          525 Sumner St.
                                          Bakersfield, CA 93305

                                          Luigi's Italian Restaurant and Market
                                          This Italian place is frequented by long time locals and is very good. They use to have a waitress who gave back rubs to regulars.

                                          725 East 19th Street
                                          Bakersfield, CA
                                          (661) 322-0926

                                          Dewars Ice Cream and Candy
                                          This place is old, authentic, and sells incredibly delicious traditional American ice cream fountain desserts such as hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. They make a special punch drink that in the past was only available by special order by the gallon, but now it's on the menu. Their candy is famous, handmade and very good if you like old fashioned chocolates and taffy.
                                          1120 Eye Street Bakersfield, CA 93304
                                          (661) 322-0933

                                          I lived in Bakersfield for a few years and love all of these places. Today, when I was looking for links, I found a very good article on the town and its food (with mention of these same spots) by Jonathan Gold who depicts these places accurately and with the affection they deserve.