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Variety Recommendation in LA (for a midwesterner)

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Hello! Thank you for your help for a great food adventure!

Background: I'm from LA, but currently living in Chicago. My girlfriend (who's from a small town in the midwest) will be coming with me to LA for a week. She never had much cuisines outside of diners and bar foods growing up, but we love trying new foods!

Area: between 210/134 and 60. West of the 605. Basically 30 minute drive east and west of downtown.

What we're looking for:
We literally eat everything, and ambiance/service is not a priority.
I'm mainly looking for foods that one would not find in chicago (where i'm at now). Also for fun/iconic/representative LA restaurants that are not necessarily the very top undisputed best in their cuisine, but are consistently good. "Tourist" spots. We're not feeling sandwiches or pizzas this time. We're 20 (no alcohol..)

Budget: below $25 per person

To give y'all an idea, here's the list so far (from places i've been to):
In-n-out
Hae Jang Chon
Ricky's fish tacos
Philippe
Boiling Point
Yogurtland
Yoshida (any other rec for live uni?)
Porto's
Din Tai Fung
Boiling Crab
Mikawaya
Sushi-gen
Santouka Ramen
Guisados
Elite dimsum
Umami
Animal
Chung King
Kogi

As you've prob noticed, I'm from SGV so I'd love some non-south asian recommendations.

Requests:
Lobster roll
Mexican (sit down)
a date place that's within our price range
regional cuisines (ex. burmese? armenian? west african? etc..)
unusual dishes (brains!, etc.)
pastries

Thank you so much! Y'all the best!

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  1. I really wouldn't try to find a lobster roll out here for the simple fact that we don't have any that would be worth giving up some of the other food choices you could make in place of that one.

    You really ought to give Yxta http://yxta.net/ a try for "sit down" Mexican. For a date place downtown that not over the top expensive the new Bestia http://www.bestiala.com/ would be worth checking out.

    Have you heard about the Nickel Diner http://nickeldiner.com/ downtown? Some wicked good bacon maple donuts and their savory dishes like their barbecued pork hash and eggs are very good.

    Finally, two other Mexican food places that you really shouldn't miss are Ca Cao Mexicatessen http://cacaodeli.com/ and the Mexicali Taco & Co. http://mexicalitaco.com/ for excellent food at reasonable prices.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Thank you for all your suggestions! I'd be sure to check those out (the maple donut looks especially enticing...) which brings me to another special requests...

      Desserts! particularly drinking chocolate, pies, and ethnic!

      1. re: buhnard

        "Desserts Ethnic" = http://www.bhankanomthai.com/

      2. re: Servorg

        Quote: "I really wouldn't try to find a lobster roll out here..."

        Not even the Lobsta Truck??? (http://www.lobstatruck.com/) I love the roll there (clarified butter, please), and it's very much w/i your budget. And it's so small that you could easily have that as an appetizer and then move on to one of your other choices.

        For ethnic, are you and your GF interested in Ethiopian? There was a thread on this recently, and you can pick from multiple places on Fairfax btw Olympic and Pico. I've been to Rahel's (vegan), Rosalind's, and Meals by Genet and thought they were all good (although I might choose the latter two first since Rahel's food can be rather... CRUNCHY).

        Persian is easy to find on the westside, although the more expensive dishes might push the upper limit of the budget. I like Javan, although Shamshiri also gets good reviews. And you can get Persian pastries from Pink Orchid Bakery in Westwood (well, just south of Westwood, I suppose). The pastries aren't actually very exotic (esp for those accustomed to Asian pastries), but they're tasty, inexpensive, and it's fun to walk by the older men who are smoking and playing checkers outside....

        For Oaxacan-style mexican, you can try Monte Alban or Juquila (both in West LA). I've not been to Babita (which would bump up against your budget), but a friend went there recently for his b-day dinner and loved it.

        1. re: ilysla

          Closer to the OP for Oaxacan is Guelaguetza on Olympic just west of downtown. The pork tamale in mole negro is fantastic or try the mole sampler to taste the different types of moles they have. It is well within the budget.

          1. re: ilysla

            @OP, Ricky's Fish Taco is currently doing a weekend popup in Chinatown only. Please see his twitter feed for updates.

        2. For kbbq at that price point, i'd go for kang ho dong baek jeong. For sit down mexican, Babita or La Casita Mexican. Pastries: Bouchon's kouign-amann, Huckleberry/Milo&Olive's blueberry crostada (among other things)...don't know if that's too far west though. You could check out Proof Bakery in Atwater Village. Portos for guava cheese, which you already have on your list.

          1 Reply
          1. re: namstermonster

            +1

            All great recommendations.

          2. Thanks everyone for their comments!

            namster: after checking them out, i might just break my budget and go to one of your recs and buy everything! great choices

            ilysla: i've been to lobsta truck before, and I really enjoyed it. I guess it's hard to escape that price tag if i really want a good roll. We have several Ethiopian restaurants here in chicago, but we might still go check out one of the ones in Little Ethiopia

            1. I finally made it to Bar Ama this week and I think it's a cool date place (grab a reservation just to make it easy on yourself). Order some puffy tacos -- flour tortillas deep fried until they balloon into bliss -- and 2-3 other dishes to split. Be warned, it's all pretty cheese heavy.

              Then walk around the corner and spend an hour in The Last Bookstor. It's a sight to see, esp. the upstairs with tunnels and windows made of glued together titles.

              I know a lot of people on here aren't into it, but I also really like Baco Mercat. It may be out of your budget but take a look at the menu. It's on the same corner as Ama pretty much so you can still go to TLB.

              http://www.bar-ama.com/
              http://lastbookstorela.com/
              http://bacomercat.com/