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Berkeley hounds relocating to LA, where to live/shop/eat?

Greetings LA hounds!

My spouse will be at USC health campus (Lincoln Park, not the main campus downtown) for the next couple years & we are looking for the right neighborhood to land in. So far checking out Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo, Eagle Rock/Mt Washington, South Pasadena, El Sereno, &c.

I would love to hear more about these places through a foodie lens.

Specifically, we are veggie-leaning (but not vegetarian), farmers market-oriented, tend to eat very healthy. In the spectrum of foodies we are not the pork belly people, nor the foie gras people, but more the kale salad, roasted asparagus, shelling peas, homemade yogurt, farro & beets people. Last time we were in town we were happy eating at Four Cafe in Eagle Rock & Forage in Silver Lake.

I will want to grow at least a small barrel of herbs, but prefer a raised bed worth of veggies & a tripod of sweetpeas.

Which are the best farmers markets in the area for selection & quality of organic local produce? (Santa Monica sounds good but probably too far for regular shopping.) Glancing through farmers market websites, it seems like a lot of them are small, not necessarily organic, & skewed toward prepared food. In Berkeley we get probably 85% of our fruits & veggies from farmers markets, as well as pastured eggs. Possible to live similarly in LA?

We are aware that your Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese food scenes kick Bay Area ass, so are especially eager to hear about any versions of those that source better quality ingredients.

Feel free to throw any other foodie advice our way.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. In terms of Farmer's Markets, Hollywood is (IMO) as good as Santa Monica and much more convenient to the East Side. That said, we live in Pasadena and usually frequent the Pasadena Saturday market - it's nowhere near the size and scope of Hollywood or Santa Monica but it's big and varied enough for most home cooks.
    In terms of neighborhoods, you'll probably want to settle where housing stock/affordability/transportation appeals to you. We live in west Pasadena and regularly frequent Eagle Rock, South Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley, Highland Park, Glendale ...

    I would say that as a general rule, LA doesn't tend to focus on organic as much as the Bay Area, but that doesn't necessarily mean the produce is lower quality.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Savour

      Thanks so much for this info! I feel quite reassured. Will definitely check out both Hollywood & Pasadena markets!

      1. re: Savour

        The South Pas one on Thurs and the Burbank one on Sat are also both pretty good.

      2. sounds like you belong in silverlake/echopark/highlandpark, depending on your financial resources.

        1. Check out Sqirl http://www.lamag.com/lafood/digestblo... on N Virgil (now that the weather is nicer and you can sit outside as they have VERY limited inside seating). Also check out Cafe Stella http://cafestella.com/ in the Sunset Junction building (although they have no signage - at least when I went)

          1. I don't normally make the commute to HSC, but my friend who lives in the Pico-Robertson area never complains about the commute. Depending on the hrs, I imagine that traffic is somewhat heavy until you reach downtown and then it probably clears up quite a bit after that?

            So if the westside if viable, Culver City might work. If you're spouse has a job where he/she can use public transportation, you could take the Expo line to UPC and then the tram to HSC. Culver City also has a good food scene (if you include West LA, Venice, Santa Monica, all of which aren't terribly far). There's decent indian; good persian, gastropubs, Japanese; a good number of restaurants that go vegetables well).

            Agree that Los Feliz would probably be a good place to look, although the only restaurant I frequent there is Square One (and Ricky's Taco stand, when he was there.... ::sigh::). You're not too far from the Hollywood area (and not too far from K-town, I think), which opens up a lot of ethnic food.

            38 Replies
            1. re: ilysla

              Wow, you're the first person who has suggested the westside could be viable. Everyone else has adamantly warned us against it (traffic being the #1 reason). Thanks for the data point!

              1. re: indigirl

                some people have a higher tolerance for traffic than others.

                1. re: ns1

                  Oh yes!

                  I used to live in the Pico/Robertson area and still have pals/fav places by there. I am now Glassell Park/Eagle Rock and the drive back there? Kills me. You really have to plan your times because if you hit traffic? Horrific. It's doable but to do it five days a week would really impact your quality of life. And our Metro is coming along, but it's not nearly as handy as BART, so generally, unless you live by a specific hub, you are going to be driving.

                  Plus, the Westside is way more expensive. I think you get much more bang for your buck in this part of town and since the commute will be easier for you, why not plan east?

                  Plenty of Farmers Markets in Hollywood, Eagle Rock, Pasadena and more. And the Silverlake food scene should suit you just fine!

                  1. re: happybaker

                    Another area that would work is the Mt. Washington area. Close to Pasadena, the York Blvd./Eagle Rock area and is an easy drive to where your husband will be working and the Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Downtown and even East LA areas too.

                  2. re: ns1

                    Well, I did specifically only mention Culver City. ;) And I was hoping that the spouse was a resident; traffic at 6AM is not an issue, unfortunately....

                    To the OP, if South Pas fits into your price range, you might find it quite pleasant (Monterey Hills is very convenient but rather drab, I think). Surprisingly close to HSC (just go straight down Huntington Dr), a suburban environment that still has lots of charm, a decent eating scene (more than decent if you include the rest of the SGV....), and plenty of green (relatively speaking).

                    I wouldn't know what a midscale Asian restaurant would even look like? There's the lovely hole-in-the-walls and dim sum/seafood restaurants. Not sure what exactly exists in between....

                    1. re: ilysla

                      Mid level would be places like MLV, Ji Rong, Changs Garden, Tasty Garden, etc.

                      1. re: ilysla

                        I was thinking Blue Hen/Good Girl Dinette in Eagle Rock and Highland Park.

                      2. re: ns1

                        Some people have a higher tolerance for the west side than others.

                        1. re: Savour

                          Totally agree we Westside tolerance =). Why even deal with all that Traffic when we have such amazing Neighborhoods on the Eastside. I have lived in Eagle Rock/Highland Park area for 7 years and I love it. Our ethnic food choices have always been great and our other food choices keep growing and growing. Eagle Rock has such a small town vibe yet it is 15 min from Downtown LA with it's exploding food scene. We are also pretty close to SGV and all the delights it offers. Oh and 15min from Angeles National Forest great hikes.

                          1. re: MissBubbles

                            I agree with both of you, Savour and MissBubbles, re: the Westside.

                            But for someone like indigirl (coming from SF) the Westside might be more preferable b/c it's just cooler during the summer months. Points east of DTLA (or the 710 fwy to be exact) can get mighty steamy during Aug and Sept., esp. Pasadena/Eagle Rock/Glendale, etc.

                            Which is why I think DTLA is the perfect landing spot for indigirl. It's central to all points that she would be interested in, and the weather doesn't get too hot during summer months, and she can access the first-world, fascination with organics culture prevalent west of La Cienega Blvd, while still enjoying some of the diversity on the east side of town, and all the while still enjoy the urban renewal that is DTLA.

                            And indigirl, DTLA is not one gigantic concrete block. You can get lofts that allow for sizeable gardens on the patio, or you can look for a place bordering between DTLA and Ktown, which is like an exurb of the DTLA.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              So true.

                              So much of the congestion on the Westside, on a warm day, is due to the traffic from the people, on the Eastside, who're looking for relief from the heat.
                              I'd much rather be on the Westside during the summer months or even downtown LA. Loft living is becoming increasingly popular and deservedly so.
                              So many parts around Pasadena are historically known for the air quality during hot summer days.

                              1. re: latindancer

                                It funny though as an Eagle Rock resident for 7 years I can atteste to the fact that because of where we are situated (on clear days we can see the ocean from parts of our area) we tend to be a wee bit cooler and have much better air quality that both Glendale & Pasadena. Oh and I never go westside looking for heat relief unless friends want too, way to much traffic and hassle. I usually just head up into the mountains. If we are looking for beach we tend to drive to Oxnard or Upper Malibu, it's approx one hour easy driving on the 210 to the 118 to 23 etc (takes the same to deal with the traffic to Santa Monica or Venice) and it's prettier IMHO

                                1. re: MissBubbles

                                  I am in Altadena, at about 1650' elevation. We have very good air quality - much better than when I first came in 1985. Over the years it has really improved. On many days we can see the ocean at both Santa Monica, as well as Long Beach. We can see Catalina also.

                                  1. re: suvro

                                    We have very good air quality - much better than when I first came in 1985.
                                    ____________________

                                    You and both lived through those "red flag warning" days.

                                    God bless the CARB and SCAQMD.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      What is CARB?
                                      I remember in 1986 showing a prospective graduate student around at Caltech, and saying "On a clear day, you can actually see mountains if you look that side".
                                      Also Altadena stays 5 degrees cooler than Pasadena, all year round. Of course fire and mud slide dangers remain!

                                      1. re: suvro

                                        "What is CARB?"
                                        California Air Resources Board.

                                  2. re: MissBubbles

                                    It's true. I live in west Pasadena (west of the Arroyo) and it's usually a good 5-10 degrees cooler than points east. Our temps tend to be within 1-2 degrees of DTLA.

                                    1. re: MissBubbles

                                      Aren't we all glad we all don't have the same needs and we all love different things about this city so we don't all live in the same place? We get to spread out.

                                      That's the beauty of Los Angeles....
                                      We each get to take our priorities, our loves and our decisions about how we want to live and just move there.

                                      There's nothing like this place....gotta love it.

                                2. re: MissBubbles

                                  15 min from Natl Forest hikes! Them's the magic words!

                                  ipsedixit, you make a compelling argument for downtown. I will try to be more open-minded on my next craigslist search :) However I must point out that as a native Bay Arean, I have a lifetime deficit of heat that I'm hoping to make up for.

                                  This is exactly the kind of discussion I need! Y'all rock! Keep it coming!

                                  1. re: indigirl

                                    You really will enjoy the San Gabriels. For starters Santa Anita Canyon has wonderful hikes of 3, 5, 9 and 10 miles - with great swimming holes in the summer. Afterwards you can get lunch or dinner in the San Gabriel Valley.

                                    1. re: ebethsdad

                                      Swimming holes!!!!!
                                      (Falls over in a swoon.)
                                      That could make up for a lot of heat orgies. (replying to below comment... I can NOT get the hang of the threading around here, ever since they changed it!)

                                        1. re: indigirl

                                          If you've inadvertently re-set the sort order of posts in a thread, here's how to fix it.
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/895402

                                          1. re: indigirl

                                            Here's a pic...not mine
                                            http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/sturt...
                                            Oh - you can swim in the ocean down here too.

                                            1. re: ebethsdad

                                              Waterfall added to the to-do list!
                                              The ocean... oh yeah ;)
                                              & of course, to keep things on-topic, y'all will recommend the best picnic provisions, right?

                                              1. re: indigirl

                                                Nicole's in Pasadena or Fiore in South Pasadena.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Totally 2nd these recommends. Also on a more old school side the Italian Bakery in Eagle Rock. Good fresh bread, prosciutto, fresh Mozz etc

                                                  1. re: MissBubbles

                                                    I always hate to tell people about Fiore. It's crowded enough as it is, esp. when the FM is going on.

                                        2. re: indigirl

                                          You may have a lifetime deficit of heat to make up for, but you certainly don't want to do it all in one week.

                                          Pasadena (and surrounding environs) typically experience anywhere between 7-10 days of summer days when the highs will be between 98-101.

                                          That's like making up for 20 years of celibacy with 2 nights worth of orgies orchestrated by Tiberius. You'd be very sore, and hot.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            You meant to say Caligula, Tiberius' successor, right?

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              No. The master was always more profligate than the student.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                When the student is ready, the teacher will appear...

                                                1. re: J.L.

                                                  “Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.”

                                                  1. re: raytamsgv

                                                    Thank you for bringing balance to the Chowforce.

                                                    1. re: J.L.

                                                      Eat or eat not. There is no try.

                                  2. re: indigirl

                                    I commuted from west (Sawtell) to east (Echo Park) for years, and if you head to work early (say 6:45 or 7:00), traffic is pretty minimal. I grew up in Nor Cal and still have a pretty low tolerance for traffic, but I really didn't mind that drive. Viable? I think so.

                                    That being said, now that I live in mid-city and visit the eastern areas of the city more, I love Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, downtown, so on. Do a few walks around those areas and see how you feel. IMO the westside is too much of a bubble. But that's just my opinion.

                                3. Many of the students/residents/fellows/postdocs at HSC/USC live around Monterey Hills (Via Marisol), El Sereno, South Pasadena, Pasadena, and the San Gabriel Valley (Alhambra, San Gabriel, Rosemead, Temple City, Monterey Park).

                                  The commute to/from the Westside to HSC/USC can be absolutely mind-numbingly repulsive. I'd highly recommend against roosting there if you want to retain your sanity.

                                  99 Ranch Market (an Asian supermarket chain with a huge store in San Gabriel) has very fresh veggies, and a wonderful produce section.

                                  30 Replies
                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    Yes, the Asian vegetable produce selection at the 99 Ranch markets are wonderful, but "organic" is not a word I would ever use to describe them.

                                    In fact, if the OP wants to experience the voluminous bounty and diversity of the Chinese/Vietnamese San Gabriel Valley, they need to learn to check a lot of their first world foodie expectations at the door.

                                    Indigirl, if you can do that, there's glory to behold-- not just in the San Gabriel Valley, but all throughout the city. Our diversity is our greatest treasure, particularly when it comes to food.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      With the larger population, I had hoped Los Angeles might be ahead of us in this regard. In the Bay Area, Hmong/Viet/Lao farmers in Fresno, Merced, Stockton, etc. who grow organically/sustainably sell a wide array of Asian greenery at our farmers markets. They are motivated by the premium price they can earn by standing apart from commodity producers. In the Salinas Valley I've talked to Latino small farms who have found a market for their certified organic Thai bird chiles and Thai cilantro roots in Bay Area Asian shoppers. In SF I'm seeing Chinese green grocers that offer as much organic produce as they can locate in their small shops because their Chinese customers want it.

                                      Please keep asking, the market will respond eventually.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        There is 1 vendor @ HFM that deals with many asian ingredients and I don't know of the top of my head if they're organic, but they're definitely a cut above the asian markets.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Every vendor at the Hollywood Farmers Market will tell you they're either 1) organic or 2) don't spray. Whether this is true or not is up for grabs.

                                            http://www.laweekly.com/2011-11-10/ne...

                                            Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Unlike San Francisco, the growing season in Los Angeles is year-round. You can pretty much plant to your heart's desires in this climate and grow organic anything

                                          1. re: Ernie

                                            regarding <<grow organic anything>>

                                            be aware that many of the plants and seeds sold at plant nurseries have been doused with neonicotinoids

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              I had *such* a time tracking down organic seedlings... finally found them at Sunset.

                                              1. re: indigirl

                                                Folks, this discussion ended up getting really personal with a lot of not very friendly terms being thrown around by people who disagree with each other, so we've removed a lot of it. We know these issues can be a source of passionate disagreement, but it still needs to be friendly.

                                                We'll send emails with copies of some of the longer posts in case the posters want to edit and repost, but if we miss any of yours and you want them back, feel free to write to us at moderators@chowhound.com

                                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Know what is even more profitable than selling organic produce? Selling conventional produce with the organic markup. At farmers markets, it's always buyer beware. I remember one of the local stations did an expose on fake organic market stands. The reporter visited the farm address and found barren fields. Turns out the veggies they sold came from cold storage.

                                            Now I don't dispute that there are some things that are clearly superior at local markets. Just don't kid yourself. Always be skeptical of anything the farm stand owners claim.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Yes, I'd read about the scandals in LA at the time, where market managers and the ag commissioners aren't doing their jobs of inspecting farms. You can always ask for their certified producer documentation and for their organic certification. If they're not on display or they won't show them to you, well, that's all we need to know. And I understand that in LA you are farther from the farms and don't have a chance to visit them yourselves and know your farmers.

                                              To be helpful to the OP, is the Hollywood farmers market management known for keeping a close eye out for these kind of abuses?

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Here's a link to the news expose from 2010.

                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm1DkT...

                                                As you can see, the scammers provided their documentation. They weren't counting on the fact that their produce was going to be tested in a lab, nor were they expecting a camera crew to show up at the address on the certificate. So, merely asking for the certificate is no guarantee of anything.

                                                The LA Weekly article from 2011 essentially says the market managers are ill equipped to deal with violations. What regulations there are are largely unenforceable. For example, where there is a legal definition for "organic", there is no legal definition of "no spray", so even if a farmer makes this claim and uses pesticides, there's no actual violation, as shifty and immoral a practice as that is.

                                                So, do we know how vigilant the HFM management is in enforcing the law? What law? The law that allows anyone to say "no spray" the way conventional meat producers can use "natural"? It's marketing. It's smoke and mirrors, Melanie.

                                                Do you think it doesn't happen in SF? The obscenely higher profit margin on "organic" produce is an awfully alluring prospect. Buyer beware.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  Silly, of course the managers should not be expected to enforce regs/laws that don't exist. I was talking about producer certification and certified organic, not "no spray" or "natural", which you seem to be confusing.

                                                  The scammers may have provided certificates, but a vigilant consumer or market manager would have noticed that the farm selling avocados that it does not grow does not have that crop listed on its certificate nor does it have acreage sufficient to grow the quantity of crops for sale. That's the point of the documentation. Buyer beware, certainly, but also understand what the document is and is not and know what to look for.

                                                  Market managers deal with cheats by kicking them out of the market or putting them on probation. That is, the ones who are more concerned about maintaining the integrity of their markets rather than maximizing stall fees. The financial consequences of that are more punishing than state fines.

                                                  In my own area, certain markets such as the ones in Berkeley run by the Ecology Center are known for being very strict. Others take all comers. Since you won't comment on this for the LA area, thank you to JudiAu for addressing it below.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    The market managers can make or break a FM. The good ones do their homework, visit farms, ask around, get references, look up articles, etc. But the ultimate power of denying entry to posers and violaters is banning them from the market. Money (or lack of it) talks.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      Which farmers markets do you recommend?

                                                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      >> Since you won't comment on this for the LA area, thank you to JudiAu for addressing it below.

                                                      Melanie, I assumed you read the LA Weekly article I linked to earlier, which directly addresses your question.

                                                      In a nutshell, the HFM management is well-intended but unable to fully police vendors that ensures customers of universal compliance.

                                                      Again, buyer beware.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                        Yes, but the article is nearly two years old. Hopefully the market managers have gotten better at whack-a-mole, or maybe not. Maybe someone has current info to share post-expose'.

                                                        In line with buyer beware, up here, certified organic producers display their state certificate (usually zip-tied to their tent posts) and often the logo of the auditor/certifier, e.g., CCOF, on their banners.
                                                        http://www.ccof.org/ccof
                                                        Is this the practice in LA markets and who are the certifiers/auditors in the region to look for?
                                                        www.cdfa.ca.gov/is/docs/CertifiersLis...

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                          I have visited two of the farms that I shop at, but I have never seen either of them post this certificate. Next time I go back to the HFM I'll take a closer look at all the vendor stands to see how many (if any) post it out in the open. Unless I'm blind or just that unobservant, I've never noticed it as general practice. One would think this would be an incredibly easy thing for market management to enforce-- ziptie your certificates to your tent. Perhaps one could use that as a sign of progress since 2011 (or lack thereof)

                                                          Mr Taster

                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                            From the article, sounds like it was not enforced in the past. That was a real disconnect for me, as I'm so accustomed to seeing the certificates (slipped into a plastic, rainproof cover) attached to the tent and blowing in the wind. I couldn't agree with you more that it should be easy enough to do. And I hope that you see some progress.

                                                            Admittedly, I'm not studying them everywhere, but I do often look at the certificate to get the name of the farm for those stands that don't have glossy displays. I'll often post about seasonal produce I find and need to ID the grower. Some farmers do look nervous when they see me reading it.

                                                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            >>Yes, but the article is nearly two years old.

                                                            If by "nearly two years old" you mean one year and five months, yes you would be correct :)

                                                            (Published Nov 10 2011)

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              I get the feeling this is like those hidden camera exposes the local news channels do on the automotive fix it places. They continue to find the same scams being inflicted on the public, year in and year out. Somehow the crooks manage to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                I was pleased to read that LA County's ag commissioner has stepped up enforcement/compliance at farmers markets. . . for now.

                                                                http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-fa...

                                                                  1. re: indigirl

                                                                    And this morning's news of the introduction of AB1871 that would make it a misdemeanor to make false statements about the origin and quality of agricultural products.
                                                                    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi...

                                                                    Last month at the Marina farmers market on the Monterey Peninsula (not in LA), I was flipping through the documentation zip-tied to Ken's Top Notch produce tent to check his producer's cert and organic certification. The owner came over to find the docs for me. He sells at Torrance FM on Tuesdays and Saturdays and said he's been having more people ask to see them. And he's totally fine with that, since he's well aware of the abuses. His Paige tangerines were especially great that day.

                                                                     
                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                    and don't forget the palmer scandal:
                                                    she bought cases of commercial eggs, and repackaged them as organic
                                                    also commercial frozen chickens were thawed and butchered and repackaged as fresh organic.

                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                  I definitely plan on ingesting plenty of non-organic food down there. Just gotta ease into it, lest my delicate system go into shock ;)

                                                  1. re: indigirl

                                                    Nah, not your delicate system. Just your pocketbook. Organic produce at the HFM is comparable in price to the SF markets (the central ones at least, i hear there are cheaper). Concentrate on the best markets and you won't have to worry about organic integrity.

                                                    Dairy products are about the same although cheese is less diverse and less CA and US-centric. Pastured meat however is less diverse and much more expensive than SF and fish, my god, that is painful. Much more expensive and much harder to find.

                                                    One thing that is kind of fun is the difference in seasonality in SF and LA. There is at least three weeks, maybe four weeks difference between the two places.

                                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                                      So, which are the best markets for organic integrity? I take it Hollywood is one of them?

                                                      I am definitely looking forward to a shorter winter, produce-wise as well as weather-wise!

                                                      1. re: indigirl

                                                        Sigh. I lost my long post on farmer's market integrity and don't have time to write it again. In short, I trust good farmers more than market manager and good farmers clustered together the most. SM and HFM both fit the bill and it isn't really hard at all to get a sense of "farmers of integrity" (like Coleman at the SMFM which is not certified organic but which is awesome) from a "no spray" stand with a ludicrous selection of veg and fruit. I am sure there are more out there but I haven't been often enough to confirm.

                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                    While I see the OP prefers organic, I never said anything about 99 Ranch Market carrying organic produce in my reply. It's just a lead for the OP. Fresh, yes... Organic, no.