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What is your MUST go to restaurant?

I'm visiting LA (from Canada) for two weeks with my family and was wondering what your suggestions are for the absolutely, must to go, cannot miss places are? We will be staying by universal studios for the first week and then hollywood area for the second week (but will have a car, so location isn't a huge problem). I've been doing my research, but there's so many restaurants in LA, that I'm starting to feel a little bit overwhelmed!

Thanks!!

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  1. We do tacos really well. Here are a few of my favorites that I take out of towners to:

    Guisados
    2100 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue OR 1261 W Sunset Blvd

    Mariscos Jalisco Truck (get the shrimp tacos)
    3040 E Olympic Blvd

    Tacos Leo Truck (get the al pastor)
    1515 S La Brea Ave

    3 Replies
    1. re: Tyus4pt8

      The problem with the Tacos Leo truck is the guy with the trompo (spit) for the al pastor is usually only there on the weekends (normally), but I have seen him on occasion during the week. I also have found the rest of the menu coming from this truck pretty weak (in my opinion). The Taco Leo truck is in the Union 76 station on the northwest corner of La Brea/Venice Blvd. There is a rival truck across the street at nights, so don't make that mistake. Overall, I think the El Chato truck which is located at the southwest corner of La Brea/Olympic is better overall, but they don't get going until 9pm (M-Sat). They shut down about 1am and around 3 am on
      Fri-Sat.

      1. re: Feed_me

        To the OP. If you are from another country you may not know this but the Taco Truck is a thing here. They used to be trucks that parked outside of work areas and sold mostly old junk food and some greasy Mexican food. Locals humorously refereed to them as the "roach coach".

        That all changed a few years ago and now these mobile food trucks are run by independent chefs serving fresh, unique twists on comfort style food. You should try them if you can track one down. They move around every day but there are some areas where they congregate for lunch hour.

        http://www.findlafoodtrucks.com/

        1. re: Feed_me

          al pastor from the el chato truck:

          al pastor comes off spit, into warmer. al pastor comes from warmer into taco.

          WTF? I didn't go back to el chato.

      2. Langer's deli. The best pastrami on rye on earth.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wienermobile

          That + 1. If you like Pastrami, Langer's is the best. Downtown LA, not the best area but worth the trip. Some people may say Canter's which is good, but not as much. Tacky was invented here.

        2. Wow, I lived in both those areas years ago. Both Universal and Hollywood dont have a lot that is not touristy, but there are a lot of great restaurants not too far from there. If you head up to Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood you will hit a few. La Cienega Blvd used to be called Restaurant Row.

          Can you be more specific?

          As previously noted, LA has a lot of great Mexican food if you are looking for cheap and tasty. Los Compadres in Long Beach the one on Anaheim blvd. is excellent and always busy.

          http://www.loscompadreslbc.com/index....

          If you are more of a steak person the best in town right now is called BLT Steak (bistro laurent tourondel) in West Hollywood. Pricy, but the best steak I have ever had.

          http://www.e2hospitality.com/blt-stea...

          For Pizza, I would pick Mozza on Highland Blvd. One of the owners is Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery which is famous for their bread. It's sort of Neapolitan style.

          http://www.osteriamozza.com/LA/home.cfm

          If you want an over the top American breakfast, and I mean like breakfast to the 3rd power, The Griddle Cafe in Hollywood is great. Giant French Toast, coffee press to your table, thick cut bacon in a hip hole in the wall. Some celebs incognito.
          http://www.thegriddlecafe.com/slidesh...

          I could care less because I lived there, but if you want to celebrity gawk, the best and most well know place to see famous actors is at the Ivy on Robertson blvd. Food is good but not spectacular. They basically go there to be photographed by paparazzi and then fain like they are tired of all the attention. Service is rude if you don't look like someone important in "the industry". Pricy.

          http://www.theivyrestaurants.com/

          For good seafood and a beach experience I would hit The Lobster in Santa Monica. Partially paying for the view. If people tell you Gladstone's, don't do the one in Universal, it is the same owners but food is not the same. The original one is in Malibu. Its more of a saw dust on the floor, have a drink in a retro beachy kind of place. Still very popular.

          Do they eat French Dip in Canada? I know, its not very French but it was invented here in LA. The place is called Philippe's in downtown LA. Not a great neighborhood but it is right across from the train station...which is an architectural land mark you should peak into if you are there. Cheap.

          LA has many many more, lost of great ethnic foods, Asian, Italian, French etc. We have a China Town (not as good as SF) a Little Tokyo, Little Saigon, Korea town and so on. No little Italy unfortunately, they integrated into the local culture 100 years ago, so some good places to eat but scattered.

          Happy Eating....and now I must plan a trip up there soon to get some "chores" done.

          7 Replies
          1. re: kjonyou

            respectfully disagree with any recommendation to eat any seafood at Gladstone's.
            imho, a place to be avoided for anything other than the view.

            1. re: westsidegal

              The cocktails and apps aren't that bad anymore. When's the last time you've been?

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                about 9 months ago.
                horrid.
                the drinks that involved a mix were also horrid.
                stick to alcohol drinks that comes straight from the distiller's or winery's bottle.

              2. re: westsidegal

                I didnt say Glandstones was great, I said it was still popular....there is a difference. Its OK. Better if you go for the drinks.

                1. re: kjonyou

                  if you stick to drinks that come out of the distillers bottle and don't get drinks that rely on a mix, the drinks are definitely better than the food, imho

              3. re: kjonyou

                <The place is called Philippe's in downtown LA>

                Well, if you're recommending French Dips in LA, there's that long-standing competition for 'firsts and bests' and those who'll debate for hours about who the winner is.
                Cole's.
                With Varnish hidden in the back.

                1. re: latindancer

                  I still have yet to hit uo Varnish.

                  But that be still be a great choice.

              4. Wonderful Korean BBQ at Park's BBQ in Koreatown

                1. This really depends on what you and your family enjoy and are interested in - LA is massive - filled with high-end "can't miss places," low-end "can't miss places," Californian "can't miss places," Chinese/Korean/JapaneseThai/Mexican/Salvordean/Vietnamese/Badngladeshi "can't miss places," celebrity-hangout "can't miss places," Italian"can't miss places," etc.

                  1. LA cuisine? there's such a melting pot of ethnicities, and in particular what might be the most diverse selections of chinese regional cuisine in the US, but if you're from vancouver or toronto i wouldn't bother with that.

                    despite our being a fairly large port, there aren't a lot of seafood places i'd recommend (except for some chinese ones) although you might like some place near a beach just to get the beach/pier restaurant experience.

                    otherwise, i'm with ciao bob - lot's of high brow vs, low brow alternatives that are IMO all potentially memorable in their own right. something as relatively mundane as in-n-out burger (a chain in the US southwest), or philppes for french dip, etc. could fit the bill, or you might want to try something like keller's bouchon bistro in beverly hills. (the other two are in yountville & las vegas). good luck.

                    1. Any Korean spot

                      Phillippe's Original French Dip

                      Pink's hot dog stand (has nothing to do with the chowness of the food)

                      In -n- Out Burger

                      Carney's in Hollywood

                      UMAMIcatessan

                      Katsuya Sushi (again not so much for the food which is fine but the decor esp in Brentwood is really cool )

                      Asia de Cuba (represents our crazy melting pot of a city in one whole restaurant, that actually won't skimp on the food)

                      Now I know I'll get heat from some CHs but this list isn't about the best food, just those that represent LA in all it's glory, which is a mix of unhealthy & mediocre along with great design & kitsch.

                      1. First, I wonder why you would bother to move from Universal to Hollywood, or actually why not stay in Hollywood then move to Santa Monica? Really, if you want a real LA experience, you want to stay in town and at the beach. Universal and Hollywood are side by side, one metro stop from each other - there's no reason to move from one to the other.

                        Head to Loteria in Hollywood. Don't miss Bottega Louie's brunch on the weekend. Go to Gjelina in Venice. Hungry Cat in Hollywood or Santa Monica Canyon. Head to Malibu for Nobu on the beach.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: yogachik

                          Why on earth would you question where & why they are staying where they are?? Like you know what fore & why they are here?? How presumptuous......

                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                            I understand your perspective. At the same time, the suggestion is a good one. Universal City and Hollywood are so close to each other. If the OP has reasons for camping out two or three miles apart from one week to the next, they can disregard the suggestion. However, visitors often don't comprehend the scale, diversity of cultures and weather in LA as well the time involved in traversing it until they arrive.

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              I agree.

                              Your suggestion may give someone pause for thought.
                              As you say, no harm done if they've already figured it all out to their liking.

                        2. Based on your criteria?

                          Spago.

                          Whatever you think of Spago -- both good or bad, now reinvented or before -- it best encapsulates the theme of your inquiry.

                          1. Katsu-ya on Hollywood and Vine might be the most "LA" -- people-watching experience.

                            If you like Korean, there are some very good ones on Korea Town. Chosun Galbee, MaDang621 come to mind.

                            Melisse is the "best" restaurant in town, but not specific to LA or as good as the best NYC or SF Bay Area (or Chicago, for that matter) has to offer in terms of top North American restaurants.

                            Urasawa I hear if phenomenal sushi.

                            n/naka is exciting.

                            800 Degrees if near UCLA is terrific, CHEAP, Neopolitan pizza -- I've never seen a place quite like it. In a somewhat similar vein, the Umami Burger chain it my favorite burger chain... in existence, that I am aware of.

                            I am partial to Il Grano as my favorite North American Italian joint OUTSIDE OF San Francisco and NYC (which both have superior Italian food).

                            1. Where are you from in Canada? If you're from Vancouver or Toronto, I'd recommend avoiding Cantonese restaurants, but other types of Chinese regional cuisines might be good.

                              1. The taco trucks as mentioned
                                Phillippes French Dip
                                Langers
                                Mozza
                                Neptune's Net (on PCH north of Malibu)
                                In n Out
                                Dan Tana's
                                El Tepeyac (on Evergreen)

                                23 Replies
                                1. re: laliz

                                  I have do disagree with the In and Out chain store burgers. Sure they are popular with teenagers because they are cheap thin burgers but not even close to a real burger you could get from one of the many independent places around town.

                                  It's basically a smaller version of Mc Donald's with a fan base of high school kids and people in a drunken state in need of food.

                                  1. re: kjonyou

                                    Hyperbole much? I left my teenage years behind 40 plus years ago and I have pretty much damped my drinking down to a couple of beers a week, if that. In&Out is not for everyone, but it keeps me coming back because they use fresh (never frozen) beef for every burger. They will cook my burger to my desired level of "very pink." And finally, they use very fresh ingredients and their buns are great. I generally get a 3X3. I also typically skip the fries as they just don't do it for me. But the burger is not only very good, it's well positioned on the far side of the value of the ledger...

                                    1. re: kjonyou

                                      You're joking, right?

                                      I have no idea why you're using 'age' & 'drunkenness' as a standard for the draw for business for In-n-Out. It's just plain false.... I suggest you get your facts straight before making such a ridiculous statement.
                                      OP...please do yourself and your family a favor. Do not miss the opportunity to visit one of California's most prolific, iconic destinations. It offers a very simple menu: hamburgers, fries, drinks and shakes. It's family owned. For those of us who love the place we're glad it's there when the need arises. I can't visit any state in this country without someone mentioning iN-n-Out and wishing they had one where they live.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        It is important to note that the last couple of trip reports (one from SF and one from NYC) reported being very disappointed in In N Out.

                                        I grew up in SoCal and have many memories of In N Out (road trips to Vegas and to SF) but ultimately it is just a very good fast food burger. Even if it is the "best fast food burger" it is certainly not on the level of a Father's Office burger or an angus burger at Harry's Deli. They don't even make the shakes to order anymore.

                                        A word of caution and tempered expectations is not out of line.

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          The point I was attempting to make, and obviously by your remarks didn't make it very well, was that the poster I was responding to made a very incorrect assessment of the overall type of person who goes to In n Out and likes it.
                                          The clientele is diverse and the 'drunkenness and age' comment was completely off the mark.

                                          Secondly, it wasn't my intention to give the idea that In N Out was by far the best burger in town. It's certainly not.
                                          The OP is traveling with family. We don't know the ages or their likes but anyone I've known who's traveled to California remembers the place and is glad they were there, if for no other reason than to say they went if it comes up in conversation.
                                          California? In N Out.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            to my palate, the shakes had sort of a cool-whip texture.

                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                              <sort of a cool-whip texture>

                                              I never thought that and they do! :). An excellent analogy.

                                            2. re: Porthos

                                              Are you referring to the burger at Harry's Deli near John Wayne Airport? That's a damn good burger!

                                              1. re: Searching4Dunny

                                                Sure am and it sure is! Stopped by yesterday due to all this burger talk. Closed! Due to fire damage. Only 5 months after the 1 year remodel! WTF?!

                                          2. re: kjonyou

                                            Live here, moved from East Coast in my 20s, wife and kid here now, love "In and Out", eat it at least once a month, always sober, usually marvel at what a superb burger it is for the price.

                                            1. re: kjonyou

                                              To my tastes, the Double Double animal style at In-n-Out is the alpha and omega of fast food burgers. And taste nothing like a McDonald's burger. But then again, I don't get out much.

                                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                                Yea. I dont think it's anything like a McDonalds cheeseburger but it is a relatively spot on version of a genteel lunch room burger from the 50s. Having said that, I don't think it's exceptional at all and it's not just for teenagers and stoners (maybe jack n the box is but I digress).

                                                Basically for tr dollars you are paying its relatively fresh, of decent quality, and served fast hence the fast food moniker. But this is not great beef either. To me there is a difference, a huge difference between the ground beef here and a joint like Pann's.

                                              2. re: kjonyou

                                                I don't get In&Out. Not to conflate them, but I don't get the whole "iceburg sandwich" style burger that seems to be very popular in LA as exemplified by spots like Apple Pan and Pie & Burger either.

                                                I like the acknowledgement that beef is the primary ingredient, so I tend to prefer places like Umami, Golden State and, if we're talking fast food, Fatburger.

                                                1. re: JeMange

                                                  Which is why I get my double - doubles with grilled onions and spread only.

                                                2. re: kjonyou

                                                  Well, I think In n Out is iconic CA and much better than McDonalds.

                                                  But, for LA burger chains, my strong rec would be Umami Burger. Sit down inexpensive restaurant chain. Quite unique and special, imo.

                                                  1. re: whiner

                                                    Best Burger in LA in my humble opinion is at The Golden State.
                                                    http://www.thegoldenstatecafe.com

                                                    1. re: wienermobile

                                                      Photo of the wonderful Golden State "The Burger".
                                                      Perfect combination meat, Bun, Chesse homemade ketchup and Toppings.

                                                       
                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                        That is the best burger bun in the city.

                                                        1. re: wienermobile

                                                          I tried the
                                                          Burger once or twice. It was ok to my taste.

                                                          But for me it does not hold a candle to the fish and chips with the spicy sauce.

                                                    2. re: kjonyou

                                                      But virtually every city in the country has places serving "real burgers".

                                                      When you go to a new city, you're looking for unique dining that one couldn't find in your hometown. Or the "best" like Langers.

                                                      Which is why I'd never recommend any Italian to someone from NYC, or a steakhouse to anyone.

                                                      In-n-out certainly isn't the best burger, but it is a unique, mainly southern californian destination. It's like eating a Sabrett's dog with mustard and onions from a street cart in NYC.

                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          i'll second this. on the other hand, sometimes papaya king hits the spot.

                                                    1. re: SIMIHOUND

                                                      I too agree that Brent's is deli heaven. Love their in house smoked cod.

                                                    2. I love great Italian food...so my must, actually must be 2 restaurants...depending on whether I want a dress-up fancy sort of place, or a more casual pasta and pizza sort of place. The former must is Madeo's, and the latter must is Sotto.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                        Your former rec is great. But a lot of people won't like it possibly due to the old school red sauce style and the exorbitant prices. But I love it.

                                                      2. it depends on what kind of food you want.
                                                        ethnic?
                                                        ethnic seafood?
                                                        fine dining?
                                                        farm to table?
                                                        fusion?

                                                        what price are you willing to pay?
                                                        this is a big city with a lot of choices.
                                                        the restaurants on my regular rotation are very different from the restaurants on other chowhounds' rotation.
                                                        please give us a clue about your preferences.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          I think I know where you are going with for ethnic seafood. :)

                                                          Conis anyone ?

                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                            ... only when Sergio is cooking.

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                Curious...
                                                                If you don't mind me asking.
                                                                Have either you or J.L. been to Coni's?

                                                                1. re: kevin

                                                                  call first to confirm:
                                                                  310-672-2339

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                    is it possibly time to re-visit this calling business? does sergio have days of the week he's more/less likely to be in situ? has his schedule gotten any more consistent?

                                                                    1. re: linus

                                                                      It would be good to know. We went on a friday night a few weeks ago. Compared to our visit to Mariscos Chente a few weeks before that, we preferred Mariscos Chente. I'm guessing Sergio wasn't at Coni' - but could he have been at MC that other night? Does Sergio ever still chef at MC?

                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        i don't know because i haven't been to MC in years.
                                                                        also, it's conceivable that you just prefer MC's food.