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May 10, 2013 07:51 PM

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to USC area and need Friday PM & Sat AM recs!

Hello Hounds!

I'd love your advice about where to eat in LA's Miracle Mile/Grove/USC area. It's been 15 years since I've lived in Los Angeles and almost as long since I last visited the city.

My sister-in-law is graduating from USC next week and we've rented a place near the Miracle Mile/Grove. We've got a 4 year old and a 7 year old, both of whom are well-behaved, regularly eat at "nice" restaurants and eat almost everything (they're quite adventurous compared to typical little kids, as we regularly eat Indian, Fijian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Afghan, and comparatively bland but upscale "New Californian" etc.).

My mother-in-law researched and booked some of the meals already, so we just have 2 meals left to plan after they leave town. We need a reservation for 5-6 people, depending on who joins us. We are trying to stay near the Miracle Mile area because my 4 year old still naps and heads to bed early in the evenings.

So far, our other meals will be at Animal, Itacho, and Little Door. We need someplace for Fri. dinner and Sat. brunch/lunch before we hit the road to return up north.

I think Friday dinner should be sit-down meal, as opposed to picking up sandwiches (otherwise I'm tempted to get pastrami sandwiches or even go to Michael Voltaggio's Ink Sack just try it). But it doesn't have to be fancy. I'm even considering heading to K-town for some good Korean BBQ as I think Korean food is better in LA than SF/Oakland.

I wonder if there are any Latin American restaurants you'd recommend. I loved Versailles back in the 90s when I was at UCLA, but I think that's too far to travel.

I don't feel like any of the "standard" ethnic places: Mexican, Chinese, French, or Italian.

Is there some cuisine that is more difficult to get up here in NorCal that you'd recommend? Or something quintessentially "LA" that would be worth the drive?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Langer's for it's world famous pastrami (they close at 4pm)
    and Park's BBQ for their great meats and wonderful Korean flavors.

    Also your kids would love the original farmers market at 3rd St & Fairfax for a taste of LA (open every day rain or shine

    2 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile

      Thanks for the reply! I was thinking about hitting the farmer's market to get supplies to make our own breakfasts! I see a few butchers and other grocery stands there so I'm excited to browse when we first arrive in town to stock up the apartment. Any recs in particular?

      I am not sure if I'm up for the long waits at the Korean BBQ places. My almost 4 year old (birthday next month) is an early eater and I read on-line that some Korean BBQs have 1+ hour waits!

      1. re: smiles33

        Park's BBQ does take on-line reservations up to 24 hours in advance. We usually go before 6pm before the dinner rush starts.

    2. Well Picca is very good for Peruvian. Not really sure how the Peruvian is up in the bay, but I definitely recommend that.

      Right next to USC is Chichen Itza which is admittedly Mexican but it's Yucatan-style Mexican which has a much different flavor profile than most Mexican in my opinion. Certainly the best restaurant in very close proximity to USC.

      3 Replies
      1. re: set0312

        What a great idea! We haven't had Peruvian before and I just booked a reservation. Menu looks fantastic! Thank you so much, set0312.

        1. re: set0312

          I wanted to report back on our LA trip.

          Dinner the first night was at Animal, which we loved and considered the best meal of the week. They offered truly inspired cuisine and not the typical options. Favorites were the kampachi tostada, pig ear, and marrow bone. We ordered about 15 items (5 adults and 2 kids) and my girls ended up eating the toast from the chicken liver pate (couldn't convinced them to try it--they've never seen chicken in spreadable form before) and the BBQ pork belly sandwiches. DH tried to get them to try the veal brains, too, saying, "It tastes like curry tofu" but that was a no go. We ate everything (despite ordering most of the menu) but it was so good no one wanted to leave anything behind! Definitely would be happy to return to try the other things we didn't order off the menu.

          We cooked breakfasts in our apartment rental from stuff we picked up from the Original Farmer's Market at the Grove (eggs, bacon, sausage, and potato hash), so we never went to a restaurant for breakfast.

          Lunch the next day was at Itacho, which was middling. 3 or 4 items on the white board were sold out (waitress explained she hadn't had time to update the white board when we arrived for our 12:30 lunch on a weekday!). We usually order largely off the white board but given the limited options, we ended up with nigiri and some handrolls for the adults and fried chicken (interesting texture, probably breaded with rice flour, but not blow-your-mind fried chicken) and soba for our girls. The meal was fine but nothing spectacular and the place was deserted on a Thursday afternoon. Overpriced for what we got. I won't be back.

          Thursday dinner was after graduation and the "special treat" so MIL chosen Little Door. I'll give it to them on ambiance: when we stepped past the threshold, it felt like we were transported. Lovely patio seating (we were at the huge table to the left of the entrance) and soft romantic lighting. I can see why folks would go here for anniversaries or even proposals. Yet the food was a bit uninspired, especially since I kept comparing it to Animal the night before.

          We had 7 adults and 2 kids and a huge table, so I couldn't see what everyone else got. At my end, two of us ordered the Filo Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Figs, Green Olives & Almonds ($34) and I was sorely disappointed. The almonds were a discordant crunch distracting from the Filo Dough and the pork was dry. It reminded me of sometime trying too hard and trying to impress with technique but falling short.

          Yet DH loved his halibut and the ambiance is nice, so I could see going for once/lifetime celebrations just for the experience. But seriously, I would not pay to come here again because at these prices, I expect sensational food, not above average food. We ordered the Mezze appetizer plate for my girls (they usually love pita, hummus, spanokopita, etc.) but it was a disappointing bland offering. The restaurant offered an off-menu homemade pappardalle pasta with cheese for their entrees. The pasta had a nice texture to it when I tried the leftovers the next day, but far too bland (just butter/olive oil and parmesan) so clearly not intended for an adventurous palate.

          Lunch the next day was on the U$C campus so lackluster catered food. Dinner for 4 adults and 2 kids was at Picca, which saved the day! Delicious cocktails, creative twists on the food, and a lively "hot spot" atmosphere (the noisiest of all the places we went to) so I could relax and not have to monitor my youngest kid's volume (she has trouble modulating and sometimes uses an unusually loud voice for simple conversation!). Still, none of these restaurants (with the exception of Itacho during the day) seem particularly young kid-friendly.

          We survived our trip to LA, enjoyed an outstanding meal at Animal, enjoyed Picca, and had acceptable food at the other places. All in all, it was a successful trip!

          1. re: smiles33

            Glad you enjoyed your trip. Thanks for the extensive report. Of the places you'd visited, I've actually only eaten at Animal (which I thought was tasty but a wee bit too over-salted). Thought the Little Next Door is pretty decent for brunch, although I sometimes wonder if the wait staff is putting on a French accent. ::ahem::

            BTW, for those of us who have lived in LA for awhile and can remember the Farmer's Market b/f the wart known as the Grove was developed, it's simply "The [Original] Farmer's Market" (no Grove necessary).... =) (IMHO)