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New Yorker Visiting LA

While this is a bit of awhile away, I am still gathering ideas on where to eat while I'm in LA, Pasadena to be more specific. I'll be visiting friends with access to a car. Travel date is around first or second week of May 2014 for about 5 or 6 days.

I'm from New York City, in my mid 20s, and eat out frequently at somewhat trendy places, think Mission Chinese, Cafeteria, The Meatball Shop, WD-50, etc. My food preferences run the gamut, I don't discriminate against any cuisine and am open to trying anything at least once.

My budget will be around $60-$70 including tax and tip, with or without a cocktail. I'm interested in trying Animal , A-Frame, and Ink for sure as well as an authentic [or close to] Dim Sum place [with Asian women rolling the dim sum on carts]. Also, anything that is quintessential Los Angeles food that I can't get in NYC? Any other suggestions are welcomed and most definitely wanted and appreciated!

One more thing: any cocktail suggestions and/or bars would be great too.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. In Pasadena (I think maybe South Pas, actually) have a drink at 1886 at the Raymond. Great cocktail program, and quintessential California (quintessential Pasadena, actually). I'd also try Red Medicine in Beverly Hills for higher end/trendy dining, but I think where LA really excels is in authentic "ethnic" cuisines. Hit up Highland Park (near Pasadena) for Mexican (El Huarache Azteca - not fancy but good, and Oasis Ice Creams for house made frozen yogurt and raspados. Then go to Scoops for a different ice cream experience). Pasadena is close to the San Gabriel Valley, so you're good for dim sum. IMO the best places don't have carts, but Ocean Star in Monterey Park is a stalwart cart shop.

    I would also say that if NY is a Pizza town, and Chicago is a hot dog town (or vice versa, depending on who you talk to), LA is a burger town. Eat at Umami, probably, and also In n Out, to compare.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Savour

      I've checked out the menu at Red Medicine. It was a little too pricey for me, the menu too I was eh on.

      I'm excited to try some dim sum in SGV. And I've heard about In n Out so I think that's something I'd try even though I don't do burgers normally. Umami is opening here in NYC on the 29th, so I'm not sure I'd go there as well. Thanks!

      1. re: AquaAllegoria

        When we went to Red Medicine last year we spent about $100 for the two of us - you can skip the large format plates (which really serve about 4 people) and stick to the smaller plates. I just think it's some of the most interesting food in LA right now.

        I'd also eat at Pizzeria Mozza - it's nothing at all like NY pizza - it's its own thing, but it's also great.

    2. There have been some good recommendations on Racion http://racionrestaurant.com/ in Pasadena here on the LA Chowhound board. We haven't been but wanted to make sure you at least noted it since you were asking about that geographic locale.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Servorg

        though i haven't been in a while, i don't know if racion will cut it when stood up against nyc tapas joints.

        1. re: linus

          I know that I enjoy measuring another city and the food they do, even if it's not up to par with what I find at home. Not everyone does of course. But who knows how the the OP thinks in that regard? It could be along my line of thinking, or not...but I'll let them decide.

          1. re: Servorg

            I agree with Servorg. I judge the food of another city based on whether it's good or not for that particular place, not how it compares to NYC.

            Thanks for the recommendation on Racion. Though I feel like I could get tapas here anytime, I'd want to try something out of the box if I were to have tapas in CA. It seems pretty standard.

            1. re: AquaAllegoria

              if you haven't been to a city, how can you judge a restaurant on whether it's good for that city?

              i like racion. my point was, since you can get better tapas in nyc, unless you have a yen for tapas, you might want to try something the l.a. area excels at instead.

              however, if you deeply love tapas, by all means, go there. it's a nice place. however, i feel you might possibly be disappointed.

      2. A long way from Pasadena, but quintessential SoCal is Gjelina, on Abbott Kinney in Venice, south of Santa Monica near the beach. Get a reservation as far in advance as possible, and ask for the back patio -- they'll tell you they can't guarantee that. A great place for dinner when you are taking in coastal attractions or even the Getty Museum.

        3 Replies
          1. re: nosh

            nosh, do you need a reservation as far in advance because it gets book or because of the patio?

            1. re: AquaAllegoria

              Gjelina is well worth the drive, a reservation is necessary. You could walk in and do the community table, but there's usually a long wait

          2. You're in Pasadena, might as well head down south about 3-5 miles to the San Gabriel Valley (e.g. "SGV") and sample some Chinese food.

            Best in North America, outside of Vancouver and Toronto.

            1. You may be in luck if Chef Quenioux is doing a pop up while you're here. Currently he's doing them at his restaurant at Verical Wine Bistro in Pasadena. Creative like what Wylie Dufresne does but not too crazy like WD-50, more harmonious and tasty like his 71 Clinton days. 5 courses $48 and an amazing cheese cart with 40 types of cheese.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Porthos

                If you want to do a Dufresne analogy, it would be more like Alder than WD-50.

                1. re: Porthos

                  That looks incredible! Thanks. I'll definitely keep this in mind.

                2. Must get Mexican food, a cuisine that is not so good in New York.

                  Tacos Leo
                  Ricky's Fish Tacos
                  Tamales Lilianas

                  Also, breakfast burritos are pretty rare in New York. Not sure if you want to come all the way out here for one though, it is pretty basic.

                  And while you are in Pasadena, might as well head to Roma Deli for a sandwich. Maybe something you can take on a day trip or even smuggle back on the plane.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: A5 KOBE

                    Mexican was definitely on my list! I've been to Mexico twice, but I suspect it wasn't really "authentic" as I was staying at a resort. I'll definitely have to look those up. Thanks!

                    The Mexican food in NYC is alright. it's very upscaled, re: Dos Caminos and Rosa Mexicana and you pay five arms and both legs.

                    1. re: AquaAllegoria

                      There is decent Mexican food in Spanish Harlem. I had a go to spot 10 years ago. I'm told the Mexican population has only increased since.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I agree on that, it's just pretty far for me to get to nor do I want to travel all that way on my days off.

                  2. Don't forget Old Town Pasadena. It is a several blocks long area of older buildings that were rehabbed and have some pretty trendy bars and restaurants with a pretty busy nightlife especially on weekends. The restaurants generally are not Chow Hound worthy, but nevertheless, might be fun to have a drink or meal and enjoy the scene.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: jgilbert1000

                      If you want to eat in Old Pasadena, I'd try Umami Burger or a/k/a bistro.

                      1. re: Savour

                        Or, for something completely different, Slater's https://slaters5050.com/ has opened up a Pasadena location.


                        1. re: Savour

                          Umami Burger is actually opening a location in New York City. Do you think it would be any different or the same as the one in Cali?

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I agree, but if you were in Old Pasadena for other reasons, those would be the places I would suggest eating. Santorini isn't bad, either.

                              1. re: Savour

                                Yes, it's and If... Then... thing.

                                1. re: mc michael

                                  One thing I love in Old Town is the Stone Company Store. But foodwise, meh.

                          1. Reading your post over, I see you are planning ahead. That's good, however, if we were to tell you what's trendy now, it wouldn't be by May 2014. Generally, you'll want to look in on what's good in SGV Chinese, what's happening in downtown LA (both restos and bars), new Mexican eateries/trucks/stands, sushi, Thai, burgers, etc. Some of the suggestions you get now will still be on point. Others will have declined, gone out of biz, etc. Maybe set up a spreadsheet now, then check back in say February.
                            If I were to throw out some suggestions now, they would include Rivera, Babita, Jitlada, Sushi K. Ike, Parks BBQ, Son of a Gun, Sea Harbour, Newport Tang Cang Seafood, Umami.
                            If you want to get into places with views and iconic spots, that's another discussion.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: mc michael

                              I will dissent all day everyday regarding Jitlada

                              overpriced and overrated, with an outdated location and terrible service to boot.

                              I don't mind places charging high end prices, but they better back it up with the high end experience.

                              1. re: ns1

                                this phrase "outdated location" confuses me.

                                1. re: linus

                                  Super old furniture, sticky tables, christmas lights in July, etc. Tacky decor on the walls too.

                                  At least you get to look at Matt Groening doodles while waiting eons for your food, I guess.

                                  1. re: ns1

                                    Have you checked the decor at Ruen Pair?

                                    1. re: mc michael

                                      Yes. Not quite as tacky but equally outdated. However I dont feel ripped off after leaving ruen pair so it's not a big deal there lol

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        Ruen Pair is definitely less expensive. But it does not have Southern Thai dishes like Jitlada.

                                        1. re: mc michael

                                          yeah been to jitlada 3x never going back, don't care how many southern specialties they got.

                                          1. re: ns1

                                            Won't have to wait behind you for a table. Thanks.

                                    2. re: ns1

                                      that sounds like "outdated decor" to me. but no matter.

                                      since i've never had service issues at jitlada, i shan't argue with you about that, either.

                                      1. re: linus

                                        Yes you are correct, but too late to edit now!

                                2. re: mc michael

                                  I don't mean trendy by 'what the hottest place is right now', more like in general what do people like. I know the shelf life of a trendy restaurant can be short lived.

                                  I do like your suggestion about the spreadsheet. I'll check all the places you suggest. Thanks.

                                  1. re: AquaAllegoria

                                    And you need to check the pastrami at Langer's and see how you think it compares to Katz's et al.