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Fun, informal, quiet restaurant on West Side

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Friends are coming to town and want to take us and another couple they want us to meet to a west side restaurant. They are staying in Santa Monica. They want a restaurant that is "fun, informal, not too loud ideally with round tables" and of course serving great food. To give you some idea of their taste, their first choice was to go to Din Tai Fung, until they realized how far it is from Santa Monica. It's not that they want Chinese necessarily, just that they want something informal, very good and quiet enough to talk.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Price range?

    And what does "fun" mean? Genuine question b/c, while I think the food at DTF is fine, it comes nowhere near my definition of "fun." Do they mean ethnic food that they can't get readily in their hometown? A lively ambiance (which might be hard to combine w/ quiet enough where one can still have a conversation)?

    1. How about Shamshiri Grill on Westwood near Santa Monica Bl. Really good Persian food. Fun, informal, not too loud and round tables (I believe). Another choice just up the street on the west side of Westwood is Emporium Thai, which is very good with some unique Southern Thai dishes.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Thor123

        +1 for Samshiri Grill.

        How about dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica at Fig? We went there a couple of weeks ago, had a fun dinner with some friends, then had drinks after dinner on the back patio of the hotel.

        How about Joe's in Venice?

        1. re: Thor123

          soft shell crabs are great there too, though i can't remember if they are still in season.

        2. Monte Alban
          Flores
          Tapenade
          MIlo and Olive (if you don't go during "prime" dinner hrs....)

          9 Replies
          1. re: ilysla

            +1 on Tapenade. Hit the patio while we have this weather.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              Or how about combine Flores and Tapenade together for a decent meal ?

              1. re: kevin

                I haven't been to Flores but one can have a very good meal at Tapenade alone. Considering the neighborhood choices and their close proximity, Flores might be direct competition for Tapenade

            2. re: ilysla

              I wouldn't exactly characterize Milo and Olive as "quiet."

              1. re: ilysla

                re: milo and olive
                although i love their food, i would not consider the cramped communal tables and the continual defragging of said tables as something that i'd define as "fun."

                1. re: westsidegal

                  +1 on maudies5 and westsidegal. M&O is great, but one goes there despite the seating and noise.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    maudie5, I found Tavern to be overwhelmingly painful and deafening in terms of noise, so I think we just have different ears. I did also specified to not go during prime during hrs. ;) Outside of those hrs, noise isn't generally an issue....

                    My partner and I actually have some fun conversations w/ the people next to us there. This, despite the fact that communal seating doesn't normally appeal to me at all. The people-watching in such close proximity can also be fun....

                    And I also did ask the OP to clarify what he/she meant by fun.... No answer, so I'm left to my own definition.... ;)

                    1. re: ilysla

                      Trust me, Tavern is not deafening in terms of noise. My husband is extremely hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. By necessity, this rules out many restaurants. One of the reasons we enjoy Tavern, in addition to the food, is our ability to converse.

                      1. re: maudies5

                        Like I said, we have different ears. *In your opinion*, Tavern isn't deafening. I have excellent hearing, and I couldn't hear the people across the table from me and was hoarse later that evening from straining my voice to have my dining companions hear me.

                        The acoustical construction of the place was clearly developed to create a noticeable but indistinguishable background roar, which can be very problematic for some people (i.e., me). People who are hard of hearing aren't necessarily going to be bothered by it b/c they probably don't register all the background noise. ::shrug::

              2. Superba Snack Bar Venice

                3 Replies
                1. re: wienermobile

                  SSB is not quiet.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    No, it's the opposite of quiet. The last time I went there I had to practice my lip reading skills because I could not hear my friend who was sitting across the table from me, and when i got home my ears were ringing like I'd been at a concert.

                    1. re: cookie monster

                      Should of said the Patio. sorry.

                2. On the patio at Plan Check http://www.plancheck.com/

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Servorg

                    I really like Plan Check but might be just outside the OP's perameters IMHO. It gets loud amd crowded, and the tables are pretty cramped.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Outside tends to very "hearing" friendly and the tables are nicely spaced out there.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Though the exhaust and fumes outside might make be hard of hearing.

                        1. re: kevin

                          The traffic on the northern end of Sawtelle isn't nearly as intense as it is south of La Grange on down to Olympic.

                        2. re: Servorg

                          I've been on the sidewalk patio when it's packed, and it feels pretty crowded and loud to me, but I'm a wuss when it comes to noise and crowds.

                    2. What about Tokyo Kalbi? The DIY at-the-table-ness of it is naturally fun; it's not as rowdy or noisy as Gyu-Kaku. Only thing is that it's not super-casual, but it's not at all dressy either.

                      1. What do they mean by "fun"? I am left to guess too. I suspect they mean 1) not formal: no airs, pretentions, attitude or stuffiness 2) not too expensive, and 3) something out of the ordinary for them. Perhaps there is something also about authenticity (while some would call LA Live fun, I don't think it would appeal to them). They live in Boston, which has good restaurants of its own, but I think they would like something they can't get there.

                        In an email, my friend just mentioned another LA restaurant she thinks is "fun": Versailles. Not exactly west side, but its closer to Santa Monica than Din Tai Fung.

                        BTW/ What does OP mean? I hope not Obnoxious Person.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: lwinkelman

                          OP: Original Post(er).

                          Versailles isn't very quiet, and isn't considered very authentic for what that's worth. My family and I like it, though.

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            I think Versailles would be fine if you're looking for food that's tasty and satisfying but isn't "great."

                            1. re: ilysla

                              I know too many, way too many people, that think that Versailles is a real treat and some of the best stuff around.

                              I beg to differ.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Agreed, but casual, cheap, and reasonably good have their place, too. And perhaps that'll be what the OP's friends are looking for?

                                1. re: kevin

                                  Their chicken is dry and overcooked (you would think they would have that down by now), but I'll tell you: I would eat cardboard if I could put enough of that lemon-garlic sauce on it. The sides are simple and good: rice, beans, plantains, and fried yucca. It is inexpensive and close to my house. So we bring in from Versailles fairly often. It is not on my list of places I take visitors when I want to show them the best food LA has to offer. But I don't mind a meal there now and then.

                                  1. re: lwinkelman

                                    I haven't been in yrs, but the lemon-garlic sauce makes rainbows and unicorns appear for me. ;)

                                    Check out the website for Flores to see if that'd fit your friends' criteria. Don't know what the noise level is b/c I've only been for Sunday brunch (and there weren't many people present). I do imagine the inside could get noisy, but they have PLENTY of outdoor seating (possibly some round tables? Can't remember), and there's a large fence around one the patios, so you don't feel like you're sitting in the street.... The back room of Waterloo and City also seemed like quite a civilized place for conversation.

                                    1. re: ilysla

                                      Waterloo & City isn't very loud in general, and I've always had fun & good meals there.

                                  2. re: kevin

                                    The garlic chicken is very tasty at Versailles. Its not fine dining, but I don't have the time or money for fine dining every night.

                                    1. re: bringiton

                                      imho, although the chicken is tasty at versailles, it is very far from being "great food."

                            2. Nook is what came to my mind first.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: yogachik

                                Nook was 1st one that popped in my mind too.

                                1. re: Wayno

                                  No round tables at The Nook.

                                  I was going to recommend Rustic Canyon, but no round tables there either.

                                  Buffalo Club? Round tables, fun, but is is quiet? It is inside, but not as fun.

                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                    Bouchon has round tables and sitting on the patio is fun and great for people watching. Not too noisy and food is terrific. You can even bring Fido.

                                  2. re: Wayno

                                    <<and of course serving great food>>

                                    imho, nook does NOT serve great food.
                                    if you must eat there, i'd advise sticking to the comfort food and avoiding the fish.

                                    1. re: Wayno

                                      There is at least one boothy corner table in the back at Nook that could work, as well as taking one half of the middle communal table. Three of those side two-tops pushed together? I don't know...

                                      After all these years now, I still think Nook is a gem for tasty food, good portions, and excellent service and value.

                                  3. Thanks for all the great suggestions. You listed many of my favorites. In the end, I am giving them three choices: Versailles, Mount Alban and Flores. It is a diverse group of restaurants and I think they will like all three. I will let you know what they choose and how they like it.