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1 Day in LA...

I have (perhaps) 24 hours to experience LA cuisine for the first time in a few weeks. This time around Im not looking for high end dining. Im thinking more about ethnic and simple and as good as it gets (grungy dives are perfectly find if thats where you get the best stuff).

So first I'm looking for the best Oaxacan/mole experience possible. Would also like to know your favorite taco dive or Taqueria in the area in case we want to go that route instead (and theres the possibility of mexican for breakfast so where do I go for that?). And how about vintage LA Sichuan where I could get my spice fix but that wouldnt kill the wife? Any recommendations? If thats too specific then genuine well made REAL chinese food would do just fine. Not americanized of course.

So this day will be about a mexican dive, a chinese dive and a top notch brewery (did I mention that?) or brewpub where I can have a few local beers and digest lunch while contemplating dinner.

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  1. Rex, any particular area of LA that you'll be in?

    10 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      I'm actually going to let the cuisine guide me. This is a purely spontaneous "local" gastronomic adventure. There is some mild talk of the usual tourist silliness as a possibility (Hollywood, etc.) but I dont want that to shape our brief culinary exploration of the place with any other factor. So to answer your question Im willing to drive anywhere from Ventura to San Bernadino to San Clemente. In fact there was some initial talk of starting at or finding our way to San Marcos so we could sample some Lost Abbey brews. But I realize that may be a stretch in such a limited time.

      I should probably mention we will be coming from the East (Vegas) so if these places are found along the way rather then deep down on the coast then great but dont restrict yourself.

      1. re: Insidious Rex

        What day of the week? And how well do you tolerate traffic? Trying to cover multiple parts of metro LA (let alone all of LA county or even the multiple counties you've listed) is ambitious (and perhaps not possible) depending the answers to the questions above....

        My thinking is that, if you're driving from the east, you could have Chinese in the SGV (I'm not sure what reference to "vintage LA Sichuan" means, although I assume other posters do) and then go to a place in East LA for your Mexican/Oaxacan fix.

        I don't know much about breweries, alas....

        1. re: ilysla

          It will be a Saturday. Hopefully thats better then a weekday but Ive heard enough about LA traffic to scare me to death so...

          1. re: Insidious Rex

            Saturday can be much worse than a weekday.

            1. re: Porthos

              Indeed (traffic on the 10 from WLA anywhere eastbound is surprisingly horrific).

              But if Saturday's what you've got, then it is what it is.

              Here's a thread about Sichuan. I know you said you didn't want to kill your wife w/ spiciness, but perhaps the restaurants could modify the amount of hot oil or peppercorns in the dish?


              If you're up for any type of good Chinese food, you might like the people watching for late morning dim sum (just do a search), going to try Shanghai-style Chinese (J&J, which is my personal favorite), or trying central Chinese (JYTH).

              I do like Monte Alban and Juquila on the westside, but Rocio's might be closer? I've not been, but here's the website (http://www.moleofthegods.com/). It might be easier to go to East LA? I recall reading that Moles La Tia (http://www.moleslatia.com/) was good, but I can't remember if the owner/chef had changed?

              Also agree w/ the recs for Langer's and Ricky's.

              1. re: ilysla

                So its now been moved to Friday. Not sure if thats better or makes a difference at all. And that likely means Ill be getting into town Thursday night.

                1. re: Insidious Rex

                  Hard to say what traffic might be like, depending on what part of town you're in. Friday nights can be really bad.

                  I'd say try to avoid morning rush hour (7-9-ish) and the evening rush (4-7-ish). I know that you're willing to drive wherever, but if this is your first time in LA and you're not particularly traffic-tolerant, I'd say stick w/ the recs that are geographically relatively close (and I know that might be hard to gauge if you're not familiar w/ LA), and you'll probably be just fine (and have a much better impression of our city!).

                  What part of town will you be in?

            2. re: Insidious Rex

              Avoid Thursdays at all cost...

              It's LA's version of Saturday night anywhere else in the country.

            3. re: ilysla

              oh and my references to "LA Mexican" or "LA Sichuan" comes from spending many years on the DC/Baltimore Chowhound board and seeing a constant parade of Southern California natives freshly relocated to the east coast and asking desperately for "mexican food like I used to eat in mid city" or "chinese food like I used to get in San Gabriel" etc. To which we DC natives say YOU CANT! But try this instead. This is what WE do here... Well Now I want to go to these places that these poor unfortunate souls cant match back east. Im tired of hearing about how good they are and that theres nothing like it in our area...

              1. re: Insidious Rex


                I have no idea what the DC food scene is like (my vague impression is that you do high-end new American very well?) but might be best to temper your expectations of our specialities since sometimes they can be quite different from the way they are in other parts of the country (which some new residents who are new to LA don't always like). Although, for the record, I actually do think the Mexican and Chinese food here is really, REALLY good and quite inexpensive....

        2. Langer's Deli Best Pastrami on earth. Open till 4pm Closed Sundays.

            1. re: wienermobile

              Absolutely Ricky's Fish Tacos. The perfect LA dive experience...because TRUCK! Whis is no longer in Chinatown. Back in Hollywood, on Virgil and Sunset Blvd., and better than ever. Also convenient to Hollywood/Vine and Hollywood/Highland, which you should go ahead and experience the silliness of.

            2. For Mexican breakfast, I would recommend Taqueria Los Anaya In Mid City for their chilaquiles. They have other breakfast stuff too, but I can only vouch for the chilaquiles.

              For mole, I can't speak from experience but I've heard that wherever Rocio Camacho is cooking is the place to be. She opened up a place called Rocio's moles de Los dioses, but I also know she moves around a lot. Someone around here knows more I'm sure.

              Personally, I like the moles at Monte Alban in west LA and Guelaguetza in K-town

              3 Replies
              1. re: Butter Fight

                The mole sauce is good at Monte Alban, but the meat tastes like they boiled it separately and then poured the sauce over the top. Basically you get a generic tasteless chicken breast, bathed in yummy mole. It's okay if you're stuck on the westside, but I wouldn't drive to get it.

                +1 for Guelaguetza.

                1. re: Bjartmarr

                  But the chicken soup, caldo do pollo, at Monte Alban is, in my pretty unsophisticated (on this particular topic) opinion, really, really good.

                2. re: Butter Fight

                  Glad to see Taqueria Los Anaya mentioned. Best mex breakfast in LA. The huevos rancheros are also bar far the best version in LA (or maybe anywhere).

                3. If you end up in the SGV for Chinese, which you should, check out a nearby place called The Stuffed Sandwich for your beer needs. A few other options for beer in nearby Pasadena are Slater's 50/50, Lucky Baldwin's, Haven & Stone has a place there as well.

                  You'll obviously kill more birds at a brewpub than a brewery and one of the best is Naja's Place in Redondo Beach should you find yourself in that area .

                  Talking about your beer options in San Diego would really open up a Pandora's Box and is for another Board.

                  1. A great combo stop would be at Beer Belly, which is right in Korea-town. Craft beer and good pub food, plus right in the midst of Korean restaurants which other posts on this site have discussed at length.

                    1. +1 for Beer Belly; Father's Office in Culver City or Santa Monica has a great beer selection....food's good, but a bit over rated.

                      Guisado's for tacos, not so much Oaxacan.... But I like Monte Alban in West L.A. There's also La Casita Mexicana, but it's in Bell....pretty sure they have mole on there....

                      Any decent taco truck in East LA will also do great street tacos. Search tacos in this thread for specifics.

                      1. Rex, for Mexican food, you will enjoy an embarrassment of riches in LA.

                        To me the iconic LA food is, however, a taco served street-side from an old school taco truck (not the new, foodie trucks, however wonderful many of them are). You can find them all over the place on most nights, but you'll find a fleet of them along major streets in a 3 mile radius of say, 3rd Street and Vermont Ave. Ask for the harder to find meats in your taco, including cara (face) and lengua.

                        Or, if you've got the time, check out York Blvd. in Highland Park which is jammed with small Mexican restaurants which serve outstanding food. Any place you find on that street will rock, but but El Huarache does wonderful moles, and if you're lucky they'll be serving their birria (goat stew):


                        Finally, while you're on York Blvd., you might as well finish your meal with a stop at Galco's, an once family owned grocery, turned into a family owned ultimate rare and old-fashioned soda store that shows up on a lot of food shows. It's like a soda museum:


                        Have fun!

                        1. Monrovia is really close to LA...try Loteria (Colorado Blvd.) for Mexican, and The Peach Cafe for the best breakfasts.

                          1. For brewpubs, the options I can think of off the top of my head are Angel City and Golden Road.

                            Angel City is in downtown, which makes it convenient to Boyle Heights/East LA (for Mexican) and the San Gabriel Valley (for Chinese). I think the beer there is just ok, but they have a great space.

                            Golden Road, in my opinion has far superior beer, but they have terrible food and they are located in Glendale, which makes it more inconvenient

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Butter Fight

                              Golden Road is right on the 5 though, so you could dip down into East LA and go on through to the SGV.

                              My favorite local brewery is Craftsman, but they don't have an in house tasting room. You can get their beers (and many others) at Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena (which is not a bad stop between East L.A. and the SGV) or at many other good beer bars in town.

                              1. re: Savour

                                Craftsman has been around for sometime. Predating the current beer craze by quite a few years.

                            2. While you're in sgv for Chinese food, pick up a bucket of Tokyo fried chicken in Monterey Park. Other than Langer's it is the food that has most consistently impressed my visitor friends.
                              For mole I would try La Casita Mexicana in Bell.

                              1. If you haven't gone yet, may i suggest starting the morning off with a tour of the SGV then ending the night with a food crawl of taco trucks. hell you can end the night @ petty cash taqueria and get some haute tacos and cocktails.

                                win all around.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ns1

                                  Not a win for someone looking for 1. a dive-like setting to get tacos. 2. great tacos. 3. not getting ripped off like a moronic tourist, or person who has never ventured east of La Brea in their lives.

                                2. So thanks once again for all the recommendations. I managed to get in quite a bit during my 24 hours in LA, getting in stops everywhere between Sierra Madre and the Santa Monica Pier. First stop was Lucky Baldwin's Delirium Cafe in Sierra Madre which was more bar then cafe really. But we were fine with that. Got some tastes of interesting local brews and moved on to SGV where my head nearly exploded when I sat down at Hunan Chilli King and looked at the ridiculous menu of 170+ items most of which you would NEVER see anywhere near a chinese food menu on the east coast. And the amount of hot pepper they dumped into your over sized bowl of pig kidney and stomach was off the charts. This was my favorite experience I will admit. The poor wife got fried rice and it was still too spicy to eat so we moved onto El Taurino and shared a plate full of tacos and a burrito. Great stuff. The al pastor is very nice and the cabeza is done well. Then we collapsed at a hotel and got up early to get the tourist activities out of the way. Once done we went to Taqueria Los Anaya for a wonderful Mexican breakfast. My huevos rancheros were perfect... Then it was back on the beer trail. We ventured back to Hollywood and checked out Blue Palms Brewhouse which has a great list of locals. After a stop at the Pier we found our way to the Daily Pint which had probably the best tap list I saw in LA (or Vegas). Waited out traffic there over a few pints then had dinner at Petty Cash Taqueria which has a unique menu that Id love to pick through but I wasnt floored by either my guacamole urchin chicharoones or my pig ear nachos. The former seems like an amazing idea but the separate parts dont really work well together (creamy subtle guacamole and earthy umami stinky urchin - the texture is basically the same so you arent sure whats going on in your mouth when you eat). And the latter was too leathery and chewy for my tastes. Pig ear needs to be cooked just right to be very good. Finally, we moved on to Rocio's Mole de los Dioses, home to the "queen of moles". The moles were very good but I was too full to really enjoy them at that point (dont force complex moles into your stomach when you arent hungry... they should be savored and analyzed over many visits) and my Chapulines tacos were way way to briney to enjoy.

                                  And then back to Vegas just in time for our flight back to DC. So thanks Angelinos for all your suggestions. One or both of us will be back soon enough and we will continue our gastronomic invasion of your fine city and surroundings.

                                  25 Replies
                                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                                    That's an unbelievable amount of food to eat in 24 hrs! Thanks for the report. Glad you enjoyed the food. =)

                                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                                      I'm impressed with how much you were able to eat.

                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                              So I have received confirmation that I will once again be in your immediate locality come early summer. I realize its a bit early to start fielding options but I do enjoy researching thoroughly when it comes to my food and beer explorations. This time I should be in town for a relatively Rip Van Winkle like 5 or 6 days so no need for crazy point to point barn storming like last time (which was fun but Im looking forward to enjoying being in more of a savor mode then a gastronomic/zymergic blitzkrieg). My culinary interests still basically remain the same but I will now have time to approach them in a comparative sense rather than a single representative one. And since I have been there last fall I have heard good and interesting things about certain places I wish to learn more about. So lets start with those most immediately on my mind. Tell me about Salts Cure, Beer Belly, Little Bear and Tony Darts Away. I have heard such good things from both beer and food fans. I am wondering what the Angelinos think of these places and based on these what other places I might find worth investigating.

                                              1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                Salt's Cure - I like the food a lot. Simple and well-prepared. I think SC's detractors (correctly) point out it is expensive, and not very comfortable, for what you get. One of my guests, after devouring it, said, "That's no 12 dollar salad, but it sure was good!"
                                                Some of their meat cuts and preparations are quite unique to them and the way they do business. A few, but usually very good, beer selections. And great reasonably priced wine selections. I LOVE sitting at the "bar" - kitchen table along or with one other person and watching the food prep.

                                                Beer Belly - pass on the food, nothing there is very interesting or tasty to me. But the beer and atmo are great.

                                                1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                  Relative to what is Salt's Cure expansive? You pay $28 for possibly the best pork chop in the city (only possibly excluding Chi Spacca's, which is $40 per person). You get a side of incredible mashed potatoes, or steamed kale for like $5, and a slice of grapefruit pie (the best dessert in the city perhaps!) and your meal comes out to about $50 and some change with tax and tip. Ok, add on some drinks and it'll be a bit more, but that's true of anywhere.

                                                  Where are you getting that level of food for less than $50/person on average in LA? The only place I can think of would be B├Ąco Mercat which seems to consistently be about $40/person.

                                                  I'm very curious what people are comparing SC to that find it overpriced...

                                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                                    So here's a pic of their menu from last night.
                                                    Soup for 9 bucks,]
                                                    Salads $11-12
                                                    Appy $15
                                                    1/2 chicken $25!!!!
                                                    Only the last is what I think of as egregious. The rest are just "normal pricey." Perhaps, what I expect to pay for a big place, with a full bar, and lots of employees in a marquis section of town. Not in a small, cramped, wine/beer licence, owner-operated neighborhood joint, that hires a few would-be actors on a sketchy corner of WeHo.

                                                    And the bitty salads with little in them are not a value either. But they are tasty. Hell, it all is. And I gladly pay it -- I'm a fan of those guys and am not the most price-conscious consumer (this post, notwithstanding).

                                                    Don't get me wrong, BacoMan, I like SC a lot.

                                                    1. re: BacoMan

                                                      Sotto's pork chop is IMO much better than Salt's Cure, although Salt's is a nice cut.

                                                  2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                    TDA - deep tap selection focusing primarily on IPA. ok food, lots of vegan options.

                                                    Note: black keys soundtrack

                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                      Hipster sensor is signaling off the charts...

                                                    2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                      You may want to read this recent thread - it covers alot of ground which you can cross-reference with you beer research.


                                                      Someone in there mentions Willie Jane which, to me is a pass but other wise lots of great ideas,.

                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                        The extended stay will give you some time to try the rest of the 170+ items at Hunan Chili King. :-)

                                                        1. re: raytamsgv

                                                          *drool* I fully intend to take an entire day to explore the various asian options in the Valley. And a return to HCK is a no brainer. I still have the menu...

                                                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                            Caution: "the Valley" in LA usually refers to "the San Fernando Valley," not "the San Gabriel Valley," where all the good Chinese food is.

                                                            Yes, there are 2 Father's Offices. One is in Santa Monica; the other is in Culver City. I find the Culver City one to be far more comfortable....

                                                        2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                          Of those places, I've only been to Beer Belly.

                                                          The food there ranges from forgettable to terrible, everything is fried which would make you think it was good, but most of the it just lacks flavor. Their beer selection if very IPA heavy which I don't like but they have some interesting/lesser known breweries.

                                                          The other thing to note is that they were featured on some TV show a while ago and the last time I went they were very crowded. That might have died down, because I went about six months ago, but it just hasn't been worth it to me to go back again.

                                                          Have you been to Father's Office? You probably have, but if you haven't they have an incredible beer selection and great food. Everyone raves about their burger, but I think the strength lies in all of their other dishes.

                                                          You also might want to check out Golden State. It is just a burger place, but I think they make one of the best burgers in LA. Also, their sweet potato fries (which are like thick wedges) are in my opinion, the best in the city. The Golden State beer selection, while small, (only 6-8) is very well curated and the owner usually has tasty and interesting beers on tap.

                                                          1. re: Butter Fight

                                                            Havent been to Fathers Office yet (arent there two?) but Ive had it on the list for a while. Glad to know the food there is good. Id heard it was just incidental and to go specifically for the beer (which is enough for me).

                                                            Golden State is definitely on the list too. Was told the beer is good and their burger and hot dog options are very good.

                                                              1. re: wienermobile

                                                                Behold The Golden State Burger...

                                                              2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                There are two, but the one in Culver City is bigger. They both get very crowded though.

                                                                Also to note is that the Culver City location is right next to Lukshon and Bucato, both of which get a fair amount of love around here, but I can't speak for either personally.

                                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                              Little Bear has a fantastic but pricey beer selection. More foreign than domestic. Their food, while I definitely enjoy it, is nothing to write home about, but you will be very close to both Church & State and Bestia. So basically you should go to one of those for food then hit up Little Bear for drinks.

                                                              1. re: set0312

                                                                Bestia looks interesting! Will check into it further. Might do Little Bear first then end up at Bestia.

                                                            2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                              If only I had found this thread earlier...I could have saved you from your PettyCash fate! =(

                                                              You should've just gone to Leo's Tacos...or just Rocio's.

                                                              Glad you tried those huevos rancheros at Los Anaya though! One of the best dishes in LA I think!

                                                              1. re: BacoMan

                                                                indeed... might just have to go back a second time.

                                                            3. I posted before seeing you've already been and gone. And yes, well done on a comprehensive experience! But on your next trip...Ricky's Fish Tacos. Simply a must.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: jesstifer

                                                                Tried to fit that in the first time but wasnt able to. Will prioritize that this time.