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Downtown LA with conventional family, but good food?

On Tuesday I will be staying in downtown LA at 8th and Flowers. Going out for dinner with my conventional cousin and her teen kids, I had chosen Langers Deli from a recc on this board, but see it is not open for dinner. Where else can we go that is close so I can get decent food, and the cousins can eat conventionally and not too expensively?

Thanks, hounds

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  1. Check out Blue Cow Kitchen http://www.bluecowkitchen.com/ and the Nickel Diner http://www.nickeldiner.com/ and see what you think.

    27 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Thanks, Servorg. Blue Cow looks fun but not enough variety and may be too like a bar. Nickel Diner may be better; or what about Baco Mercat?

      1. re: curioussheridan

        I only hesitated on Baco Mercat because of your "...dinner with my conventional cousin and her teen kids..." but if you think they can find something that they'd like I say go for it.

        1. re: Servorg

          Original Pantry cafe, that's as conventional as it gets,

          and that ain't no fucking joke.

          The food is not so great though.

          1. re: Servorg

            Very true.

            I love Bäco, but the crowd is the epitome of unconventional. Last time I ate there (last Wednesday night), it looked like they were hosting a costume party (including the staff).

            The food is also not really conventional at all...

            But I did take my uncle once, who is pretty conventional in his eating habits, and he enjoyed it.

          2. re: curioussheridan

            I would not go to Baco Mercat. Unless you specified overpriced, underwhelming food.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Over-priced? Meals at Bäco run about $30-$40/person. In LA that is rather UNDERpriced for that level of food.

                Have you only been once?

                I dine there pretty often. I hate to admit that they have maybe slipped a little bit ever since Orsa opened up. Feels like Centeno may be concentrating too much on it, and Bäco is always packed regardless. Sigh.

                But still, I have had many family meals (and otherwise) there, and I never leave unhappy with the food. The flavors are unlike anywhere else in LA.

                I'm very curious what your specific complaints are. What where you expecting from Bäco that you did not get?

                1. re: BacoMan

                  Centeno may have spread himself a little too thin as the saying goes.

                  At the same time, there are a number of people who don't really like Baco. Just their opinion of course.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Their loss obviously. The place is literally packed every night.

                    I wish people would say WHY they don't like places rather than being vague about it.

                    It's hard for me to see what there is not to like about Bäco besides the crowd/atmosphere if you are a certain type of person.

                    1. re: BacoMan

                      I wasn't very impressed with Baco. Here's why.
                      1. We arrived 5 minutes early. When we checked in with the hostess she told us we were 5 minutes early and to check in with her again in 5 minutes.
                      2. I ordered a glass of wine. The glass was chipped and filthy. The replacement glass was also greasy.
                      3. The baco was just a heavy, difficult to eat mess. I love spicy food and my usual complaint is that so often restaurants under-season. However, the bazole was so spicy as to be inedible.

                      In fairness, the brussel sprouts were delicious and I really enjoyed the hamachi crudo. Our waitress was very sweet.

                        1. re: whatsfordinner

                          1. Weird. I arrived 15 minutes early last time I dined there and it wasn't a problem. But I guess everywhere gets slammed sometimes. Fair enough.

                          2. Hopefully they comped the wine? I'm not sure if they are always that bad since I always drink beer or their house-made sodas. Obviously that sucks.

                          3. With regards to the Baco's, well, at least this is something useful for people to read about the food. I would say that is the appeal of them. When you look at the picture of a baco on their website it looks like a giant, messy flavor bomb kind of thing. And that is what they are. I love them. Everyone I've dined with has loved them for the most part. But of course, if you don't like that kind of thing, then you won't like it.

                          Out of curiosity, what were you expecting the bacos to be like?

                          I would agree that the bazole is one of the few legitimately spicy dishes I have ever seen on a restaurant like Baco. I admire their audacity in a certain sense. But I would say it's about the same heat as the dishes you have at any of the good thai eateries in LA, or a bowl of pho with a bunch of sriracha in it. If they didn't warn you about that, then I agree it was a misstep on their part. They probably should delineate it as being particularly spicy given that most of their crowd are people with typical white-person spice-tolerance (and I say this as a white person).

                          However, I personally like the extreme nature of the dish, and find it pleasurable.

                          Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you prefer more mild flavors, restrained dishes, etc...?

                          I would say that is quite fair to say that, at the very least, someone with such leanings should not order any of the bacos, flatbreads, or bazole at baco.

                          Honestly, at least half the time I'm there I never order those things. I order off of the vegetables section mostly, plus the large format dishes, and/or small plates of meats.

                          I feel like you would have come away with a completely different opinion if you'd eaten the saffron-honey chicken, a beet salad, and some the brussel sprouts.

                          But this is at least great, because this is obviously very useful information for prospective diners to know before deciding whether to dine at Baco or not. Frankly, it seems like it would have been useful information for you to have before you went! =(

                          1. re: BacoMan

                            Actually, the bacos sounded like something I would love, as did the bazole. I wanted strong, raucous flavors but I thought these dishes were unpleasantly over the top. And no, I really don't prefer mild, restrained dishes.

                            The wine was not comped and I didn't expect it to be. I only complained about the first chipped and dirty glass, and just dealt with the greasy one.

                            I think I did mention I liked the brussel sprouts and the hamachi.

                            I thought the prices were reasonable and I enjoyed the casual and fun vibe (even though we were probably the oldest people there). I just don't think it's a great restaurant.

                            1. re: whatsfordinner

                              I agree. I think the flavor concepts are way off too.

                              But that's just me and my opinion.

                              And you know what they say about opinions ?

                              1. re: kevin

                                What does it mean for a "flavor concept" to be "off"?

                              2. re: whatsfordinner

                                "I wanted strong, raucous flavors but I thought these dishes were unpleasantly over the top."

                                How can something be raucous and not over the top?... It sounds like a paradox to me. What is an example of something raucous, and strong and not over the top?

                                To me, even before eating at Bäco, I expected them to be very over the top. From the advertising of them, to the pictures, to what friends said, to the description the waiter gave of each of them. I guess I am a fan of those kinds of things, the supposed "flavor bomb" style of dish, at least from time to time.

                                Of course it's possible you just have way higher standards than me, haha. I'm curious what restaurants count as great for you?

                                Also, curious, have you eaten at Centeno's other places? Just wonder if you dislike his cuisine in general, or just Bäcos.

                          2. re: BacoMan

                            The Baco is filled with cubed fat. To me one of the most disgusting combos imaginable. That and the service sucks. Other than that its great!

                            1. re: Thor123

                              Yeah. I will say that on my last trip the service was a bit wonky...

                              Usually it's pretty good. I was surprised. Seems like they've got some new people working the off nights.

                              You should clarify though (for those reading), that there are multiple Bäco's, and only one of them has the pork belly (i.e. cubed fat).

                              A lot of people enjoy copious fat though. It's definitely one of the more intense options. But it's not like everything has it haha

                              1. re: Thor123

                                My service at the bar was stellar when I visited for lunch. Face it people, we are dealing with humans here, and sometimes all of us wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and have a shitty day. And some who work in the service industry let that spill over into their job performance, no matter what they do. Obviously, BM is not a Melisse, Providence or even Dan Tana's, and most of these waiters are not pros, just working to earn a living until a better gig comes along. They could care less that you are planning to write a shitty review on yelp or CH when you get home.... So to generalize about service is pointless, IMHO, unless the service has been awful from start to finish.

                                And, I know I've said this before, but in the interest of the general CH public that may read this in the future, the Baco I had was not greasy at all, the cubes of pork belly were cooked and fried perfectly without any grease whatsoever. I would've sent it back if it was a greasebomb. So my experience was the complete opposite of Thor's. Just my fifty cents.

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  Well said.

                                  I myself don't like receiving sub-par service, but at the same time I won't stop going to place just because of awkward service if the food is good.

                                  On the grease-bomb note, I do wonder whether some people are confusing "fatty" with "greasy"? Obviously if you order something loaded with pork belly cubes, it's going to be fatty. But, like you, I've never had a Bäco come out greasy to me.

                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                    Thank you. Seriously, who likes getting sub par service? No one.

                                    And your comment on fatty v greasy? Nail. On. The. Head.

                          3. re: BacoMan

                            Over-priced? Meals at Bäco run about $30-$40/person. In LA that is rather UNDERpriced for that level of food.
                            _______________________

                            My recent visits have proven to be otherwise.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              What did you order?

                              I dine at Bäco very frequently. I basically have as much of their menu as is constant memorized. I know their dishes so well that last time I was there I told them they forgot the brown butter in my spaghetti squash.

                              The last visit we spent $40/person with alcohol, and had to take food home. I've never spent more than $45/person there, and have always left exceedingly full.

                              Something seems very wrong. Do you drink lots of alcohol maybe?

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                I don't find any of the Bacos interesting. They look and taste like pita bread on steroids with sauced meats of kind or another. There's nothing going on.

                                Don't even get me started on the flatbreads. I think I would prefer Melba toast with PB and J to most of the flatbread offerings.

                                Some of the smaller dishes are ok, but some really miss the mark. I thought the cauliflower worked, but the okra and the eggplant did not (something about cheese and eggplant just doesn't come together naturally).

                                I get it. You like it. Nothing wrong with that.

                                I don't. And there should similarly be nothing wrong with that.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  "They look and taste like pita bread on steroids with sauced meats of kind or another. There's nothing going on."

                                  Yes, nothing going on inside of sandwiches with three different types of sauce, two different types of meat, a variety of vegetables, and "pita bread on steroids"...

                                  What is your definition of something going on exactly?

                                  I would not even say the Bäcos are the main draw there funnily enough. I just don't get your criticism at all. By your standard there is nothing going on in any dish in any restaurant. Practically everything comes down to "sauced meat on a plate" at pretty much everywhere.

                                  "Don't even get me started on the flatbreads. I think I would prefer Melba toast with PB and J to most of the flatbread offerings."

                                  Ok...I don't really go for them either, but this isn't a criticism with any substance. It doesn't help anyone reading this to understand what they might like, or not like about them.

                                  "(something about cheese and eggplant just doesn't come together naturally)."

                                  Yeah, not like Eggplant Parmigana isn't one of the world's most eaten dishes or anything...

                                  I would like to at least defend the place, but I have no idea what your problem is with the place. Your most significant criticism is that they decided to use cheese and eggplant in a dish, and then said it is an unusual combination that doesn't "work", which is very hard to understand given how universally loved that combination of things is.

                                  If you're going to trash the place on a public forum, I think they deserve the respect of at least having some specific criticisms about what was not enjoyed.

                                  Otherwise, what does your recommendation not to go mean to anyone reading these forums?

                                  And you shied away from the price point as well. If all you are ordering is Bäco's and flatbreads you should be eating for more like $20/person there. A single Bäco is huge, and could easily fill someone up by itself. So your levied criticism that they are overpriced remains more slanderous than informative to anyone.

                                  Yes, it would be fine if you just don't like the flavor profile of the dishes they produce, or the style of cuisine, or whatnot, but if you're going to take time to publicly malign a place, it seems to me you ought to be more specific, and to substantiate your claims (as regards something more objective, like the pricing).

                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                    Are you a Baco investor/owner BacoMan?

                    2. What do you mean by conventional? No ethnic?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        Prolly Italian, Mex and Chinese OK along with Amurrican

                        1. re: curioussheridan

                          Well, although you need to try to get a reservation, or wait a long time, they would almost certainly be fine going to Maccheroni Republic. Pretty conventional Italian fare, and very reasonably priced.

                          If they would branch out into Japanese, you could try to go eat at Marugame Monzo. The udon there has somewhat conventional twists to it. It would be different, but unique.

                          You could always go to Yang Chow in Chinatown for the slippery shrimp.

                          Or Starry Kitchen, or Chego if they would try Chinese/Korean food done with American emphasis. I would personally pick Starry Kitchen over Chego, but it could be a matter of preference.

                      2. Wood Spoon might fit what you are looking for….Their Brazilian chicken pot pie it great.
                        http://woodspoonla.com

                        "Philippes The Original" Home of the French Dip is very casual and could work for you,
                        http://www.philippes.com

                        Wurstkuche and their one of a kind sausages (rattlesnake and rabbit is my favorite) and beer.
                        http://www.wurstkuche.com

                        Langer's closes at 4pm and is closed all day Sunday.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: wienermobile

                          It's amazing how well-liked the rattlesnake and rabbit is! It's been my favorite since I first went there many years ago. At the time it was with a group from my university (for German class, kind of hilarious), and everyone thought it was the weirdest thing ever.

                          I don't know what I was expecting, but I'll be damned if I don't know why rattlesnake and rabbit aren't more common in sausages. The combination makes one of the best sausage meats I've ever tasted!

                          Their other's are good too though =)

                          Man, I haven't been there in a long time...maybe I'll go get one right now!

                        2. I think Nickel Diner as Servorg suggested is your best bet.

                          Other options might be Cole's or Wood Spoon.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Ipsedixit: what is Coles? Don't i recognise you from the DC board?

                            Weinermobile: the Brazilian-filled menu at Wood Spoon will scare the pants off the family-- it's where I would go

                            1. re: curioussheridan

                              Ipsedixit: what is Coles? Don't i recognise you from the DC board?
                              _______________________

                              http://213nightlife.com/colesfrenchdip

                              I dunno, do you recognize me from the DC board?

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              When was the last time you ate at Cole's?...(Not trying to be snarky, but they went through a "revitalization" somewhat recently).

                              It's a very expensive, very pretentious place to get a rather mediocre sandwich at this point in history...

                              The atmosphere is about as far away from "conventional family atmosphere" as you can get, too.

                              I can't imagine any family going to dine at Cole's...

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                Baco Mercat does have some of that new Cole-sey atmosphere I would have to admit.

                                1. re: BacoMan

                                  I don't think of Cole's as pretentious, nor expensive.

                              2. I don't think I can take the "French dip" places. Nickel Diner seems the best compromise between my tastes and the cousins.
                                Thanks...

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: curioussheridan

                                  One more good thing about Nickel D...great desserts (if anyone in the family has a sweet tooth).

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    Yep. And it's in the heart of downtown LA, in the old bank district near a plethora of soup kitchens.

                                    And afterwards get a drink at The Down and Out bar on Spring and 5th (?).

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      "And afterwards get a drink at The Down and Out bar on Spring and 5th (?)."

                                      Yeah. That ought to be a real educational experience for the cousins teen kids...

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        I must have missed that in the body of the request.

                                        Please disregard in that case.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Btw, i thought it might have been you cycling near Roxbury and Olympic, today about 11am ????? Was that you ?

                                          I'm thinking it wasn't since it would be much too late for you.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            The cycling began at 2:45 AM today and it was all over by 5 AM so it couldn't have been me...

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Yep.

                                              I didn't think so.

                                              Damn, 245am ???? You better watch out for those drunkards spilling out of the clubs and bars.

                                    2. re: curioussheridan

                                      I don't get what you can't "take" at the french dip places.

                                      I only know Philippes, and yes, you order at a counter. But in addition to sandwiches you can get soups, chili, really great side dishes and pies and they have a surprisingly good wine list.

                                      I'd also throw in Pete's Cafe. Not the fanciest place in the world, but nice and many choices. A ways back, I'll admit, but we were there with a group of 30 - 80 year olds, and everyone found something they liked.

                                      http://www.petescafe.com/menu/petes-d...

                                    3. Lazy Ox might be worth a look.

                                      1. The Nickel Diner was a great choice-- good quality food, and a good variety. I had pecan crusted catfish with vinegary brussell sprouts and a magnificent chocolate dessert. No presentation, but good eats

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: curioussheridan

                                          Can you describe the chocolate dessert further ????

                                          Thanks.

                                        2. Pasta is pretty conventional. How about Maccheroni Republic? You don't have to get the tripe.