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Mar 10, 2014 11:11 AM

Dining Options while on college visit

I will be in the greater L.A. area in a couple of weeks with my 17 year old daughter visiting colleges and am looking for dining ideas - 2 nights in Santa Barbara and then 5 nights in L.A., staying in Universal City, but willing to drive a bit for an interesting meal. Casual is preferred - pizza, burgers, Italian, Mexican, Asian - anything that might appeal to a 17 year old girl with pretty mainstream food tastes (including any interesting venues). Thanks.

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  1. When in Santa Barbara, you should seek out La Super Rica taqueria at 622 N Milpas St. It has fantastic homemade tortillas and interesting fillings for tacos, quesadillas and other plates. Extremely delicious and quite popular, so off peak hours will assure the wait will be bearable. Closed Mondays. We also enjoy the Palace Grill while visiting SaBa as finding great Cajun food in LA is extremely difficult.

    As far as LA goes, there are so many choices of casual places in a wide area, from downtown to the east side to west Hollywood and Beverly Hills to the west side. It is a huge area and traffic and parking will eat up a lot of time and possibly $. Don't know where you're coming from, which may or may not affect suggestions......

    Some iconic places to look into:
    Pizzeria Mozza
    Umami burgers
    In n Out
    Ink sack
    Son of a Gun
    The Ivy

    There are so many variations on Mexican here from taco trucks and stands to high end dining, I will let other chowhounds chime in with their suggestions.....

    15 Replies
    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

      I think La Super Rica is closed on Wed, because I was there recently on a Monday, which would be a great day to go there for the cheese chili relleno special in a cream sauce, absolutely great stuff.

      And in some cheese and peppers taco, some guacamole, and you got a nice little, cheesy (i mean cheesy, as in lots of fresh cheese) lunch composed primarily of antojitos.

      1. re: kevin

        Correct about closed Wednesdays. It's also cash only and always with a line out the door. Great food.

        Agree with Servog, a great place to taste a little of everything is The Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. Open till 9 daily rain or shine. Tacos to Gumbo to Brazilian BBQ and more. A Taste of LA plus the Grove outdoor mall is right next door.

        Other very casual places that might work include 800 degrees Pizza, Zankou Chicken, Ricky's Fish Tacos, Top Round Roast Beef, Mendocino Farms, Umami Burger, Tender Greens, wurstkuche (one of kind sausages) and Lemonade.

        If you want to do something more special you might try Pizzeria Mozza, Park's Bbq for wonderful Korean food cooked at your table or Gjelina in Venice Beach for a taste of California cuisine.

        1. re: kevin

          Wow, why did I think Mondays....? Anyway, I knew it was closed at least one day a week.....

          And just a word of caution, if you go to Langers Deli, they are in probably the worst neighborhood in all of downtown's not that bad, but even during the day, I would be careful, as a female and an out of towner to just be aware of my surroundings. Mac Arthur park is pretty well known as a drug infested hangout.

          Also, the farmers market on 3rd is a huge tourist trap, so be forewarned. A lot of the food is in, not really all that great. Short order is overpriced but tasty. But it's a touristy spot that's a must see, at least once. Thought you might want to know that.

          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

            I have been going to Langer's for over 40 years and it is completely safe. You might even be eating next to the Chief of the LAPD, Tom Hanks or Mayor Garcetti himself. They have their own attended parking lot one block east. The lines start around noon. If you love pastrami it's worth it.

            1. re: wienermobile

              Folks, let's please not make this another debate about the safety of the neighborhood around Langer's. That's a conversation that's happened before and generally gets pretty unfriendly without ever changing anyone's mind. Thanks.

        2. re: Dirtywextraolives

          La Super Rica is a terrific place. Even better in Santa Barbara is La Colmena ("the beehive"), about 5 blocks southeastward from La Super Rica on Milpas St.

          1. re: ozhead

            And even better than that is El Bajio.

            1. re: ozhead

              Even better, and literally right by UCSB campus is Freebird's World Burrito (The Original!), which serves the best nachos anywhere, and is about 100% more likely to please the prospective college student.

              Great taste of UCSB culture there, too.

              1. re: BacoMan

                I would throw in The Cantina over Freebirds, which is a chain now. It too is in Isla Vista where the college is. Super fresh ingredients. The ultimate breakfast burritos! Although is she ends up at UCSB she'll get her fill for sure. Woodstocks pizza in Isla Vista could be a good choice too. I'm not comparing it to the best pizzas in LA, but it's definitely tasty and you'll get more of a vibe for what it's like to be a part of the UCSB community when you go there as there will be plenty of students around.

                La Super Rica is always worth the wait. And Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. on Stearns Wharf would be a great choice when downtown. It's got great food and you can't beat the view looking back at Santa Barbara from the pier. It's a great stop for first time visitors (and those of us who had to move away).

                I love the LA Farmers Market rec - great old school LA vibe. Loteria Grill is delicious!

                1. re: Rizza

                  "I would throw in The Cantina over Freebirds, which is a chain now."

                  IMPORTANT DETAIL: the chain Freebirds has licensed the NAME ONLY. The chain locations, and the Original in SB are TOTALLY DIFFERENT RESTAURANTS. The chain locations are HORRIBLE. The Original is still one of the best experiences anywhere.

                  Now, if you don't want to eat a plate of nachos that weighs over albs full of freshly grilled steak, sour cream, guacamole, three kinds of beans, two kinds of rice, crispy onions, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeƱos, an ungodly amount of cheese, two kinds of salsa, and a horrible amount of some of the world's tangiest BBQ sauce while downing some supremely glorious cinnamon-y horchata in a cramped, student-filled 24/7 eatery...then sure, the place isn't for you.

                  However, for me, it was a religious experience the first time, and I still make the pilgrimage at least once a year (preferably in the middle of the night; the lines, of course, are the same at 2 am as 2 pm though).

                  I feel like Freebird's is a UCSB institution though. Seems only right to experience it when visiting the school, but whatever floats people's boat.

                  1. re: BacoMan

                    Thank you! I am aware that the IV one is still independently owned. I used to love to go there before I lived in IV, but once I became a Gaucho I favored The Cantina for their killer salsas, healthy options, and general freshness. Just another option for someone craving a true UCSB experience. You're correct in stating that Freebird's is an institution (probably not to be missed) - but a religious experience? Haha - super fun! But I think the trek to La Super Rica may be a more holy experience for me.

                    1. re: Rizza

                      I can see going elsewhere for daily good, especially somewhere with healthier options.

                      But those nachos...they are something else. There's just nothing quite like that experience. It's the whole atmosphere, and vibe of the place, the unbelievable size, and blending of endless flavors and textures. You get messy. You overeat to an intense level. But god damn if it isn't worth it.

                      Maybe it helps if you're just coming off drinking binge, or you just drove 2 hours in the middle of the night based on a craving...idk exactly...

                      It's true, it's not something you could have every day, but there are few culinary experiences that stand out so clearly in my mind as the Freebird's nachos.

                      I thought when the chain opened that it would just be a chain of stores serving only those nachos. Instead, the nachos weren't even on the menu. hah.

                      I guess someone in the government realized it would be a tremendous health risk to the world if such nachos were ever attempted to be produced on a mass scale.

                      1. re: BacoMan

                        The palace grill in sb is by far the best Nola food in SoCal. Downtown.

                    2. re: BacoMan

                      can't comment on the freebirds location in santa barbara, and these comments are not for the OP's needs, i want to defend the freebirds location in marina del rey.

                      given, it is not in any way chowish.
                      what it does provide, however, is a place where one can put together a generally healthful and tasty, cheap, calorie-controlled burrito for lunch.
                      if this is what you want, order the hybird vegetarian burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla.
                      the beans they use are cooked in water only--no oil nor lard
                      i skip the rice entirely because rice, anywhere you get it, is normally a caloric wildcard--you can never be sure how much, if any, oil is hiding in there ad the tortilla will provide enough carbs to balance the thing.

                      their salsas and fresh cilantro are plenty good enough to offset the lack of oil in the beans and freebirds does not limit how much of those you may eat (don't think Chipotle is doing this anymore, but when chipotle first opened they were charging extra for an additional scoop of their lousy salsa).
                      also, if you are game for some calories but want to know HOW MUCH of those you are eating, freebird will slice fresh avocado on a vegetarian burrito for no extra charge.

                      all in all, it's hard enough to get anything that is at all filling and tasty and healthful and cheap for lunch, but freebirds does offer such a thing.


                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Indeed the chain locations are literally the exact opposite of the Original Freebirds, and your description does a great job at highlighting that fact.

                        It's a funny world we live in where two businesses that are essentially the exact opposite of one another (just read my description of the Original Freebird's versus your description here of the Chain) can have the same name attached to them.

                        Looks like a lot of useful information for anyone trying to figure out the differences between the two though.

            2. You aren't really going to be that far from Hollywood or even West Hollywood staying in Universal City. You might check out the burgers at places like 25 Degrees or at Short Order in the permanent Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax or hit up Littlefork LA in Hollywood. Good Asian food at Asanebo not far from your hotel on Ventura Blvd. and there is wonderful food at Joe's Falafel very close by.

              1. I'd go to McConnell's for ice cream in SB.

                Which colleges are you visiting (if you don't mind sharing)? University City is central to lots of stuff, but you and your daughter would like to eat closer to the colleges you're visiting?

                35 Replies
                1. re: ilysla

                  Thanks to all for your suggestions. We are starting at UCSB, then heading to Pepperdine, UCLA, USC, Chapman, Loyola Marymount, Occidental and Redlands.

                  1. re: dbc1012

                    Near USC is Langer's Deli for lunch only till 4pm. Best pastrami on earth. The Oinkster (burgers and more) is great near Occidental. Neptune's Net for casual seafood and Grom Gelato not far from Pepperdine. Mendocino Farms, Alejo's Italian, Gjelina and Wursktuche near Loyola. 800 Degrees, TLT Food and Fundamental LA near UCLA.

                    1. re: wienermobile

                      Langer's is "near" USC?...

                      By such an interpretation of near basically the entirety of downtown is near USC.

                      1. re: BacoMan

                        3 miles away is close by LA standards.

                        1. re: Servorg

                          Then, I repeat, the entirety of Downtown LA is near USC.

                          I attended USC, and not once in my entire time there did I ever see a single person suggest Langer's as an alternative for a nearby lunch.

                          Unlike, say, Chichen Itza, one of the best restaurants in LA that is a few blocks off campus.

                          1. re: BacoMan

                            When I went to USC, several students lived in Downtown as "far" away as Bunker Hill, and it wasn't unusual to go to Little Tokyo, if you had a few hrs off.

                            At least when I went there, many people really *would've* considered the entirety of Downtown as being "close."

                            1. re: BacoMan

                              Los Anaya Taqueria ain't too far from USC. Worth mentioning,

                              1. re: J.L.

                                And Los Anaya Taqueria is even farther from USC than Langer's is.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  I know. Extending the Langer's logic.

                                2. re: J.L.

                                  Yeah...but if they're going to do mexican, why not Chichen Itza a few blocks off campus?...

                                  And unless they want to go explore Culver City for some unknown reason, it doesn't make much sense. The daughter is most likely not going to hang out in West Adams much (if ever), but will probably hang out in Downtown all the time if she goes to USC.

                                  If you visited USC, and then Langer's or Los Anya and thought that was the kinds of neighborhoods you'd be hanging out in for the next 4 years you wouldn't even apply to USC...

                                  I love Los Anya (I think I've said multiple times that I think it is the best taqueria, and the most under appreciated in LA), but it just doesn't seem right for this particular scenario.

                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                    Oh well, so much for my lame tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor/sarcasm today...

                                    Glad I have a non-comedy-based day job. :-P

                                3. re: BacoMan

                                  My current favorite cortado is at Proof.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    And they also serve my favorite Paris-Brest.

                            2. re: wienermobile

                              And Panns near Loyola.

                              And the Tower Bar and Grill.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Just south of Loyola on Lincoln is a great little hamburger spot that serves Japanese burgers and addictive curry fries. Definitely unique, fun and tasty. humble potato

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  Ive never really been a fan of the Humble Potato. And yet they do serve an avocado smoothie so that's not too shabby in and of itself.

                              2. re: wienermobile

                                I'd throw in Malibu Seafood and the great patio view as an option for the trip out to Pepperdine.

                              3. re: dbc1012

                                All are fine schools.

                                For Redlands, you might want to try Little Fishermans Seafoods.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  When driving to Redlands, stop at Donut Man in Glendora. Strawberry donuts are in season.

                                2. re: dbc1012

                                  If you are looking at Chapman, you might also check UCI. There's a Taco Mesa in Orange.

                                  1. re: mc michael

                                    and a hollingshead deli near chapman.

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      Hardly, with a 17 year old girl.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        and anapelca cafe on main street.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          Is there still that great little Cuban restaurant at the top of the circle in Orange? Forgot the name.

                                        2. re: mc michael

                                          In Orange, right by Chapman, there is probably the #1 or #2 BBQ place in all of SoCal: Smokey Fred's.

                                          Maybe not the trendiest place to go, but it's cheap, and insanely good. Possibly great resource for potential college student.

                                          Also, Taco Adobe would be well liked. And I believe Xa's Sweet and Savory Cafe is pretty close, very creative, healthy cuisine.

                                          Frankly, Downtown Santa Ana isn't far from Chapman either (probably 5-10 min), but probably better to explore dining around the campus.

                                        3. re: dbc1012

                                          Near Chapman, check out Haven or, Bruxie for something more casual.

                                          1. re: dbc1012

                                            Is Cacao Mexicatessen (sp?) reasonably close to Occidental? Might be worth a look.

                                            Downtown LA is reasonably close to USC. You might enjoy Colori Kitchen the Wood Spoon. If you don't mind driving further, Lazy Ox Canteen (and the rest of Little Tokyo) isn't too far.

                                            1. re: ilysla

                                              Yep. Cacao is near Occisental.

                                              Or you can hit up Casa Bianca pizza pie which would be my choice.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                If Atwater Village is btw Universal City and Occidental (and I actually don't know if it is), then the OP and daughter could also go to Proof Bakery to gawk at some really self-conscious hipsters and to have some really yummy baked goods....

                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                  Yes, and some great third-wave coffee.

                                            2. re: dbc1012

                                              If you're headed to Loyola from Pepperdine you could grab sandwiches at Bay Cities Deli on the way. You'll find plenty of posts about this deli and their Godmother sandwich. The weather should be beautiful so a beach picnic could be the best call!

                                              1. re: Rizza

                                                Just be forewarned that parking can be, er, TOUGH in the lot and that some people on the board think the hot deli items are better than the Godmother.

                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                  That parking lot is almost worse than a visit to the dentist for root canal festivities.

                                              2. re: dbc1012

                                                Near Pepperdine you will find Fish Grill featuring delicious mesquite grilled REDsnapper fish tacos, salmon plates and
                                                many options.

                                                Across PCH from the ocean, Malibu Pier and kayak rentals!
                                                Enjoyed eating there just yesterday. Very good and cost friendly.

                                                Fish Grill --NOT "'Malibu' Fish Grill"
                                                22935 Pacific Coast Hwy
                                                Malibu, CA 90265
                                                Phone number (310) 456-8585

                                            3. If it's a Saturday dinner, how about dinner at the Getty Center?

                                              If the Santa Anas are still blowing when you visit, you'll enjoy a gorgeous view and with DST in full effect, watch the sun slowly set as you enjoy dessert.


                                              1. Another idea is to try to eat in the college's dining halls if they let you. That will give your daughter a heads up on where she may want to attend (if food is important).

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: wienermobile

                                                  That's an exceptional idea since after all that's a major component of the collegiate experience.

                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                    Wiener, have you tried the original Freebirds in Isla Vista ?????

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      No my first stop in Santa Barbara is alway La Super Rica.

                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                        Mine is tooo except on days when Taqueria El Bajio is open and then after either one it's off to McConnells for ice cream and usually dinner at the old hitching post.

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          Mac's Fish and Chips on State Street is pretty good too also they have DEEP FRIED CANDY BARS
                                                          I also like Norton's Deli

                                                      2. re: kevin

                                                        Last night they tore up the streets...

                                                      3. re: wienermobile

                                                        Good...what misery...seems like any Chowhound parent should avoid subjecting their kids to that if at all possible.

                                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                                          Chowhound parents should also note:
                                                          Last night, (Saturday April 5th), a large crowd rioted in Isla Vista at a street event.
                                                          Do not subject your kids to that if at all possible!

                                                            1. re: VenusCafe

                                                              Yeah. I noticed that last nite.

                                                              I missed what was the reason of any for the rioting in ISLA Vista, or as IV as it is colloquially known.