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DineLA Summer 2014 Picks (7/14-7/27)

Full post with photos here: http://oheithere.wordpress.com/2014/0...

It’s that time of the year again. This is probably the bi-annual event most people in LA look forward to the most. For this Summer 2014 season, I’ll feature 2 new options at each price point – 12 restaurants that haven’t been featured in previous iterations of my dineLA analysis, as well as previously-featured options that remains such (let’s call those my “greatest hits”). Fear not, however, for I will also provide a breakdown of the other previous selections at the very bottom.

By the way, dineLA – what happened to the $85 dinner price point?

LUNCH:

$15

Ciboteca
(Sandwiches, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 8am-
)Optimal Lineup:
- Toscano
- Spinach + arugula
- Milk chocolate cupola mousse
- (soft drink)
Estimated Savings: $9
Notes: Ciboteca is a new panini shop from the Piccolo group (whose Hostaria was and still is a BUY at $15, and whose OG Piccolo is pretty much a dineLA HOFer at $45). They don’t feature the sexy $9 panini options for dineLA though…except for the Toscano, which has Finocchiona (a Tuscan fennel salami). That’s why I’m here folks – to dig this type of information up and game the system. But this is a very good deal for $15: you get a panini, a salad, a pastry, and a fancy soda. Not too shabby.

Settebello (Marina del Rey)
(Pizza, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am- )
Optimal Lineup:
- Panzanella
- Settebello
Estimated Savings: $8
Notes: This deal is only for the Marina del Rey location – sorry Pasadena folks. I like Settebello. I think it deserves more love amongst pizza lovers in LA, especially seeing how Neapolitan pizza is so hot right now. And for dineLA, you basically get the first course for free. There’s lots of parking, and they don’t get very busy from my experiences.

GREATEST HIT – Lazy Ox Canteen
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Shishito peppers
- 7oz lazy ox burger
- Rice pudding
Estimated Savings: ~$15
Notes: I’ve been disappointed by Lazy Ox Canteen by their progress (or lack of) in recent years. After Chefs Centeno and Rochers left, it’s as if the restaurant became content served a limited menu of their greatest hits from Day 1. In the case of dineLA though, this works to their advantage. Proven dishes at a STEEP DISCOUNT – this menu was already a BUY at the $20 price point, but they went ahead and took it a step further. Percentage-wise, this might be the best dineLA deal of the season, lunch or dinner.

$20

Border Grill (Downtown)
(Mexican, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am- )
Optimal Lineup:
- Scallop tiradito
- Enchilada de camarones
Estimated Savings: ~$9
Notes: The menus for the Downtown and Santa Monica locations of Border Grill, respectively, have different menus for dineLA. However, the savings actually look to be almost exact – which means both locations are a BUY. I chose the Downtown one to highlight, because it’s within walking distance from my work. But if you prefer tacos over the other entrees, go to the Santa Monica one.

Muddy Leek
(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 11am-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Tomato salad
- Shrimp & grits
- Gluten free beignets
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I actually don’t know much about Muddy Leek, other than that I used to live near the restaurant, and that J. Gold wrote about it last year. I had assumed it was just a run-of-the-mill farm-to-table restaurant. But the menu reads rather…Southern? Pretty interesting. The shrimp & grits is probably their signature dish, and it is on both the lunch and dinner dineLA menus. Lunch is the preferred choice, as you’re bound to save ~$10 no matter what you choose. This is what dineLA should be all about – letting people try out new places at a friendly entry rate without dumbing the menus down.

GREATEST HIT – Lukshon
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 12-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Crab fritter
- Grilled squid salad
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: I actually previously featured Lukshon at the $25 dinner price point. But with every one of my previous $20 lunch selections either moving weight classes or not doing dineLA this year (with the exception of The Pikey, but it’s really hard to determine value with their menu), it’s worth bumping the dineLA HOFer here. Two of their regular dishes at $20 is a very good deal. Minor rant though: their dinner menu at $35 looks like a HOLD this time around (for the first time ever – they’re usually a strong BUY).

$25

Bourbon Steak
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Burrata
- Black Angus skirt steak
- Vanilla custard
Estimated Savings: $20
Notes: 3 courses for $25 at the new steakhouse from Michael Mina looks like a great deal. Even if you choose the cheapest options for the first and second courses, you’re still going to save ~$10. But for a restaurant with “steak” in its name – you’d probably want to choose the steak option as entree. The skirt steak is definitely not as sexy as the higher-quality selections of beef that the restaurant offers, but do you really need more than a prime-grade steak for lunch?

Water Grill
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11am- )
Optimal Lineup:
- Roasted beets w/ organic apples
- Wild Copper River sockeye salmon
Estimated Savings: $23
Notes: I believe both locations of Water Grill (Downtown and Santa Monica) are offering the same menus for lunch and dinner. Dinner at $45 is a BUY – ~$20 in savings. But you’re saving just as much during lunch at a much lower price point. The entree options bottom out at $19 (the shrimp banh mi), so you’re guaranteed to save money. If you order either of the fish options as the entree (and why wouldn’t you), it’s a double-digit savings AT LUNCH. The Downtown one’s a block away from my office, so I’m very likely going to this one.

GREATEST HIT – Bouchon
(French, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Salade de Chou Frise
- Saucisson a l’Ail
- Bouchons
Estimated Savings: ~$20
Notes: It’s difficult to lock down actual savings at Bouchon each season, but I am fairly certain one can saving at least $10 regardless of the selections every time (mostly because I take the cheapest dish of each category from the regular menu as a price floor). Every one of the previous choices at the $25 price point remains a BUY, too (at least the ones that have posted a menu online).

DINNER:

$25

Komodo (Venice)
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun -9pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Trio of Morsels
- Kimchi Nachos
- Mochiko Fried Chicken
- Traditional Mexican Flan
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I’ve always assumed Komodo was a cleaner, more expensive version of Kogi, and after reading the menu I can say that I was right…somewhat. There’s definitely the Asian Fusion thing going on (with the tacos in particular), but the dineLA menu doesn’t include the tacos. Instead, you get to choose from some rather traditional-sounding SE Asian/island dishes. The savings might be even more if you choose the salmon, and I did go conservative on the appetizer trio estimate. As good of a time as ever to try Komodo.

Mohawk Bend
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Heirloom tomato salad
- Roasted king salmon
- Peach sorbet
Estimated Savings: ~$10?
Notes: I hate to keep bringing this up season after season, but the $25 dinner dineLA options remain weak in my opinion, especially considering how I’m trying to feature new options. You know how desperate I’m getting when I’m recommending a vegetarian/vegan spot… But Mohawk Bend is indeed a good value at this price point, and you’re more likely going for their excellent beer selection. Makes drinking all them carbs go down a little easier, knowing that you’re eating relatively healthy with the beers.

GREATEST HIT – The Corner Door
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am)
Optimal Lineup:
- Pappardelle
- Steamed mussels
- White chocolate snickerdoodles
Estimated Savings: $15
Notes: The Corner Door really has this dineLA thing down. What they’ve managed to do is include majority of the menu without the restraint of serving them in courses to maximize diner choices (and savings). The choice of two dishes is already a BUY (as long as you’re not choosing two vegetarian dishes), but you get a dessert as well?!? This is a really, really good dineLA deal. Use the savings on their wonderful drinks, or on another dish to share with your crew – it’s a fun place to hang out with friends.

$35

Tipple & Brine
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Wed 5-11pm, Thu-Sat 5pm-12am)
Optimal Lineup:
- Fried octopus
- Market Fish
- Chocolate Cremeaux
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: Tipple & Brine is a new restaurant in Sherman Oaks that focuses on seafood. I’ve read pretty good things about it, and not just pretty good for Sherman Oaks, although you’ll probably want to wait until traffic dies down a bit before heading north for dinner. But the 3 courses at $35 looks like a great value. Feeling guilty about not visiting my mom in the area after dinner though? Not as great of a value.

Willie Jane
(Southern, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Thu 6-10pm, Fri-Sat 6-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Hanger steak tartar
- Fried chicken thighs with pimento mac
- Willie Jane red velvet cake
Estimated Savings: ~$9?
Notes: I’m glad Willie Jane moved down from the $45 price point, because it was definitely not a good deal then. But it’s now following big brother Post & Beam’s footsteps in becoming a dineLA value fixture. It’s somewhat difficult to lock down actual savings (I averaged the appetizer prices, and I’m not sure if the fried chicken here is the same as the regular one – but it does come with a side as well), but it looks like you can save $4-9 here. Their fried chicken has a really good reputation, and you know how much I love fried chicken. Plus those first courses sound pretty darn good as well.

GREATEST HIT – Black Hogg
(America, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sat 6-10:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Pork belly taco
- Brussels sprout hash
- Marrow burger
- Milk & Honey
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I was going to go with the clams caribena as the entree choice to maximize savings, but “limited quantities” definitely catches the eye – I’m assuming the marrow burger is a dish created specifically for dineLA. Anyways, the entrees’ price range is $16-18, so you’ll still save $5-10 regardless, depending on the combination of dishes. There are plenty who go to Black Hogg expecting this Animal Part Deux, but it’s just a really nice neighborhood spot serving well-executed dishes that are inspired by multiple influences.

$45

Abigaile
(America, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 5-10pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Pao de queijo
- Roasted medjool dates & kale salad
- Tuna tartare
- Scallops & slab bacon
- Snickers
Estimated Savings: $22
Notes: That Tin Vuong – so hot right now. The chef went from this one Manhattan Beach restaurant to a local empire that now includes the critically-acclaimed Little Sister, Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza, and the new Dia del Campo (the latter also a BUY at the $45 dinner price point). But let’s not forget about the OG here. Just stay away from the cheapest options from the “ruffage” category and the noodle dish from the “carnage” category, and you’re bound to save double-digits. Use those savings on their excellent beer selections.

Faith & Flower
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5:30-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am)
Optimal Lineup:
- Summer squash salad
- Longanisa sausage
- Mesquite grilled skirt steak
- Seared steelhead trout
- Peaches & Cream
Estimated Savings: ~$25
Notes: Man this place looks sexy. And the savings at dinner for dineLA look even sexier. I’m fairly certain about the estimated savings here – the dineLA menu items that are not on the regular menu have comparable counterparts on the regular menu. The floor here is probably $5+, but obviously in choosing the two proteins as mains, you’d get the ~$25 savings. The best idea, actually, is to go as a pair to get one of everything on the dineLA menu. You’ll still save $15/person, which you can apply towards drinks or something else off the regular menu (oxtail agnolotti?).

GREATEST HIT – Fogo de Chao
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Thu 5-10pm, Fri 5-10:30pm, Sat 4:30-10:30pm, Sun 4-9:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
- Menu the same as regular
Estimated Savings: $16.50
Notes: Ah, Fogo de Chao – dependable as ever during dineLA. You know exactly what you’re getting, and you know exactly how much you’re saving. Just make sure to make a reservation, and preferably not at peak hours, because it gets PACKED during dineLA (including plenty of UCLA students – I know from personal experience). Luckily, service doesn’t get compromised, and selections remain consistent and plentiful…unless the Brazilians are still too depressed from the World Cup.

So there you have it – 2 new selections at each price point along with an additional “greatest hits” selection, for a total of 18 again this time around. I hope everyone enjoys these next 2 weeks of grubbin’, because I certainly will. And bonus: AMEX brought back the dineLA $5 statement credits! And it’s for each meal you spend > $21 too!

Previous Selections:

LUNCH ($15)

Fundamental LA – BUY (up to $7 in savings)
The Larder at Burton Way – BUY ($11)
MessHall – BUY ($4)
Next Door by Josie – BUY (~$4)
Short Order – ???
TLT Food – BUY ($6)

($20)

The Pikey – HOLD (~$3?)

($25)

AOC – BUY ($6)
Drago Centro – ???
Little Dom’s (up from $20) – HOLD (~$3)
Mo-Chica (also up from $20) – HOLD (~$4)
Paiche – BUY (~$10)
Rivera – ???
Tavern – BUY ($15)

DINNER ($25)

Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar – BUY ($8)
Hostaria del Piccolo – BUY (~$10)
Post & Beam – BUY (~$10)

($35)

Freddy Smalls Bar + Kitchen – HOLD? (???)
The Gorbals – HOLD? (???)
Gusto – ???
Lukshon – HOLD ($2) – surprise here, as they’re usually a strong BUY
Night + Market – BUY if you refuse to go to Sliver Lake, SELL if nothing’s holding you back
Waterloo & City – BUY (~$10)

($45)

The Bazaar – BUY ($22)
Craft – BUY (~$10)
Lawry’s The Prime Rib – BUY ($16)
Lucques – BUY ($15)
Patina (down from $85) – really hard to tell, but you’re getting 5 courses! Has to be a BUY.

dineLA Stock Legend:

BUY: > 20% in savings off optimal lineup
HOLD: 5-20% in savings off optimal lineup
SELL: under 5% in savings off optimal lineup

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      1. Strong work!! Dinela has media preview events and invites the usual blogger crowd but this info is actually useful and blows all them away

        1. You are a gentleman/gentlewoman, scholar, and bean-counter par excellence (which is a compliment, of course). Thank you for your service!

          1. Chinois on Main, $25 lunch -- HUGE Buy:

            Chinois Chicken Salad = $13.50
            Grilled Szechwan Beef = $29.25
            Dessert, not listed online menu, but probably more than $7.

            total is over $50 worth for $25!!

            And in my experience, food and service excellent, and full-size portions.

            Fogo de Chao, $45 dinner -- strong Buy:

            I am very disappointed that Fogo has chosen to eliminate their DineLA lunch, which was an even bigger bargain and much easier for me to do solo. But their normal dinner is $61.50, so the $45 DineLA menu which is exactly the same as regular is a $16.50 savings.

            13 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              That one jumped out at me as well.

              Are the lunch portions geared toward one person, or is there still the expectation of family-style sharing, as it is for dinner? If they don't downsize the dinner portions at lunch, that is a monstrous amount of food! (Not complaining.)

              1. re: spoonlicker

                In my experience, they are expecting people to share. Portions are not reduced. I've done DineLA lunches at Chinois alone and with companions and each time I've been more than satisfied. Want to join me Friday?

                1. re: nosh

                  Oh, that is so tempting. It would be so fun to share Chinois dishes with you!

                  This coming week, stupid life is getting in the way of good food for me, but if you want to do a repeat the following week, let's make it happen.

                  1. re: spoonlicker

                    spoon -- click on my screen name and you can get my email. i can do wed or fri next week.

                  2. re: nosh

                    Don't forget to get the WP gift cards at Costco...$80 for $100...I believe they're good at all his restaurants but Cut in BH.

                2. re: nosh

                  I went to fogo de chao for dineLA last year, and their dineLA menu is reduced compared to their regular menu. 3-5 meats are not there.

                  This year, it looks like:
                  Filet mignon (regular & bacon wrapped)
                  Beef ancho (ribeye)
                  and Costela (beef ribs)

                  are not included.

                  Dinner portions will be the same as normal, so they probably expect you to share. The slices are huge and generous, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on the cut you get.

                  Is it a good deal? Well, if you think cramming your face with as much meat as possible is a good deal, then yes, it'll be a great deal.

                  For me personally, I really enjoy their ribeye and filet mignon, so I won't go to their dineLA again.

                  1. re: nosh

                    Nosh I love those spots.

                    Hard to imagine doing fogo justice at lunch for me tho!

                    1. re: jessejames

                      I'm not working. Can leisurely stuff myself at lunch at Fogo and then go home and nap. One of the best parts -- that huge wheel of Reggiano-Parmagiano with chunks that I can sneak out and snack on in the car.

                      1. re: nosh

                        Nice. I love the lamb chops there. At least with your nap I know u didn't get cheated! Fogo is one of my favorite spots to feast with the lads.

                    2. re: nosh

                      nosh: was far less than thrilled with my lunch at Chinois on Main this afternoon.

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/982475

                      i've never been this let down before in any wolfgang puck restaurant

                      also, don't believe that the portion size for the chicken salad was the normal portion size

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        wsg, read your original review.

                        seems like your offense at the service is clouding your original positive impression of the food.

                        and i think your surprise at the lapse when Chinois and all puck places have such consistently excellent service is making it seem all the worse.

                        i'm planning on Chinois for DineLA lunch next fri.

                        1. re: nosh

                          gotta say, after having countless perfect deep fat fried fish (catfish) at chinois over the years, to have THIS deep fat fried fish (orata) arrive at the table in that condition at all was also sort of shocking. up until today, the consistency at chinois, has been remarkable

                          my dining partner liked her beef, so i'd recommend that instead.

                          if i had that meal to do over again, i'd probably get three servings of the dessert (by far, the strongest dish) and be done with it.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            I applaud you on returning it. Staff may have copped attitude "this is already a discount" but kitchen came through on the refire. we all know you -- the elementary school-teacher server blew it. overall, they corrected their mistake.