HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Where to "wow" a visitor with "do NOT miss this place" recommendations

Okay, so here's the situation. I visit L.A. roughly once every other year, and my next visit is this coming October. I'll probably be around SoCal for 5-7 days. I'll have a car, of course (there are some other cities where this is not a given). I'll be staying near downtown and spending time with friends who live and work in Beverlywood, weho, and Hollywood, so geographically those areas would be best, but other areas not terribly far would be okay too, areas like Westwood, Santa Monica, and even Pasadena.

What I'm looking for are recommendations for absolutely terrific food, with some variety. And when I say terrific food, I mean the places where dish after dish, you take one bite and think, "wow, this is amazingly good", places that you go to and the food was so delicious that you're still thinking about it a day or a week later, and eager to return. I'm hoping for recommendations for multiple types of food, at a wide range of price points. (I'm not trying to economize, but I'm not looking for fancy fine dining every day.)

I would love to hear anyone's list of their two, or five, or ten "do not miss" favorites, the places you take friends from out of town you want to impress with how great L.A. food is. To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, check out the first reply in this topic, which is my "do not miss" list for a first-time visit to Chicago:

1 night in Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/977381#8971167

As you can see, there are recommendations for categories including fine dining, casual dining, ethnic dining, breakfast/brunch, and snacking, at prices ranging from haute cuisine to cheap eats.

More details...

I'm open to most kinds of food, although I don't care for raw food (e.g. sushi) or Korean, and I don't eat pizza out of town because I love the deep-dish back home in Chicago. I'm not looking for anything that's necessarily different from what we have in Chicago; I'm just looking for places that are amazingly delicious, even if we have similar places in Chicago. (California Pizza Kitchen!!! Just kidding, of course.)

Along with any recommendations, I'd be interested in hearing tips for whether it might be difficult to get a reservation, or tips for places that don't accept reservations where waits to be seated are likely to be lengthy. Oh, and I hate places that only offer communal seating.

The last time I was in L.A. I ate at Animal and absolutely LOVED it, and I may go back there during this visit. I've also been to Moles La Tia in Boyle Heights, which I enjoyed, but not enough to return on this trip. Similarly, I've been to Griddle Café in weho, which I enjoyed, but I'd be interested in getting a couple more super-creative breakfast/brunch oriented recommendations.

I've looked over the recommendations in this other discussion, which sound like candidates, except that (as noted there) many of them are rather similar to each other in price, style, etc.:

Guidance needed for week-long LA visit - www.chow.com/topics/984817

I've also looked over Eater's 38 essential L.A. restaurants at

With both of those other discussions/lists, the biggest problem I'm having is identifying the absolutely phenomenal "wow do NOT miss" places, as opposed to those that are "merely" very good and worthwhile. Hope that makes sense.

I thank all of you humbly in advance, and offer my help here on Chowhound for anyone traveling to Chicago.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. fwiw, having lived mostly in NYC and LA

    in my experience, any restaurant that has more than a few dishes on their menu, even if the restaurant is a TERRIFIC restaurant, will have some dishes that are not stellar.

    "dish after dish" across the board excellence is nothing i've every witnessed.

    i HAVE seen places where whole categories of their offerings are stellar, and places that the majority of their offerings are phenomenal, but "dish after dish" 100% of the menu? not really unless the menu is VERY narrow.

    even my own darlings have SOME dishes with which i am not enamored.

    2 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal

      I have never had anything less than phenomenal at Chi Spacca when in LA. And I have only had a single lackluster dish at Night + Market. Although technically impossible to eat the entire menu (since it is eternally in flux), I also have never had anything besides great food at Guerrilla Tacos.

      It's true, most everywhere else usually cannot accomplish the marvelous feat of having a 100% "hit rate" though. In general, one must be informed not only about where to go, but what to order.

      1. Gjelina
        Nobu Malibu
        Tasting Kitchen
        Chi Spacca
        Zengo - brunch
        Eveleigh - brunch
        Saddle Peak Ranch - brunch
        Son of a Gun

        47 Replies
        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          What's Badass?

          Good picks. I might add chinois Spago or wp24 for apps (lobster egg rolls essentially all lobster) and dragons breath and other hi end cocktails and nice view and lounge area located at ritz.


          I think Jitlada is worth it or do sapps if feeling really casual.

          Bucato is my favorite Italian at the moment. Georgio baldi works.

          Ktown. Parks. Chosun galbi.

          Have fun.

          1. re: jessejames

            I like Soowon over Chosun. The former has real charcoal, the latter used gas only.

            1. re: TheOffalo

              Full bar.
              Nicest setting. Accessibility to variety of well prepared classics.

              1. re: jessejames

                JJ is Chosun more expensive than Parks? I'd like to try Chosun....

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  Nice other stuff on menu besides BBQ too.

                    1. re: kevin

                      chosun has a great menu apart from the bbq which is excellent. their short rib rolls out spiral cut like a neck tie...the grilled/sizzling sea bass thing they do there is a crowd pleaser for my family...moreover, it's nice, airy and accessible to friends that have never been to ktown. oh yeah, and I think I mentioned it, chilled vodka and midori shooters anyone?

                      1. re: jessejames

                        sea bass ????? can that be a stand alone dish ?????

                        i'm down.

                        i'll skip the midori shooters.

                        but some blue label sounds good. or mac.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Absolutely some of the best sea bass in LA…

                          It's one of the reasons my go-to Korean is Chosun.
                          Wonderful place.

                        2. re: jessejames

                          "their short rib rolls out spiral cut like a neck tie"

                          I've noticed that many, many places do this now.

                          1. re: ns1

                            It's a good trend. Theirs is awesome. I prefer whole spot to parks based on food quality variety atmosphere bar and service. I like parks too don't get me wrong.

                            1. re: jessejames

                              I think I've moved on from parks - solidly in the oo kook camp now.

                          2. re: jessejames

                            my korean next door neighbor took me to Chosun for dinner.
                            i LOVED all four of the seafood dishes we had.
                            (in particular there was a fish soup that had chunks of roe floating around. . . )

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              Iove it wsg. A place that we both like.

                          3. re: kevin

                            Can i just ask what is the point of rec'ing a members only joint to an out-of-towner?? Has J.L. taken you yet????

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              Some people try to get a free dinner out of it by offering to take a non member.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Ok, but that doesn't answer my question as to why one would recommend the place to someone visiting.... Are they inviting him or her? Don't know, doesn't sound like it. Sounds more like blowing hot air....

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  sorry Dirty. just a little in-joke.

                                  my rec for totoraku no longer stands.

                                  sorry about that.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    Oh I didn't know! Haha you should've s something...!

                            2. re: kevin

                              ????????????????????????...????????? ?

                              1. re: jessejames

                                Indeed. Bad asses always want a full bar!

                                1. re: Thor123

                                  it never makes the food taste worse but thor and I know you love tanas and it's a feeling ... for me the same, it's not just the food, I wanna have some fun!

                            1. re: jessejames

                              soo won is pretty good after park's, of course.

                          4. re: jessejames


                            Good call on WP24 for drink and apps

                            OP says he doesn't do Korean....

                            Ive gotta get over to Bucato...

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              Do it (Bucato). SOOOOOO good. Honestly, you could just get 3 loaves of the bread and then be done for the night! I'd skip the polenta, BTW....

                              1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                Good to know re polenta. I'll get there sometime, but I hate that I can't reserve a table in advance....it's not very often at all as parents we have spontaneously been able to just go out at the last minute...

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  Hear you. Make plans. Get a back-up res and call Bucato in the AM. If you call right at 9:30 you're nearly guaranteed a spot . . . if it's not raining.

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Not as tough as you might think to get in.

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      My partner and I called ahead on a weekday maybe 30 min or so b/f we arrived? And I think we ate at a relatively normal hr (7:30PM or so?). Maybe we just got lucky, but it wasn't too bad at all.

                                      1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                        Great! I would put up with way more aggregation too cuz everything we have eaten there kicked ass. Really no big deal.

                                2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  Badmaash does sound badass never heard of it!

                                  1. re: jessejames

                                    It actually means 'badass' in Hindu, it says in the article I linked for you. Yea, I'm gonna try it in a couple weeks, I've been dying to go there, and for Indian in general lately....

                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                      I saw the badass chicken wings and some other fun menu items. This is a solo mish kind of place for me w my family. Nice find

                                      1. re: jessejames

                                        Right, my husband would love is place, kids too.... They are open for lunch too! I just don't find myself in that part of town too often now. Guess I need a reason to go.....

                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                          go and hit up GCM while you're at it.

                                            1. re: jessejames

                                              and morton's for the double cheddar cheeseburger.

                                            2. re: kevin

                                              Unlike you, I dont have a hollow leg..... my kids on the other hand.... maybe i should just do a food crawl with them.... but they are actually judicious about stopping when they are full, as opposed to me who would eat til I popped if I could. But then they are hungry again about a half hour later....

                                  2. re: jessejames

                                    How does a gun slinger like Jesse James not know what a Bad Ass is?

                                      1. re: Thor123

                                        im a mild mannered father and husband in my off hours from whippin ass at the o-k corral!

                                  3. Riveria - downtown
                                    Angelini Osteria or Mozza Italian - Mid-City
                                    AOC - Mid-city
                                    Rustic Cyn - SM

                                    1. Guerrilla Tacos (http://guerrillatacos.com/) truck that serves Wednesdays (in Culver City) and Thursdays through Sundays (in DTLA Arts District). Fresh, seasonal ingredients, in amazing combinations, cooked with skill. Just had some today. No reservations, but go early if a particular dish that he's serving that day strikes your fancy (they run out sometimes). See this for a my semi-recent write-up: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/980626

                                      [Ignore, missed the no-raw-food caveat.] Shunji Japanese Cuisine (http://shunji-ns.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/Shunji.Ns/). The best sushi in town, in my opinion (and shared on the board). Great lunch deal, $40 for 12 nigiri 1 temaki, at that level of quality. If you can, make a reservation to sit in front Shunji himself; he usually works the bar at lunch on Thursdays and Fridays and is there most evenings.

                                      Night+Market in WeHo or Night+Market Song in Silver Lake (http://nightmarketla.com/). Thai "street food" with Northern and Northeastern Thai dishes. Very spicy. I like the Nam Khao Tod (crispy rice salad), Kor Moo Yang (grilled pork neck/jowl), Moo Sadoong ("Startled Pig"), Tub Hwan (pig liver "ceviche" salad).

                                      Those fit the "What I'm looking for are recommendations for absolutely terrific food, with some variety. And when I say terrific food, I mean the places where dish after dish, you take one bite and think, 'wow, this is amazingly good', places that you go to and the food was so delicious that you're still thinking about it a day or a week later, and eager to return." criteria you laid out, at least for me...

                                      I can probably come up with more: Tar & Roses, Rustic Canyon, etc.

                                      1. From a 100% standpoint, I'm thinking your best chance is some chef's table experience. Not sure who might be having those in October. Providence? Spago? Urasawa?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mc michael

                                          Don't think urasawa will work for him, he doesn't eat/want sushi....

                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                            Agreed, but this could be a life changer. Or not. But potentially.

                                        2. As a fellow LTH'er and former resident of Chicago, welcome to Chowhound LA, nsxtasy!

                                          I don't want to set you up for disappointment though, but I don't know any places where EVERY item is a hit. That said, I'd definitely put Chi Spacca on the list, but I'd also suggest some great Japanese places like Musha or Torehei in Torrance. I take people to those places all the time, and everyone seems to really like it.

                                          Have a great time!

                                          1. shunji, shunji, shunji….

                                            next question.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: kevin

                                              Only J.L. can eat Shunji, Shunji, Shunji on one trip...

                                              1. re: TheOffalo

                                                That, and the OP specifically said no sushi.

                                            2. lolz.. people still post in CH CHI?

                                              What's exactly is most amazingly delicious in LA is the Korean and the sushi (and the Thai and Chinese).

                                              Sorry, LA has nothing as disgusting as Lou Malnati.

                                              15 Replies
                                              1. re: TonyC

                                                wait Lou Malnati is not supposed to be good ????????

                                                if not, then….

                                                1. re: kevin

                                                  Pequods is my fav deep dish pie in CHi-town
                                                  Everyone loves to dis the dish since Bourdain did. But I love it once in a while.

                                                    1. re: jessejames

                                                      Burt's Place in Morton Grove is the best version of the Pequods-style in Chicagoland. Burt actually owned Pequods and invented it before he opened his own place. Bourdain even went to Burt's Place and had a revelation when he was there.

                                                      Lou's is a different style entirely, more of a chicago-style deep dish, whereas I'd call Pequod's a traditional deep-dish.

                                                      But Chicago has lots of other pizza styles too, like tavern-style thin crust, stuffed pizza, and great traditional Neopolitan pizza as well.

                                                      1. re: moreplease

                                                        cool -- I got some work to do next time im in the windy city

                                                        1. re: moreplease

                                                          In addition to the single-crust deep-dish started by Uno and Due and popularized by their descendants (Lou Malnati's and Pizano's, both multi-location local chains founded by sons of one of Uno's leaders), there is the double-crust "stuffed" pizza variant served by Giordano's, Bacino's, and Nancy's.

                                                          Personally, I mostly go with Lou Malnati's these days; as you can see from the link above, it made my list of top picks in Chicago. I also occasionally enjoy Giordano's too. I don't care much for the charred variant served at Burt's and Pequod's.

                                                        2. re: jessejames

                                                          Was at Lou's last month and yes it's still good...

                                                          1. re: wienermobile

                                                            The only restaurant meal that I had during my last drive-through trip to Chicago was atLou Malnati's. A Malnati Salad and a Malnati Chicago Classic. Perfect meal. I thoroughly enjoy Masa of Echo Park for deep dish pizza here in town, but it can't hold a candle to Lou's.

                                                            1. re: djquinnc

                                                              we saw the pats and bears in a blizzard a few years ago in soldier field, good thing I slipped into malnati Chicago classic before the game...those bears fans were eating nachos with their bare hands!

                                                                1. re: mc michael

                                                                  In a blizzard zero degrees I don't outside. Soldier Field.

                                                                  1. re: mc michael

                                                                    "How do you eat nachos?"

                                                                    in the comfort of my climate controlled domicile

                                                                2. re: djquinnc

                                                                  Hell, Masa can barely hold a candle to Masa.

                                                        3. re: TonyC

                                                          Thank you for posting a reply that is utterly no help at all, and serves only to display how upset you are that your taste is different from someone else's. :rolleyes:

                                                          Fortunately, I know enough people in L.A. to know that MOST of the folks there are friendly and helpful.

                                                          I appreciate the other, constructive suggestions so far. Keep those coming!

                                                          1. re: nsxtasy

                                                            Don't listen to Tony.... He's the grumpy one in the family....and he doesn't like people in general.

                                                        4. This is a tough one. You have so many great places to eat in Chicago, and places in LA that are more or less analogous to each other. So, I am trying to call to mind places where the food is piquant and delicious while keeping in mind your preferences. What I come up with is:

                                                          Commissary at the Line Hotel
                                                          Din Tai Fung
                                                          Night+Market (but be mindful that it is SPICY as hell! At least to me)
                                                          Osteria Mozza
                                                          Son of a Gun

                                                          Certainly not comprehensive, but I would happily eat at each of these places over and over again. Welcome to LA!

                                                          9 Replies
                                                          1. re: djquinnc

                                                            DTF, jitlada, and son of a gun are all great.

                                                            i give the vote to JT.

                                                            1. re: djquinnc

                                                              >> I would happily eat at each of these places over and over again.

                                                              That's exactly what I'm looking for. So let's not get too hung up on the "dish after dish" statement in my original post.

                                                              Thanks for the recommendations everyone - I'll look into all of these suggestions, and keep 'em coming!

                                                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                DTF, jitlada, and son of a gun are all great.

                                                                i think those are the best of the given list.

                                                                spago might be a great idea for the tasting menu itself.

                                                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                  Places I would happily eat again and again are, IMHO, different from the places I would take to "wow" someone. In the former category, I'd put places like

                                                                  Ricky's Fish Tacos

                                                                  Square One

                                                                  Bucato (one went there once, but so desperately want to go again! I dream about their bread....)

                                                                  J&J for XLB

                                                                  JTYH (although this + J&J are in the San Gabriel Valley, which is a bit of a drive)

                                                                  L'assiette (only went there once, but it's geographically convenient for you and it was quite tasty; if it were closer to me and I weren't considered about the calories of daily steak frites, I'd be stuffing my face there nightly)

                                                                  P'tit Soleil (poutine and tapas)

                                                                  I'd also do 800 Deg and Milo and Olive, but you (understandably) don't want pizza. I think the pasta and salads are Milo and Olive are quite good.

                                                                  Oh, I'd also probably add Huckleberry, aside from the price + long line on Sunday (very short line, so I hear, on the weekday).

                                                                  If you look up threads on Grand Central Market, there are a couple of places there I'd happily go to on a regular basis (Wexler's, Eggslut).

                                                                2. re: djquinnc

                                                                  Jitlada does not deliver hit after hit, sorry. And odds are the service is going to be a miss.

                                                                  1. re: ns1

                                                                    You consider having to 20 min for a soda to a be "miss" for service? Can't imagine why....

                                                                    Love the food at Jitlada, but the wait (and I'm not just talking about getting a table) is a fairly big turn off.

                                                                    1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                                      That menu needs to be trimmed down to 15 dishes that Jitlada just knocks out of the park.

                                                                  2. nsxtasy,

                                                                    Like you, I live in the Midwest but visit LA 2-3 times a year. Some of my favorites from recent trips include the following:

                                                                    Connie and Ted's
                                                                    Pizzeria Mozza (you can make a great meal of their antipasti)
                                                                    Din Tai Fung
                                                                    Red Medicine

                                                                    1. Alma
                                                                      Hinoki & the Bird
                                                                      Black Hogg
                                                                      Marugame Monzo
                                                                      Amor y Tacos
                                                                      chi SPACCA
                                                                      Bizarra Capital

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                        Okay. Yes. Just. Yes. Everything in this list is a yes. Sure, it skips Thai and the abundance of Chinese available, but you'll need to narrow things down for good recs in those categories. But every last one of these is a winner.

                                                                            1. re: kevin

                                                                              Is this true??? Don't tempt me as I will surely drop your name shamelessly!

                                                                        1. Animal
                                                                          Son of A Gun
                                                                          Superba Food + Bread
                                                                          Superba Snack Bar
                                                                          Sea Harbour
                                                                          Tar and Roses
                                                                          Park's BBQ
                                                                          Bludso's Compton
                                                                          Coni's Seafood
                                                                          Ricky's fish Tacos
                                                                          MB Post
                                                                          Fishing with Dynamite
                                                                          In 'N Out Burger
                                                                          and Langer's Deli

                                                                          Enjoy LA. I do.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: wienermobile

                                                                                Yes, I was just about to suggest Tsujita and note that somehow it escaped mention previously.

                                                                              2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                The oringal poster sounds like one tough customer. Why not suck it up and hit up the dope goods that is LA at its proverbial finest. I.e. sushi. Korean cue. Thai. And Mecican antojitos, that I just learned about as well as Langers for what else but pastrami stuffed knishes followed by pastrami inflected chili cheese fries as your palate cleanser and then a double pastrami sandwich on double seeded corn rye.

                                                                                And that ain't no joke.

                                                                            1. You sound like you're willing to go all out financially. So I suggest Alma, Trois Mec, and Maude. All tasting menus that will run you about 100 bucks without drinks.

                                                                              Night Market for sure. The dishes are wow-worthy and I cannot imagine there is something similar in Chicago. Chichen Itza for really good Yucatan. Coni Seafood as soon as you get in from the airport for Mexican seafood. Tsujita for ramen.

                                                                              Chi Spacca. Ink. Son of a Gun are all good choices.

                                                                              Bestia might be worth a shot although I plead ignorance in regard to Chicago's italian scene.

                                                                              Sqirl is a must for your creative breakfast brunch thing.

                                                                                1. Melisse.

                                                                                  I'd say n/naka, but there's raw fish involved there, so skip it.

                                                                                  1. You say you want "absolutely terrific food." To that end I think you should try one of our better sushi bars (numerous threads here). But if you want safe and delicious and don't mind if it's not that different from what you might find in Chicago, then go to Patina or Cut.

                                                                                      1. FWIW, Chicago has some excellent sushi and Korean food. I've tried them on multiple occasions, here and elsewhere. I just don't like them. Never did, never will. If you like them, good for you! Different strokes.

                                                                                        I'm not looking for food that's "safe". I'm looking for food that others find delicious and that I'm likely to enjoy. I ought to be able to find good food in L.A. without being forced to eat the two types of food I already know I don't like; based on how many other places have been recommended here (as well as on my previous visits), I'm confident I will. :)

                                                                                        Now, I have a lot of website menus to go check out...

                                                                                        1. The difficulty of identifying the "wow do NOT miss" is the subjective nature of what not to miss. And so personally, because I find Chicago's New American and Thai offerings to be excellent, you won't find me rec'ing Night+Market, Son of a Gun, etc to an LTHer.

                                                                                          My recommendations, ordered from highest to not-as-high:
                                                                                          b.o.s. (offal)
                                                                                          Bestia (Italian)
                                                                                          Kokekokko (Japanese yakitori)
                                                                                          Lunasia (Chinese dim sum)
                                                                                          Tasting Kitchen (Italian)
                                                                                          Guelaguetza (Oaxacan)
                                                                                          Marugame Monzo (Japanese udon)
                                                                                          Simpang Asia (Indonesian)
                                                                                          Rivera (Nuevo Latino)
                                                                                          Picca (Peruvian)

                                                                                          Now, if I were to include New American and Thai, that list would be sprinkled with, ordered from highest recommendation to not-as-high:
                                                                                          The Hart and the Hunter

                                                                                          For perspective, my favorite restaurant in Chicago is Sable, but I also enjoyed meals at Blackbird, TAC Quick, and Manny's Deli. My favorite bar is Maria's Community Bar, and I know TWO bars in LA that serves Jeppson's Malort.

                                                                                          (Pictured: beef tendon risotto from b.o.s.)

                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                                            b.o.s is excellent. I'm surprised it more people here haven't tried it. The fried tripe "calamari" is top 10 dish contender.

                                                                                            1. re: Porthos

                                                                                              b.o.s. is very very good.

                                                                                              But also rather alarmingly inconsistent.

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                I'm going to try it next month. Can you tell me what you found inconsistent?

                                                                                                1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                  Example - Grilled miso heart. One time, it was tender and tasted redolent of rich umami and sweet/sour undertones from the sauce. Another time, the heart was undercooked, overdressed so it tasted almost like old pickles.

                                                                                                  When it hits its note, b.o.s. can really really be on point (esp., for someone like you who enjoys and appreciates offal), but when it misses -- and there are more times than should be excusable -- it leaves you shaking your head.

                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                    Thanks for the details. When did you go and how many times? Maybe they've improved on that front. The miso heart and Thai-taki were pretty decent at Plate by Plate.

                                                                                                    1. re: TheOffalo

                                                                                                      Around half a dozen times. Went when they first opened (around the holidays last year) and last visit was right after July 4th.

                                                                                            2. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                                              I wonder if I hit Sable on a bad day. Tepid food that did not taste good at all with crappy service. Made watching Heather Terhune on Top Chef seem even more insufferable. We walked down the street and wound up eating a fantastic meal at Frontera that night, standing up at something that approximated an end table in the bar.

                                                                                              I concur with your suggestion of Guelaguetza. Not sure how robust the Oaxacan food scene is in Chicago, but it's a great restaurant.

                                                                                              1. re: djquinnc

                                                                                                I've been to Sable half a dozen times, and it's one of my absolute favorites.

                                                                                                Now, back to browsing those website menus, as I've been doing much of today...

                                                                                              2. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                                                Interesting list. Where is that Malort, btw?

                                                                                                1. re: Beachowolfe

                                                                                                  littlefork is a place that always has it thanks to ex-Chicagoan barman.

                                                                                                  1. re: TonyC

                                                                                                    And Jordan Kahn brought it over when he opened Red Medicine.

                                                                                                2. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                                                  What are the Thai spots in Chicago that compete with LA's thai spots?

                                                                                                  Have eaten at most of the west coast names that are huge and have yet to find anything that bests LA. Nothing that really rivals the complete gustatory pleasure of Night + Market, not the down home comfort of Ruen Pair, or even the simple chicken of Isaan Station or Jade noodles of Sapp.

                                                                                                  Perhaps most diners are not so into Thai food though.

                                                                                                  1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                    There's nothing wrong with Night+Market, which I think is beyond excellent, but for every Ruen Pair, Isaan Station, and Sapp, Chicago has Andy's and Tac Quick (I'll put them together), Spoon Thai, and Opart. Hell, Arun's is Thai fine dining.

                                                                                                    Regarding the west coast, I'm starting to think that the exposure of Pok Pok to a wider audience has actually caused it to be a bit under-rated. Their dungeness crab curry ปูผัดผงกะหรี่ is still my favorite Thai dish anywhere, as well as his deep-fried rendition of pork knuckle ข้าวขาหมู (which he says is something the German expat community in Thailand freaking love). Night+Market and Pok Pok are 1a and 1b in my book.

                                                                                                    1. re: SauceSupreme

                                                                                                      I sort of got lost in your post, I apologize. It's interesting to know that Thai food exists strongly in Chicago.

                                                                                                      Are you saying Night + Market and Pok Pok are good? Or overrated compared to the underrated Chicago scene?

                                                                                                      1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                        No worries. I think N+M and 2Pok are both excellent. 1a and 1b among Thai restaurants I've visited, which is a list similar to yours I bet.

                                                                                                        The Chicago scene is vibrant, and all I was saying was that for the OP to come to LA to have Thai food would be like an Angeleno going to Chicago for Thai food. Do it because you love Thai food and you want it at all times, but otherwise, LA has plenty of other things to offer as well.

                                                                                                        Confession: I haven't been to Night+Market Song yet :/

                                                                                                3. You've got a lot of great suggestions here. I agree with many, and will add one I didn't see anywhere. I think Nobu Malibu is a very good dining experience and just a fabulous setting. Sitting oceanside is a quintessential Southern California experience. I've got friends visiting from northern California next month....and made a brunch reservation to take them there. It's pretty spectacular at sunset as well.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: perk

                                                                                                    I mentioned Nobu Malibu in my suggestions..... And agree with you, obviously! Let me know how brunch is, I've never been for brunch....

                                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                                      oops. sorry. didn't see your rec. and will report back after brunch. i would have made a dinner rez around sunset, but we have somewhere else we need to be that night. so i thought brunch would be the next best thing.

                                                                                                  2. Langers
                                                                                                    El Tepeyac on Evergreen in East LA
                                                                                                    Grand Central Market
                                                                                                    Bludso's in Compton
                                                                                                    In N Out

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: laliz

                                                                                                      If you're gonna go there, then Burger Boy needs to pop in and rec 26 Beach Cafe.

                                                                                                    2. oh, in case i didn't mention it before…


                                                                                                      1. Sent friend visiting from NYC to Elite last week for dim sum and she couldn't believe how great it was.

                                                                                                        700 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Tyus4pt8

                                                                                                            my foray to Elite for a weekend lunch blew me away.
                                                                                                            took over a week to return to earth
                                                                                                            so much pleasure. . . .

                                                                                                          2. It's oft forgotten, for it appears so entirely simple, and it is often eclipsed by more glitzy spots, or by more "hip" spots, but the brunch at Salt's Cure is the brunch you should do. What you should order is the All Star. It seems innocuous: eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuit w/ jam, and oatmeal griddlecakes w/ cinnamon butter. But the devil is in the details. There are plenty of brunches that are really good in LA, but none that will change your mind about what a simple plate of bacon eggs and sausage can be. As awesome of brunches/breakfasts as I've had in my travels, I've never had something quite as transcendent in this category before.

                                                                                                            Another recommendation you probably won't get is completely oddball: Taco Maria. It's about 45 minutes south of LA, but it is probably the most interesting restaurant in California right now. It seems to me like it would be worth the hour and a half of driving time to have a dinner there while you're in the vicinity. It's at least as interesting as Maude/Trois Mec/Alma, which you are going to have a hell of a time getting a table those places, though of course they are all excellent.

                                                                                                            Personally, I feel that a meal at Bäco Mercat is warranted. It's one of my favorite places to visit when in LA. Hardly anywhere else feels quite so "New LA", and I have never eaten anything quite like it anywhere else. However, avoid the flatbreads if you go, they've always been somewhat lackluster for me.

                                                                                                            I agree with Michael Bauer about Chi Spacca as well: it is a restaurant that even the snobbiest of snobs in SF might be jealous of (A true rarity). You really should go there.

                                                                                                            Having eaten at all of the big name Thai places on the West Coast, I would say that Night + Market is making food that is several notches above any of them, but somehow garnering less national acclaim. Regardless of cuisine type, the flavors in the dishes always seem to be truly stunning.

                                                                                                            In a similar vein to Night + Market, though much less "edgy" is Chichen Itza. A remarkable discovery that feels like it deserves more customers. You will be very surprised at the incredible flavors you find there.

                                                                                                            Also, the somewhat infamous taco truck: Guerrilla Tacos. Imagine a taco truck selling tacos that are more complex in their flavors than many of the dishes you would find at the French Laundry, for about $5 a pop. It really seems like it shouldn't exist, and yet it does.

                                                                                                            Another off-the-radar pick for me would be Corazon y Miel. I get the feeling most natives ignore the place, but it is a kind of Latin Gastropub. I sort of Spotted Pig in the middle of Bell (east of Downtown LA). It kind of makes no sense, but I usually try to visit the places that make no sense. The food has always made a lot of sense once I'm there though. I've had nothing but incredible meals for incredibly cheap there. It is run by an Animal alum, and a lot of what makes Animal so great transfers over, but simply with a Latin flavors running through everything. I would strongly recommend you consider it if you truly loved Animal.

                                                                                                            If you feel like going to Venice, a place I have rarely visited mind you, I have had some really good experiences at Superba Food + Bread (high end rotisserie done exceptionally well), as well as Willie Jane (elevated low country food such as braised oxtails with curry sauce, and sweet tea-brined pork chops).

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                              I second Taco Maria if you don't mind driving.

                                                                                                              1. re: set0312

                                                                                                                Yep, regardless of where your out-of-town guests are from, it''s highly unlikely they'll have anything even close to Taco Maria at home. I third this recommendation without hesitation!

                                                                                                            2. Thanks for all these additional recommendations.

                                                                                                              Now I have a few questions. I've seen numerous mentions of Chi Spacca, yet their menu looks similar to other Italian recs. What makes it stand out - just sheer deliciousness? Also, on the Chi Spacca website, there's a logo mentioning Nancy Silverton's James Beard Award. Of course I'm familiar with her reputation for breads. But how is she associated with this restaurant? I thought Mozza was hers.

                                                                                                              Some have asked about Thai food in Chicago. Yes, we have it. Some of the places are very good indeed. The highest regarded are the places mentioned by SauceSupreme, plus some newcomers (Aroy Thai, Rainbow Thai). But it sounds like Night+Market is doing something a bit more... out there, so that's an intriguing possibility I'm considering.

                                                                                                              No one has mentioned Lucques yet. Any thoughts about it?

                                                                                                              At the moment I'm leaning towards Connie and Ted's, in part because one meal will be lunch on a Saturday, a time when they are open but many other places are closed. And possibly Hinoki and the Bird for one of the dinners. I'll report back after my trip, which is still a ways away.

                                                                                                              34 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                                                                I liked Lucques a lot the one time I went several yrs ago. Good food (but I can't say amazing), beautiful dining areas, wonderful service.

                                                                                                                However, I think a fair # of a very knowledgeable posters find it kind of tired and underwhelming. YMMV. Maybe try AOC instead?

                                                                                                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                                                                  Now I have a few questions. I've seen numerous mentions of Chi Spacca, yet their menu looks similar to other Italian recs. What makes it stand out - just sheer deliciousness? Also, on the Chi Spacca website, there's a logo mentioning Nancy Silverton's James Beard Award. Of course I'm familiar with her reputation for breads. But how is she associated with this restaurant? I thought Mozza was hers.

                                                                                                                  Yes, it's just pure deliciousness. Really. Just. Fucking. Delicious.

                                                                                                                  Silverton (along with her business partners, the B&B boys) oversee the restaurant. Sort of a pseudo Executive Chef cum consultant role.

                                                                                                                  Mozza is hers (along with the B&B boys).

                                                                                                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                                                                    "Now I have a few questions. I've seen numerous mentions of Chi Spacca, yet their menu looks similar to other Italian recs. What makes it stand out - just sheer deliciousness?"

                                                                                                                    Please let me know which menus Chi Spacca's menu looks similar, as I would love to dine there. Even up in SF, with an incredibly diverse Italian scene, I don't know of any place with a menu quite like Chi Spacca's. Bauer said it was like a "more rustic Cotogna", presumably what he meant was that you won't find any pastas, nor delicately constructed dishes such as eggplant sformata, or plum soup, nor will should you expect the assiduous plating of grilled meats arranged with various herbaceous bits and pieces; at Chi Spacca, the style is toned down to what you might get at an osteria in Florence (specifically, the plating is reminiscent to me of what you might find at L'Osteria di Giovanni). Everything is big, luxurious, decadent, and yet simple. The atmosphere is a little less white tablecloth though. But in terms of flavor, it's totally unrivaled. Simplicity is often the most difficult thing to achieve. I have had many interactions with chef Colby, and he is dedicated to serving perfect food with a ferociousness that is quite rare even among the most passionate of chefs. He spent 6 months in Italy just studying how to replicate his focaccia di Recco recipe, and it shows. Every dish on the menu has the maximum amount of flavor extracted from it. It is an experience unlike any other I've ever had, existing in a strange space unto itself in Italian cooking.

                                                                                                                    Connie and Ted's is good if you REALLY love New England seafood shack fare. But you're close enough to just go get it in New England aren't you?

                                                                                                                    You should ignore Hinoki and the Bird unless you really feel like eating mediocre food in a very very "LA atmosphere". The LA food press was paid off to promote that place. The food is truly abysmal for the price; some dishes manage to be at least slightly enjoyable, but you would be gong to exactly the opposite kind of place you are hoping to go if you choose to dine there. You would have more spectacular food at Coni'Seafood, easily, although you would miss all the Ferrari's in the valet.

                                                                                                                    Night + Market is an incredible place, and the "out there" dishes are the best of the bunch. I doubt you would be unhappy there if you are really into trying things like blood soup, blood + bile larb, and blood larb meatballs. (All of which are astoundingly flavorful, unique dishes). But it's hard to make that call as I have not explored Chicago's Thai scene. Right now, I feel LA's Thai is by far the strongest Thai on the West Coast though, and Night + Market is at the top of the heap.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                      "The LA food press was paid off to promote that place."

                                                                                                                      That's a weighty accusation to throw around; citation?

                                                                                                                      1. re: a213b

                                                                                                                        not sure about this instance but I don't doubt that it happens. and not necessarily money but other promotion/favors exchanged. and no fingerprints for sure but the whole Wexler pastrami barrage reeked to high heaven especially the ladies with knives article with the predicate social media ass kissing. I agree hinoki is overrated and overpublicized century city fare ranking below katsu-ya. face it, "advertising" for new high end restaurants sometimes does include well positioned puff pieces.

                                                                                                                        1. re: a213b

                                                                                                                          Just my best guess for explaining how such a mediocre restaurant has such rave reviews.

                                                                                                                          I suppose every city's food press has it's random, mediocre darlings they like to popularize though.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Eudoxus


                                                                                                                            If you are right about Hinoki and the rave reviews being "paid" ... then my Bitcoins must've got lost in the Interweb.

                                                                                                                            Have you seen them?

                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                              Do you write for a major food media publication?

                                                                                                                        2. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                          Chi Spacca is not really Italian. It is fantastic meats unlike anywhere else in the City. Have not been to Animal so I dont know how that compares. The room at Chi Spacca is small but nice and the service is fantastic. Nice wines too.

                                                                                                                          As for Hinoki, I have personally had some good dishes there and some that miss. Nice patio and vibe outside.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                                            "Have not been to Animal so I dont know how that compares"

                                                                                                                            not the same at all, almost opposite in concept.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ns1

                                                                                                                              I have heard that Animal is very tight and small. Both on-site, meat centric?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                                                    But not the same, one is more meat centric composed dishes, the other is meat centric with an eye towards minimalism (imo)

                                                                                                                                    that said, the favorite parts of my meal @ animal were veggie dishes.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                                                      my bad, just to Animal many times. Animal is very meat centric though supposedly they make a great salad and their hamachi croustade with the peanuts and fish sauce was quite good too.

                                                                                                                                      though you won't be able to get the sautéed foie gras riding shot gun on biscuits in a maple sausage gravy no more.

                                                                                                                                      darn, that law, or regulation, or whatever the hell it is (ok, didn't mean to offend anyone by that). :)

                                                                                                                              1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                                                What is it about Chi Spacca that leads you to say it is not Italian? The lack of pastas on the menu?

                                                                                                                                It feels like there is a somewhat strong Italian vibe running through the place, and it's menu...?

                                                                                                                                If it is supposed to simply be a "meat-centric eatery", and that is the same category Animal falls into, then it's quite strange, as the experience at both (while equally great) is quite different.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                                  I would describe chiSPACCA as an Italian-inspired steakhouse

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                    Perhaps chophouse would be a better word? As far as I know they only serve a single steak on the entire menu.

                                                                                                                                    When one says steakhouse, I think of somewhere like Cut, or Taylors.

                                                                                                                                    Or am I missing something?

                                                                                                                                    It's tricky though, for me, I have never been anywhere that was similar enough that I could comfortably put it in a single category. The only other time I've had meat dishes served in a similar way has been in Italy, or at LA's own Salt's Cure.

                                                                                                                                    Not sure how one would describe Salt's Cure either though...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                        What are the other steak dishes on the menu?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                                          The costata and the bistecca.

                                                                                                                                          Two (perhaps 3 depending on how you count the bistecca) of the 4 primal cuts.

                                                                                                                                          What more do you need?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                            One is just a larger cut of the other isn't it? But ok, two steaks.

                                                                                                                                            To my knowledge there are 12 other main meat dishes on the menu (all of which are extremely good). Plus another 20-30 dishes of sides, salads, small plates, cured meats, etc...

                                                                                                                                            So on a menu of 40+ dishes 2 are steaks. To me, it doesn't feel like a steakhouse based on that fact alone.

                                                                                                                                            Personally, after eating literally the entire menu there, I feel the bistecca, while great, was one of the most boring things on the entire menu.

                                                                                                                                            So to me, it's not a steak house. Plenty of other places one can get steak, not too many one can get a tomahawk pork chop rubbed in fennel pollen, Moorish Lamb Shoulder chops, killer chicken diavola, milk roasted pork loin with fried sage, or that insane focaccia di recco... heck, even the BLT salad they're doing now is miraculous in its own way, and never mind the honey they produce in their own rooftop garden, or the completely insane platter of cured meats and house-made pickles that are just a notch above anywhere else...

                                                                                                                                            I'm not sure. But to anyone who has been going to Chi Spacca and just ordering the steak, and ignoring everything else, my advice is: explore the rest of the menu next time you go!

                                                                                                                                            I mean, hey, if you want to treat it like a steakhouse, that's fine, too.

                                                                                                                                            But just my experience with the place, that perhaps others might benefit from.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                                    I may have mis-spoke. To a lesser extent, like Capo or even,Dan Tanas, is not pure Italian, to me, Chi Spacca is its own cuisine. Italian influence, but a cuisine I would call "meat-centric". Unique to me.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Thor123

                                                                                                                                      Does anyone do pure Italian in LA?

                                                                                                                                2. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                                  I disagree about Hinoki. I find the atmosphere utterly irritating, but I think the food is quite good. Not everything is a hit, but I was in Century City for a work dinner last week and had the apple marinated short rib and a side of the roasted yams with creme fraiche and lardon. Both items were delicious, and expertly cooked. It's a place worth trying if you can get over being surrounded by CAA douchebags.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Haeldaur

                                                                                                                                    "CAA douchebags."

                                                                                                                                    i just cracked up.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                      Accurate on all counts to me. Some really interesting dishes. Worth a trip. But I think the attitude is like what people used to think (and recently me too) about Ivy. That said, I have found the service good.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Haeldaur

                                                                                                                                        To put up with that kind of atmosphere, and for the price, I would expect everything to be a hit.

                                                                                                                                        If you're in the area, and have to eat dinner immediately...ok, it's maybe not the worst place ever.

                                                                                                                                        But for me, it was the worst of the worst: bad atmosphere, lackluster service, and borderline awful food. Cod and Skate Wing were atrocious when I had them with flavors and textures that made no sense at all. The Skate Wing's samba tasted like a weird form of fishy vomit... the über hyped lobster roll was perhaps the worst lobster roll I've ever had, with an extremely dry roll that I literally choked on, and no discernible flavors otherwise. Skirt steak was alright, but served somewhat pretentiously, and fairly bland. Pretty, but little substance. The crab toast was at least good, but not nearly enough to make up for the majority of failures.

                                                                                                                                        Maybe they've improved...but there are so many other places where one can dine FABULOUSLY for that kind of money (and far less) in LA, why would I bother to go back?

                                                                                                                                        To me, if the best thing you can say about the place is that it's "not a bad place to get short ribs and yams, if you can put up with tons of CAA douchebags", it's not really a place worth going.

                                                                                                                                        But then again, if you're forced to eat somewhere for a work dinner, things could be worse I guess.

                                                                                                                                        Of course, this is probably highly relative to what one wants out of a restaurant. *shrugs*

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eudoxus

                                                                                                                                          I would not recommend Hinoki to any traveller unless they were in the immediate area. I've had a couple meals there and while the atmosphere is quite nice, I can't remember anything remarkable food wise except for some nasty yam dish. Drinks were pretty inventive and good though

                                                                                                                                  2. I always take Out of Towners to Beverly Soon Tofu. Yes, it's Korean, but it is not the same old thing. It's a bubbling vat of tofu in sauce. Order the MEDIUM hot with mushrooms. Hasn't failed yet, <$10 includes all the side dishes and barley tea. The tables are cross sections of trees like a country inn.

                                                                                                                                    Be sure to try In 'n' Out Burger. We locals are so accustomed to it we forget how much Out of Towners enjoy it. ~$2.50 for a cheeseburger.

                                                                                                                                    Do not miss the Kogi Truck. The Short Rib tacos exceed the hype, and started the Food Truck craze.

                                                                                                                                    1. My most memorable and my most delicious meal in LA was the tasting menu at Spago.

                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                          wow, good to know with all the downhill reports i constantly hear about the joint.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                                                                                                            with all the downhill reports i constantly hear


                                                                                                                                        2. For me, it would be Maude's and Nobu Malibu.

                                                                                                                                          1. Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions.

                                                                                                                                            I've posted a detailed report on my trip, at www.chow.com/topics/994084

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                                                                                                                              Cheers for the report. Really appreciated!