A Call for L.A. Faves

Good morning from Los Angeles! The sun is just peeking over the hills as I type, my first cup of coffee in hand. I arrived here late yesterday afternoon, tagging along with Mister MA, who's attending a seminar thing.

It's been eight, maybe nine years since my last trip here, so in some ways I feel like I'm starting all over with where to go and what to eat. Anticipating that Mister MA would be sequestered in conference rooms all day, I asked my pal Bill Addison to join me on my escapades uncovering this sprawling sunny metropolis.

Although Addison hasn't done L.A. in 11 years, he knows a thing or two about eating as the food critic at the Dallas Morning News. Over the years, he and I have traipsed around the country exploring the eats and drinks of various cities, including Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Key West, Chicago and San Francisco.

Although he came equipped with a list of must-chews, this pair of troubadours is still looking for tasty ideas. Any or all tips on how to eat one way's through Los Angeles would be most appreciated (and credited). We're looking for markets, street food, all kinds of nibbles -- and we're here 'til Sunday. A big hug of thanks in advance for any of your favorite L.A. haunts.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 24, 2008; 10:14 AM ET Travel
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My husband just came home from business in LA and like The Spot restaurant in Hermosa Beach. Its vegetarian.

Posted by: cia | April 24, 2008 11:48 AM

How about a tasty cupcake at Sprinkles?

Posted by: Arlington | April 24, 2008 11:49 AM

I usually hit up an In-N-Out while I'm out on the west coast. Mainly to remind me how much more I prefer Five Guys! Plus, I like to stir up a little Biggie/Tupac rivalry with the two chains.

Never really found a coherent cooking philosophy in LA. There's trendy, seafood, fusion, etc. but I don't get the sense that there is a focus on any cuisine in particular.

But, I would be willing to hear some ideas, too, before my next trip out there.

Posted by: M Street | April 24, 2008 11:52 AM

Will be flying to LA in two weeks for a quick trip to bring a new puppy home to DC - am hoping to get some ideas for a couple of places to visit, too! Thanks!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 12:17 PM

Sushi at Sushi Roku in Santa Monica was the only silver lining to business trips I took to LA a few years ago. (Difficult client)


Posted by: Kate | April 24, 2008 12:49 PM

Although I now live in DC - I grew up in the South Bay of LA (Redondo Beach).

Some key places to eat:
1. Phillip's for french dip sandwiches (downtown near Union Station and Olvero street). Founding in 1902 - they claim to have invented the french dip - ask for it to be double dipped.
2. Olvero Street - a little "Mexican" street - the site of an original settlement. Fun, if a little touristy, with good street food.
3. Breakfast (NOT Brunch) is a major social meal in LA - especially near the beaches. "Good Stuff" is a small local chain - usually near a beach (Redondo and Hermosa), and is excellent. Martha's in Hermosa beach is just off a BEAUTIFUL beach and near the bike path (ask anyone about the bike path -they'll know how to direct you - it extends from Torrance beach in the south well past Santa Monica). We also love Joe's in Redondo - get the John Wayne special.
4. I'm sure you know about In-n-Out.
5. You just can't go wrong with Mexican - ask a local about their favorite.
6. Violet's in Pasadena for cupcakes.

Food aside - the best beach cities are Hermosa, Manhattan, and Redondo (the South Bay). Wide stretches of beach with a long flat bike path, and good shopping and food just up from the beach. Avoid the Piers and boardwalks - nothing worth seeing. Go to the Getty for the views, gardens and architecture (not the art). The Huntington Gardens in San Marino (near pasadena) is gorgeous if you like gardens.

Have a blast!!

Posted by: KL | April 24, 2008 1:11 PM

I highly recommend hitting the LA Farmer's Market (3rd and Fairfax). It is more a collection of little eateries than a traditional Farmers Market, but you can get some fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats there. I always head straight for the Cajun place (um...officially called The Gumbo Pot, I think) for a fried oyster po boy. Yum. There is a fairly new up-scale outdoor mall (The Grove) located next door if you want to do some shopping as well. I usually pair a visit to the Farmers Market with a visit to the museums. La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) and the Peterson Automotive Museum are all nearby.

From the Farmer's Market, head west on 3rd for an area of hip restaurants (including a tea shop), clothing stores, and art galleries.

Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice is another area of hip restaurants and stores. I'm particularly fond of Jin Patisserie for High Tea (plus chocolates!). Nearby, Main St. in Santa Monica also is fun to wander down.

Posted by: Silver Spring | April 24, 2008 1:14 PM

Hi Kim!!
Will you be there on Saturday? If so, don't miss the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Unfortunately, you missed Wednesday's market, which is all organic, but Saturday's is really great too! There is nothing better than browsing through the amazing produce that is Southern California, grabbing something yummy for lunch, and then walking down to the beach to enjoy it.

Posted by: Formerly Frozen in LA | April 24, 2008 1:16 PM

The best sandwich I ever had in LA was at Super Tortas, at 3rd and Alvarado, around the corner from House Ear Institute. Go for the Ribeye torta. Bolillo bread filled with grilled ribeye steak, fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado and mayo -- you can get it without the mayo! It's around $6. The place is kind of a dive, but it is absolutely amazing.

Posted by: More from Formerly Frozen | April 24, 2008 1:20 PM

In-N-Out is WAY better than Five Guys!

Also, it has been years but there is an area of LA called Little Japan, I think, that has amazing Japanese food.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 3:27 PM

In-N-Out is WAY better than Five Guys!

Also, it has been years but there is an area of LA called Little Japan, I think, that has amazing Japanese food.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 3:29 PM

Go to Koreatown! It's almost like Mexican food- pretty much anywhere you eat beats anything available in D.C. You should also eat at the shabu shabu place in Little Tokyo (you will know which one by the lines) and take a drive out to Monterey Park for Chinese. I prefer Fatburger to In-N-Out myself; if you like hotdogs, Pink's is a landmark. If La Brea bakery is still open, you might want to pick up some fresh baguette.

Posted by: Trojan | April 24, 2008 3:29 PM

I think the big Santa Monica farmers' market on Arizona is Wednesday and the organic one is on Saturday.

Posted by: Miss LA | April 24, 2008 3:36 PM

It's been several years since I was there, but I had a fabulous meal at Cafe del Rey (in Marina del Rey) on my last trip to LA.

Also, if you like traditional deli food, Nate 'n Al's is good. Also a fun spot to view Hollywood deals happening if you go at lunchtime.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 24, 2008 4:45 PM

Two words: Zankou Chicken.

Get the chicken shawerma (tarna) meal that comes with everything (ask for extra garlic sauce). Also try a quarter chicken or half chicken. Golden crispy skin, moist meat, aromatic herbs.

Zankou is legendary in the Los Angeles area. If you don't believe me, just check out the reviews in the Los Angeles Times. I used to live in LA a few years back. I still dream about Zankou.

(No, I never worked for them. I lived near the Pasadena location and made a habit of going once a week at least.)

Posted by: chickenchickenchicken | April 24, 2008 9:35 PM

Posted by: gabe | April 24, 2008 10:34 PM

Best Afternoon Tea: Surrounded by botanical gardens, the tearoom at the Huntington Library, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino (tel. 626/683-8131), is truly an oasis. The Huntington, located in a wealthy residential area of Pasadena, has the added appeal of pre- and post-tea activities, such as strolling the theme gardens, viewing the art gallery or library, and visiting the bookstore/gift shop. The moderately priced tea ($13) is buffet style, so you can stuff yourself with fresh-baked scones, finger sandwiches, and strawberries with thick Devonshire cream.

Posted by: Dave | April 24, 2008 10:43 PM

How sad that so many people have listed chain restaurants or truly uninspired suggestions.

Posted by: LAnative | April 25, 2008 2:43 AM

Kim - you should check out the food blog MattBites: http://mattbites.typepad.com/mattbites
Matt lives in LA and is awesome and would surely have great suggestions.

Posted by: MBinDC | April 25, 2008 10:07 AM

I really like the In-N-Out.

Posted by: Dave | April 25, 2008 1:35 PM

Where exactly are you in LA? There are so many great places to eat - you don't have to go far. I second the Olvera Street. It's next to Union Station and Chinatown so you can find lots of neat stuff to do and eat. Olvera Street is definitely touristy but stop at La Golondrina - it's historic - first restaurant in the US to serve Mexican food the way that we know it now - not the high Spanish stuff, but the everyday food. I had the best mole of my life there.

I'd skip most of the burger chains and go to a stand - my favorite was Jack's Classic Hamburgers on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood. Seriously good. But there are great stands all over.

In Sherman Oaks, we used to go to La Fogata Mexican Food on Van Nuys Blvd all the time. It's homey food, and they have the best refried beans I ever had - if memory serves, they're cooked over a wood fire. All I know is that ever since, I have to add liquid smoke to my refried beans at home for them to taste "right" to me.

Posted by: Sara | April 26, 2008 9:39 AM

The Stinking Rose has an LA location.


Posted by: Garlic! | April 28, 2008 11:25 AM

Chickenchickenchicken, check out the story in this month's Los Angeles magazine about the Zankou family murder and the infighting over the restaurant dynasty.


Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 28, 2008 12:12 PM

Kim, were you going to follow up and/or comment on the Thrifty blog post?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 28, 2008 1:38 PM

eh, no proselytizing with my food, thanks:

In-N-Out prints discreet references to Bible verses on their paper utensils. The print is small and out of the way, and only contains the book, chapter and verse numbers, not the actual text of the passages. The practice began in the 1980s during Rich Snyder's presidency, a reflection of the beliefs held by the Snyder family.

Burger and cheeseburger wrappers
Revelation 3:20--"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me."
Beverage cups and antenna toppers
John 3:16--"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Milkshake cups
Proverbs 3:5--"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."
Double-Double wrapper
Nahum 1:7--"The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him."
Paper water cups, or "R-9's"
John 14:6--"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 28, 2008 1:44 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | April 28, 2008 1:45 PM

Just some of my favorites...

1. Breakfast
- Uncle Bill's (Manhattan Beach)
- Doughboys - also famous for their red velvet cake
- Omelette Parlour (Santa Monica)

2. Lunch/Dinner
- Versailles (Cuban)
- Guelaguetza (Mexican)
- Tito's Tacos (cheap tacos)
- Porto's Bakery (try their potato balls - these are divine)
- Casa Bianca - amazing pizza

3. Nice Dinner
- Water Grill (downtown Los Angeles)
- Cafe Pinot (downtown Los Angeles)
- Ciudad (downtown Los Angeles)

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2008 1:24 PM

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