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Places to Eat in LA — my favorites 

When I travelled I met plenty of people who stuck to MacDonalds because they knew what they'd get. This page is not for those people. This is a listing of my personal favorite places to enjoy real meals worth having.

Some of my favorites by category - and some of other people's favorites.

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~ • ~ • ~ Most Unique ~ • ~ • ~

The Magic Castle

7001 Franklin Ave,
a short block north of Hollywood Blvd,
between La Brea & Highland
Hollywood, CA
MagicCastle.com

The Magic Castle is more than just a place to eat. It's a night of continuous magic — with 3 theaters providing 5 unique magic shows from intimate close-up magic to a full-on stage show. It's a night of romance and elegance where women wear nice dresses and men wear ties and jackets. There's no other place in the whole world like it. Fine dining and even finer magic.

However, the Magic Castle is a private club so in order to dine there and see the shows, you must have a guest card given to you by a member.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ Casual ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

The Golden State (Hamburgers)
TheGoldenStateCafe.com

426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles CA 90036
They are located north of Beverly, south of Melrose, specifically between Oakwood and Rosewood, on the east side of Fairfax. This is pretty much across from Cantor's.

The Golden State is a small, friendly, unassuming storefront restaurant that consistently serves up fabulous burgers. I honestly have to say Golden State's hambergers are the best burgers I have ever had.

This burger starts with beef from Harris Ranch. It's topped with a flavorful but not overpowering Fiscalini Farms white cheddar that's actually cooked onto the burger, not just plopped on top as it's placed on the bun. It's also adorned with some Glazed Applewood Smoked Bacon, which again becomes part of the burger. Completing it is Arugula, their own Aioli, and Ketchup. And it's all served on a thick bun that somewhat reminds me of a great Challah. $10 gets you this burger and one high-quality, tasty side. You can see your options before you go; they post their regular menu, including pricing, online.

The rest of the regular menu and their special items sound fabulous as well. Each weeknight after 5pm they offer a special. I haven't had the opportunity to try these yet, but I'm planning on it!

You also have the opportunity to enjoy some uniquely flavored Gelato by Tai Kim. So far, I've had (and enjoyed) the chocolate-banana and a maple-something. Their beer selection is said to be excellent too. I'm not a beer drinker. I do believe I'll give into trying one of their acclaimed Beer Floats soon though!

Another plus: everyone who works there is friendly and they really care about making your meal a great experience.

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Poquito Mas
PoquitoMas.com

  1. The original:
    3701 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City, CA     (818) 760-8226
    It's hidden in a tiny strip mall on the west side of the street. Has an outdoor patio with heat lamps.
  2. 10651 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, CA   (818) 994-8226
  3. 2635 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA
  4. Sunset Plaza, 8555 Sunset Blvd     (310) 652-7008

Mexican food that's not an Americanized chain. Great prices. Great Mexican. Cash-only.

When I want Mexican this is the first place I think of going to. It's the place I bring all my out of town guests. They don't serve a web burrito though.

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Baja Fresh

Several locations: There's one in Santa Monica, one at the Beverly Center in LA, another 11690 San Vicente Blvd. Just keep an eye out for them.

Not as Mexican as Poquito Mas, it's my second favorite for a burrito.

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Stefano's New York Pizza by the Slice

1310 Third Street, next to the AMC Theater on the Third St Promenade
Santa Monica
Phone (310) 587-2429

If you're from NY and seeking the kind of pizza you're used to, you'll be disappointed over and over in LA. But every once in a while you'll find a slice you can enjoy. I found it in, of all things, a place on a mall. I like sitting outside, enjoying the ocean air and people watching.

Thin crust slize - $2.25, or $2.50 with 1 topping
Sicilian slice - $2.50
Prices may have gone up since I was last there around 2005.

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Mulberry Street Pizza

347 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills
Phone (310) 247-8100

I have not eaten here and have only had the take-out once. However, this place is famous for importing water from NY to make its very thin, crisp crust. It's owned and sometimes manned by actress Cathy Moriaty. This is not in the category of prices you don't think about. I think it's pricy for pizza. People call it good value though. I can't say.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ Finer ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Church & State

Biscuit Company Lofts
1850 Industrial St. Los Angeles, CA 90021 — at Mateo St.
(It's on the last street before you cross the bridge out of downtown if you're heading east.

I learned about this place from Sophie Gayot so I posted my experiene of it at Gayot.com. I'll let you see it there. It's on the page Sophie's review.

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Frankies — New York Italian Restaurant

7228 Melrose Avenue (corner of Alta Vista — between LaBrea and Fairfax
Phone (323) 937-2801
No Website

Frankies is all at once a classic NY neighborhood restaurant where long-time friends hang out at the bar or enjoy a good meal, and also a fancy dinner date place where you might enjoy live piano. I like it for lunch although the $5.95 lunch menu I used to enoy is gone and prices for lunch are now more like $7. (I love the Fried Calamari for $6.95 and often choose it as a place to meet friends.) It's a place where the waiters remember you and the owner's little grl sometimes helps out. The owners really are good old NY Italian.
Note: I have not updated these prices in a few years. I have to check into their actual lunch prices — if they have a lunch price these days.

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Todai — All-You-Can-Eat Japanese Seafood Buffet Restaurant

Several locations.
(I didn't like the one food at the West LA one at all. I used to love the one at the Beverly Center and the food is still great, but I'm not a fan of the management.)

I was not keen on an all you can eat place of sushi but found this place amazing. There is so much there. Not just sushi and not just fish. Just about everyone can find food they like at Todai. Check out the menu online.

Apparenly pricing depends on location. Children's prices are based on height: 5' and under, 4' and under, 3' and under. Seniors 65 and over receive 20% discount for dinner (lunch at some locations). If you go exactly on your birthday, you get a coupon for one complimentary meal to be used at another time. (Since my birthday is on a holiday I never get this benefit.)

Lots of planning for the MacGathering took place at the Beverly Center Todai.

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Shanghai Reds

13813 Fiji Way, on the water
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Phone (310) 823-4522

A top place to go and enjoy the marina.

I haven't eaten here since the '90, but the beauty of the location can't be beat, so I continue to recommend it. It's right on the water, so you have a view of all the boats coming in and out of the marina. If you're lucky you'll also be able to hear some of the sounds. (I love the sounds of a marina.) The brunch is not inexpensive, so make this a meal you'll enjoy for a time, not a quick stop for fuel.

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White Lotus

1743 Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028
Right off Hollywood Blvd
Phone: (323) 463-0060
Website

I attended a private media event there recently (November 2003). I played photographer, so I was invited into the kitchen and happily took them up on the invitation to meet the creators of the fabulous food I'd been sampling. I was impressed by how clean and nice looking the kitchen was. And the staff! So nice! The head chef spent time with us, telling us about his creations, and showing us each entree and appetizer being created. It's evident that he loves his job and that he's got creative freedom there. It was fun hanging out back there.

The food is a cross between Asian and Western. The restaurant is a cross between indoor and outdoor. There's also a sushi bar and a night club. The night club area has several small rooms so you can escape the crowd and have a private conversation. You can see the menu and rooms at their website. I heard that when it first opened and was the hot place to go, the staff had an attitude. Maybe it's good that I steer clear of "in" places. From what I saw, I'd enjoy White Lotus on a date or with friends.

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ Other People's Favorites ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Zankou Chicken — Roasted Chicken

Multiple locations from West LA to Glendale
The website lists every location, it's phone number, and hours.
Open 10am til either 10, 11, or midnight.
ZankouChicken.com

Many friends I respect rave about it so I list it here but personally I am not impressed.

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Some other food resoures:

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ Misc Notes ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Cilantro Warning: If you are visiting Los Angeles and don't like Cilantro be sure to make sure it's not in the food you order. I'm not joking. It's in almost everything here.

Looking for Pizza? If you're from NY or Chicago, don't expect pizza as you know it.
But if you're into things like Barbecue Chicken on pizza you're in the right place.

 

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