weary norcal-ian needs recs for friday 19th

One meal, dinner, party of two, next friday. Prefer sushi ko to urasawa (as an example). loved night+market. prefer all the appetizers to a large entree. omnivore. coming from burbank, leys say a 30 minute maximum drive. Food we can’t get in norcal, and we do eat well up here, or someplace with a very so cal vibe. no indoors. not good at reservations. good alcohol a plus. price not really an issue.

Where would you send me?

Hello. I don’t have any great recs but feel a bit bad that no one has responded.

Not sure what you mean by so cal vibe (to be honest, my eating during my last trip to SF 2 yrs ago did feel all that different in terms of ambiance from what we have in LA), and I’m not sure what places are different from what you can get in norcal. The weather is unseasonably frigid, by our (or my) standards, and you couldn’t eat indoors, even if you wanted to (although that may change next wk).

A lot of places have rather makeshift setups for outdoor dining, which may not be particularly enjoyable for an extended meal w/ a friend.

Carousel (Armenian Lebanese) and Raffi’s (Persian Armenian) in nearby Glendale are well-known. It’s been many years since I went to either.

Melisse x Citrin has a very pretty patio that’s decently distanced and a very pretty (and perhaps very SoCal?) crowd, but I’d be stretching your 30-min driving limit, and I imagine you have a lot of places in NorCal offering a similar style of food.

Even if you aren’t good at reservations, I would highly suggest considering making one for a Fri evening. I don’t know about Carousel and Raffi, but, the few times I’ve been to Melisse x Citrin for takeout, the patio looked pretty full.

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Hi @bbulkow,

Hope you have a restful time in L.A. Welcome! :slight_smile: To help generate better recs, is there a particular occasion for the dinner? Is it date night (so going for a romantic vibe)? Or I noticed you said “weary” so just a place to relax and get good comfort food? Thanks.

Hi @bbulkow,

Some initial suggestions while I await your clarification (let us know if we’re on the right track here): :wink:

If it’s for relaxing, @paranoidgarliclover’s suggestions are close by Burbank and still solid (although I haven’t been to Carousel or Raffi’s in 2020 during COVID lockdown), but in 2019 it was still enjoyable.

  • Park’s BBQ (Koreatown): One of So Cal’s best Korean BBQ restaurants. They have one of the best array of Banchan (free Side Dishes) in L.A. (easily), and USDA Prime Beef and other great cuts.

  • Gwang Yang BBQ (Koreatown): Also one of the best in So Cal, Gwang Yang BBQ has a nice outdoor (covered) dining area with grills setup and they cook it for you (as does Park’s) tableside. Their Banchan is weaker than Park’s, but I like some of their Beef offerings better (like Ggot Sal, Kalbi).

  • Bulgarini Gelato (Altadena / Pasadena): SF definitely has a lot of great Italian restaurants, but there is something distinctly “So Cal” about Leo Bulgarini and his little gelateria. First, despite the name he also serves Handmade Pastas there, and they are fabulous. Rustic, down-to-earth, but utterly delicious, probably some of the best Italian in L.A. (get their Bolognese / Meat Sauce and their Pesto is fabulous) :slight_smile:

In addition, his Gelato and Sorbet are the best we’ve ever had. They are transformative. There’s nothing else like it that I’ve tried anywhere. (Enjoy one of his nut-based Gelato if you go (you can choose multiple flavors), such as the Pistachio, Almond, Hazelnut, etc.

Enjoy!

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Hi! Thanks for the responses.

“Is there a particular occasion?” GF and I have a vague work-related reason to get to socal. She’s been down a few times for work in the last month, this time might fall on a day where I can tag along. The special occasion is we’re no longer in our usual haunts. :slight_smile:

“but it’s cold”. I’m expecting the norcal / socal 10 degree temp difference, and we’re used to eating out here, and as of tomorrow we get 1 hour earlier of daylight. We’re also used to avoiding the tent-like structures. We bring hats and scarves and a lap blanket. Thursday night was a german beer garden, schnitzel, sausage, and a boot of beer. Last night we tried an indian place we hadn’t been to for a few years but they had a 10 minute wait so we walked 100 feet to comfort-crepe place that was perfectly enjoyable. Lunch yesterday was a high-ish end japanese place where I had sukiyaki in the sun, lunch is nice that way. Thursday lunch was an al pastor specialist that I’d only been to once before, carried over to a little pocket park in the same block. Last weekend we enjoyed a greek place up in the city that friends like. Same friends had a reason to get a proper beijing roast duck from a renound place in sunnyvale, ended up eating it at our place (they’re vaccinated, I offered outdoors, they went with outdoors b/c vaccine). We don’t go to that place because there’s a different “peking” duck place that’s 10 minutes closer - but we’ll be driving the extra 10 minutes from now on. Last friday I think it was a french place that I swear has more tables out in the street than they’ve ever had inside, and they’re doing a nice little jazz combo (a little cheesy with the standards but some of the solos are OK), and the oysters were better than I’ve had in a long time - super crisp. We’re getting back to supporting our locals, more than just takeout.

Still, it’s our usuals, with some branching out. I hadn’t been to that sukiyaki place, nor had we gotten beijing duck from that place before. Now that we’re comfortable driving 20 minutes, our range is broadening.

If you get up this way, the mid-peninsula is now this wonderland of closed streets with a lot of restaurants. Some are closed. Some old favorites are gone. But as of the last two weeks, when we moved back into the red, everyone’s booming. We even got shut out of two places last night. Very little is destination dining, but we love the feeling of being someplace with actual pleasant walking culture and so much to choose from. Castro St Mt View seems the best pickins, with probably 40 restaurants over 3 blocks all into the street with probably more tables than they usually have. The one fine dining there is Chez TJ, haven’t been with the newest chef. Every 5 miles it’s the same, running (south to north) Castro St MV, Cali Ave Palo Alto, University Ave PA, Menlo Park, Broadway RWC, San Carlos Laurel Ave, and those are the ones within a 15 minute drive of my house… I’m leaving out Los Altos, Sunnyvale, there’s more in both directions but I don’t have personal experience because with 6 walking-dining districts, that’s enough to explore. Cali Ave has a one-star, Protoge, and a two-star, Baume, and Protoge’s actually pretty good - it was probably the best meal I had right before the covid times. They have opened a few times during covid, I think they are closed now. Those are the 5 closest to us so it’s where we go, but it’s places where we have eaten regularly for over a decade so one gets a little bored.

“what’s a socal sprit”. Yeah, it’s a hard to pin down. “norcal is similar to socal”, yeah, SF’s destination dining scene is similar to Socal, but in the non-destination areas, I think there’s still a difference, but damned if I can put good words to it ATM. Some of that is in Palo Alto also - a favorite restaurant was converted to an “Indian-Californian” place (ETTAN) which is absolutely trendy and see-and-be-seen, and attempting to strike a whole new pose. That’s Palo Alto for you.

GF has promised to drag me to her favorite cuban bakery while we’re down there, the cuban food here is NOTHING, I am sure it’ll have that spirit. IMHO norcal mexican is within 90% of socal mexican if you know where to go, but in SoCal you don’t even have to know where to go, everywhere is good. Yall simply have a greater range, you know it, I know it.

Korean is a pretty good choice. We do korean OK up here, I tend to think Korean in Oakland and have a few favorite spots, and love my Korean, although Sunnyvale has some good joints, but not like y’all do. Get me some proper LA Kalbi. I don’t think we’ve had Korean in the covid times because it’s a 20 minute drive in almost any direction — however, GF has to be in a hungry mood to accept Korean, it’s so damned tasty and you gobble up the banchan in a proper place they keep bringing you more endlessly THEN THERE’S A HUGE PILE OF IRRESISTABLE MEAT. Hard to not go home a bit bloated.

Armenian is a food we’re short on, and (other than Al Pastor) we’re short on Lebanese too. Those look good. We’ve got a little mini-glut of Georgian places we like, and I think the Armenians and Georgians are bitter enemies, but it’s an area we’re happy to eat more from and learn.

And, italian, maybe. We have probably 3 italian places in rotation, although good neopolitian pizza doesn’t travel the 15 minutes between restaurant and home, so we learned. We do like a good gelato, stopping for gelato after dinner’s perfectly reasonable. I think of Socal Italian as often having that light and airy feel I was trying to describe above, so I’ll look into those.

Thanks! And further thoughts welcome.

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Though way too prosaic for your ambitions, deli is always on our must-do list in LA. Greenblatt’s sports an extraordinary wine selection and birsket or pastrami that we are given to understand are made on the premises.

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I think many of the Mexican places that are really good are also usually trucks?

Mírame in Beverly Hills has gotten good reviews, but I’m not sure how seriously they’re taking the social distancing (I have not been myself).

I also think quite a few places might have a tent up. While you might be used to the cold, we are not. :slight_smile:

Call ahead to make sure he’s in. Leo is very Italian in the sense that he keeps hours that can be… idiosyncratic. He is absolutely worth the effort (for the gelato and focaccia; his pastas are very good but the tomato-based sauces can be a bit too acidic for me), but it can be an effort.

Porto’s is a popular Cuban bakery in Burbank and Glendale; not sure if they open for dinner.

I really enjoyed Chiang Mai in Studio City/Valley Village the few times I’ve been. Not sure if you’re looking to do something other than Thai, since you did that b/f here (it would be quite a diff experience from Night + Market, though).

We have great Italian, but, since I live in West LA, most of my recs are based in that area (which, again, would be a stretch for you). Uovo, Pasta Sisters, and Colapasta are all great, but outdoor area of the Uovo in Santa Monica was a disaster. Not distanced and a TON of people waiting and walking through (huge tourist destination). I even refuse to do takeout from there, the crowd was so bad.

There’s mid-Wilshire branch of Uovo, which might be in your driving radius. Not sure what the seating situation there is like.

The mid-city location of Pasta Sisters might work for you, but there wasn’t even really seating there prior to the lockdown. Very much a take out place.

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Its funny I recently asked the owner of a new Italian deli in the city about where his favorite Italian places are. And he just told me, he doesn’t eat Italian much here. To them Italians apparently what we consider good its commonplace in Italy. And he proceeded to tell me about all his favorite non-Italian, non-European places instead. Lol.

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Hitchin’ a ride.

But isn’t that true in most cuisines we import? SF has very decent regional chinese, LA a bit better, and I can walk into most random places in beijing or shanghai and eat better. I have no illusions that our Italian or Chinese are up to what the locals eat. I mostly compare SF to LA, because one can go to LA just for dinner from here — italy and japan and china, not so much.

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Hi @sck, @bbulkow,

Thanks. One thing we absolutely adored was SF’s La Ciccia (Sardinian food). Wow that was some amazing dishes! :blush: But yah, L.A. has some solid places and I think Bulgarini Gelato with Pastas and Gelato might be a nice treat.

I will put that on the list. I have mostly stopped eating thai up here. There is a new-ish upscale thai near our house called Farmhouse Thai (branch of a SF place) that I would eat at again. I have one reference from a friend of a place in Sunnyvale. There’s a new Issan place a few miles away that I keep forgetting about. There’s one place in MV where all the indian people eat, it’s actually thai / cambodian, since they make thai for indian people they put enough taste in it and will default the flavors & heat level to something sensible, but it’s gotten popular and the food’s gone downhill significantly (Tommy Thai).

Hi @bbulkow,

@BoneAppetite’s suggestion is also a good one to consider (not for dinner), but if you have time for a lunch. Have you tried Langer’s Deli yet? It is arguably the best Pastrami Sandwich in the U.S. and a nice L.A. standout. :slight_smile:

If memory serves, Langer’s closes at 4 p.m.

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How about Canter’s? It’s open 24 hours and you could hang out in the Kibitiz Room!

Langer’s is open Saturday morning though (color me surprised), that could def. be a thing. Thanks for the reminder! And cantor’s. Less so about the rooms…

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Which has been an old CH favorite, favorite of many of my friends, and I have not yet made the trip up to SF for. It came up in discussion with friends last week as a survivor of the between-times, so I’ll have to mark it down for the coming year.

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Went to La Ciccia based on @Chowseeker1999’s rec. FANTASTIC food!!! And such wonderful ambiance.

Langer’s is def worth a visit, and the area and experience is def much from what most think of when they think of LA.

I think Canter’s is more about the kitsch than the food, but I’ve only been once ~20 yrs ago. Cofax across the street is good for a breakfast burrito but is strictly a takeout place (and not necessarily what I would call a destination place, but if you’re already in the area…).

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I hate to say, but the excuse to go south (for me, this week) has evaporated, so I’ll have to keep these recommendations on ice until I do get down to the southland. Was so looking forward to it…

(On a related note, I drove across one of our many bridges ISO new dumplings, and saw that San Diego is advertising for Norcal-ians to make the trip south, for tourism, already… :-/ )

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Well, we’re all not going anywhere, so you’ll be ready when you next come. :wink:

BTW, another place to put on your list… Holy Basil (thai food) in Downtown LA (DTLA) is excellent (and in an interesting location). Not sure if there’s any seating, or if it’s strictly take out. Make sure to use your GPS b/c I wouldn’t have been able to find it, had step-by-step pics not been posted on another food board.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold