Downtown Los Angeles/Highland Park
?LA99? Ciudad. Cuchifritos at happy hour. Fatally strong mojitos. Peruvian-style ceviches and Bolivian-style tamales, Caribbean paella and a classic pescado Veracruzana, Bahia-style moqueqas and a fritanga that would knock them silly in Managua. Ciudad, the Pan-Latin downtown outpost of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, may be all things to all people, but especially to all people whose pleasures include bending an elbow every now and then. 445 S. Figueroa St., dwntwn., (213) 486-5171. Mon.–Tues. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wed.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–9 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Pan-Latino. JG $$Â
La Luz del Dia. The last place you’d expect to find a real Mexican joint is among the maraca vendors and befuddled German tourists of Olvera Street, but there it is (and has been for decades). La Luz is a simple place, and most of what it serves are basic permutations of the two or three things it does best. So whatever you think you ordered, you’ll probably get at least one helping of carnitas or picadillo, the chunky Mexican beef stew that, with its carrots and potatoes, looks like a stew somebody’s mother might have made . . . provided that somebody’s mother has an industrial-size garlic press and a Thai tolerance for chile heat. 1 W. Olvera St., dwntwn., (213) 628-7495. Mon. 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 8:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer only. Lot parking. Cash only. $10–$15. Mexican. JG ¢
Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Echo Park
Blair’s. Blair’s is an adult restaurant for people who don’t really consider themselves to be grown-ups even into their late 40s, a civilized refuge of caesar salads and crab cakes and shrimp cocktails that are served with a side of deviled eggs, a sort of roadhouse where the pepper steak comes with oodles of farmers’-market vegetables, the salmon comes with lentils, and the roster of artisanal beers is nearly as long as the wine list. I would be surprised if anybody’s parents ate this well at Rotary Club meetings. 2903 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 660-1882. Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri. 6–11 p.m., Sat. 5–11 p.m., Sun. 5–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $16–$32. New American. JG $$bÂ?
Edendale Grill. Housed in an old firehouse and named for Los Angeles’ first movie studio, Silver Lake’s Edendale Grill is a bit of set-dressed history. Craftsman-era lighting fixtures with mica shades cast a warm, golden glow in the dining room. The Mixville bar has an original hammered-tin ceiling and firehouse doors. The kitchen serves up its own brand of culinary nostalgia for midcentury Midwestern American cooking: oysters Rockefeller, caesar salads made tableside, Green Goddess salad dressing, sand dabs, steaks and chops, even a beet-red velvet cake from the Waldorf. 2838 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake, (323) 666-2000. Dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–11:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Full bar. Complimentary valet. Entrées $13.75–$27. AE, DC, MC, V. American. MH $$b?
Gingergrass. Gingergrass, a sleek Vietnamese bistro in Silver Lake, is probably the polar opposite of a place like Golden Deli, citified where the San Gabriel noodle shop is rustic, timid where the food at the other roars with flavor. There is pho, but it’s not really the point here. And the spicy fish steamed in banana leaves, the shrimp in fishy Vietnamese caramel sauce and the lemongrass chicken tend to be sluiced down with basil-spiked limeade instead of, say, salty lemonade or tepid tea. But the chef, Mako Antonishek, tends to cook in a way not unfriendly to wine (the restaurant has a symbiotic relationship with Silverlake Wine Merchants across the street), and her multicourse Mako Monday blowout dinners are already legendary in the neighborhood. 2396 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 644-1600. Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. & 5–10:30 p.m. Beer, wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. $6–$18. Vietnamese. JG $b[
Brasserie Vert. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in the Hollywood & Highland complex may not have much in common with a brasserie, is as restrained-looking as a corporate canteen, and isn’t even green. But Vert is a useful restaurant, a Hollywood bastion of mussels and fries, the Provençal pizza called pissaladiere, steak frites with vivid-yellow béarnaise sauce, and a delicious sole Grenobloise with tiny croutons and bits of lemon pulp. Drop in for a Green Bellini, a platter of fritto misto and a shot at the best desserts in Hollywood — the apple tart is formidable. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 411, Hlywd., (323) 491-1300. Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $16–$24. French/Italian. JG $$
Cha Cha Cha. It is hard to imagine a better brunch than Sunday mornings at the original Cha Cha Cha: strong coffee, suave tropical music and the pan-Caribbean cooking of Toribio Prado, who can rightly claim to be the first Nuevo Latino Caribbean–food chef in Los Angeles. The noise and the sceniness can be a little much at dinner (although the corn chowder is formidable), but on Sunday morning, when locals vastly outnumber screaming Corona bibbers, the buzz is exactly right. And the chilaquiles are the best in town. 656 N. Virgil Ave., L.A., (323) 664-7723. Mon.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $20–$30. Caribbean. JG $$b?
El Coyote. Many restaurants resemble this place — from the cheap margaritas, to the “Mexican pizza” available in the ever-crowded bar, to the walls decorated with broken mirrors, to the wire-mesh-enclosed patio with its plastic, smog-dusted foliage and visiting local sparrows, to the guacamole dinners, to the ersatz tostadas — but I could pick an El Coyote combination plate blindfolded out of 100 others, and most of the regulars could, too. 7312 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 939-2255. Lunch and dinner Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $18–$25. MC, V. Mexican. JG $bÂ
Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown/Central Los Angeles
?LA99? Chosun Galbi. For decades, Woo Lae Oak on Western was the favorite Korean restaurant of people who didn’t like Korean food all that much, a fancy place where they could convince themselves that galbi wasn’t too different from an ordinary steak dinner. Now that the Koreatown Woo Lae Oak is on hiatus, the conservative Koreatown choice is probably Chosun Galbi, a pleasant restaurant with the patio-side glamour of a Beverly Hills garden party: granite tables, gorgeous waitresses and expensive, well-marbled meat that glows as pinkly as a Tintoretto cherub. Don’t miss the chewy cold buckwheat noodles with marinated stingray. And make sure to throw some shrimp on the barbie, too — the pricey little beasties crisp up like a dream. 3330 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A., (323) 734-3330. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Korean barbecue. JG $Â?
?LA99? Guelaguetza. Are you in the mood for fried grasshoppers with chile and lime? Even if you aren’t, at Guelaguetza, the best of the Oaxacan-style restaurants by far, you’ll find dishes you may have only read about in cookbooks or glossy magazines. At the original Koreatown location of Guelaguetza, not far from the biggest concentration of Oaxacan restaurants and bakeries this side of Oaxaca itself, you’ll find tortilla-like tlayudas the size of manhole covers, delicate beverages made from squash, and delicious, mole-drenched tamales. The black mole, based on ingredients the restaurant brings up from Oaxaca, is rich with chopped chocolate and burnt grain, toasted chile and wave upon wave of textured spice — it’s as simple yet as nuanced as a great, old Côte Rôtie. 3337½ W. Eighth St., L.A., (213) 427-0779. Open daily 8 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, MC, V. Oaxacan. JG ¢b
West Hollywood/La Cienega
Cheebo. Why aren’t more restaurants like Cheebo — a smart, fun, clattery café where the food is mostly organic, very fresh, modestly priced and prepared with an inarguable flair for flavor? Sandwiches are assembled with — or, for you carb-a-phobics, without — house-made bread. Salads are diverse and luscious (try either chopped, the city’s best caesar type, or a hippie-dippy sprout mélange, to name but a few; all of them are composed, like the restaurant itself, of countless small, intelligent details). 7533 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 850-7070. Open daily for lunch and dinner 8 a.m.–mid. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. Entreés $12–$18. Organic Italian. MH $$[
?LA99? Grace. If Los Angeles restaurants are like rock bands, Neal Fraser is the glamorous indie-rock hero, a chef with a wobbly, idiosyncratic style that couldn’t be further from the finish-fetish crowd pleasers, a detailed, market-oriented sort of New American cuisine, heavy on French technique and inspired by the strong flavors and intricate presentations of New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The cooking can still be a little rough around the edges at Grace, but Fraser is clearly aspiring to greatness here. And there are freshly fried jelly doughnuts for dessert. What more could you want? 7360 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 934-4400. Tues.–Thurs. 6–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–11 p.m., Sun. 6–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking; difficult street parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $$$
?LA99? The Griddle. The Griddle is an instant Hollywood institution, an alternate universe of unshaven, bed-headed young actors in muscle shirts and those who would ogle them, of guys from the craft unions, gangs of pretty script readers, and middle-aged men preening in Robert Evans shades. Coffee comes to the table in squat plunger pots, and the enormous pancakes are available blanketed in cinnamon streusel, or spiked with Kahlua and Bailey’s, or smothered under an improbable mass of whipped cream and crumbled Oreos, and they are not the best pancakes in Los Angeles, but they’re good enough. 7916 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., (323) 874-0377. Breakfast and lunch Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Beer. Lot parking in rear. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $b
Westwood/West L.A./Century City
?LA99? Clementine. At lunchtime, there may be no happier place in Los Angeles than Annie Miler’s cheerful takeout café across from Century City, home to Southern-ham biscuits, a showcaseful of carefully composed roast-vegetable salads and an anthology’s worth of grilled cheese sandwiches crisped in an Italian sandwich press. The hot chocolate, made in the style of the Parisian tearoom Angelina, is a local legend. 1751 Ensley Ave., L.A., (310) 552-1080 or www.clementineonline.com. Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–7:30 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in rear lot and on street. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG $b[
John O’ Groats. The restaurant is named after a town at the northernmost point in Scotland, but give or take an order of fish ’n’ chips or two, the menu is pretty much all-American, with baking-powder biscuits, fluffy omelets, smoked pork chops and stretchy buckwheat pancakes. And although there seem to be no actual groats on the menu — which is kind of a relief — the steel-cut Irish oatmeal with bananas and heavy cream is fine. The best breakfasts on the Westside. 10516 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A., (310) 204-0692. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Entrées $9–$14. American. JG ¢
Beverly Hills and vicinity
?LA99? Lodge. A waitress will try to sell you a third or fourth martini. The $75 porterhouse-for-two starts to seem not only possible but desirable in the heat of The Lodge moment, and if you do the math, it is one of the least costly items on the menu. But, for example, while every steak house in town has the au courant wedge-of-iceberg salad, The Lodge ups the ante by pairing its wedge with another wedge. The potatoes are not just baked, but salt-baked, crunchy-skinned, accompanied by enough condiments to crank the vibe from Ornish all the way up to Atkins with just a few dips of the fork. 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 854-0024. Open nightly 5 p.m.–1 a.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, MC, V. California Steak House. $$ (JG)
?LA99? Matsuhisa. Nobu Matsuhisa, the baron of a sushi empire that stretches from London to Peru and the inventor of a strange, new cuisine, is perhaps the only Japanese chef in Los Angeles whose influence is felt as strongly in Japan as it is in California. Whenever you taste chopped chiles on sashimi or warmed oil on a sliver of fluke, that’s Matsuhisa’s influence at work. His restaurant is the most influential in California since Spago. And if, when you visit, reserving far in advance and rubbing shoulders with both Robert De Niro and busloads of Japanese tourists, you notice that the famous omakase menu hasn’t changed in years, you may remember to sit at the sushi bar next time and pull the best out of the chefs. 129 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 659-9639. Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:45 a.m.–2:15 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Sun. 5:45–10:15 p.m. Beer, wine, sake. Valet parking. All major credit cards. $40–$100. Japanese. JG $$$
Chez Mimi. Chez Mimi’s is surely the loveliest patio-dining spot around, where the vine-entwined gateway alone makes it hard to remember you’re in California and not some gentrified country stable yard in southern France. Inside, in charming > low-ceilinged rooms that, if we didn’t know better, we might assume were built for our far shorter 18th-century ancestors, fires snap on cold nights and Mimi herself checks in on her customers. 246 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 393-0558. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Sun.–Thurs. 5:30–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. $9–$29. French. MH $$
The Hump. This little crow’s-nest sushi bar, named for a difficult Himalayan airway, sits atop Typhoon at the Santa Monica airport. Eat kampachi sashimi off Mineo Mizuno’s ceramics and watch the planes pop on and off the runway. Much of the fish comes directly from the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and the chefs can go as simple or sophisticated as you like. 3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Third Floor, Santa Monica, (310) 313-0977. Lunch Tues.–Fri. noon–2 p.m.; dinner nightly 6–10 or 10:30 p.m. Full bar. Lot parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $35–$150. Japanese. MH $$$
Culver City/Venice and vicinity
?LA99? Beacon: An Asian Cafe. Beacon marks the triumphant return to form of Kazuto Matsusaka, who was chef for almost a decade at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois in the ’80s. His current versions of miso-marinated cod, vegetable nabemono and grilled shisito peppers are all fine. Grilled-chicken skewers are powerfully flavored with the herb shiso and the tiny Japanese plum called ume. The hanger steak with wasabi is so successful, the searing tang of the horseradish doing something wonderful to the tart, carbonized flavor of grilled meat, that you might wonder why nobody thought of the combination until now. 3280 Helms Ave., L.A., (310) 838-7500. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Wed. and Sun. 5:30–9 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 5:30–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. Asian Fusion. JG $bÂ[
LA99 Ford’s Filling Station. Ford’s, whose chef-owner is Benjamin Ford, formerly of the restaurant Chadwick, is a bar that happens to have ambitious, organic food as opposed to a restaurant that happens to have a bar attached, a gastropub where you can enjoy pretty decent cooking while being bounced around like a pachinko ball. If you manage to power your way to a barstool or to an actual table, you will find most of the usual Los Angeles gastropub classics. There is a hamburger tricked out with blue cheese and an onion compote, the requisite butter-lettuce salad with bacon, and a decent selection of cheeses and meats, some of them procured from Armandino Batali in Seattle, to help down the wine. And there’s butterscotch pudding for dessert. 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 202-1470. Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 4–11 p.m. Full bar. Parking at city lot around the corner. AE, MC, V. California Contemporary. JG $$
Hal’s Bar & Grill. Since the primordial days of the Los Angeles art scene, there has always been an artists’ hangout in Venice, a place where veterans of exotic Kassel and Frankfurt could indulge newfound fondnesses for rare wines and old Calvados, a place where art stars had the clout of the kind that springs out of Hollywood. For a lot of that time, that place has been Hal’s. Hal’s may have been more comfortable before they replaced the loungelike sofas in the front with a zillion bar tables, but it’s still a good place to listen to live jazz on Fridays and Sundays, hang out with a diverse crowd and sip a mean Bloody Mary or three. 1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-3105. Lunch and dinner Mon. & Fri. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Full bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. American. JG $$bÂ?
San Fernando Valley
?LA99? Krua Thai. Like any respectable Thai joint in this part of Los Angeles, Krua Thai features a sign outside boasting of serving the Best Noodles in Town, but unlike the rest of them, Krua Thai has a pretty fair title to the claim. In a city where great Thai noodle shops are all that keeps some of us going some days, when the anguish of the Dodgers’ annual collapse can be eased, at least a little, by the knowledge of a great bowl of boat noodles, Krua Thai’s pad Thai and pad kee mao and rad na and pad see ew may be the very best of all. In its way, Krua Thai could be the Thai equivalent of a delicatessen like Canter’s: cheerful, fast, popular across ethnic lines, and open very, very late. 13130 Sherman Way, N. Hlywd., (818) 759-7998. Open daily 11 a.m.–3:30 a.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. All major credit cards accepted. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $12–$24. Also at 935 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 480-0116. Thai. JG $b[?
Tama Sushi. Studio City’s Tama Sushi is owned and run by veteran sushi master Michite Katsu and his wife, Tama. Katsu’s first restaurant, which opened on Hillhurst in the ’80s, was seminal for its beauty and art, both on and off the plate; subsequent establishments upheld his aesthetic standards. Now, there’s only Tama Sushi, with Katsu himself expertly carving up fish at the bar. Start with a plate of assorted sashimi, and you’ll find he cuts fish as a gem cutter works with rubies, accentuating inherent virtues. And don’t miss his live scallop sushi, dressed in lime juice with a sprinkle of Italian sea salt. 11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 760-4585. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly 5–9:30 p.m. Beer, wine, sake. Valet parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Sushi and sashimi, $1.50–$15. Japanese. MH $
Chip’s. Is the coffee-shop cooking at Chip’s as artfully updated as the menu at nearby Pann’s? Not quite. Do the eggs Benedict merit a long drive? Perhaps not. Is the full-on late-’50s exterior as museum-worthy as the Wich Stand, where a teenage Brian Wilson used to go for hamburgers? Not really, even if that old drive-in is a health-food joint now. But real, over-the-top Googie-style restaurants are getting to be as rare as condors here in their birthplace, and you could do worse than a Chip’s meal of patty melts and strawberry shakes. 11908 S. Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne, (310) 679-2947. Open daily 6 a.m.–8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. American. JG $b
Dinah’s Restaurant. The oven-baked German pancake at this Westchester-proximate coffee shop feeds three: It’s brown around the edges, crisp and spongy like a giant Yorkshire pudding, thickening into a dense, moist, springy crepe as you descend into the pancake’s interior. Less voracious appetites may wish to try the extra-cinnamony apple pancakes, or the thin, crisp Swedish pancakes. 6521 Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 645-0456. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 6 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. Breakfast for two, food only, $6–$14. AE, DC, MC, V. American. JG $b
South Los Angeles
Harold & Belle’s. Many of the best Cajun and creole restaurants in Los Angeles seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur. Orleans and Patout’s and Gagnier’s and Sid’s Café have been gone for years. The Gumbo Pot, in Farmers Market, is past its glory days. And we recently had a Cajun-ish meal, in Monrovia, so bad that we believe the state of Louisiana may be entitled to sue for damages. We highly recommend Harold & Belle’s, an old-line creole restaurant down by USC, where the smoked sausage is delicious, the fried seafood is formidable and the oyster po’ boys are fine. 2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., L.A., (323) 735-9023. Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Parking lot. AE, MC, V. JG $Âb
Kotohira. Kotohira is one of the few places in the United States that still makes udon by hand: thick, white and long, diminishing to squiggles at the ends, clean in flavor, with the bouncy resiliency of elastic ropes. 1747 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, (310) 323-3966. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and sake. Takeout. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $15–$19. MC, V. Japanese. JG ¢[
East Los Angeles
Alameda Swap Meet. The food stall closest to the main building here is a full-on Mexican restaurant without the walls, featuring grilled chicken, carne asada, various steam-table dishes and a really good, spicy goat-meat stew. The big awning at the other end shades a Salvadoran stall where a woman fries pupusas. Toward the south parking lot, marinated flank steak sizzles on steel-drum grills. At El Bucanero, hard by the main building’s entrance, chile and lime are dribbled on freshly fried potato chips, sprinkled on popcorn, daubed on sliced mangoes, and squirted on the delicious ceviche and marinated-shrimp tostadas. 4501 S. Alameda St., L.A., (323) 233-2764. Open Mon. and Wed.–Fri. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lunch for two, food only, $3–$10. Cash only. JG ¢?b
Ciro’s. Stylistically, flautas can range from the greasy taquitos your college dorm used to serve, to the giant, tasteless roll-ups served by certain upscale Mexican chains. Located just down the street from El Tepeyac, beloved by local families and cops, Ciro’s is known across all East L.A. for its flautas, tiny things that come six to an order, tightly rolled and very crisp, sauced with thick, chunky, fresh guacamole and a dollop of tart Mexican cream. 705 N. Evergreen St., E.L.A., (323) 267-8637. Open Tues.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri.–Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer only. Street parking. Cash only. D, MC, V. Mexican. JG ¢b
La Cabañita. The menu here is loaded with things such as entomatadas and mole, which turn out to be basically chicken enchiladas and a slightly spicy beef soup, respectively, but which sound ineffably chefly and exotic. The tacos, created with freshly made corn tortillas, are stuffed with sweetly spiced beef picadillo studded with almonds and raisins; with dryish fried pork; with chopped beef and melted cheese. They’re terrific. Somebody has obviously thought about this stuff. 3447 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, (818) 957-2711. Lunch and dinner Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Street parking. Dinner for two, food only, $20–$25. AE, D, MC, V. Mexican. JG $b?
Raffi’s Place. You go to Raffi’s for its enormous, affordable plates of Persian-Armenian food, but you also get canaries singing in the trees, a heated brick patio, quick service and a location close to Glendale’s best movie theaters. Everyone comes for the grilled kebabs served with whole charred tomatoes and peppers, plus mountains of aromatic basmati rice — try the shishlique, or lamb chops. 211 E. Broadway, Glendale, (818) 240-7411. Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m., Sun. noon–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Entrées $8–$14. Persian/Armenian. MH ¢b[
Pasadena and vicinity
Firefly Bistro. Monique King’s Firefly Bistro — which she runs with husband and co-chef Paul Rosenbluh — is a comfortable restaurant, the kind of neighborhood place you drop into a couple of times a month. King’s culinary specialty is probably the food of the African-American diaspora, and the best dishes on the menu run toward things like crawfish jambalaya and the pecan-crusted catfish fillets stacked up like poker chips. 1009 El Centro Ave., S. Pasadena, (626) 441-2443. Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 5–10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. AE, D, MC, V. $14–$27. Modern American. JG $$b[
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Indo Kitchen. This small, crowded restaurant on an Alhambra side street serves a sharp, spicy brand of Padang-style cooking — meltingly tender slabs of beef rendang bathed in a dense sauce of coconut milk and spices, boiled eggs fried in a fire-breathing coating of belado, whole catfish fried to the crispness of potato chips. When you’re in the mood for a proper nasi Padang, there is nothing like it in Los Angeles. 5 N. Fourth St., Alhambra, (626) 282-1676. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. D, MC, V. No alcohol. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $11–$20. JG¢b
Monterey Park/San Gabriel and vicinity
El Gallo Pinto. El Gallo Pinto may not seem like much, but some Nicaraguans drive 100 miles on weekends for the tripe stew mondongo, the beef-and-tuber casserole called baho or the Indio Viejo, a mild yet exotic stew of the sort you might use to fortify yourself on a cool mountain night. And everybody eats the gallo pinto, Nicaraguan rice and beans served in big mounds, with an intense, chocolate-like flavor from the sautéed beans. 5559 N. Azusa Ave., Azusa, (626) 815-9907. Open daily for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m.– 8:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Entertainment on weekends. Lot parking. AE, D, MC, V. South American. JG ¢
Golden Deli. Golden Deli’s spring rolls are crusty golden things, 4 inches long and perfectly, profoundly crisp. Golden Deli has a long and complicated menu of delicious noodle combinations, but it is difficult to contemplate a meal without an order of these spring rolls. 815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 308-0803. Mon.–Tues. & Thurs. 9:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri. 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées: $4.95–$6.95. Vietnamese/Thai. JG ¢b[