If you're into high-falutin' dining for cheap-ass prices, live it up at the Nine Thirty restaurant, inside the W Hotel in Westwood, where, for $8, you can indulge in caramelized Brussels sprouts — offered as an appetizer — which more than suffices as a meal in itself. What makes them a gas is executive chef Monique King's spin, derived from her stint as a line cook at Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's legendary, much-missed City restaurant. Her directions sound easy, except that you can't replicate the dish at home. “I start them raw, which keeps them from tasting cabbage-y,” says King. “I sauté them in browned butter, then add toasted pecans, lemon juice, salt and pepper. After Brussels sprouts haters eat a couple bites, they remark, 'It's like candy,' ” says King. It is. Keep costs minimal by avoiding the W's $15 valet fee, and park on the street. If you're Pasadena-close, you can enjoy the same dish sans pecans for $5 at King's own restaurant, Firefly Bistro, as prepared by her chef-husband, Paul Rosenbluh.

—Heidi Dvorak

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