September 16, 2011 9:31:35 PM PDT
Hello fellow travelers! I’m very excited to make your acquaintance and to be a part of this site. I’m sure I will get to know at least some of you better soon enough, but I feel like I should introduce myself now. I’m Elektra, and I have been living and dining in Los Angeles for almost four years. I love to cook and love to eat, which I happen to do on a limited budget (although that won’t be the focus of this forum). I want to take this time to give a few suggestions for you to hit up the next time you find yourself in the City of Angels. L.A. can be a confusing city to eat in- it seems like there are an endless amount of restaurants, food varieties and atmospheres. These are just some of my favorite spots in the Hollywood area.
For this first forum, I chose to compare two eateries from each category; assuming that at least one other person will suggest that you visit the more famous location. Decide for yourself, but my recommendations are below.
Diner: Kitchen 24
Chances are, you have heard of Mel’s Diner, or like myself, have confused it with Mel’s Drive in, which was featured in the film American Graffiti. I’ve eaten there a handful of times and the food was fine- pretty much your standard diner fare. Their menu consists of pancakes and eggs, burgers, salads, and entrees like potpie and meatloaf. The décor is obviously aimed toward tourists, and the wait staff is appropriately grumpy. All and all not a bad spot for a mediocre lunch, but in my opinion it’s certainly nothing to write home about. If you want to take it up a notch and have a much more interesting meal in an LA diner setting, head a few blocks down to Kitchen 24.
From the outside it looks a bit like a futuristic ice cream shop, inside Kitchen 24 is clean and shiny with an open feel and friendly (and attractive!) staff. There is a bar area toward the back, and they sell cupcakes at the host station that have their own daily specials. As you might have guessed, the “24” in the name refers to the fact that they are open 24 hours a day and the bar is open from 6am-2am. Some personal favorite menu items of mine are the Grilled Veggie and Mozzerella sandwich (the walnut pesto is amazing), the veggie burger and the Spinach Artichoke dip, which is served with blue corn chips. I also have it on good authority that they have one of the best, if not the best burger in LA. The cocktail menu is also impressive, but you’ll just have to trust me on that, since it’s not available on their website. If you decide to take my word for it, my word is get the “Up Cahuenga Creek” (Knob Creek, lime juice and honey-infused simple syrup) if you enjoy whiskey. If you’re not a drinker, they have a nice selection of coffee drinks, smoothies and shakes, in addition to the standard diner beverages.
Overall, I think Kitchen 24 is an excellent option for a Hollywood breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food is excellent, there are good vegetarian options (although vegans might have a harder time), and while I certainly wouldn’t call Kitchen 24 a cheap place to eat, you won’t blow your whole dining budget there either.
Coffee: Cafecito Organico
The Intelligentsia coffee chain has quite the reputation in the LA area (and apparently in Chicago too). There are locations in Silverlake, Venice and Pasadena. I’ve heard rumors of other restaurants that serve their coffee bringing in coffee specialists from Intelligentsia for a weeklong training with the restaurant staff. They clearly take their coffee very seriously. I’ve tried their coffee a few times, and while it was certainly a step above most coffee shops, it was not the best I’ve had.
A little more than a mile from the Silverlake Intelligentsia location is Cafecito Organico, my personal favorite coffee shop. They have two locations: one on Hoover street and the other is on Heliotrope in the LACC area. From what I understand, the Heliotrope location has a bit more in the way of food and seating, so if you’re looking to fill your belly as well as get your caffeine fix, that location might be your best bet. The coffee is excellent quality, perfect as-is or with a little milk or sweetener, but you won’t find a lot of flavored syrups or fussiness here. The atmosphere is hip but friendly, and their merchandise is really cool too. They also have a stand at the Silverlake, Hollywood and Atwater Village Farmers Markets, so if you find yourself there, do yourself a favor and pick up a cup of joe to sip while you wander, or a bag of beans to take home with you.
Hot Dogs: Scooby’s
When I lived in Hollywood and used to drive down La Brea almost every day, I was always blown away by the line at Pink’s Hot Dogs. Any time of day or evening that I would pass by, the line would always be wrapped around the building. I think it’s somewhat of an L.A. attraction by itself. In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I have never eaten there. It very well could be that they have the best hot dogs on earth, but I have never been willing to brave that beast of a line to find out.
What I do know is that there is quite a good dog to be had at Skooby’s on Hollywood blvd. In my case it was a veggie dog, but I’m told that the beef is great too. They also serve garlic fries that are really garlicky, and a pretty good glass of lemonade, although you might not want all of that in your hands since seating is limited. I would suggest Skooby’s as a great snack option while you’re spending time on the Boulevard, especially for an organized or self-guided tour.
(A word to the wise: if you google “scoobys” instead of “skoobys” and click on the first hot-dog related link you see, you will either be very pleasantly surprised or very embarrassed, depending on where you are.)
I hope some of you will hit up these spots while in L.A., and let me know what you think. Happy eating everyone, wherever you happen to be. See you next time!