Some people travel for sights, culture, or maybe shopping. I travel to eat. I live to eat. I'm constantly struggling with my weight and self-esteem because of my love for food, and our trip out West did not help with either of those things. Most people tend to get homesick for food and people more than any one place when they move away from their hometown. If you want to get a feel for a city, for a place, go to where the people eat.
LA is a city that's famous for their food scene. Modern food truck culture started in Los Angeles (although we can all agree that immigrants and working class people were serving food out of trucks long before kimchi french fries were even an idea) and with the vast mixture of immigrants and coastal access to all types of food, LA restaurants are pioneers in fusion food. We weren't in Los Angeles for long enough to do justice to a city with such good food. but I thought we'd share the places we did eat because they were fantastic and worthy of any traveler's attention.
Where to Eat
We rolled into our Airbnb in the early evening and felt too exhausted to go out and actually sit down at a proper restaurant. I did a few searches for restaurants around the Redondo Beach area and we settled on The Standing Room. We have checklists of things we need to eat whilst on vacation, and the "Good Burger" was still left unchecked.
We were a bit confused about the place when trying to find it. Was it an actual standing restaurant? Take out only? We missed it the first time we drove by because it's attached to an unassuming liquor shop on a one way street. The restaurant is accessed by walking into the liquor store and ordering from a counter opposite the liquor store counter. There are picnic tables outside to wait for your food and they'll pass it to you from an outside drive-up style window. People were eating outside on the picnic benches, but it was a bit too chilly for us.
The menu was overwhelming. This is the kind of food I miss in Japan. The random mixture of different sauces and toppings and cultures all combined to make something amazing. Josh got 'The Bull' which came with an extra 1/4 lb-ish of Korean BBQ beef on top of the 1/2 lb burger patty. It was a bit pricey at $14, but lord was it good. I really wanted it, but didn't think I could stomach that much meat. I ate some of Josh's and the beef, with the Kimchi dip and cheddar cheese, made for very rich, juicy burger. I got 'The Cash' because it had a Korean Aioli that was calling my name. The hoisin bbq sauce that topped it was interesting and almost tasted like it had peanut butter in it. The fried onion on top is what made the burger. The guy working the restaurant that night said he wouldn't let us leave without a side of truffle parmesan fries and his recommendation was spot on. It's only $6 for like, 2 pounds of french fries covered in parmesan cheese and truffle bits. Hot, these things are like crack, but they get pretty soggy as they cool down and they were not enjoyable the next morning. Definitely just get an order to share for a group. While this place is definitely a meat friendly restaurant, there were a few vegetarian options that looked good like their marinated tofu sandwich 'The Fu-Fu'.
We got a much later start on food the next day than we planned, so we only ended up eating brunch at Aroma, an adorable cafe in the North Hollywood area. The entire area is so sweet and has a small town main street feel to it. We stood in line to order, paid for everything, and took a number to our table to wait for the food. It was a fancier version of a self-service cafe. Guys, the menu made want to weep with joy and sadness simultaneously. Three different kinds of eggs benedict, french toast the size of my face, breakfast sandwiches, vegan options, gluten free, and hispanic breakfasts like huevos rancheros and chilaquiles. The counter had muffins and cookies that were hand sized and huge cups of coffee. It was all so beautiful (sob).
Josh went for the carnitas benedict (actually two people in our group got that) and I think he might have out ordered me. Tender shredded carnitas pork over ciabatta bread with a poached egg and a delicious hollandaise sauce with a side of fruit.
I ordered the chilaquiles because I was curious how my at home version compared to a restaurant version. While mine are good, they don't match the perfect crunchy texture these had. I also can't serve mine with a huge side of black beans, sour cream, and avocado because Japan hates nice things (weeps quietly).
Our last stop for food in LA was the Bank of Venice Public House. This was a last minute suggestion by the one guy in our group that actually lived in LA and based on first impressions, I thought this place was going to be very mediocre. Thankfully I was very wrong. They were actually out of almost everything, which made ordering a little difficult, but this place was so good (and we were so tired) that we actually forgot to take photos. I got their Mac & Cheese bowl with bacon, along with one of the draft beers they had that day, and it was match made in heaven. I'm not particularly concerned with gluten, but I couldn't even tell that it was gluten free pasta. Josh got their Bank Burger and while it was not as decadent as the Standing Room burger, the meat was juicy and flavorful and the bacon bourbon compote should have been sold in a jar to take home.
While LA has so many places to chose from, I was sad we didn't get a chance to eat hot dogs at Pink's. We asked an LA native we know in Kobe where he'd go for one meal in Los Angeles and he suggested Pink's. We both love a good hot dog so we'll be putting it on our list for next time.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of places to stay in LA and really, the best place to stay depends on your needs and places of interest. That hotel across town might look awesome, but it might add on two hours of navigating traffic if all your sightseeing is in the opposite direction. I was mostly concerned about safety because I am a complete wuss after living 5 years in one of the safest countries in the world. We also wanted dirt cheap since this was already an expensive trip. I did a lot of research for just one night, but making sure we always get the best hotel for the best price might be one of my OCD tendencies. From what I can see, LA does not offer much in the way of hotels in safe areas at affordable prices. I thought about splurging on the Line Hotel in Koreatown because it's so insta famous, but we weren't going to be able to enjoy it enough to justify the cost. Airbnb had much better options for us. We ended up staying at this Redondo Beach home which was perfect for what our first night in LA turned out to be, complete relaxation and an early bedtime. The home was gorgeous and the room was so cozy and comfortable. The copper bathtub really made the entire stay and we definitely used it to take a nice long soak after two days of constant driving. While this place isn't the best if all your plans are located in central or north LA, if you're wanting to stay near the beach area, this place is perfect. As we drove away the next morning, we were greeted by a beautiful view of the ocean. This inspired a quick jaunt to find the water as Josh had never seen the Pacific before. We accidentally ended up on Paseo Del Mar near Palo Verde Estates and this was the most beautiful street/neighbourhood in the US ever. There was quite a line of cars parked alongside the road for some early morning surfing and photo taking. We parked behind them to take in the ocean, the cliffs, the city views, the everything. If we hadn't stayed at Redondo Beach, we would have never stumbled across such an incredible area. If you're interested in booking an Airbnb for the first time, please use this link to get yourself $20 off your first stay (We get 2,100 yen in travel credit too if you do!)
What's your favorite part about traveling? If you've got favorite places to eat in LA, share them in the comments below!