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15 Neighborhood Gems in and Around L.A.

Posted: 07/31/2012 12:09 pm

This large expanse we call Los Angeles is really a collection of cities and villages and neighborhoods within the villages. And there are restaurants tucked away in corners everywhere, wonderfully inviting spaces where locals go for solid everyday meals. These aren't the celeb-chef driven spots always in the spotlight, but rather neighborhood gems where you might go once or even twice a week -- the unsung heroes of the dining scene. While it's impossible to hit every little enclave around L.A. in one roundup, we've asked a few food folk where they like to eat in their area, and highlighted some of our own favorites. Check out the slideshow below, and let us know what your favorite undiscovered gems are in the comments.

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  • Studio City/Toluca Lake: Sushi Yuzu

    This is a great alternative to some of the more popular (and expensive) sushi bars in Studio City.  Sit at the counter and talk to the chefs; they'll tell you exactly what to order. If you want saucy rolls, they have them (regulars are crazy about the Lemon Roll). But you'll also find pristine, fresh sushi like silky live scallop, red snapper with yuzo kosho and Himalayan pink salt, and uni. There's a nice sake list, too. <em>10118 Riverside Dr.; 818-763-8355</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Where to Get Your Tequila On in LA</a>]</strong>

  • Echo Park: The Park

    "Every real foodie needs to be a local someplace," says one reader. "They need a place where the wait staff remembers their name and the chef knows they like their fries crispy and their steaks medium rare." For them, it's The Park, which has a perfect mix of interesting inventive dishes on their seasonally changing menu and the kind of comfort foods you want on a cold and rainy night. "Stop by on Tuesday night for the special three-course prix fixe for fifteen bucks but, please, don't show up on Fried Chicken night (I don't need the competition for a table)." <em>1400 W. Sunset Blvd.; 213-482-9209</em> <strong>[Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Exclusive or Not? Testing 7 Hot Spots Around LA</a>]</strong>

  • Downtown: Colori Kitchen

    The Downtown dining scene is still exploding, with so many hot spots opening every day. The area itself is like Los Angeles - a collection of neighborhoods, each chock-full of places to eat and drink. It seems there's something new around it every day, but one of the best secrets in the Historic District is Colori Kitchen. Rustic, simple Italian food, family-owned and operated, and it's always a bargain (there's no corkage when you bring your own wine, too). Try any of the pastas - even the unique salmon with zucchini and curry is delicious. <em>429 W. 8th St.; 213-622-5950</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">9 Sexy Bathrooms From Restaurants Around the U.S.</a>]</strong>

  • Pasadena: Daisy Mint

    You'll find some Vietnamese, Thai and Korean dishes on the menu at this teensy spot near Pasadena Community College, a good distance away from the chain-ridden Old Town, but we think the Thai specialties are best. Some standouts: the crispy catfish salad, honey pork, panang curry with pumpkin, and the salad rolls. The cute decor is better than any hole in the wall, and it's almost always packed. But the staff never wanes - they hustle and keep a smile on their face while doing it. <em>1218 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-792-2999</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">LA's 8 Best Italian Restaurants</a>]</strong>

  • Eagle Rock: Colombo's

    As a die-hard Eastsider,<a href=""><em> Los Angeles</em></a> magazine's dining editor Lesley Suter loves the almost 60-year-old Columbo's because it's utterly uncool. "Sure, the wood paneling is cheesy and the wine's a little warm, but the fried zucchini is freshly cut and cornmeal battered," she says. "The steak could have a bit more flavor (and come from a better cow), but you'll never leave hungry with the prime rib. It's the kind of place where the bartender knows everyone's name, and how you like your martine (gin, up, three olives, please). Suter also loves the live music most nights: "I prefer the violin/piano duet on Fridays--they frequently cover Britney Spears." <em>1833 Colorado Blvd.; 323-254-9138</em><strong style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 20px; "> [Also see: <a href="">Sweet Spots: LA's 5 Best Bakeries</a>]

  • West Third Street: Robata Jinya

    <a href="">Thrillist LA</a> editor Jeff Miller lives walking distance to so many great restaurants along the West Third Street corridor, but he hits this ramen spot more than any other. "It's not only one of the best bowls of ramen in town," he says. "It's one of the best deals in town, too." He likes to order a half-bowl of ramen and add other things like the chicken meatballs ("I'm convinced are embedded with seaweed for extra moisture and flavor."), yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, or the notorious made-at-the-table tofu, all for about $20. "When I say goodbye, I say 'see ya tomorrow', and I sometimes mean it," he adds. <em>8050 W. 3rd St.; 323-653-8877</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Sam Choy's Pineapple Express: Food Truck of the Week</a>]

  • Miracle Mile: Tinga

    There's a lot happening on this stretch of La Brea, with the shopping, fashion lunchers and brunchers at Cafe Midi, and the new <a href="">Sycamore Kitchen</a>. But Tinga will forever remain in our heart for the spicy cochinita pibil, dirty horchata (with a shot of espresso), and elote. It's slightly more expensive than your typical Mexican joint, but it's a hidden spot we wish was in our own neighborhood. <em>142 S. La Brea Ave.; 323-954-9566</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Exclusive or Not? Testing Tough Rezzies at Hot Eateries in 7 Cities</a>]</strong>

  • West Hollywood: Amarone Kitchen & Wine

    Among the nightclubs, tattoo parlors and other shops on Sunset Boulevard, this intimate Italian spot is one of the most under-the-radar gems that we know. Squeeze into one of the dozen or so tables, and let the staff treat you to European family-style hospitality. Just about everything is great here, including homemade breads and burrata, great steaks, and pastas. If you want scene, this isn't the place. Charm? Absolutely. <em>8868 W. Sunset Blvd.; 310-652-2233</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">London Spotlight: Where to Eat for the Olympics</a>]

  • West LA: Shunji

    One of the city's few kaseiki restaurants, where the menu changes daily and showcases the best of the season and the chef's artistry, is located in the former Mr. Cecil's space. Any night, chef Shunji Nakao (Asanebo) will roll out dishes like fresh baby yellow squash with silky sweet corn soup; seared kanpachi with squid ink and a quail egg yolk; stuffed squash blossoms, and shrimp stuffed with mashed sweet potato. It's a dining experience not to be missed. <em>12244 W. Pico Blvd.; 310-826-4737</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Want More Zagat Blog? Sign Up For Our Newsletter!</a>]

  • Beverly Hills: Momed

    You'll find more tourists on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard in the Golden Triangle of Beverly Hills, but South Beverly Drive is for the locals. The whole street is teeming with mostly casual restaurants, but one of our favorites is Momed, which is so consistently good, we'll even drive across town for it. The duck schwarma, beleela, carrot salad, flatbreads, Turkish coffee, pastries - it's all fantastic. Great spot for picnic provsions, too. <em>233 S. Beverly Dr.; 310-270-4444</em><b> [Also see: <a href="">Say Bonjour to Our Paris Blog!</a>]</b>

  • Pico-Robertson: Mexikosher

    Elina Shatkin, former restaurant critic for <em>LA Weekly</em> and now senior editor at <a href=""><em>Los Angeles</em></a> magazine, raves about this casual Mexican eatery centered in the Kosher Corridor. The menu is what you'd expect for a Mexican restaurant - burritos, carne asada and birria, salsa and guacamole - but here it's prepared under Kehilla kosher supervision. "Everything is solid here, but the best dish is perhaps the carnitas," she says. "It's not slow-cooked pork shoulder, but rather a tasty succulent mix of beef and duck, with just the right amount of fat." Get it piled in a heap with pickled onions, cilantro and pico de gallo. <em>8832 W. Pico Blvd.; 310-271-0900</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Go for the Gold With Olympic Specials</a>]</strong>

  • Westwood: Fundamental LA

    Most people know this minimalist spot as a place for extraordinary sandwiches like porchetta with sauerkraut, short ribs with curried eggplant and lime yogurt, or trotters with arugula. But there's also a dinner menu with things like carrot risotto, summer corn soup, and duck confit hash. It's casual, comfortable with communal tables and a stylishly stark aesthetic. The wine and beer list is on the money. There's no sign, so you've probably driven by it a hundred times. Now it's time to stop. <em>1303 Westwood Blvd.; 310-444-7581</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">The Toughest Tables in the World? 12 Near-Impossible Rezzies</a>]</strong>

  • Venice/Marina del Rey: Casa Ado

    Set in an old cottage, this is the casual more affordable version of Main Street's Ado, from the same owners. It's near the pier, so expect a decent amount of tourists, but it's good enough that locals will brave it, too. The cozy and lively atmosphere is perfect for a night of Italian specialties, including handmade pastas like the beet tagliollini or traditional tagliatelle with Bolognese, seasonal specials (changes with market availability; listen to your servers), and roasted pork shoulder or rack of lamb. There's a nice select wine list, and a few great cocktails, too. <em>12 Washington Blvd.; 310-577-2589</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Trend Alert: When Popcorn Isn't Popcorn</a>]</strong>

  • South Bay: Addi's Tandoor

    From the frat-boy hot spots in Hermosa (<a href="">Sharkeez</a>), to the burgeoning scene in Manhattan Beach (<a href="">MB Post</a>, <a href="">The Strand House</a>) to the many ramen and yakitori spots in Torrance, there is no shortage of great places to eat in the South Bay. But one place consistently comes up as a hidden gem: Addi's in Redondo Beach. The crowd is mostly regulars enjoying their plates of vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, and naan. It's better-than-average  Goan Indian food, and a nice change of pace from the chains or pier across the way. It's in a strip mall, but we all know some of the best restaurants in town are. <em>800 Torrance Blvd.; 310-540-1616</em><strong> [Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Gordon Ramsay Opening British Pub in Vegas' Caesar's Palace</a>]</strong>

  • Santa Monica: Warszawa

    An Eastern European mainstay (since 1979) away from the hustle and bustle of the the Promenade and Main Street, you'll find things like peirogis, grilled sausages with strong horseradish sauce, bacon-wrapped plums, schnitzel, hunter's stew, and beef Stroganoff. This old house turned into a restaurant has a fantastic patio out back (it can be quite the scene out there). It's all just comfortable and charming. Happy hour is a hit with the locals - bison-grass vodka, anyone? - but the wine list is always affordably priced.  <em>1414 Lincoln Blvd.; 310-393-8831</em> <strong>[Also see: <a href="" target="_blank">Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Animal's Quail Fry</a>]</strong>