Best of Los Angeles – Dining in the City of Lights

Posted on June 4, 2009 by

While I’m flying across the Pacific to the big sassy city of LA, my new friend cum travel blogger Melanie Waldman is filling in as my guest blogger. Her blog Travels With Two is a couple’s informal guide to charming cities around the world, with a romantic touch! Get ready for a series showcasing the Best of Los Angeles, as she brings us on a tour around her hometown!

City of Lights         Photo by Destination360

When I heard Nellie and Alberto were headed to my hometown, Los Angeles, I was not only excited — I also heeded the call to guide them towards Travels With Two’s favorite experiences in this vast and eclectic city!

Dining is almost a sport in L.A.  You might not win any medals for it, but you’re sure to feel all warm inside.

Here are some of our favorite spots to chow down on in the City of Lights:


    Aroma Cafe - Photo by Melanie WaldmanAroma Cafe    4360 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City

Make friends in line, browse the in-house bookstore, and have a seat in the rambling courtyard at this cozy place, the best breakfast in the Valley.  The Salmon Stack, design-your-own omelettes, fruit salad and breakfast quesadilla are divine, as are the selection of teas.  The baked goods case is legendary.

     Cafe Montana   1534 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica

Apparently, everything here is good — we’ve never gotten past the beautiful omelettes and delicious coffee. The glass-encased room offers a fishbowl view of Santa Monica’s fanciest shopping street.

     Millie’s Cafe   3524 Sunset Boulevard, Silverlake

An institution since 1926, this friendly gem invites you to perch grill-side and watch your meal being prepared with care.  Carnivores, vegetarians and rosemary potatoes are served.

     The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel   9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Perfect for a special occasion.  Besides the fact that everything here is almost absurdly delicious, the elegant, flower-filled courtyard invites you to listen to live music and simply smile at each other.

     Taste on Melrose   8454 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood

The ideal weekend seats are on the airy porch, with friendly service and a view of the area’s most prestigious shopping district, Melrose Heights (Melrose Avenue between Fairfax & Robertson).  Try the bellini of the day, the Taste Protein Scramble, or the Breakfast Panini.


    Cheebo   7533 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood

Just a mention of the fabulous Cheebo Chop salad can turn Adam’s worst day around.  We love to sit out front, drink endless iced teas, and pretend not to notice the celebrities at the next tables.

    Julienne Gourmet Market Julienne   2649 Mission Street, San Marino

If you’ve just been to the exquisite Huntington Gardens, take a seat on the patio and bask in a mini-vacation.  A shaded street, tables that feel private, and you can pair two salads for $15 — the price of a single salad in LA proper. We love the chicken salads with tarragon, or dried apricots and almonds.

    Lemonade   9001 Beverly Boulevard, West Hollywood

You’ll find an excellent collection of prepared salads (served cafeteria style) and the best lemonade we’ve ever tried.  We get a ginger and a cucumber mint…and share.

    Newsroom Cafe   120 N. Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood

Celebrity-sighting central, attracting paparazzi spillover from the far more expensive Ivy across the street.  Try the sublime grilled artichoke, tandoori chicken salad, and honeydew concoction known as Moon Juice.


    Absolutely Phobulous   350 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood

An extremely popular hole in the wall.  We’ve been known to come twice a week for Vietnamese pho ga (chicken soup with rice noodles), rice paper-wrapped spring rolls, Chicken Xiu Xiu, or the cabbage-mint Buddha’s Chicken Salad.  Love their soda chanh, a sparkling lemonade.

    A.O.C.   8022 W. 3rd Street, Mid-City Los Angeles  

Our hands-down favorite for our birthdays.   Small plates of delicate, gorgeous creations, cheese from the gods, and a wine tasting menu that could bring you both to tears of joy.  Cheap?  No?  Worth it?  Yes.

    BLD   7450 Beverly Boulevard, Mid-City Los Angeles

A stylish dining room, lovely wines, and darn tasty food.  Construct your own meal from proteins, sauces and sides, or make a whole dinner of appetizers like risotto croquettes and crab-stuffed squash blossoms.


Los Angeles 2008 by -slc-.Cobras & Matadors   4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz (our preferred location)

We keep coming back to this Spanish tapas mecca for the addictive chickpea socca cakes with honey, lil’ skillet of paella, asparagus with manchego and almonds, and big selection of Spanish wines.

    Il Cielo   9018 Burton Way, Beverly Hills

One of the most romantic spots in LA.  A sublime Italian restaurant with a walled-in, vine-covered, twinkly-light-strewn courtyard where violinists stroll by your table, leonine fountains trickle and champagne flows.

    Kiwami   11920 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City

Our own neighborhood has so many sushi spots, it’s known as Sushi Row; the Row’s best food is here.  Miso tuna served like a sushi roll in slices of Japanese eggplant; an extensive array of tempuras; gorgeous spicy tuna on crispy rice cakes; and daily sashimi choices prepared with yuzu, green onion, or salt and lemon.

    Primitivo   1025 Abbott Kinney Boulevard, Venice

An extensive wine list, friendly service, and incredible small plates of food from across the Mediterranean.  Sit inside in the airy but dim dining room, or out back on the patio beside a funky plant store.  Their bacon-wrapped dates, golden beet salad and Spanish tortilla are big enough to share…and should be.Real Food Daily

     Real Food Daily   414 N. La Cienega Boulevard, West Hollywood (our preferred location)

LA’s most popular organic vegan restaurant, and one of the city’s best places to spot celebrities.  This is where people who are paid to look good come to stay that way.  We also happen to love their art-filled dining room, creative weekly specials, roseberry tea, and Yin-Yang Salad with marinated tofu.

    Shin BBQ  1600 N. Wilcox Avenue, Hollywood

LA’s Korean food mecca is Koreatown, but this place is stylish, hip, friendly…and offers a staggering $25 all-you-can-eat special.  Their bulgogi beef, pan-fried cellophane noodles, and spicy chicken are all revelations.  Bring change or spring for valet; parking meters around here run ’til 10pm.

    Tagine   132 N. Robertson Boulevard, Beverly Hills

Our favorite Moroccan restaurant for the dark, sexy lighting, perfect little bastillas (phyllo-wrapped hen dusted with sugar, cinnamon and almonds), mood music, and complete lack of belly dancers.  Try a tasting menu to really see what the kitchen can do.


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Melanie Waldman lives in Los Angeles and writes the couples’ travel blog, Travels With Two. Her blog has been nominated in the Lonely Planet Travel Blog Awards.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

16 Responses to “Best of Los Angeles – Dining in the City of Lights”

  1. Amy @ The Q Family June 4, 2009 12:39 am

    It's probably almost impossible to eat all these yummy restaurants in one trip, right? I remembered when I went there many moons ago. Food was the only thing on my mind. It's probably the only city that you can really get REAL THAI food. I am still thinking about those food these days.

  2. anne chung June 5, 2009 1:09 am

    I live in Mar Vista, a few minutes from Venice beach. I might pop into Cafe Montana since it is close to where I live. Thanks for the recommendation. I don't even know all these places exist in Los Angeles but then I'm at home trying to save my pennies so I can afford those godawful airfares to another destination.

    • Nellie June 6, 2009 7:22 pm

      hey Anne, yeh Melanie knows of so many great eating hideouts in LA right at her fingertips! She brought me to 'My Father's Office' which turned out to be absolutely amazing, great food & casual atmosphere.

  3. Melanie June 5, 2009 1:17 am

    Oh, the Thai food in LA is amazing! Thai Town is a neighborhood on Hollywood Blvd. between Western & Normandie Avenues, and has some great restaurants and a very cool market with a gajillion different kinds of peppers.

    Ruen Pair (5257 Hollywood Blvd.) is my favorite restaurant here, for flat rice noodles with duck — but hit the ATM first, as they only take cash.

  4. Sheila June 5, 2009 1:29 am

    Melanie rocks! What an excellent list that I will certainly reference on my next trip to LA.

  5. Melanie June 6, 2009 1:18 am

    Sheila, thank you! And Anne, good luck saving…leaving LA once in a while is almost as good as coming home again.

  6. Nellie June 6, 2009 7:24 pm

    Melanie thanks so much for the great night out, I had a good time getting to know you, and of course the fooood! Sheila, I got to know you through Melanie, her list is fantastic isnt it? Thanks for stopping by you'all!

  7. Melanie June 8, 2009 2:07 am

    Nellie, right back at you! I hope we'll be visiting you in Singapore next time…and eating our way through town.

  8. Cherie Ve Ard June 8, 2009 9:21 pm

    Melanie is awesome.. and she sure knows all the fabulous spots in LA! We absolutely loved our time parked in front of her house when we were passing through and getting to see the area through her eyes.

    We look forward to getting back and sampling more :)

  9. Melanie June 9, 2009 7:51 pm

    Cherie, right back atchya! As you can see, there's a lot you missed around here.

    Since you left, The Counter, a build-your-own-gourmet-burger place (with lots of vegetarian offerings), just opened up down the street from me in Studio City. There's one in Santa Monica, too, but why drive across town when you guys could just park the RV here…and we could walk?

  10. @HW_Travel February 4, 2013 5:42 pm

    This post could not have come at a better time. I'm in LA at the moment. I hope to visit some good eateries. I'll definitely be checking out Cafe Montana as I'm staying in Santa Monica. Thanks!


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