It’s the food. Los Angeles offers over 25,000 restaurants, and 26 ethnic groups cook up dinner. The choices are limitless. Even in a town where you have to get financing for dinner at one of those trendy restaurants, there are options for those who are broker than the ten commandments.
Or, you can go to the trendy places to see stars. But, here’s some advice. 1) Stars don’t want to be bothered so they will dine at out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall places. Somewhere that a celebrity wouldn’t be caught dead in. 2) If the star wants to be seen (oh, say, they have a movie coming out soon) they will go to some place like The Ivy (113 Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills).
The restaurant is named for the ivy growing on the (raised) front patio. The Ivy wants to show off who’s eating there and the celeb needs to be promoted. But, they don’t want to be seen, so they surround themselves with bodyguards. J-Lo once had her bodyguards open umbrellas to shield her, which drew more attention, and the papparazzi swarmed. I honestly don’t see how anyone could enjoy their apricot-glazed pork tenderloins like this, but that’s just me.
Now, for real food for real people:
The Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Blvd.
Across from the Westside Pavilion
Since before you were born, there have been a dozen or so seats lined up around the U-shaped counter of the Apple Pan. The open grill cooks up the juiciest burgers (get them with the unbelievably good hickory sauce) and the best fries in L.A. It’s the fries and the pies, man. They use grandma’s recipes for heavenly banana cream pies. There’s always a wait, but everyone maintains an "we’re all in this together" attitude. A small parking lot is available out back, but its usually packed. Cash only.
648 S. Broadway
Since 1935 Clifton’s has been serving up over 100 choices on their buffet — from salads, hot entrees, breads, desserts and more — for a fraction of the cost of other places. The food is average, but you’re coming for the price and the decor, a setting right out of a Woodland Wonderland. There’s a cabin and critters, and even a creek. Kids love this place. Closes early (7:30PM). Street parking.
911 Seward Street
Tucked away amid post-production facilities and warehouses is this little cottage turned cafe. Sit outside where you are surrounded by a garden. The staff is always friendly. But, what you are here for is the food. Wow. They serve "crack bacon" which is crisp and spicy (and helps them to win "Best Breakfast" awards again and again). They also offer their very own homemade ginger ale, and you can use the choice of flavorings on the table for any drink you order. And, no matter what you decide on, it will be good. Period. A free parking lot is available down the street and limited alcohol choices are available at dinner.
Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken
The staff gets hurried during lunch rush and the place is small without much decor, but I still dream of their biscuits. The fried chicken is hand-dipped, and some of the best that I’ve had. Juicy, juicy, juicy. This is some really good soul food! A small parking lot available nearby.
877 S. Figueroa St.
Who said this place was a cafe? It’s a large old-style diner, complete with counter space. And, no matter how large the place is, there’s always a wait. Let’s face it, this is a breakfast joint. And, what you order is meat and eggs. Large portions, small prices. Pay lot. Cash only. Open 24/7 — since 1924.
709 N. La Brea Ave.
This is the first place everyone hears about when they come to LA. It’s a legend, it’s famous, and it’s all about hot dogs. If you stop by and it’s not crowded, it’s worth it. If theres a two-hour wait (seriously), then keep on going. There are quite the variety of dogs, and you can mix and match whatever toppings you want. And check out all of the signed celeb photos on the wall of this expanded shack. Open until 2AM. Small parking lot.
315 N. Brand Blvd.
This is great Cuban-style food, and super bakery. I just couldn’t believe this place when we found it. The decor is nothing special, and the staff is only so-so, but the food will bring you back. They serve the juiciest sandwiches, full of flavor, and pastries flaky and drenched in sin. This little gem has been discovered so you will be waiting. Street parking. Outside seating available. Closes early (7PM)
Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles
Multiple locations but we prefer the original at Gower St.
A tiny, tucked away place. Look for the line out the door. It has old photos of African American celebs on the wall, and a tired wait staff. The menu isn’t large, strictly chicken and/or waffles. It’s the food that draws the crowd. (And, don’t over order because the servings are large.) The biscuits are buttery and the chicken nicely fried, but the gravy... now, this is gravy. Flavorful, thick, spiced properly. Perfect gravy. Street parking. Good luck.
11222 Washington Place
There’s seating, but we always ordered to go because we could never find any available chairs at this taco shack. This is a great place for value. For less than $2 you can get a taco (no cheese) which is juicy and spiced to perfection. Run by the third generation of the family, this is a real find. Cash only. Parking lot.
Another great Cuban restaurant. The food is moist and tasty — get the chicken. It has garlic and citrus flavorings, and is served with beans and rice. Don’t forget the fried plantains! You will have leftovers.