Sunday, August 21, 2005


L.A. on $40 a Day - Dine and Dish

Limiting yourself to spending $40.00 a day to eat in LA is pretty simple. (If you were trying to do a Rachael Ray kinda thing.) I mean, there must be a thousand places you could grab a bagel (not that there are really any decent ones to be found) burrito, falafel platter or sandwich. You could get a $5.00 lunch in Westwood Village (lasagna, salad and a soda) or the soup combo at Tokyo Fast Food (which, I love. The udon soup there is unreal.) in West LA and still have cash to blow through for dinner. We really do have it all. $6.00 all you can eat vegan Ethiopian buffet? Check. $5.00 Ba-Bim-Bop at the mall? Sure thing. How about a donation-only 10 course Thai banquet at the largest Wat in the western world? You bet. BBQ shacks, drive through Oaxacan and take out Basque, it's all right here. Or hey, if you have the patience, you could even wait in line at (world famous) Pink's hot dog stand for breakfast lunch and dinner and not even come close to blowing that 4 bill budget! That could take up a whole day in itself (the lines are that long. For hot dogs.)

I have mentioned many times that restaurant reviews aren’t really my gig. I am not super keen on taking snaps in restaurants, and "It’s nice" and "the food is good" is usually about as descriptive as I get…but…in keeping with the theme presented by Ms. Posh Sam for her turn at LA Restaurant Reviewer Extraordinaire Sarah's, Dine and Dish, I will forge ahead because despite my descriptive limitations, it's still fun.

What makes one an Angeleno isn’t what they eat, it’s what we DON’T eat, and where we are when we aren’t eating. (Let’s face it, this is also a town of skinny women and superlative salads) So in that light here is what I would spend $40 on in one days dining to get a full Los Angeles style experience.

Breakfast. 10:30 a.m. – After a hard night of schmoozing, caffeine is the call. And the siren song for me rings sweet and clear from Urth Caffé. Grungy celebs, Beverly High kids, middle-Eastern prince/sses and the hoi-paloi (meaning, actors and people working on scripts) all get a good fix at this adorable location in a converted cottage on a commercial strip. If you want to sit outside and not deal with the lines at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and get something organic, fair-trade and veggie this is your stop. They offer a full menu of exotic and not so exotic coffees, teas, smoothies, chocolate, pastries, soups and salads. You can also buy beans and leaves to go. The deep dish cherry pie is particularly scrumptious, but who can spare the calories? My trainer would kill me! A café Americano in a large ceramic cup costs $3.95. Parking, as in all of the B’Hills, is a drag, but there are free, 2-hour city lots all over.

Lunch. 1:30 p.m. – So your head is a little cleared up, and lo and behold it's lunchtime. There are choices galore up and down Beverly Drive and Canon (pronounced canyon, for those of you who are new on the scene) chains range from Chipotle (warning, this joint is owned by McD’s – verboten in my world), Islands (tropical themed burger joint), Cheesecake Factory (my what large PORTIONS you have) and Johnny Rockets (retro themed burger joint) let alone all of the higher end places. There is also the really tasty Basic Bites on No. Beverly. Salads to make your head swim. Happily, all of these spots deliver if you can’t get out of that conference call.

Me, I don’t have conference calls, but I do have a deep love for Porta Via. It’s Italian food, with a quiet glamour. They are the nicest people, the owner and his girlfriend (wife?) are almost always on hand, and the service is sublime. For lunch, try the half panini and a half salad. It’s a decent sized sandwich, hot, tasty and gooey (that is, if you get the turkey and cheese as I normally do), on beautiful grilled rustic bread, and the salad is always fresh mixed greens. They automatically bring the dressing on the side too. (Knowing your audience is so cool) You can sit outside on the sidewalk (great people watching, but the service tends to slow down), at the long bar or at one of the cozy tables. (And by cozy, I mean it’s a small, tight space. The restaurant is quite deep but not so wide) The sandwich/soup or salad combo is a dazzlingly inexpensive $7.95. If you are really on a $40 budget, I guess you could have water to keep the tab down, but they do have a nice list of wines, and a full bar to tempt you.

Dinner. 7:30 p.m. - Ah, here we are. Dinner time. Of your $40 you are down to $28.10 which should be plenty to imbibe at Jones Hollywood. I know, it’s almost common to eat there at this point, but since you can’t get a decent meal for much less than that in the Beverly Hills area, I urge you to take the trip. (Don’t panic, West Hollywood is the next town over. 10 minute drive tops) Valet will cost you $5.00 if you don’t find street parking (which you should be able to) Just so you know, they do take reservations, but will only seat you if you are all there, so be on time.

It’s a low-lit place, with a bar and another separate dining room, it’s loud as hell and great for star spots (hey, even if outwardly you’re blasé about it, we all know it’s still a secret thrill) There is also a not-so-secret smoking room for those of you with nic fits but no food or drinks are served there. The main draw of Jones for me, (other than the pervasice rock and roll attitude) is that they serve martinis in the shaker, so you really get two for the price of one (score!) and the pizza’s are huge and crispy goodness big enough to share, but cheap enough to keep the bank from breaking. If you are avoiding carbs, the chicken dishes are also all amazing and the prime rib is out of this world. They have all the usual fare, salads and burgers, plus really good specials. Oh, and keeping with the rocker theme, the drinks menu has a lot of hilarious names: you can get blitzed on a Sid Vicious (Jack Daniels, vermouth, orange juice), or Joan Jett (Jack Daniels, triple sec, lemon juice, grenadine) if that is your thing. Drinks are $10 and entrees run $8-25, so you should be able to squeek by and not exceed your budget. Save room for the hot apple pie too, it comes on an iron skillet and is outrageous.

So there you have it, how I would spend $40 in one day in Los Angeles. Of course, it would be more my style to stay home for breakfast and lunch, spend the afternoon at a spa then meet my friends for dinner at Hirozen, but that would be about triple the price. So much for me and Ms. Ray.


None of the places I mentioned seem to have live websites. (The one for Jones is blank) But here are their reviews from Zagats.

URTH CAFFE - 267 So. Beverly Drive. A “guilt-free” “decadent dream”, this “popular” pair attracts a “hip clientele” with New American dishes made with “all-natural ingredients” (including vegan selections) and “rich, dark” fair-trade organically grown coffee; though the “wait’s a killer”, for most the “tasty”, “healthy” fare is “worth the hassle.”

PORTA VIA - 424 NO. Canon. Known for years as a place to grab a cappuccino while shopping along Canon Drive, this casual, understated cafe recently expanded into the space next door, adding an outdoor patio straight out of a piazza in Milano; now a full-scale Italian restaurant, it offers a well-balanced menu that runs from light bites such as baby arugula with mushrooms and Parmesan, to a hunger-satiating grilled rib-eye.

JONES HOLLYWOOD - 7205 Santa Monica Blvd. A “film industry hangout” with a “rocker vibe”, this “dark, dark” WeHo “fave” is a “guaranteed good time” thanks to the “sexy ambiance”, “old-school leather booths” and “hot” crowd; though the service “can be nonexistent”, the Italian-American fare is “decent”, and you’re really there for the “excellent martinis” and the “slim shot you’ll run into George Clooney.”

Dahhling, Rachael, my namesake, sweetie, this is Ms Ray here. Thank you for your fabulous entry. Looks like I am going to be out of a job soon - erhhhmmm, can you tell me where I might find an audition, for anything at all? Or maybe somewhere I could wait tables...
Just for the record, I am not a fan of Rachael Ray and I wish she had a different name. Yeeek. I did find out she is seven years older than me though, so I can at least cherish that. That and she has a grande derriere.
Oi! there's nothing wrong with being old and having a 'cuddly arse'! At least not in SF. I guess in LA it's a whole different story?
I like your blog, but it's nearly impossible to read the blue-text-on-blue-background format. any chance you can increase the contrast between them a bit?
Anon = You are not the first to mention that (wait a minute...Mommy, is that you?) but since it took me well over a day of major frustration to get this scheme set up, it may be a while before I venture forth and try to fiddle with the colors. Sorry! Ive seen in on quite a few computers and havent had a hard time reading it though...
Sounds like you had a good time :) Love the idea!
wait, how old is rachael ray? i swear she looks about 22.

anyway, this line made me lol this morning - you have captured LA sooooo perfectly:

"What makes one an Angeleno isn’t what they eat, it’s what we DON’T eat, and where we are when we aren’t eating."

I'm with you. I'd rather have breakfast and lunch at home and then go out and have a lavish dinner every so often for far more than a measly 40 bucks.
Hey! I ate at Porta Via one one of my visits to LA last year... After (and I wouldn't admit this to anyone) blowing a nice bonus check on a pair of Jimmy Choo boots (which I swear I get more mileage out of than any other pair I own), my mom and I walked over to Porta Via to enjoy salads (HAH!) and wine.
I do admire a Jimmy Choo lovin' girl! Was your salad good? Did you see smokin' hot Javier, my pretend boyfriend who has lunch there every single day? Sigh.

And as an aside, I was watching Entourage last night, and the boys meet up at Urth cafe for brunch, only its not the real Urth, they just slapped the name on another building. LOL
I do so love it when they do that.

I was watching View to a Kill last week, and the chase scene in San Francisco is ALL WRONG! So funny.

I don't know that I noticed anyone at Porta Via -- I was momentarily stunned into submission by the ridiculous amount of money I had just spent on SHOES.

And, erm, gimme a pair of Jimmys over Manolo's anyday.

Fatemeh - you keep telling the shoe story to everyone!

Rachael - my friend Gibby, you you may have noticed in the past on my blog from the "Teaching Tim" series used to live in LA and he thought your choices were spot on! He wrote to me and told me so.

love sam x
Well, please tell Gibby thanks for me!
I love it! Those are all my fave places! Too fab!
Thanks for pointing out some places in BH that I've never been to - I'm looking forward to trying them :)
Great entry, This makes me miss Cali even more. I would have loved to do this entry when I lived in Long Beach. Oh and Western Bagel TOO in WLA has good bagels. Where is the ethopian buffet and thai donation only buffet?
Randi - Thanks! The Wat is so far in the Valley, Im not certain of the exact address, but its in North Hollywood for sure...on Coldwater maybe? And the all you can eat buffet is actually at three different spots on Fairfax in little Ethiopea (just south of Olympic.)
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