I think I figured out what my problem with LA is... For almost six years I visit LA every year for at least two weeks, I expect to have a great "LA time" for those limited days but every time I end up with a sad dissatisfaction of experiencing nothing unusual. I think it is time to admit that the "LA" image in my mind is not correct. Why do I demand from LA always fun, excitement and craziness? The city is too busy and tired to pay attention or to offer attractions to its visitors. All the famous touristic set-ups in Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu or Little Tokyo are worn out, tired and kind of sad. You have to find your own way to explore all the good stuff. And if you are busy working during your stay and don't have a car to drive around it has to be mostly random and you have to be lucky...
There are so many famous landmark restaurants, diners and/or cafes in LA and there is no reason to stop yourself going to these places over and over because they are popular or touristic. They have their own style which made them famous and it is guaranteed to find them exactly the same every year. It doesn't sound exciting but it is a really safe bet. My favorite joint amongst them is Philippe's Original, French Dipped Sandwich Restaurant. It still looks and feels like an amazing historical discovery for every visitor when you go in but as you can see from their website it is a very well advertised and invested "old style" image. Nothing is wrong with it, everything they serve is delicious and their prices are pretty reasonable. The food in Philippe's is without any doubt much more impressive than the famous downtown restaurant Clifton's Cafeteria but Clifton's promises the real experience. It is really hard to describe the space with words. I don't want to give the wrong impression. It looks totally tacky and kitschy but in a good way. Nothing looks like a set-up or looks dishonest. All the forest themed decor, third floor history of "Clifton's Cafeteria" exhibition, staff, patrons, bathrooms, everything is a part of a beautiful experience.
I wish I found this place by myself but I have to admit during our flight to LAX when we were watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation we were taking notes... That's how we ended up on our first day in Chalio Birrieria. Amazing place, simple authentic mexican food, surrounded with nice people, great music from random local musicians walking in..! As you can guess since the place is a Birrieria goat meat is the star of the menu. If you don't feel comfortable about it you can find a lot of other options but I highly recommend goat meat stew with fresh coriander, lime and corn tortillas. Thank you Mr. Bourdain..!
Finally a discovery by ourselves..! And totally random... In Santa Monica on Main Street, tiny, dark, not fancy but pretty confident looking Spanish restaurant Manchego. If you want to have wine you go and get your own bottle from the corner liquor shop, if you want to use bathrooms you get a set of keys from the waiter, find the secret passage in the building next door by unlocking the doors when you are trying to remember the directions. Isn't it awesome? All these things might annoy some people but it works for me fine, part of the experience. The tapas we tested were unbelievable. Ingredients were carefully chosen, dishes were well executed and really good presented. I wish I could order everything in the menu.
During the course of our stay we also had dinner at Parks BBQ and breakfast at Nickel Diner. Both experiences were very satisfying.
Besides all food talk it's really great to be in LA among dear friends who make everything in this city always beautiful for me.