I just returned from another exciting trip to the Los Angeles area. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to dine at a variety of places along the Southern California coast, and I’m posting some of my experiences here for your enjoyment. Please share your favorite places to eat in the comments section below.
Ventura Beach, CA Dining
Cafe Pacifico - Mexican / Baja Coastal
Marriott Ventura Beach, 2055 East Harbor Boulevard, Ventura, CA 93001, 805-643-6000
I’m starting off the beaten path here, but my recent trip took me to Ventura Beach, CA. The Marriott is definitely the place to stay in town. While not beachfront, the ocean is just right around the corner - a short walk or bike ride away. Cafe Pacifico was the surprise dining experience of this recent trip. I had to kick off my CA visit with fish tacos, tortilla soup and a house salad. They were all excellent. The breakfast buffet was also a pleasant surprise. Even if you’re not staying at the Marriott, a visit to Cafe Pacifico is definitely worth your while. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/oxrvb-ventura-beach-marriott
Thousand Oaks, CA Dining
Marmalade Cafe & Catering Co.
140 Promenade Way # I, Westlake Village, CA 91362, 805-370-1331
I had the pleasure of meeting talented radio promoter Alan Rommelfanger for lunch, and he picked this nice spot right off Hwy 101. Strangely, I realized I had been to the Promenade at Westlake before to pick up lunch at Bristol Farms. The service at Marmalade was very slow and the food was forgettable, but the company made up for the lackluster dining experience. www.marmaladecafe.com
After my trip to Thousand Oaks, I took the Malibu Canyon from 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway. What a breathtaking strip of highway. That was at least my third trip on that stretch, and it was just as awe-inspiring as the first. If you’re in LA, it’s worth driving up to Thousand Oaks just to take that drive.
Santa Monica, CA Dining
Papillon at Loews Santa Monica - Fireside Lounge
1700 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401, 310-458-6700
The Santa Monica Loews hotel in is unquestionably one of my favorite places to be in the entire World. With oceanfront views overlooking the Santa Monica pier, and World-class dining and shopping options just footsteps away, the Loews just can’t be beat. I always grab a bite at the Papillon hotel lounge or outdoors poolside. And it’s not for the food. It’s for the location, the star sightings, and the feeling that you’re in the middle of something exciting. By the way, the also serve this up at Shutters, Casa Del Mar, and The Viceroy – be sure to visit them all. www.santamonicaloewshotel.com
The Hump - Sushi
3221 Donald Douglas Loop Rd., Santa Monica, CA, 310-313-0977
When my friends told me that the best sushi in LA was at the Santa Monica airport, well… it seemed a bit fishy (c’mon, how could I resist?). But the chefs at The Hump fly their ingredients in daily from Tokyo fish markets in oxygen-filled containers. That’s pretty fresh. It easily has to be the best airport restaurant in the World, and many (including Frommer’s) argue that it’s the best sushi in LA. www.thehump.biz
Typhoon - Asian
3221 Donald Douglas Loop South, Santa Monica, CA 90405, 310-390-6565
While at The Hump, be sure to go downstairs to visit owner Brian Vidor's other restaurant, Typhoon. The exhibition kitchen executes an endless menu of dishes from every corner of Asia: Japanese gyoza, Indian samosas, Chinese dim sum, Thai coconut-chicken curry, Filipino fried squid, Indonesian stir-fried noodles, and much more. Although I was too full from Sushi upstairs, I still managed to try out the delicious Kimchi. I could have eaten three bowls, and Dim Sum (one of my favorite jokes from Geechy Guy). www.typhoon.biz
Cha Cha Chicken - Eclectic Caribbean
1906 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405, 310-581-1684
I’m going to lay it out for you – I love Cha Cha Chicken. During my last trip I ate there 3 times in 2 days. For this trip, going to Cha Cha Chicken was one of the things I looked forward to the most. I’m not even sure why I love it so much. It’s just a beach shack serves on the corner of Pico and Ocean Blvd. I usually get the food to go and take it back to the Loews. It’s a great affordable option that’s unique, delicious, and easy on the wallet. www.chachachicken.com
Burbank, CA Dining
Acapulco Mexican Restaurant Y Cantina
3113 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91505, 818- 841-4433
My old friend and Los Angeles magician Mic Cover picked this out for a meeting spot, so I could be close to my meeting at Warner Brothers. It seemed like any other Mexican restaurant, except it had a buffet – something you don’t see too often here in North Carolina. While there were plenty of options on the buffet that you would regret later, it turned out to be the perfect lunch spot for someone willing to make smart decisions. I opted for salad and rice topped with grilled chicken and fresh salsa, along with fresh-cut fruit for desert. I would visit again without hesitation. www.acapulcorestaurants.com
Warner Brothers Outdoor Café
After years of searching, I finally reconnected with my old friend Ronnie Warner. He was the first comedy club bookers to use Selected Hilarity as a headliner. He also raved about a then 15-year-old unknown comic named Dave Chappell, and held Def Comedy-style shows in Durham, NC long before Def Comedy existed. In short, Ronnie had an eye for talent and was ahead of his time. His hard work has paid off with a business partnership with Mekhi Pfieffer and a prime office on the Warner Brothers lot. We spent hours talking, laughing, and catching up. Ronnie borrowed a golf cart and we rode around the lot for a while before eating at an outdoor café. While the food was nothing special, the experience was unforgettable.
Lomita, CA Dining
Harry's Oklahoma Style Smokehouse BBQ
25501 Narbonne Avenue, Lomita, CA 90717, 310-326-9842
Can you believe I left Burbank at 4:30 PM on a Friday to drive all the way to San Pedro during peak rush hour? And can you believe it took less than an hour? I headed off to Rancho Palos Verdes to visit my old friend and former WWE Champion, Rob Van Dam. For dinner we picked up a pound each of pulled chicken and pulled pork from Harry’s. The owner has adorned the walls with photos of himself from the 70’s with lots of really old-school country music stars. My favorite picture, though, was a picture of the owner with Andy Kaufman – complete with the neck brace from the Jerry Lawler piledriver. Priceless. If you find yourself in California craving some home-style BBQ, Harry’s is the place to go. www.harrysokstylebbq.com
Venice Beach, CA Dining
Figtree's Café – Oceanfront / American
429 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291, 310-392-4937
There’s no place in the World quite like the Venice Beach Ocean Front boardwalk. Ask me about my trip there with RVD and SVD offline and I’ll tell you some stories. There are plenty of oceanfront eating options in Venice, and this seemed like as good as any. We opted to eat outdoors and despite the 70 degree temperature, the wind made downright freezing. The slow service didn’t help matters, and some of our appetizers actually came out after the entrees. I had the seemingly innocuous Grilled Mahi tuna sandwich, but I was soon filled with regret. Maybe it was the hummus – but something in their “fresh ingredients” didn’t sit well. I’ll leave it at that. www.figtreescafe.com
Now enough about me. Where do you like to eat in LA?