Here at News From The Pollywog Cafe, you will find a quick and easy way to find and check out restaurants in and around the L.A. area. Below you will find some of our favorites and some not so favorites. No need to read those long rambling restaurant reviews – we just get to the point so you can get on with your day – or your meal. At times, we will point out some great restaurant qualities we come across, like great service or ambiance, and of course, those outstanding food items that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on.
Since we grew up in the City of Los Angeles, we rate the restaurants by the grading system used by the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1960’s and 70’s (maybe they still use it.) We grade: Food, Price, Value, Service and Ambiance (Atmosphere). So an “A” is outstanding; “B” is good; “C” is average; “D” needs to improve” and “F” is, well, fail (or forget it). We will also use pluses (+) and minuses (-) as appropriate just like they used in school. Also, we may also use “E” for excellent; “S” for satisfactory; and “U” for unsatisfactory which they used, in addition to the other letter grades, in the report cards for junior high (that’s what they called it before “middle school”).
The pricing is per person, as indicated right after the restaurant’s name, ranked as follows: $ (up to $15); $$ ($16 to $30); $$$ ($31 to $50); $$$$ ($51 to 70); and $$$$$ ($71 and above).
It’s important to note that we visited each of these restaurants without them knowing who we were so we could get (and rate) an authentic experience. None of our meals were ever “comped” nor were we ever paid for our reviews so you can rest assured that they are honest and authentic.
And yes, we admit that we are tough restaurant critics. But we are sophisticated foodies and have eaten all over the world so we know what we’re talking about. L.A. is a world class restaurant destination so we expect the best and we know you do too.
So here’s the list – they are not ranked in any particular order. Look through them all and tell us what you think. Check back often for the latest and greatest reviews:
- Philippe, The Original –$ (While some pronounce it Fill-leeps, we say Fill-leep-ays because it’s more fun to say!) This is one of the oldest and best known restaurants in L.A. and has been family owned since 1908! It’s located at 1001 N. Alameda, Los Angeles, CA 90012, in the heart of L.A. just a block or two from Union Station (which you must visit) and of course, our beloved Olvera Street (which you also must visit and which has it’s own Haiku featured on L.A. Haiku!). This place is awesome and in our opinion, there in only one thing on the menu – the original French Dip sandwich. That, along with their homemade hot mustard will set you up
or a life-long addiction to this legendary sandwich. We’ve tried a lot and none compares. They sell about 6,000 sandwiches a week! Philippe claims their famous beef dip sandwich is the original and we believe them! And if they weren’t, then it’s a tie with the other guys (whose beef dip is not as good – trust us). Philippe has plenty of other items on the menu – including other dips like turkey, roast pork and leg of lamb, lots of breakfast items including eggs and pancakes, chili, stew, beans, and other sandwiches but the beef dip can’t be beat! It’s an order-at-the-counter, sawdust-on-the-floor kind of place with character plus!
And coffee is just 45 cents a cup! FYI, your beef dip goes awesomely (is that a word?) with their amazing cole slaw and fresh homemade iced tea. And don’t forget pie or brownies for dessert. So our rating is: A for food (A+ for the beef dip); A for value; A for service; and A for atmosphere (which is L.A. authentic vintage deluxe!) Enjoy.
2. Bestia $$$$$ – 2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90021. Have you ever heard great things about a movie and then when you saw it, you felt it didn’t quite live up to all the hype? Well, that’s how we felt about Bestia. But don’t get us wrong – this is definitely a place to check out. Bestia (Italian for “Beast”) has been recognized for a number of years now as one of the best restaurants in L.A.
It is owned and operated by Ori Menache and Genevieve Gergis, a great looking and highly talented husband and wife team, both of whom are L.A. area natives. (Genevieve is the pastry chef and we love the fact that she learned to bake while studying to be a classical French horn player. Ovi’s background and experience is very impressive as well.) Bestia is multi-regional Italian and very popular. It can be hard to get a reservation without persistence unless you want to go at an off-hour. While the food was very good and sophisticated, there were no wow moments or tastes that made us think OMG. It is located in the very cool Arts District of L.A. and the restaurant itself is upbeat, trendy, bustling, a bit phrenetic and noisy with a lively crowd filled with lots of hipsters and wannabes. However, unlike some of the snobbery and attitude that we have found at other hip places, Bestia is friendly, welcoming and delighted that we were there, especially for the first time. The restaurant’s look is mostly unoriginal as it looks like so many newer restaurants these days, done in early industrial, wearhousey (it is a converted industrial space), lots of exposed brick, rustic fixtures and plenty of reclaimed-looking wood. (Check out the unique display of bathroom tile!)
The tables are close together and there is outside dining that is pleasant and quieter. Nonetheless, we did enjoy the atmosphere and it’s cool boisterous vibe. The service was excellent bar none and we did not feel rushed. The house specialty cocktails are delightful, unique and fun. The tasty food is presented very nicely along with a detailed description of each plate as it is served. The wine list is more than adequate and mostly in the pricey range. So our rating is: B+ for food; B+ for value; A+ for service (the restaurant gets a B for keeping us waiting for 15-20 minutes past our reservation time); A- for atmosphere.