It’s that time of the year again. This is probably the bi-annual event most people in LA look forward to the most. For this Summer 2014 season, I’ll feature 2 new options at each price point – 12 restaurants that haven’t been featured in previous iterations of my dineLA analysis, as well as previously-featured options that remains such (let’s call those my “greatest hits”). Fear not, however, for I will also provide a breakdown of the other previous selections at the very bottom.
By the way, dineLA – what happened to the $85 dinner price point?
(all photo credits below belong to Discover LA)
(Sandwiches, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 8am- ) Optimal Lineup:
– Spinach + arugula
– Milk chocolate cupola mousse
– (soft drink)
Estimated Savings: $9
Notes: Ciboteca is a new panini shop from the Piccolo group (whose Hostaria was and still is a BUY at $15, and whose OG Piccolo is pretty much a dineLA HOFer at $45). They don’t feature the sexy $9 panini options for dineLA though…except for the Toscano, which has Finocchiona (a Tuscan fennel salami). That’s why I’m here folks – to dig this type of information up and game the system. But this is a very good deal for $15: you get a panini, a salad, a pastry, and a fancy soda. Not too shabby.
Settebello (Marina del Rey)
(Pizza, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am- )
Estimated Savings: $8
Notes: This deal is only for the Marina del Rey location – sorry Pasadena folks. I like Settebello. I think it deserves more love amongst pizza lovers in LA, especially seeing how Neapolitan pizza is so hot right now. And for dineLA, you basically get the first course for free. There’s lots of parking, and they don’t get very busy from my experiences. GREATEST HIT – Lazy Ox Canteen
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm) Optimal Lineup:
– Shishito peppers
– 7oz lazy ox burger
– Rice pudding
Estimated Savings: ~$15
Notes: I’ve been disappointed by Lazy Ox Canteen by their progress (or lack of) in recent years. After Chefs Centeno and Rocher left, it’s as if the restaurant became content served a limited menu of their greatest hits from Day 1. In the case of dineLA though, this works to their advantage. Proven dishes at a STEEP DISCOUNT – this menu was already a BUY at the $20 price point, but they went ahead and took it a step further. Percentage-wise, this might be the best dineLA deal of the season, lunch or dinner.
Border Grill (Downtown)
(Mexican, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am- )
– Scallop tiradito
– Enchilada de camarones
Estimated Savings: ~$9
Notes: The menus for the Downtown and Santa Monica locations of Border Grill, respectively, have different menus for dineLA. However, the savings actually look to be almost exact – which means both locations are a BUY. I chose the Downtown one to highlight, because it’s within walking distance from my work. But if you prefer tacos over the other entrees, go to the Santa Monica one.
(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 11am-3pm)
– Tomato salad
– Shrimp & grits
– Gluten free beignets
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I actually don’t know much about Muddy Leek, other than that I used to live near the restaurant, and that J. Gold wrote about it last year. I had assumed it was just a run-of-the-mill farm-to-table restaurant. But the menu reads rather…Southern? Pretty interesting. The shrimp & grits is probably their signature dish, and it is on both the lunch and dinner dineLA menus. Lunch is the preferred choice, as you’re bound to save ~$10 no matter what you choose. This is what dineLA should be all about – letting people try out new places at a friendly entry rate without dumbing the menus down. GREATEST HIT – Lukshon
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 12-3pm)
– Crab fritter
– Grilled squid salad
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: I actually previously featured Lukshon at the $25 dinner price point. But with every one of my previous $20 lunch selections either moving weight classes or not doing dineLA this year (with the exception of The Pikey, but it’s really hard to determine value with their menu), it’s worth bumping the dineLA HOFer here. Two of their regular dishes at $20 is a very good deal. Minor rant though: their dinner menu at $35 looks like a HOLD this time around (for the first time ever – they’re usually a strong BUY).
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm) Optimal Lineup:
– Black Angus skirt steak
– Vanilla custard
Estimated Savings: $20
Notes: 3 courses for $25 at the new steakhouse from Michael Mina looks like a great deal. Even if you choose the cheapest options for the first and second courses, you’re still going to save ~$10. But for a restaurant with “steak” in its name – you’d probably want to choose the steak option as entree. The skirt steak is definitely not as sexy as the higher-quality selections of beef that the restaurant offers, but do you really need more than a prime-grade steak for lunch? Water Grill
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11am- )
– Roasted beets w/ organic apples
– Wild Copper River sockeye salmon
Estimated Savings: $23
Notes: I believe both locations of Water Grill (Downtown and Santa Monica) are offering the same menus for lunch and dinner. Dinner at $45 is a BUY – ~$20 in savings. But you’re saving just as much during lunch at a much lower price point. The entree options bottom out at $19 (the shrimp banh mi), so you’re guaranteed to save money. If you order either of the fish options as the entree (and why wouldn’t you), it’s a double-digit savings AT LUNCH. The Downtown one’s a block away from my office, so I’m very likely going to this one. GREATEST HIT – Bouchon
(French, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
– Salade de Chou Frise
– Saucisson a l’Ail
Estimated Savings: ~$20
Notes: It’s difficult to lock down actual savings at Bouchon each season, but I am fairly certain one can saving at least $10 regardless of the selections every time (mostly because I take the cheapest dish of each category from the regular menu as a price floor). Every one of the previous choices at the $25 price point remains a BUY, too (at least the ones that have posted a menu online).
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun -9pm)
– Trio of Morsels
– Kimchi Nachos
– Mochiko Fried Chicken
– Traditional Mexican Flan
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I’ve always assumed Komodo was a cleaner, more expensive version of Kogi, and after reading the menu I can say that I was right…somewhat. There’s definitely the Asian Fusion thing going on (with the tacos in particular), but the dineLA menu doesn’t include the tacos. Instead, you get to choose from some rather traditional-sounding SE Asian/island dishes. The savings might be even more if you choose the salmon, and I did go conservative on the appetizer trio estimate. As good of a time as ever to try Komodo.
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm)
– Heirloom tomato salad
– Roasted king salmon
– Peach sorbet
Estimated Savings: ~$10?
Notes: I hate to keep bringing this up season after season, but the $25 dinner dineLA options remain weak in my opinion, especially considering how I’m trying to feature new options. You know how desperate I’m getting when I’m recommending a vegetarian/vegan spot… But Mohawk Bend is indeed a good value at this price point, and you’re more likely going for their excellent beer selection. Makes drinking all them carbs go down a little easier, knowing that you’re eating relatively healthy with the beers. GREATEST HIT – The Corner Door
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am)
– Steamed mussels
– White chocolate snickerdoodles
Estimated Savings: $15
Notes: The Corner Door really has this dineLA thing down. What they’ve managed to do is include the majority of the menu without the restraint of serving them in courses to maximize diner choices (and savings). The choice of two dishes is already a BUY (as long as you’re not choosing two vegetarian dishes), but you get a dessert as well?!? This is a really, really good dineLA deal. Use the savings on their wonderful drinks, or on another dish to share with your crew – it’s a fun place to hang out with friends.
Tipple & Brine
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Wed 5-11pm, Thu-Sat 5pm-12am)
– Fried octopus
– Market Fish
– Chocolate Cremeaux
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: Tipple & Brine is a new restaurant in Sherman Oaks that focuses on seafood. I’ve read pretty good things about it, and not just pretty good for Sherman Oaks, although you’ll probably want to wait until traffic dies down a bit before heading north for dinner. But the 3 courses at $35 looks like a great value. Feeling guilty about not visiting my mom in the area after dinner though? Not as great of a value. Willie Jane
(Southern, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Thu 6-10pm, Fri-Sat 6-11pm)
– Hanger steak tartar
– Fried chicken thighs with pimento mac
– Willie Jane red velvet cake
Estimated Savings: ~$9?
Notes: I’m glad Willie Jane moved down from the $45 price point, because it was definitely not a good deal then. But it’s now following big brother Post & Beam’s footsteps in becoming a dineLA value fixture. It’s somewhat difficult to lock down actual savings (I averaged the appetizer prices, and I’m not sure if the fried chicken here is the same as the regular one – but it does come with a side as well), but it looks like you can save $4-9 here. Their fried chicken has a really good reputation, and you know how much I love fried chicken. Plus those first courses sound pretty darn good as well. GREATEST HIT – Black Hogg
(America, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sat 6-10:30pm)
– Pork belly taco
– Brussels sprout hash
– Marrow burger
– Milk & Honey
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I was going to go with the clams caribena as the entree choice to maximize savings, but “limited quantities” definitely catches the eye – I’m assuming the marrow burger is a dish created specifically for dineLA. Anyways, the entrees’ price range is $16-18, so you’ll still save $5-10 regardless, depending on the combination of dishes. There are plenty who go to Black Hogg expecting this Animal Part Deux, but it’s just a really nice neighborhood spot serving well-executed dishes that are inspired by multiple influences.
(America, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 5-10pm)
– Pao de queijo
– Roasted medjool dates & kale salad
– Tuna tartare
– Scallops & slab bacon
Estimated Savings: $22
Notes: That Tin Vuong – so hot right now. The chef went from this one Manhattan Beach restaurant to a local empire that now includes the critically-acclaimed Little Sister, Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza, and the new Dia del Campo (the latter also a BUY at the $45 dinner price point). But let’s not forget about the OG here. Just stay away from the cheapest options from the “ruffage” category and the noodle dish from the “carnage” category, and you’re bound to save double-digits. Use those savings on their excellent beer selections. Faith & Flower
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5:30-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am)
– Summer squash salad
– Longanisa sausage
– Mesquite grilled skirt steak
– Seared steelhead trout
– Peaches & Cream
Estimated Savings: ~$25
Notes: Man this place looks sexy. And the savings at dinner for dineLA look even sexier. I’m fairly certain about the estimated savings here – the dineLA menu items that are not on the regular menu have comparable counterparts on the regular menu. The floor here is probably $5+, but obviously in choosing the two proteins as mains, you’d get the ~$25 savings. The best idea, actually, is to go as a pair to get one of everything on the dineLA menu. You’ll still save $15/person, which you can apply towards drinks or something else off the regular menu (oxtail agnolotti?). GREATEST HIT – Fogo de Chao
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Thu 5-10pm, Fri 5-10:30pm, Sat 4:30-10:30pm, Sun 4-9:30pm)
– Menu the same as regular
Estimated Savings: $16.50
Notes: Ah, Fogo de Chao – dependable as ever during dineLA. You know exactly what you’re getting, and you know exactly how much you’re saving. Just make sure to make a reservation, and preferably not at peak hours, because it gets PACKED during dineLA (including plenty of UCLA students – I know from personal experience). Luckily, service doesn’t get compromised, and selections remain consistent and plentiful…unless the Brazilians are still too depressed from the World Cup.
So there you have it – 2 new selections at each price point along with an additional “greatest hits” selection, for a total of 18 again this time around. I hope everyone enjoys these next 2 weeks of grubbin’, because I certainly will. And bonus: AMEX brought back the dineLA $5 statement credits! And it’s for each meal you spend > $21 too!
Fundamental LA – BUY (up to $7 in savings)
The Larder at Burton Way – BUY ($11)
MessHall – BUY ($4)
Next Door by Josie – BUY (~$4)
Short Order – ???
TLT Food – BUY ($6)
The Pikey – HOLD (~$3?)
AOC – BUY ($6)
Drago Centro – ???
Little Dom’s (up from $20) – HOLD (~$3)
Mo-Chica (also up from $20) – HOLD (~$4)
Paiche – BUY (~$10)
Rivera – ???
Tavern – BUY ($15)
Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar – BUY ($8)
Hostaria del Piccolo – BUY (~$10)
Post & Beam – BUY (~$10)
Freddy Smalls Bar + Kitchen – HOLD? (???)
The Gorbals – HOLD? (???)
Gusto – ???
Lukshon – HOLD ($2) – surprise here, as they’re usually a strong BUY
Night + Market – BUY if you refuse to go to Sliver Lake, SELL if nothing’s holding you back
Waterloo & City – BUY (~$10)
The Bazaar – BUY ($22)
Craft – BUY (~$10)
Lawry’s The Prime Rib – BUY ($16)
Lucques – BUY ($15)
Patina (down from $85) – really hard to tell, but you’re getting 5 courses! Has to be a BUY.
dineLA Stock Legend:
BUY: > 20% in savings off optimal lineup
HOLD: 5-20% in savings off optimal lineup
SELL: under 5% in savings off optimal lineup