Welcome

**Readers!  I recently moved to the City of Angels.  The good news is that I'm keeping this site alive while simultaneously working on something Los Angeles-centric, as well.**

Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City dining scene through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

For those of you who enjoy highly thorough and traditional restaurant reviews, you may find them located here

But that's not all!  Additionally, I...

  • ~ For tourists, I can help you create itineraries and answer any questions you may have/offer advice for your upcoming visit to NYC.
  • ~ I can consult and/or advise on all of your small and large events.
  • ~ I will assist you with restaurant recommendations.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!

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  • 8/31: the lil' one's wedding
  • 12/24-1/1: London
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Tuesday
Jul082014

ORANGE COUNTY / Where to eat 

“Where to eat” is an ongoing list series that will be updated frequently

Pricing key:

$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $20

$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $40

$$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $60

Cuisine: American

  • Bandera ($$-$$$) Situated under the Hillstone restaurant umbrella, Bandera evokes the company's traditionally dim, somewhat romantic atmosphere and reliable eats and drinks. 
  • Splashes ($$$) This is my favorite restaurant in Laguna Beach.  What's not to love (...except the prices and the noise level)?  Seaside dining and cocktails/wine at its absolute best.
  • Summer House ($$) Intimate, yet warming and inviting, Summer House is the perfect venue for a casual family - or date - meal in the neighborhood.
  • The Quiet Woman ($$-$$$) Fabulous cocktails, live music on Tues-Sat, decent - albeit pricey - grub, and some of the best cougar sightings in town!
  • True Food Kitchen ($$) Healthy food that doesn't suck.  Period.  The location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach comes equipped with a spacious outdoor patio and...drum roll, please...alcohol! 
  • Wilma's Patio ($-$$) My favorite spot on Balboa Island boasts a multi-faceted menu with something for everyone.  I am particularly fond of their Mexican cuisine.

Cuisine: Bakeries, coffee, sweet shops

  • B Candy ($) One of the cutest candy shops that I've encountered in a very long time, not to mention legit.  Why do I say that?  Because, in addition to candy, they carry an assortment of delicious, handmade frosted cookies and uniquely flavored, artisanal ice creams.  I highly recommend the cookies (my favorite is the frosted surf board).
  • Cafe Lucca ($) While I cannot comment on the rest of the menu, Cafe Lucca's handmade gelato is, without a doubt, the best I've had in the country. 
  • Portola Coffee Lab ($) The closest thing to an artisanal NYC coffee shop this side of Brooklyn.  I recommend the "flat white," which is similar to a Cuban cortado (espresso and warm milk).
  • Sweet Jill's Bakery ($) Fudge and chocolate chip cookie dough-topped brownies.  Need I say more?  Didn't think so.

Cuisine: Italian

  • Pirozzi ($$-$$$) It's hard to believe that this hot new Italian once housed a KFC!  Indulge in fabulous fare - think great pizzas and steaks - much of which is cooked in the wood-burning oven.  Try to score an al-fresco table over looking the bustling Pacific Coast Highway.  

Cuisine: Japanese, sushi

  • Sota Sushi ($$) While we didn't particularly enjoy the rolls, Sota'splated dishes are fantastic, namely the carpaccios, and the "sizzles."

Cuisine: Mexican

  • Avila's El Ranchito($-$$) Traditional Cal-Mex at its best; no frills, just solid plates of delicious - albeit greasy - Mexican food (just the way I like it).
  • Sol Cocina ($$) Come here for the views and the location; stay here for the gratis chips, salsa, and black bean dip.

Cuisine: Steakhouse

  • Fleming's Prime Steakhouse ($$$) Although it's a chain, Fleming's runs its steakhouses like tight, well-oiled ships.  You can depend on a sexy, masculine-modern atmosphere, skilled and knowledgeable employees, a nice array of wines and cocktails and, most importantly, tasty grub.    
  • Mozambique ($$-$$$) Perfectly situated, multi-level space boasting a rooftop with one of the best unobstructed ocean views of Laguna Beach.  Menu is a bit confused, it seems, as the restaurant is more of a mish-mash of global cuisines; not a traditional/proper "steakhouse."  Are there even steaks offered on the menu? 
  • The Bungalow($$$) Quite possibly, my favorite steakhouse in the country because of its unique, "non-chain" atmosphere, steaks so tender that you could cut them with a fork, strong cocktails, and excellent sides.   

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Where to eat: Westside Coastal

“Where to eat” is an ongoing list series that will be updated frequently

Pricing key:

$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $20

$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $40

$$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $60

Cuisine: American

  • Burger Lounge ($) This isn’t your run-of-the-mill fast food burger joint, folks.  Not when they’re making theirs with grass-fed beef.  Or organic chicken.  Or albacore tuna.  If you’re looking for a $0.99 value menu, this is not the place.
  • Lemonade ($) A fast-casual cafeteria that focuses on fresh Southern California comfort foods (think bountiful veggies, grains, and hearty mains)…plus a variety of fresh-squeezed, fruit-infused lemonades (ahem, guava!).  And don’t miss the sinful house-made desserts!

Cuisine: Bakeries, coffee, sweet shops

  • Groundwork Coffee ($) Look beyond the stereotypical artisanal coffee house ‘hipster intimidation’ and just do what I tell you: Order the Vietnamese Iced Coffee.  It will change your life.

Cuisine: Californian

  • Coast at Shutters on the Beach ($$-$$$) Located a mere beach chair’s length away from the sand, Coast serves California cuisine in a lovely, casually sophisticated space.  My only gripes were the pre-packaged breadsticks instead of fresh bread and butter (upon seating), and slow/aloof service.  For dessert, indulge in a slice of one of Susie Cakes‘ finest.
  • FIG ($-$$) Revel in seasonal, local California-centric cuisine in The Fairmont Miramar Hotel’s poolside restaurant.  For a healthy breakfast/brunch entree, I recommend the ‘Frittata Verde’ with a double-side of the tomatillo-avocado salsa.  And a table al-fresco.

Cuisine: Italian

  • Gjelina ($-$$) While this may be one of the most famous restaurants in LA, I didn’t want that to prevent or intimidate me from going last weekend while in Venice.  So, in order to avoid a hellish wait, Shelley and I arrived at 3pm and were seated immediately. Save for Italy, I never thought I’d eat better pizza outside of NYC.  That was until I had Gjelina’s “Pomodoro Crudo.”  Best. Pizza. Ever.
  • Hostaria del Piccolo ($$) Sexy and dependable Italian with indoor/outdoor space and a killer cocktail list.

Cuisine: Mexican

Cuisine: Seafood

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Where to eat: Downtown

“Where to eat” is an ongoing list series that will be updated frequently

Pricing key:

$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $20

$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $40

$$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $60

Cuisine: Italian

  • Bottega Louie  ($$-$$$) While the grand space (think 20+ foot high ceilings) that houses the dining room and swanky chocolate/petit-fours counter is chic and polished, its casual sophistication is 100% not-intimidating.  If you think that you can’t get decent pizza outside of New York, I dare you to sample any one of Bottega’s impressive pies.

Cuisine: Japanese/sushi

  • Katsuya at L.A. Live ($$-$$$) Worst. Service. Ever.  And seriously not-fresh fish (think spongey crab legs and gummy, jaw achingly-chewy crispy rice).  What a disappointment!  The location in Hollywood is much better.

Cuisine: Pizza

  • LA Pizza Company  ($) Perhaps it’s the fact that LAPC delivers to its next door neighbor, Sunset Beer,  but even a seasoned New Yorker will agree that these pies are surprisingly solid.  Sober or not.

Cuisine: Small plates

  • Perch  ($$-$$$) Perched high above downtown LA (think 15 floors) sits a bi-level bistro and bar  with 360-degree views of the City of Angels.  Sip on a refreshing ‘Aperol Spritz’ while you nosh on the likes of baked brie, ahi tuna tartare, and gougeres.

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Lust list: My dining, cocktailing, and 'everything else' list of hopefuls

LA dining, cocktailing, and ‘everything else’ spots that I’m dying to check out (…to be updated frequently)

Restaurants/eateries

Bars

Everything else

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Where to eat: Hollywood

“Where to eat” is an ongoing list series that will be updated frequently

Pricing key:

$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $20

$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $40

$$$: Price per person, before alcohol, under $60

Cuisine: American

  • Goldie's ($$) Intimate indoor/outdoor space sans air conditioning (at least it wasn't on or in-sight upon our visit).  While the food is delicious, it's the adult beverages that truly shine.  Might I recommend the Aperol Spritz?  It's one of the best versions I've had, anywhere.
  • Laurel Hardware ($$-$$$) With three different dining spaces, you can enjoy a different experience upon each visit!  Excellent cocktails and fabulous people watching; in terms of the menu, stick to the small, shareable plates.  Entrees and desserts are hit or miss.
  • Littlefork ($$) Cool, modern digs (albeit the dining room gets very noisy when full) with a shellfish bend; don't miss out on the tasty brunch spread with the optional $12 bottomless mimosas, bloody's, or bourbon punch!
  • My Fit Foods ($) Finally, a place where you can grab pre-packaged, healthy meals that are perfectly portioned and nutritious (nutrition labels included!).  Best thing about it?  The food doesn't suck.  I recently enjoyed the Spinach and Chicken Enchiladas.
  • Salt’s Cure ($$) Don’t let its intimate space fool you, Salt’s Cure packs a serious culinary punch.  Local, California-sourced ingredients are magically transformed in to incredibly delicious plates that change on a daily basis.  Pair your meal with any one of the wines from the restaurant’s award-winning, 100% Californian list.

Cuisine: Bakeries, coffee, sweet shops

  • The Confection Co-Op ($) Baked goods (think cupcakes galore), fancy coffee/espresso drinks, plus ice cream make this intimate shop a triple threat.
  • Wetzel’s Pretzels ($) If you find yourself famished at Beverly Center, look no further than Wetzel’s.  Might I recommend the jalapeño-cheddar pretzel and a lemonade?  Trust me, you will be one happy shopper.

Cuisine: Californian

  • A.O.C. Wine Bar ($$) Bi-level, indoor-outdoor dining that, aesthetically, will leave you breathless.  Be visually swept away to the south of France as you relish in Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired small plates and a noteworthy wine – and cocktail – list.  I recommend a leisurely drunch (drinking brunch) on the patio.
  • Lucques ($$) Locally-sourced ingredients plus masterful cooking combine to create fantastic dishes.  Pair that with a lovely dining room and a bountiful outdoor garden, and you have quite a restaurant.  Do not miss the fabulous handmade candy & chocolate plate for dessert!

Cuisine: Chinese

  • Bao Dim Sum House ($-$$) Retro-chic atmosphere and a snazzy cocktail menu make your traditional dim sum outing a bit more exciting.  While the xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings) were disappointing and the accompaying dip to the scallion pancakes was more like BBQ sauce, the Spicy Shrimp Dumplings and Honey Walnut Prawns were more palatable. 

Cuisine: Japanese/sushi

  • Katsuya ($$) Although it’s “big box,” Katsuya dishes out impressive rolls, glimmering morsels of fresh fish, and an array of cooked food.  Cocktails, while expensive, are very well crafted and, dare I say it, worth their steep pricing.  Don’t miss the “Corn Crunch Roll.”  Trust me on that one!

Cuisine: Pizza

  • Vito's Pizza ($) Hands down, the closest you'll get to NYC in LA.  The cheese pizza was as outstanding as you'll find; fabulous, thin crust and a perfect cheese-to-sauce ratio.

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Where to stay

As expansive as it is exciting, there are a multitude of different neighborhoods and scenery to choose from in Los Angeles.  And a home-away-from-home for every budget.

Speaking only from personal experience/having stayed at these properties, myself, here are some of my recommendations:

Neighborhood: Westside ‘City’

  • Intercontinental Hotel Century City at Beverly Hills  From my newcomer/Texas native’s standpoint, Century City is akin to the neighborhood surrounding the The Galleria in Houston: it’s new-ish, the buildings are tall, the shopping is good, and the restaurants are fun and aplenty.  And, because Century City is adjacent to Beverly Hills, it’s really the ideal neighborhood for my family to stay while visiting.  It certainly made for the ideal “home away from home” during my first 48-hours as a Los Angeles resident.  The rooms are somewhat affordable (think $150-$300/night) – very generous in size – and come with your own private balcony.  Speaking of, make sure to ask for a “Hollywood Hills view” upon check-in.  Trust me, it’s breathtaking and makes all the difference in the world; sure beats the alternative, which is a very unsexy parking structure.  While there is a restaurant in the hotel, the closest we got to dining was imbibing at the bar.  Stick to wine, beer, or straight-forward cocktails; when I requested an ‘Aperol Spritz,’ the bartender must have thought I said an ‘Aperol and Sprite,’ as that is exactly what I received.

Neighborhood: Westside ‘Coastal’

  • Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel  Located on, quite possibly, the most prime piece of real estate in Santa Monica (a stone’s throw from the pier!).  Spacious, well-appointed guest rooms (from $300+/night), solid options for on-premise dining and cocktailing, plus an array of amenities (outdoor pool, spa, gym) make this one of Santa Monica’s best.

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites