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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Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

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.
  • Terroni ($$) Quite possibly, the best Italian food that I've had in LA, to date.  From the fresh, gratis sliced bread and fragrant olive oil served post-seating, to the house-made pastas and outrageously delicious pizzas, Terroni is a winner.

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

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Where to eat: Westside ‘City’

“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

  • BJs ($) While I cannot comment on the rest of the expansive menu, I will say that BJs famous "Pizookie" (a cookie "pizza") is fcuking DYNAMITE.  Served warm -and with ice cream - there's not a more delicious "comfort food" destination-worthy dessert. 
  • Cuvee ($) Of the "quick service" establishments located in my office triplex, this is the classiest.  Solid food and one helluva reasonable happy hour (wine and beer only).  Did I mention that Cuvee also sells wine?
  • Flores and The Ladies Gunboat Society ($$-$$$) Modern American with a Southern (think Louisiana) bend.  We enjoyed dining al-fresco, and particularly enjoyed the Antebellum White Grits and the Chocolate Mousse Pie.  Note: No liquor license as of yet (just beer and wine - hopefully that will change at some point)
  • Hinoki & The Bird ($$-$$$) Asian-influenced American cuisine served in an incredibly lovely, tranquil environment.  The famous "chili crab toast" underwhelmed, as did the housemade juices.  The chocolate dessert (I'm thinking that it was the "Devil's Food Cake"), on the other hand, was fabulous. 
  • Piknic ($) Reliable breakfast/lunch spot with a wide array of cold/hot/grill options.
  • South Beverly Grill ($$) Although it’s technically a chain (Hillstone/Houston’s), SBG is nothing short of reliable, comfortable and, in the parent company’s true fashion, strangely romantic.  With a solid selection of wines, cocktails, and food options for every diner/palette, SBG is always a sure bet.
  • The Stand ($) One of my favorite joints to grab a healthy-ish weekday work lunch.  While they're famous for their beef burgers, I really enjoyed my handmade veggie burger enveloped by a "lettuce bun."  Fabulous breakfast egg dishes that are served all day!

Cuisine: Bakeries, coffee, sweet shops

  • Froyo Life ($) Great array of “serve yourself” flavors and a topping bar with something for everyone.  Last time I was there, I saw Rachel Zoe!
  • Noah's New York Bagels ($) What Houston's is to Hillstone, Noah's is to Einstein Bros.
  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea ($)
  • Starbucks ($)
  • The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. ($) Carbs schmarbs.  The more the merrier, in my opinion.  After all, I knew it was only a matter of days before I would sink my teeth in to a bagel from this joint.  Look, I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t skeptical; I mean, could they really get the whole ‘Brooklyn water thing’ right?  Actually, TOBWBC makes a near-perfect, New York-style bagel with just enough chew, crunch, and spot-on crust-to-bread-fluff ratio.  Plus, the fact that they carry frozen coffee cubes for your iced beverage (instead of boring old ice) says it all.  Oh, and Larry King is a daily fixture at the S. Beverly Drive location.  You know, if you’re a star-struck fame whore like myself.
  • Vanilla Bake Shop ($) Seriously delicious cupcakes that are made from ingredients of the highest quality.  Even the chocolate icing tastes more robust and intense. 

Cuisine: Grab ‘N Go

  • Mrs. Winston’s Green Grocery ($) If you’re a salad bar connoisseur like I am, this is the end-all-be-all.  The spread here is so notable, that I consider it to be destination-worthy.  Beyond every type of organic green imaginable, think mix-ins that range from  flavored hummus, roasted beets, and crunchy jicama spears to a variety of seasonings and “toppers” that aren’t just limited to croutons.  You’re welcome in advance.

Cuisine: Grocery stores

Cuisine: Japanese/sushi

  • Seiki-Shi Sushi ($) For “mall food-court sushi,” this dine-in/carry-out joint hits the spot.  Enjoy a refreshing green iced tea, sliced cucumber salad, and a spicy tuna roll for under $15.
  • Sugarfish ($$-$$$) This meal changed the course of my life in food.  I had never truly had sushi until this experience!  Are you aware that sushi rice is to be served slightly warm, creating a "melt in your mouth" experience?  Neither did I.  Get. Here. Now.
  • Sushi Kiyono ($-$$) So far, this is my favorite sushi joint in LA.  If you're looking for atmosphere, this isn't the place; but if you want the freshest fish, a selection of beer/sake/wine, and great service, look no further than this Beverly Hills gem.
  • Sushi Sushi ($$-$$$) Decent for a neighborhood joint, but certainly not a destination-worthy sushi restaurant. 
  • Yu-N-Mi ($$-$$$) Of the sushi that I've had in Los Angeles, to date, this is my favorite.  If you're looking for a fancy atmosphere and colorful cocktails, go elsewhere; however, if it's the freshest fish you fancy, look no further than Yu-N-Mi.

Cuisine: Italian

  • Sotto ($$) A chic, rustic charmer with a healthy array of options for every palate.  Don't miss the housemade bread or one of the delicious pizzas from the wood-burning oven.  Full bar, to boot.

Cuisine: Mediterranean

  • Momed ($-$$) Seriously legit “Modern Mediterranean” cuisine served in a laid-back atmosphere with indoor/outdoor seating and a full bar.  I was particularly taken by the addictive ‘Avocado Hummus’ and the Khachapouri flatbread (<– Don’t try to pronounce it, just order it.  Trust me.).

Cuisine: Mexican

  • Don Antonio ($-$$) Being that this was/is Speidi's favorite restaurant, I had to check it out for myself.  Via delivery.  Here's the verdict: I really enjoyed the handmade chips and salsa and, while I found the red enchilada sauce to be too mild and, perhaps, canned, the enchiladas, themselves, were tasty, as was the rice and beans.  I was underwhelmed by the horchata, but I suppose that's the price I paid for having an iced drink delivered. 
  • Pink Taco ($-$$) Spacious indoor/outdoor bar area and dining room; fabulous happy hour boasting an attractive array of eats and drinks for under $10; and, best of all, they serve homemade chips and chile-con-queso! 

Cuisine: Pan Asian

  • Sen Asian Kitchen ($) A bouquet of pan-Asian dishes, including sushi, are offered at this Century City fast casual restaurant.  Conveniently located near my office, I enjoy a a fresh sushi roll and delicious side of sautéed spinach with garlic at least once/week.

Cuisine: Pizza

  • Fresh Brothers ($) Ordering delivery/take-out?  The personal 7-inch pie makes for the perfect entree, especially when you can choose the thickness of your crust.  Pair it with a side salad and you've got yourself a square meal!

Cuisine: Salads

  • Geenleaf Gourmet Chopshop ($) A bit too pricey for my taste, but you cannot beat the organic, high quality ingredients.  While there is the option to "make your own salad," it's not a visual production; you tell the expediter what you want, and it is prepared for you behind the scenes in the kitchen.  A bit different from what I'm typically used to.

Cuisine: Steakhouse

  • Mastro’s Steakhouse ($$$) Stereotypical Beverly Hills steakhouse…only this one delivers.  Stay away from the $20 cocktails and opt for an affordable bottle of wine (think along the lines of the $33 Sterling cabernet).  Whether you choose surf or turf, don’t miss the Gorgonzola Mac & Cheese.  And the celeb/cougar spotting!

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

Tuesday
Jul082014

LOS ANGELES / Single and the City: Am I Maleficent?

…so, about two nights ago, I begrudgingly went to see Maleficent with my mom, my sister, and my sister’s fiancé.  As you probably know by now, the movie is based on Disney’s classic, “Sleeping Beauty,” a film that I obsessively watched so often as a child, I could recite each line – and reenact every scene – by heart.

From about the first twenty or so minutes in to the film, I realized that there were some serious moral stories behind the fairy tale.  Is that news to you all?  If not, I wouldn’t be surprised; I’m always the last to know/figure anything out.  It reinforced the fact, at least in my jaded world, that we were all once happy-go-lucky little girls who naively went about our days smiling and dancing.  That was, until a boy came around and broke our hearts.  And, for some, it only took that one heart-break for us to quickly build an iron-clad wall/barrier so that no one else could ever hurt us, again.  Just like Maleficent, herself, we went from sweet and doe-eyed to vengeful, calculating witches who refuse to forgive, trust, or let anyone else in to our cold, lonely worlds.

male

When the movie ended, both the credits and this famous song began to play, simultaneously.  And that’s when I lost my shiz.  I’m kidding.  Kind of.  But I couldn’t stop the tears that were uncontrollably streaming down my face.  Eck.  Why the hell was I crying?  It was a G-rated movie, for god’s sake!  Was it because I hadn’t heard that song since I was a pure, innocent four-year old who played dress-up and knew every word to that said song and movie?  Or was it because I finally realized, at the ripe age of thirty-three, that I, too, had spent the past sixteen years imprisoned by my own protective wall/barrier?

As much as I didn’t really want to see Maleficent (I’m not much of a film buff these days, unless it’s a documentary), I’m really glad that I did.  The movie made me realize that, if I ever want to find love, I have to try even harder to knock down the barbed wire and thorny bushes that surround my heart.  For I certainly cannot let another sixteen years fall by the wayside.

Have you seen Maleficent yet?  If so, what are your thoughts on the film?  I’d love to hear from you!

Lindsay, Beverly Hills Bites

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