LOS ANGELES — Eating like a local in LA can mean burgers and fries, or it can mean Indonesian or Armenian fare. The city is loaded with ethnic enclaves and interesting, affordable restaurants. Here are some that I enjoyed.
Filipino — Salo-Salo, 130 North Maryland Avenue, Glendale. 1-818-241-0880 and salo- salogrill.com
We ordered two of the house specialties. Our favorite was the fish dish Pinaputok na Pompano ($9.95), a whole pompano stuffed with a buttery mixture of onions and tomatoes, wrapped in a banana leaf and then in foil and grilled. The fish was mild and so delicious that we picked each morsel off the bones.
Cuban — Porto's Bakery & Cafe, 314 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale (also 3614 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank). 1-818-956-5996 and portosbakery.com
I fell in love with the cafe au lait ($3.25 for a large) but continued my infatuation when the rest of my breakfast was served: a chorizo-studded omelet came between two slices of Cuban bread ($3.45), and strudel made with guava and puff pastry (65 cents) was melt-in-the-mouth flaky. Porto's is so popular that you might have to stand in a long line to order, but it moves quickly and the wait is worthwhile.
Armenian — Fresh Fire Kabob, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. 1-323-466-7788
Visiting the tourist-centric Hollywood and Highland Center development, the last thing I expected to find was freshly cooked, flavorful, healthful Armenian food. Marinated chicken breast was grilled to order; for sides, I picked tabouleh, a cracked-wheat and parsley salad; chopped salad; brown rice; and two stuffed grape leaves (all for $8.99).
Greek — George's Greek Cafe, 135 Pine Avenue, Long Beach (also 5316 East Second Street, Long Beach, and 5252 Faculty Avenue, Lakewood). 1-562-437-1184 and georgesgreekcafe.com
The friendly staff and from-scratch food made this a treat. We enjoyed a beef and lamb gyro and a chicken gyro ($7.95 each); sides were included, so we chose Greek salad and creamy tomato soup. A chill was in the air, but we sat outside, warmed by heaters. The menu also includes fish, lamb and Greek specialties such as mousaka and pastitiso.
American — Hal's Bar and Grill, 1349 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice. 1-310-396-3105 and halsbarandgrill.com
This restaurant is a lovely retreat from a bustling shopping street. I lucked into Venice's annual restaurant week and, for $22, enjoyed three courses: silky squash soup topped with creme fraiche and a fried sage leaf; a grilled fish club sandwich with chunks of avocado, bacon and a few leaves of cilantro on whole-wheat toast; and, for dessert, two tiny scoops of cardamom-spiced pear sorbet and a cookie dipped in fudge sauce.
Seasonal — Coast restaurant at Shutters on the Beach, 1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica. 1-310-587-1707 and shuttersonthebeach.com
Shutters on the Beach is an expensive hotel that features a bargain each Wednesday. The chef shops at the local farmers market and uses his purchases in a $25 taste of the market meal. My dinner started with a composed salad: wedges of Gala apples, strips of piquillo peppers, wafer-thin prosciutto, dabs of creamy burrata cheese and a few perfect leaves of watercress. The main dish was a small fillet of Arctic char on a bed of braised chard, enhanced by a few tablespoons of a buttery sauce, and accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes with earthy, almost crispy roasted black trumpet mushrooms. Dessert was a small ramekin of orange buttermilk panna cotta and two shortbread cookies. Order before 7 p.m. and enjoy a glass of wine at happy hour prices. I had a fruity Francis Coppola Sofia rose for $6.