Subject: Los Angeles recommendations (part 2 - restaurants)
Jennie,

The area around your hotel in Marina del Rey/Venice has a lot of restaurants. I think you can get a decent meal at any of them (including the chain restaurants that are popular in MdR). So there is no need to agonize over selecting just the right one. I'll highlight a few places here that might offer a little local flavor, starting with more casual places.

Killer Shrimp (523 Washington Blvd, 310-578-2293). They only serve 3 dishes - peel-your-own shrimp with bread and red sauce; peeled shrimp and pasta; peeled shrimp and white rice. The red sauce is terrific - just spicy enough to make your tongue tingle and finger-lickin good. Located on the second floor of a strip mall but with a nice heated outdoor patio which makes this a very popular place to go after a day at the beach to relax with a beer and enjoy the sunset.

Islands (404 Washington Blvd, 310-822-3939). Yes, it is a chain restaurant. But I am very fond of their Hawaiian-themed grilled burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries. It is a tradition that I go to Islands after the Rose Bowl game. Their food seems to taste especially good after a long day at the stadium. Also they are one of the few places open on New Years Day.

Casablanca (220 Lincoln Blvd at Rose Ave, 310-392-5751). One of my favorite finds on the west side of LA. This is Mexican food, not Moroccan as one might suspect. As soon as you walk in the door, you see a woman pat-pat-patting dough as she cooks homemade tortillas on a griddle in the front of the restaurant. A good sign! They serve all the popular Mexican dishes, but their specialty is seafood. I love their calamari steak with lots of garlic sauce.

The Pasta Factory (425 Washington Blvd, 310-823-9838). It has a cheesy name, but this place was founded by Alejo Castro who is well known in West LA for providing authentic, Northern Italian food in a comfortable, neighborhood setting. If you like pasta with red sauce, white sauce or garlic (can you tell I like garlic?), chicken cacciatore, etc. then you will dine very happily here. Similar to, but I think better than, the C& O Trattoria that Elena mentioned. I would go to the C& O for brunch on their patio, but favor the Italian food at the Pasta Factory.

For nicer meals ($30-50 per person), I will mention several places in Venice and MdR. You asked about regional specialities. LA is such a ployglot place that just about any international food is a local specialty. But of particular note is our fusion cuisine where traditional American food is filtered through an Asian, southwestern, Mediterranean or French lens and is prepared with high quality, local ingredients. I think all of these places fit that description. Note that you should make reservations for any of these.

Cafe del Rey (4451 Admiralty Way, MdR, 310-823-6395). A fabulous location on the water. http://www.calcafe.com/cafe_del_rey/index.html

Amuse Cafe (796 Main Street, Venice, 310-450-1956). A new place that is located in a renovated former residence. I ate there recently and enjoyed it very much. We loved the onion tart, pork ribs (as an appetizer), steak and duck. Desserts were especially terrific! I think they are all made in house. You could easily make a meal out of appetizers and dessert. http://www.amusecafe.com/

Joe's Restaurant (1023 Abbott Kinney Blvd, 310-399-5811). http://www.joesrestaurant.com/ A place that used to have a reputation as being one of the best restaurants in LA. Joe Miller is known for high quality cooking with regional ingredients.

Ballona Fish Market (13455 Maxella Avenue, 310-822-8979). A new place specializing in seafood that I have not yet been to. But I really like the other restaurant run by the owner, Hans Rockenwagner. http://www.rockenwagner.com/html/ballona.htm

By the way, I can certainly recommend nearby places for sushi. It is very popular here, but I did not want to presume that you like raw fish.

Bon appetit!

Mark Los Angeles