TheatrEats: East West Players
For me, when I go to a play, it doesn’t feel like a complete experience without dinner beforehand. In the course of my blogging, I’ll be looking at a number of quality LA theatres and offering some suggestions about what restaurants will help you create your own “dinner and a show” experience. I thought I’d start with East West Players. Not only are they one of the country’s premiere Asian-American theatres (as of this writing, they’d just closed David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish), but they’re also located in Little Tokyo, which is probably my favorite part of town. I’ll do a full Little Tokyo round-up later, but for now, here are a selection of my favorite eating possibilities that (mostly) won’t implode your piggy bank, all of which are within a 5-minute walk of the theater. (By the way, in case you’re confused, I use “theatre” to describe the art form or the company, but “theater” when referencing the building.)
The Higher End (anywhere from mid-$20s and up)
Badmaash. They already have their own blog entry, as they’re one of my favorite restaurants in all of LA. Billing themselves as LA’s first Indian gastropub, it’s hard to go wrong here. (That’s their papri chaat, aka chickpeas and chips appetizer, as the featured photo.)
Simbal. A very cool southeast Asian restaurant on San Pedro between 1st and 2nd Streets. It focuses on small plates, with a beautiful dining room and excellent service. The food I tried was excellent (with only the ribs being not quite my thing–bit tough, which may have been an issue of cooking style), and it’s super close to the theater.
Shabu Shabu House, located in Japanese Village (between 1st and 2nd Streets, between San Pedro and Central), is probably my favorite shabu shabu joint in LA. Shabu shabu is where you’ve got super thinly sliced beef, accompanied by a plate of vegetables and noodles, that you cook in a pot of boiling water and then dip into a pair of different sauces before eating it with rice. This place is awesome, but it’s cash only, and there tend to be lines (and it’s not really a place you linger–with only a couple dozen seats, they are all about turning tables). They open at 5:30 pm, and the sign-up clipboard usually goes out between 4:30 and 5:00.
Sushi Gen is the best of Little Tokyo’s sushi restaurants, and it’s located in Honda Plaza across from Men Oh. They open at 6:00 PM, and there tends to be a line outside, so get there a little early to be sure of getting in with the first seating. The sushi bar is spendy, of course, but it’s the best way to experience the sushi. On the other hand, they offer some fairly reasonable platters for the table-dwellers (not sure if you can order them at the bar, but there is a minimum order there).
Daikokuya is one of LA’s most popular and best ramen joints. It’s just around the corner from the theater on 1st Street, and it’s very reasonably priced. Just keep in mind that this location (it’s a mini-chain) is cash only, there tend to be lines, and their ramen is quite rich.
Men Oh Tokushima is another excellent ramen spot. It’s a little farther away (2nd and Central, tucked away in Honda Plaza), but still only about a 5-minute walk from the theater. Because it’s a little more out of the way, the lines are shorter than at Daikokuya, the ramen is less heavy, and they take credit cards.
Snociety is a poke joint on 2nd Street (between Central and San Pedro). Poke combines raw fish/seafood with your choice of carb (e.g. soba noodles, brown or white rice or even mixed greens) and other accompaniments and sauces. The seafood here seems to be quite good quality and the bowls are tasty (you have a lot of control over what goes in them), service is quick, and the price is quite reasonable.
There are many other quality restaurants in Little Tokyo, but this list should give you a bunch of good options before you take in a show. Happy TheatrEating!