Great Places To Eat If You Get Stuck Over the Hill

Over the last six months I visited La Sandia, Natalee Thai, Cafe Mango Six, and the new Fresh Brothers Pizza in West Hollywood. These are my stories.

IMG_6996Sweet sticky rice with mango at Natalee Thai

Okay, I know not everybody just gets “stuck” over the hill. People also go there on purpose. I suppose one has to venture out to Los Angeles proper at some point in time, otherwise what’s the point of living here? You might as well pick an affordable mansion in Ohio.

Besides, very nice people live in places only accessible via the 405 or Sepulveda, or even PCH. If it’s your turn to go visit them and you’d like a tasty meeting place, or if indeed you had a meeting that ended at 4:30 and there’s no way in hell you’re getting on the freeway at that time, then here are some places I’ve visited and eaten in those parts over the last six months. Forgive me for the lack of detail in some places, but trust me that everything I ate at all of these places was delicious, otherwise I wouldn’t be recommending them.

La Sandia at Santa Monica Place
395 Santa Monica Place, 305 N
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel. 310.393.3300


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Sandia is Spanish for watermelon, and the watermelon agua fresca and its alcoholic counterpart are two of La Sandia’s featured drinks. The beverage pictured above is the Latin Light margarita, made with tequila, natural juices, and something called nectreese sugar which helps sweeten the taste and keep the drink under 150 calories. I don’t care what’s in it. It tastes great.

That’s how I felt about the rest of the Latin Light menu, which I and several fellow MomsLA bloggers had gathered to sample.  We started with shrimp flatbreads and mushroom taco platters  which disappeared in a hurry.

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The main courses came out on neat arrangements of meats and beans and rices with lettuce leaves to wrap them in. I’m going to speak for everyone there that night and say the flatbread steak was the favorite, not because they all said it, but because that’s the platter that was devoured the fastest and the one we requested an encore from. It is not picture below because we ate it that fast.

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What IS pictured below is Ben Affleck. See? 

ben affleck at la sandia

Ben was the primary reason that each one of us took a turn casually strolling to the back of the restaurant to use the ladies’ room. Instead of getting all up in his face, tourist style, I simply hid behind this shrubbery to snap a discreet photo.

To top off the evening – as if that wasn’t enough – we each got served a cone of freshly made churros with chocolate sauce, effectively negating the benefit of keeping our dinner menus at low calorie levels, but hey, we were there to do a job, dammit, and we were gonna to it right. The churros? I recommend.

La Sandia also has a children’s menu that also features Latin Light entrees. Each meal has an entree, a beverage, and a scoop of ice cream for only $5.95. The choices are presented on a placemat decorated with 6 Lotería cards from the traditional Mexican game of chance. One of them is, of course, the watermelon.

Natalee Thai
10101 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90230
(310) 202-7003

IMG_6991This dish is on fire.

Here is where my memory gets fuzzy. I just studied the menu and tried to match some dish names to these photos and my memory but I can’t. So here is the best record of what I ingested the night I drove all the way to Venice (east Venice, but still) to join my MomsLA pals at Natalee Thai:

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Mine was the one on the left. I have no idea what was in it or what it was called, because I told the bartender to make his specialty. I always say that if I can’t decide what kind of drink I want, and usually they just blink at me without knowing what to say, but this guy perked right up and got to work. Verdict: tasty.

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I don’t know what’s happening up there either, except that it’s fried and there’s a delicious sauce on the side. What could go wrong? I don’t remember what these dishes below are, either, but again, YUM.

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This (above) is Thai iced tea with a smoothie floating on top. Delicious. The vibe at Natalee Thai was energetic and the staff were all lovely. Plus they have great matchboxes. Don’t you grab boxes of matches at a restaurant if there’s a bowl sitting on the hostess desk, even if you don’t smoke?

Cafe Mango Six
8428 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-966-5866

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I only have this one photo of the food I ate at Cafe Mango Six because a) I didn’t eat that much there, and b) the food was not the best thing about my visit there. The best thing was the chance to meet up with some wonderful friends who live on the other side of the hill. Cafe Mango Six is on third street right down the street from the Beverly Center. Parking is miserable so you just circle the block(s) and pray for a street spot to open up, which magically happened to me when I went. This cafe serves lighter fare including the boba smoothies that are their specialty. Pictured above is a mango shave ice just like you’d get at the mall in Honolulu. It really was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

kim at mango sixSee? I liked it! (photo by Tee Burgess)

But the second best thing about that day at Mango Six was the discussion about peanut butter cookies (theirs was nothing to write home about) when a food writer divulged her favorite recipe and it was so simple it blew everyone’s minds so I decided to make it one morning and it really was so good and easy that I wrote about it on my other blog and slapped it up on Pinterest and almost 700 re-pins later it is the second most-visited post on that 9-year-old website. (The most-visited one is my simple explanation of what Twitter meant to me in 2009. I peaked a while ago, folks.) All because I fought through an hour and a half of the worst LA traffic to get to that cafe.

Fresh Brothers Pizza
8613 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069 ‎
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There is a special place in my heart for Fresh Brothers because everyone knows you get to a woman’s heart through her stomach and pizza equals love. And now there are lots of those places because Fresh Brothers keeps opening new locations all over town. I mean, lucky for us  we have two Fresh Brothers locations – Calabasas and Westlake Village – within easy driving distance AND they deliver. But it’s great that they are expanding because I have already found that no matter where you go the food, service, and environment at any Fresh Brothers is the same: awesome.
The newest location that I visited recently with my kids is right smack on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. So that means that you get the best people-watching to go with your balls. Your meatball sliders, I mean.
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The meatball sliders are a new addition to the FB menu and I highly recommend these. They are served on King’s Hawaiian buns, so they are just perfection all around.
Of course, pizza is still the main attraction here so the kids got to decorate their pizza boxes, make their own pizzas, and even get a visit to the kitchen.
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Apparently you can park on the top of the building where Fresh Brothers is located, right next to Trader Joe’s, so parking shouldn’t be a huge issue, but I haven’t been to West Hollywood in a long time and my kids were with me, so I just nabbed the first street spot I saw open. Being Conejo Valley kids, they wondered why I had to put money into the little stand next to the car and I explained that it was a parking meter and I had to pay for the time we had our car in the spot. Their little minds were blown. But it was okay because our spot was right across the street from an auto shop, where there was a McLaren just hanging out, totally cool with us walking around it and taking pictures.
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West Hollywood FTW. Bonus, my friend Heather lives right down the street so she joined us and we tried to induct her into the Fresh Brothers fan cult. I think we succeeded.
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We dined free at all these places to facilitate this feature, but you can’t pay the bills with churros so don’t be jealous.

A Tale of Three Mango Drinks

Mango must be the It Flavor of the season, because I was recently pitched or gifted three mango flavored drinks that were very different. Here they are in order of my preference.

Sauza Sparkling Margarita

sauza sparkling margarita

This drink is actually available in Original Lime, Wild Berry and Mango Peach, but since I had already started on the mango train, I went with that choice for easier comparison. Served chilled, Sauza Sparkling Margarita is a complete drink in a bottle. Its slight carbonation reminds me of the most awesome margarita I’ve ever hand – at a little cantina on the streets of Loreto in Baja, Mexico. Except with the addition of the mango/peach flavor. It’s a perfect drink, really, especially if you don’t have the time or the patience to mix up a margie from scratch, and you want that extra flavor.

Caveat: it’s strong. It goes down like a wine cooler – easy – but it packs the punch of tequila because, uh, it has tequila in it. Also, because it’s carbonated, it’s like Champagne – it doesn’t keep for long. You have to consume it 2-3 days after you open it. This is the perfect beverage for serving to guests at a gathering, but not for casual sipping while making dinner all by yourself. Unless you like it like that.

Suggested retail price of $12.99 per 750 mL bottle and $7.99 per 375 mL bottle.  

OWG’s Tango-Tini Mix

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I invited a few girlfriends over to taste this beverage with me after I made it and realized that it was a huge batch and would also not keep very well. The Dot-box Mixer is a package of powdered drink mix that you combine with vodka or wine. I used a crisp Chardonnay when mixing with the Tango-Tini flavor (which is mango, orange, and peach). The unusual, and sort of fun, thing about making this is that you do it in a big zip top bag. A bottle of wine, the packet of drink flavor – pour them in, shake up the bag, and freeze for 3 hours. What comes out is a frozen drink. You need to whisk it or put it in the blender for a smoother consistency, but it was cold and refreshing! My friends and I agreed that it would be the perfect drink for serving outside on the patio on a hot night with a bunch of girlfriends before heading out on the town. Served with the OWG Cracker Smack, which is another product you mix in a big plastic bag – crackers with spicy flavoring – it was a fun little tasting. One friend noted that these are the kind of products you might see at Cost Plus or even Bed Bath and Beyond in the gift section.

cracker smack saltines flavored snack

Tango Tini mix – $10 at OWG, and Cracker Smack – $5 at OWG.

Sencha Naturals Green Tea + C

sencha green tea plus c

I got a packet of this drink mix at a social media event. I think. Honestly, every time I attend an event I get a bunch of cool stuff that if I don’t catalog it the moment I get home, it’s hard for me to remember where I got it. But I’m pretty sure that I got this one at the Social Media Club of Los Angeles seminar about Social Media For Social Good (I work with a charity that uses social media to spread the word about our efforts to collect donations of diapers for needy families).

Anyway, since I had mango on the mind, I noticed this mango-flavored drink and thought “what the heck?” At first I thought it was actual tea, but it turns out that it’s a fizzy vitamin drink like Emergen-C or Airborne. It’s not as awful-tasting as those two products, but when you’re sick or anticipating sitting in a germ-filled airplane for several hours, you’re more likely to quaff something you think will be beneficial to you even if it’s not the best flavor in the world.

I wouldn’t drink this again by choice as a refreshing tasty beverage, but if I needed a vitamin infusion, I would give this a shot.

Sencha Green Tea + C available starting in June.