Saturday, October 2, 2010

Courting Just, Flavorful Fare - A Juror's Guide to Avoiding Lunchtime Trials and Tribulations in Downtown LA

Stuck...*ahem*, I mean, honored to be...performing my civic duty for the next few weeks in Downtown Los Angeles in a jury trial.  While initially excited about the hard stops at noon for the 1.5 hour lunch break each day, it occured to me that I had no idea where to start - and how to ensure that I get back in time so as not to hold up very expensive proceedings or get locked up for contempt. 

More importantly, can you even get anything decent to eat around the courthouse?  (I refuse to eat at the snack bar/cafeteria in the building - which looks as dated as Night Court, that TV show starring John Laroquette from the 80s.  Looking in each direction down the block my first day, the only visible option was an artificially cheery looking bacon-guacamole-hot-dog cart.)  Ever the optimist, I submit that you can, and thus set out to try. 

So ladies and gentlemen, if it may please the court, though still in process of discovery, I would like to present my findings categorically herewith - to be amended as new information arises.



California Plaza "Water Court" Food Court
300 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Higher-end looking food court with individual glass storefronts for each vendor, including a fusion korean-mexican place, a 'farm fresh' sandwich/salads/soups place Mendocino Farms, a build-your-own salad place, and an awesome Famima! market for all your international (Japanese rice crackers! Gummies! Chips!  Packaged sushi!) snacking needs.  

I also liked the look of Casa Cocina Y Cantina at the far end of the plaza - a chic, modern looking space serving custom tacos/burritos/bowls/salad (build your own - choosing from their list of proteins, salsas etc.) - that's next on my list.  Pretty good deal for the type of space - with prices starting from $6.95-$7.95 for base entrees.  Go back at the end of day for happy hour with $4-$8 drinks weekdays, and $2 tacos on Tuesdays!

Summation: Easy walk from courthouse, though hard to find if you don't know it's there - not visible at Grand Ave street level from courthouse.  Luckily I had a friend who works closeby act as tour guide! Walk past the orange/green MOCA building, then go down the stairs to see the food court.  Outdoor plaza seating with water fountains offers pleasant, relaxing space for lunch.  I've had the sesame-soy marinated fish taco trio (decent) from Skew; and a Vegan Singaporean Dosa Wrap ($8.75) and Leek & Potato Soup sample from Mendocino Farms, which were great and fresh tasting - my only notes for the wrap is to serve it at a hotter temperature, and skip the red onions (that stayed with me all day)!!  There's also a post office and a gym here, in case you need to take care of business at lunch.

Galero Grill at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
555 West Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 Ph: 213.680.5286

The self-described "Grab and Go style Café" offers a hot foods counter with daily specials and burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas and burritos as well as a small selection of soups.  A cold case offers salads and sandwiches.  Coffee bar serves Starbucks and pastries. 

Summation: Love the setting for this place - outdoor plaza seating next to a beautiful cathedral.  I had the veggie quesadilla and chicken caesar wrap on separate days for around $7 each. The food isn't amazing, the quesadilla was kind of bland but isn't bad either for the price - could do worse downtown.  Definitely leave enough time to stroll through the cathedral and take-in its amazing architecture. 

Grand Central Market & Food Court
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90013  Ph: 213.624.2378

Hybrid farmer's market / food court 'for the people', with a mish-mosh of vendors selling veggies / meat / snacks, and counters serving heat-lamp warmed foods - everything from Hawaiian BBQ, to Pupuseria food, Pho, and ice cream.  Apparently this is LA's oldest and largest open-air market! 

Summation: Though initially excited to find all the options under one roof (minimizing the trek through DTLA in extreme heat!) - I found that while prices are relatively low, the quality is even lower.  I was disappointed by the flavorless 'insta-Pho' at "Fusion Deli" ($7.25) and won't return again.



Walt Disney Concert Hall Cafe
135 N Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90001 Ph: 213.972.7211

Upscale marketplace style venue by Patina Group - go through the line to pick up pre-packed salads and sandwiches from $7.95, cheese and charcuterie plates, bottle drinks and mini-bar sized wine from the refrigerated section.  Daily special hot entrees and sides (e.g. John Dory fish or meat loaf with mashed potatoes and green beans) for $11.95-$12.95 served behind the counter. 

*10% Juror Discount!  Just show badge to cashier.*

Summation: Short walk (literally across the street from courthouse) + incredible architecture + AC = awesome. The food doesn't look bad either, though daily specials are cooked/heated behind the tiny counter in a pan sitting on what looks like an electric hotplate.  Also, students and seniors can return to check the box office around 6pm to see if "rush" tickets are available for that night's concert (only $10-$20!!!).

The Court at Wells Fargo Center
330 South Hope St., Los Angeles, CA 90071

Collection of chain and boutique restaurants and delis, spanning three floors, ranging from Nick & Stef's Steakhouse, to California Pizza Kitchen, Tacone, La Petit Boulangerie and Taipan to Quizno's and McDonald's - surrounding a beautiful (for an office building) glass-enclosed atrium.

Summation: Short walk, again not visible at street level from courthouse (hidden between two skyscrapers!). Exit the courthouse on the 4th floor (Grand Ave), walk towards Disney Concert Hall, and keep going on grand until you pass the Wells Fargo Center on the same side of the street.  The entrance to "The Court" will be just past the first Wells Fargo Center building, to your right at the far end of the plaza.  Relatively broad range of marketplace and sit-down options and nice atrium setting.  Check out Taipan for table-service, decent Chinese food without trekking to Chinatown.

Cafe Lemonade at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art)
250 South Grand, Los Angeles, California 90012  Ph: 213.628.0200

A chic little marketplace style cafe, tucked into the corner of the courtyard leading to the below street-level entrance to the museum, Lemonade at MOCA offers soups, fresh gourmet salads, an assortment of crackers and sweets, and of course, gourmet lemonades!  Examples of salads on offer range from Santa Ynez Heirloom Tomato with Crushed Basil and Fleur de Sel, to Lobster Soba Noodles with Lebanese Cucumbers and Sesame.  There are also one or two hot entrees such as Turkey with cranberry and gravy, but the bulk of the offerings are served cold.  The fun part is you can mix and match dishes to maximize samplings - just pay by number of portions ($7 for single, $11 for double etc.).  One portion = 2 scoops, and you can split the portion into two different salads - one for each scoop.  As for the handcrafted lemonades - I had the Watermelon Rosemary, and while the flavor could have been stronger, it was still a great, original refreshing drink.  The place is only about a block away from the courthouse - and on Thursdays you can also come back after court adjourns to get free admission into the museum (free admission Thursdays 5-8pm).

Little Tokyo / Japanese Village Plaza

A concentration of authentic mom & pop restaurants serving sushi, teriyaki, ramen, udon etc. for an affordable price, next to gift & clothing shops.  There's also a Pinkberry up there, I believe, for dessert! 

Summation: This area is a little bit further away from the courthouse - about 7 blocks walk - or a 3 minute bus ride on Metro Local Line 30 heading north (Indiana Station or Little Tokyo/Arts District Station headsign).  More restaurant and travel specifics in the weeks to come!



Kendall's Brasserie & Bar
135 N Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012 Ph.: 213.972.7322

Upscale brasserie - part of the Music Center, across the street from courthouse (take 4th floor - Grand Ave. exit).

Summation: Part of the Patina Group.  Need I say more?  Actually, I can't at the moment as I haven't eaten here yet - but it looks like this is where all the high-powered lawyers go for lunch!


Cafe Pinot
700 W 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071 Ph: 213.239.6500

Another Patina Group standout, serving 'Contemporary California' fare in a venue that offers both a breath-taking al fresco setting and an upscale yet cozy and intimate indoor dining room.

*dineLA prix fixe menu October 3-8, and 10-15*

Summation:  LOVE this place.  Been here previously for dinner and fell for the charming garden with twinkling lights, view of the LA skyline, and foodie-friendly menu.  dineLA restaurant week means I can have a crazy indulgent 3-course lunch that includes Albacore Tuna, Crispy Skin Wild Salmon and Chocolate Mousse Gateau, at an affordable price ($22) - while on jury it!  Check out my full review here.

Tip for those planning to hoof it from the courthouse - courtesy of a friend who works in the area - exit on the 4th floor (Grand Ave), walk towards Disney Concert Hall, keep going on Grand til you see the Wells Fargo Center towers - go between the two buildings and down the steps to reach Hope Pl.  Turn left and walk towards McCormick & Schmicks.  Just past the US Bank (roundish looking) building, you will see some "Spanish steps" and escalators - take those down to 5th St. and you will arrive at a crosswalk leading to the Library.  Cafe Pinot is immediately to the right of the library.  Plan for about a brisk 15 minute walk each way!

Water Grill
544 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071  Ph: 213.891.0900

"The best seafood in Southern California" according to Zagat guide and Michelin-starred 2008.

*dineLA prix fixe menu October 3-8, and 10-15*

Summation: Within walking distance, or one Metro Rail stop away (go from Civic Center to Pershing Square, then walk the few blocks over).  dineLA would be my time to try this place, if we luck out and get a longer lunch break from the judge one day!


That's the wrap for now.  More culinary adventures - and final verdict on the 'best of' foodie venues for jurors - in the weeks to come :)

Update: My trial ended 'early' on 10/20!  It was a hung jury so the judge declared it a mistrial.  Actually a bit sad for it to end the way it did for many reasons (hopefully the plaintiff will get a second shot and justice will be served the next go round) - and I was just getting started on discovering dining options downtown!  Have actually decided to go down there more often anyway, now that they have my attention.  Final verdict on dining in DTLA around the Stanley Mosk courthouse:  of the places I tried, Cafe Pinot and Lemonade were the clear winners!


  1. 3 days into DineLA.. have you tried ALL the deals? O Bar & Kitchen, $16 burger + dessert, etc. will make you hollah!

  2. Between jury duty and trying to do my day job at night, it's been tough getting out for dineLA this week! But I did manage to make my way to Cafe Pinot (it IS do-able in the 1.5 hour court-appointed lunchtime if you walk and eat fast!). Review to come shortly ;)

    O Bar & Kitchen sounds awesome, thanks for the tip! Will have to hit that up next - I still have many days (and lunches) left on this trial!



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