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Los Angeles - United States

When it comes to dining and drinking, anything that one can possibly dream up can be found in Los Angeles. Celebrity-only seating on the West Side is countered by family-style seating in Silverlake, and cuisines from Ethiopian to Polish are all here somewhere. With so many choices and a limited time frame, here are some highlights that should not be missed.

Santa Monica/Venice/ Malibu These beachfront neighbourhoods offer the full range of dining options from earthy-hippie cuisine in Venice to star-studded glamour in Malibu. When not gazing into the deep blue Pacific, be sure to focus your attention on Babalu for down-to-earth Caribbean cuisine, Chez Mimi for one of the most romantic French experiences you'll have this side of Paris and Geoffrey's for fresh cuisine with a heart-stopping view of the California coast. Wolfgang Puck's Chinois On Main is a wonderful choice, as well as The Lobster for some delightfully simple but sophisticated seafood dishes.

La Cienega & Beverly Hills When dining in this celebrity "hot zone," be sure to bring your high-limit credit cards and your best evening attire. Some great options include Chaya Brasserie for a legendary mix of Californian, French and Italian, and of course, the world-famous Spago Beverly Hills headed by Wolfgang Puck. La Cienega Boulevard offers L.A.'s famed "Restaurant Row," which features The Stinking Rose for all your garlic desires, Tokyo Table for delicious but more affordable Japanese cuisine, and the highly favored Fogo de Chao Churrascaria for some Brazilian fare, and many other local favourites.

Hollywood/Melrose A small step away from the big money of Beverly Hills, these hot spots offer a warmer and hipper version of the same scene. Musso and Frank's Grill offers American cuisine with an old Hollywood style. Joachim Splichal serves the highest of haute cuisine at Patina, and West Hollywood's Asia de Cuba features Asian-Cuban fusion in a dining room decorated all in white. Also in West Hollywood is perhaps the one of the finest Moroccan restaurants in all of Los Angeles, Dar Maghreb, which is more than just dining - it's an unforgettable experience. Finally, for lowbrow gastronomic pleasure that should not be missed, wait in line for the oldest Hollywood tradition, a Chili Cheese Dog from Pink's.

Downtown After a prolonged period of economic hardship, downtown L.A. went in for a facelift, replacing the old shabby buildings with new businesses and recreation centres. One of the establishments that helped the downtown comeback is R-23, which quickly gained a reputation for serving unbelievable sushi. Another downtown hot spot is the Water Grill, which offers upscale seafood for the international dining set. If you're looking for a unique and entertaining experience without the sky-high prices, enjoy a meal at Shabu Shabu House Restaurant--a form of Japanese cooking where servers bring you plates of fresh meat, and the customers cook it themselves in hot pots. And for a more casual but earth-shaking good time, check out Epicentre, which is designed to look like a cafe, post-earthquake. Drink Options for a pre-dinner drink or a late-night wrap-up are endless in Los Angeles. One spot, however, remains the centre of most of the action. A true part of Southern California folklore, the Sunset Strip remains the hottest place for drinking in Los Angeles. Notorious watering holes include the Sky Bar, the Viper Room, the Key Club, The Roxy, Whisky a Go-Go, the Cat Club and the House of Blues. Throughout its history this 1.5-mile strip of asphalt has served as the nightly play space for celebrities ranging from Grace Kelly to Motley Crue.

If you're looking to avoid the paparazzi, Los Angeles has several other areas exploding with bar culture. Hollywood takes on a different feel with the Cat n' Fiddle, and the Burgundy Room, or Beauty Bar. Los Feliz counters as the home of retro with the Derby and the Dresden, while Beverly Hills and the Westside offer a slightly toned-down glamour with places like Nic's Martini Lounge.

If you're not into the image, and just looking for a fun place to kick back with friends and have a brew, go U.K. in Santa Monica at Ye Olde King's Head, an authentic transplant from England that is often populated with British expatriates. Or, go for the Emerald Isle of Ireland at O'Brien's Pub, a noisy but down-to-earth sports bar filled with friendly people.
 
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