Earlier this week, the Husband and I had the pleasure of eating at both Lazy Ox Canteen and Lou on back-to-back weeknights for two deliciously long dinners (heartburn, anyone?). Lazy Ox and Lou are two casual wine bar/eateries located on the Eastern side of Los Angeles (Little Tokyo and Hollywood, respectively) boasting “interesting and esoteric wines” as well as equally delicious food (mostly small plates). Both establishments are very good and we have always enormously enjoyed our past experiences. So this of course begged the question: which resto is the besto?
Part One deals with non-food factors (location/ambiance, convenience/service and price), and Part Two deals with the menu and food.
-Location/Ambiance: Winner – Lazy Ox. I am biased towards the Ox since it’s a short 5-minute walk to our apartment in the Arts District, making it a bit easier to relax and drink that extra glass of wine during your meal knowing home is a few, drunken paces away. The small, outdoor dining option which faces the quiet thoroughfare of San Pedro is a huge plus. Though the inside of Lazy Ox can be described as cozy, it is a tad more spacious than Lou, where last time they shamelessly sat us (four, full-grown adults with average-sized limbs) at a table for two…no joke. I have never driven to Lazy Ox but I can’t imagine parking to be all too bad.
Lou is situated in an unassuming strip mall off of Vine, next to a nail salon and a laundromat, making it forever hip and adding to the “in the know” factor. The windows are completely covered in a paisley, floral motif with the black simply letters L-O-U boldly sitting atop. If you knew nothing about this place you would probably not enter, but when you do, its like being transported to a different, albeit delicious, world. The parking at Lou is also not bad. There is however no outdoor dining option and also no waiting area (if you sit in the front like we did, expect a few butts on the back of your head while dining). Last time I went to the ladies room there, there were about a half-dozen people patiently waiting in front of the restroom doors for serious lack of space anywhere else in the restaurant. They had been there 90 minutes and had gotten there just after 6 p.m. (yikes!). Both places are pretty loud (no romantic whispers here), boast cool chalkboard menus and warm, interesting lighting (the last two scoring points with me). I would venture to say that I like Lou’s interior more (even given the butts on the head factor) because of this particularly cool cartoon-like drawing on the wall and the floral curtains, but the outdoor dining is what gives Lazy Ox the edge here.
-Convenience/Service. Lazy Ox (convenience); Tied for service. I wouldn’t go to either place without reservations at a peak dinner hour. The wait is at least 45 minutes, if not longer. Unlike Lou, Lazy Ox takes reservations for parties less than 6 people (and on the weekends), so again the Ox wins for that. Neither restaurant uses Opentable though(boo). The service at both places is good, especially given how insanely busy both places usually are. Both places are open until midnight (Lou is closed on Sundays), and Lazy Ox recently started serving lunch daily.
-Price. Lazy Ox (by a smidgen). Both places are about equally moderately priced, with a few items that can jump the bill up. The Ox is perhaps a fraction cheaper, but we had a party of four versus two at Lou, so I think it comes out to be the same really. It also depends on what you order. As with any small plate place (except dim sum?), those small plates can really add up too. With about two glasses of wine each and dessert, you can expect about $60/person at Lazy Ox and about $70 at Lou, but mind you we were stuffed and especially at Lou, lacked a little self-control. Both places participate in Groupon-like deals and both have special nights (i.e. Mondays at Lazy Ox has half-priced wine, and Mondays at Lou serves a three to four course pre fixe menu with wine pairings for $55/person).
-Our vote: Lazy Ox Canteen wins on all counts, but very well played indeed, Lou. Part deux, here comes the food!