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Good Eats: Neighborhood Haunts

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LA is paradise for those of us who love to dine out. There are amazing high-end restaurants, from Yamashiro to Spago to Pinot Hollywood. There are old LA institutions, like Pacific Dining Car, the Pantry, and Taix. Then there are the landmarks, like Pink’s, Tail O’ the Pup, and Lucy’s El Adobe.

But there is another restaurant type just as important to making up the LA food landscape: the neighborhood haunt. The neighborhood haunt could be a hole in the wall with a B grade from the County or a gastronomic wonderland hidden behind a mom-and-pop facade. What makes these places special is that they are particularly beloved by the surrounding community, despite being all but invisible to the rest of the city.

One such restaurant is Planet Indus in West LA. For a long time, it seemed like Planet Indus was just about to close, since the hours of operation were sporadic and it was never filled to anywhere near capacity, despite having only about 25 seats. Recently, the restaurant underwent a redesign and name-change to India’s Oven, supposedly to replace the India’s Oven on Wilshire Boulevard in Brentwood. The upgrades make it clearer that the restaurant is owned by the same father-son team that brought you Tantra in Silver Lake, but Planet Indus/India's Oven still retains a neighborhood flavor in a small space with friendly staff. Roberto, the manager, always remembers LAist when we walk in or call for delivery, asking where we've been if it's been a while. The chicken tikka masala is killer and the prices are rock-bottom. Regulars wave at one another as they pass through the door while picking up dinner.

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It's a joint that has found its groove now; the menu has expanded and new delivery drivers have been hired, cutting in half the normal one-hour wait time for samosas and lamb vindaloo. It may be on the way from neighborhood haunt to hipster joint, but LAist doubts that locals will forget the humble roots from which it sprang. We’ll keep on eating there and looking around for the next small thing.