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RESTAURANT ENCOUNTERS

April 06, 1986| --Compiled by Kathie Jenkins

You're alone, on the go and want to stop for a decent meal, but you always feel conspicuous occupying a table by yourself. Don't despair. Some of the best new restaurants (and come to think of it, some of the best old ones) have counters or bars welcoming the solo diner. This is the first appearance of a Calendar listing that will group restaurants by varying topics from week to week. ANGELI (7274 Melrose Ave., (213) 936-9086). Loud, bright and very trendy, this Melrose Avenue emporium serves some of the best pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches in town. There is a tiny counter in the front where the single diner can sip a glass of wine and watch the pizza chefs twirling their wares. Open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; 5-10:30 p.m. Sun. Reservations accepted. MC, Visa, AE. Street parking. Wine and beer only. Dinner (food only), $10-$20.

CHEZ MELANGE (1716 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, (213) 540-1222). Chez Melange, bad French for "Mixture's Place," has a very eclectic menu. There's a sushi bar, and the menu includes vegetarian delights, Bengal shrimp and even a good ol' New York steak. Breakfast, 7-11:30 a.m. Mon-Fri., 7:30-11:30 a.m. Sat.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner, 5 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat., 5-11 p.m. Sun.; Sunday brunch 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Reservations advised. MC, Visa, AE. Hotel parking. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $10-$25.

CHINOIS ON MAIN (2709 Main St., Santa Monica, (213) 392-9025). The first California-French-Chinese restaurant, and still one of L.A.'s most interesting places to eat. Visually a knockout wherever you happen to be sitting, but especially nice at the counter, which offers a ringside seat on the open kitchen. Dinner, 6-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sun.; lunch, Wed.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Reservations only. MC, Visa, AE. Valet parking. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $25-$40.

MUSSO & FRANK GRILL (6667 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 467-7788). People have been sitting down for civilized meals at Musso's counter since 1919. By the early '70s, counter seats were so coveted that when the most famous counter waiter died, hundreds of patrons turned out to mourn him. (They also mourned the fact that his secret salad dressing recipe died with him.) A wonderful place for grilled steaks and chops and fish, a decent drink and a well-dressed salad. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Reservations advised. All major credit cards. Valet parking. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $10-$25.

STEPPS ON THE COURT (350 S. Hope St., (213) (626-0900). The perfect choice for a downtown lunch or a bite to eat before an evening at the Music Center. Stepps has a menu that offers something for everyone, from sushi to hamburgers, salads to Korean barbecue. They offer wines by the glass, 20 different kinds of single-malt Scotch and a well-designed counter for the single diner. Lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; dinner, 5:30-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-11 p.m. Sat., 5-10 p.m. Sun. Reservations advised. All major credit cards. Validated valet parking. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $10-$20.

72 MARKET STREET (72 Market St., Venice, (213) 392-8720). The most relaxed celebrity hangout in town is owned by Tony Bill, Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore (who occasionally holds forth at the piano). It's filled with good art and casually dressed people who come by to eat American specialties like Kick Ass chili, meat loaf, grilled fish and salads. For the single diner, an oyster bar in the front room offers a good perch from which to watch the scene. Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; dinner, 6-10:30 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 6-11:30 p.m. Fri., Sat.; oyster bar daily 11:30 a.m.-12:15 a.m.; brunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun. Reservations advised. MC, Visa, AE. Valet parking evenings. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $15-$30.

CAFE CORDIALE (14015 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 789-1985). Decorated in "Miami Vice" pastels, the hippest new restaurant in the Valley has a menu that runs the gamut from pizza to fricadella , with a detour through broiled swordfish and marinated lamb. Prices are reasonable, service is amiable and there's good wine by the glass. Single diners are seated at the bar, which is a very friendly place to be. Open 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-11:30 p.m. Sat. Reservations advised. All major credit cards. Valet parking. Full bar. Dinner (food only), $10-$20.

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