Category Archives: Region

Tortas Ahogadas Y Mas: Exploring Whittier Boulevard in East LA

Torta Ahogada: Half Soup, Half Sandwich

     Even on a day with no parades or festivals, the stretch of Whittier Boulevard that lies just east of the 710 freeway is teeming with life. The street is one the main arteries of East Los Angeles both in terms of geography and culture; home mostly to blue-collar workers and their families who, unlike most Angelenos, rely on transportation other than automobiles to get around. The crowds that linger at bus stops or walk the streets here give this section of town a vibrancy that is rare in LA. It is the feeling of undiluted city life where, for better or worse, the boundaries between public space and private life breaks down. Catering to this eager crowd is a wide array of Pan-Latino food vendors that, in LA at least, is unrivaled in it’s selection and multitude: from corner tortilleria’s decorated in day-glo orange murals to hobbled carts selling mayonnaise-slathered grilled corn. It makes for an exciting mix, and eating a bad meal in this neighborhood is a difficult thing to do. Continue reading

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Sawtelle Tempura House: A Bento Unboxing

Tempura House Bento Box

     Along the length of Sawtelle boulevard home to West LA’s version of Little Tokyo, often dubbed “Little Osaka”, lies a take-out shop that doesn’t quite fit in with slick, modern restaurants that surround it. While others serve Kobe beef shabu-shabu and delicate soba noodles, Sawtelle Tempura House specializes in cranking out homemade bento boxes for a lunch crowd that runs the gambit from UCLA undergrads to Santa Monica executives.  Bento is Japan’s answer to the brown bag lunch, a combination of snack-able favorites that is often sent along as a simple meal for those headed to school or work. Continue reading

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Sabina’s European Restaurant: Romanian Holiday

Sabina's Stuffed Cabbage

     Sabina, matron and namesake for the small strip-mall restaurant on Vine street, cuts a motherly figure. Even if you can’t claim any Eastern European heritage (though many patrons certainly do), she welcomes you will a with the unhurried and deliberate service of a woman who proudly serves a good home-cooked meal. She is not the kind of owner who delivers a forced smile or hangs on your every need, instead her only concern seems to be that you leave nourished with a belly full of hot food. The tiny dining room is filled with red pastel tables and chairs chipped from decades of use. The crimson colored cloth napkins are threadbare and musty, giving a sense of continuing tradition as you tuck them into your lap. Sabina hails from Romania, which can be discerned from either a glance at the travel agency photos of rustic countryside lining the walls or the short and hearty menu filled with Austro-Hungarian classics. Continue reading

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Turkish Delight: The Search For LA’s Best Döner Kebab

Spitz's Döner Kebab Sandwich

     For anyone who has traveled through Europe on a shoestring budget the significance of the döner kebab can’t be overestimated. Imported by Turkish immigrants in the seventies, the döner has become one of the most popular and affordable street foods in all of Europe. Travel through the subcontinent and you will no doubt find yourself quickly addicted to the kebab stands that never lie to far from the nearest bar or club. The döner kebab is a close of cousin of the Lebanese shawarma and the Greek gyro, consisting of roast meat shaved from a vertical spit tucked inside a split pocket of bread then garnished with salad, yogurt, and a pungent red chili sauce. The sandwich makes for a satisfying meal that is both portable and compact, essential elements of any great street food. In fact, döner has reached such levels of populist acclaim in Germany that it is the subject of a well-known drinking song, “Ich Bein Ein Döner” whose chorus roughly translates to “sandwiches makes you fat, sushi makes you crazy, pizza makes you horny, but döner makes you beautiful”. Needless to say, something is lost in translation. Continue reading

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Tacos El Compita: Al Pastor, Al Fresco

My New Year's Resolution: Tacos Al Pastor

     In the past few days there has been a slight change in most Angelenos. You may have noticed more joggers on the street than usual, decked out in the latest activewear. Or you may have noticed the long line at In-N-Out has shifted towards the Subway across the street. You may have even heard the buzz about so-called “energy bracelets” that harness the body’s natural magnetic field to improve balance (if you believe that then I’ve got a case of snake oil to sell you). Yes, this is the time of year in which everyone obsesses about forming new healthy and productive habits they’ve been neglecting in the past year. Though thankfully by February the status quo has returned: the only joggers are fitness freaks, the In-N-Out drive-thru line spans a city block, and people have stopped buying useless bracelets in favor of other useless things. Certainly I am guilty of these idiosyncrasies as well, which is why this year I aimed for a much simpler and enjoyable goal. Being a taco enthusiast, I enjoying visiting a good taco truck a couple times a week. I am fortunate enough to live very close to what is arguably the best taco truck on the Westside, Tacos Leo, whose deliciousness has been described in length by many people. The problem is Tacos Leo’s al pastor trompo, a vertical spit of marinated pork from which tender bits of porky goodness are sliced, only operates on weekends, leaving me sans the good stuff Monday through Friday. Thus leading to my goal of the new year: find more trompos. Continue reading

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The Rain-Soaked Koreatown Blues: Han Bat Sul Lung Tang and Koo’s Sweet Rice Pancake

Mixed Sul Lung Tang

     Los Angeles is currently facing the full brunt of a heavy storm system that is expected to last the entire week. Or, to put it as my grandfather used to say, it’s raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. It’s common knowledge that people in this fair city completely lose their shit when rain starts a fallin’. LA motorists are as cautious with their speed during inclement weather as they with their turn signals on the freeway. Add on top the logistical stress that a week of straight rainfall has on a city that usually experiences 300 days of sunshine a year, and rainy LA makes for a pretty sucky place. Yet, even in the midst of crisis there lies great opportunity, as the old proverb goes. For me that opportunity was finding solace in a good rainy day meal that would warm the body and nourish the soul. For that I headed to Koreatown, inspired by the recent post of the oddly-named Chowhounder, ‘mrgreenbeenz’. Koreatown may not seem like an obvious choice for a day meal on a stormy day, but when you consider it in terms of geography it makes perfect sense. Korea is located very far north in terms of latitude. In fact, North Korea is only a stones throw away from the vast frozen wasteland of Eastern Russia (even closer than Sarah Palin). So naturally Korean cuisine has a wide array of dishes that are exceptional for knocking out the chill caused by a blustery day.

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Tokyo 7-7’s Last Meal: A Farewell to Omelettes

The Tokyo 7-7 Special

     As some of you may know, December 18th was the last day of business for one of Culver City’s most unique and beloved eateries. Much has been said about Tokyo 7-7, a small shop pigeoned-holed by parking structures and the burgeoning classier eateries of downtown Culver. It is an odd pastiche of a diner to say the least: serving both Japanese comfort foods as well as American greasy spoon mainstays at prices that echo a time when Members Only jackets were worn without a trace of irony. Tokyo 7-7’s other-worldy nostalgia lasted 27 years with compromising to the pressures of a changing world. Not bad for a place where the waitresses total checks on abacuses and sell packs of cigarettes from the behind the counter between slinging plates of spam and eggs.
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Al-Watan Halal Restaurant: Love Me Tandoor

Tandoori Chicken


      The Tandoor, a clay oven used for cooking in India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, is an impressive piece of masonry. Temperatures inside the oven can reach up to 900° Fahrenheit, much hotter than the famous wood-fired Sicilian pizza ovens (those are around 700°). When a tandoor oven is hot enough, skewers of meat are lowered in to cook, developing a crispy and chewy skin while sealing in the juices of the meat. Dough is then plastered to the edges of the oven as the meat cooks, giving birth to another tandoor favorite, Naan, a thick chewy bread that can be stuffed or topped with a variety of ingredients. Suffice it to say the art of the tandoor is quite a feat, not unlike trying to cook your food from the flaming exhaust of a jet engine. In the mastery of such of high-temperature roasting there are few places in LA that rival Hawthorne’s Al-Watan Halal Restaurant. Continue reading

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Simpang Asia: Mean Green Mung Bean

     Los Angeles’ Palms neighborhood is easy to miss. Stuck between the hubbub of Culver City and Beverly Hills, it consists mostly residential apartments and a few ethnic grocery stores. One highlight, though, is the small stretch of National Blvd. between Motor and Overland representing this neighborhood’s closest version of a Main St. In these couple blocks you’ve got a excellent selection of eateries including Roy Choi’s Chego, which in it’s short  8 month span has already become quite legendary. Yet, the restaurant in Palms that keeps me returning again and again out of sheer intrigue is the tiny Indonesian cafe/grocery, Simpang Asia. Indonesian cuisine is heavily influenced by India, the Middle East, China, as well as the various countries of Southeast Asia. This makes for a complex menu that seems both familiar and foreign at once. In my experience though, navigating the menu is not necessary as whatever you order will probably be A) delicious and B) improved by a few spoonfuls of chili paste. Continue reading

Thanksgiving on a Bun: Could Soul Burgers Be LA’s New Best Burger?

    I thought I had heard rumors that a burger like this existed somewhere. But perhaps I had only dreamt of it, tapping into some kind of burger collective unconsciousness. Whatever lead me to Soul Burgers certainly felt like destiny as I couldn’t have been more excited by what I saw on the menu. Yet, as the lone diner inside a small burger shop directly across the street from Inglewood’s Hollywood Park Racetrack I have to admit I was feeling quite anxious. I  had waited 15 minutes and my food had yet to come out of the kitchen as I sat staring at the portraits of Motown legends plastered on the walls. I worried that I had built this burger up to an impossibly high standard and soon the reality would arrive: a soggy, cold, misshapen lump from a restaurant that hadn’t been open for more than 6 months. I couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Continue reading

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Ugly Roll: The Search for Cheap Non-Lethal Sushi


          There are three things that Los Angeles’ upper crust is always willing to fork out premium prices for: German autos, Italian fashions and Japanese sushi. It’s that last one that is often the most impressive in its mastery: dishes served at places like Urasawa or Sushi Zo boast some of the finest and freshest ingredients available, prepared by chefs so skilled they make brain surgeons look jittery. Of course, it comes at cost; go often enough and you may rack up the kind of debt usually reserved for recent college grads. The good news is that you can still find some decent sushi in LA for the same price as valet parking at Sugarfish. Continue reading

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George’s Coffee Shop: A Classic Diner with Seoul

     If some young indie director finds himself location scouting for his next mumblecore flick he could do a lot worse than George’s Coffee Shop, a cramped and unassuming Korean-American diner tucked away in a sleepy Culver City strip mall. With its weathered 1970’s sign and it’s outdated décor, George’s is the quintessential LA greasy spoon that has changed little but its prices (paced with inflation of course) since it first opened. Similar to its kindred sibling across town, Tokyo 7-7, George’s menu is filled with a few unique ethnic quirks that make it much more than the apparent sum of its parts. The diner is run by an older Korean couple, both of whom seem to have developed a harmony with the often hectic weekend breakfast crowd. They sling plates and clear tables with an efficiency and calmness that speaks to how long they’ve been at it for. Don’t take personal offense when the no-nonsense waitress/matriarch approaches your table holding her pen and note pad with a demeanor that suggests she may hail from somewhere north of the 38th parallel, that’s just the way it’s done at George’s. Continue reading

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