Category Archives: South Bay

5 Hood Burgers in 5 Days: Straight Outta LA

Hood Burger 
[hood bur-ger]

-noun 1. A large hamburger consisting of multiple thick beef patties as well as the addition of highly caloric toppings, including but not limited to: cheese, bacon, pastrami, egg, hot links and chili.

     Forget what Jimmy Buffet says, the best cheeseburgers aren’t found in paradise; they’re found on the mean streets. Products of tough neighborhoods where money is often tight but stomachs aren’t, hood burgers are a unique category unto themselves. The current LA burger dichotomy generally falls into two categories: the fast-food style burger with a thin, tightly-packed patty adorned with basic toppings; and the gourmet burger, featuring a larger, loosely ground patty featuring higher quality meat and more upscale ingredients. Somewhere between the two lies the mutant, bastardized world of the hood burger. If classics like Apple Pan and Pie n’ Burger are Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, then perhaps these are more like Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire: beefed-up, highly divisive, and of questionable sanity. Hood burgers can be found in many parts of the U.S., but some of the best examples are found here in Los Angeles. After all, they don’t call it Burger Town for nothing. Here are five of the best, sampled over five days. Continue reading

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Soul (Food) Searching: R&R Soul Food & Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

Fried Chicken, Greens, Mac n' Cheese, and Yams

     When it comes to Southern cuisine in Los Angeles, the lion’s share of attention goes to barbecue: long-winded debates comparing the soot-covered barrel smokers of Bludso’s or Phillip’s, or the proper peppery tang of Big Mista’s secret sauce. And if barbecue isn’t the topic, then perhaps someone will bring up Roscoe’s Chicken n’ Waffles, a southern-style greasy spoon that is by any measure a Los Angeles institution know for it’s half-hour waits and celebrity endorsements as much as it’s food. The truth is Los Angeles is home to an impressive collection of traditional Southern Soul Food restaurants that extend well beyond the BBQ shacks or the heavy-treaded diner chains slinging plates of chicken and waffles. Though soul food can trace it’s origins to African-American culture, it has undoubtedly woven itself into the national palette as nostalgia-inducing comfort cuisine: crunchy fried chicken smothered in onions and brown gravy, stewed greens seasoned with tender pits of pork, cloyingly sweet pieces of peach cobbler topped with ice cream. Dishes are cooked low and slow and, as any southern chef will insist, rely on care, patience and heart in order to be called true soul food. Continue reading

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La Sirena Azul: Unsung Mariscos Bliss

Shrimp and Abalone Cocktail

     For geographical reasons that are beyond me, a 10-minute drive south of LAX will land you in a section of town that holds one of the best collection of Mexican seafood restaurants in Los Angeles. Draw a small circle on a map where the nebulous borders of Inglewood, Lennox and Hawthorne cross and you will find it includes such solid marisquerias as El Puerto Escondido, Mariscos Moni, and the highly-regarded Mariscos Chente, roughly forming a Bermuda Triangle of mariscos inside of which many others are hidden. One of my current favorites is the tiny La Sirena Azul, which lies in a quiet stretch of Century Boulevard located in South Inglewood. It’s not so much a restaurant as a kitchen with few tables out front, flanked on either side by a dusty jukebox and a beer cooler. From the dining room you can see large pots of stew bubbling on the stove and the remains of freshly shucked oyster halves lining the counter. La Sirena’s chef and owner hails from north of Puerto Vallarta, a city which prides itself on it’s seafood, so it’s not much of a surprise to see the menu is composed of the quintessential dishes from the Mexican coast: ceviches, cocteles, aguachiles and pescado frito. Come around 4 o’clock, and you will find the place packed with Latino workers craving a refreshing meal after a long day. Continue reading

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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