As the first snow fell in Toronto last December, we boarded a plane and headed for the warmer climes of Los Angeles. With a resolve to use only public transportation to get around the sprawling parking lot of a city, we built up an appetite walking everywhere. Here’s a long-delayed megapost of our 10 most memorable LA meals as documented with my trusty Olympus XA and a few latergrams:
We set the tone with with in-flight Five Guys burgers courtesy of a layover in Washington Dulles. We more or less bee-lined it to Jollibee as soon as we landed in LA for Filipino fast food. Spirits were high. Eaten: spaghetti, fried chicken, peach mango pies, and SPAMwiches.
Jollibee | 3821 Beverly Boulevard
Melrose Trading Post is an outdoor flea market (“swap meet” as they insist out west) that takes over the school yard and adjacent parking lot of Fairfax High on Sundays. Like a more sprawled out and laid back version of the Brooklyn Flea. We sat back with hot plates from the Alberto Tamales stand as vendors and foragers ducked for cover from what was the only real rain shower of the trip. Eaten: tamales and tacos with refried beans and rice.
Melrose Trading Post | 7850 Melrose Avenue
Turns out, December in Los Angeles gets kinda chilly past dusk and a bowl of custom Hakata “dream ramen” from Shin-Sen-Gumi was our perfect night cap. This location was just around the corner from our Little Tokyo hotel and getting seated for last call still took 20 minutes – our wait payed off as we shared a table (and sakebombs) with an off-duty Mariachi band. Eaten: Hakata ramen, with crispy pig ear and soft boiled egg.
Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi | 132 South Central Avenue
UMAMI Broadway (formerly UMAMIcatessen) is now simply a downtown outpost of Adam Fleischman’s Umami empire. Still “catessen” when we visited, the concept was as confusing as eating in four different restaurants at once. The menu and dining room were shared by a Jewish deli counter, donut station, cocktail and wine bar, and a kitchen serving dishes from both UMAMI burger and Chris Consentino’s PIGG restaurants. The recent re-up to just the burgers seems logical, given the demand. Eaten: truffle burger, umami burger, pastrami sandwich and pigg fries.
UMAMI Broadway | 852 Broadway
Our final day in Little Tokyo began with coffee and breakfast from the nice folks at Cafe Dulce Inc. No Aziz Ansari sightings that day, just some expertly prepared tea, coffee and Japanese pastries. Eaten: spirulina chewy roll, koko churro.
Café Dulce | 134 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
One last ramen. We had eyed Daikokuya’s never-ending lines from our hotel balcony for three straight days before resorting to lining up outside before they opened to finally get a table. We were lucky to slide to the front door just before a busload of tourists were dropped off with the same early lunch plans. Eaten: Tsukemen ramen and teriyaki chicken on rice.
Daikokuya Little Tokyo | 327 East 1st Street
We checked into new digs in Culver City to take in the LA suburbs, which can be summarized as a pedestrian friendly downtown surrounded by some spotty public transit. Angelenos seem to swoon for free parking the way Torontonians obsess over patio space – a complex that has manifested in a growing food/art scene in Culver. What would have been a 10 minute drive from hotel to dinner broke the one hour mark through a frustrating mix of regional buses, light rail and walking. All worth it though, cos we made it to Father’s Office in the old Helms Bakery district. Eaten: Hawaiian butter fish, duck confit salad, lamb arancini, basket of frites and BEER.
Father’s Office | 3229 Helms Avenue
A wind-swept but beautiful beach bike ride from Venice Beach to Santa Monica brought us to The Refinery for iced Americanos. Having since visited SF, I think it’s safe to say that indie coffee is far more elusive in LA – Refinery seemed to be one of the better alternatives to Starbucks and Famimas.
The Refinery | 413 Santa Monica Boulevard
Culver City really didn’t feel complete until we finished off a “Family Pac” at Honey’s Kettle. Which for me, was validation of years spent defending the use of honey as condiment on fried foods – don’t knock it till you try it okay? The smell of the fried chicken as we walked through the door brought back the Jollibee-level elation of day-one. Eaten: 8 pieces, 4 biscuits, 2 kettle fries, coleslaw and pickles.
Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken | 9537 Culver Boulevard
Our last meal in LA was lunch at Son of a Gun, the nautically themed sister to the James Beard nominated Animal restaurant. We pretty much had to gun it to the airport after this (a feat involving 3 bus transfers) and their servers were kind enough to haul all our carry-on into storage for us while we ate. The chicken sandwich was the high note we were hoping to end on. Eaten: dungeness crab fresh rolls, shishito peppers, kennebec fries, fried chicken sandwich.
Son of a Gun | 8370 West 3rd Street
LA county is gigantic and comprised of what feels like cities within cities when you’re travelling through. We barely put a dent in all the things there were to eat in a week – just take a look at Jonathon Gold’s list of 101 Best Restaurants for the LA times (and it doesn’t even include the food trucks).