Alcove Cafe & Bakery (Los Angeles, CA)

The Alcove is adorable. A brick patio in front of a historical cottage fitted with a counter service café and a throwback cocktail bar… plus a magically available table always awaits you at the end of the winding line of hungry Angelenos. The menu is a rambling list of American and Americanized dishes. Most are decent—some truly suck. Still, if you live in Los Angeles long enough (like 3 months), you will eventually end up at the Alcove Cafe.

If you’re just trolling for the pictures, here’s synopsis: Order fries and onion rings only… possibly a salad. Order one dish per two people.

Seriously?!

Let’s start with the worst. DO NOT EVER ORDER THE CHEESE PLATE ($15). It is the most horrendous cheese plate I’ve ever had. I mean, Sage Derby. Seriously?! The mélange of other cheap cheeses and the 1985 tomato rose makes the cheese monster inside of me weep. The herb rolled medallions of goat cheese and thin wedges of brie are passable, but still have an air of supermarket refrigerator case.

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Lazy Ox Canteen (Los Angeles, CA)

Aren’t they adorable, nuzzeled together under a blanket of cheese

For years the Lazy Ox has been the place to eat in Downtown Los Angeles. But with all the yapping about their superb dashi marinated yellow tail (boring) and fried pig ear (gross) or pork belly sandwich (sounds like David Chang…sleeping) I wasn’t exactly running to their Little Tokyo location. While the vegetable dishes are hardly innovative, there are solid options and a few truely outstanding bites between the pork and pork and pork.

With speckled flaky char under olive oil sheen, the Grilled Asparagus is almost perfect! Tender and crisp with a sweet finish accentuated by the earthiness of shaved sharp sheep manchego cheee, rich romesco & espelette. The small sprinkle of espelette pepper lends a huge amount of heat, while the tiny chives do nothing but sit around and look pretty. So why ‘almost perfect’? $9 for six half spears of asparagus?! Please….

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Baby Blues BBQ (Los Angeles, CA)

Where’s the beef? Or pork…

Whoever says vegetarians hate BBQ joints, steak houses and burger stands has never met… well… me! I’m not enthused to know my pennies support these temples of the flesh, but such establishments produce consistent, high-quality, vegetable sides and sizzling condiments. Besides, when planning our monthly Serious Eats MeetUp, it’s not always about what I want.

So, what does a vegetarian eat at a barbecue restaurant? Let me tell you…

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The Veggie Grill (Los Angeles, CA)

All Hail Kale? Okay!

The day I moved (back) to Los Angeles was wrought with peril. But a cross-country flight, two terrified cats and the abandonment of life as I’d know it could not quash my higher function: Hunger. As vegetarian-orientated as California is, the caliber of the local vegetarian options simply does not compare the echelons of New York. I was ready for disappointment. Fortunately, I was met at LAX by my parents and a Thai Chickin’ salad from The Veggie Grill.

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Larchmont Bungalow (Los Angeles, CA)

Nuts for nachos!

Mobbed every Sunday brunch, many people forget about Larchmont Bungalow when heading out to dinner. At night, this spacious café become a quite sanctuary for a casual meal with friends.  The menu is fairly meat heavy, but a pretty hand written board highlights all their NEW vegan options! The obvious choice is the easy to share Vegan Nachos ($9.95). Light and crispy homemade tortilla chips are topped with vegan cheese (Daiya, the best band out there), whole black beans and thin slices of fresh jalapeno. With the perfect amount of salt and heat we could not stop eating the nachos, especially when loaded with the pico de gallo and fresh guacamole.

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The Gorbals (Los Angeles, CA)

Plenty of space for thick rimmed glasses and scarves in 70 degree weather…

I’m not a star chaser. I’m not! Really! But… would I have cared about The Gorbals if not for Top Chef? Er, probably not.

In need for a last minute dinner reservation anywhere downtown, The Gorbals popped up on Open Table so I booked it. Illan Hall wasn’t a favorites on the show, but—much to the chagrin of my school teachers—TV tells me what to do these days.

In the pre-ultrahipsterazation lobby of the Alexandria Hotel an unremarkable door hides The Gorbal’s sparse dining room. Populated with utilitarian wooden furniture and down-lights, it’s a refreshingly quiet space from a winner of a reality television show. Although the unpretentiousness of the space is muddled by the paint-by-numbers predictability of the hostess’ high-waisted jeans and plastic rimmed glasses.

The menu is broken down by animal, with a neat little omnivore section for the likes of me (and you?)! The Pimento Cheese & Corn was sadly out of stock, still we ordered a nice assortment of hits and misses that gave me a clear picture of Chef Illan’s cooking point of view.

Yes, even without the meat.

The secret to these cucumbers is not lemon

Our meal kicked off with the Persian cucumbers and clearly not canned Garbanzos Beans tossed with Sesame Oil and Sumac ($8). Wading in a puddle of what I assumed to be watered down sesame oil, the cucumbers were ‘kicked up a notch’ with sumac. Apparently I didn’t know what sumac was before this meal, but I’ll never forget it now! Though the red color implies spiciness, it’s more like a sharp dusting of lemony zest! Fabulous!

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Bricks and Scones (Los Angeles, CA)

Unassuming...

At the north end of the Larchmont Blvd shopping district sits Brick and Scones, a swank library-quiet wi-fi haven well known by locals. It’s the study you wish you had at home. But all of this is beside the point, because the point of being here is to eat Korean-style Chewy Sesame Rolls!

Why, hello there...

The dairy-free/gluten-free Sesame Roll ($2.50), served warm by request, is a ball of joy. Flakes fall as you rip through the skin, revealing a chewy inner-heart of mochi, black sesame, and air bubbles. Each Sesame Roll is unique as a geode, full of densely speckled flesh with a whisper of sugar. Continue reading