It began years ago. Aloft in New York, I’d fly down to Los Angeles for family and friends… but not for the restaurants. STREET almost changed my mind. I’ve checked in periodically over the years, the menu in a constant flux of evolving blends of modern and traditional street foods. But it has finally come to a beautiful fruition the newest menu revision. Focused on small dishes and with a heavy nod to vegetarians and vegans, STREET is now totally worth a cross country flight… but now in my case, a 20 minute drive.
When it comes to vegetarian eating in Los Angeles, I’m sorry to say, omnivore restaurants reign supreme. Incredibly fresh, resourceful and delicious, I’m smitten with Forage in Silver Lake’s vegetable dishes. A generous plate of three sides runs $11.50. When making choices, let your eyes guide you. The elegantly displayed selections speak for themselves. But if you want a some assistance, here’s a guide to my favorite plate:
When I moved to LA in 2010 the very first thing I asked people was: “Where should I eat?” Their very first response was normally: “Kogi BBQ!” But whenever my schedule opened up, Kogi BBQ was in the depth of the OC and I’m not about to waste 60 miles of gas for tofu tacos. Fortunately, Chef Roy Choi had also opened Chego in Culver City. Still, the long dinner queue usually shooed me away to less hyped restaurants.
When I finally tried Chego, it offered exactly what I expected: A mediocre vegetarian option.
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.
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.
There was a time when you could say: “Hey, let’s go get Ethiopian Food!” and 99% of the time I would say “YES!!!”
Since eating at Meals by Genet my answer has unilaterally changed to: “Only if we go to Genet’s…”
Chef Genet Agonafer has ruined all other Ethiopian restaurants for me. Her food is heaven; all other Ethiopian food is earth. I avoided her for years, thinking the white table cloths, professional wait staff and candle lit dining room signaled a watered down “for white people” rendition of Ethiopian cuisine. A tragic mistake. Portions here seem small compared to the other 20 or so Ethiopian places on this block, but this is truly a case of quality verses quantity. As Genet explains, she’s the only restaurant on Fairfax that doesn’t cook their lentils in water. Instead she cooks her lentils down into a sultry stew in clarified butter. Seriously, I cannot even write this without salivating.
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….
After 8 years in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy! Do or Die!), I kissed my favorite pizza good-bye and flew home to Los Angeles. A few months later I was hired at Slice. I didn’t know much more about pizza then the average NYC foodie. But that’s considerably more than the average LA foodie… and probably how I got the job. This past year I’ve devoured the Los Angeles pizza scene, learning a simple truth: There is awesome pizza in LA!
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…
UPDATE: There is anchovy in the tomato sauce! What a bummer!
I eat a lot of pizza. So, when the internet gushes praise on a brand new pizza place, how cannot I not chime in? Today, Foursquare and Twitter blew up with love and attention for Milo + Olive’s pizza (most notable by The Unemployed Eater) so I got my butt over there ASAP. Thinking I could successfully avoid the lunch rush, I was still met with a completely packed restaurant. So I placed my to-go order—got an estimated 30 minute wait time—and hopped over to Sonny McLean’s Irish Pub where I nursed a Affligem Abbey Ale in anticipation.
In an effort to find an affordable meal, four girls meandered through Las Vegas’ City Center. Our weary feet gave up in front of Julian Serrano at the Aria. Despite knowing our wallets would get reamed by lux Las Vegas tapas, we begged for a table without reservations. Lady Luck smiled upon us and a large round table–that could easily fit six–became ours.
I get the feeling that the waiters are trained to spot indecision and just start bringing food. With a ‘just trust me’ attitude, our waiter started us off with a wedge of Spanish Tortilla ($8). It’s the perfect way to silence the cocktails still churning through your veins–plus it tastes good. But considering the price vs size, we each got a single $2 bite… of potato, egg and onion… the cheapest ingredients in the world.