It was meant as an insult. A pastrami pocketing New Yorker once told me that I like “salad between bread” not “sandwiches.” I dissagree. I mean hello, I love bánh mì, grilled cheese, the ‘Shroom Burger from Shake Shack and so on. Still, I do love a “salad between bread!” … Mustard Seed Café (Los Angeles, CA)
Roof gardens evokes idyllic imagery of secret and lemonade sipping parties. But this utilitarian paradise on the top of Playa isn’t for playing. Not open to the public, I was lucky enough to sneak a peek around this organic hydroponic garden supplementing the already enthralling menu (food and cocktails!).
This visit also taught me that, like a cat, I can climb up a ladder but not down. Fortunately the General Manager, Brian, spotted me wavering on the roof and helped me back to the bar.
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.
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. Herfood 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 theplace 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!
In a benign strip mall, on Sunset Blvd, hides a sushi bar that many people refer to as “the best in town!” Saito’s Sushi is walking distance from my prime Happy Hour haunt, Tiki Ti, and has become the number one spot my friends and I hit up after sloshing it up on rum and pineapple and Toro chasers! Er… I realize tropical drinks plus sushi sounds like a terrible idea, but there have been no ‘regrettable moments’ from this mix: A testament to the quality of Saito’s fish—and vegetables. The interior is sparse, a somewhat understated mess, with a simplicity reflected in the sushi.
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.