Local eats for the foodie.
Here is my (extremely modest) list of Must Eat Places in Los Angeles during my short 7-day stay.
Apparently only one restaurant in California made it to the Top 50 Restaurants in the World this year and it was not a Los Angeles restaurant. Notwithstanding the slight, the city is actually brimming with new and unique restaurants popping up in the most unexpected places. You know, those restaurants that you travel an hour to eat at and you wait in line for another hour to get a seat!
Here is my list of Must Eat Places in Los Angeles that I suggest you try out if you happen to be in the area. We focused mainly on trendy restaurants where locals go – rather than expensive, celebrity spots. Keep in mind that we stayed in a hotel in Koreatown (all of the hotels in L.A. were booked for E3 2016, which, ironically, was what Warren was in L.A. for), which is west of downtown L.A. and east of Hollywood.
1. Chego! | 727 N. Broadway, 2nd Floor, Far East Plaza | Located in Chinatown, this little restaurant is famous for its fresh take on Asian fusion with it’s “L.A.-in-a-rice-bowl”. With dishes called Kimchi Spam Bowl and Kung Pau Noodle bowl, there’s a bowl for everyone. You can order the dishes alone, or go with a combo of Ooey Gooey Fries (fries with kimchi etc.) and soft drink. You order first and then wait for your number to be called. We ordered the Chubby Pork Belly Bowl (rice with char siu flavoured pork belly, fried egg, sesame, herbs, chilli, greens, and salsa verde) and mixed it all together before taking a bite. It was simply delicious! The fat from the pork belly glues all of the flavours together and there’s also a bit of heat. The restaurant has very little seating, but there’s plenty of picnic tables and benches in the middle of the Plaza to eat your meal. There, you’ll join other foodies who have trekked all the way to the Far East Plaza, eating noodles from Pok Pok Phat Thai or Ramen Champ, Nashville-style fried chicken from Howlin Ray’s (just opened recently, so beware of the long line), vegan ice cream from Scoops, or coffee from Endorffeine. According to some L.A. food editors, Chinatown is the new “it” place for food, and I think they might very well be right.
2. Eggslut | 317 S. Broadway, Grand Central Market | Yes, that is indeed the name of this popular egg-loving food stand. It offers a variety of egg sandwiches, such as the Fairfax, the Cuban, the Egg Salad in fluffy brioche buns, just to name a few. It’s name sake, the Slut, is a jar of puree potatoes, topped with a poached egg and slices of toasted bread on the side. I had the Egg Salad sandwich: mashed eggs in their mustard mayo sauce and chives, with a generous portion of arugula, confined in a fluffy and buttery brioche bun. The arugula and chives really gave the sandwich the peppery flavour needed to balance out the mustard mayo. Yum! But did I mention the wait??? OMG we must have been in the order line for at least 20 minutes, and then another 10 minutes waiting for my order. Warren ordered and ate from Villa Maneliana (a stand serving delicious tacos for $2.75! next door) before we were even half-way through the line. I don’t think I would visit it again given the wait. I love eggs, but it’s also easily something you could cook up yourself, as long as you, like Eggslut devote enough care to include gourmet ingredients. That said, if you’re in L.A. for a visit, it’s a must-try.
3. Villa Moreliana | 317 S. Broadway, Grand Central Market | If the line at Eggslut is too intimidating for you…try the tacos at Villa Moneliana! They were handing out free samples and after one bite, Warren wanted more. Every imaginable part of the pig is used in the meat and nothing is gone to waste. As a result, the meat is juicy, savoury, and tender. You add your own toppings to the tacos, and they have quite the variety. They also gave us very generous portions of meat. Delicious.
4. Atticus Creamery + Pies | 6015 W. 3rd Street, outside of the Grove| After a sweltering walk out of the Grove, I stopped by Atticus Creamery + Pies for some awesome homemade ice cream and was not for a bit disappointed. The outside of the creamery is quite deceiving as its facade seemed a little tacky to me; inside is all modern, with clean lines and white and black decor. A friendly face invited me in and I tried 2 ice cream samples, the Honey Honeycomb and Raspberry sorbet. I got a scoop of the latter in a cup because the raspberry flavour was so intense and the texture reminded me of a snow cone. I also ordered their signature iced coffee made with milk and sweetened with maple syrup, the Atticus iced latte. The bill came out to be about $8, which is a bit pricey for the ice cream + iced coffee combo, even though I enjoyed both. Although I did not order their pies, Atticus is known for their multi-layered pies such as their peanut butter chocolate, Earl Grey, salted caramel, Oreo cheesecake, and strawberry pistachio pies. Check out their Instagram page to be wowed. Maybe next time.
5. The Gumbo Pot | 6333 W. 3rd Street, The Original Farmer’s Market| I can’t say I was that impressed with Original Farmer’s Market by the Grove (the previous weekend I had been in Montreal and I was blown away by how BIG it was and oh all the fresh fruits and vegetables on display there!), but I was impressed with the jambalaya that I had at The Gumbo Pot, which serves New Orlean style dishes. The jambalaya had a just enough heat to it that it cut through my bland palate on a hot day. It came with a side of salad with ranch sauce (slightly brown lettuce which could be remedied easily, so I forgive) and corn bread that was light and sweet, not at all oily. I chatted up with a couple who had ordered the shrimp po’boy and boy was the sandwich ginormous at a foot long! I finished only half of my meal, so I definitely suggest sharing your meal with a partner; that way you can order 2 dishes and try both.
6. JJ Bakery and Bosco Bakery Cafe | 3183 Wilshire Blvd, and 928 S Western Avenue, respectively | Both bakeries are located in Koreatown. JJ Bakery is perhaps more accessible by Metro as it is located on Wilshire Avenue. It prides itself of combining Asian flavours with French pastry techniques. Although there were more “exotic” flavours, such as green tea mocha and red bean fillings, I purchased an almond danish and a Parmesan cheese bread to try (to me, green tea mocha and red bean filling isn’t exotic, it’s very common in pastries & breads from Hong Kong bakeries, which I frequent). The bread and danish were alright, nothing particularly special. The crust on the almond danish was a little hard, as it wasn’t soft and fluffy, and I found the Parmesan cheese bread oily although the bread was nice a chewy. Later, I went to Bosco Bakery Cafe, which is in the Koreatown Plaza. Their bakery specializes in Korean style pastries, and as expected their pastries were light, fluffy, and not too sweet. I bought a twisted bread with sugar icing and a slice of orange Castellan cake. Both were quite good, and I have to say I preferred those to the pastries I bought at JJ Bakery. Granted, the pastries are very different, and it might be just my preference for lighter and fluffier fares.
7. BCD Tofu House | 3575 Wilshire Blvd | We were star-ving after our 5 hour flight to L.A. After checking into our hotel, the first thing I wanted was some comfort food. I love tofu and one of my fav dishes is soon tofu, a Korean spicy broth soup with soft tofu. After some quick Google searches, it turned out that BCD Tofu House, a chain of soon tofu restaurants in L.A., was just around the corner. It was opened 24 hours a day and had tons of parking. We got there around 9:00 pm and it was still packed with people, but it was easy for us to get a spot for 2. I ordered a soon tofu with beef and Warren ordered a stone bibimbop. We devoured pretty much all of the small appetizer dishes (we also each got a whole fried fish). When it came to the tofu soup, the broth was light with a ketchup taste to it and the house made tofu was firmer than I was used to. To each their own.
8. Yangji Gamjatang |3470 W. 6th Street | One of Warren’s favourite dishes is gamjatang, otherwise known as pork bone soup, which is made out of pork neck in pork soup, flavoured with chilli, peppercorn, green onion and other spices, served with a side of rice. Yangji’s gamjatang was extremely generous with their pork bone – I was even close finishing my portion. We really liked their pork bone; not only was the meat fall off the bone, the pork was slightly grilled on the outside so that the crispier meat on the outside edges contrasted nicely with the tenderness of the inner meat. The soup was also quite nice, as it was light and brothy. It was not spicy at all and in fact, any heat was from the peppercorns topping the dish. Overall thumbs up for this gem of a restaurant.
9. POT | 3515 Wilshire Avenue | POT is the brain-child of Roy Choi, the man apparently “responsible for the food-truck revolution and the invention of the Korean taco” according to L.A. Weekly. The restaurant is located on the first floor of LINE Hotel, and upon arrival, you cannot miss the awesome hip-hop beats. The menu is dominated by different types of hot pots to share (they are kept wrong by the glass stove in the middle of each table), along with meat and noodle entrees. Unlike Chinese hot pot in which the whole point is to cook your own food, at POT, the stove in the middle of the table is used only to keep the hot pot warm as the hot pot is ready to serve and eat. Among the four of us, we ordered the Old School hot pot served with rice (with marinated ribeye bulgogi, noodles, kimchi and scallions), the Knock G (octopus, jalapeno, veggies, rice cakes, noodles, spicy BBQ sauce), and a BBQ Galbi (thick beef short-ribs). Highly recommended.
10. EscaLA | 3451 W. 6th Street | EscaLA is owned and operated by Chef Chris Oh and Artist & Music Producer turned Entrepreneur, OG Chino, and the dishes on EscaLA’s menu reflects their respective cultures: Korean and Colombian. Apparently it is a hub for L.A.’s underground hip hop scene, although when we arrived for brunch at 11:30 am on a Saturday morning, we would have never guessed. The stream of patrons seemed only focused on one objective: trying as much of Colombian food (with Korean touches) as possible. I ordered the Spicy Fried Chicken & Coconut Waffle (Spicy Marinated Chicken / House Made Coconut Waffles / Panela Syrup / Ají Verde / Shaved Street Corn w. Cotíja Cheese & Chili / Sunny Egg), while Warren ordered the Huevos Benedicto (Poached Eggs / Honey Ham / Lime Hollandaise / Achote Potatoes / Over Crispy Colombian Arepas). We also ordered 2 Empanadas, one with a beef filling and one with kimchi and chorizo rice filling, off of their dinner menu. Silly me, I forgot to mention to the server that I couldn’t eat cilantro, so unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy my Spicy Fried Chicken & Coconut Waffle as much as I should have. The Aji Verde was superbly lime-y and went super well with the Fried Chicken (which reminded me of fried Korean chicken) and the Empanadas. As a Canadian who rarely has Latino food (or access to it), the experience on my palate was well worth it.
If you’re thirsty…
- I Love Boba and It’s Boba Time |3512 W. 8th Street and 3450 W. 6th Street, respectively| Google “bubble tea” and “Los Angeles” and the term “boba” will pop up. Both I Love Boba and It’s Boba Time have the typical bubble tea flavours (including fruity flavours), slushies, and smoothie, however, It’s Boba Time also has shaved ice and superfood cups. It’s Boba Time is a chain of bubble tea shops in L.A., while I Love Boba appears to be a standalone in Koreatown. Both places appear to charge about the same price for their menu items. Great cold drinks to quench your thirst during a hot L.A. day.
Other spots that we wanted to go to, but did not have the time or was out of the way…
- Mercado | 7910 W. 3rd Street; 3413 Cahuenga Blvd., and 1416 Fourth Street, Santa Monica | There are 3 locations for this restaurant serving authentic Mexican food. It is highly rated and apparently always busy. We tried to head to the Cahuenga Blvd. location for lunch after attending The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, but it was 38 C outside and it was about a 20 minute walk so we decided to head to the W. 3rd Street location…until we discovered that it opened at 5 pm. Fail.
- Cha Cha Chili |4625 Valley Blvd | Featured in Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, this little restaurant serves dishes that truly combines Korean and Mexican cuisine. After watching that episode, it was a no brainer that this was a must-go. Unfortunately, it was way out of the way for us (it is located north east of downtown L.A.), and we just couldn’t make it out there.