We’ve had visitor after visitor and I haven’t been cooking as much as I like, so I thought I’d write a little round-up of my current favorite places to eat and drink in LA (or really close to LA). This is in no way definitive and is subject to change at any moment, and the list is totally east side-biased. But all of these spots are worth a visit.
Lincoln in Northern Pasadena is a revelation in breakfast/brunch/lunch cafe fare. Everything I’ve eaten here has been wonderfully simple and simply delicious.
BS Taqueria in downtown has my current favorite happy hour. It’s only on weekdays which is a bummer, but they offer 4 really great cocktails for half price and $2 tostadas, which might be my favorite thing on the menu.
ETA is the new cozy-chic cocktail bar in town and is within walking distance of my house in Highland Park. Need I say more?
Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market has surprisingly delicious vegan ramen. Skip the vegan egg.
Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea serves up breakfast and lunch, including sandwiches on great bread. I had one of the best donuts I’ve ever eaten there (and I really love donuts).
China Tasty in Alhambra is worth the short car ride. They serve up huge servings of perfectly chewy hand-pulled noodles at low prices, and you can watch them being made through the glass. Bonus: it’s next door to an old school bowling alley.
Block Party is my current favorite beer and wine bar in Highland Park with a killer outdoor patio featuring shuffle board. They let you bring in your own food, too.
Visiting the Watts Towers has long been on my list of “LA things to do,” but I never seem to get around to it—until this weekend. Had I known the towers were so interesting to look at it and learn about, I would have gone a long time ago. So this is my public service announcement for you, sans spoilers: go see Watts Towers. Take a $7 tour, it’s worth it. And if you go after the 18th-ish, you can visit the new LocoL too. Win win win.
Last weekend we took a short trip to the Arts District in downtown LA to try Guerrilla Tacos.
They’re menu changes on a daily basis, but they usually post it on their site and Twitter. Most days they’re in front of one of two coffee shops downtown, but certain days they’re in Culver City or Silver Lake. Again, all on their site.
They have a limited, rotating menu, and the day we went they were serving shrimp and potato tacos with a chile morita, sweet potato tacos with feta and fried corn, mortadella tortas with pinto beans and avocado, and an ahi tuna tostada. We ordered everything but the tostada.
The torta was huge, with the thickest slice of mortadella I’ve ever seen, a slice of queso, beans, arugula, avocado, and aioli all on a crusty bun. My husband devoured it.
The sweet potato taco was lightly sweet and creamy, with gooey cheese, a bit of crunch, and a lightly spicy sauce.
The shrimp taco had huge grilled shrimp, crispy and creamy potatoes, lemony greens, and a really tasty sauce. Actually, it was all really, really good. We’ll be back again and again.
I was lucky enough to have a weekend pass for The Taste—The Los Angeles Times’ yearly food festival. It consists of five events over the course of Labor Day weekend, with lots of food, drink, cooking demos, panels, and more. My husband and I went to four (yes, four) of the events, and, a few pounds heavier, lived to tell the tale.
It was one of the most enjoyable food festivals I’ve ever been to, and overall felt well-planned and well-executed. Each event had a loose theme, and various restaurants from around LA served small plates from little booths on the Paramount Studios backlot. The restaurants changed for each event (for the most part), and several liquor, wine, and beer purveyors were on hand.
I’m basically just going to bang out a bullet point list of my personal highlights, and say that we had a great time. Looking forward to next year!
Two of the events were during the day, and it being LA in September, it was hot. Luckily, there were a number of “cool down lounges” available to duck into, our favorite being the arts lounge. We entered to win opera tickets and even joined the Natural History Museum while sipping on bubbly.
We kept going back to the Knob Creek bar, which was there all weekend. My husband fell head over heels for their Orchard cocktail, which was bourbon, Granny Smith simple syrup, lemon, and basil. You could also get a custom cocktail made, and I had a concoction of rye, Campari, grapefruit juice, lime, and ginger that was delicious.
Prova Pizzeria served up delicious pizza from it’s portable brick oven along with fresh burrata. The sauce was perfect.
The Gadarene Swine handed out fried olives as well as a dessert of coconut pudding, mojita granita, shortbread crumbles, and fresh strawberries that wasn’t too sweet and totally tasty.
Roy Choi gave a cooking demonstration, making avocado toast and a spicy pork and rice dish. He was as charismatic as always and the crowd loved him.
Mexikosher served falafel tacos with a burnt salsa and habanero tahini that were crispy and flavorful.
Love & Salt handed out a grilled peach salad with duck pastrami, dandelion greens, and cheese. It was refreshingly simple and clean among a lot of powerfully flavorful food.
At the bar stage, Wes Hagen from J. Wilkes wine hosted a left coast wine tasting, all of which were delightful, and his talk insightful.
Bulgarini Gelato served up a few flavors, but their fresh peach gelato and Sicilian almond gelatos were superb, and tasted so good together.
Plan Check Kitchen + Bar handed out 6 chili cheeseburger tacos. It sounds like a lot, and it was—but in the form of one small taco, it was truly tasty.
Jonathan Gold hosted a panel called “Things in a Bowl” with Alvin Cailan of Eggslut, Christine Moore of Little Flower, and Minh Plan of Porridge & Puffs. It was whimsical and everyone was lovely.
Cindy’s in Eagle Rock is the kind of place I have driven by a million times and thought about stopping, but never seriously enough to even slow down. It was looking a little pitiful, open really random hours, and half of the time had a film crew shooting in or outside. In the past year, Cindy’s was bought and sold and renovated, so things are a little different. On a lightly hungover Sunday, it was time to try it out.
We were pleasantly surprised by the bright interior, freshly painted with big orange booths. There’s first-come-first-serve counter seating, but we opted to wait for a booth, and only ended up standing around for 5 or 10 minutes. That is rare luxury at prime brunch time on a Sunday in Los Angeles.
The menu is a fresher, healthier and more thoughtful version of classic diner food without losing the comfort aspect. It’s also priced accordingly, but compared to many brunch spots in LA, it’s reasonable. I ordered a waffle and a side of homemade sausage and my husband ordered brisket hash which comes with two eggs on top. We both heartily approved our choices–the waffle was light with a bit of a crunch and not too sweet, the sausage was full of spices (not the best I’ve had but solid), and Dan really liked his hash, which was full of fresh-diced veggies and seasoned with homemade hot sauce. The only dud was the black-eyed peas, but I think they’d be much better mixed into the hash rather than eaten alone. Plus, it’s hard to make plain old black-eyed peas exciting.
The service was friendly and the crowd was local, ranging from big families to young and old couples. We’ll definitely be back for another mid-day breakfast fix.