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Finding a good michelada is no easy task. Many restaurants just get it wrong—I find Clamato to be the main culprit. I have witnessed too many restaurants filling a glass half way with the tomato-clam juice concoction and topping it off with a Mexican beer. It takes more than those two steps to master the perfect michelada. The beer, spices, lime juice and sometimes Clamato (if invited to the party) need to come together and do the salsa. My hunt for restaurants that share a similar belief led me to travel out a little outside of the eastside, but not too far, and into three very different neighborhoods.
Here’s a list of restaurants doing it right:
YXTA: The location is off the beaten path (near Skid Row), but the restaurant is in a neat industrial space with really cool Dia de los Muertos style artwork, and more importantly, has a great happy hour. Yxta’s micheladas (pictured above) are on the milder side, served with lots of ice and a chili-salted rim that yields the right amount of salty spiciness. The food is okay, but isn’t anything to write home about. The guacamole is a standout and is uniquely topped with pumpkin seeds. 601 S Central Ave., Los Angeles, 90021
La Loteria Grill: This has been a long-time favorite of mine for brunch. They have a fresh-and-simple-is-better mentality that really appeals to me. The Studio City location is my favorite of the three, mainly because they have the best parking situation (lots of free spaces). They do five different takes on the michelada, but being a creature of habit, I always get the Michelada Clasica. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had with a mixture of worcestershire, maggi, Tapatio, and lime juice that comes in a glass of ice and beer on side. The worcestershire and maggi combo adds a rich piquancy while the Tapatio and lime provides a nice kick. It’s a perfect complement to their Huevos Divorciados,which are topped with red and green sauce and served with black beans and papas con rajas. 12050 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 91604
As far as LA institutions go, Fisherman’s Outlet is kind of covert. Even a lot of native Angelenos I know have never heard of it. I blame the location for that because without a referral, how anxious would you be to hit up a seafood restaurant on Central and 3rd with “outlet” in its name?
Still, it’s been around since the 1960s, attracting a broad sample of Los Angeles. Or like the website says, its where “powerbrokers sit elbow to elbow with the heart and soul of the working community”—the kind of place you’d expect to see on an episode of Southland or some movie about LA cops. Last time I was there, the outdoor table to my left was occupied by three Russian guys in track suits and to my right, a group of Filipino nurses.
Though reasonably healthy and fit, my brother and I have fat kids inside us, and they are partners in crime. I’ve evidence this phenomenon before on this blog, during a certain chili dog outing that took us all the way to West Hollywood. This time, our carnal food desires lured us to Nick’s Cafe, an LA institution and cop hangout since 1948. And, oh, was there gluttony.
Pure and unadulterated.
If you’re a Los Angeles native, eating at Langer’s is your birthright. If you’re a transplant, it’s still your responsibility. Basically, every Angeleno must visit this since-1947 Jewish delicatessen for two reasons—one, it serves up one of the best food experiences this city has to offer and, two, you need ammunition if some New Yorker tries tell you that all LA delis suck.
Tip: If such a dispute does arise, you should mention that consummate Manhattanite Nora Ephron declared: “The hot pastrami sandwich served at Langer’s Delicatessen in downtown Los Angeles is the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.” In the The New Yorker.
Everywhere I turn, The Pie Hole is in my face—food blogs, Facebook posts, IMs, texts, whispers in the hall. Okay, there are no whispers in the hall, but it does seem like everyone’s gabbing about Downtown’s latest dessert haven. And this is just its second week in business.
Intrigued and nearby, I made my way over last weekend to see what all the hype was about. I found the Pie Hole cinched into a smallish space in the Arts District, right across the street from Wurstkuche. The décor is simple and homey with a few communal picnic tables and some two-seaters, a menu handwritten on butcher paper and a small case of available treats.
The menu is small but sufficient. Listed are pies both sweet and savory, including the expected apple crumb and lemon meringue along with the more inventive peanut butter pretzel and carnitas with queso fresco. They also have a full coffee program, plus an obligatory supply of Mexican Coke.
Remember this? Last year, I had a gluttonous time at the 3rd Annual Feria de los Moles, and when I posted about it, a lot of you asked me to make sure I let you know when it came around again.
Promise kept: the 4th Annual Feria de los Moles takes place at Olvera Street on October 9th. At the all-day event, you’ll have a chance to try 13 different moles from Oaxaca and Puebla. If you’ve only had the sweet kind, you’re in for a treat—last year I had green mole for the very first time, and I was instantly a changed woman. There’s also folk dancing and live music, so it’s festive. Visit their website.
I’ll definitely be there. And if you need more inspiration, check out my post from last year.
Here’s the flyer:
Lately, I’ve been steering clear of food festivals. As much as I love to gorge, I don’t have the patience for marathon line standing or the competitive streak required to elbow my way to a fresh tray of sliders, fried balls, mini grilled cheese, etc. etc. In short, I don’t have the “in-it-to-win-it” spirit you need for a successful food festivaling.
However, I made an exception for this year’s East LA Meets Napa event, which was held last Friday at Union Station. I’ve always wanted to go, so when I got an invite, I couldn’t resist. Thankfully, this AltaMed fundraiser wasn’t your average food festival–no long lines, no pushing, and no food shortages. Just lots of great LA Mexican food (though not all East LA restaurants by any means) and wine from Latino-owned vineyards in California.
One of my first bites of the night was a sweet green corn tamale with cheese (I want to say aged cheddar) and mole. I was a little surprised with how much I enjoyed this dish. I’m usually pretty ambivalent about El Cholo–I love the fact that it’s a historical LA restaurant, but they’re food never really wowed me. This tamale was ridiculously moist, though, and it ended way too soon. I guess it’s pretty famous, but nobody told me.
Downtown LA is the last major obstacle between me and home on my daily west-to-east commute. Already battered by the indignities of the Santa Monica Freeway, I usually ditch the 110 and weave my way through the city streets instead. However traumatizing, this drive has proven a great tool for bringing restaurants to my attention.
One place I drive by and wonder about a lot is Zucca, so I was excited when I got an invite to try out the Italian restaurant’s new Piazza menu. The main perk of this al fresco service (menu is served on the patio) is that the large selection of small plates—antipasti, oven-fired pizzas, salads and pastas—are fairly inexpensive. Nothing over $12, all day from 11:30 to 9pm.
I thought I’d observe Valentine’s Day with a sexy dessert that I enjoyed when I was invited to dinner at Café Pinot. Created by Chef Kevin Meehan, who helms the kitchen at this Downtown LA restaurant, this Chocolate Mousse Crunch definitely covers the spectrum of chocolate intensity. The mousse and milk chocolate gelato are marked by lightness, but the drizzle of dark chocolate keeps things sharp.
Texture isn’t a second thought with this dessert—the hazelnut crust on the mousse is crispy-crunchy for snappy contrast to the smoothness of the gelato and mousse. Oh, and the candied hazelnuts….Super sultry.
p.s. This might be a little late, but tonight Cafe Pinot is offering a special Valentine’s Day menu. It’s $65 for 3 courses and $75 for 4 courses.
A food grudge is hard to shake. I should know because I’ve been holding one for a couple of weeks. The object of my rancor is the Vegetarian Club from Bottega Louie. On the menu, it sounded so good: zucchini, avocado, hard-boiled egg, whole grain mustard and curry aioli on 7-grain bread. Yes, please, I’ll take that!
When the sandwich came to the table, it was beautiful—from their high ceilings to their meticulous plating, presentation is where Bottega Louie shines. But take a closer look. Camouflaged by the appetizing color scheme and cute little cups of veggies is a sandwich that makes no sense.
I’m not a stickler for tradition, but the whole point of a club sandwich is that it has two layers of filling and three pieces of bread. That’s its point of distinction. This, however, was just a series of tea sandwiches speared by a wooden stick. Unless you’re willing to chuck a few slices of bread, most mouths aren’t big enough to eat this in proper club fashion. Plus, since there are 5 pieces, you’d be left with an extra layer.
Are you grasping the gravity of the situation?