A Field Trip To Atwater Village: Atwater Village Farm, Proof Bakery & Canelé

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One thing I know to be true about cities is this: they’re best judged by their neighborhoods.

I fell in love with some of my favorite cities–Seattle, Atlanta, New York–by visiting off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods with hidden-away restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, book stores and movie theaters. In Seattle, there’s Capitol Hill and Ballard; in Atlanta there’s the Virginia Highlands, Little Five Points and East Atlanta; in New York there’s the West Village, the East Village, Williamsburg and Park Slope. In all three of these cities, you could easily go there as a tourist and miss the best parts: you could stay downtown and see the Pike Place Market or the Coca-Cola museum or (midtown) Times Square and never venture into the parts that make these cities so beloved. Then you miss the whole point.

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The Apple Pan, Gjelina Take Away & The Lazy Ox Canteen

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I’m terrible at geography (please don’t ask me to find Iowa on a map) but I’m wonderful at food geography, especially when I know a city really well. In New York, friends would call me on a regular basis with queries like: “I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and need a place for an afternoon snack before going to a 5 PM chamber music concert at The Frick.” (Answer: Cafe Sabarsky.) Here in L.A., though, I’m on shaky ground (earthquakes notwithstanding). I’m new here and when a food geography issue arises, I’m not as quick on my feet. But I’m getting better.

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The Mole Negro at Guelaguetza

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According to Jonathan Gold, when the mayor of Oaxaca comes to Los Angeles, he eats at Guelaguetza. It’s listed on Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011 and in his original review he calls it “one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country.” Clearly, then, I knew I had to go there; and I knew I had to go especially for the mole negro which Gold describes as “black as midnight, black as tar, black as Dick Cheney’s heart.”

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Banh Mi at Ink.Sack, Chile Rellenos at Loteria

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Let me tell you about this sandwich that I ate at Ink.Sack, Michael Voltaggio’s sandwich shop on Melrose. It’s a Banh Mi, which if you haven’t had one (and I had my first one on Calvin Trillin’s walking tour of Chinatown many moons ago) it’s a sandwich, served on a baguette, usually made with pork pâté , pork sausage, pickled vegetables (carrots, daikon), mayonnaise, chili sauce and lots of cilantro.

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Tacos Delta & Ricky’s Fish Tacos

Tacos have entered my life in a big way. Ever since I moved to L.A. in September, I’ve been eating many, many tacos. Tacos at Loteria, tacos at Malo. In fact, there’s a very good chance that today I’ll be eating tacos for lunch and dinner, no joke. What makes the tacos here so great? Rid your mind of those orange tacos shells that you crunched through at your middle school cafeteria growing up. Here, tacos are served in freshly pressed tortillas; the fillings are often equally as fresh (no ground meat slop) and made piquant with pico de gallo and a splash of hot sauce. On the east side of town, where I live, I’ve discovered two great places for tacos. Let me tell you about them.

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The Best Sushi Of Our Lives at Sushi Zo

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Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Adam,” you’re saying, shaking your head while sipping a vanilla iced latte (why are you drinking that, anyway?), “you’re losing credibility. You just wrote a post below this about some blood-infused noodles and said that the Thai restaurant where you ate them offered the best Thai meal of your life. And now here you are, one post later, and you’re talking about the best sushi of your life. Don’t you think you’re overselling things a bit? If you keep calling things ‘the best of your life’ no one’s going to take you seriously. You’re like the boy who cried ‘best fill-in-the-blank of your life.'”

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Boat Noodles at Pa-Ord

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At a certain point, if you want to earn your stripes in the food world, you can’t act squeamish or repulsed at the prospect of eating a bowl of pig organs floating in a broth thickened with pig blood. Truthfully, I’m at a point now where such thoughts don’t repulse me; in fact, I think I have a mature attitude about such things. For example, I once attended a dinner cooked by Chris Cosentino of Incanto and the first course was a raw venison liver served on a spoon. I ate it. It popped in my mouth and did I cry? Did I enter psychoanalysis afterwards? Well, yes, but still. I got over it. And so it was that after interviewing Zach Brooks last week, I joined him for lunch at Pa-Ord, a deeply authentic hole-in-the-wall in Thai Town.

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