Even though I’ve lived on the east side of Los Angeles for almost a year and I spend a good amount of time in both Eagle Rock and Pasadena, Highland Park–an up-and-coming neighborhood and home to my favorite podcaster, Marc Maron–has eluded me. That is until two weeks ago when I met my food writing friend Tien Nguyen (she co-wrote the Roy Choi cookbook L.A. Son and has appeared on my podcast) for lunch at The Good Girl Dinette, a place owned and helmed by Chef Diep Tran.
When you look at these pictures, you’re not going to believe me when I tell you I’ve been on a bit of a health and fitness kick lately. That’s right: five days a week at the gym, salads, chicken breasts, the works. My strategy, though, is to reward myself on weekends and birthdays and at dinner parties–haha, I know you’re rolling your eyes–which is how I can justify what you’re about to see. Because last week I turned 35 and Craig surprised me with dinner at a restaurant I’ve been dying to try ever since I first heard about it: Bestia in downtown L.A.
[photo taken at Gjelina]
On my web browser I have a folder called “LaFOOD” and any time I see an article or a blog post about a restaurant I want to try, I save it to that folder. As you can imagine, after two years here, that folder’s grown quite unwieldy. I was just about to organize it for myself when I thought: “Why don’t I turn it into a blog post?” So what follows is a list of L.A. restaurants that I haven’t been to yet with links to the stories that inspired me to bookmark them*, organized by cuisine. Of course this list will grow and morph over time as I check off places and add new ones to my folder; but for now I think I have my work cut out for me. (* Note: some of the links are just links to the restaurants because I must’ve bookmarked them after hearing about them out in the world. Also, sometimes multiple restaurants link to the same article because that’s where I heard about them all.)
Today’s the Jewish New Year–Happy New Year, you Jewish people, you–but it’s also, basically, our two-year anniversary of moving to L.A. Last year, around this time, I wrote a post called “One Year in L.A.: A Reflection.” It’s a pretty fascinating thing for me to re-read because, at the time, we were about to go back to New York for Craig to shoot The Skeleton Twins and I could barely contain my excitement. The gist of that post was: L.A. is fine, but I’m a New York boy through and through.
Look, it’s Friday, and I need to get something off my chest. Two weeks ago? I ate the first pupusa of my life at the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market and didn’t tell you about it. I’m sorry! Things just got busy and I had to tell you about that toasted almond gelato and how to squeeze a lemon without getting the seeds everywhere. But look, here we are now, and it’s time to make amends. Let me tell you about my pupusa (isn’t that a Missy Elliott lyric?).
Jon Shook, of L.A.’s Animal and Son of a Gun, once told L.A. Weekly his favorite places to eat in L.A. One of them is one of my favorite places to eat in L.A., Ruen Pair, where I almost always get the same thing: the Prik King (see #9 on the list of my favorite places to eat in L.A.). Shook, however, goes for a different reason: “You gotta get #106,” he told L.A. Weekly. “The salty turnip and egg. It will blow your brain out coz it’s super cool.”
Hey, check out the kitchen above…I hope you like it because that’s our new kitchen! After a frantic search that lasted three weeks (ugh) my friend Nick e-mailed me a link to an apartment in Atwater Village on Wednesday morning. The funny thing about that is each morning I would wake up and the first thing I would type into Craigslist would be: “Atwater Village.” It’s absolutely my favorite neighborhood in L.A.: cozy, charming, scenic and home to both Proof Bakery and Canele, two of my favorite places here. Nothing worthwhile turned up and the few that did turn up I would make myself go see, only to be disappointed because the places–while well-situated–were really dirty/dusty/musky inside. Craig wasn’t having that.
The snap of a Pink’s hot dog, celebrated by the likes of Jonathan Gold and Calvin Trillin, has never done much for me. In fact, I had one many moons ago when I was visiting L.A. and that was enough for me, thank you very much. I’m a New York street dog devotee: a warm, soft dog straight from the steam bath might be gross to some, but for me it’s heaven. The less it snaps when you bite in the better. I was ready to write L.A. off in the hot dog department until I ran into my friends Doug and Bryan of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck here outside Lindy & Grundy. They told me their truck would be parked on Sunday in front of a gay bar, Faultline, and next to it would be a woman who makes the best hot dogs they had ever had in their lives. I should swing by and say hello.