Whether you’re into outdoor dining, takeout and delivery, or looking to dip your toes into the pop-up game, there are plenty of ways to support your favorite LA restaurants right now, or try something new this weekend. If you can’t decide where to start, we totally understand. That’s why we’re highlighting the best dishes we’ve had recently, which are available for takeout and delivery. Here’s a look into our personal food journals.
THE BEST THINGS WE ATE THIS WEEK
I haven’t had many new experiences in quarantine (unless you count the time I stared out of my window for two hours straight), which is why my meal from Naemo felt like such a breath of fresh air. Korean American restaurant vets Ki Kim and Arnold Byun (who’ve worked at high-profile NYC restaurants such as Blanca and Eleven Madison Park have returned to their California roots to launch a new pop-up pairing Korean flavors, farmer’s market produce, and fine-dining techniques. When I order from their recent collaboration with Hanchic, a new Ktown restaurant featuring “Korean food like no other,” I received beautiful boxes wrapped in a sort of gauze-y cloak, which contained everything from seasonal mussel bibimbap to grilled mackerel resting on smokey confit mushrooms, and a raw flounder dish dressed in a bright and tangy gochujang vinaigrette. It’s Korean food, clearly - the tastes and the flavors are nostalgically familiar - but made with a unique twist. It’s an experience that’s new, exciting, and completely novel. Like the time I dissociated for hours in front of my window, but in a good way.
-Kat Hong, Staff Writer
Even if you haven’t ventured out much this past year to eat, you’re probably aware that you can find birria tacos all over town right now. But when the market is as saturated as it is, it can be challenging to figure out which spots to prioritize. Let me point you to Birrieria Esquivel. I tried this new shop in South Gate recently, and loved the salty, spicy balance of their beef birria that they put into almost every dish on the menu. The cheesy, crunchy tacos dorados are the obvious stars, but definitely make sure to order a few mulitas as well. These flat, gooey tacos aren’t the easiest things to eat while sitting in your car, but if you’re by yourself, who cares? Also, the deeply smokey consomé that comes on the side is among the best versions I’ve ever had - I dunked my tacos into it a few times, but then just ended up drinking straight from the cup.
- Brant Cox, Editorial Lead
Cabbage. It’s a serene word, and a serene vegetable - with its soft “g” and its smooth, round figure. But this cabbage baked in embers with yogurt, sumac, and lemon from Charcoal in Venice reminded me that “cruciferous” kind of sounds like Lucifer, in a heavy-metal sort of way. I’d come to Charcoal’s new back patio just for a drink and this appetizer. All that’s needed to cut through the velvety cabbage leaves and its charred exterior is a spoon. And the yogurt on the side is the perfect accompaniment to its tangy lemon flavor. I’m all for playing with fire if the outcome is always this good.
-Arden Shore, Senior Editor
THE BEST THINGS WE ATE LAST WEEK
If you heard a roar of ecstasy in the distance this past week, that was me finding out that Kimukatsu, the pork cutlet specialist on Sawtelle, had relocated their only US location to Beverly Grove. Having this excellent Japanese spot that much closer to my house felt like retribution for not winning the PowerBall jackpot. Needless to say, I went all-out ordering a few different sandwiches, a katsu curry bowl, and an a la carte pork cutlet. The cutlet itself had a thin, perfectly-crispy panko crust that complimented the savoriness of the meat without drying it out. The atsuyaki egg omelet sando is light, but fulfilling, and works great for a quick midweek lunch. But the biggest highlight was without question the rich, gravy-like curry. I splurged and spent an extra $3 to get it at the highest level of spiciness possible, and I don’t regret it. The heat was perfectly dialed up and paired ideally with the sweetness. I also don’t regret drinking it directly from the takeout container.
Ever since Kat profiled Mama Drive-By Kitchen, I’ve been following their every move. Finding out which two mom-and-pop restaurants from opposite corners of LA will be paired up next gives me something to look forward to every week. This go-around it was Gamboge and Medan Kitchen, but I didn’t place my preorder fast enough because procrastination is my favorite sport, so I missed out on Gamboge’s Cambodian contributions. I did, however, get to try nasi padang and nasi bungkus from Medan Kitchen, an Indonesian spot that opened in Rosemead last year. I can confidently say this was the best meal I’ve had in 2021, and also that banana leaves are the ideal takeout box. The leaves on both dishes unfurl to reveal sweet bricks of rice, loaded with beef rendang, chicken, boiled egg, and, in the case of the nasi bungkus, sambal belacan with just the right amount of funk, spice, and fishiness.
Listen. When the craving for Chinese food hits, there’s no point in resisting. There are no substitutes for this cuisine, and your body will reject anything else - a lesson I learned this past weekend while watching an episode of The Sopranos that featured a scene with Chinese takeout. And in those moments, ABC Seafood Restaurant is ready to spring into action. Their menu is around, 200+ items long, and filled with Chinese-American comfort dishes like tangy orange chicken, wonton soup, and cake noodles smothered in bay scallops and oyster sauce. The portions are massive, sides of rice get their own styrofoam container, and the dishes themselves are simple, unfussy, and the perfect complement to a half-day watching people get whacked and shouting about the gabagool.
PREVIOUSLY, ON THE BEST THINGS WE ATE THIS WEEK
It’s kind of been a week, hasn’t it? The weather continues to oscillate between summer-hot and super cold, I haven’t had air in my front left tire in weeks, and worst of all, it seems like I was the only person in the world who didn’t make a cool and timely Bernie inauguration meme. I mean, even The Infatuation NYC had one, for god’s sake. Whatever. I’m not bitter. I did have this, though - a radiant, golden-crusted galette, courtesy of Fuyuko Kondo’s new pop-up. For those not familiar, Kondo is a renowned Japanese pastry chef who’s worked in places like Gaston Le Notre in Tokyo and Paris’ Joel Robuchon - and the experience shows. Slices of apple are laid out in a symmetrical wreath-like formation, then covered in a sweet and salty cinnamon/butter glaze. And that crust - made with locally grown Sonora-style flour, it’s baked with absolute precision, kind of like this amazing Sopranos meme I found.
- Kat Hong, Staff Writer
Until this week, I’d never actually had La Morra pizza. Despite being heralded by the rest of the Infatuation staff, this wood-fired, portable pizza shop was just one of those places that slipped through the cracks for me. After popping up at different locations around town the past few years, La Morra has settled into a permanent space on 3rd St. in Beverly Grove, operating essentially as a takeout window. I ordered the pepperoni, margherita, and salsiccia (fennel sausage and pickled peppers), but please don’t inquire about my favorite, because, much like the contents of my Yeti bottle - my answer is extremely fluid. Which is to say, how can I possibly pick when each one is so good?
To satisfy a recent craving for khao soi, I got takeout from Pailin, the Northern Thai spot that does one of the best versions around. The khao soi was, as advertised, fantastic, with perfectly firm noodles and a rich broth. But I’m also still thinking about the larb tod - the deep fried larb balls - that I added on to my order. These crispy, tangy nuggets are nearly impossible to stop eating, but if you do have any leftovers, they’re also a delight to have in the fridge the next day.
-Hillary Reinsberg, Editor In Chief
I went for one of everything when I placed my order with this monthly omusubi pop-up that operates out of Psychic Wines in Silver Lake. What stared back at me when I cracked open the bag was a color-coded cluster of saran-wrapped omusubi, plus enough nori sheets to go around. While the beef sukiyaki, salmon, and mushroom options were ideal snacks that could double as decor (if only they weren’t perishable), it’s the tamari-cured egg yolk rice ball that I’ll be ordering in multiples next time. When you bite into this one in particular, it’s hard not to have a corny eureka moment - the yolk glows eternally golden, and the gooey, salty tang is nothing short of a miracle. You can keep up with Moyosubi on Instagram to preorder the next monthly drop, and know that Moyosubi founder/omusubi maker Maya Kambe donates 20% of her profits to Soul Fire Farm.
-Arden Shore, Senior Editor
We’re all searching for something: love, enlightenment, that one missing sock. I personally am at all times searching for the best value-for-quality chirashi bowl and/or sushi set. After seeing it pop up on Instagram, I found an excellent option in Iki Ramen’s $22 Kaisen Don. With tuna, salmon, kampachi, scallop, ikura, spicy tuna, and crab, this box packs a lot of very excellent fish in to a pretty package, for a fair price. If you know of something similar that also costs under $25, my DMs are open.
This new Monday-only pop-up at Dudley Market brings a bit of the South African braai - basically, a causal hangout where meat is grilled, conversations are had, and drinks are consumed - to Venice. Chef Guy Cohen grew up in LA, but his mom came from Cape Town, and she brought the tradition of grilling and gathering with her. So at Birdeye, Cohen is serving perfectly charred chicken topped with peri peri sauce (a Southern African staple made with bird’s eye chilis), that he’s combined with chimichurri, adding a spicy and bright bite to the smoky bird. That peri peri is the star of the show - it’s also the base for a tangy dipping sauce that accompanies an order of earthy enoki mushroom hand rolls - but there’s also a pretty good kale Caesar, tossed with avocado and lemon, if you’re looking for a respite from all the savory flavors. The menu is small, but you can tell Cohen definitely knows his way around a grill… and how to kick off a week the right way. For more info, check out Birdeye on Instagram.
- James Montgomery, LA Editor
In the Beforetimes, Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon served vegetable-forward small plates, which - don’t get me wrong - I was very into. But during this most recent lockdown, I’ve been more interested in large portions of mac & cheese than tiny portions of pea shoots. And apparently, the people at Rustic Canyon feel the same way, because they recently debuted Grin & Bear It, a pandemic-born Southern pop-up. I checked it out while doing research for my guide to Santa Monica’s best takeout, and let me tell you: The hot honey chicken is great - perfectly moist, with crispy and delicious skin - as are the warm, golden-brown sourdough biscuits with house jam and salty honey butter. The mac & cheese also has a lot of that sourdough funk in the pasta dough, which I appreciate. I tried to balance it all out (and be healthy) with the braised spicy Swiss chard (which also happens to have pancetta in it). I finished it off with some caramel corn ice cream, which really did make me think I could grin and bear it - at least for a few more months.
- Brett Keating, Staff Writer
What makes a perfect injera? Is it sour, funky, and tryptophobically porous? Firm - but not too firm? Or is it simply just served at Lalibela? Located on the mega-crowded Fairfax Ave., this is by far one of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants around. The sambusas are deep-fried a beautiful dark brown, and are filled with a fragrant mix of lentils, grilled onion, jalapeños, and herbs. And although calling a dish the Veggie Utopia might seem a bit hyperbolic, once you receive the massive combo platter - loaded with 14 different options, including shibera asa (spicy chickpeas), red lentils, collard greens, suf (sunflower seeds), and of course, a brick of the aforementioned injera flatbread - you’ll realize that this utopic bliss is 100% real. Unlike my daydreams of one day owning a fancy espresso machine, sadly. Available for takeout, call (323) 965-1025 to place an order.
Last Saturday, I took a drive down to Imli, a yet-to-be-opened restaurant in downtown Whittier serving street-style Indian food. Why was I going to a spot that still hasn’t officially turned the lights on? Because despite that, founders Nikhil Merchant and Ashwini Jhaveri have begun cooking - and are doing special menu drops via their Instagram. This past weekend, it was all about Goan curry, with both shrimp and vegan (jackfruit) versions available. I slightly preferred the subtle sweetness of the shrimp, but overall, I was completely blown away by the punch of flavor coming from everything on my plate. The coconut and sweet caramelized rice that came on the side could frankly be its own entree, and the sol kadi (a chilled drink made from coconut milk and kokum) was the perfect cool down between bites. Imli might just be getting started, but I’m already fully onboard the bandwagon.
Silver Lake’s Needle has been a quarantine MVP for me. Against all odds, their roasted meats hold up beautifully for takeout: The chicken wings in soy glaze maintain all of their blistery skin and moist dark meat, and the pork chop bun on milk bread with spicy relish is just as good at room temperature. But, without question, my favorite thing here is the char siu, made with Peads & Barnetts’ (very fancy) Berkshire pork belly. The pork is fatty, fork-tender, and very smoky, and eating it at home means I can safely lick the honey glaze and rendered pork fat off the bottom of my plate without drawing any attention to myself.
I like pastrami. I like breakfast burritos. So, obviously, I love pastrami breakfast burritos. The best one I’ve found is at Jerry’s Patio Cafe & Bar, the Marina del Rey spot that takes the best bits of the menu from Jerry’s Famous Deli (the former tenant that closed in 2017, after a 20-year-run) - namely, their pastrami and latkes - and wraps them up inside a flour tortilla. They also stuff in fluffy scrambled eggs, smashed avocado, caramelized onions, Gruyere and cheddar cheeses, and some smoky, slightly sharp salsa, making this a breakfast and lunch kind of affair. Have I had it for both meals? Definitely. Is it a bad thing that Jerry’s is within waddling distance of my apartment? The jury’s still out.
I’ll be completely honest - I was a bit hesitant about this new curry house on W. 3rd St. in Beverly Grove. With a highly produced, Instagram-y aesthetic and a tight menu that features different curries from around the world, the whole operation comes across a bit gimmicky. But at the end of the day, none of that matters as long as the food tastes good, and at Cobi’s Curries, it’s great. “The Devil,” made with Malaysian curry debal, is spicy, peppery, and an absolute standout. I also liked the butter chicken and one of the only (OK, the only) curry laksa you’ll find in Beverly Grove, but whatever you do, make sure you get a few of their excellent curry puffs as well. They’re essentially giant samosas, but much flakier, and filled with everything from chicken masala to spiced potatoes.
If there’s one thing that’s gotten me through quarantine (besides my joggers), it’s Luv2Eat Thai. Open since 2014, they were a favorite of mine long before the shutdown started, and have proven to be the one place I can’t live without during it. Not only do they have the best pad thai in LA, but their jade noodles and Hat Yai fried chicken are not to be missed. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve ordered Luv2Eat twice this week (so far).
- Marika Jayne, Marketing Manager
For me, it’s simply not December in LA without a meal at Lawry’s. Christmas carolers, spinning salads, potato martinis, and of course, those gleaming golden carts of prime rib - this Beverly Hills institution is the holiday season in my mind. But of course, I knew this year was going to be different... so I ordered it to-go. While I certainly missed all the pomp and circumstance of dining-in, I was incredibly impressed with how well the food traveled. I ordered the classic Lawry’s Cut, which came with the usual mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and of course, the famous salad (which we spun at home). It was all well-packaged, fresh, and delicious. I’m certainly looking forward to resuming the full tradition next year, but in 2020, this provided me all the holiday feels I needed.
My typical weekday breakfast is an entire Chemex’s worth of coffee, made from Cafe Tropical’s excellent specially roasted Honduran beans, hand-selected to most closely match Cuban roasts. But when I run out, I take full advantage of my proximity to this Cuban bakery on Sunset. They’ve been around since 1975, and the cafe was recently taken over by the owners of El Cochinito (another of my favorite spots) - and the food is better than ever. My order here is always a guava and cheese pastelito, which is my favorite pastry in the entire city, along with a couple jamón croquetas and a cafe helado (an iced Cuban espresso with evaporated milk). If I’m feeling particularly hungry (or, tbh, drank too many beers the night before), I’ll also add a bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado breakfast sandwich - their version of a bodega sandwich that is highly customizable, and served on their tremendously doughy Cuban bread.
I live about 500 feet from Roji, a Japanese bakery on La Brea that churns out baked goods that taste just as good as they look, which means I’m there often (maybe too often). On most days, I go with the honest intention of just getting a “dirty” Thai iced coffee, but I almost always end up walking out with a handful of pastries. And I almost never regret it. Before hitting the road for Colorado last week, I ordered a box full of baked goods that included a potato croquette pan, a curry pan, and a melon pan with custard cream. I also got their seasonal purple sweet potato danish, a cranberry, cheese, and walnut bread (which is straight-up like a bread and cheese course stuffed into one loaf), and a Roji staple: an almond cookie-encased chocolate croissant. That seems like a lot, I know, but it’s like 15 hours to Colorado.
- Anikah Shaokat, Editorial Ops Coordinator
If the phrase “Abbot Kinney burger bar” and Instagram photos like this (or this) (or this) give you pause, you’re not alone. But don’t sleep on Adrift - because the burgers are fan-f*cking-tastic. They’re the brainchildren of Burger king David Myers, formerly of LA’s Comme Ça (the now-closed home of a burger once declared “perfect” by The New York Times), and since there are only three on the menu, you can - and should - order ’em all. The 1940s Classic is an old-school burger, with appropriate old-school toppings (lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc), while the DM (with aged Vermont cheddar and “secret sauce”) and the Adrift (kicked up with tomato-and-Indian-ajwan jam, pickled jalapeños, and a pair of cheeses) push things forward, and though the latter was my favorite, they’re all worth your time. Throw in amazing shakes, curry leaf fries, and must-order fried button mushrooms, and you’ve got a spot so good, it’ll make you forget your judgmental ways… at least for the next few hours.
After Kat put Burosu on our Openings Guide last week, I realized it had been a minute since I’d had a good bowl of ramen, so I decided to check them out. Needless to say, I found what I was looking for - and more. Located on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, Burosu does both hot and cold appetizers (the spicy shrimp wontons are a standout) and even some temaki, but the reason you’re here is the ramen. I ordered the spicy Reddo, which is made with Japanese chili oil and sesame paste, as well as the broth-less Orenji, but please don’t ask me which one was my favorite, because as my boyfriend will attest, I don’t have that answer. They’re both excellent, so just order both, plus anything else that looks good to you.
I knew I had to try PRD because Kat wouldn’t stop talking about them - and sending me photos to make me jealous. So finally I trekked from West Hollywood to Chinatown to pick up the Hainan chicken and char sui. And yes, that is a trek. But after eating both in one sitting, I will tell you, it was 100% worth it. It’s hard not to want to try everything on the menu, but you should absolutely try everything on the menu. The Hainan chicken isn’t always available, but when it is, you know where I’ll be.
Guess what, everyone? I finally did it! No, not replace the driver’s license that’s been missing for eight months now, something even better - I got to try Nünchi. After months of pining over every single photo creator Lexie Park posts to her Instagram - including glowing jelly cakes, hyper-real corn desserts, and edible vaporwave dreamscapes - I finally managed to secure an order for an apple yuzu cheesecake this past week. Did I wait a super-long time to eat it because it was so stunning? Yes. Was it creamy and slightly-tart? And did it taste exactly like freshly picked apples? Absolutely x 2. Will I be ordering from her again? The answer just might surprise you (literally, duh).
- Kat Hong, Staff Writer
We published our Sandwich Takeout Guide earlier this week, and since I am a person who enjoys sliced meat on bread, I consulted said guide, and took my first trip to Ggiata, an Italian deli that firmly belongs on the shortlist for best new-school deli in town. Their Italian is loaded with ham, spicy capicola, salami, Muenster, and Calabrian chilies, and is appropriately drippy for any sauce sticklers out there. I also wanted to get something hot, and had to try the Spicy P - a chicken parm sandwich made with vodka sauce. The crispy chicken cutlets are crunchy and moist, and there’s a tiny kick of basil pesto in every bite, along with the sweet-and-spicy sauce. Both sandwiches are served on tremendous seeded baguettes, that somehow manage to contain all the sauces quite nicely.
When it opened last year, Silver Lake’s All Day Baby quickly became one of my favorite spots for sandwiches so filling you need a cigarette afterwards. So when the ADB team announced their new outdoor-dining spot Helluva Time, I had to check it out (though, sadly, my girlfriend doesn’t let me rip cigs anymore). Located across from ADB on Descanso Dr., Helluva Time’s space is small - just a handful of tables and heat lamps on a stretch of blue astroturf - and the menu isn’t much bigger (13 items total, counting dessert), but the inventiveness on display here is boundless. Whether it’s speck ham served with salty potato chips and a sprinkling of black lime togarashi, a simple burrata elevated with grilled peppers and chicharrónes, beef tartare au poivre, or an excellent smoked pork belly bossam, the menu is filled with creative takes on classics, the cocktails are strong, and everything is shareable, so everyone in your party can enjoy it while you sneak off to the bathroom to Juul. Wait, just kidding about that last part.
I’m a relatively simple person - I see a stunning photo of uni and soba on Instagram, then immediately order it. Well, there’s also usually a step somewhere in between where I check my bank account (I’m not what you would call “fiscally responsible”), but that part’s not as fun to say. Anyway. Once I had confirmed my funds, I promptly DM’d Kinkan on Instagram and within the hour, was on my way to pick up their daily special. Plump pieces of uni arrived on a bed of chilled buckwheat noodles adorned with ikura (salmon roe) and a side of light, soy-based dipping sauce. In true Kinkan fashion, the entire meal was dazzling, elegant, and executed with an attention to detail that is second to none - in other words, kind of like Japanese food on Adderall.
Chicken parmesan is exactly what I want to be eating when the temperature drops into the g*ddamn 40s at night, so Parm Boyz’s new weekend residency at The Corner Door in Culver City is very good news for me. The chicken parm nails the “crispy breading/moist chicken breast /gooey cheese” ratio that every parm should strive for. They’re also serving up inventive versions of checkered-tablecloth classics, like garlic bread stuffed with burrata, mascarpone, and cream cheese, Caesar salad with brown butter croutons, and a soppressata-heavy antipasto that I suspect even Carmela Soprano would approve of. Also, if you’re interested in doing dine-in, the set-up here is super-spacious, with a comfortable amount of distance between tables.
Living within close proximity to both Night + Market and Noree, I have no shortage of great neighborhood Thai takeout options. That said, Chao Krung will always be among my favorites. The family-run spot on Fairfax is one of the oldest Thai restaurants in LA (it’s been open since 1969), and after a big renovation last year (of both the menu and restaurant), they’ve only further cemented their status as one of Weho’s best in my mind. I absolutely love their sweet and citrus-y tom kha soup, but it’s the spicy phanaeng curry with vegetables that finds its way onto my order every week. Bonus: There’s also a great craft beer list.
Arepas are something I wish I could make myself, just so I could eat them with every meal. Fortunately, VZLA, a new(ish) Venezuelan pop-up, is here to help me out. In short, their arepas are incredible - you can choose from chicken, beef, chashu, or vegan, and although the beef and chashu were my favorites, you can’t go wrong with any of them. And I know that because I ordered all of them… because, unfortunately, VZLA only delivers on Thursdays, so I had to stockpile. But hey, that’s still easier than learning to make arepas myself.
Highland Park sandwich shop Jeff’s Table caught my attention when they opened at the start of the year, right before the entire world came to a crashing halt. But with so many new pop-ups to check out over the last few months, I (foolishly) forgot just how good this place is. Turns out, these deli sandwiches are even better than I remembered. I still can’t pick a winner between the Hot KimCheezy - thinly sliced pork, house kimchi, and smoky melted cheese - and the Turkey Special, a Reuben with house pastrami-style turkey, sauerkraut, spicy Russian dressing, and both melted cheese and a cheese crisp. So usually, I just order both. A side of their potato salad, dressed with tobiko, wasabi, and mayo, rounds it all out perfectly.
Of all the food trends that have taken hold of LA this year, no one could’ve seen the proliferation of Detroit-style pizza coming. Plain and simple, it’s all over town right now. And that’s a good thing - Detroit-style pizza is f*cking delicious, a fact I learned during my four years at school in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!). Here’s another fact: Dtown Pizzeria might just be the best of the bunch. Operating inside Phorage in West Hollywood, this pop-up is run by Detroit native Ryan Ososky, who is cranking out the kind of real-deal, Detroit-style pizza I haven’t eaten since college. Think Buddy’s or Jet’s, for any Detroit natives reading this. The crust is perfectly golden and crispy with a light, airy center that makes taking down a whole pie by yourself a very doable option. The 1946, which comes topped with a red stripe (not the beer, in Detroit that means a thick ribbon of marinara) and oregano, and The Goomba (pepperoni and fennel pollen) are standouts.
It was Friday morning, LA was headed for a wet weekend, and the folks at Helluva Time had just called to change my Saturday reservation because, as a brand-new al fresco operation, they weren’t exactly weatherproof. What to do? Well, I opted for Uovo. Opened in 2017, this Santa Monica Italian spot rose to fame - and a second location in Mid-Wilshire - thanks to their pasta, which is handmade in Bologna, Italy using special eggs from the region (Uovo means “egg” in Italian) and shipped directly to the restaurant. The end result are dense, savory noodles strong enough to stand alone (like in the tagliatelle olio e sale, literally pasta with olive oil and salt) yet still supple enough to soak up some of their house-made pomodoro. In short, I made the right call. And don’t worry, I’m going to Helluva Time this weekend.
This fantastic Jamaican restaurant in Leimert Park has been one of my comfort food go-to spots for a while, so it was an easy choice to make while waiting on our future to literally be counted. Truthfully, I haven’t tried one thing at Ackee that I didn’t love, but these days, my order usually consists of jerk chicken, brown stew chicken, and some Jamaican patties on the side. Portions here are massive, so if you’re flying solo, just go for the small - every order comes with plantains, steamed vegetables, festival bread, and a huge helping of rice and peas.
I’ve spent this week mainlining MSNBC, marveling at Steve Kornacki’s sartorial splendor, backsliding on cigarettes, and just eating my feelings in general. And on Wednesday afternoon, that meant housing $30 worth of omusubi at Sunny Blue. These fist-sized rice balls are stuffed with everything from miso beef to Japanese pickles, wrapped in nori, and perfect for on-the-go snacking (yes, that includes staring at your phone wondering how the f*ck Prop 22 passed). I took down a house chicken curry with scallions, a spicy salmon, a spicy cod roe, and two of my all-time favorites - The Lucky Cat (with those aforementioned Japanese pickles, fresh wasabi, ginger, and bonito flakes) and the wasabi tsukudani, a mix of pickled wasabi and kelp. Did I do that all in one sitting? You bet. Do I feel any better? Votes are still being tabulated, but at least I turned the TV off for an hour.
Cooking - and therefore having to unglue my eyes from cable news - has not been a high priority these past few days. Luckily, my freezer was already extremely well stocked (please refer to my photo) with bags and bags of loot from Cali Dumpling. Set up quickly when the state first went into lockdown, Cali Dumpling is from the people behind Capital Seafood and delivers frozen dumplings to different parts of town once a week. You can’t really go wrong with any of the options, but it’s the Hong Kong pork and shrimp wontons and the pork xiao long bao that I keep going back to. They’re a great value at $15-17 for a pack of 30, and you should absolutely order a bottle of dumpling sauce to go with them.
- Jess Basser Sanders, Editorial Ops Manager
In a week where my anxiety was (is) at an all-time high, I needed a more comforting food option than stress-microwaving a ham and cheese quesadilla at 1am. So I went to Golden Leaf. This Taiwanese cafe in San Gabriel is perhaps my favorite place to eat noodles in the SGV (where there is no lack of competition). I always order the beef noodle soup - there’s beautifully marbled sirloin, lightly fermented cabbage, and wheat noodles in a rich, deeply aromatic sweet-and-salty broth. It’s actually pretty light on noodles, which is good, because it lets me save some room for their incredible ground pork chow mein; salty, heavily spiced pork served over tender handmade noodles and a heaping portion of bean sprouts. And while Golden Leaf is takeout-only right now, the food holds up incredibly well during the drive home.
Unlike my anxiety-addled coworkers, I actually had a beautiful, relaxing, and utterly pleasant week. JK, I was so stressed out, I accidentally didn’t sleep for two days straight :-) And whenever I find my brain whipped into this kind of special, sleep-deprived state, there’s only one clear answer for me - an order from Holbox. Named after the idyllic, car-free island off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, this tiny DTLA takeout counter serves some of my favorite seafood in town. I got the kanpachi and uni tostada, which comes loaded with a ton of super-fresh blue baja kanpachi, uni from Santa Barbara, creamy avocado purée, and a drizzle of arbol-guajillo hot sauce - a.k.a. the exact combination of flavors I need to keep me off of Twitter for, like, a second.
I’m absolutely in love with Gamboge, a tiny Cambodian cafe that opened in Lincoln Heights this past summer. With a streamlined ordering process (everything’s done at the front table), a concise menu ideal for a quick lunch, and a secret back patio that feels like you’re in a friend’s backyard, Gamboge has made opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic look like a standard process. I highly recommend either the chicken salad or the grilled coconut-glazed corn, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the star of the show wasn’t the num pang. A close cousin to the banh mi, they’re served on crunchy bolillo bread (a variation of a baguette) and filled with everything from poached chicken to grilled oyster mushrooms, but my favorite is the pork shoulder.
Like many good things in life, this Caribbean pop-up came at the recommendation of Infatuation editorial legend Jess Basser Sanders. And much like her other recommendations (chocolate croissants at Konbi, the new Chippendales movie, etc.) - I completely loved it. Located at the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market on Saturdays (and at the Atwater Village market on Sundays), this tiny pop-up helmed by Guyanese chef Yonette Alleyne offers all sorts of incredible Caribbean dishes like vegan curry and rice, jerk chicken, and a plate of oxtail stew where the meat literally fell off of the bone. Seriously, it was so tender, you might think it was one of the many daydreams I’ve had about British actor (and most-referenced celebrity on the site), Dev Patel.
When I first visited Piccalilli, they had only been open for about a month, and were still figuring things out. The space was great, and the cocktails were strong, but the menu - equal parts Southern and Southeast Asian, full of dishes like Thai banana hush puppies and shrimp & sweet potatoes - was in need of an edit. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who felt that way, because when I returned recently, that edit had happened. The good news? They kept the best dishes, like the Thai chicken katsu, a solid version of the Japanese dish that’s also an interesting interpretation of Nashville hot chicken (thanks to a dollop of pickled Thai chili), and Brussels sprouts coated in Korean chili sauce and crispy canchas. With plenty of outdoor seating, and solid Happy Hour specials (including deals on smoked chicken wings, miso pork jowl, and crispy pig ears), Piccalilli is also a great spot to spend a socially distant afternoon. But as someone who edits for a living, I wanted to celebrate their decision to cut back. Sometimes less really is more.
Highland Park Brewery Chinatown
There might not be a better brewery in Los Angeles than Highland Park, the Chinatown spot that makes some of my favorite beers on the planet: Timbo Pils (a hoppy, grape-forward pilsner), Hello LA (a fragrant West Coast IPA), and Irresponsible (a super-boozy hazy IPA) are all winners. But one thing I didn’t know until recently is just how great their food is. The all-new burger is genuinely up there with the best in town - smashed thin, extremely greasy, with house pickles and a massive sheet of crispy griddled cheddar cheese on top, it’s the perfect pairing for some of LA’s best beer.
I’m not normally one to go to a restaurant the day after it opens (at least, not since I stopped writing about food for a living), but on Sunday, I found myself at Angry Egret Dinette, the new Chinatown spot from former Guerrilla Tacos mastermind Wes Avila. He’s serving a small menu of tortas - that he doesn’t want to call tortas - from an equally small window, including The Whittier Blvd, with fall-apart beef suadero, horseradish cream, avocado, queso fresco, and serranos. It checked all my Perfect Sandwich boxes - not too many ingredients, excellent structural integrity, solid spread-to-filling ratio, etc - and I definitely would’ve tried one of the other options, but had already committed to walking down the street for a burger and fries at Amboy - a move I in no way regret.
I’ve been a big fan of Yume since they opened over the summer in Studio City, and after a recent revisit, I’m doubling-down: In fact, I think their $30 Yume Box is one of the best to-go sushi boxes in town. Six pieces of premium sushi, truffle edamame, and a Yume Roll (spicy tuna and mushrooms, topped with avocado and... more tuna) - it’s one of my favorite takeout meals in LA, and considering the Yume Roll on its own is $21, it’s also a tremendous value. If you’re tired of your regular sushi routine - or have already ordered Sugarfish twice this week - put Yume into your rotation immediately.
El Zarape is a neighborhood taqueria in East Hollywood that has been a favorite of mine for years now. The set-up doesn’t look like much from the outside - a counter, a tiny outdoor dining room, and a TV showing Liga MX games - but there’s a huge menu and a few tremendous finds on it. My recent favorite is the carnitas burrito - the shredded pork shoulder is braised until tender and then crisped in a pan, and it’s wrapped in a flour tortilla with fatty pinto beans and seasoned rice. The cabeza tacos have also long been a go-to for me. Topped with some salsa roja, the delicate and flavorful cabeza makes this one of my favorite tacos in the city.
Yum is a tiny Thai pop-up churning out Bangkok- style street food that’s unlike anything else I’ve had in LA. Operated by the team behind the DTLA pop-up Holy Basil, almost everything on the menu is a type of Thai salad, with chili, lime, and fish sauce as they key flavors. There’s plenty of seafood and even more spice (Yum is definitely not for those who can’t handle heat). We basically got the entire menu and I already can’t wait for them to be back. The only downside? I’m not really sure when that will be. Yum doesn’t seem to operate on a set schedule, so your best bet is to do what I do: Stalk their Instagram, and keep your schedule clear.
You wouldn’t think great food can come out of a bowling alley. But if you let that stop you from going to Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, you’re making the biggest mistake of your life. The menu may make your head spin, but if you want one dish that pretty much sums up everything going on here, order the Hawaiian Royal - rice topped with an omelette of cha-shu, Portuguese sausage, and teriyaki sauce. It’s filling, savory, salty, a little sweet, and enough for about three meals.
Fresh and vibrant, thoroughly spiced but not too spicy (important), the ceviche at Mexican pop-up Huichol22 is, as we say in “the biz,” just right. The cuts of fish are generous, the lime marinade they sit in is refreshing and sharp, and although housing Nayarit-style seafood while going 90mph on the freeway may not sound appetizing (or even safe), the bright flavors at this Pasadena pop-up are really all the ambience you’ll ever need. Or you could just wait until you get home. Yeah, you should probably do that. DM Huichol22’s Instagram to place an order for pick-up.
We just published our picks for The Best New Pizza In Los Angeles, which means I’ve spent the past month doing extensive pizza-related research (and, as a result, lots of cardio, too). I shouted out one of my picks - the Hapa Pizza at Ospi - a couple weeks ago in this very space, so now I’d like to give a little love to the wood-fired pies at Great White. The menu at this popular Venice spot already features something for every occasion, and the pizzas follow suit. Want a pie at brunch? The 55° is a pretty solid approximation of Nova lox, with cold-smoked salmon, red onions, capers, and dill atop a schmear of chive crema and a charred crust. Looking for something super-savory at dinner? Like the name implies, their Truffle Fungi pairs deep, rich truffles with plenty of earthy mushrooms (and a white-wine lemon cream). Or, if you’re just in the mood for, like, a regular pizza, their pepperoni pie has about seven pounds of perfectly crisp, slightly salty pep on it, and was my favorite of the bunch.
I was out in Canoga Park this week doing some research and decided to swing by Baja Subs in Northridge for, what was at that point, a third lunch. Aggressive? Sure. But when you’re that close to this neighborhood market, you find the room. Baja Subs in Northridge looks like any other corner convenience store, but inside, you’ll find some of the best Sri Lankan food in Southern California. This past trip, I ordered chicken curry, biryani rice, and Sri Lankan noodles (enough food for three meals), but just know that when the food’s as good as it is at Baja Subs, you’ll always leave lamenting the fact that you didn’t order more.
My breakfasts have become pretty dull recently (how many days in a row can one person eat scrambled eggs?). But that’s what happens when your body rejects gluten. So when I went to Palm Springs and noticed Cheeky’s had gluten-free waffles on their menu, I knew what I had to do. Even getting them to-go, they were thin and crispy, sweet and salty (thanks to the sides of maple syrup and salted butter), and egg-actly what I needed to break up my morning monotony.
I’m a relatively simple person. When I hear the words ‘Fluffy dough stuffed with 15 types of herbs and spices,’ I immediately head to my computer and order it for takeout. Which usually doesn’t happen outside of, like, a Subway situation, so when I came across the titular Armenian flatbreads at Zhengyalov Hatz in Glendale, my “add to cart” reflexes immediately kicked into high gear. Each zhengyalov hatz is served nice and warm, swaddled in a thick, whole wheat dough, and packed with a fragrant medley of greens, including minced spinach, beetroot leaves, scallions, spring onions, kale, and mint - which, in my opinion, is a much better alternative to the foot-long meatball marinaras I used to crush in high school.
The Red Lion Tavern was the first bar I visited when I moved to Los Angeles, and immediately became my go-to for a raucous night out. And even in the midst of the pandemic, this Silver Lake staple is still a fantastic place for that. I’ve been pretty cautious with dining out, but felt completely safe in their parking lot that’s been converted into a huge biergarten. They have tons of space between the tables, lots of light, and servers wearing masks and face shields. Their German menu is exactly what I wanted to go with my craft doppelbock straight from a Bavarian brewery - bratwurst, sauerkraut with chopped bacon, and a fresh-baked pretzel the size of my face, with accompanying beer cheese. The parking lot is also filled with projector screens showing soccer and football games, whenever they’re on.