Categories
dessert fried chicken fried rice Peruvian reviews Southern California

Mario’s and MILK

We just spent another long weekend in SoCal, where we amazingly escaped the oppressive 100+ heat of the Bay Area for much more manageable high 80s/low 90s temperatures (and 70s overnight). My wife had to work Thursday and Friday, so we didn’t get to visit a couple places that were on our list, but we did get to revisit some old favorites.

On Thursday, we went back to Mario’s Peruvian and Seafood Restaurant in Hollywood and fell in love with the place again. I tried the Arroz Chaufa, a simple Peruvian fried rice with beef, green onions, and scrambled eggs that didn’t look like much on the plate, but when you eat it, the flavors really jump out at you. It’s probably because the dish also included MSG, which I’ve got no issues with since it makes everything taste better. Thank you, Ajinomoto, for your umami-enhancing seasoning.


Arroz Chaufa

After Mario’s, I was set on going to Pinkberry for dessert, but I seemed to be the only one. My friend Alfie suggested that we go to MILK. Alfie lives nearby, and she’s become such a regular that MILK chef/owner Bret Thompson greets her whenever she drops by. We got to meet him when we were there, and he’s a really cool, laid-back guy.

I wasn’t able to order for myself since I was trying to find parking (probably MILK’s only drawback), but my wife made some great choices. She picked up a Grasshopper, an amazing ice cream sandwich featuring mint chip ice cream between two huge mint-flavored macarons and dipped in chocolate.


Grasshopper

She also got the Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Bar, a vanilla ice cream bar on a stick that’s dipped and coated in chocolate and Oreos.

Cookies and Cream Bar

It’s hard not to come down to LA and spend all of our limited eating time at either Mario’s or MILK, but both places are so good that they demand repeat visits. But this was just day one of our trip, and we were still planning a trip back to The Oinkster.
 

Categories
Mexican musings Southern California street food

L.A. Adds Taco Trucks to War against Street Food

Save the Taco TrucksPicture from lataco.com

First, the bacon hot dog carts, and now taco trucks? What the hell is going on in L.A.?

Chowhound’s C. Thi Nguyen had an Op-Ed piece published in the L.A. Times a couple weeks ago detailing the new regulations passed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that would basically put taco trucks in unincorporated parts of L.A. County out of business.

From the article:

On Wednesday, the supervisors passed a harsh set of regulations for unincorporated county areas. Parking a taco truck in one spot for longer than an hour is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or six months in jail, or both. Developers and restaurant owners, particularly in East L.A., are pushing for tougher enforcement too. These changes, say some truck owners, will probably put them out of business.

$1,000 or six months in jail? Not surprising when Downtown L.A. food cart owner Elizabeth Palacios spend 45 days in jail for selling a bacon hot dog.

Nguyen says:

This is a cultural disaster. Forget the Getty — it’s the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.

What’s the motivation for these new rules? Competition.

Ron Mukai, an East L.A. developer, says the trucks are unfair competition, edging out the “legitimate brick-and-mortar businesses.” But the county’s 14,000 registered catering trucks seem just as legitimate as restaurants — they’re just providing a different service. Restaurants provide meals, and a table to eat them at, and walls to eat them within. Taco trucks provide food, pure and simple. They charge less because they’re selling less.

If I’m looking for food on the run, I’m not looking for a sit-down restaurant. I want something good, fast, and cheap, and if that happens to be the neighborhood taco truck, I’ll be first in line. It’s a lot better option than fast food.

But class is also at the heart of this issue. Nguyen puts it best:

…these new regulations don’t just attack taco trucks, they hurt eaters, especially poor eaters. In a lot of places in town, it’s the only meal you can get for three or four bucks. And in some places, it’s a great meal for three or four bucks.

I’m not really sold on the effectiveness of online petitions, but if you want to sign one or are interested in more information about this fight, go to www.saveourtacotrucks.org.

Let this Cinco de Mayo be about FREEDOM!

Categories
Peruvian reviews Southern California

Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood Restaurant

After trying and loving San Francisco’s Mi Lindo Peru, I thought I’d give Peruvian food another shot on a trip back home for the holidays at Mario’s in Hollywood. If you had to judge a restaurant on price/performance ratios, Mario’s would be one of the leaders. The food is cheap, hearty and filling, and more importantly, it’s delicious.

It’s no secret that I like fried eggs. I like it on my fried rice, it’s essential for loco moco, it’s great on a hamburger, and it was also one the stars of my wife’s latest concoctions, the B.E.P. Fried eggs also take a classic dish like Lomo Saltado (marinated steak grilled with tomatoes and onions and topped with french fries) and makes it even better.


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It’s not on the menu, but when I asked for eggs on my Lomo Saltado, the waitress said, “Oh, you want Lomo Montado.” It’s a simple modification and they were happy to make me a plate…with egg yolks oozing all over the rice, french fries and strips of grilled steak, tomatoes and onions.

The other dishes we ordered, my wife’s fried Pescado a la Chorillana and a friend’s Saltado de Mariscos, were also excellent, but obviously, I was preoccupied with my order. I washed it all down with an Inka Cola, a popular Peruvian soda that looks like liquid gold and tastes like bubble gum.

So next time you’re eating Peruvian Food, remember this formula:


Lomo Saltado + Fried Eggs = Lomo Montado

therefore,

Lomo Montado = happiness.

INFORMATION
Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood Restaurant
5786 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038 map
323.466.4181

Categories
bacon hot dog musings Southern California street food

Drew Carey Joins L.A. Bacon Hot Dog War

I first wrote about the Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War in February, and now comedian Drew Carey has joined the food fight, featuring the ongoing controversy on The Drew Carey Project on Reason.tv. Here’s Drew Carey’s report on the issue, including an interview with Elizabeth Palacios, the figurehead in this struggle.



The main problem for licensed vendors like Palacios is that they lose a lot of money when potential customers seek out the unlicensed vendors, who are more than happy to sell them the coveted bacon hot dogs. For Palacios, it’s walking the fine line between protecting her business and staying out of jail. For customers, it’s all about the bacon.

“They don’t care about if you’re cleaner, if you don’t have a license to handle the food,” Palacios said. “They just want the bacon.”

Categories
beef Korean reviews Southern California

Cham Sut Gol

You know you’re eating well when you’re at a Korean BBQ joint feasting on beef brisket, pork belly and some beautifully marbled prime kalbi. In fact, I think you can judge the quality of the meat by whether or not you’re tempted to start eating the raw meat right when it’s brought to the table, which almost happened at Cham Sut Gol when that platter of beautifully marbled prime kalbi arrived.


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The kalbi was great and served in its most pure state—no marinades or sauces needed—just a little butter on the grill and the marbly meat would take care of the rest. I’d never had Korean style brisket and it was excellent, and I especially liked the sauce that came with it. The sliced pork belly was also pretty amazing and was accompanied by a strong but perfect salt/pepper oil that really enhanced its inherent porkiness.

But aside from the meat, a perfectly fried mackeral was another highlight, but I didn’t eat much of it because I was busy cooking and eating the meat while my wife and some friends tore that fish apart.

Ban chan selection was good, and the service was attentive. Parking might look like an issue, but they do have valet when it’s busy, and we didn’t have any issues finding street parking.

INFORMATION
Cham Sut Gol
3700 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019 map
323.734.9292
Web site

Categories
bacon Best of Inuyaki hot dog musings Southern California street food

The Los Angeles Bacon Hot Dog War

I had my very first bacon dog right on Hollywood Blvd. I walked out of a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and this amazing smell overcame me, and I said, “Goddamn! What smells so good?” This guy on the stairs pointed me toward this woman selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a sidewalk cart. Let’s just say that I bought and devoured one immediately.


Bacon Hot Dog Cart

Folks in San Francisco may want to claim the bacon dog cart (above) as their own because they’re pretty popular with weekend drunks leaving bars and clubs after 10pm in the Mission District. The truth is, bacon-wrapped hot dogs really belong to L.A., and you can get them from lunchtime till the wee hours of the morning (if you know where to look).

But things are not good for the bacon hot dog cart vendors in La-La Land. The L.A. Weekly recently chronicled the plight of hot dog vendors in L.A., who are now forbidden from using bacon AND grilling their hot dogs. (Boiling and steaming are the only acceptable cooking methods.)

Sound ridiculous?

They’ve actually jailed hot dog vendors like Elizabeth Palacios, who is featured in the article, for selling grilled bacon hot dogs. Palacios once served 45 days for health code violations, a sentence she said was orchestrated to “make an example” of her.

From the article:

“Honestly, I can tell you, I’ve been a working person all my life, I’ve worked since I was 9 years old,” Palacios says. “I don’t like being bothered, I don’t like being arrested. Never in my life had I been to jail, and they threw me in jail for violating the laws of the health department.”

There’s also a racial element to this story as the City of Los Angeles tries to revitalize and gentrify the downtown area and likely considers it in their best interests to “clean up” downtown for future investment and development.

“They told me, ‘The mayor wants to make this area like New York, Times Square,’ but I told them, ‘Who told him we want that? The people who come here are not like that.’ Ninety-nine percent of the people here are mexicanos. Here, you don’t really see americanos. One or two,” she says. “Why are they coming now to get us out of here? Why the abuse? Why the abuse?”

What’s worse is that while licensed hot dog vendors see the business suffer due to the restrictions, fees, and threats placed on them by overzealous city health inspectors, police and gangs, they have to watch their customers flock to the illegal bacon hot dog carts that have flourished since the ban, serving a customer base that probably doesn’t care where they come from…they just want their bacon dogs.

Will there ever be justice for the L.A.’s bacon hot dog vendors?

UPDATE: Drew Carey joins the fight.

Categories
Best of Inuyaki fried chicken reviews soul food waffles

Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

If you ask me what my favorite restaurant in the whole world is, I will immediately say “Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.” Aside from my parents, it’s the one thing I truly miss about living in Southern California. There are some places here in the Bay Area that have tried to capture the magic—Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland being the most prominent—but it’s just not the same.

The concept of eating fried chicken and waffles on the same plate sounds crazy to most people at first, but for some reason, the salty/sweet combination works. Like sex, it’s all about chemistry, and Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles is a 20-minute food orgasm on a plate.


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Now I’ll be the first to admit that Roscoe’s doesn’t have the best fried chicken, but it’s very good, and I usually get mine smothered in gravy. The waffles on the other hand are really, really good…slightly crispy on the outside and served with LOTS of butter and warm syrup (a lot of people like to pour the syrup all over their chicken, as well). From what I’ve been told Roscoe’s syrup is their own secret recipe, and I actually think the syrup is the key to their success.

There are several ways to order at Roscoe’s. My old standby is the #2 Scoe’s Special, 1/4 dark meat fried chicken smothered in gravy with two huge waffles. I generally eat the chicken first and then have the waffles for dessert, but sometimes I mix it up a bit. When I’m with a large group of people, I like to order some of the sides, like red beans and rice, mac and cheese, smothered potatoes, and cornbread.

I’ve been a Roscoe’s whore since the mid 90’s and over the years, I’ve brought almost all my friends, coworkers when we were in town for trade shows (including our Japanese CEO who loved the food but was mad that they don’t serve alcohol), and I even took my parents to the more ghetto Pico/La Brea location. (They got over their initial fears and really enjoyed their food, and my mom asked “why haven’t you brought me here before?”).

It’s also the only place I’ve ever brought anyone where the food was so good, it reduced them to cursing after every bite, i.e. “Goddamn, this is muthafuckin’ good” or “Muthafucker, this is the best food I’ve ever had.”

If that’s not endorsement enough, then what is? :-)

INFORMATION
Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles
Hollywood
1518 N Gower St
Los Angeles, CA 90028 map
323.466.7453

Los Angeles
5006 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019 map
323.934.4405

Pasadena
830 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104 map
626.791.4890

Inglewood
106 W Manchester Ave #F map
Los Angeles, CA 90003
323.752.6211

Long Beach
730 E Broadway Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90802 map
562.437.8355

Categories
noodles reviews Southern California Thai

Ord Noodles

Ord Noodles is the name you’ll see on the storefront, but its Thai name is Kwayteow Hoi Ka, which means Dangling Leg Noodles. The owners previously had a restaurant in Northern Thailand along a river bank, and people would sit and eat with their legs dangling over the water.

Not surprisingly, Dangling Leg Noodles is also the name of their signature dish (#1 on the menu). It’s an amazing sweet/spicy soup filled with ground pork, red pork ball, dried shrimp, pork liver, and your choice of fresh noodles (rice stick, chow mein, or thick rice noodles). You can see the chili flake floating around the vinegar-based broth, so you know it’s packing heat. Adding Chinese-style char siu makes this a #4, which is what we ordered. The three of us split a large bowl for $5; small bowls are $3.


House Special Soup #4

We also ordered the rice plate with spicy crispy cicerenes (#21), which is basically chicharrones in a spicy sauce, and you can’t get much better than that. Our waitress said this was one of their most popular dishes and I saw at least three more orders go to other tables while we were there.


Rice with Spicy Crispy Cicerenes

We rounded out our order with some Thai-style sausages, which fall somewhere in between Chinese lap cheung and Filipino longanisa, and a mint leaf chicken dish that was good but had a bit too much cilantro in it for our taste.


Thai-style Sausage with Fresh Vegetables

If someone out there can direct me towards a Thai restaurant that’s more authentic, delicious and cheap (nothing on the menu is over $6), then by all means, point me in the right direction. If not, I’ll be happy eating at Ord Noodles whenever I’m in town and lament about not having a place like this in the Bay Area.

INFORMATION
Ord Noodles
5401 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027 map
323.468.9302

Categories
beef reviews Southern California

Lawry’s the Prime Rib

Lawry’s the Prime Rib is a Los Angeles institution that has been serving basically one thing, beautiful roasted prime ribs of beef, since it opened in 1938. It made dinner a spectacle when Lawry’s founder Lawrence Frank invented the rolling silver serving carts that keep the meat fresh so that every diner can have their prime rib carved to order and served tableside. The Spinning Salad is kinda corny and isn’t that great, but watching the servers make it is always fun and adds to the “experience.” The restaurant was also a vehicle to promote Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, a key ingredient in the prime rib that is now a fixture in pantries and spice racks around the world.

I normally order the standard Lawry’s cut, medium rare, with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Yorkshire pudding is always puffy and golden brown and is great for picking up the excess jus. The food is almost always perfect, and the service is attentive, fast and hasn’t changed in decades. They hold several tables for walk-ins, but you should make reservations well in advance, and they’ve just started using Open Table for online reservations.



The Lawry’s dining experience makes it a great special occasion restaurant. In fact, my wife and I wanted our friends and family to enjoy the Lawry’s experience so much that we had our wedding reception there in 2005. If you’re willing to do a lunch reception, the food is so much better than hotel food, and it’s much cheaper than any other venue in the area. The entire Lawry’s staff was professional, efficient, and flexible, and they worked with our ideas to help make everything perfect. The great staff and service, coupled with family, friends and great food, helped make our reception truly memorable.

if you do decide to have your reception here, join Lawry’s VIP Rewards program. You get a $25 certificate for every 250 points ($250) you accrue, and these certificates are valid at any restaurant in the Lawry’s family. Let’s say you spend $10K on your wedding reception. This means you’ll get 40 $25 certificates. That’s $1000 worth of food! You can give them to friends, family, coworkers, or just keep them for yourself…we’ve had plenty of free meals courtesy of Lawry’s since our reception.

We all know that food tastes better when it’s free, but at a place like Lawry’s, it’s truly out of this world.

INFORMATION
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211 map
310.652.2827
Web site

Categories
bakeries dessert reviews Southern California

Dainties Cupcakes (CLOSED)

I want you to imagine a moist devil’s food cupcake, filled with flavored whipped cream (let’s use banana for this example). Now dip it in chocolate ganache to seal it, top it with an additional flourish of banana whipped cream and then garnish it with a slice of roasted banana.

Hungry?

Dainties Cupcakes are really a misnomer…but this is a good thing. The devil’s food cake and the chocolate ganache give the cupcakes a heft (without being heavy) that you just don’t get anywhere else. It makes these cupcakes — dare I say — manly!

I think I’ve finally found my cupcake.



All of Dainties cupcakes have the same base of moist devil’s food. They differ by their cream fillings. We ordered the Creme de Menthe, Tiramisu, Maple and the Stupid Chocolate.

The best of these was the Maple…just an incredible flavor combination with the devil’s food. The Tiramisu was also excellent…the cream reminded me of the mocha frosting at Goldilocks, only denser. Creme de Menthe was a really nice, subtle mint flavor. Then there’s the Stupid Chocolate, which adds dark chocolate chips to the cake, is filled with vanilla cream, then dipped in chocolate ganache twice. It’s topped with more vanilla cream and chocolate shavings. It gets its name because it’s a stupid amount of chocolate.

The actual storefront doesn’t look like much and the main signage says Flatbush and J, the catering company from which Dainties spawned. You’ll likely be greeted by Chef Bill Dertouzos, a Brooklyn native who’s the mastermind behind these amazing creations. Bill was very cool and gets extra props for giving us a sample of the roasted banana cupcake mentioned above. He said he was very proud of that creation, and he should be. It was our favorite cupcake of the bunch.

Finding Dainties is a little challenging. The address is on Santa Monica Blvd., but the entrance is actually on the side street. The easiest way to find it is to look for Winchell’s, then walk around the corner and Dainties is right there. I went there the other day and saw that they added a new mural on the wall near the entrance celebrating being named Best Cupcake by Los Angeles Magazine, so that should help you find it also.

The extra effort it takes to find the place will be rewarded. Believe you me, you will be rewarded!

INFORMATION
Dainties Cupcakes (CLOSED)
11058 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025 map
310.312.3656
Web site