This place has been a little quiet lately due to some serious traveling on my part and then the holidays. I took 2 trips, one to Disneyworld, which will be an upcoming post, and then to Los Angeles, which is the subject of this post!
I’m just gonna come right out and say it: the food in LA is pretty great. From fast food to fancy food, they have it covered. So let’s get to it, shall we?
We (me and the gang (Aubrie Williams, Jess Ross, Kaitlin Thompson and Briana Kelly) from the sketch group ManiPedi) literally picked up the rental car and went directly to the shining star of fast food in LA (plus, it was a long 4 hour plane ride): In-N-Out Burger! For those of you hiding under a rock, In-N-Out Burger is THE west coast burger chain. It’s not franchised, they have serious control issues (they don’t freeze or reheat) and it makes every single outpost shine in deliciousness. If you had to compare the burgers to a national chain, the closest that comes is Wendy’s, but that’s like saying Florida is kind of close to Canada because they are both in North America. If I never was allowed to eat burgers again but could have 1 kind of burger, I would eat this. That’s how good it is.
They have your basics: burgers, fries and shakes. While I am not the biggest fan of thier fries (they do not double fry the fries like most burger places, just single fry, so that they tend to get a little…hard…if you don’t eat them right away), if you order them “well done” they are a lot better. You order the burgers by how many patties and how much cheese you’d like. I got a 3×4 (“3 by 4”) which was 3 patties and 4 slices of cheese and I got that (along with the fries) “Animal Style”. They have a not-so-secret secret menu, where you can order your burger Animal Style (If applied to a burger, the meat is grilled with mustard, with sauteed onions, pickles, and extra special spread added. If applied to fries, it comes with melted cheese, sauteed onions, and spread.) or Protein Style (wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun), along with a bunch of other stuff including a Grilled Cheese (two slices of melted American cheese, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread with or without onions on a freshly baked bun). The shakes are chocolate, vanilla and strawberry and they are all 100% ice cream, not a powdered mix. The best shake I have ever had, hands down. It was an awesome kick off to a great trip!
Next up was brunch! We met up with JP Boudwin, a Philly comedy transplant, for brunch at the Sunset Junction Coffee Shop in Silver Lake. Silver Lake is like hipster central in LA so I knew there’d be some place with some great food, and JP didn’t let us down. SJCS is bright and airy, with high exposed beam ceilings and a big glass front. We all slid into the big booth in the front of the place and ordered up from the friendly waitress (did I mention the service was amazing? and we had 8 people with us, which is always a pain in the ass).
The menu had a few different kind of Eggs Benedict, which was cool, along with all kinds of pancakes, hashes, sandwiches and egg dishes. It was really hard to choose, everything looked so good. I knew I was going to be eating a lot of, shall we say, artery killer food soon so I went with something light: The Avocado Eggs Benedict. It included two poached eggs with sliced avocado and fresh tomatoes, on an English muffin topped with capers and Hollandaise sauce. I decided to not get breakfast meats and got tomatoes instead of that or hash browns. Then I got a little nervous. Would that be enough food? Could that get me to my next meal without me chewing my arm off? The answer was yes, yes it could. The poached eggs were a large size and done perfectly (I want runny yolk. GIVE ME RUNNY YOLK!), the tomatoes were deliciously juicy and they were not skimpy with the fresh, firm avocado. The best part was the Hollandaise. It wasn’t scooped out of a pot that’s been in a Bain Marie for 5 hours. No, they whipped it up and plated it, and you can tell how fresh it was. Could a simple brunch dish be delightful? Because, frankly, this was. I almost want to smack myself for typing that but yeah, it was great.
We took a side trip in our LA trip to go to Disneyland! How can you not visit the place where it all started? If you are used to Disneyworld and the overwhelming monstrosity that it is, Disneyland comes off as almost quaint. That’s ok tho, I like quaint. Also, if you are any sort of pop culture junkie like myself, it’s neat to see all the original stuff. At one point I found myself alone, waiting for my friends to get off Space Mountain, and I wandered over to The Refreshment Corner (which, if you are familiar with Casey’s Corner in Disneyworld, is right at the end of Main Street in the same spot), which is an old timey spot sponsored by Coca-Cola, with great stained glass Coke Lamps and whatnot.
They have a menu consisting of a mac and cheese dog, a chili dog (or you can get the chili in a sourdough bowl), some Mickey pretzels (stuffed with cream cheese or cheese and jalapeno!), and of course, Cokes. Since it’s sponsored by Coke, you know the mix for the soda is perfect! I got the Mac and Cheese dog, which comes with a big fist full of bacon bits and a bag of chips. I also got a Mickey pretzel because…why not?! The dog was really large and tasted great. They were not at all skimpy with the Mac and Cheese (yes, it tasted just like Stouffers Mac and Cheese and I am ok with that), to the point where I was sort of taken aback to how much was on there. Theme parks are not noted for their generosity with toppings, so this was a nice change. I actually ate it with the plastic knife and fork, it was so hefty. The pretzel was warm, chewy and hit the spot after walking a million miles around the park all day! That says a lot because I come from the Land of Soft Pretzels. Even the chips were quality kettle chips, not just a half filled bag of air with some potato dust, as happens sometimes. I could not have been happier with my choice, altho the Corn Dog cart is still in my “What if..?” file. Next time!
I went out to brunch with my friend Sean and his awesome fiancee Sarah at a place in the LA Grand Central Market called EggSlut. Yes, EggSlut. Sean suggested it and I was intrigued. It started as a food cart and now this is thier first brick and mortar place. It’s more of a stall in the giant market (which is like Reading Terminal Market or Grand Central Market in NYC). They specialize in, shockingly, eggs! I love good scrambled eggs but if there is a hint of brown on them, I can’t eat them. I like a loose scrambled egg made with milk not water. I ordered the Fairfax and it didn’t disappoint! It comes with scrambled eggs, chives, caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar and sriracha mayo. It was warm with just a hint of spice from the sririacha and buttery carmelized goodness from the onions. It went quickly into my mouth and left only a smile. Just as the egg gods intended.
But I didn’t stop there! I also got a strawberry hand pie from Valerie’s Confections. it was just about the size of your hand (hence..the name…and stuff…) and this one was stuffed with strawberry. The dough was so flaky, but it didn’t crumble when you took a bite. No, it just showed you it’s inside goodness and invited you to go on and destroy it. Who am I to argue? I destroyed it like a a toddler domineering a bowl of spaghetti. This was easily one of the best things I had on the trip. If you live anywhere near Downtown LA, get ye to Valerie’s!
We wandered over to the La Brea Tar Pits (underwhelming) and saw a bunch of food trucks parked outside the LA Art Museum. One of which was the Bool BBQ Truck, a Korean Fusion BBQ truck. I could not resist, and got the Short Rib
Burrito (white rice, cabbage asian slaw, special sauce, hot sauce, pico de gallo and short rib meat). The burrito was excellent! It was just spicy enough, so that the tip of my tongue was a little lit up but I could still taste the sweetness and the delicious meat. The people working the truck were so nice and quick with the food, it stayed on my mind the whole ride home! I highly recommend them if you are over by the Art Museum or hit thier page on facebook and see where they are. Totally worth your time to look them up and more then worth the money!
Speaking of burritos, you can’t go to the west coast without eating some fantastic Mexican food. We happened to stumble upon a great place called Machos Tacos. It’s kind of a shack on the corner of Vermont Ave in Los Feliz, yet another hipster area, and it’s next to a car wash. Oddly enough, I got to look at thier kitchen. I know kitchens. I know dirty kitchens and clean kitchen and kitchens you should pretend don’t actually serve food. This one was cleaner then I’ve seen in awhile. It also serves some amazingly kick ass Mexican food!
First up they make thier own chips (and the salsa is hearty with a parade of flavor!) and aren’t skimpy about it (so don’t ask for extra for free, this isn’t the welfare tortilla chip line!). Secondly, they aren’t skimpy with ANYTHING! Here are 2 tacos: the Chicken Mole and the Regular Chicken. Yeah, no skimpiness! The Mole sauce was dark and hearty, it didn’t just pour right out of the tortilla. It had a job to do AND IT WAS GONNA DO IT! I appreciate hard work.
I also got the Machaca Beef Burrito,and I got it wet. Wet, for all you pervs out there, is
when the burrito is covered in sauce. First off, this thing was heavier then my first car. It was half covered in a green chile sauce and half covered in a red sauce but it was all covered in AWESOME! The meat was slow cooked and when it hit your tongue it blended with the rest of the sauce and did the Macarena the rest of the way down. There was very little talking while we ate at this place. There was a lot of dancing in seats tho. So very, very good!
As a tourist in the City of Angels, you have to take a trip to the Santa Monica Pier. It’s just one of those things. It’s a cute pier (that’s now 100 years old and they are really fixing it up) with rides and a fishing pier at the end. They also have a bunch of churro carts and other oddball food. Of course, I would find the burger place. Wouldn’t you know it? Pier Burger! They have burgers, fries, shakes, a fish sandwich that Jess and Kait really liked and other odds and ends. But I went for the burger. I was on a burger mission, and this burger did not disappoint! In fact, I found it to be a In-N-Out competitor! I know! Shut my mouth! But it’s the truth! It’s a burger that tastes really fresh and is seasoned just with some salt and pepper and grilled up on a flat top. It was flat out F-ing great! I got the Double Pier Burger and I am going to come out and say…I liked it better then the 3×4. I know I’ll burn for saying it but it was that good! All I need now is a Pier Burger shirt! (they only had mediums when I was there).
One of the things I did while out there was attend a taping of The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I love him and his silly show, but I had gotten there so early, I had to eat before the almost 3 hours of being tied up in line and in the studio. So, on the corner of 3rd and Fairfax I found this big sandwich place called Mendocino Farms Sandwich Market. It’s an interesting place, where they give you a menu while you stand in line and order before you even get to the counter. Once you get to the counter, you also order sides. Perhaps you are not sure about the sides? You can try all of them! They encourage it! No one rolls an eye at you because you have trouble ordering! It’s pretty great. Oh, and grab a beer too. Not a shitty Miller Light, but one from a collection of accessible but delicious beers. Then you slide on down to the end of the counter and wait until your pager buzzes and BANG! Sandwich heaven!
I always have trouble ordering food. I can never make a decision and then when I do, I am always second guessing myself. It’s a horrible thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I couldn’t make a decision as to what to get so I asked the line order taker girl what she liked and she told me the Steak Bahn Mi. I flew blind and ordered it. Normally, I don’t like ciabatta bread because it’s so thick, I feel like it sucks up any kind of moisture in the ingredients. But they make the ciabatta fresh and it was still warm, so it absorbed some but it was soft, warm and chewy. All the Bahn Mi flavors (chili aioli, housemade sweet chili sauce, pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, jalapenos and cucumbers). It was delightful and just enough to fill me up without making me feel like I just ate a lead weight. The girl who recommended the sandwich to me even came to find me as I was eating to make sure I liked her suggestion. I thought that was a nice touch.
Finally, one night we wanted to go to one place but it was full, so JP suggested we go to this sushi place that’s themed on the movie Titanic. It’s in the shape of a boat. Seriously. When I say they had a Japanese version of the Titanic theme playing, I’m not kidding. They even had sushi with cheesesteak in it. It was really good too!
This trip definitely was good times and I can’t wait to go out again and see what else is out there to eat and explore! Give my love to the Coffee Bean! I shall return! Here is a picture of all (well most of) the Philly Comedy people living in LA now with some of us who haven’t made it out yet. Keep an eye out!
LA Trip: Cole’s
When I was a kid, I loved going on vacation. We always went someplace different (unless it was Colonial Williamsburg…again) and I really liked seeing different places, eating different foods, staying different places, you get the idea. I haven’t traveled a whole lot as an adult and that kinda sucks, so when I got the chance to crash at my friend Sean’s in LA, I went for it. This is part one of my trip out there, food wise.
I really like bars. Not bars in a strip mall with random shit glued to the walls. Not bars where you have to scream at someone to talk to them. Give me some dark wood and a nice whiskey selection in a capable bartender’s hands and I am a happy girl.
It was a long flight from Philly to LA, and by the time I got to the car rental place and then to my friend’s apartment, I was starving. He suggested we go to Cole’s. As we rounded the corner, we saw that they were shooting some kind of something there (film gear was all over outside, so we went to Pete’s instead. Pete’s has a burger that is kickass, unfortunately, I was so cracked out from traveling I didn’t take a picture. But if you are anywhere around 6th and Main, in Downtown LA, hit them up for the Hellman Burger: a half pound of prime beef, fontina cheese & smoked tomato aioli. Ridiculous.
I promptly fell asleep, the next day took it easy and after Sean went to work, I found myself looking for something to do later on in the nite and found myself walking to Cole’s.
Cole’s is located in downtown LA (DTLA for those hip assholes out there). It’s a downtown area that’s in the middle of changing from kind of ghetto-y ghost town into an area with lots of bars, restaurants, galleries and apartments.
Downtown used to be the Financial District (when the bar was founded, in 1908) and the bar was located right in the train station area, so all the stockbrokers used to come and drink there on the way home.
The place closed for awhile and then was reopened with a whole restoration of the entire place. The Red Car Bar was totally restored and it looks lovely (as you can see in the picture here). There are stations on each end where you can se the bartenders making old school cocktails.
The signature cocktail at this place is The Old Fashioned. Served with bourbon, bitters, a sugar cube and a luxardo cherry. What’s a Luxardo Cherry? It’s a real maraschino cherry, imported from Italy (and it is ridiculously delicious). They also hand chip a solid little block of ice for your drink. Think that doesn’t make a difference? You’d be wrong. And it’s really cool to watch the guys chip the ice to fit right in front of you! It’s also awesome to be asked what kind of whiskey you would like, because, you see, they have a fantastic selection of whiskey so you’ll great recommendation.
They also do variations on the Old Fashioned, this one is a rum version called The Old Devil. It will knock you right back just like the whiskey one, and if you look close, you can see the solid ice cube in there.
And then there are the cocktails. This one is called a Red Car Named Desire. I was a little disappointed at first when it was put in front of me. And then I took a sip. It has Rye Whiskey, Cynar, Luxardo & Maurin Liqueur. It goes down like a velvety fire, and, while not cheap, worth every penny.
Cole’s has a really cool old school drink menu, including a kick ass Manhattan, Sazerac (rye, bitters, and an absinthe rinse), a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, topped with ginger beer and served in a copper mug) and many others. They also offer a special cocktail every few weeks or so. You can check out the drink menu here.
You know, after all that booze, you gotta eat. Cole’s has ya covered. The story is that they invented the French Dip sandwich. There is another place in LA, not too far away, called Philippe’s. They also say they are the home of the French Dip. According to Cole’s menu, the City Of Los Angeles has proclaimed the title to them. I am sure Philippe’s serves a nice sandwich, I did not get a chance to have one. I did, however, eat many Cole’s French Dip’s and lemme say…that’s a damn fine sandwich.
If you aren’t sure what a French Dip is, it’s a sandwich with some sort of meat (usually roast beef or something like that) on a nice crusty roll, that you dip into some Au Jus to soften up the roll and get some more goodness into the roll. Cole’s makes theirs with Prime Beef, which is delicious. The roll is tasty. You get your choice of different cheeses, I kept it simple with a nice cheddar. They offer a spicy mustard that will clear your sinuses and make you do a little happy dance. Put this all together, give it a dip in the nice sized bowl of Au Jus and you got a little bit of fantasticalness that melts right in your mouth.
For a little bit extra, you get what they call The Atomic Pickle. They keep a jar on the bar, and make them right there in the kitchen. I thought, when I ordered it, that it would just be a spicy pickle. This thing slowly explodes in your mouth and then works it’s way to the back of your tongue where it lights your head on fire. If you like hot stuff, this is a 10 on the excellence scale.
I also find it cool they keep the jar on the bar, like in the olden days before bars had refrigeration. It fits right in with the whole vibe of the place and it’s just cool to look at!
Let’s talk a minute about french fries. It’s real easy to make crappy ones. Under cooked, over cooked, freezer burned, luke warm, mushy, reheated, or just bad tasting. People just accept it and stuff them into his mouth. So, when I find awesome fries, I gotta talk about it.
These fries are crispy enough on the outside and fluffy inside. Specifically, these are Garlic Fries, and you can see the fried garlic in there. Needless to say, if you like garlic, dive head first in there. Just be sure you shower when you get home! It is worth every crunchy bit!
Sides! Let’s talk about some sides!
First off, there is Bacon Potato Salad. Otherwise known as German Potato Salad. When my Grandmom was alive, one thing she made that I absolutely loved was her German Potato Salad and my Dad loved it too. Since she died, we would go out to eat and if it was on the menu, we would both order it, hoping it would be like her’s, but it was always disappointing. It got to the point where we would just stop ordering it. I took a chance, and was rewarded kindly.
The potatoes were cubed small & were slightly al dente, so they had some crunch, as opposed to some potato salad thats just mush. The little bit of dill gave it a zing and the bacon popped right out onto your tongue to say hello. Absolutely delicious and a lovely compliment to the French Dip.
The homemade Mac and Cheese was like my Babci makes, very creamy with a nice bread crumb topping. People are usually used to either the Kraft Mac and Cheese (which I am most guilty of loving) or a dry, flavorless Mac and Cheese.
This cheesy, buttery bowl of goodness make me tune out the entire bar as I scraped as much cheese out of there as possible.
Dessert? Oh yeah!
Let me introduce you to the Dark Chocolate Cream Pie. Hellooooo Pie!
An oreo cookie base that is moist and delicious. A chocolate mouse center and a topping that’s a giant pile of delicious whipped cream, sprinkled with chocolate powder.
I’m not even a dessert fan for the most part. I can never get that far in the meal. When I asked Danny the bartender where they got the pies from, he told me they are them right there. A bar that makes it’s own pies….my heart grew 3 sizes.
Last but not least, let me introduce you to 2 bartenders I hung out with during the time I was in town. They made me drinks, kept me laughing and were all around cool dudes.
Meet Danny. Dog lover, comedy writer and the maker of some of the most kick ass drinks I have had in years. I had drinks I didn’t even know I liked and I think he has spoiled me on any other bars for quite awhile.
Meet Max. Max is a great dude, who will recommend 9 kinds of whiskey that all rule, wears a cool bowler for kicks at work, and can juggle 15 different kinds of customers, drinks & goofballs without batting an eye.
These guys are so good at making these old timey drinks & explaining them without that dead look of “you are the 15th person today I have had to explain this”, it’s just fun to sit at the bar and watch them work!
You can have a great building with a great menu but if the people working there suck, you got jack squat. These guys, and the rest of the staff (I’m looking at you, Ms. Bar Manager! Those Fernet shots were crazy!) are awesome. If you find yourself in LA, swing on by. Things might be a little expensive, but you not only get what you pay for, you get a whole lot more.