An Italian sub can be a glorious thing, but cold cuts aren’t for everyone. If you’re a vegetarian, or if you just prefer a meatless lunch now and again, finding a good veggie sandwich can be a task. Sometimes all you get is lettuce, tomato and cheese. Talk about blah. Still, there are some satisfying veggie sandwiches out there that demonstrate real deliberation and craftsmanship. Here are three good ones:
The Trails Cafe: The Avocado Sandwich and The Trails in Griffith Park is one of the best citywide. Thick chunks of ripe avocado, tomato, red onions, alfalfa sprouts and cheddar cheese are stacked high between two slices of sweet squaw bread. Mayo and soy bacon bits complement each bite. It’s the kind of sandwich that you miss when it’s gone, but the lavender shortbread cookies they sell are will console you while you mourn. 2333 Fern Dell Dr Los Angeles, 90068
Schodorf’s Luncheonette: Highland Park’s Schodorf’s meatier sandwiches leave a lot to be desired—the cold cuts taste over-processed and lack flavor. That Vegetarian Sandwich, however, is vexed by neither of these problems. This giant veggie sub comes on a crusty baguette and includes fresh avocado, sprouts, cucumber, and spinach all glued together by chipotle mayo and hummus. Refreshingly, the sandwich is sloppy in a way that veggie sandwiches rarely are. 5051 York Blvd Los Angeles, 90042
Proof Bakery: A decidedly delicate veggie sandwich is offered Proof Bakery in Atwater Village. Filling options change daily, but one standout is the beet sandwich with crispy potato skins, arugula and pesto. Proof’s baguettes are skinny and flecked with sea salt, so they won’t be outdone by what’s inside. Their sandwiches are so light that you’ll probably be tempted to get another, but that’s a waste with all those desserts sitting around. If you like the simple things in life, end with the chocolate chip cookie, which is one of the best in all of Los Angeles. 3156 Glendale Blvd Los Angeles, 90039
It’s been a while, but I have another giveaway! This one is for the 2nd Annual Sunset & Dine. The event will kick off the Oscars Outdoor summer movie screening program at Academy Hollywood (6322 DeLongpre Ave. in Hollywood), the outdoor amphitheater on the campus of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
If you win, you’ll get 2 tickets (they’re usually $30 a piece), which will get you free beer and wine, plus food from local restaurants, like Magnolia, The Cat & Fiddle, Doomie’s Home Cookin’, Fabiolus Cucina, Stella Barra, Village Pizzeria and more. They’ll also be screening “Sunset Boulevard”. Sounds fun, no? Event goes from 6-10 on June 13.
Here’s how to win:
I’ll pick the winner (fair and square raffle style) on Wednesday morning and let you know who won by noon. If you don’t get back to me by 6pm that night, I’ll have to pick someone else. Once you’re confirmed, your name + 1 will be put on the guest list.
Easy as pie.
If you’d like to forgo the contest and buy a ticket, you can get yours here.
If there’s one thing Figueroa Boulevard needs it’s breakfast. There are some notable staples—Antigua Bread, Metro Balderas, La Fuente—but there’s no denying that some new blood is in order. That’s why I was intrigued when I heard that Good Girl Dinette is now serving breakfast! Owner Diep Tran says she labored over the new morning menu, and it shows. The meticulously edited “American diner meets Vietnamese comfort food” menu hits all the necessary sweet and savory notes while offering something novel to the complacent breakfast goer.
Ordering oatmeal at a restaurant is usually a mea culpa for eating three chili dogs the night before. Inspired by chè, a Vietnamese pudding, Tran’s Coconut Oatmeal isn’t useful for such self-flagellation. Steel-cut oats are made creamy and decadent with coconut milk and topped with sweet ginger maple syrup and crushed sesame seeds. The oats are soaked overnight, so they’re only minimally cooked, giving the dish a lightly grainy texture.
Potato fiends will love the Turmeric Dill Hash. The simple, earthy flavor of potatoes and turmeric is made dazzling with a baked crispiness and a cool dollop of dill yogurt sauce. There’s a roasted pork version of this, which I can only imagine.
The Lady Boy, a take on the traditional croque-madame will most likely become the star of the menu. And why not? Thick cut and peppery Vietnamese-style pork is sandwiched between two slightly charred pieces of toast and covered in a dijon-heavy béchamel sauce, cheese and a plump, yolky egg. What’s not to love? A glass of fresh-squeezed tangerine juice was the perfect complement.
However unnecessary, we took a hand pie to go. This time around, there was a choice between cherry and squash, but fillings will change with the season. Last Labor Day, I bought a full pie from Good Girl and then pined after it once the last slice was eaten. That drama is over because these flaky, buttery wonders are here to stay.
Weekend breakfast is revived.
With summer afoot, fish taco season has officially begun. In Los Angeles, especially on the eastside, we’re lucky enough to have plenty of top notch fried fish tacos within reach. What makes a good fish taco? It starts with a quality tortilla that isn’t too brittle or soggy, a flavorful batter that has a little crunch, and a well-cooked piece of fish that stays moist in the deep fryer. Fresh toppings are a must, too, and those limes better drip when you squeeze them.
Here are three of my favorite fish tacos. Note: Ricky’s Fish Tacos is not listed because they’re closed until “further notice”. (Update: Ricky’s is operating again in Chinatown. Find his locations by following Ricky on his Twitter. )
Tacos Baja Ensenada: There’s usually a line a this East LA joint, and it’s well earned. The dark golden batter is crunchy, giving way to a delicious piece of pollock in a chewy corn tortilla. The fish taco/shrimp taco combination is a good bet, or forget the rice and beans and just add another taco. I would. And don’t forget the salsa bar—the gorgeous yellow roasted chiles gueros aren’t as hot as they look. Mexican sodas and aguas frescas available, fish tacos are 99 cents on Wednesdays. 5385 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles.
Via-Mar Seafood: Okay, so you will most likely get harassed for spare change on Via Mar’s patio, but it’s worth it. The fish tacos here are some of the best in the area. The crispy batter doesn’t overpower the always tender fish, though the cabbage-crema ratio is a little off. Smaller appetites may only need one of these bigger-than-average tacos to be satisfied. If that’s not you, pair it with a lobster taco. 5111 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles.
Best Fish Taco in Ensenada: The superlative is a bit much, but this spartan taco shop does make a good fish taco. And that’s all they make. Well, that and shrimp tacos .The batter is lighter and fluffier than most, and the fish is flavorful. However, beware because the tortillas tend to be a little flimsy. Fun mild-to-hot salsa bar and nice house-made horchata. 1650 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles.
Tacos Baja Ensenada photo is by Natalie James of the fantastic blog NJinLA.]]>
Summer barbecues are traditionally meaty affairs, but there’s always room for a veggie burger. And I don’t mean a Boca Burger. I’m talking a homemade one that’s hearty, delicious and made with, you know, actual vegetables. I asked Eagle Rock’s Four Cafe owner Michelle Wilton how to make such a veggie burger, and she was nice enough to show us. On video. Check it out and then see the recipe and step by step instructions below.
The list of ingredients is lengthy but not too exotic, and the recipe makes about 12-15 burgers. Plus, you can freeze left over patties for 6 months.
1 red onion, diced
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup of mixed kale and spinach
3 portobello mushrooms, chopped and grilled
3 c of cooked kidney beans
1 c of cooked black lentils
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded beets
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground flax meal
1 1/2 tsp agave
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp soy sauce
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Sautée diced red onion and minced garlic in a large pan over medium heat until softened. About 5 minutes. Add kale and spinach mixture and cook until softened for about 5 minutes more.
Step 2: Pulse grilled mushrooms, half of beans, onion mixture and half of lentils in a food processor. You can always mash and blend by hand if you don’t have a food processor. Transfer to a very large bowl.
Step 3: Add the rest of the beans, carrots, beets, quinoa and breadcrumbs.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. Add it to the bean mixture. Mix very well.
Step 5: Form patties and lay them on a cookie sheet. For best results, chill them for 30 minutes. This will help maintain their shape once you begin cooking.
Step 6: If you’re using a frying pan, make sure the surface is very hot and well oiled. If you’re using a grill, make sure it’s very hot. Cook each side for 3 minutes. Melt cheese on top.
Step 7: Dress it up. Michelle uses a brioche bun, pickles, a thousand island style dressing, butter lettuce, red onions and cheddar cheese.
Is there a dish at an Eastside restaurant that you’d like to learn how to make? Let me know, and we’ll try to get the recipe for a future post.
Fate (aka a Groupon) recently brought me to El Vaquero Restaurante in El Sereno, where I was pleased to see that their specialty was Tortas Ahogadas. A popular sandwich Guadalajara, Mexico, it consists of a hard roll filled with carnitas and a smattering of beans, drowned—that’s what “ahogada” means—in sauce and served with a pile of onions.
Kind of like a Mexican French dip.
When I first set eyes on this daunting sandwich, I didn’t think I could possibly finish it, but I was quickly addicted. The bread was dense enough that it stayed in one piece under all that delicious tomato broth, the pork was tender, and the pickled onions brightened the whole thing up. I read that they sell these things at soccer games in Mexico, and that people eat them with their hands. Could that be true? This one definitely required a knife and fork.
You can order your torta ahogada mild or spicy, or even half mild, half spicy. The spicier version is drowned in chile de arbol. You can also get it media ahogada—”half drenched”—or not drenched at all, but that’s crazy talk.
El Vaquero Restaurante
4884 1/2 Huntington Dr S
Los Angeles, CA 90032
While pupusas, tacos, mariscos and Jumbo Jacks abound, vegetables are hard to come by on the strip of Figueroa Street where Cypress Park meets Highland Park. Enter: Ayta Grill. The small Japanese “Teriyaki House & Tea Room” (Note: I didn’t see any actual tea on my visit) opened last month, gaining attention for its roof-bound Bruce Lee statue, but the real draw is simple plates of meat, rices and fresh veggies.
The menu has zero frills. Choices include steak, salmon, shrimp and chicken, curry or no curry, vegetables or no vegetables. Portions are satisfying, the meat is well-cooked and flavorful, and the broccoli-carrot-squash-cabbage medley doesn’t have that over-steamed mushiness you’ve come to expect from Asian fast food joints—they’re actually some crispiness to speak of. Prices range from $5-$9.
If there’s any extravagance here, it’s their fruity drinks. We sampled all four flavors and settled on the sweet cantaloupe, which brightened up the whole meal. Ask for their green sauce, a creamy mix of Serrano peppers, cilantro, and potatoes that adds the perfect spicy kick to the teriyaki flavor.
Mount Washington residents will eat this place up.
4017 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, Ca 90065
Not too far from Verdugo Bar, hiding under a “Bakery #1″ sign in a strip mall, is a breakfast and lunch spot that should be packed every day. It’s not, and selfishly I’d like to keep it that way, but I believe in restaurant karma. So, here it goes: Lemon Poppy Seed Kitchen is a small restaurant run by friendly people that specializes in Romanian flatbreads called plachintas—two tortilla-like layers stuffed with feta, dill and scallion or bacon and cheddar, for example. They are divine, scrumptious, lovely, addictive, and served three ways: warm and sliced with a side of sour cream; folded over melted mozzarella, greens, olives and tomatoes; or under two yolky eggs, swiss chard and onions.
And that’s only half of it. Lemon Poppy Kitchen’s menu also covers big, meaty (and vegetarian) sandwiches, a breakfast menu that includes a biscuit sandwich and polenta cakes, a solid pastry case, real coffee and house-made sodas. It’s that place you’ve been looking for…that we’ve all been looking for.
It may take you a few visits to move on from the Planchinta Melt, but when you do, try the Muffuletta sandwich. Departing some from the traditional southern specialty, LPK’s rendition is stacked high and color consciously with mortadella, genoa salami, smoked ham, provolone and olive tapenade. The bread, in this case, is a pillowy, slightly sweet roll. It’s gigantic, but simple and served with a side salad. On the vegetarian side, there’s the Veggie Philly, which replaces steak with portabello mushrooms and includes pasilla peppers and paprika lemon ailoli. All sandwiches are served with a side salad.
Dessert is baked fresh daily and changes all the time. One day, there’s a chocolate chip bread pudding to lust after, the next there’s a cinnamon-sugar doughnut muffin you can’t escape. The cookies are big and buttery, and the orange olive oil cake, a particular favorite, is moist and refined. If you take any of these to go, you’ll most likely find yourself breaking into that little pink box on the way home.
Drunk, ravenous and too late for anything else. For years, all three conditions had to be met for me to brave The Brite Spot. But, it’s a new day, and the classic Echo Park diner recently received a makeover by owner and habitual restaurant revamper Dana Hollister (she’s also behind renovations at Villain’s Tavern, 4100 Bar and Cliff’s Edge). The update brings new outside seating, a slightly more sparkly interior, fresher ingredients and an updated menu.
Breakfast is how I like to judge diners, so we decided to try out the new Brite Spot on a busy weekday morning. Chicken & Waffles, Brussels & Bacon Hash (yes, brussel sprouts) topped with poached eggs, and The Hangover, a scramble Chicken Andoullie sausage, potatoes and habanero pesto, all intrigued. However, we took one for the team and ordered the A Burger for Breakfast special—a turkey patty, hash browns, bacon, and fried eggs all crammed between a maple-aioli-smeared brioche bun. It was as tasty as it was ridiculous.
Eggs Benedict can be kept simple or spruced up with grilled tomato, spinach and avocado. Pancakes also come in a couple of different varieties, including traditional buttermilk, Lemon Souffle Blueberry, and Oatmeal Banana Nut. We tried the seasonal Pumpkin Pancakes, which didn’t have the strong pumpkin taste that would have excited, but they did have that ever important can’t-stop-eating quality. In fact, the baby couldn’t get enough of them:
Vegetarians weren’t forgotten by the new menu. For those who like control, there’s a build-your-own-omelet option, with lots of veggies, cheese and a few vegan meats to choose from while the Soyrizo Scramble and Sloppy Tofu Hash allow for a little indulgence. As do the Cowboy Coffee Cake and outrageous Peanut Butter Pie that you won’t believe you’re finishing.
It should be noted that I’ve heard mixed reviews about the service at The Brite Spot, but I didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary. The food, though, was decidedly fresher, more flavorful and better prepared than it ever was on previous visits. And I swear I was totally sober.
There’s really not much I can say about Guisados that every other blogger, restaurant reviewer, or food enthusiast in Los Angeles hasn’t already said. It’s popular, to say the least, and now there are two locations: the original in Boyle Heights and a new one in Echo Park. However, if in fact you haven’t heard, here’s the story: this family restaurant turns out glorious tacos on thick, handmade tortillas filled with meats or vegetables that hold beautiful, complex flavors.
The chickens tinga and mole are particularly good, and veggies and non-veggies alike will appreciate that even the calabasitas (a mix of squash and corn) aren’t an afterthought. Note that the cochinita pibil is ordered according to a 1-10 spicy barometer, with even the lower end capable of setting your mouth on fire, so don’t get smart. There’s always the 6 mini taco sampler if you can’t decide—it’s chef’s choice, and he’s usually right.
Lastly, don’t miss out on the drinks. I like the cantaloupe agua fresca, which is cool, refreshing and not overly sweet. Horchata lovers won’t be disappointed, and neither will jamaica enthusiasts.