Just got back this afternoon from a lovely long weekend in Southern California, one of my favorite places. I lived in Los Angeles from 2000 to 2002, and also in Sonoma from 2005 to 2006, so I’ve gotten decent tastes of both southern and northern Cali. Literally. Anytime I get an opportunity to go back to the Golden State, my mouth immediately starts watering at the thought of In ‘N Out Burger.
Hubby worked at the Long Beach Grand Prix over the weekend, so baby and I tagged along. Although we stayed with hubby at his hotel in Long Beach, I did make it up to L.A. for a couple of occasions, including an overnight stay at my gracious cousin’s apartment in Hollywood last night.
On prior visits, hubby pointed out that I often refer to my favorite L.A. restaurants as having the best fill-in-the-blank-here ever. Well, with the abundance of fantabulously fresh California produce, seafood and such, it’s hard for it to be anything but! Plus, the ability to dine al fresco year-round always makes everything taste better in my book.
In no particular order, here are several of the culinary reasons I love L.A.:
In ‘N Out Burger. Those who know are nodding their heads right now. The yummiest burgers, fries and shakes in the Southwest – bar none. Everything is made fresh on site; no freezers and no microwaves anywhere on the premises. For added hipness factor, there’s a secret menu you can order from. Well, it’s available on their web site, so I’m not sure just how secret it is, but it’s not posted at the restaurants themselves. If you really want to sound like a true aficionado, saddle up and order your cheeseburger “animal style” to get it loaded with grilled onions and special sauce. The employees are the nicest fast-food servers I’ve ever encountered anywhere, and why shouldn’t they be? You know when you’re working for the best. And, it’s CHEAP-ass. Less than $5 gets you a high-quality burger, fries and drink. Seriously, what more could you want?
Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Chicken? And waffles? Together??? WTF! Trust me on this. Roscoe’s is awesome southern soul food in the heart of Hollywood (and several other locations). Order the Carol C. special to get the quintessential sampling — one juicy succulent chicken breast and one toasty-good buttermilk waffle. If you feel really bold, toss in a side of gravy, cornbread or some greens. Imagine a steaming hot waffle, a little trickle of the syrup oozing its way over onto the crisp crust of fried chicken just like your grandma made, only better. It sounds weird, but it WORKS.
Toi Rocking Thai Food. A great place to take out-of-town guests, the walls are filled with music memorabilia, it’s dark and kitschy and the food, indeed, rocks. You may even see a star or two. I ate there last night and I swear the guy who sat behind me was one of the Lakers. I couldn’t tell you which one, but anyone that tall has to be a basketball player of some sort. The menu offers Americanized Thai food the likes of which I curse not being able to find in Indianapolis. I always get the yellow curry with chicken, a rich and fragrant coconut broth with chunks of chicken, potato and onion swimming within like buried treasures. They also make some darn good brown rice and a terrific peanut sauce I could eat with a spoon.
Griddle Cafe. Pancakes bigger than your head with crazy good toppings and fillings including but not limited to fruit, chocolate, nuts, caramel, cinnamon, butterscotch chips, coconut, Oreos, Kahlua… and the list goes on. Come early, the place is small and tables fill up quick, plus the Sunset Blvd. location makes for good star-sighting potential.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. True Angelenos turn up their noses at Starbucks and go here instead. With good reason. The coffee’s damn good, and there’s a more diverse selection of better muffins, pastries and such.
Pinkberry. A relatively new addition on the L.A. food scene, Pinkberry burst onto the market a couple years ago and has been going great guns every since. It’s a frozen yogurt chain, but what makes it special is that their yogurt includes some sort of healthy enzymes or bacteria or something that actually makes the stuff good for you. There are only two flavors to choose from and a handful of fresh fruit and cereal toppings to mix in, but this is a great example of creating your own niche by sticking with a small menu and doing it well.
Koo Koo Roo. Awesome rotisserie chicken and sides that put Boston Market and the like to shame.
Alas, jet lag is catching up and overtaking me. More additions to come as they occur to me…