I’m finally getting around to posting some bits from my whirlwind time in LA where I visited some old standby’s and discovered new ones. I can be a little cynical when it comes to LA, but somehow she continues to surprise me in new and exciting ways. For example, when I think of strip malls, I don’t typically equate them to good food. But in LA, some of my favorite eats are tucked away in these unlikely food meccas.
In a strip mall on Sunset Blvd in Silverlake, where the big Escrow office sign is the best landmark, I hit my favorite Vietnamese noodle joint, Pho Cafe. There’s definitely no website for this place and you won’t even find a sign apart from the numbers above the door at 2841 W Sunset Blvd. It’s a sleek, stylish, no nonsense interior with bright orange chairs and fab Italian light fixtures. There’s something fresh and inviting about the space.
I’ve not ventured beyond the pho into the pretty broad menu, so I can only vouch for the noodles and the Vietnamese coffee, which are both fab-u-lous-ly flavor packed and authentic. And it’s inexpensive, the way pho should be. So when you learn they only accept cash, you can know that 20-spot in your wallet will go a long way.
Viva La Cocina Mexicana
An LA food stylist friend of mine took me to one of her favorite spots in Long Beach (which is not LA proper, but is still LA county so counts in my book). It’s called Enrique’s and is in a strip mall on the corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and Loynes Dr., just down the road from where I grew up. I ordered the grilled fish tacos which were fresh and tasty. But the best thing Enrique’s serves isn’t listed on the menu. Lucky for me, I was with a local who knew to order the slow- braised pork shank bathed in a dreamy tomatillo cream sauce. As you can imagine, the dish is far from pretty but, seriously, it’s one of the most tender and flavorful hunks of braised pork I’ve ever tasted.
An added bonus to the strip mall location is an amenity I’ve learned to appreciate as a car-driving San Franciscan: ample, easy and free parking.
Chez Mes Amis & Berolina Bakery
I was one lucky gal on this crazy trip that had me staying with a few different generous friends and driving to the far reaches of LA for work each day (seriously, for those who know LA, I was trekking from South Pasadena to Malibu to Palos Verdes). The first night, I was treated to fantastic, home-cooked Japanese food whipped up by my most fabulous fashionista/foodie/all-around creative and in-the-know friend from way back in my undergrad days at UCLA. It’s fitting she and I met at a dinner party as we’ve continued to share good food together over the years, and she never ceases to inspire me with her creativity in the kitchen.
The next night, I was treated to another incredible dinner by the most extraordinary stay-at-home dad I know who is also a fantastic and creative cook. He fed us a luscious feast at this beautiful table in his and his wife’s gorgeous home. Not only does this couple have phenomenal taste, their home is blissfully free of visual clutter. And they have two young kids. I don’t know how they do it!
My friend, the cook of fab Japanese Dinner #1, came over to join us for fab Dinner #2 and brought a berry almond cake from a quaint little European bakery in Glendale that reminds me of the one my mother used to frequent when I was a kid. The almond cake from Berolina Bakery was a luscious, flavorful torte with a velvety texture. Mmmm! The next morning, my friends and I had it with our morning tea at the crack of dawn as they were getting their kids ready for school and I was preparing to head out into the perils of LA traffic. Who needs coffee when you can start the day with sugar!
Pho cafe family has another modern Vietnamese noodle/sandwich place in Atwater village called Viet Cafe.