The Best Restaurants With Even Better Drinks

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History has us believe that humans have been eating and drinking simultaneously for a very, very long time. But now, more than ever, it seems restauranteurs are putting just as much time and thought into their drink service as any other aspect of their dining experience. And in the hyper-foodie-blogsphere universe we all live in now, many times a premiere drink program is the edge that a restaurant needs to be thought of as truly elite. Here are our picks for outstanding restaurants who’ve elevated their game by way of their drinks.

Commissary at The Line Hotel

3515 Wilshire Blvd, Koreatown

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Drink To Try: Gin n’ Juice

Sitting on the pool deck of Roy Choi’s Palais de Triumphe (The Line Hotel), Commissary is a truly beautiful experiment in fresh food cultivation. If I was ever going to write about how the carrot became a culinary rockstar, Commissary would most certainly be credited. But beyond the food lies a drink program so well-fitted to its menu, you almost take it for granted. Served in what looks like a to-go container of Tom Kha soup, the Gin n’ Juice (with multiple flavors) is quite possibly perfection. Delicious, refreshing, and secretly strong, I’m tempted to name it the best in-dinner cocktail in the city. And who needs just one, when you can stroll out to the pool afterwards and sip one more under the stars?

Petty Cash Taqueria

7360 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles

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Drink To Try: The Brixton

Petty Cash made quite the splash early last year, opening their high-end (and expensive) taco service on Beverly Boulevard. But after the roar of $6 tacos died down, what remained was one of the finer Mexican restaurants in the city. And thanks to Julian Cox, a truly superb drink and cocktails list emerged as well. The drinks at Petty Cash have personality, and none shine brighter than The Brixton. A favorite since opening, The Brixton is a brilliant combination of gin, lime juice, and poblano sorbet (!!). If that wasn’t enough, it’s served with a flaming habanero pepper filled to the brim with Green Chartreuse. The Brixton is a visual crowd-pleaser with light flavors and a serious punch of heat and is perfect for washing down a menu chock full of world-class tacos.

Brilliantshine

522 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

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Drink To Try: Autumn Sour No. 2

Remember Julian Cox? He’s back. Noted as one of LA’s great cocktail engineers, Cox has become a pioneer in the drink world and at Brilliantshine, he is finally able to run free. While almost every cocktail is worth an order, the king of the castle has to be the Autumn Sour No. 2. Made with apple brandy, Alsatian peach liqueur, lime, and egg white, this cocktail is all California sun with a major dose of Midwest Autumn. Just please don’t wait till next Fall to drink it.

Gracias Madre

8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood

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Drink To Try: Boozy Horchata

From the team that brought us the indelible Cafe Gratitude, Gracias Madre opened only a few years ago and quickly engrained itself as a true West Hollywood go-to spot. With one of the most beautiful outdoor patios in the city and a delicious meat-free menu, Gracias Madre was almost fool-proof in opening at its chic Melrose locale. And while patrons flock in droves for the food, the not-so-secret superstar is the cocktail program. Owning one of the more impressive Mezcal collections in the city, tequila is the way to go at Gracias Madre with the Boozy Horchata being the first order of business. Made with almond milk and Mezcal, its nothing overly-complicated but still provides that perfect refresher after a long night out on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Petit Trois

718 N Highland Ave, Hollywood

Petit Trois 718 N Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038

Drink To Try: Belle Du Jour

The little sister of Chef Ludo’s titanic Trois Mec, Petit Trois hardly needs an introduction. Its no-frills cafe ambience and steak-frites, undoubtedly the best in the city, have made Petit Trois a fast favorite. But you know Chef Ludo wasn’t going to open a Parisian-style sidewalk cafe without accompanying it with a top-notch wine selection and an even better cocktail list. Brought to us by the fantastic Danielle Motor, the drink menu at Petit Trois shines brilliantly and changes frequently. Right now, the Belle Du Jour has our attention; Gin, Casoni, Averna, St. Germain, and a toasted grapefruit zest provides the perfect bite to any of Ludo’s savory French favorites.

The Definitive Guide To Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles

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Surprise! Los Angeles has the best Thai food in the country. If you’re like me and dream of panang curry, Tom Kha soup, and drunken noodles on a nightly basis, this city is our playground. Los Angeles has the largest Thai population of any city in the world outside of Thailand so it should come as no surprise how truly spoiled we are with its cuisine. And though great Thai can be found in many areas, the first place any connoisseur goes to is Thai Town, a six block neighborhood centered along Hollywood Boulevard between Normandie and Western Avenue. Here you can find everything from traditional, family-run Southern Thai cuisine to raucous late-night experiences with Thai Elvis performing on-stage behind you. With so many great places to choose from, it can be quite overwhelming for even the experienced Thai cuisine eater. Well, rest assured, here we have the definitive guide to the best Thai cuisine in Los Angeles:

Night + Market 

9041 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood

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Drive about 20 minutes due West of Thai Town and you will hit what is arguably the finest Thai cuisine in Los Angeles, if not the country. Several years ago, Kris Yenbamroong opened his flagship location right next door to his parent’s Thai restaurant and almost over night changed the game completely. What Yenbamroong brings to his deeply personal Northern Thai street food are flavors both authentic and intensely refreshing. Too spicy for you? Bummer. This is big boy Thai food with flavor profiles sweet enough to make you feel like a teenager skipping through the streets of Chiang Mai (but maybe that’s my dream). Despite its high-profile Sunset Strip location, the atmosphere is relaxed and prices quite reasonable. Be sure to check out Yenbamroong’s second location, opened this year in Silverlake, Night + Market Song (it’s a massive hit as well — no shocker there).

Jitlada

5233 W Sunset Blvd, Thai Town

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While Night + Market is the hot new girl in town, Jitlada is the wise old mentor who long ago became the resident epicenter of Thai cuisine in Los Angeles. This is traditional Southern Thai cuisine and that means one thing: SPICE. And more than you ever thought possible. But hey, that just means more beer! Jitlada’s menu is inarguably monstrous and not for the faint of heart. Spice levels are extreme and they will not budge on it. But Jitlada didn’t become one the premiere Thai restaurants in the city because it casually burned holes in its patrons’ mouths (it doesn’t). It’s because the flavors are some of the richest and most authentic this side of Bangkok. Also, if you want to eat at Jitlada, I recommend arriving early. Lines go down the block and pick-up orders have been known to take hours. We think that speaks for itself.

Sapp Coffee Shop 

5183 Hollywood Blvd, Thai Town

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If Jitlada and Night + Market are the titans of Thai cuisine, consider Sapp Coffee Shop the quiet little giant, happy to have its off-the-grid cult following. Perhaps this hole-in-the-wall “coffee shop” fools most people into thinking it’s just that and not home to some of the most flavorful Thai cuisine in LA. Spoiler alert: IT’S THE LATTER. Their Boat Noodle Soup is the house speciality and the stuff of legend around these parts (Note: it’s thickened with blood!). But for those who don’t fancy themselves a vampire, their Jade Noodles are equally astonishing. Sure, they serve coffee, but make no doubt about it, Sapp Coffee is a pilgrimage that every Thai food lover in Los Angeles needs to take.

Pa Ord Noodle

5301 Sunset Blvd, Thai Town

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Word on the street is that Pa Ord invented putting noodles into the spicy Tom Yum soup. So please just come here to give them thanks for that. But beyond epic noodle choices, Pa Ord has been a neighborhood stand-by for years, combining sweet, salty, and spice better than almost anyone in the city. They recently opened a second location in Hollywood proper to allow those lucky citizens a taste of absolutely spot-on Thai cuisine. This is an old throw-back joint with tacky wallpaper and bizarre trinkets scattered throughout the restaurant. You come for the ambience and then stay for the food.

Sticky Rice at GCM

317 S Broadway, Grand Central Market, Downtown

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While Sticky Rice is the newest establishment on our list, this humble food stall in the continuously gentrified Grand Central Food Market is doing some pretty special things. What’s more, for their dishes to stand out in the center of this city’s foodie paradise is saying something. While Sticky Rice recently closed to remodel and expand their fairly limited menu, there is still one main attraction: The beef Panang Curry. This is hands down the best panang curry in Los Angeles, and if anyone begs to differ please private message me. The difference starts with the beef, tender enough to dissolve in your mouth before you even start chewing. Follow that up with their sweet, savory and, perfectly spiced panang curry broth and you have entered true Thai food nirvana.

NYC Food Delivery Top Picks

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Food delivery services such as Seamless may be the only reason busy New Yorkers eat full meals every day. With temperatures dropping below freezing this week, it is undoubtedly the only reason I am not resorting to foraging through my office and apartment for remnants of past grocery runs. Instead, after skipping over the thirty plus sushi restaurants on Seamless, I have piping hot lunches and dinners that I didn’t have to trudge through sleet nor snow nor cold rain to get. Little to no effort and generous tipping never tasted so good. Here are some of the tastiest places to order from (pro tip: ask colleagues if they want to order lunch with you so you don’t have to worry about that pesky ordering minimum):

Num Pang Sandwich Shop

140 E 41st St

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The roasted cauliflower sandwich is not only highly underrated, it is also my go-to sandwich and the gold standard for all future sandwiches. It’s savory, filling, and has a satisfying kick thanks to its special Chinese and Thai eggplant spread. This sandwich is a mesmerizing combination of chewy, crunchy, savory, sweet, and spicy. Step aside, cold cuts.

Cafe China

13 E 37th St

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Cafe China provides real bang for your buck, especially when co-workers join in on the order.  The physical restaurant is only a couple blocks away from my office, but in the dead of winter, I would much rather have their addicting pork dumplings served in chili oil brought to my office. I also highly recommend the pea shoots and shredded potato. If your coworkers don’t join this time around, after seeing your lunch they’ll definitely want in next time.

Dos Toros Taqueria

17 W 32nd St/1111 Lexington Ave/137 4th Ave

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Offering delivery from their Upper East Side, West Village, and Williamsburg locations, Dos Toros provides some of the best lunch and/or dinner options for the delivery-dependent. One big plus is, if not enjoying a flavorful, monstrous lunch, is skipping the notoriously long lines.

It’s The Inside That Counts: Best Bars You Wouldn’t Expect From The Outside

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For a city so in love with it’s own exterior, Los Angeles’s nightlife is entirely the opposite. It’s all about the lure of the unknown, enticing patrons with what could possibly lie on the inside. Quiet, black doors give way to bustling speakeasies and back-alley staircases open up to full performance-art venues. What used to be a niche nightlife experience has almost become the norm in the City of Angels and our adventurous denizens are reaping the benefits. Here are our picks for the best bars you would never expect from the outside.

The Edison

108 W 2nd St #101, Downtown

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Probably not a surprise to anyone with even a slight knowledge of our city’s nightlife, The Edison is flat-out the Los Angeles institution. You can’t see it from the street because, well, it’s all underground. In fact, it’s inside a former power plant! Don’t worry, the radiation is long gone and in its place is one of the most all-encompassing nightlife experiences this city has to offer. They enforce a strict dress code that only adds to the prohibition atmosphere. Once inside, you can enjoy anything from a full dinner, a live jazz band, aerial burlesque shows, and sexy fairies serving vials of every poet’s favorite juice: Absinthe. The lines can get long and this is hardly a casual night on the town, but The Edison is one of the few places where all the bustle is entirely worth the experience.

The Woods

1533 N La Brea Ave, Hollywood

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Smack in the middle of an old Hollywood strip mall, sandwiched between a liquor store and a Lebanese restaurant, is this neighborhood gem, a place to grab a quick drink with friends or end up after a long night out on the town. If you had always assumed this place was strip club, you wouldn’t be alone. But once inside you’ll find a small, intimate environment with a comfortable, rustic vibe, and cheap drink prices. The Woods might be the only bar in the country that successfully made sitting on tree stumps not just appropriate, but also pretty damn cool. This bar is a relic and far enough off the beaten path to make anyone feel welcome.

La Descarga

1159 North Western Ave, Los Angeles

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The Houston Brothers are the unquestionable kings of LA nightlife right now. With properties such as Good Times At Davey Wayne’s, No Vacancy, Dirty Laundry, Harvard and Stone, Pour Vous, and the brand new Butchers and Barbers, Mark and Jonnie Houston have completely changed the game in the Hollywood nightlife scene. Frankly, any one of the names above could’ve made this list but we are going with one of their very first properties, and an LA classic, La Descarga. Located on a forgotten stretch of Western Avenue, La Descarga was a pioneer in transforming this city’s nightlife from bad drinks and loud music into a high-class entertainment experience. With one of the most jaw-dropping entrances into a bar you’ll ever witness, La Descarga provides all the wow factor one could ever want in a refined atmosphere that reeks of cool.

Now Boarding

7746 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

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Having opened only a few weeks ago, Now Boarding is undoubtedly the newest name on our list. But this former SixtySix space is bound to be one the hottest destinations in this year. Behind a non-descript black exterior lies this sleek, mid-century drinking hole seemingly ripped directly from the set of Catch Me If You Can. Capitalizing on the romantic nostalgia of the Pan Am era, Now Boarding is all 1960’s cool. The back wall is even adorned with a map of vintage flight routes. If you’re already getting excited, here’s the best part of all: each cocktail comes delivered in a hand-crafted wooden suitcase to your table. I’d recommend finishing it before passing through TSA.

The Best Breakfasts to Keep You Warm and Cozy This Winter

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A bowl of hot soup for breakfast is unconventional I’ve been told, but I guarantee, it’s the cure to cold, winter mornings. This particular soup, made with comforting, soothing butternut squash and coconut milk eases the pain of getting out of a warm, inviting bed. It also packs in enough ginger and spices to shake off any sleepiness and get you ready for another day. And to top it off, to go with the soup and add a bit more texture, I have Alton Brown’s Creamed Corn Cornbread. The two combined are a dangerous weapon to approach any chilled morning.

Ginger-Apple Butternut Squash Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (enough to have 2 c of roasted & mashed squash)
  • 1 small apple (or ½ a large one)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, for roasting
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (I added 2 tsp)
  • ¼ – ½ tsp ground curry (or cardamon if you have some handy)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne (more, to taste)
  • 1 tsp additional salt (more to taste)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400ºF
  • Roast butternut squash by putting it in the over for a few minutes, making it easier to cut, then cut in half and scoop out the insides
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast cut side up for 20 minutes, flip and roast cut side down for 20-30 or until the flesh is soft
  • Remove from oven, let cool, then peel the skin away from the flesh
  • While the squash roasts, slice the apple and onion into wedges and arrange on a baking sheet
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown
  • During the last 10 minutes or so, add the whole garlic cloves to the baking sheet
  • In a blender, add butternut squash mash, roasted onion, apple, garlic (remove the skins), coconut milk, ginger, curry or cardamom, cayenne and salt and puree until smooth
  • If the soup is too thick, add a bit of water or broth to thin and blend again
  • Taste and adjust seasonings
  • Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days

Recipe courtesy of Love and Lemons

Good Eats Creamed Cornbread

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Ingredients

  • 2 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c creamed corn (see recipe below)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F
  • Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven
  • In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk together to combine well
  • In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly
  • Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir to combine
  • If the batter will not pour, add more buttermilk to the batter
  • Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to the cast iron skillet, pour the batter into the skillet, and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes

Alton’s Better Than Grannie’s Creamed Corn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 8 ears fresh corn
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, bruised
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in butter and salt until translucent
  • In a large mixing bowl, place a paper bowl in the middle of the bowl and resting the cob on the bowl in a vertical position remove only the tops of the kernel with a knife, using long smooth downward strokes and rotating the cob as you go
  • After the cob has been stripped, use the dull backside of your knife to scrape any remaining pulp and milk off the cob
  • Add the corn and pulp mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium high until the juice from the corn has tightened
  • Add the rosemary and sprinkle the corn with the sugar and turmeric
  • Stir constantly for about 2 minutes and then sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, using a whisk to combine well
  • Add the heavy cream and cook until the corn has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes
  • Remove the rosemary and then season with freshly ground black pepper

Recipes courtesy of Alton Brown

Bonus! If you have as much leftover cornbread as I did, then fry up some eggs and bacon, and voila! Another delicious, warm, and instagram-worthy breakfast.

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The Best “Wintertime” Restaurants in Los Angeles

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Few will argue that Los Angeles is not home to the best year-round weather of any city in the continental United States (we see you, San Diego). Sun is culture here and our year-round Mediterranean climate gives our city its identity. Now, LA will never fake being a four-season city, but winter is in fact a thing here. Jackets get unearthed and rain falls from the sky (FINALLY!). It’s a chance to get cozy with significant others, sip on hot chocolate cause you’re actually cold and a time to look back with nostalgia at the snow-laden landscape you probably left behind years ago. While almost every restaurant here knows how to dine under the sun, a few gems take advantage of the opposite. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants to make you feel like it’s winter outside:

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Rao’s

1006 Seward St, Hollywood

Probably most famous for being “the hardest reservation in America”, this East Harlem stronghold made the leap westward last year arriving on a quiet, mostly residential street in Hollywood. The jury is still out on whether this NYC food titan has successfully made the jump to Los Angeles, but no one can deny the nostalgic ambiance that rushes over you upon entering through its doors. Wave goodbye to California because you are transported immediately to the Italian New York that you only see on HBO. It’s warm and welcoming but quietly intimidating, as if everyone sitting at the tables just wrapped up a blockbuster mob deal. And that’s the fun of it. Festive wreaths decorate the rich red interior and as you fork through their world-famous meatballs; your imagination can’t help but wonder if you’ll ever be able to hail a cab in that snowstorm outside.

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Republique

624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles

Many cities around the globe conjure up winter romanticism at its finest. New York, London, Rome, Munich… But few rival the fairytale glow of Paris during the cold months. At Republique, Walter Manzke combines world-class dining with one of the most awe-inspiring restaurant spaces in the city. Sitting in Republique’s main dining room is like eating dinner in an old church on the banks of the Seine. The three separate, but entirely visible kitchens evoke the feeling of a bustling food market. It’s cozy, vibrant, and intoxicatingly romantic. What else could you ever want on a chilly night in December?

Cadet

Cadet

2518 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica

The newest restaurant on our list, Cadet has only been open a few months and is already making waves across the city for its exceptional food and warm, welcoming interior. Let’s just say there aren’t very many restaurants in this city that dedicate a portion of their space to a floor-to-ceiling wood-burning oven. It’ll be fun to watch this exciting restaurant mature and grow around Santa Monica’s youthful beach vibe, especially when Cadet already seems to be changing the game. And just in time to give our rain-soaked hearts a place to cozy up and stay warm.

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Little Dom’s

2128 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz

Frankly, what doesn’t Little Dom’s do well? This Eastside institution somehow still brilliantly flies under the radar, giving it’s charming neighborhood a place they can call their own. Reservations can be tough to get, but once you’re inside you understand what makes this place so special. It’s reminds you of a restaurant that should reside in another city, all the while having Los Angeles running through its veins. Hipsters, businessmen, celebrities, and families. Everyone comes to Little Dom’s for something not found often in our city – a cozy, romantic, and downright delicious neighborhood Italian joint.When there’s that tiny bite in the December air, nothing serves the soul better than that.

Nevermind the Milk: Girl Scout Cookie Pairings

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The holidays bring a certain merriment, mirth, and childlike disposition that, truth be told, we aren’t ready to give up when they’re all over. So, when your local Girl Scout troop comes to your door to give you the shakedown, go ahead and stalk up, because we have just the thing to make the holiday happiness linger: Wine and beer pairings.

There are over ten varieties of cookies for you to choose from. And, let’s be honest, a few reign supreme over the others. So, rather than have a sampling platter, we’re here to help you gorge yourself with the three best cookies and their adult-beveraged suitors.

Samoas

If we’re handing out medals to Girl Scout Cookies, these coconut and chocolate rings belong somewhere in the winner’s circle. I mean, there’s no way you can call this cookie anything but a dessert. And because of that, naturally, they pair well with a dessert wine (preferably red); the safe bet’s a Port. For beer, the heavier the better. Many have paired this cookie with a Stout to high success, while others turn towards a Scotch Ale (Founders’ Dirty Bastard has been popular). The darker the better; try to match the shade of chocolate*.

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Tagalongs

Nothing screams childhood like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So, to pair anything with this peanut butter filled cookie really seems sacrilege. This is why the best pairings are with naturally fruity alcohols. Most see success with Zinfandels, but any jammy wine won’t turn you in the wrong direction. With beers, Belgian Ales, specifically lambics, are highly recommended. Look for any beers brewed with berries (like Lindeman’s Framboise).

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Thin Mints

The unofficial champion of the Girl Scout Cookie family also just happens to have one of the strongest flavors. For this pairing to work, you’ll need a drink that is as strong (or can at least hold its own). Much like with the Samoas, the darker beers pair well. Many seek out Stouts (Great Divide’s Yeti is popular), and you cant’ go wrong with Porters. This cookie allows, and encourages, the most experimentation, since you know you can the mint flavor can stand its ground against bolder flavors, but the balance is key. For wine, for exampled, I recommend one that’s full bodied; A Syrah is the favorite, and how sweet you choose to go with this red is completely up to you. The world’s your oyster!

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*No scientific evidence backs the idea that matching shades improves taste.

Sawtelle Boulevard: LA’s Most Unlikely Culinary Destination

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Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Venice, Santa Monica, The Historic Core. These are just some of the names and places synonymous with housing the culinary elite of Los Angeles. There’s Silverlake, Koreatown, Culver City and The Arts District, representing the new class of chefs and restaurants quickly making their exciting, youthful mark on the city. And then, somewhere between the cracks of all that, tucked under the cold shadows of the 405 Freeway sits Sawtelle Boulevard. To most Los Angelenos, this West LA thoroughfare is known as option A, B, and C for when the 405 is its usual bumper to bumper hell zone. But for the several blocks that sit roughly between Santa Monica Blvd and Pico, something entirely different has taken place. With a decidedly Japanese influence, Sawtelle has exploded in the last several years into one of the most surprising culinary destinations in the entire city. Below we highlight the most exciting places right now on this little boulevard that could.

Tsujita LA

2057 Sawtelle Blvd

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Finally distancing itself from the microwavable noodle/sodium powder that American college kids use to sustain life, actual ramen has become one of the latest food crazes to sweep the country and, in particular, Los Angeles. In almost every corner of the city, traditional ramen bars seem to be popping up but Tsujita on Sawtelle arguably still holds court above them all. To say Tsujita has a cult following is an understatement. Lines wrap out the door almost every day of the week at this Tokyo transport full of customers anxious to try their legendary tsukemen. It’s hard to say if Tsujita is the reason for Sawtelle’s culinary explosion, but it most certainly played a major hand.

The Ladies’ Gunboat Society at Flores

2024 Sawtelle Blvd

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Earlier this year, the Sawtelle staple Flores made a bold move and opened up a semi-permanent pop-up inside its very own restaurant. Unconventional to say the least, The Ladies Gunboat Society was born and Los Angelenos have reaped the benefits. Chef Brian Dunsmoor is bringing real-deal Low Country cuisine to our city and the results are phenomenal. What part of chicken-fried rabbit, succotash and buttermilk pie doesn’t sound good? Come for happy hour and you’ll get fried chicken and a beer for $12. OKAY. Charleston may well be the hottest culinary city of 2014, but Chef Dunsmoor just saved us all a plane ticket.

Daikokuya

2208 Sawtelle Blvd

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Late last year Daikokuya, the old-school Little Tokyo staple, opened its 2nd location on Sawtelle and absolutely no one complained about it. They brought with it all the charming, kitschy decor and no frills menu that made the Little Tokyo original so endearing. But in the competitive land of Sawtelle, your japanese cuisine had better stand out. Daikokuya has all their bases covered and more. Come for their ramen of course, but stay for their outstanding rice bowls, gyozas and takoyaki (pan-fried balls of octopus). Daikokuya’s westward trek is one more feather in Sawtelle’s hat. The city’s most well-established names are now getting in on the action.

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar

1800 Sawtelle Blvd

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With its unforgiving American flair, Plan Check plays a very important part in Sawtelle’s short history. Not only was it’s 2012 opening the start of what would become a mini Plan Check empire in the city, it also signaled Sawtelle’s move from tiny ethnic enclave to a diverse culinary destination ready for take-off. With Plan Check’s arrival, bringing its top-notch burgers to the ‘hood, more eyes than ever were now placed firmly on Sawtelle’s humble blocks. Plan Check provides that perfect upscale hang-out vibe without any of the high maintenance that is so often unachievable. An award-winning jidori chicken dish and a top-notch beer selection help their cause as well. But above all, its another jewel in the tiny crown that Sawtelle, and thus Los Angeles, can wear proudly.

Eating Out with the Taste Savant App

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Deciding where to dine can be tricky; there are many things to consider: what you want to eat, who you are eating with, what they might want to eat where you are, and the all-important quality of the food can make any savvy dinner’s head spin. Luckily even when on the go the Taste Savant app is there to ensure that you feel confident about each meal choice you make. So let’s pretend we are out and about and see what we find…

Today we will see where we end up when hanging out near Washington Square Park.

Breakfast
Distance: Current Location
Cuisine: American
Cost: $$
Occasion: brunch

Result: The Smile
26 Bond St
Pic_03This cafe-style restaurant set just below seat level feels like walking into the dining equivalent of a hug. Tasting Table and New York Magazine have both given this cozy spot points. NYM applauds the chef for cooking “like an especially talented dinner-party hostess, re-creating taste memories of places she’s been and dishes she’s loved” and TT raves about the stay-as-long-as-you-want atmosphere and the killer sea salt chocolate chip cookies.

Lunch
Distance: .1 mile from Current Location
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Cost: $$$
Occasion: Bustling

Result: Balaboosta
214 Mulberry St. New York, New York 10012
Fried Olives with house made labneWhatever you decide to have for lunch you must start with an order of the deep-fried olives served on a “bed” of homemade labne. A quick overview of the write-ups from Tasting Table, Time Out, The New York Times, and New York Magazine give insight into the best dishes at the midday hour. Along with the olives, the roasted cauliflower and grilled skirt steak make a lunch to love.

Dinner
Distance: Current Location
Cuisine: Vegetarian Friendly
Cost: $$$
Occasion: Bar Seating

Result: Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar
36 E 4th St
After a delightful lunch it was up to Taste Savant to make an equally satisfying dinner selection. This charming Italian spot has been awarded the ever faithful title of bib gourmand from Michelin. It’s the perfect place to pull up a spot at the bar and try a few wines with the help of their friendly bartender. Fried baby artichokes and orecchiette with broccolini round out this relaxed dinner destination.

Tell us where the Taste Savant App has lead you!

 

Three for $30 (Lincoln Square)

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If we get down to brass tacks, North Center/Lincoln Square pretty much has it all: Great bars, high-end restaurants, and, if your electric bill was a little high this month, cheap eats for the whole day!

Let’s visualize: Saturday morning. Fridge is empty. You have $30 to last you all day for food. Here’s the meal-to-meal breakdown that will leave you and your wallet happy:

Breakfast

Baker Miller

4610 N Western Ave

Opening up only this passed spring, this has to be the breakfast of choice in the neighborhood. Not only is this where carb-o-loaders can rejoice, but you can get a nice bit of protein in your system if you’re a discerning carnivore.

1) Grits ($9.25) Definitely ups your breakfast budget, but these grits do come loaded with preserved tomatoes, a soft egg, and pickled kale.

2) Sausage link ($3.95) and a plum muffin ($3.25) Any light eater in the morning should be sated with this combination. This leaves room for a larger lunch (or tactically places you to splurge on dinner).

These are the grits. This is your breakfast. For every day for the rest of your life.

Lunch

River Valley Farmer’s Table

1820 W Wilson Ave

Once lunch rolls around, you’re going to get hungry (that’s obvious), but you also aren’t going to like getting any thing less than a deal. This is where we turn to the sandwiches at River Valley. Not only do you get to add a side for $1, you can add an egg, bacon, or cheese for $1 as well. Plus, no sandwich exceeds $10 as it is.

1) For vegetarians, I recommend either the Falafel Burrito or the Miso Portabella Bahn Mi (Both $8).

2) If you opted for the grains for breakfast and need a little meat, go for the Chicken Salad or the Pulled Pork (once again, both $8)

The sides you can get with these sandwiches for a fair $1 include mac ‘n’ cheese, chili, and french fries.

Bonus: Bottomless coffee if you’re an eat-in diner for $2.99.

Dinner

Sticky Rice

4018 N Western Ave

As we wind down in the day, we’ve gone two meals with little to no spice… and that’s a sin. The great thing about Thai cuisine is that there’s always room to add some spice, or to enjoy it without if that’s your preference. At Sticky Rice, no noodle dish exceeds $9, unless you opt for the more premium meat choices (there’s also a vegetarian option of having tofu as your protein across the board). However, here are a few other choices, all fitting within the designated budget:

1) Gang Hung Lay ($8.50, with a serving of rice $10) – For those seeking out heat, this pork dish is cooked in a chili paste. Personally, I’d go with a serving of rice in case you underestimate your spice tolerance.

2) Pad Brussels Sprouts ($8.50) stir fried with your choice of protein and served with rice, This is your average price range for most non-seafood dishes.

The curry section of the menu, unless you splurged on lunch, should fit within your budget. This menu as a whole is, quite frankly, your oyster with all of it’s affordable dishes.

Like before, this is only one chain of events in regards to spending a day in the North Center/Lincoln Square area. If you’ve gone (or plan to go) exploring in this neighborhood, and you have a “Three for $30,” definitely share with us! We’re all on the same team when it comes to eating out affordably!

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