Beer Belly’s Wes Lieberher: 5 Great Bites in Los Angeles

A series about LA chefs and the low-cost food they love.

Wes Lieberher runs the kitchens at the gastropub Beer Belly and its Philly-centric cousin, Whiz, both in Koreatown. He grew up in Philadelphia, a place dotted with street-cart vendors hawking pork rolls and chili cheese fries, where they insist on calling subs “hoagies” and debate cheesesteaks the way Angelenos discuss tacos: in serious, impassioned tones. In other words, Lieberher is no slouch when it comes to finding high-value, high-flavor treats. We asked him to school us on his cheap-eat finds in the City of Angels.

POLLO A LA BRASA'S ROTISSERIE CHICKEN IS AMAZINGLY SMOKY

“They have this huge wood-fire oven inside, and there are literally stacks and stacks of wood around the perimeter of the place. They have really good combos with beans, rice, and half a chicken for only 10 bucks.”
Pollo a la Brasa [Koreatown]
764 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles; 213-387-1531 (no website)

TORUNG'S YELLOW CHICKEN CURRY IS WONDERFUL

“This is one of my favorite Thai places. It’s open until 3 a.m. and it’s really cheap, cash only. The war soup is great, and the potatoes in the curry are actually cooked, which I admire because a lot of Thai places don’t do that.”
Torung [Hollywood]
5657 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles; 323-464-2750 (no website)

INDIA JONES KNOWS HOW TO MERGE CUISINES

“It’s basically Indian street food, but they offer things like the taco chaat and samosas. Plus they have naan bread for two bucks. The taco chaat comes with tangy Indian salsa chutney on blue corn tortillas. It’s well-executed.”
India Jones Chow Truck
Various locations—consult the schedule

FILIPINO CORNBREAD IS SERIOUSLY THE BEST

“It's like Filipino-influenced American BBQ. We’ve done collaborations with them, before they had their brick-and-mortar. They have some of the best cornbread I’ve ever had in my entire life. Check out the ribs and the coconut beef. They also have their own BBQ sauce that they bottle in-house.”
The Park’s Finest [Echo Park]
1267 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles; 213-481-2800

YEAH I PICKED MY OWN CHEESESTEAK PLACE

“Whiz is a shout-out to my Philly background. We serve cheesesteaks, hoagies, and a pork roll (Taylor Ham) with egg and cheese. Taylor Ham is a pork product that looks like Spam but has a lot more flavor. It’s almost as good as bacon, and I don’t think anyone else in the city is serving a pork roll besides me. We also do Philly Mega Fries, which is an ode to the divey places I used to frequent as a kid. It comes with mozzarella, Cheez Whiz, provolone, and bacon.”
Whiz [Koreatown]
3901 W. Sixth Street, Suite A, Los Angeles; 213-249-9449

Photo credits: Top photo courtesy of Wes Lieberher; Pollo a la Brasa’s rotisserie chicken from The Delicious Life; Torung by eventseeker; taco chaat from India Jones Chow Truck; The Park’s Finest cornbread from Urbanspoon; Whiz cheesesteak by HopHeadJim on Foursquare

Justin Bolois is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBolois.