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Best Bagels in LA -- Belle's Bagels

Some photos from their site

Feb 26, 2015
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Best Bagels in LA -- Belle's Bagels

Recently took the plunge and pre-ordered half a dozen everything bagels from Belle's Bagels, a new pop-up that sells bagels a few times a week out of La Perla Bakery in Highland Park. Admittedly, it's a bit of a shlep, but damn if these aren't the best bagels I've had in LA, let alone all of the west coast. I lived in NYC for nearly 5 years, so I know bagels. My favorites in NYC are Murrays and Ess-a-Bagel...

They only sell them a few days a week, and we usually preorder, but I think some days they have them on hand to sell for first come first serve... But if you're going to go to all the trouble of going to Highland Park, I recommend preordering.

Feb 26, 2015
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Now that Mr. Tasterâ„¢ is gone, can we please discuss Gjusta?

I've been multiple times recently and have tried a lot of their sandwiches:

Chicken Parm -- This is currently my favorite chicken parm sandwich in all of LA by a long shot. Yes, it's pricey at $16, but it's so delicious I really don't mind. The baguette is chewy and yielding and not so crunchy that it cuts your mouth. Their tomato sauce is simple and dunk-worthy delicious. And they pan fry the thin cutlets of chicken... Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Prime Rib -- Had this one most recent, and looking at it, it didn't look super exciting, but the quality of the beef seems quite high. And it was a very nice pink medium throughout. The fresh grated horseradish is also quite good.

Bagel & Lox -- Their bagels are great. Amongst the best in the city. And the smoked salmon is luscious. Loaded up with avocado, sprouts, cucmbers, etc... and it was a winner, although likely not going to be my first choice since I usually go for lunch and I crave their more meaty items for lunch.

Porchetta Melt -- This was my least favorite, but I still enjoyed it. It could have used more cracklings and maybe some caramelized onions to enhance the overall flavor.

Also worth mentioning that I always order a side of their chunkier fermented hot sauce. It's great on everything meaty.

And I've bought their seeded Rye loaf a handful of times already. Totally not a traditional style Rye, but it makes great sandwiches. Had a chunk of a leftover loaf a few weeks old and made it into breadcrumbs the other night which yielded a very toasty flavorful homemade Shake N Bake style chicken.

Feb 26, 2015
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Burrito tortillas?

Went all the way over La Azteca today. Unfortunately they would not sell me any of there burrito sized tortillas. So annoying. They would only sell me small ones which are not big enough to wrap a burrito. Ended up driving around East LA looking for another option. Picked up a few different options, but nothing that looks too great. Oh well. How could it be so hard to find a good tortilla in Los Angeles?!

May 04, 2014
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Burrito tortillas?

Looking for a bakery in LA that makes their own burrito-sized tortillas? Anyone know of one?

Apr 30, 2014
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Tortelleria -- Where to buy burrito-sized tortillas?

I'd like to make some Mission style burritos and I am wondering where I can buy the best burrito-sized tortillas in LA. Looking for the best tortelleria (tortilla bakery), preferably on the east side near Echo Park/Downtown/SilverLake, but I'm willing to travel if someone swears by a baker that's a bit farther.

Feb 20, 2014
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Hinoki & the Bird?

Thanks everyone for the heated replies. I'm still torn. ChiSpacca is off the table as they have no rezzies left for the night in question next week.

Funny that Animal was brought up, because although I didn't mention it, I've been thinking of it as well. I've eaten there quite a few times, and it's always been one of my fav restaurants in LA. I just called and managed to snag an early rez for next week. Now I just need to make a final decision.

Give Hinoki a try, or return to Animal for what I know will be a solid evening of delicious chow.

Feb 07, 2014
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Hinoki & the Bird?

Looks like I'm going to Hinoki next week with some friends. We debated quite a bit about where to go, and we landed on this spot as the food seems pretty interesting. Just read a couple reviews on here and doesn't seem it was getting a ton of love though... Any recommendations on must order dishes? The lobster roll sounds pretty darn tempting and different. I love lobster. I love green curry...

Or do y'all think we should possibly hit a different spot? We don't go out for pricey meals like this too often. Had also considered checking out Picca and Chi Spacca. I've been to Chi Spacca, but have been wanting to go back to try one of those massive steaks.

Feb 07, 2014
brian j in Los Angeles Area

East Borough Pork Banh Mi

Tried the new Vietnamese joint in Culver City yesterday, East Borough. I was mainly interested in trying their banh mi. I haven't really found too many satisfying banh mis in Los Angeles, so I'm always hungry for a new option. Especially one that seems to use better quality ingredients.

I popped in for a late lunch around 2pm on a rainy afternoon. The place was half full. Sandwich came out pretty quickly. It was quite delectable. Best banh mi I've had in LA for quite some time. And probably my new favorite, assuming the quality holds up on subsequent visits.

The bread was nicely lightly toasted, and not overly toasted as I've experienced at some places which can lead to tiny cuts throughout my mouth. The grilled pork was tender and flavorful, and lean enough, but not overly lean. Plenty of pickled veggies, including daikon. And of course, a nice slater of aioli.

It's admittedly a bit pricey at $11, but considering how much I enjoyed it, it's worth it to me. Even if it is nearly $4 more than it's Costa Mesa location.

My other favorite banh mis for reference...

Banh Mi My Tho -- Favorite Banh Mi just a short drive from LA

Mendocino Farms -- Although hardly a traditional banh mi, it's still pretty good, especially if you swap the ciabatta out for something vaguely more traditional

Spice Table (RIP) -- They used to have some seriously amazing banh mi-esque sandwiches on their lunch menu before they closed

Slanted Door/Out the Door -- Located in SF, I used to enjoy their "Saigon Roast Pork Sandwich" nearly every week

Saigon Sandwich -- Also located in SF, traditional style banh mi with a large heaping of pate

I've noticed that most (if not all) of LA's banh mi shops do not include pate on their sandwiches. Wish they would... The addition of that to East Borough's grilled pork banh mi would be divine. Might have to ask if they'll do that next time.

They also have a "Pho" banh mi with brisket and a sidecar of pho which I'm interested to sample.

Looking for Shwarma in SFV

I've always loved Pita Bar & Grill on Fairfax. They have great falafel & schwarma that's chicken & lamb. Great free salad bar & a bunch of great homemade sauces including a delish Harissa.

Oct 14, 2013
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Best organic take out food in LA?

I've become increasingly frustrated with LA's lack of solid healthy, organic take out options. I've got a few faves but I could really use some fresh recommendations. I live on the east side in Echo Park but I work on the west side near Culver City so open to suggestions near either or inbetween.

Here are a few of my favs:
Gjelina Takeaway

May 13, 2013
brian j in Los Angeles Area

London's best eats? Nose-to-tail and everything else

Wow. I'm honored and overwhelmed by all the great responses. It's going to take me a little time to sort through these, but I've already got a few ideas. Definitely want to hit a gastropub or two. Seems like Brawn & Harwood Arms are the favorites.

Alwaha. Bar Shu & Gram Bangla all sound enticing as well.

Definitely interested in getting some top notch Indian food whilst there. Would appreciate a bit more direction there.

And Wright Bros sounds delightful. Absolutely would love to sample some tasty local seafood.

My interest is also peaked by the mention of all the trendy small plate restaurants. These sorts of things when done well can be quite nice.

One more thing worth mentioning is that I adore pork and would love to hear recommendations on any places that have a fondness for cooking it.

Jul 12, 2012
brian j in U.K./Ireland

London's best eats? Nose-to-tail and everything else

I'm heading to London next week for 10 days for business. I'll be working through the days pretty heavily, but I should have at least a few nights to explore the city. I would love to check out some of the city's culinary delights.

So far the only place I really know I want to eat is St. John. I've already made two reservations to eat there. Aside from that I haven't a clue. I spent some time in London, but that was 14+ years ago! I wasn't the foodie I am today back then. I'm up for anything.

From nose to tail, meat pies to molecular, and everything in-between, I'm looking to eat my way across the city. Definitely will need to get a solid curry one night, and I'm sure some fish and chips will be in order. However, I have a feeling London has a lot more to offer. I'm staying at the W in Leicester Square, but I'm willing to travel anywhere in the city that's within a reasonable cab's ride away. Or not so reasonable if it's something truly remarkable.

Please share any and all recommendations.


Jul 10, 2012
brian j in U.K./Ireland

Inexpensive/Casual Eats near Santa Barbara Bowl?

We don't mind walking a mile. We plan on leaving our car parked at our hotel and just walking around downtown, and then walking or cabbing it to the bowl.

Definitely interested in places that serve more organic, local, sustainable fare if possible. Are there any specific ones that you recommend?

May 15, 2012
brian j in California

Inexpensive/Casual Eats near Santa Barbara Bowl?

Heading up to Santa Barbara in a few weeks to catch Beck play at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Looking for somewhere inexpensive and casual to grab a quick, yet delicious bite prior to and near the show. Preferably somewhere that also has tasty adult beverages.

One place that has come up on my searches is Jane. Sounds like they may have a tasty burger. That could work, but wondering what other options we might have.

Any and all recommendations would be most appreciated!

May 14, 2012
brian j in California

Spice Table Lunch

I've eaten at Spice Table for lunch about or dozen or so times. Most often I've ordered their Spice Table burger, which is sorta In N Out style, but they jazz it up with some SE Asian flavors. If you like a perfectly cooked medium-rare burger, they've always nailed the temperature for me. It's one of my favorite burgers in LA.

Their sandwiches, which are banh mi-esque, but not necessarily banh mis, are also all quite delicious. I've had the eggplant curry one, which was splendid. The eggplant had a ton of flavor, and was just as tasty when I ate the leftover half later that night cold. The catfish was good, although I thought it could have used a bit more fish. I finally ordered their take on a classic banh mi type sandwich last weekend. They use all housemade chacuterie/cold cuts. It was quite tasty, and definitely an elevated version of a banh mi.

The curry fried chicken wings are divine. Really nicely fried and crunchy on the outside, with a tasty curry flavor.

We've also had the housemade shrimp chips, and their coleslaw, which although sold separately go great together.

I had the pork belly banh mi months ago and enjoyed it. Didn't really think of it as too similar to Langers.

Also worth noting that they make all their bread in-house. The baguettes that they use for their sandwiches are really amazing. Not crunchy, and mouth cutting like some banh mis I've encountered elsewhere.

May 04, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Thai New Year Festivities?

Have all the festivities already happened? I have a feeling I'm a few weeks late...

Apr 12, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Good fishmonger / Seafood Market near Downtown/Echo Park/Silver Lake

Ya, that's who I've bought from at the Culver market on Tuesdays. Really good stuff.

Mar 14, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Good fishmonger / Seafood Market near Downtown/Echo Park/Silver Lake

oh ya. now i remember seeing them. i've never gotten anything from them... as for larchmont, if it's good i'm willing to travel, and more able to on the weekends. especially where smoked fish is involved.

Mar 14, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Good fishmonger / Seafood Market near Downtown/Echo Park/Silver Lake

I don't recall ever seeing a fish vendor at the silver lake farmers market on saturday. i'm there often. i've bought some good seafood from the various seafood vendors at the hollywood sunday market. but would be great if i could find a mid-week option as well.

are there any fish vendors at any of the weekday farmers markets on the east side?

Mar 14, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Good fishmonger / Seafood Market near Downtown/Echo Park/Silver Lake

I've been struggling to find a reliable source for fresh seafood on the east side near where I live. I know there has got to be some good places out there, but so far I haven't found one that I can depend upon all the time.

I work on the west side near Marina del Rey, so sometimes I hit Whole Foods during lunch, or the Culver City farmers market on Tuesdays on my way home. They sometimes have what I'm looking for, but I would love to find something closer to home. I would be especially amazed if I could find a market that carries sustainable seafood.

I've checked out Japantown, but I haven't been completely impressed with what I've seen. There are likely places in Koreatown somewhere, but I have no idea where to start.

Any suggestions?

Mar 14, 2012
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Heading to Portland this weekend for the first time

Here are my pix from my report.

Dec 14, 2011
brian j in Metro Portland

Heading to Portland this weekend for the first time

Thank you all for all your amazing recommendations. I had a pretty amazing long weekend of eating in Portland. Here's a quick run down of the spots I was able to hit.

Upon arriving my friend took me to the Sweet Hereafter, one of her fav bars. They also happen to serve vegan fare. I ended up ordering their house made pretzels with some beer mustard and nut based mayo. The pretzels were like little discs, and pretty tasty for vegan.

For my first real meal I made my way to Gruner for their bar burger. I had been told that restaurants sometimes have really long waits so I made sure to get there as close to 11:30am for the start of their lunch shift. I managed to be the first customer of the day. Happily ordered a whiskey cocktail and the house burger. I also noticed they had house baked pretzel sticks instead of bread and butter and ordered one of those as well. The pretzel was doughy and warm. Really nice.

The burger came out and the plate was uber hot. So hot that it kept me from picking up my burger to eat for wayyy too long. When I finally did take my first bite juices came gushing out. It was tasty indeed. Came with a side of pickled red onions and bread & butter pickles which both worked great with the cheddar and bacon. There was also a side of smashed taters. All in all it was a magnificent first meal. The burger was ever-so-slightly over cooked -- closer to medium than a true medium rare -- but I was enjoying myself so much I didn't send it back.

Next up I rambled over to Voodoo Donuts. VD definitely has a polarizing effect upon people. Some love. Some hate. Maybe it's a bit cliche and touristy. Whatever. I'm a tourist visiting Portland, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Anyway, I love bacon. And a bacon maple donut sounded sublime. It wasn't the greatest donut I've ever eaten, but I sure as heck enjoyed it. There was a substantial piece of bacon on it, and the maple complimented it quite nicely.

I was seriously full by this point, but had no plans other than to wander and possibly try some more eats. I made my way back across the bridge to Olympic Provisions. I didn't realize it was a restaurant and ended up not going in. Luckily later in the weekend I found upon some of their chacuterie for sale in a market and I picked up a few items to sample back home.

That night I caught the Dandy Warhols downtown at the Star Theater. Afterwards I found myself stumbling around downtown in need of a late night meal. I had skipped dinner in lieu of a liquid linner. I suddenly found myself at the Gilt Club. I honestly didn't realize at the time that it was on the top burger list that someone posted here. I just liked that they were still serving food at nearly 1am. I ordered some foie gras fries and their burger. Full disclosure: I was pretty tipsy at this point, so most any sort of greasy food would have sufficed. Nonetheless, I really dug the chow. The burger was not the best I had all weekend, but it was still pretty good. The fries were my fav of the meal. I realized later on that I likely had only needed them, and not the burger too.

The following morning I got up and rambled over to Pine State Biscuits. I had heard about this legendary spot from a few people. There was a short line out front. I wasn't hungry in the least bit, but I knew I needed to try it so I waited. Once inside I asked the cashier what I should get. He recommended the Reggie Deluxe, a biscuit with fried chicken, bacon, cheese, gravy & a fried egg. Wow. It was huge. Epicly rich. My arteries hardened the moment I gazed at it. I somehow managed to kill the entire thing, for which I later paid the piper. No regrets. If I lived in Portland I think I would eat there often, but I would likely not opt for the Reggie or Reggie Deluxe. I kinda wish I had tried just the biscuit with fried chicken and pickles. Maybe next time.

More drinking enused that night. I was so full. I had likely ingested 3 days worth of calories in the past 24 hours. I was sluggish. Finally around 1am I was ready to eat again. We made our way to Bunk Bar. I ordered the pork belly cubano. Again, I was drunk, so it tasted great, but it didn't look as good as some of the pics I had seen from Bunk Sandwiches. There was not enough pork belly really. But still, it was very delicious, especially for such a late hour.

On Sunday morning my friend took me to Broder. She said it had blown her mind upon a recent visit, so I couldn't really argue with that. I'm not a huge breakfast/brunch fan for the most part, but I can dig it when it's original. Broder has a Scandinavian slant. I settled for the the smoked trout hash. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the bar where we could watch the two cooks whipping up everything. They use these cute little square shaped cast irons for their eggs. My hash has two sunny side eggs atop it. The hash itself was nice, but it really could have used a lot more crisp. Didn't seem like they had left it on the grill for long enough. Maybe I should have asked for it well done. Either way, it was another delicious meal, so no complaints.

That night I caught the 3rd of three Dandy Warhols holiday shows at Doug Fir. It was a matinee show and over by 9:30. Afterwards I jumped in a cab and made my way to Toro Bravo. Their burger had been listed as one of the best in PDX as well, plus I love Spanish food, so I had a good feeling about it. They managed to cram me in at the only open spot at the bar. I quickly ordered a Casa-rita cocktail containing tequila, and of course, the burger.

This burger was not quite as big as Gruners, but it surely packed a lot of flavor. Being a Spanish steez restaurant it had Manchengo cheese in addition to bacon. There were also some very nice bread and butter pickles.

After finishing the bartender assumed I was doneskies. How could I possibly eat any more? I asked for the menu back. My eyes and belly quickly settled on the Coppa steak. I had never had anything like it before. It came out and it looked sorta like a mini prime rib. It was tender and delicious, and almost pastrami like in flavor. LOVE.

Monday morning came and I needed to catch my flight, but not before sneaking in one last meal. This despite the fact that I didn't feel like I'd need to eat again for a thousand years.

Having had such a delightful meal at Toro Bravo the night before I decided to try one of their other spots, Tasty N Sons. I ordered their house made Reuben for my final meal in PDX. It was nicely grilled with tons of butter, a good mount of sauerkraut and cheese, but only a few measly slices of pastrami. And yet it was still very very good. No real complaint. I certainly didn't need anything more at that point.

All in all I was really impressed with the food offerings of Portland. They take good eats seriously. Seems like a lot of the food is on the heavier side, which makes sense as it's needed to help combat the cold. Hopefully I'll make it back soon so I can try some of the many other amazing offerings around town that I didn't have a chance to snack upon this time.

Dec 14, 2011
brian j in Metro Portland

Heading to Portland this weekend for the first time

Hey all,

I'm heading up to Portland this weekend for the first time and was hoping you all could provide me with some recommendations. So far I've got the following places on my radar:
Kenny & Zuke's Deli
The Woodsman Tavern
Le Bistro Montage
Voodoo Donuts
Apizza Scholls
Veritable Quandry
Nosh on Seventh
Pok Pok
Pine State Biscuits

Definitely looking forward to grabbing the burger at Gruner. It seems amazing from what I've read on A Hamburger Today blog. Any other must have burgers that you all recommend?

For the most part I'm looking for New American type restaurants that serve organic, locally sourced food, but also looking for anything that's super unique and maybe only found in Portland.


Dec 06, 2011
brian j in Metro Portland

Where to buy fresh Santa Barbara prawns?

Anyone know of where I can purchase fresh Santa Barbara prawns for cooking at home? I haven't found a reliable seafood monger. I live on the east side, but work on the west side, and am willing to travel.

Jun 24, 2011
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Where Can I Buy Lingonberries in LA?

i saw them at the sunday hollywood farmers market last weekend.

May 20, 2011
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Best Lobster in Key West?

Where are the best place(s) to get lobster in Key West? Is it possible to get local lobster in May/June?

May 06, 2011
brian j in Florida

Animal bday report

A month or more ago I decided I wanted to revisit Animal for my bday dinner. I made a rez for 6 and eagerly awaited my return meal. Yesterday was my bday and I hadn't heard from Animal to confirm my rez. I thought it was strange since most restaurants seem to confirm a few days before. I called to confirm and it seemed they had mistakenly marked it down for the next day. I knew I had booked it specifically for my bday, so I'm pretty confident it was their error. I told them so as nicely as possible. They said they'd see what they could do. They called me back a little while later and said they couldn't fit me in. Bummed I let my party know that dinner was canceled as I didn't feel like dealing with a backup option. Then Animal called back again and said they had a cancellation and they could now fit me in. I let the crew know, but half of them had already made alternate plans, but two of my buddies were still game so we decided to hit it.

I didn't let the rez mishap affect my dining experience whatsoever. I was initially annoyed, but chalked it up to an honest mistake. Anyway, I love the food too much at Animal to punish myself by putting any sort of embargo in place.

Our meal was wonderful. The three of us split all of the following dishes:

- Marrow bone w/ chimichurri > Solid dish, but nothing out of the ordinary. Only came with two slices of toast, but there was enough marrow for three, and I thought they should have included one more.

- Pig tails "buffalo style", celery, ranch > I had had this before, and it was worth a repeat. I love the texture of the meat vs. the bone. I dig that you're able to eat most of the bones as well, since they're so fried. My dining companions weren't as keen on eating the bones though.

- Veal brains w/ carrots > The brains had been fried a la chicken fried steak. The crispiness made for a nice counterpoint to the gooey brains. Strange, yet delightful. The beefy flavor came thru also to remind me of chicken fried steak.

- Thai BBQ quail w/ cabbage-mandarin slaw > Perfect Thai flavorings, presented in a semi-refined way. Loved it.

- Grilled octopus w/ chorizo > This was good, but not mindblowing. Octopus was tender. Chorizo was ok.

- Balsamic pork ribs > These were tender and good, but not uber flavorful. They were served at the same time as the steak, and they simply lost the flavor match by being served simultaneously.

- Flat iron steak w/ truffle Parmesan fondue > The steak was perfectly cooked medium-rare. The fondue was lacquered generously over top, and added a nice creamy-earthiness to the dish.

- Bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p anglaise > Twas good, but could have used more bacon IMO.

The highlights were the pig tail, brains & flat iron. Normally I wouldn't even order a steak at a place like Animal (not that I don't love steak), but it was one of my friend's choice and it ended being quite fantastic.

A great meal overall. Was very happy that they were able to find us a table after the initial disappointment. I will be back again.

Feb 16, 2011
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Langer's vs. Oinkster (vs. Katz's)

I tried Langer's pastrami again last week for the first time since right when I moved here back in September. The sandwich looked divine. Like a perfect specimen of the NYC deli classic. Ordered it straight up on rye with mustard and nothing else. If put side by side next to Katz's (who imo makes the finest Pastrami in the world), they look very very similar...

Unfortunately, having recently visited NYC, the taste of Katz's was still fresh in mind. Honestly, Langer's is sorta bland in comparison. The rye bread was fantastic. The meat had a nice amount of fattiness to it... However, the flavor of the meat was lacking the complex, smokey characteristic that really makes Katz's sing. I still think it's a good sandwich, but to be honest, I think the flavor of Oinkster's pastrami is better than Langer's. Of course, Oinkster is far from traditional. It's not even served on Rye. And the bread it came upon fell apart half way through, but the meat itself has much more pronounced pastrami flavor that comes closer to pastrami bliss.

2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Feb 15, 2011
brian j in Los Angeles Area

Good eats off the 5 on route to San Francisco?

I'm driving up to San Francisco this weekend for the first time since moving down to LA. I was wondering if there are any good eats along the way that are worth stopping for, and not too far off the beaten path. I'm heading up late morning, so ideally I'm looking for someplace good for lunch. Not looking for anything specific, just something tasty and delicious that's not McDonalds.

Feb 08, 2011
brian j in California