Watch Me Get Gross at Escondite, Donut Friend & More: Since Zagat put out that first "Gimmick Testing" video featuring Lesley Balla and I eating at Panda Express Innovation Kitchen, 4 more videos have been released.  Check us testing out the crazy burgers at The Escondite, the ridiculousness that is Barton G in Beverly Hills, the now closed Choco Chicken in DTLA, and the musician influenced donuts at Mark Trombino's Donut Friend.

How to Eat 9 of the Best SGV Dumplings in Under 4 Hours

If you stalk my lunching on Instagram you likely noticed an uptick in the dumpling consumption over the past month.  It’s true, I love me some dim sum, pan fried potstickers, and, of course, xiaolongbao.  But I was also putting together this Dumpling Crawl of the San Gabriel Valley for Lucky’s Peach’s dumpling month.  It’s a bit more intense than the 2 Hour Taco Crawl of L.A. I put together a few years back, requiring a bit more planning and discipline.  Plus eating this many dumplings in 4 hours is a lot more punishing on your body than you would think. Not to mention the pain in your heart you might feel as you drive by Lunasia, Chengdu Taste, 101 Noodle Express, Shanghai Dumpling House, and Mama Lu’s without stopping. Or skipping places entirely that didn’t fit on the route (I’m looking at you, Kang Kang Food Court.)  But with 4 people (3 will leave you with too many dumplings to eat, 5 will make it harder to get a table and divide the dumplings) and a pocketful of cash (a lot of places don’t take credit cards) you can have an epic afternoon of dumpling eating that you won’t soon forget.

Any places I left out?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments.  You know… for Version 2.0.

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Delcious Vinyl’s New Pizza Parlor is Now Open on West Adams

Delicious Vinyl, the L.A. based record label that brought the world Tone Loc, Young MC, and The Pharcyde, just opened a pizza joint called Delicious Pizza on Adams Blvd, just east of Culver City. A joint project between Delicious Vinyl’s Mike Ross and Fred 62′s Fred Sutherland, the little pizza shop is not just fodder for our Food is the New Rock thesis, they’re also making some pretty great pizza.

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My Lunch at Flautas (and Your First Look at the Inside of Jamie & Ramiro’s Mexicano)

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It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with food courts, a passion that dates back to my childhood.  So I was excited to hear the news that the famous chefs behind La Casita Mexicana in Bell have just opened a new food court concept called Flautas in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall.  Like 101 Noodle Express in the Fox Hills Mall or Loteria’s Torta Company in Fig At 7th, it’s just the latest development in a food court renaissance that has been sweeping through Southern California malls over the past few years.

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5 Things You Should Know About Pok Pok Phat Thai Before Trashing it on Yelp

Chinatown’s emergence as the hottest new food neighborhood in L.A. took another major step forward in the final days of 2014 when Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok Phat Thai joined Roy Choi’s Chego and Scoops in the Chinatown Plaza (Eggslut’s Ramen Champ has since joined them as well.) You likely have heard of Ricker’s brand of Thai food, thanks to super popular restaurants in Portland and New York.  But not everybody has welcomed Pok Pok with open arms and their Yelp page has quickly devolved into a mess of complaints, some fair but most completely unfair for a restaurant that is less than a month old.  Before you jump into the fray with a crappy review of your own, here are 5 things you should probably know about the new Pok Pok, complete with quotes we got from Ricker, who is currently in Thailand.

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1.  Pok Pok Phat Thai isn’t Pok Pok.  So you went to Pok Pok on that last trip to Portland and loved the chicken wings?  Congrats!  This isn’t Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a full restaurant, a branch of which will be opening later this year up the street in the Mandarin Plaza.  This is Pok Pok Phat Thai, a quick service noodle shop dedicated to the kind of sautéed fast food they serve on the streets of Thailand.  If you want the wings, you’re going to have to wait a little while longer.

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Watch Me “Gimmick Test” an Orange Chicken Burrito For Zagat

If you read my post about Panda Express Innovation Kitchen last year and thought “Man, I would have loved to see Zach go to town on one of those!” then you’re a very strange person.  But you’re also in luck!  Zagat just launched a new video series titled “Gimmick Testing” starring Lesley Balla and yours truly, and the first episode is… you guessed it… Panda Innovation Kitchen.  Warning: there are slow motion shots of me shoving an orange chicken burrito into my fat face.  Future episodes will feature Lesley and I eating at Choco Chicken, Donut Friend, The Escondite, and more.

Help Starry Kitchen and Roy Choi Fund Their Next Projects

If your New Year’s Resolution was to be more charitable, or support a local business, here are two crowd funding campaigns going on right now that are worth taking a look at…

Just after the holidays Starry Kitchen launched the Kickstarter to end all Kickstarters. It’s called “Save Our Balls” (naturally) and they’re hoping to raise $500,000, an obscene amount for a restaurant kickstarter, for sure, but a drop in the bucket for a couple looking to give themselves some security to open the permanent restaurant of their dreams.   For those who don’t pay much attention to food blogs or Jonathan Gold lists, or find it super easy to ignore a guy in a banana suit with a megaphone, Starry Kitchen is the former illegal eatery, turned legal water court lunch spot, turned pop up restaurant that is currently operating out of Grand Star in Chinatown.  Their food, a menu mix of pan-asian homeyness,  has gotten better and better with every incarnation. But clearly the 5+ years of jumping around has taken its toll, leading them to issue this shocking ultimatum: they raise the full $500k to open their own place, or they go do something else. It’s a longshot they make it to their goal, but I’m not going to be blamed for losing out on Thi Tran’s garlic noodles, Singapore chili crab, pandan chicken, and their infamous tofu balls.  And make no mistake about it… if they close, and you didn’t donate, I will blame you.

But wait, there’s more…

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