PROFILE: L.A. Lunch’er “Nina”

As is customary on Midtown Lunch, every Tuesday we’ll profile a random reader to get their recommendations for the best spots to lunch near their work. This week it’s Nina, a web developer looking for some good downtown Thai food.

Name: Nina

Age: 25

Occupation: Web Developer

Where in L.A. do you Work?: Civic Center, Downtown

Favorite Kind of Food: Practically everything. Breads & pastries, seafood, fatty meats, leafy veggies, crunchy food, Asian food.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Pickled food. Connective tissue (tendons & cartilage). I haven’t really taken to offal yet either.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch: Chin Ma Ya in Little Tokyo. They’re on the 2nd floor of Weller Court and serve up a Japanese version of the Chinese dishes: tan tan mien and mapo tofu. The Tan Tan Men is a ramen noodle soup with a spicy sesame-based broth. It comes with ground pork/beef that has been marinated (it’s a little sweet for me, but I feel it complements the rest of the dish nicely) and some spinach. You can order additional toppings for your noodles. My usual order is a half-size (which is actually half the price of the regular order) of medium-spicy tan tan men with a boiled egg and enoki mushrooms. The half size is plenty filling and the price is extremely affordable for a sit-down restaurant. They also have a decent chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken with chili-mayo dipping sauce). I’ve never actually tried the mapo tofu (their other signature dish) because I love the tan tan men so much.

Wurstkuche. I heard about this place the week they opened and have been excited to watch it grow in popularity ever since. They serve gourmet sausages, Belgian style fries (with dipping sauces!) and lots of beer. They don’t make the sausages themselves, but I won’t complain. I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve had. I absolutely love their Belgian fries – they’re thick cut & tossed with a coarse salt. I like the chipotle ketchup, bleu cheese walnut and bacon, chipotle aioli, and pesto mayo dipping sauces (the chipotle has a nice heat that creeps up on you after a few fries). The service is super friendly and they’re always happy to recommend you a beer. However, what really brings it all together is the atmosphere. They have a large back room where the bar is. You seat yourself at any of the rows of long wooden tables and benches. It’s a great place to hang out, relax, and drink some tasty beer with friends. I personally like the fruitier stuff like the Floris Apple Ale and the St. Louis Framboise. My friends like the Franziskaner Hefe Weisse and the Aventinus Eisbock.

Other places I like: Daikokuya (327 E 1st St) for their ramen, cold summer noodle dish, and shredded pork bowl; Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway) for the pupusas; Eastside Market Deli (1013 Alpine St) for the roast beef & pastrami; Saffron in the underground City National Plaza (505 S Flower St) for some fresh, even if watered-down, Indian fast food; Spitz (371 E 2nd St) for the chicken doner on foccacia, delicious sweet potato fries, and some yummy gelato for dessert; and finally the Farmer’s Market in front of City Hall on Thursdays for the variety of food vendors (the pupusas are not as good as the ones at the Grand Central Market). I’m looking forward to seeing the food truck court on Alameda St. do well so we get some more variety in this part of town.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? This changes as I like to try out different places. I used to go to Pitfire Pizza and Weiland Brewery a lot. Lately it’s been Chin Ma Ya, although if I’m by myself I sadly just pick up a sandwich at Starbucks because it’s quick (and I don’t have a car).

The farthest place you’ll drive for lunch on a normal day? Lala’s Argentine Grill on Melrose. I love getting the skirt steak and their chimichurri is awesome! Alhambra/Monterey Park for Chinese & Vietnamese food.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? San Francisco – that’s where my first real job was and there’s a lot of good food there. Granted, I’ve only ever worked in San Francisco & LA I don’t know much about any other cities. I’m guess I’d probably love New York.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers in L.A.? I used to be surrounded by so much good Indian & Thai food when I lived in Berkeley. Where does one get good authentic Indian and Thai food IN downtown?

I’m new here, so I’m not really much help… but I did really like the curries from the India Jones Truck.  What do you guys think? Where’s the good Indian and Thai food downtown?  And as always, if you would like to be next week’s Profiled: L.A. Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me-


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