PROFILE: L.A. Lunch’er “Esther” (aka e*starLA)

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 Esther, a financial advisor by day- food blogger by night- who really wants to like Ethiopian food, but isn’t there yet.

Name: Esther

Age: 31

Occupation: Financial Advisor and Blogger at e*starLA

Where in L.A. do you Work?: M. L. Stern & Co., Beverly Hills-Los Angeles border

Favorite Kind of Food: I love a good slice of New York pizza (Folliero’s in Highland Park) but I also love a huge Oaxacan platter at Guelaguetza (3014 W. Olympic Blvd.) If I’ve just completed a full day of snowboarding in Whistler, I’ll feel like a stack of poutine with gravy and cheese curds or a rare flat iron steak…followed by an Irish Car Bomb. If I’m feeling like reconnecting with my roots – I’ll go for a Taiwanese rice pyramid with sweet chili sauce or oyster noodle soup. I can always go for some Chinese juicy pork dumplings, a bowl of pho from Pho 87 (1019 N Broadway, Chinatown) or a bowl of Shio ramen from Santouka (3760 S Centinela Ave., West L.A.) Or, if I feel like reconnecting with my other (Wisconsinite) roots, I’ll go for a thick beer-marinated brat with mustard and a cold beer. And, of course, cheese. It doesn’t need to be Hook’s 100 year – 10 gets a good amount of flavor crystals in there as it is. If I feel like being particularly challenged, I’ll go to Jitlada (5233 W. Sunset, Hollywood) for that sweat-from-the-inside feeling.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: I’m willing to try almost anything once, but what I don’t really understand is gamey or tough meat. I also have to acclimate my palate more to Ethiopian and other African foods to be able to appreciate them. I am no Eddie Lin, so I also have to ease into the organs. But my no-waste, ethnic heritage demands that I at least try.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch: Hokusai (8400 Wilshire Blvd.) is undergoing remodeling right now, but I get a $7 cash-only bento box with a salmon filet prepared with sea salt over rice. It has a tiny amount of sides like a few edamame, pickled yellow daikon and dallops each of seaweed salad, Japanese potato salad – but what do you expect? It’s $7. What I’ll also do is actually drive down to the lunchtime food truck depot going on in front of the Variety Building in Miracle Mile. Having a MINI makes it possible to park in that 1/2-spot behind a truck that takes up 1 1/2 metered parking spots right on Wilshire. When I start talking about extended fancier lunches, I get into Beverly, Melrose and La Brea, like BLD (7450 Beverly Blvd.) for their salads, Hatfield’s (6703 Melrose) for their lobster club sandwich, and Cube (615 North La Brea) for their handmade papardelle. Coworkers, on their birthday, get a Susina Bakery cake if I’m consulted about that.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? I have coworkers who order from Nakkara on Beverly (7669 Beverly Blvd) and Chin Chin on Sunset (8618 West Sunset)- basically over-priced shi shi Thai and Chinese food, respectively. It’s Beverly Hills-ified Asian food, and Asian food almost always tastes better the bigger the disapproval by the health department & lower the grade of health inspection. People sometimes think paying more means it necessarily tastes better, but the mark-up ends up really being the price of a timid palate.

The farthest place you’ll drive for lunch on a normal day? Last week I drove to Starry Kitchen in Downtown LA – so that was 8 miles – but I never do that and it was a Friday. Only special places like Starry Kitchen – with their affordable and delicious, homecooked-tasting fare are worth that drive.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Downtown LA – where I would have access to Starry Kitchen and Mendocino Farms. Though above my price point, another place would be just a little north of where I already do, like along the parallel of Beverly Blvd between Fairfax and La Brea for the restaurants I mentioned earlier.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers in L.A.? Which is your favorite Ethiopian restaurant in LA?

I’ve only been to Rosalind’s, so I can’t really answer that question. Anybody else have a favorite Ethiopian spot for Esther? Put it in the comments. And if you want to be next week’s Profiled: L.A. Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me-

Photo courtesy of Caroline on Crack


1 Comment

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    Good choice. Esther’s relentless, always hunting for good food and drinks.

    My favorite Ethiopian restaurant in L.A. is Meals By Genet, though it’s not Midtown Lunch material. Sadly, it isn’t open for lunch, and the dishes all exceed $10, but she makes some high quality food.

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