PROFILE: L.A. Lunch’er “Betty Hallock”
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 Betty, an L.A. Times food writer who wishes she worked in Tokyo… but has found a ton of amazing lunches in Little Tokyo.
Where in L.A. do you Work?: The Los Angeles Times, Downtown
Favorite Kind of Food: Japanese (sushi in particular), Chinese, Italian, Eastern Mediterranean, Mexican
Least Favorite Kind of Food: Bad bread
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch: The Times building is at 2nd and Spring and if I go up the hill, I’ll take the Angel’s Flight funicular to Mendocino Farms for pork belly banh mi or a pork rib sandwich. Or to Starry Kitchen for any of its specials (Japanese meatball curry, “nom nom” pork, etc.) as a lunch plate with special rice (I like the coconut rice). If I walk to Little Tokyo, lately it’s for Koshiji (123 Onizuka St) for yakitori (the yakitori is juicy). Or Daikokuya for hiyashi-chuka (cold ramen salad), especially when it’s hot out (and if the line isn’t too long), or tsukemen (the broth comes separate from the noodles and you dip them into the bowl – I like the sort of DIY experience of it). Mr. Ramen (341 E 1st St) for the tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) bento with cold tofu (also, their chashu roast pork is really good). Izayoi (132 S Central Ave) is on my list of lunch spots too (croquettes, grilled eggplant, black cod, matsutake soup when it’s in season). Lazy Ox (241 S. San Pedro) for yellowtail with crushed avocado and crispy hash brown. If I have a craving for Hawaiian, then I’ll go to Aloha Café (410 E 2nd St) in Honda Plaza (which is conveniently located a couple doors down from my favorite Little Tokyo bakery, Frances). I like that the breakfast menu (corned beef hash, Hawaiian bread French toast) is served all day. South on Spring Street, the Gorbals used to serve lunch (Persian cucumbers with za’atar and chickpeas, bacon-wrapped matzoh balls) -– sadly, it isn’t open for lunch anymore. And for afternoon coffee, Spring for Coffee (548 S Spring St). On special occasions, Drago Centro to sit at the bar and have some of their fresh pasta, or Water Grill’s raw bar for oysters.
“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? The L.A. Times cafeteria (which sometimes has amazing carnitas) and Pitfire Pizza (108 W 2nd St).
The farthest place you’ll drive for lunch on a normal day? In theory, anywhere between Northridge and Westminster. In practice, it’s usually the San Gabriel Valley or East L.A. The last time I went to the San Gabriel Valley for lunch it was for shao bing (the flaky flatbread stuffed with roast beef tendon) and the long crullers that I like partly because they’re called you tiao (or “grease stick,” I’m told) and a bowl of cold fresh soy milk at Yung Ho (533 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel). I’ve also been craving Hainanese chicken rice at Savoy (138 E. Valley Blvd, Alhambra), and I will probably drive there soon. My most recent lunch in East L.A. was at Antojitos Carmen (2510 E Cesar E Chavez Ave), for huitlacoche quesadillas.
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? The Ginza in Tokyo. I love it there. My fantasy lunch would be sushi at Kanesaka and afterward I’d walk to the other end of Ginza to Hidemi Sugino’s pastry shop. You have to get there at exactly the right time of day. Hidemi Sugino himself makes each individual cake, and he makes only as many as he wants to, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers in L.A.? Do you have a place you’d recommend for soba in Little Tokyo? And I’m always looking for more downtown lunch options. Thanks!
Wow. This list is going to keep me busy for weeks. And I’ve got to think if there was some decent soba in Little Tokya you would have found it by now! Got a recommendation for Betty? Put it in the comments. And, as always, if you’d like to be next week’s Profiled: L.A. Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d want to nominate), email me- firstname.lastname@example.org.