Archive for December 2010

Mr. Ramen is a Decent Enough Daikokuya Alternative

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Daikokuya in Mr. Ramen’s Shadow? We’re pretty sure it’s the other way around.

Finding ramen in Downtown L.A. is not a difficult task. Orochon has become famous for their burn your face off bowls of soup, and Chin Ma Ya is a great spot for those looking to top their ramen with fried chicken and Sichuan style ground pork; but for straight up pork ramen Daikokuya is the consensus best ramenya in DTLA (and all of Los Angeles, according to some.) The only problem with the last option is it’s a complete madhouse during lunch, and if you don’t have more than an hour you might be SOL. So, what do most people do on those days when the wait at Daikokuya isn’t worth it? Head over to Mr. Ramen!

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PROFILE: L.A. Lunch’er “Nick”

As is customary on Midtown Lunch, every Tuesday we profile a random reader to get their recommendations for the best spots to lunch near their work. This week it’s Nick, a non profit researcher who is about to give up on bacon!?

Name: Nick

Age: 24

Occupation: Researcher

Where in L.A. do you Work?: Educational nonprofit ProCon.org on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica

Favorite Kind of Food: I was exposed to mostly bland chain restaurants growing up in southern Orange County, so I appreciate anything that is cultural and made with passion. Lately it’s been Indian, vegetarian, Chinese, and Japanese.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Pork. While I do enjoy pork when it’s used to flavor a dish, I had a realization this past weekend at Artisanal LA while I was munching on bacon trail mix and standing next to the Lardon truck that I am just tired of the bacon fetishism. I am going to try to avoid ordering slabs of pork belly in 2011.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch: The third street promenade offers a lot of options in walking distance, but not necessarily the type you’d regularly want for lunch. Most tend to either be expensive fine dining options or tourist traps. I’m never disappointed with the taco plates at Border Grill (1445 4th St). A pair of chicken panuchos, potato tacos, lamb tacos, and avocado tacos all come under $10 and include delicious black beans. They also have a filling $10 quick lunch where you get a green corn tamale, an iced tea or soda, and the entrée of the day. La Cachette Bistro (1733 Ocean Avenue) does an excellent three-course lunch special that used to be $15 but I think its $18 now. The virtues of Bay Cities (1517 Lincoln Boulevard) has already been well documented here and Umami Burger (500 Broadway) is an obvious but good lunch option. My favorite lunch in walking distance is going to the Wednesday Farmers Market (Arizona & 2nd), grabbing an oyster or two from Carlsbad Aquafarms, buying a variety of fresh produce, and making myself a huge delicious salad when I get back to the office.

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Do I Need to Eat All the Chili Cheese Fries in Westwood? Because I Will Do It.

Yesterday the L.A. Times reported that two UCLA basketball players got food poisoning from “late-night chicken chili cheese fries” in Westwood, and I couldn’t help but wonder what place they ate at!  Early theories have centered around Tommy Taco (aka the new Buck Fiddy), which is known for their dream fries… but they don’t have “chicken chili cheese fries” on the menu.  Ditto for Maloney’s, and Jose Bernstein… and The Stand isn’t open late so they’re out.  One possible culprit? Fat Sal’s, the sandwich shop homage to the Rutgers grease trucks on Gayley.   They’re open late, and have something called “buffalo chicken cheese fries” on their menu- although I guess technically that’s not chicken chili, is it. Regardless I might have to go… um… sacrifice myself over a plate of their buffalo chicken cheese fries.  You know… for science. Of course I’ll also have to eat one of their delicious sounding roast beef sandwiches topped with mozzarella sticks, onion rings, fries, and brown gravy as well. You don’t think that will compromise the integrity of the “experiment” do you?

El Dorado’s Lomo Saltado is Almost As Good as Mario’s (And It’s Only $7!)

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Oh Peruvian food I love you so much.  You are one of my favorite things about Los Angeles, but finding a Midtown Lunch version of you has been very difficult. I got a number of good recommendations in the comments of this post, but sadly none of them really qualify. Lomo Arigato makes a decent lomo saltado, but the portion is small and sometimes you don’t want to chase after a food truck. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mo Chica is easily the most interesting, and expertly made Peruvian food in L.A., and their food court location allows for it to be a huge bargain. But as cheap as it for what you get- you will not find a better ceviche in this city for the price- it’s not really a Midtown Lunch (everything is over $10).  And their lomo saltado, as delicious as it is, is a bit fancified for me (I like the french fries sauteed in with the meat, tomatoes and onions.)  For the Chinese influenced, soy sauce laced saltado, Mario’s Peruvian has always been my go-to choice.  But their version of the dish is over $10 as well!  And it seems as if most Peruvian places have followed suit.  Inti Peruvian on Melrose, Natalie Peruvian in Thai Town, Los Balcones on Vine… all charge $10 or more for their lomo saltado.

So you can imagine how excited I was to discover a $7 (!?!) lomo saltado lunch special at El Dorado, a fast food Peruvian restaurant just north of Mario’s on Vine.

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Lunch Links (The “R.I.P. Tokyo 7-7″ Edition)

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  • CULVER CITY One last lunch at Tokyo 7-7 before it closes [Savory Hunter]
  • DTLA Mon+Fri is 99c pupusa day at Golfo de Fonseca [Squid Ink]
  • DTLA Must…try… fish sandwich at Golden Wood Spoon [LAist]
  • BRENTWOOD FarmShop opening for lunch on Monday? [Eater]
  • ECHO PARK Another vote of confidence for Xoia Vietnamese [Eating LA]
  • KOREATOWN Soo Rak San makes great hand torn noodle soup [Eat Drink & Be Merry]

Schnitzel Wagon Moves to Hill: Remember the Schnitzel Wagon with the great fish and chips we told you about back in October? As promised they've moved locations to be closer to the jewelry district.  They're now parking on Hill between 4+5th.  [via Twitter]

The Hidden Delicious Mysteries of the Santa Monica Place Food Court

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When the brand new Santa Monica Place opened up back in August everybody seemed pretty focused on all the new restaurants.  Not me, though.  I’m strictly a food court man.  Sure, I’d sneak a dinner in at Pizza Antica, and I guess I’m mildly intrigued by the dim sum at Xino.  But for lunch, if I’m anywhere near a mall I find it hard to avoid the food court.  In fact, food courts are kind of the perfect group lunch- a fact I discovered as a child when my brother, father and I used to spend Tuesday nights at the Dadeland Mall Court in Miami.  No arguing over where we were going to eat dinner when the food court was the destination.  I could have my lo mein (made to order in a wok behind the counter!) from the random Chinese restaurant whose name I can’t remember, my brother could get his matzoh ball soup from Bain’s Deli, and my dad could get whatever he wanted (I can’t really remember what was in his rotation.)

I’m all growns up now, but the same theory still applies. Food court with co-workers is the perfect compromise.  Sally from accounting can enjoy her boring salad or sandwich, while you decide between crappy Chinese food, crappy Japanese stir fry, or Hot Dog on a Stick.  (Fresh squeezed lemonade and a corn dog FTW!) So last week, when I decided to meet a chicken loving friend in Santa Monica for lunch, there was one perfect option that stood out from the rest:  the Santa Monica Place Food Court.  And even though I usually go straight for the cheap Chinese food (old habits die hard), we managed to discover a few hidden secrets that aren’t obvious from an intial walk-around.

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