There may be a few different words in that headline that you don’t understand — at least when combined together. Latke turkey dog? Thankgivukkah?!
So, first, a quick primer on the latter. Thanksgivukkah is a screwball name given to this year’s exceedingly rare cultural holiday mash-up, where the annual Gregorian calendar (stick with us) that most Westerners rely on overlaps with the lunisolar Hebrew calendar (almost over, promise), meaning Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are happening at the same time (see, that wasn’t so hard). Yes, Hanukkah is usually much closer to Christmas, but unless you want to start hearing about moon phases and embolismic months, it’s best to just keep going.
So, what does this great city of culinary innovators do with this holiday cross-contamination? Make a hot dog to celebrate, naturally.
Continuing their recent tradition of limited edition Custom IPAs, Golden Road Brewing in Atwater Village recently unveiled their 16 ounce pint cans of Better Weather IPA. The playful name, stamped on the photo-quality cans with an image of an inviting, shimmering pool, says it all. This is a town that thrives on better weather than most of the rest of America, so it’s time we started drinking like it.
“Barbecue has always been here,” says Neil Strawder, who owns both the smokers and the nickname behind Bigmista’s Barbecue, one of Los Angeles’ best-known purveyors of low-and-slow-cooked ‘cue. “But a lot of people haven’t been willing to go to where the barbecue was.”
Strawder is standing inside Bigmista’s pop-up tent at a weekly downtown farmers market, trimming a freshly smoked hunk of brisket. As if to prove his point, a white-collar banker type peeks in through the order window, eyeing the scene. “It’s becoming more accessible,” Strawder says.
Sure, Thanksgiving is a time to, you know, “give thanks.” But it’s also a time to take thanks, in the form of free food. America’s most gluttonous holiday offers eaters the opportunity to cram their faces with seasonal favorites like stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce in the shape of a can. And, if you play your cards right, you could be enjoying it all without paying a dime. And no, we’re not just talking about crashing your ex-girlfriend’s parents’ dinner party and hoping no one notices.
As a longtime northern New Yorker, I’ve often come into contact with the beef on weck. It wasn’t very popular in my neck of the woods up near the Adirondacks, but any field trip or family vacation spent near Buffalo meant lots of roast beef. Thinly shaved meat, often served on kaiser rolls, beef on weck and its related sandwich counterparts were cheap and widely available. And, more importantly, it was way better than the Arby’s on the thruway heading back.
You won’t find the same proliferation of roast beef sandwiches out in Los Angeles, let alone the regionally specific beef on weck. But the recently-opened Top Round Roast Beef on La Brea now proudly serves the beefy specialty ($5.95), along with custard shakes, curly fries drowning in brown gravy, and some seriously kickin’ horseradish sauce.
Earlier this summer, word got out that Whist at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica was turning over. Under chef Tony DiSalvo, who joined the Viceroy team in 2009, the indoor-outdoor space in the ground floor of the upscale hotel on Ocean Avenue was to become Cast, a fresh-market casual dining space with plenty of emphasis on California cuisine. There was to be lots of seafood represented, of course, along with a few touches to highlight DiSalvo’s Italian heritage.
Now in full swing, Cast is impressing locals and hotel guests alike with a mix of fresh vegetables, simple entrees and the occasional large plate of whole snapper or t-bone steak. On this side of town, everything is laid back, eclectic and expensive — just like Cast itself.
Is there officially a ‘first family’ in the Los Angeles taco world? There may be, thanks to Chef Ricardo Diaz and his clan.
Diaz’s family is responsible for the Southern California seafood mini-chain El Siete Mares, whose Silver Lake walk-up stand we profiled last year. (If you’re in the mood for fish tacos and want to give them a shot, opt for the fried shrimp tacos dorados.) And if that wasn’t enough, chef Diaz himself helped open Guisados, one of the most celebrated taco spots in the entire city, before splitting with partner Armando de la Torre and leavving the stewed taco empire to him (for now at least). Then, just last month, we talked lovingly about the mole fries and cochinita pibil at Bizarra Capital, Diaz’s slightly upscaled beer bar and Mexican food outpost in Whittier.
Angelenos have barely had time to push away from the table and wipe our mouths before word of another Ricardo Diaz operation spreads like salsa down our shirt. This time, Diaz is back to take on the world of stewed meat tacos with a spacious, open eatery all the way out in La Puente. Known as Colonia Taco Lounge, the dark and roomy restaurant is part Bizarra—lots of puffy booths and a solid beer list—and part Guisados, thanks to hand-patted tortillas, simmered meat taco options, and long, deep flavors.
It takes a lot to turn heads with a burger in this town. Los Angeles is home to Hawkins House of Burgers, where ground beef and grease overload is part of the charm. We’ve got fried-egg burgers, our own Juicy Lucy cheese-filled burger, the exquisite beef at Comme Ca and every scale of beef and bun in between. We don’t flinch when it comes to burgers.
So it’s hard to quantify the upturned faces you’ll see if you happen to order the Pancho Burger from Bouzy Gastropub in Redondo Beach. Listed in the ‘knife and fork’ category, this is a burger that needs every bit of silverware you can throw at it. First, there’s the beef patty, a hefty round of well-seared meat that arrives juicy and glistening. Below that, a cross section of bacon strips, blackened at the edges from a serious crisping under high heat. The bun is just as deeply crusted, with lots of browning from a slap of butter and warm griddle. So far, pretty straightforward.
Everyone loves the rooster. Emblazoned on the front of those iconic plastic squirt bottles with the bright green cap, the Sriracha rooster is as emblematic of a specific flavor as the Lucky Charms leprechaun.
On Sunday, Josh Lurie of Food GPS and Randy Clemens, author of The Sriracha Cookbook, joined forces with LOT 613 downtown to merge that vinegary Thai-inspired hot sauce with a few of the best chefs in Los Angeles. The event, dubbed simply the L.A. Sriracha Festival, brought together Wes Avila from Guerrilla Tacos; Neal Fraser from BLD, Vibiana, Fritzi Dog and elsewhere; Eric Greenspan (of grilled cheese and Foundry fame); and Ernesto Uchimura of Plan Check, who paired up with L.A.’s most celebrated cocktail hound Matt Biancaniello for drinks as well.
Each chef outpost offered a taste of their signature dish, with a touch of Sriracha to liven things up. Greenspan, of course, opted for a straightforward grilled cheese, and the Guerrilla Tacos crew slung signature tacos with a thick and fiery Sriracha-laced salsa. Fraser, working under the Fritzi Dog moniker, pushed out hundreds of mini hot dogs with the rooster sauce as a condiment. That is, until he ran out of buns.
It can be tough for taquerias to make a go of it in East LA, where the standard for tacos is higher than perhaps anywhere else in America. It’s even harder for late night taco trucks, considering their proliferation in the area, particularly on that stretch of Olympic Boulevard that shoots east of downtown.
So what can a single truck like Tacos El Korita do to stand out in the crowd? Paint their truck bright purple, for one. The brightly lit lonchero is decked out in a very regal looking hue, with even more flash and color on the ordering side of the truck, where glossy pictures of your potential meals are highlighted in saturated colors. But the real eye candy is inside the truck. That’s where you’ll find a pile of raw masa, ready to be hand-slapped into a thick, warm, satisfying corn tortilla—right before your eyes.