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.
“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.
Vineland Ave. and Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood is a famous intersection, at least to some. The perfectly silly Circus Liquor is there, with its overbearing polka dotted clown sign lording it over everything else in sight. Of course, that sign (and its parking lot) gained a bit of notoriety in the mid-’90s as the spot where Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless was mugged.
Nowadays, you’ll find a lot more than just Circus Liquors at Vineland and Burbank. For one, there’s a big brown strip mall on the northwestern corner, with a Fatburger right up front, beckoning in the hungry and disoriented. There are further delights inside the B-V Shopping Center, like a Middle Eastern borek shop with just a single table, some fantastic Lebanese food and a Korean barbecue/noodle/sushi shop, all rolled into one.
Circus Liquor’s Valley-famous signage will always rule this intersection, but peek around the corners of the adjacent strip mall, and you might find some pretty damn good eats there too.
This week’s Strip Mall Rat is a double-header. Well, sort of. See, there’s this little cluster of strip malls on Slauson, just west of Crenshaw Blvd. in South Los Angeles. Two places to eat on one side of the street, and two more places to eat on the other. One — with a Woody’s Bar-B-Que and dinky fish fry place — is a true strip mall. There’s parking, everything’s connected and there’s even a little pet store attached to the far end. Makes you wonder where the fish fry place gets their fish.
And across the street is Hungry Harold’s, a window walk-up spot serving burgers and hot dogs that just couldn’t be ignored. And then, if you’re going to cross Slauson anyway, you might as well get a doughnut from Slauson Donuts.
Someone really needs to start looking into this “walk-up window only” food phenomenon that’s seemingly sweeping Los Angeles. Is it all the work of the the shadowy Big Window lobby? We may never know. One thing is for certain: Some of the city’s tastiest new meals are being handed off on trays and in boxes. Plates need no longer apply.
If you’re into the walk-up window lifestyle, you’ll probably have a nice, meaty time at Twins Sliders on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. The new mini burger and fried chicken sandwich concept from George Abou-Daoud, the man who owns every restaurant on that block and a few other great ones down the street too, opened late last month in the wall space between Mission Cantina and Delancey Pizzeria. The orange and pale blue facade, coupled with old-timey signage reminiscent of the sock hop days, is eerily similar to another walk-up window meat-and-bread place across town. And they both have milkshakes on the menu.
When last we left the Irv’s Burgers saga way back in June, the West Hollywood burger shack run by Sonia Hong was facing eviction at the hands of their pesky landlords, who were looking to double the rent on the space. Well, for a time, it seemed that Hong might be able to stick around at her location on the corner of Sweetzer and Santa Monica Blvd., given the site’s protected historical status by the city. A 30-day vacate notice came and went, meaning — for a time — the Irv’s crew could get back to doing what they loved most: flipping burgers and drawing adorable messages on paper plates.
Now, the end has come — for real this time. After coming to an agreement with the family that owns the property, the Hongs must officially close up their Route 66 burger operation as of Oct. 30.
Word around the taco cooler is that chef Ricardo Diaz — he of Guisados, Cook’s Tortas and Bizarra Capital — is planning to open a fried taco concept in Silver Lake in the coming months, aptly called Duro (that’s “hard” in Spanish). Diaz belongs to the clan behind mini Mexican seafood chain El Siete Mares, so it’s no surprise that the longtime Eastsider is taking over the Sunset Boulevard sit-down version of his family’s restaurant to open something more fun and vibrant on his own.
Of course, all this taco chatter got us hungry, and before we knew it we were in La Puente, home to Diaz’s other recent venture: Colonia Taco Lounge. Open since August, the restaurant features a slew of guisados-style tacos, plus craft beers, a small stage, and lots of free parking. Sounds like a winner already.