You may not know it just by looking at chef Carlos Salgado’s modern Mexican four-course menu at his Costa Mesa restaurant Taco Maria, but the fine dining chef’s biggest inspiration may well be a hole-in-the-wall taqueria in Orange. That restaurant — his parents — sparked a lifelong love of Mexican cuisine, cooking and Orange County itself.
After stints in the Bay Area as pastry chef at fine-dining spots like Commis in Oakland, Salgado returned to Orange County to start Taco Maria as a market-driven food truck, before eventually expanding into Costa Mesa’s hip OC Mix Mart. Now one year in at his wood-lined open kitchen restaurant, Salgado is blessed to have the eye of L.A. diners, and to be serving the kind of food (in exactly the kind of town) that he’s always wanted.
No one would accuse Diep Tran of breezing through her five years as owner of Good Girl Dinette. The ambitious chef pushes plates of Vietnamese-style diner food in Highland Park, opening the doors to her first restaurant in the middle of some of the worst economic turmoil in American History. Still, five years in, Good Girl is going strong.
Korean cuisine is only getting bigger in America, and LA is one of its headquarters. The city’s sprawling Koreatown has everything from braised short rib stews and crackling rice cooked in stone bowls to 4 a.m. platters of fatty barbecue after all-night karaoke, and it all rarely disappoints.
But all those options can get a little dizzying, especially when dozens of restaurants often compete to make the same dish. But there’s always a winner in battles like this, and the difference tends to come down to quality. The trick to navigating Koreatown? Know that no one restaurant does everything well.
Jason Eisner likes to pour big — and often. The Gracias Madre bar manager pushes out north of 1,000 margaritas a night sometimes, and is always ready to put on a show for waiting customers. Not that anyone waits long at the all-organic bar. Eisner’s batch cocktail program is among the most progressive in the city, ensuring that quick drinks can make their way to thirsty customers out on that beautiful patio.
Still, there’s a lot of craft that goes into Eisner’s work. From rigorous staff training to teaching the inevitable crowds about the beauty of mescal, he’s always doing something.
Los Angeles is a city that has run on steak for decades. From Beverly Hills business lunches to thick late night slabs of prime rib, grilled meat has been a prime motivator for the L.A. restaurant scene for the better part of a century. And thankfully, many of the city’s great old school steakhouses are still standing. From Torrance dive bars that double as prime rib joints to Glendale tiki spots, this is a special The Five Days of Meat edition of are ten of the city’s best long-in-the tooth steak joints.
Tacos are the heartbeat of Los Angeles’ culinary scene. Upscale chefs sling braised meats and fresh tortillas alongside uni and imported mezcal, while daily loncheros keep the city fed with $1 late-night tacos from the same trusty location. From hand-patted tortillas to all manner of ingredients — stews, moles, seafood, slow-cooked pork and plenty of carnitas — there are endless iterations of possible taco greatness. Here, in no particular order, are twenty tacos to try before you die in LA.
Attention, archeologists of the future: If you find yourself sorting through the rubble of post-America, trying to figure out what led to our downfall, here’s a tip — check Burbank.
While not exactly a cultural touchpoint on its own, Burbank has of late become ground zero for a very particular sort of warfare: the box versus the bowl. And it’s exactly this high-level, shape-specific fighting that’s going to tear this society apart at the seams. Or, at the very least, make choosing a quick service midweek lunch option that much harder.
Even to locals, the transformation of Downtown Los Angeles is hard to believe. Less than a decade ago, there were really two Downtowns: the high rises and upscale lunch spots of the Financial District and… everything else. Cheap eats ruled the day, taco carts crawled the late night streets, and the occasional ramen joint or yakitori spot could be found among the warehouses and shuttered storefronts. But for the most part Downtown was dead.
These days, revitalization is so rampant that it’s hard to recognize the same boulevards that used to be near-empty ten years ago. Young, urban crowds flock to bars, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues nightly, and it’s no longer a surprise to see someone on the streets at all hours of the night. Of course, with the influx of people and money comes competition, and Downtown is quickly becoming one of the most contested core neighborhoods for food and drink in this otherwise decentralized city.