Los Angeles, I’m sure we all have a specific version in mind when we think of La La land. Like the fact that you will 100% dine next to someone famous, well that actually did happen. But this city is so much more than fame, looks and reality TV.
LA is actually quite the food haven that makes you at some point forget Hollywood and just focus on the next best dish. Describing Los Angeles still comes difficult to me like the driving everywhere, even far, for a good something. As a visitor, non-driver, you hop in the passenger seat and you literally have no idea how long it will take to get to destination. Looking out the window feels like the same place you left leaving you a bit confused and hangry. However, back to the food scene, so my research for LA was in depth and full of taco destinations. Since I was going to visit my best friend Marissa, a LA local with Californian blood, I prepared myself mentally that going with the flow would be most likely the vibe. Well yeah, that’s what happened.
I will still share my meticulous list because I am proud of that research. During my two weeks stay I ended up in so many impromptu places, some even more than once, and wouldn’t change a thing. Ok maybe the fact that I missed all the taco trucks I desperately needed to try I am still ashamed of that. When food is involved patience should be too and I know many more taco days will come in the future. With that said of course when it comes to food you always trust a local as the locals are source of inspiration and just know what’s up also you just relax so much more when things are taken care of in a far away land, thank you @mklurstain! You just can’t get in the way, you follow, eat, and show gratitude. In this city that has a personality of its own I really ended up having some of the most spontaneous memorable meals. Thank You LA for focusing more on the food scene than the city aesthetic. I appreciated it.
Not only a local’s guide to LA, but also a real Californian input too.
Our LA journey is intended simply like this:
1. The most basic and not overrated burger of all time: In & Out Burger
In & Out Burger, near the airport, is the first must literally the second you land and make it your last meal right before departure. Take that grease back home! Yes, it is literally worth the buzz, the Instagram, the everything else and thanks to Marissa of course I discovered that there are quite a few items off menu like animal style fries and burger (my fav) and so many more, so there you go, have a secret item while you’re at it too.
2. Mexican style straight out of El Coyote
I am a die-hard Mexican food fan. If it were for me, I would have Mexican food every other day. My trip to LA was designed for the ultimate Mexican experience and I wanted to start with an LA classic. I had this Hollywood attitude at the beginning of the trip where I imposed myself to try all the “famous” places, so, of course for Mexican I ended up at El Coyote. Its first location dates back to 1931 and is known to have also been where Sharon Tate had her last meal. Not knowing that my Mexican food list excursion would be cut very short, a classic story for you about the unexpected travel derails, and how too many margaritas literally make you forget anything like taking pictures of the meal you need for this article. Amazing fajitas, literally the American portions that you see in movies, combined with tequila. I managed to leave standing, sadly without a souvenir, the t-shirts got to me. Anyone would like to bring me one? The plate lives vivid in my mind. So, freaking delish! These are the only pictures about that tequila infused evening.
3. Don’t you dare to miss out on Sugar Fish Sushi
I don’t even know where to begin here I get emotional because I haven’t had anything as good ever since. This is a place I chose twice and even got the full LA experience of gushing over a celebrity, Joshua Jackson hem, “I don’t want to wait for my life to be over”, to eat Sugar Fish again. Sugar fish describes itself like: Our restaurants serve only traditional sushi of the highest quality based on chef Nozawa’s style of sushi. He literally wants you to know that he won’t be serving California rolls. You have a choice of 3 set menus depending on your hunger. If you only have one chance literally go all the way. The Sake selection is also amazing and completes this experience in every way. I tried more than once to get some good pictures I can’t remember if the sake hit me first or the hunger, so the result is what it is. You’re just going to have to double trust me here.
Sweet note: Sugar fish is also in NYC.
4. Santa Monica’s Trendy vibes at Élephante
Ok, the Italian in me at some point of a trip is on the hunt for a dam good pizza. Big cities are known to always have the closest thing to the original while fighting against competitors. With us Italians who scattered all over the world there is always some luck in finding some good Italian food. Believe it or not when I travel I love to look for a good Italian because I understand the process behind replicating dishes with the produce and sourcing available and I want to show my respect. @elephante is known to be a trendy place I will admit, but I was in Santa Monica I had too, and really beyond happy I did. Here I discovered one of my now favorite salads, grated brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese in an olive oil and lemon dressing. So simple I am embarrassed that I never thought about revisiting a raw Brussel sprout. The salad went down so fast there was no proof left I really need to reframe when I see food, I know. The pizza, WOW, surprisingly magical as the dough was light and the quantity and quality of toppings was just about right. Walked in with mediocre presumption and walked out with a new salad crush.
Life and the unexpected.
5. See ya at Terroni for not only Happy Hour
I am going to stay on the Italian theme for another moment here. I double dipped at Terroni’s happy hour. Fried calamari, good ones too, half price and no brainer followed by so many other delicious menu options and deals. Out of respect for the goodness experienced I returned for my second happy hour and gladly extended my stay until dinner. I was joined by Spaghetti al Pomodoro with a side of meatballs because Italians can’t be seen mixing the too in one plate and my favourite person and local once again hands up for @mklurstein. I enjoyed every single bite and left a proud Italian and will return for round three when life will bring me back @terronila
They also are in Toronto Canadians!
6. You sure can, all you can eat Korean BBQ at Bulgogi Hut
How satisfying is an all you can eat good Korean BBQ? Inexplicable. I’ve literally seen people eyes light up talking about their Korean BBQ stories. Bulgogi Hut was the best go with the flow idea that presented itself out of thin air they also call stuff like this magic, just saying. Me and @mklurstein made sure we were hungry for this one. You already must know the preparation that goes behind an all you can eat escape, kind of like thanksgiving, where you know you will be naughty and little did we know is that they do not take reservations and the line is always present. Walking in with our kind of hunger totally worked to our advantage as we spent the two-hour limit frying and dipping bulgogi and beyond. The ride home smelled more like BBQ than the restaurant itself. This is a full-on dedication eat out so prepare for the before and don’t forget the after odours.
7. Get old and gritty at the landmarks: Musso and Frank & Chateau Marmont
There are actually really surprisingly plenty old landmarks and historic places in LA to explore. I have quite a few more on my LA list that you can find on the LA highlights on my Instagram handle. I really like to explore historical food spots when I travel its probably my favourite part of researching where to eat and why trying to at least fit one spot here and there everywhere I travel to. The local, Marissa, introduced me to the 100-year-old Musso and Frank that divinely serves the best XL fries you can get but most importantly served with a silver saucier side of ketchup. A chic way to serve some fries to say the least. Luckily, I also got to brunch with a classic Eggs Benedict at Chateau Marmont that has been the spot to go in LA since 1927! The architecture and design speak louder than words. I can’t recommend to visit the place enough even if you just hop by to use the bathroom you will get the picture.
8. The Groove market is overwhelmed with good stuff so let me spare you the hassle: When in doubt Trejo’s Tacos
Choose Mexican over all the overwhelming options at The Grove market. LA is really full of amazing fresh food options and farmers markets. It’s the cultural side I love most about California an how health over everything mentality is infused with spirituality and Zen experiences at the reach of your palms, literally. You want your palms, astrology chart or tarot cards read to name a few, go around the corner it’s there or you will talk to someone who knows someone that has someone who can… you get the picture. After walking aimlessly for hours fighting with my indecisions and the overwhelming options I suddenly remembered how much I love Mexican food. With that said came my second and last Mexican meal of the trip. I cherish this moment as it was long sought out. I went ahead and ordered a Carnitas bowl, something I never pick, where did my taco brain go? But my gut ordered, and my soul enjoyed. The marination of the meat is what gets to me. You can try and replicate tacos at home with packaged seasoning or even your own its just one of those things that are never the same. Mexicans have their secrets and thank god they do.
Experience the Surroundings:
9. DISNEYLAND (Screaming voice) with a side of Monte Cristo
There is little to say about the most magical place on earth. it’s the place to be at any age and at any time sorry Disney makes me so sentimental to say the least. You walk in the park and you suddenly are who you want to be where you want to be and simply don’t want to change a thing. This is the spot to eat all American food smartly divided by state so my palate traveled to the south, New Orleans, where I was introduced to the Monte Cristo sandwich and immediately after extremely intimidated by what is the strangest meal I have ever eaten to date. I never thought about frying a sandwich maybe the thought always scared me but now excites me as I can visualise endless possibilities. The Monte Cristo is made with ham, cheese, a bit of mustard, mayonnaise, then it’s dipped in egg, then fried just like french toast, topped off with powdered sugar, and is served with a side of cranberry jam. Lost my breath there for a moment. I ate it all, however, next time sharing is caring. I think I’m still trying to digest.
10. Take a night off in Joshua Tree for some good old American desert vibes
In Joshua Tree you can sleep in a Spaceship to name a few as the Airbnb scene out there is just popping. My dearest friend, Marissa, gifted me one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Sleeping in the middle of the dessert in a spaceship simply just a HUGE deal. The desert vibes, the crisp air, the immense universe in your face, stars from each galaxy shining down on you, a fire pit, cute Joshua Trees, far from society and the list goes on. Luckily this spaceship also known as a Futuro House can be booked on Airbnb and is worth anything you can think of. Fun facts about Futuro Houses: according to Wikipedia the Futuro House was a design created in Finland post-war as an omen to the faith in technology, the conquering of space, unprecedented economic growth, and an increase in leisure time. It was designed by Suuronen as a ski cabin that would be “quick to heat and easy to construct in rough terrain”, looks like it works even better in the desert.
Eats and Shops at Joshua Tree:
Make sure you also stop at The Joshua Tree Saloon and Grill for some amazing ribs and some quirky design and I guess for a game of pool if you’re into that. Since America is the birth home of the diners and its design so unique in its kind, a breakfast at Route 62 Old Time Diner is a cute mandatory place to fuel for the day. You get the jukebox that holds your condiments the classic round stools at the bar are and your cozy booth. Lets be honest we love and live for diner portions. For shopping if you like antiques and more a journey inside Pioneer Crossing Antiques is a place where you can get lost in detail for quite a while and along the road you can see many vintages shops to take home that treasure you had in mind.
Thank you so much for reading this far I am smiling hard and really grateful. If you would like more behind the scenes or my complete list of historical places to visit and places to eat at you can find everything in the highlights of LA on my Instagram handle. It happens that you can’t visit every place you plan out too but I keep my lists close to my heart with the hope of giving every place a go but I feel better when readers like you go before hand. I will be waiting here for your LA feedback and suggestions as the list of places grows longer.
Ciao for now,