Breakfast at Doubtant Thomas: My first question to out-of-town guests is always, where are you staying? We have so much to choose from in every corner of LA that it’s easier for me to sort by region, but one of my favorite cafes is worth, I think, a morning bite no matter where they sleep. Chef-owner Naomi Peteu (née Shim) makes artful, hyper-seasonal pies, cookies and croissants, in addition to a range of dishes from around the world that complement the espressos made with syrups infused with fresh fig leaves. At Doubting Thomas, his all-rounder cafe in the historic Filipino district, from passion fruit pie to breakfast burrito to braised pork, there’s no wrong way to order. Unless, of course, you plan to skip the croissants. 2510 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, (323) 350-9869, doubting thomas.la
Lunch at Slammers at Brain Dead Studios: “Synergy” is one of those squeaky corporate words, but it’s on full display at Slammers, one of Fairfax’s less corporate places. Streetwear brand Brain Dead revitalized the neighborhood’s Silent Movie Theater in 2020 and now has an impressive lineup of non-silent shows spanning all genres (I practically lived there during its 24-hour horror movie marathon in October. ). Brain Dead brought in local chef Jesse Furman to launch a food concession stand and sidewalk cafe in the process; it’s at Slammers, on that back patio, that you’ll find some of LA’s funniest collaborations. Chefs from other restaurants and future restaurants appear on weekends and at a monthly “food flea market”. Bring your guest here for a bite to eat and a movie, grab a Brain Dead snapback, and also be sure to pick up one of the pantry items: it sells limited-edition and unique collaborations such as dried pasta in the shape of a head from Jon & Vinny’s and a branded jar of Metztli Taqueria’s delicious miso and peanut macha salsa macha, so your guests can take home a taste of LA 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, (323) 917-5053, instagram.com/slammers_la
Afternoon gourmet walk in Chinatown: I like to start with a visit to a favorite from my childhood, the Phoenix Bakery founded in 1938; The Chan family’s generational confectionery store is best known for its strawberry cake, but I’ve always had a soft spot for its red bean and winter melon pastries, especially when it’s moon cake season. Grab something sweet to fuel up on a stroll through Central Plaza for a caffeine at Thank You Coffee, then head across the street to Mandarin Plaza for a bite to eat at Angry Egret Dinette, where chef Wes Avila turns through an ever-changing menu of tacos, tortas, and specials; next door is Steep, which you can dip into for delicate teas and delicate sweets (get the egg tarts) or more complete meals such as braised pork belly over rice. Stay light, though, as down the street is Hop Woo for a grilled pork snack, and the next block is Katsu Sando’s tempura fried onigiri and Wax Paper’s soft-serve. Down the next street is the ABC Seafood restaurant, but what you’re looking for is their take-out-only counter next door for fresh steamed platters of cheap dim sum. You’ll need cash for ABC as well as the nearby My Dung sandwich shop, which sells refreshing and affordable banh mi served on perfectly soft chopsticks. Chinatown’s most famous and newer spots: Kim Chuy for leek cakes, Baker’s Bench vegan pastry, Endorffeine vanilla pandan latte, Lasita for tamarind tinted shrimp chips and, finally, a read in Now Serving – LA’s best cookbook store – before heading home for a nap and gathering for dinner.
Dinner at Anajak Thai: Like most of my colleagues (and probably everyone who deals with food in this city), I’m regularly asked to name a favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. This is an impossible task and one that I still don’t really have an answer for, but I can say that there is just about nowhere where I am more comfortable and full than in a very narrow alley. Sherman Oaks special. Justin Pichetrungsi’s parents still help make Anajak Thai work, but the second-gen restaurateur has reshaped it and, over the past two years, has also helped reshape the way his fans and followers dine: a pivot of the COVID era has transformed the side alley into an alfresco dining room lit by garlands of light bulbs and tiny table lamps, a setting that now houses a tasting menu and one of my favorite weekly culinary events. The regular menu of Thai favorites always does the trick, but bring your friends on Thai Taco Tuesday for genre-dissolving dishes and chef collaborations that spotlight and borrow from all corners of the world; the energy is buzzing, the playlist is there, the natural wine is flowing freely and when I’m there, I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s a sure-fire way to give your visitors a taste of how LA eats, here and now. 14704, boulevard Ventura, Sherman Oaks, (818) 501-4201, anajakthai.com
Drinks and late night at Walt’s and Angel’s Tijuana Tacos: As if it had been gloriously lifted from a Midwestern suburb in 1979 and dropped off at Eagle Rock in 2018, Walt’s Bar is vintage pinball heaven, a land of hot dogs, 3 Coors, flashing pinball cabinets, Hot German pretzels with homemade beer cheese and $ 4 The Tallboys from Hamm. But it’s also home to natural wine and a host of local craft beers for that perfect balance of high and low. The vibe is unpretentious and laid-back, so bring your friends to Walt’s for a drink and pinball crawl and sit on the back patio, where you’ll find Jamie’s: a snack shack that hosts some of the funniest pops in town. the city -UPS. If there’s no one at the shack or you don’t feel like snacking, less than a mile from Eagle Rock Boulevard Angel’s Tijuana Tacos serves some of the best TJ-style tacos in town, practically bursting with aguacate salsa. Gather your crew, brave the line for Angel (don’t worry, things move fast), then charge up on al pastor sliced off the trompo. Walt’s, 4680 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 739-6767, instagram.com/waltsbar; Angel’s Tijuana Tacos, 4211 Eagle Rock Blvd., instagram.com/angelstijuanatacos
Extreme late night at the Prince: The Prince is where a good nights usually end, but it’s also where your nightcap plans can go wrong. It’s easy for a simple one-drink route to turn three or four with a plate of Korean fried chicken and a side of kimchi pancakes, but really, who wouldn’t be ready for cocktails and tteokbokki until the bar kicks you out at 2 in the morning? (No friends of mine.) As well as serving as the backdrop for a number of movies and TV shows – “Chinatown,” “Mad Men” and “New Girl” among them – this K-town bar built in the 1920s can contain her owning more than a pretty face; wander past the full armor and stained glass windows, take a seat among the dark red leather booths, hit the buzzer next to your seat to summon your server, then order some daiquiris and some of the best Korean end of season food. evening that you will find in a district low to the ground. 3198 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 389-1586, instagram.com/theprincela