A lot of the time, a burrito is just a burrito. Fillings vary in quality and variety, but they are generally the same basic thing. Not so much at Burritos La Palma in El Monte. These burritos came straight from Jerez, Mexico and if you didn’t know any better you might think of them as enchiladas. Burritos La Palma specializes in birria and so that’s what I got.
We can probably agree that 2016 was a really bad year. Not like 1939, 1968 or 2001 bad. But certainly bad. Through it all, though, the food has been good. It’s good every year, but it’s something you can count on no matter what the year is. Sure, not every year is going to be filled with steaks, but some of America’s best culinary traditions were borne of the Great Depression. The point is: no matter how bad things get, good food can always be found. And since I lived in one place for the entirety of 2016, this year’s Best of solely features the food of the Los Angeles Area. I did travel a fair amount (including finally getting to The Squeeze Inn in Sacramento), though, so if you’re looking for that kind of food you can check it out here. Alas, here are the best places I ate food at in LA in 2016. And if you just want to see them all on a map, make your way down to the bottom.
Torta is Mexican for sandwich and there is a sweet semi-new spot in Pasadena that deals pretty much exclusively in that hand food from south of the border. It’s called Tortugas, and is either a reference to turtles, an island in Haiti or a national park (the dry one). Regardless, the place has a great variety of Mexican sandwiches and one in particular screamed out to my unvegan belly.
The French Dip is one of food items that is not actually French. You know, like French Fries. In fact, it is originally from LA, with a couple spots claiming to have the original. While French Dips are nothing new to Pasadena, it is definitely new to have a place totally dedicated to those moist sandwiches. That place goes by the name of Harlowe’s.
The Malibu Cafe might be one of the coolest places to hang out in LA. The sprawling grounds are like an Anthropologie fan’s orgasm, with box lights, upside down umbrellas, giant chess pieces and pillows with words on them. Plus, it’s super family friendly. After winning me over at the Burger Battle in Santa Monica earlier this year, I was eager to find out what the restaurant itself would be like.
When I first saw that a new spot called Brü Grill was opening up just down the street from my office in Pasadena I got super excited. Such is the life of a nine to fiver. It seemed a little upscale for my taste, but I thought it deserved the old college try and I went to find out what they could offer a man like me at lunch.
Once upon a time I was featured on a show called Eat Street to talk about a food truck in LA called Grill ‘Em All. Eventually, like many successful food trucks, Grill ‘Em All opened a real restaurant. For some reason they chose Alhambra, which is better known for its Chinese food than its burgers, but diversity is always a good thing and the restaurant has stood strong for a couple years now. I finally got the chance to try it recently to see how it turned out.
There’s something about fusion done well that really gets me excited. Throw some Korean BBQ into tacos and I’m sold. Try to make Mexican food Kosher, not so much (don’t underestimate the need for cheese!). But I had never thought of Indian food as something to fuse until I found California Chutney in Old Town Pasadena. This place is all about fusing Indian food with American (and by American I also mean Mexican because, hey, North America).
LA isn’t an easy place to have sustained success. And I’m not just talking about the entertainment industry, I’m talking about food. You see, one day you can’t get a reservation at a place and the next it’s being replaced by a hot new thing. Yet, there are exceptions, like In-n-Out. But also Bestia, an Italian spot downtown that still requires reservations months out.
It’s not often that a fancy restaurant like Via Veneto invites you to check them out as a blogger. But alas, I found myself a few tables away from Zach Galifianakis ready to take down some of the fanciest Italian food in Santa Monica. It began with a couple of glasses of champagne and then we moved on to the real deal.