Another year, another move. This time, the year was split between LA (Pasadena) and Phoenix (Scottsdale). While LA is certainly more of a melting pot of cultures, Phoenix certainly has its fair share of good food driven by transplants from all over the country, if not the world. And what year would be complete without a bit of travel as well? As is usual, I’m keeping the travel out of the Best of, but you can see it all here (including some amazing food from a trip to Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan). So without further adieu, bring on 2017.
Melt It! in Pasadena refers to itself as “A Grilled Cheese Co.” I’m not sure what else would have been expected from a place called Melt It! (except maybe like fondue or a ton of patty melt options, which are basically just grilled cheeses with burgers in them anyway), but I was eager to see what kind of twists this place would make on the old standby.
Restaurants come and restaurants go. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restaurant come and go as fast as TLT in Pasadena’s Playhouse District. Fortunately, there was almost no delay in replacing it with The Stand, a burger concept that already had a few locations around LA and Orange County. The burger options were pretty unique and at a reasonable price, so I had a hard time choosing.
When I found out that a Taiwanese fried chicken place had opened next door to my office, I knew I had to stop by, especially because I would soon be paying a visit to Taiwan. It’s called Hot Star, and for some reason it specializes in flattening the fried chicken to make it look massive. I don’t know if this is meant to make it taste or look better, but I was ready to find out.
Hotels aren’t exactly known for their food. Yet, there has been a trend to try to get better restaurants into hotels and I give those hotels major props for trying. In Pasadena the dusitD2 Constance Hotel has a spot called Constance Perry’s. It’s kind of Asian, kind of American, but definitely not fusion because those dishes kind of stand out on their own.
Ah, the fabled Rose Bowl. Host of UCLA football games, THE Rose Bowl, a monthly flea market and now the annual Masters of Taste. As a blogger extraordinaire, I was invited to cover the event, which took place on May 7th and I found it a much easier way to set foot on the Rose Bowl field than winning the Big Ten Championship (and some might say it was much harder than winning the Pac-12 Championship, huzzah!). Food and drink vendors appeared from all over LA to help bring in money for Union Station Homeless Services. It’s a good cause, and surely the now two-year old event is doing a much better job of drawing in money than the annual gala did before it. But enough, let’s talk food.
The Original Tops is a classic countertop-style diner in Pasadena that would probably evoke nostalgic memories if you were from the area. As someone who is not from Pasadena, I at least get excited over the prospect of a new burger spot, especially a no-frills type of place that has stood the test of time like The Original Tops.
Right next to perhaps my favorite restaurant in Pasadena (The Luggage Room) and owned by the same people is a spot called La Grande Orange. The menu is very American, French and Mexican, being filled with sandwiches, tacos and, most importantly, a Prime Rib French dip (you know, the most French food of all).
The Eatery in Pasadena is undoubtedly one of the city’s hidden gems. It’s off the beaten path and in a building that seems much more likely to house a Mexican grocery store than a fancy restaurant (in fact it does share the building with such a store). But once inside the candles, dim lighting and intimate ambiance scream non-pretentious fanciness. Of course, none of this would matter to me if the food didn’t satisfy my unvegan desires.
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.