EDIT: This Sammy’s is closed, but you can still get their decent pizza around LA and Vegas.
In dire need of portable food while in Studio City, I wandered into Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. Apparently Sammy’s has locations throughout Southern California and Nevada, but this was the first I had ever seen or heard of such a place. I took a quick look at the menu and while there were a couple of mildly interesting pizzas, most were pretty basic. Faced with such choices, I went with old faithful: pepperoni.
When my buddy recommended heading to a place called Mantee in Studio City, I was really excited to eat a sea cow and hoped the manatees were farm-raised (because we all know they are endangered in the wild). But he quickly corrected me, saying that the restaurant was lacking that all-important second “a” and was actually Mediterranean. And one look at the menu showed this was not your typical Mediterranean. There were no schwarma wraps to be seen here and instead items like that were replaced by unique Lebanese, Turkish and Armenian delights.
Gourmet burgers and their associated gastropubs have been predominantly the domain of LA’s greater west side. Father’s Office, Umami Burger, Comme Ca and The Foundry all have roots on the west-ish side. So when I heard Laurel Tavern in Studio City was not only a gastropub, but had a burger worth writing home about, I was surprised. Gourmet burger? In the wretched valley? I had to try it out. And try I did. More than once. You see, Laurel Tavern is not the easiest place to get into. Not because of some dress code or something stupid like that, but because they simply have an extremely small space. On weekends, it’s nearly impossible to get in unless you show up mid-afternoon. But when I heard some friends were going on Labor Day, I felt my odds were pretty good and I ventured out to Ventura Boulevard.
Sometimes nothing beats a good bowl of ramen. No, I don’t mean the Cup O Noodle that powered me through late nights in college. I mean real ramen in a real bowl, with some thick broth and some real meat. For lunch, I headed to Ramen Jinya in Studio City with some coworkers to see if their ramen could bring back my memories of drunkenly wandering the streets of Osaka for some noodles in a bowl. There are four signature pork ramen flavors, and although they were strangely out of the Hakata premium rich broth, I was already going with their Original Yokohama ramen, so luckily this didn’t affect me.
EDIT: While the truck is off the street, there is a Grill ‘Em All does have a brick and mortar spot in Alhambra these days.
It seems like just yesterday that I was totally caught up in the craze of Gourmet Food Trucks. Within a few months of the launch of Kogi, it seemed like there was a new truck to try every week, serving everything you could imagine. I did my best to try all that I could, but although I predicted the fad would die out quickly, my desire to try every one of them died out even quicker. Some trucks failed, but new trucks kept coming out. And sadly, in the time that I was burned out on trucks, some pretty cool ones began to emerge. These were no longer trucks with one little idea out to make a quick buck to capitalize on the success of Kogi. No, instead, these were carefully crafted culinary machines. One of these was the Grill ‘Em All burger truck.
One day, while driving down Ventura in Studio City, my coworkers and I spotted a burger place that looked great. Not only that, but they also spotted a comic book store above and geeked out. Now I am not ashamed to say that I once collected comics, but those were eventually replaced by beer and burgers, so I was much more interested in the burgers in this case. The place was called Fat Jack’s and we vowed to return one day.
I couldn’t really figure out whether Mexicali Cocina Cantina in Studio City was named after the city of Mexicali or because it is a blend of Mexican and Californian food. Whichever it was, I was pretty impressed with the creative creations on their menu. It seemed that nearly everything on their menu had undergone some sort of upgrade from 87 octane to at least 89. Rather than just beef burritos, they had Kobe Beef Burritos. Rather than just fish tacos, they had Ahi Tuna Tacos. Everywhere I looked on the menu, there was something that seemed inspiring, at least in name.