There’s been a tremendous growth in LA’s BBQ scene in the past couple of years and one of the restaurants that the growth has brought us is Maple Block in Culver City. Maple Block is definitely on the trendier side of BBQ, but the interior smelled like deliciously smoked meats and the guy that ran the place walked us through the menu to make recommendations.
It’s not too often that food court food gains critical acclaim. Yet, in the case of 101 Noodle Express (my favorite college course), the only reason I went was by recommendation from Jonathan Gold. Like KyoChon, 101 Noodle Express can be found at the Fox Hills Mall, but also in other places where you would expect it more – like the San Gabriel Valley. Almost as surprising as finding such a place in a food court is the fact that Gold doesn’t even recommend the noodles.
EDIT: This spot is gone, but that amazing fried chicken can be found in one of KyoChon’s other locations.
While fried chicken is often considered the domain of Southern cooking and Buffalo wings, it is certainly not exclusive to those cuisines. In fact, some of the best fried chicken I’ve had can be found Asian dishes like the Japanese chicken karaage. But Japan is not alone in this, as a Korean place called KyoChon just may have created the best chicken wings ever. Did I overstate that? I don’t think so.
You can’t throw a stone* in LA without hitting a Mexican place that someone happens to call their favorite. It could be a shack, a hole in the wall or even an old-fashioned sit down restaurant. The variety seems only limited by the amount of physical space in LA and those damn zoning laws. As I’ve eaten my way through the city, I’ve creativity galore and more Mexican foods than I knew existed growing up on Taco Bell in Michigan. Some have been delicious, while others have failed me. On my latest foray into someone’s favorite Mexican place, I ended up at El Abajeno in Culver City.
On a funky little corner in Culver City, there resides a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint called Tacomiendo. I originally read about them a long time ago because they served good food at cheap prices. Finally, after residing on my to-eat list for so long, I got around to taking a ride out to try them out. Not terribly hungry for this dinner hour, I skipped over the big ticket items like burritos and tortas. Instead, I went with their namesake, a taco.
Having never spent a significant amount of time in Texas, Texas-style chili remains a mystery to me. However, if I were to imagine chili in Texas, it would pretty much look like Tub’s Fine Chili & Fancy Fixins, which I decided to head to on one of LA’s recent days of rain. For starters, the interior has a whole country-western sort of theme to it, with the workers wearing cowboy hats and cowboy-esque stools that resemble saddles. It’s a bit gimmicky for Southern California, but it kind of feels right for the place. Then there’s the chili, which is a far cry from the Midwestern-style chili I know and love from Chili John’s in Burbank and pretty much the entire state of Michigan. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”
Growing up, fast food either meant burgers or Taco Bell. For the most part, this is still true, but more and more I find that not only has the quality of fast food improved, but so has the variety. Chains like Yoshinoya and Jollibee are good examples of this, and recently I experienced another: Ono Hawaiian BBQ. The menu has a lot of Asian-inspired dishes and some things that looked distinctly Hawaiian, but all in the setting of a fast food joint with fast food prices. My eyes quickly found their $5.00 meal special, that included a choice of four different dishes, which were Lemon Chicken, Chicken Katsu, Kalbi Short Ribs and Hawaiian BBQ Beef.
I think we can all agree that there are not enough places in the world that offer unlimited food. And the places that do are usually pretty bogged down by endless salad bars and other assorted vegetables. Manna Korean BBQ in Culver City is not one of those places. Instead of concentrating on veggies, they have decided to concentrate on meats. For only 16.99, you get all you can eat meats. And these aren’t just generic grade D meats, these are a collection of short rib, brisket, pork belly, pork, chicken, spicy chicken and beef.
I’m not totally sure how it happened, but at some point in the last year I heard about a place called Jasmine Market in Culver City. Unfortunately, life happened and it took me until recently to finally get to pay the place a visit. Jasmine Market is unique because it is both a market and a restaurant, but even more interesting than that is that they serve Burmese food. Never heard of a Burmese restaurant? Well neither had I. In general I’ve avoided things related to Burma (Myanmar) for fear that anything I did would seem like I support the military junta there. But you don’t find a Burmese restaurant too often, so I knew I had to try it out.
I was especially excited when a BJ’s Brewhouse opened in Culver City. Los Angeles is known as a city short on craft and microbrews, and although BJ’s is a big chain, I hoped it would fill a much-neglected gap in beer and microbrewery food.
To start out the meal I ordered their Harvest Hefeweizen. Hef has never let me down in the past, so I expected it wouldn’t again. I was wrong. This was the sweetest beer that has ever tried to pass for a real beer. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Strongbow Cider or a Leinenkugel’s Berryweiss can be very refreshing on a hot summer day, but those beers are composed of fruit and you know what you’re getting when you order them. Sure, hefeweizen isn’t the most bitter beer, but BJ’s attempt at it tasted like they accidentally spilled a carton of sugar into my beer.