Every once in a while, it’s good that the Taco Bell nearest to me isn’t 24-hours. If it weren’t for that, I never would have gone to Johnnie’s Pastrami and found one of the greatest sandwiches in the world. Located in Culver City, Johnnie’s is open 24 hours and ready to serve a hungry clientele.
I entered with a group of five and we squeezed into a four-person booth. The not-exactly friendly waitress handed us our menus, but I already knew I would be getting the French Dip Pastrami that is featured in Johnnie’s neon sign. I really only looked at the menu to see the price, which was a surprising $10.50 for the sandwich. I guess breaking out of the Taco Bell comfort zone also risks spending more money. I asked the waitress if the sandwich was just the meat and bread, and she said yes. Not even onions. Perhaps I had died and gone to heaven.
Having been to Vietnam, I found it very strange that when I moved to LA, everyone considered pho THE Vietnamese food. I hadn’t even heard of pho before and certainly don’t remember encountering it anywhere in Vietnam. Nonetheless, I decided it was about time I found myself some pho. Just my luck, a new place had recently opened in my neighborhood, called Pho Show. I found it strange that anyone would choose to name their pho shop this way, as all pho connoisseurs know that the word is pronounced “fuh” rather than “foe.” Nonetheless, I went to Pho Show to see what it was all about.
Despite my not being the biggest fan of sushi, I found myself at Sushi Mashiko in Culver City one night to once again eat some raw fish. Sushi Mashiko was in a very nondescript location in a strip mall without any real sign. I only found it when I looked inside each store front and saw a small sign with the word “Sushi” on it. The place was supposed to be really great, so instead of ordering some sort of chicken or noodle dish, I decided I may as well test out their sushi.
After a long look at the menu sushi menu, I decided on two decent-looking rolls: softshell crab and tuna avocado. Since I would be the only one partaking in my personal sushi, I ordered mine uncut so I could turn the sushi into finger food.
When I first moved to LA, local Los Angelinos were really jealous when they discovered my proximity to Tito’s Tacos in Culver City. Every time I drove by, there was a huge line that really kept me away. I figured I didn’t need to wait in a long line when Cinco de Mayo was right next door.
Eventually I decided to to brave the long line and see what they really had to offer. The first thing I noticed was their wall menu, which looked straight from from the ’70s. The prices also looked like they hadn’t been updated since the ’70s, with tacos under $2 and burritos hovering between $3 and $4. There was a catch, though, cheese wasn’t included. Anyone hoping for cheese had to drop an extra 50 cents. To me, this was tantamount to charging extra for cheese on a pizza. Look, I know that cheese might not typically be found on a taco in Mexico, but in America we expect cheese on our Mexican food. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed to fork over an extra dollar for cheese on my beef and bean burrito and my taco without lettuce. Maybe this was part of why people loved Tito’s so much?
Tucked into the corner of Sepulveda and Washington in Culver City lies one of LA’s best-kept secrets: Cinco de Mayo. Although overshadowed by the incomprehensibly more popular Tito’s Tacos, which it happens to sit right next to, Cinco de Mayo has much more to offer.
The menu spans the walls of the restaurant and offers just about every Mexican dish one could imagine. On top of that, they also offer hamburgers and other random American things like fries.
On a typical visit to Cinco de Mayo, I will order the Mexican Nachos, which contains some of the greatest ingredients known to unvegans (carne asada, cheese, guacamole, salsa and enchilada sauce). On this particular eve I wasn’t feeling too hungry, so I ordered a hard-shell chicken taco, without lettuce. The perfectly-fried culinary concoction came quickly, served with a nice helping of chips. I bit in and my unvegan senses yelped in glee.