Out in the strange region of the Valley known as Toluca Lake is a decent selection of restaurants for working-class folk like myself. Filling the role of Italian Deli is a place called Tony’s, which is a tiny little sandwich shop that also happens to offer a couple easy-to-serve-at-sandwich-shops-but-not-actual-sandwich items like lasagna. Most of their sandwiches come with an array of unvegan horrors like lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, but one did not. This was the way of the unvegan.
In the continuing story of trying to find new and interesting food in the Valley, a coworker suggested trying out a place called Summer Canteen. Not knowing what sort of food a place named Summer Canteen would have, I opened up the menu online to find that it served none other than Thai. Wait, Thai? Really? I thought the rule of Thai restaurant naming was that it had to have “Thai” in its name (Thai Boom, Thai Smile, Natalee Thai, etc.) or use words from the Thai language (Jitlada). Summer Canteen broke these two rules, and would go on to break one more.
On our way to get some ramen for lunch in North Hollywood, we passed by a place called Twin Castle. The sign looked like it had been there since 1940 and the logo was similar enough to White Castle’s that we thought they might serve up some real sliders like back east. Since the sign said “Hamburgers” we knew at the very least the place had burgers. Our minds quickly jumped from ramen to burgers and we turned around and parked.
One night a friend decided to meet me for dinner in North Hollywood. Typically I get myself out of that place as fast as I can after work, but on this night I was actually a bit excited to try out a place called Little Toni’s. Little Toni’s is a pizza place that isn’t open for lunch, so I figured this would be one of my rare opportunities to try them out. We walked inside and found the place wasn’t just some pizza joint, but an all-out Italian place that was probably pretty good for families. Nonetheless, we were ready to try their pizza.
Those who question the culture of LA have never been to a place like Hy Mart. Although it sits in a strange strip mall in the middle of North Hollywood, the place has just the right culture for the city. Their specialty is sandwiches, but although some are more refined deli-style sandwiches, they also serve Middle-Eastern food. The decorum is pretty basic, with wooden chairs and simple tables, but the colorful walls, images of the Middle East and random pictures of signs in Thailand give the place a comfortable feeling like you’re in someone’s home. And in fact, you kind of are in someone’s home. Run by a husband, wife and son, there really is a certain comfort in the place. So even though the service isn’t fast, it’s not because you’re being forgotten, but for the same reason service isn’t fast when you go visit your family friend for dinner.
Although I am well aware of the crazy mix of people residing in North Hollywood, I was still amazed when I discovered the clientele at Jack’s Classic Hamburgers. A moderate walk from my office, I knew this would be a perfect place for me before I even saw the menu. This was because 1) they were mostly men and 2) they all seemed to be blue collar men. No yuppies in white shirts and skinny ties here. Instead of that, there were construction workers, cable men, an Iron Mountain driver and finally a dude who might have been related to Dog the Bounty Hunter. I was a little ashamed having come from my well-ventilated desk job, but I was ready to devour a burger just as manly as any of these guys.
Somehow, some way, I was convinced to go to a restaurant in North Hollywood called HealthyCA (pronounced hel-the-ka, rather than Healthy California) . The very name offends me, but I have chosen a life of open mindedness, as opposed to the closed-minded lifestyle so many vegans choose. I must admit, though, that I feared this place, and not because it was healthy, but because so many people associate vegetables with a healthy diet. Us unvegans know they are wrong, but it is hard to convince vegans to pay attention to facts.