The Unvegan

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10 Years of Unvegan
A Quick Bite at Burrito Express
Serendipity at Northern Waters Smokehaus
Twerks and Burritos at Casa Amigos

‘Food Courts’

Feeling at Home at Detroit Coney Grill (CLOSED)


EDIT: This location is a goner, but you can still find Coney Grills in Tempe and Phoenix.

My wise wife once said, “You can take the man out of Detroit, but you can’t take the Detroit out of the man.” When I was living in LA, one of the most exciting things to happen was the opening of Coney Dog, a Detroit-style chili dog spot. Due to probably a number of circumstances, that business failed. In Phoenix, however, a spot called Detroit Coney Grill seems to have made all the right decisions because it now has THREE locations in the area. And for some reason the Tempe location closes at 7:00, so I made my way out to Mesa to try it out for myself.

Middle Eastern Food Courting at Massis

That's so food court.
That’s so food court.

Food court food isn’t typically known to be great, but then food court food isn’t generally Middle Eastern. Massis has kind of built a food court empire around LA, dishing out mostly Middle Eastern food with a sprinkling of random things like Argentinean Skirt Steak and Idaho Trout. I found myself at the Santa Anita mall and went looking for kabobs.

Buffalo Garbage at Bill Gray’s (CLOSED

Garbage on a plate.
Garbage on a plate.

EDIT: This Bill Gray’s is closed, but others live on to serve you garbage.

While I was lucky enough to get out to Rochester to get a Garbage Plate from the source, my roommate was not so lucky. To make up for it, we went on a quest for a plate in Buffalo. This first took us to University Hots, which a friend of mine lauded but appeared to have relocated or changed names or something confusing like that. So, since this was late-afternoon and we weren’t in the typical drunken state of mind it takes to eat a Garbage Plate, we drove over to Bill Gray’s.

Shameful Shawerma at Arabi

Hummus? More like flavorlus.
Hummus? More like flavorlus.

When I settled in San Francisco, I realized I had to eat something I had been craving for a while: schwarma. Or, if you’re at Arabi in the Rincon Center: shawerma. Whatever the spelling, I needed it. And I needed it with chicken. And I needed it with sauce. And I needed it with nothing else except some pita to wrap it. I hoped that Arabi would satisfy this need, but I was way off.

Bibigo for It

Some things change slightly.

The food court at Century City mall is one of the best. It may have some chains, but it is a long way from the fast food filled food courts of the world. Strangely, there is some turnover in restaurants, but they always seem to be replaced by a similar restaurant with the same name. Case in point: Sorabal, a Korean place, was replaced by Bibigo, a – you guessed it – Korean place. Sure, Bibigo is a different concept from Sorabal, but my point still stands.

Rolling Away with 101 Noodle Express

Roll with it

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.

Turning Japanese with Blosom Bento

A few more veggies than I bargained for.

In the heart of LA’s Fashion District is a relatively new, yet relatively hidden food court. It is here that you can find a nice variety of foods and kind of escape after eating at one too many taco trucks. The food court itself is outdoors and feels like a world away from the fashion peddlers below. You can find Korean, Mexican and sandwiches up here, but I was pretty much drawn to a Japanese place called Blosom Bento. Sure, they served sushi, but they also had my favorite Japanese dish of all time on their menu: Yaki Soba.

Currying Favor at Ajisen Ramen

Curry in a hurry.

Not too long ago (at least in my head), Ajisen Ramen opened its doors at the Century City food court. I’m not sure where else this Japanese ramen chain exists in the US, but I do know it is a pretty popular and slightly upscale chain in the land of Asia. I decided to check it out to see how it held up against its Asian brethren and found that the menu was pretty similar to what I remembered from Asia. It had a variety of ramen options and some tasty-looking Japanese appetizers.

Food Courting at Lawry’s Carvery (CLOSED)

Not too Asian.

EDIT: The Century City location is gone, but Lawry’s continues to carve elsewhere.

After a year or so of flirting around with the Asian options at the Century City food court, I finally decided to take the plunge into some of their meatier food. This is not to say that I wasn’t eating meat all along, but few restaurants exude meatiness more than Lawry’s Carvery, the food court version of Lawry’s Prime Rib steakhouse. I took to browsing their menu and even though there was a ton of meat, a few of the good-looking dishes included vegetables.