We’ve been asked why we don’t include restaurant reviews in our ramblings on all things “entertainment.” The simple answer is that we know better. The servers and chefs of Jacksonville’s dozen eating establishments are almost like family—and we wouldn’t want to create sibling rivalries by touting the efforts of one over another. Acclaimed food critic Ruth Reichl famously solved a similar dilemma by wearing elaborate disguises when dining in restaurants she planned to review. She’d appear as a flamboyant blonde one night, a wrinkled senior the next, a bookish brunette the next. Thus she remained anonymous.
We suspect Reichl’s tactic wouldn’t work for us in tiny Jacksonville. But we recently spent three weeks in L.A, where anonymity was a given. This was a business trip, with little time for play. The only real fun we had was dining. Which we did. A lot. We visited our longtime favorite restaurants, and sampled a few new ones. One of us took pictures of these culinary expeditions. (The other just ate.)
With the thought that you might, out of desire or necessity, one day find yourselves in L.A., we’ve decided to break precedent and serve up a few succulent mini-reviews. Just don’t tell on us.
Lucy’s El Adobe, 5536 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood: Lucy’s has been our “must visit” for decades. We love Mexican food, and Lucy’s cuisine is the standard by which we compare everyone else’s chile relleno and refried beans. The beguiling dressing (is that butter…or cheese…or…?) enhancing the green salad can’t be beat. Plus, the dark, cool atmosphere is tailor-made for quiet anonymity. You never know who may be taking a break from their work right across the street at Paramount Pictures to relax in the worn leather booth behind you.
The Rib Ranch, 4923 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Woodland Hills: We discovered this tiny gem in the far western edge of the San Fernando Valley over twenty years ago, and it instantly became our all-time favorite BBQ joint. Everything is perfect here, from the satisfying texture of the baby back ribs (slow roasted in Mike’s oil barrel rig), to the sweet and savory homemade sauce. Don’t forget the coleslaw, cottage fries and baked beans.
Jerry’s Famous Deli (various locations citywide): Some folks may look down their noses at a chain establishment with a giant menu. That would be a mistake. Taste is all in the mouth, and one of us grew up eating Chicago deli food, which is, FYI, nothing like the New York deli food that often defines the genre. Jerry’s leans towards Chicago style, with not-too-lean corned beef, fall-apart brisket, and huge but light matzo balls. The chicken soup isn’t quite as tasty as Paula’s, but it’s homemade and flavorful.
Bea Bea’s, 353 N. Pass Avenue, Burbank: We’d never been here before, but after we wandered in we couldn’t stay away. We ate breakfast—our favorite meal—at Bea Bea’s four (!) times. With twenty kinds of pancakes, seventeen varieties of French toast, and seemingly countless choices of crepes, omelets and breakfast burritos, how could anyone go wrong? (Bonus points from Paula for their freshly whipped cream.)
A&W Seafood Restaurant, 9306 Reseda Boulevard, Northridge: Despite its Chinese heritage, Jacksonville lacks a Chinese restaurant. We wish we could bring A&W’s Cod with Black Bean Sauce and the Beef Loc Lac back home with us.
Smoke House, 4420 West Lakeside Drive, Burbank: This bastion of Old Hollywood has been serving filets and porterhouses since Bob Hope and Bing Crosby rang in among its earliest regulars. Sitting adjacent to Warner Bros. Studios, it’s pricey, but the atmosphere is as weighty as the ample dishes.
Reminiscing about all those fun meals has reawakened our appetites—but we don’t have to rush back to Southern California for good eats. There’s great food right down the street. And so, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment at The Mustard Seed.