My Spots in LA

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged; I’ve been trying to keep my head above water teaching. I’ll blog more when my time is my own.

I’ve done a My Spots in Manhattan and a My Spots in Shanghai. For some reason I didn’t get around to a My Spots in Seattle, or Taipei, or Manila.  Maybe someday. Maybe I’ll even do one for the Coachella Valley. Who knows. Here goes:

NELA Athletics. My friend E told me once, with a far-away, misty look in his eye, “You never forget your first box….” I wrote about Crossfit once here, and again here. The day after elections I dropped by the old Merge (they re-branded as Northeast Los Angeles Athletics; NELA) to buy a T-shirt, for old times’s sake. People were doing squat snatches, and Coach MJ was there, and I thought, aw, I miss this place. Coach MJ is the one who used to give me extra reps, so I would cuss him out. They didn’t have a T-shirt in my size, so Coach Paul sent me one in the mail for free!  I was a paying member there for two and a half months, and they’re still being nice to me. I loved that there was Sunday morning yoga, that I could catch a class on the hour AND on the half hour. I loved that they were effortless at being a diverse community; diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity, age, fitness level. I’m not sure I ever told them how comforting it was to work out with some brown people; it is Totally. Comforting. to not have to feel like a pioneer; blazing a trail for Filipino Americans every waking second.

India Sweets and Spices. All vegetarian Indian cafeteria. On a day when I was hungry, I’d get Combo #7: two curries, a scoop of rice, salad, yogurt, a pickle and a soda and it would set me back $7.00. On a regular day I’d get a Combo #3: two curries and a scoop of rice (I had to specify one scoop, because they default give you two), and they would charge me less than $5.o0. I would eat there every day, and I lost a lot of weight. They were super nice to me, too; they got to know my tastes… except the weekday afternoon lady, the daughter of the owners, never guessed correctly what I wanted. The curries were different every day. Usually there were homeless people eating there, or hanging out; they are welcome there and I think the family offers meals to hungry people. They are Hindus, there’s an altar in the dining room and they celebrate Hindu festivals. When some Indian Muslim customers came in for the first time, EVERYONE WAS SO HAPPY; the Hindus, the Muslims, the homeless lady, the chubby Filipino.  It’s not the most elegant place to see in LA but when my sister came to visit, she understood quickly why I ate there every day; the food was good and it felt good to be there.

Little Tokyo Marketplace.  They have free parking, and it’s easy. The banchan deli is good, the fruits and veggies are good, the fish is good. I get to drive through Chinatown and past Homeboy Industries to get there. There’s a Daiso next door.  I stop here on my monthly supply pilgrimages nowadays; I miss going here every week.

Jason Meyers Music. Jason gives private guitar lessons and runs the Atwater Village Ukulele Club. He’s an honest-to-God musician, so it’s one ukulele club that’s a lot of playing instead of a lot of yapping and mediocre singing.

Pescadores de Ensenada. These guys are the first fish tacos I discovered in LA, and also the best; I’m saying this after exhaustive research.  They only appear at the Sunday morning Atwater Village Farmer’s Market. They are just the best, a delicious light tempura fry. They also make grilled fish, which is rather fish-forward; also a tempura fried shrimp. They’ll also give you a tostada and spread frijolito on it if you ask. Yes, I ate my share of Ricky’s and Best Fish Taco; Pescadores is better.

Coni’Seafood. This is a Jonathan Gold spot down in Inglewood. Spectacular. Maybe I’ve had better mariscos at Playas de Tijuana.  Maybe.

Mariscos Mi Lindo Sinaloa. This place wasn’t spectacular but it was across the street from my apartment, and I keep going back, even though I don’t live there anymore.

Itocco Hair Salon. Kelly makes me look like a movie star, best haircuts I’ve ever had. I found the place just by driving into Koreatown on Western, finding a place with free parking, and then wandering inside to ask for a haircut.  Every time Kelly cuts my hair, I look into the mirror astonished by what she has accomplished, and then think it was all because of parking; a true Los Ángeles miracle.  I drive to LA every month now to get my hair cut from her, still. Some people ask me why I don’t get my hair cut in the Coachella Valley, and the answer is a definitive NO.  There is a reason Asian Americans all had the same bad haircut in the 80s, and it’s because we hadn’t found Asian people who could cut our black Asian hair to suit our fat American faces.

Mediterranean Delight. This might have been the one the few lunch spots near the office that I actually liked (besides Lola’s and El Morfi Grill). Good hummus, good falafel, good mahi mahi, salad without a sugary dressing.

El Ruby Café. This spot is a hole in the wall but the chile rojo is dark and smokey, slowly burning a hole in the back of your throat the way chile rojo should. I’ve tasted nothing like that in Seattle.

Pacific Fish Center. I go here to eat a crab with my friends. Tell the ajuma, “Large crab” and she calls back to the kitchen “¡Una jaiba, grande!” and the dude calls back with the price of the crab. Then you go sit, and when the hot crab comes to your table, you can tie on a bib and go at it with both hands. Koreans like that place because it was featured on a TV show in South Korea. Filipinos like that place because you can bring your own suka and make your own sawsawan. By the way, the steamed crab comes to you in sections, and they hand you a mallet if you’re one of those people that doesn’t know how to crack a crab with your teeth. Last time I was there, someone sitting behind me was hammering at the crab way too hard, I flinched at the sound because I could hear that juicy crab meat getting crushed and ruined. I asked my friends, “Is it… some white people behind me?”  That’s probably unfair of me but that crab will crack open with a tap-tap-tap; the lady behind me was doing Hulk smash!  Maybe she was working through some issues.

Quality Seafood. My sister and I are some oyster snobs so we only look at the oyster counter to sneer and make up condescending hashtags. Go to Seattle for oysters. In LA, get a medium sized sea urchin and split it between the two of you. They’ll steam you some clams, they’ll fry things in butter, it’s all there. But the story of LA seafood is the sea urchin.

La Tostadería. This counter in Grand Central Market is really a cevichería. There were a few places at the GCM that I wanted to try, even after I stopped eating land animals, but if there was an open stool, this is the only place I’d go.

There were other places I discovered, fancy bars that positive K took me too before ukulele club; fun dim sum places, and Taiwanese pubs in the San Gabriel Valley. There was a bowl of chili at that place in Burbank, the izakaya way way out in Little Osaka. Pupusas at the Watt’s farmer’s market. Boulevard Music where I bought my ukulele.

LA has good food, but the places are secret, and I left before I could develop a really precise food radar, like I had in Seattle. One thing I can tell you: burritos are good here, and I don’t even like burritos, and you can get a good one almost anywhere in LA. When in doubt, the King Taco carnitas burrito, ask for the chile rojo.

 

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