Why the LA Times' restaurant of the year matters so much
J. Gold and the Los Angeles Times name their first ever “Restaurant of the Year.” The winner? Locol, The progressive fast food spot in Watts. This is a much anticipated essay (I actually mouthed “holy shit” when the title loaded). Late last year there was a firestorm after the New York Times reviewed Locol very unfavorably. Gold never really weighed in. Choosing to give this award to Locol is as close to a "screw you" as we will get. The essay itself is surprisingly short. It’s hard to call this a broadside against New York, but it’s certainly a rebuttal. Much like Los Angeles itself, you can make fun of Locol or criticize it, but it doesn’t really care and after a while you’ll forget why you were made and just enjoy a burger or a taco (I'll be damned if I call them foldies).
Frank Bruni’s column this week talks about James Beard and how his homosexuality has largely been whitewashed from history. It gets into larger points about how this happens to celebrities in all sorts of fields, but it's particularly bad in food. There’s a lot to be said about sexuality and food writing, considering it rose out of the “women’s pages” of the early century. Much worth saying was said by John Birdsall in this story for Lucky Peach. And in case you think this is old history, remember there was a tiny media storm when Bruni himself subtly came out to readers in this hilarious 2007 review of the lunch at a Manhattan strip club.
Literally as I was finalizing this week’s Snack Cart, hit my inbox. Sigh.
The Associated Press ran a story about a Louisiana slaughterhouse that is butchering feral hogs brought in by hunters and and shipping the meat to stores and restaurants around the state. There’s lots of nuance and ecology and whatever, but mostly I just wanted to post a link to my favorite panel of my favorite comic book.
The world is a scary place these days, but sometimes Jeff Goldblum opens a food truck (Called Chef Goldblum’s!) and gives out free sandwiches.
The Onion’s political cartoon writer may be my favorite thing on the Internet.
This Andrew Small piece from Citylab, which is headlined all about Pittsburgh, actually tells a compelling story about how Prohibition worked in America. It’s a great read even if you don’t care about the Steel City.
A new fad diet about *checks notes* the moon! All together now: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.
Fresh on the heels of the Juicero disaster, another hot shot food startup goes down. Sad!
Speaking of which -- and this has nothing to do with food and everything to do with industrial hardware design -- but this blog post breaking down how a Juicero is built is great for anyone who enjoys reading about scandal, schadenfreude, or meticulously designed things.
I avoid home cooking in this newsletter, but this New York Times piece on salt is great. Chances are, you aren’t using enough of it as a home cook. If you want to learn more about salt, Gastropod did an episode on it.
It’s Chinese food week at Munchies (the VICE food thing) and to absolve themselves before whatever else they do, they published a Clarissa Wei piece about how Chinese people are marginalized from Chinese food. It’s good, and it makes a bunch of good points, but it’s a bit overwhelming in a way that distracts from the point.
Nine sandwiches from around the world, because sometimes, you just need a slideshow of sandwiches.
Eater published Amanda Kludt’s dining notes from a high-end road trip across Napa and Silicon Valley to… mess with me, I guess?
I’ve read a lot of articles this week about The Last Magnificent, an apparently great food documentary about unappreciated but legendary chef Jeremiah Tower. A continuous theme is that NONE OF THEM MENTION WHERE I CAN WATCH THE MOVIE. It’s not on Fandango. It doesn’t seem to be on Netflix. Someone please tell me. This John Powers review for Vogue uses the film to make points about food movies, criticizing them for being a bit shallow and a bit too self-regarding. I’d be remiss not to mention that his review is a bit shallow and a bit too self-regarding.
This is a lot of good advice from GQ’s Marian Bull, but the only correct way to buy rosé is “in bulk.”
^^^read this entire tweetstorm^^^
There is a potato chip shortage in Japan, which is driving up prices. Talk about burying the lead: the article mentions in passing there is a 2-hour Japanese special about potato chips. That's two things I don't know how to watch. Someone invent Uber, but for obscure food movies or TV specials.
Monica Burton at Eater writes about the difficulties in revamping a classic restaurant. This is a pressing problem, as pretty much every classic restaurant in America is turning over ownership. She doesn't hone in on a formula, but she does provide a list of great places to visit.
I’m generally tolerant of the Lisa-frankenfood trend. But I’m enthusiastic about straight haterade from Drew Magary.
The article from Man Repeller on year-round iced coffee drinkers is a bit self-indulgent (and that’s coming from a guy who writes a 2500-word newsletter every week). It’s fun, though. Also, I don’t understand the real news here -- literally everyone in Boston does this.
Everyone is talking about Noma Mexico (not sure what that is? Scroll down to the D.C. section), and the Los Angeles Times interviews Rosio Sanchez, who is secretly the powerhouse behind the project.
US News & World Reports writes up a new Harvard Business School study on how minimum wage increases affect restaurants. The study shows it tends to make it more likely that poorly rated restaurants will fail. It’s far from conclusive, but the article has a good rundown of what studies have showed us about the minimum wage.
Kushubu Shah at GQ writes about how hard it is for minority chefs to cook “white food” (classical American or Continental). This piece hits on a lot of familiar names, and while this is an important question I don’t think it’s the most nuanced take on it you can read.
David Rudin at the Atlantic has an interesting essay on leftovers. Will the rise of home meal delivery services kill the idea of extra food in the fridge, and what are we losing if it does? I learned a lot in this piece, including that leftovers are a relatively new idea.
This is a lovely story from Bloomberg, about how a restaurant on the brink of failure and a lost recipe for kushikatsu combined into a multimillion-dollar food empire.
If you’re not listening to Francis Lam’s Splendid Table, you are missing out. It might be my imagination, but it seems like he’s managed to inject a little more creativity and whimsy into the show without losing what made it great. In the last episode, I particularly enjoyed this segment about Monday night suppers in New Orleans. I had never been able to articulate why I sort of hate dinner parties so much until listening to this.
Is it a marketing gimmick? Yes. Will I enter the drawing to eat at Taco Bell’s test kitchen? Also yes.
J. Gold also drops a full review of Side Chick in Arcadia. This place is making some of the best Hainan chicken rice around, so you don’t have to fly to Singapore for it anymore. That said, this review is more noteworthy because it does a classic and essential Gold thing: he uses this place as an emblem to digress on the state of the food industry. He says we’re currently eating in the era of Side Hustle Cuisine, “the recipes that chefs make for their friends on Sunday afternoons, retooled for a wider public”. All of that with the idea of building an empire on a single dish (think Shake Shack). Gold goes on to put that into context and writes about what it means for all of us. Go read the whole thing.
Mike Seely at LA Weekly writes up a thorough profile of Santa Monica’s Chez Jay. I’ve never heard of this place, which he describes as the best dive bar in the world. Heady priase, but the article backs it up. As all good LA bar profiles do, it features Warren Beatty having sex.
Matthew Kang writes first-person account of the food at Coachella. This festival has everything: Chicken Tikka poutine, tater tot raclette, and a food writer dropping names (which he *hates* to do). Combine this with all the articles about baseball stadium food and I wonder… is food becoming the core driver of live events ?
A story in the Hollywood Reporter talks about New York chef’s opinions about Los Angeles. Most telling but not mentioned? That you have a bunch of New York chefs opening places in Los Angeles.
That new Anthony Bourdain travel site has a food crawl through the SGV. I mean, of course it does. But even the most cliched article can have a moment of transcendence, which this does: “There’s a rib-sticking, socialist sort of camaraderie in a Chinese food crawl.”
Besha Rodell reviews Bone Kettle in Pasadena. She says the restaurant is a lot better than the “bone broth” gimmick it's riding. The soup is great, but even better are the inventive Indonesian small plates. Two stars.
Edwin Goei at OC Weekly reviews Burritos La Palma in Santa Ana. He calls them the best burritos in Orange County and the best flour tortillas in all of Southern California. They sound fantastic, smaller and flakier than you would normally think of when you think “flour tortilla”. They reminded me a lot more of kati rolls. Worth a read, and worth a road trip from Los Angeles.
April Bloomfield is coming to Los Angeles and taking over the old Cat & Fiddle space (will she still open at 5 am for Tottenham Hotspur games? Please?), and she joined Jenn Harris at the Los Angeles Times for a burger crawl across the city. Bloomfield is famous for the high-end burger at her New York restaurants. She drops some hints about her new place (no burgers!) but I would have loved this crawl to stop somewhere classic, like Apple Pan or Tommy’s. Her quote at the end about how L.A food culture has finally become more interesting over the past four years is groan-worthy.
This is a fantastic story about Worcester, the Hotel Vernon, and Prohibition. Cross-posted with my friend Roberto’s weekly Massachusetts history newsletter, the First Hurrah. Subscribe now if you haven’t.
Eater’s Upsell podcast interviews Barbara Lynch. There has been a LOT of Barbara Lynch #content over the past few weeks, and this might be the best. Probably because it’s the one that lets her speak in her own voice. Listen, if only for hilarious stories about Todd English being a d-bag.
Sushi Burritos are dumb.
Ellen Bhang heads to Noodle Market in Arlington. She focuses on the Vietnamese side of the menu, since Arlington already has a few other Thai options. It seems like a fine place to go if you are craving good Vietnamese or not very good Thai.
I have been following the One Year of Cocktails Instagram account for a while, and I had no idea he lives in Somerville (of course he does). If you aren’t familiar, he’s been making a custom cocktail every day for 500 days straight.
Thirst is here! The annual cocktail conference is a blast, even if this year is a little more geared for professionals and less for enthusiasts. Check out the schedule, and I’ll see you at the “Functional Flair” class. *Tries to flip bottle, drops it immediately, cuts self trying to clean up* But seriously I will be at tonight's party -- get a ticket if you haven't.
Poke is finally crossing the river, with a new place opening in Chinatown.
MC Slim JB reviews Pho Countryside in Kenmore Square. He finds a place that is doing fine Vietnamese for Kenmore Square, but is nothing to write home about.
Kevin Alexander at Thrillest writes up the best burgers in Boston. It’s a solid list and a fun read as he combines a visit back to his hometown with his reviewing duties. How have I not had the burger at Craigie on Main yet? What is WRONG with me?
Remember last week, when I promised lots of Balthazar content? I forgot and couldn’t find it and everything is terrible. Anyway, I did find a lovely story from Ryan Sutton about 21 things he’s learned from the restaurant. It does a great job explaining the Balthazar's timeless appeal.
Chris Crowley at Grubstreet reports on the closing of Koi in the Trump Soho. He makes a compelling case it’s because the Trump brand is so toxic no one wants to go there.
Pete Wells visits the new Union Square Cafe, the New York institution with legions of fanatically devoted fans. It hasn’t evolved with the times (doing so would cause a riot from said fans), but he still gives it three stars because it’s lifts the ideas of comfort and stability to a higher plane. This is a good read to see the difference between not changing and resting on laurels.
Shivani Vora paints a lovely picture of the Akropolis Meat Market in Astoria. It hasn’t really evolved with the times as much as it’s become a neighborhood staple.
I feel like Ligaya Mishan has been gone for a few weeks, and her lede on this review of Chilean restaurant La Roja de Todos in Queens reminds me how much I missed her. It’s also a great reminder that I know next to nothing about South American food.
Rachel Paley at Eater writes up a beautiful profile of the Grand Central Oyster bar. Call me hokey, but it’s one of my favorite places in the City. It’s about to win a Beard award as a design icon, and I had no idea that how it was built is a design challenge still stumping engineers to this day.
Laura Hayes at Washington City Paper writes a great report on how the opioid epidemic is affecting restaurant workers. It’s shouldn’t be surprising, but in an industry famous for substance abuse, the current crisis is hitting hard. This is critical reading for everyone interesting in the restaurant industry.
Tom Sietsema isn’t done with his top ten list, and now I know why. He drops two expense-account-decimating reviews:
The first is a review of the overall food program at the Greenbrier. I went to the West Virginia resort several times as a kid, so I have a lot of affection for the place. Sietsema does not, and he’s pretty harsh when describing the food. My family would prefer I defend the place vigorously, but he makes good points. All I really remember is that you could get trout for breakfast, and that I could get a milkshake whenever I wanted at Draper’s. Thankfully, Sietsema says the breakfasts in the main dining room are still outstanding. I will smack down one of his criticisms: “Slammin’ Sammy’s,” the restaurant at the golf club, is named after golf legend Sam Snead, who designed the courses at the Greenbrier and started as a pro there. Slammin’ Sammy was his nickname, so they named it after him. Do the work, dude. Still, I got nothing to defend "In-fusion" with. Even if you don’t have cherished childhood memories, this is worth a read to see pictures of the opulent and insane decor as well as descriptions of the fantastic service. He gives it one star.
Next up, Seitsema reports from Noma Mexico. He doesn’t attempt to review the hottest restaurant in the world (what’s the point, it closes in 7 weeks). This is simply an account of his meal and how the best restaurant in the world is managing a popup in the jungle. It’s not as poetic as it could be, but it’s a really good breakdown of the place all your favorite food writers have been Instagramming from.
You heard of beer gardens, but how about an outdoor rosé garden? Head to Whaley’s at the Navy Yard and get in line behind me.
Tim Carmen, on pauper’s wages for the Post here in D.C., reports from the Brookfield Plaza Shopping Center in Springfield. It’s the closest there is to a Pakistani neighborhood in the D.C. area, and Carmen highlights Dera Restaurant. I’m not super familiar with Pakistani food, but many things you’d think of as North Indian (tandoori, biryani) are represented here amazingly. Seriously, that biryani sounds amazing.
Chicago is in a bit of a Mexican Renaissance. Chicago Magazine writes up *another* Broken English is opening, this time in Lincoln Park. This is great, because it sounds like a blast.
Nick Kindelsperger and Phil Vettel collaborate on a definitive list of the essential Mexican restaurants. The list is comprehensive, touching every neighborhood and price point. Not that it’s fair, but it might be nice to not include some of the Bayliss places on here in order to make room for others.
Mike Sula at Chicago Reader gets into the mix, reviewing Mi Tocaya in Logan Square (The Tribune guys mention it, but say it’s too new to include). He loves it, and my head is spinning just reading the lineup of progressive Mexican dishes. I don’t know nearly enough to eat there.
Publican Quality meats in West Loop is hosting a burger battle all summer long. The day of the battle you show up, and chefs from two other restaurants will be competing to see who makes the better burger (you judge, I think?). The schedule for May and June is up, and includes some heavy hitters.
Two exes have started a bitters company. This is basically a season of Girls but more heartwarming. Seriously though, who does shots of bitters?
Out of context J. Gold of the week
And while Locol may be only one version of the future of food, it is one that we all can live with: good food for all.