Hands down the best desserts in this city. Once there was Operetta, they were a 24 hour dessertery on 3rd. Then they closed under shady auspices and The Sweet Life opened in their place. They had an amazing banana cream pudding. They closed late in 2002. Now Sweet lady Jane has no competition. They do amazing cakes that are well worth the slightly pricey tag. They make cakes to order, decorated to order, and they also have a small, cozy coffee shop and cake per-slice counter inside. You will wait a long time for a table at night, since it’s no secret this place rules the earth with a sugary fist.
8360 Melrose Ave., 2 blocks east of La Cienega
Wonder why there’s always a line at the S&W? Go and find out. A family run operation in the heart of downtown Culver City, the S&W is what a roadside diner should be. Grits done right, eggs, pancakes, good rib stickin’ grub. Oh, and the waitresses who work there are drop dead beautiful. Not in that weird L.A. got-a-head-shot in their pocket way, either. These girls are direct descendants of Betty Page. Unpretentious and always happy to see you, they’ll take a seat at your table and take a load off. Great people, great dive. And they have a corn reaper on the wall. Have to love that. But perhaps the single best reason to go is they always give you separate checks without question. To me, it’s a great sign of egalitarianism and lack of pretension. We average eight bucks a person here.
9748 Washington Blvd, Culver City
Surfas bills itself as a chef’s paradise and it fulfills that promise beyond imagination. Surfas is a bounty of cooking supplies – every odd utensil you’ve ever needed, in an assortment of varieties that would make Christopher Kimball’s head spin. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to actually see any of the tools Cook’s Illustrated spotlights in their “what is this” section, go to Surfas. If they don’t have it, they certainly know about it and can get it. It’s dangerous for me to enter because I can immediately justify a half dozen purchases. And since they’ve moved to a huge new location, just next door to their old one, and added a full cafe that hosts cheese tasting events on Sundays it’s a sure bet I’m leaving poorer and fatter for having visited. This is a must-visit destination for anyone in Los Angeles who enjoys cooking
(310) 559-4770, 8777 Washington Blvd, Culver City
When Russian immigrant women turn 40 they are apparently programmed to dye their hair bright orange and put on a sloppy pink slash of lipstick with war paint rouge. There are always a half dozen of these squat lovelies working at my favorite bakery, talking it up with the senior citizen customers, all of whom have yellow nicotine stains on their fingers and wear the cutest cardigan sweaters you’ve ever seen. But the greatest thing about a Russian bakery is that it explains the major ass whupping they got in Afghanistan: it’s all about the poppy seed. How can you dominate a country that so has your number? Poppy seed dessert rolls, poppy seed strudel, poppy seed cookies, and year-round hamentashen. They also do cream puffs, cookies, Turk cakes and the like. My perfect lunch consists of to-go sushi from Whole Foods capped with a poppy seed bear claw from those hot Russian ladies.
7875 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
Sterling is the cleanest, most friendly, English speaking dry cleaners I’ve been to in the city thus far. However, their prices are high, their tailor is hit or miss, and sometimes you just want something cleaned inexpensively or hemmed right and you’ll take a certain amount of “what?” in your transaction to get it. While everything I’ve had cleaned by them has come out properly, the curtains I had them shorten came back uneven and they charged me almost $100 to do the hem and clean them in a machine. Whoa, nelly! They offer complimentary pickup and dropoff service and I’ve not had them lose anything.
(310) 287-2431, 3405 Overland Ave, Los Angeles
Go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel. It is a book that attempts to answer why Spaniards with horses and guns landed in south American and conquered the indigenous tribes, rather than the other way around. One of Jared Diamond’s major points is that the region known as the fertile crescent had vastly more crops and animals the early human population was able to domesticate. This lead to a better immune system, which lead to an agrarian society, which resulted in longer survival rates, and spawned cities, artisans, and technologists. The fertile crescent gave rise to the Babylonian empire, the Assyrians, the Persians, and what is now Israel and Syria. These early civilizations spread their farming technology across the region, due to similar climates and farming abilities. Language and technology spread across the longitudinal meridian and voila, the Mediterranean cuisines all have a similar GUI. Greece appropriated a lot of this long pre-history and claimed it as its own. Turkey, Macedonia, and Italy all have an antagonism towards certain aspects of Greek society for this reason. What is true Greek architecture? True Greek art? It’s like asking what is American. Greece was the dominant civilization of its day and appropriated the world into itself. But Greek food does taste different from middle eastern and Persian food, even though so much of it looks the same. Sofi’s is one of the few true Greek restaurants in the city, with both traditional seafood choices, as well as poultry and beef entrees. They make a wonderful Avgolemonu, a lemon-egg soup that is a sublime balance of tart and creamy, with tender chunks of chicken and orzo. They fish is stupendous, as are the traditional moussakka and lamb dishes. They have a splendid outdoor patio, but it’s usually populated by ugly smokers. Two people can dine for thirty dollars.
8030 3/4 W 3rd St., Los Angeles
Overpriced and unimpressive. The special here is asshole, served nightly.
176 N Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Persian food is the safe way to say Iranian, or middle-eastern cuisine. You’ll find that many restaurants will even just say they are “unique ethnic food” because Americans tend to be so stupid they can’t separate radical fundamentalist factions from exiled entrepreneurs who worked under a puppet government. Iranians frequently are industrious businesspeople who are creating jobs and contributing to their communities. Shamshiri serves large portions of shish kebab with a metric ton of Jasmine rice with saffron. They do whole roast chickens, lamb, spiced beef kebab, and a really good lentil soup. They also do a vegetarian rice dish with cherries that will have you slamming the table it’s so good. When you’ve got the need for a whopping plate of spicy meat, get your face over to Shamshiri. Average price for two people has been about twenty five bucks.
1712 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles
There needs to be two reviews for Runyon Canyon, the upper trail and the lower trail. The lower trail is a long incline U-shape that peaks at a spectacular view of Hollywood and Los Angeles sprawled out before you. After hiking your way up the steep steps or taking the long, lazy uphill ogling strippers and their beefcake personal trainers, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view all the way to the ocean (on a good day with low smog). The down side is a meat market, on a hot day the smell of dog shit is overpowering, and the flies make you think someone body-dumped Pigpen in a shallow grave. That’s why I recommend the upper trail. The upper trail can be accessed by a small trail just north of the western-most entrance to the park just after the metal gates. The upper trail is truly a workout and it bypasses most of the heavily made-up boob jobbed and pec-implant ninnies below. Your dog is still welcome off-leash in the upper trail, but you may be doing some carrying over the rocks and crevasses. It’s a longer trail, but infinitely more rewarding. It takes you onto a residential street briefly before spitting you back into the park near the overlook peak area. Challenge yourself by running loops around the upper and lower trails, and make a game of looking for dead bodies!
(323) 666-5046, 2000 N Fuller, Los Angeles
In 1988, John Cusak and Tim Robbins starred in a hilarious movie that no one saw, called Tapeheads. They play two dorks from the suburbs with a passion for old soul music and a burning desire to make music videos. In the movie, they make a spec TV commercial for Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. I saw it well before ever moving to Los Angeles, so when my first roommate told me that it really existed I practically broke my neck getting over there. Thankfully, ‘Scoe’s is nothing like the fake ad in the movie. Roscoe’s does indeed serve chicken and waffles, and until you’ve had it together you never realized that they were a perfect match. My personal favorite is the irony laden Big Mamma’s special. It’s ironic because it’s an omelet impregnated with fried chicken and cheese. Which came first? The chicken or the omelet? You can get your lemon Kool-Aid fix here, along with greens and cone bread. The Hollywood location is by far the more cozy, but you’re more likely to get a table at the Pico/La Brea spot. Every year, it’s worth going into the Hollywood location at Grammy time. Trust me. Every east coast R&B and rap superstar is waiting for a table. Two people can eat well here for twenty five bucks.
5006 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
1514 N Gower St., Hollywood
106 W Manchester Ave, Los Angeles
830 N Lake Ave, Pasadena
730 E Broadway, Long Beach