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A dish unique to LA?

f
Food snob Jun 28, 2007 11:09 AM

Hey,
I'm trying to find a dish that is extremely popular to only LA. Is there something that you can really only find in LA? If you had to choose, what dish would represent all of LA? Any thoughts would be extremely helpful.

  1. SauceSupreme Jun 28, 2007 11:38 AM

    "Extremely popular to only LA" is difficult given the copy cat nature of the rest of the world and given the sheer size of the LA population.

    Our major ethnic groups can obviously be found in other cities, most notably our Mexican and Chinese population. And while we're the epicenter of Thai-American life, Thai food is quite prevalent in other cities, too (although it would be a poor representation of authentic faire). The same is definitely true with sushi, where LA sees a lot of traditional Edo-style sushi shops while other parts of Southern California are quite content with wacky rolls.

    That leaves the Korean contingent. It's not a cuisine you'd readily find in other places, and while I wouldn't say it's extremely popular here in LA, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't like barbecued meat.

    With that in mind, one of two dishes that I would use to symbolize all of LA would be a bowl of soon du bu. Symbolically, it's a melding of a lot of flavors into one earthen pot simmering away, constantly bubbling over the edge combining strong meaty flavors with delicate tofu texture. The taste is uniform but the ingredients are distinct. Add in the poached egg to gild the lily and you've added the over-the-top element that LA also has.

    The other dish would be the a taco al pastor. It plays well into our deep Mexican heritage, and while the concept of it isn't unique (many Middle Eastern cultures do something similar), there's the beautiful conciseness of meat, a splash of salsa and a fresh corn tortilla. Its elegance is in its simplicity, in the same way that many tourists arrive in Hollywood and proclaim, "This is it?" and wonder what the big deal is. The big deal is that we were able to fashion a city out of the desert, out of orange groves, olives and oak trees and that city is doing quite well.

    8 Replies
    1. re: SauceSupreme
      e
      Erik M Jun 28, 2007 01:31 PM

      "And while we're the epicenter of Thai-American life, Thai food is quite prevalent in other cities, too (although it would be a poor representation of authentic faire)."

      That's b.s.

      Yes, LA is the "epicenter" of ThaiAm life, but it is NOT the only place in the U.S. where "truly authentic faire [sic]" can be found. Chicago, for one, has *several* exceptional Thai restaurants, and they all serve fully authentic Thai cuisine. How do I know that? I live in Chicago, I speak/read Thai, I've translated every one of these restaurants' Thai language menus and I am very well-connected in Chicago's Thai restaurant community. And, as authentic Thai food goes, Chicago is hardly alone. New York now has several good Thai restaurants. And, you'll find great Thai food in Portland, OR. And, in San Francisco. And, in Plano, TX, and...

      Now, as for the rest of your post, well, I'll leave you to your opinion.

      E.M.

      1. re: Erik M
        SauceSupreme Jun 28, 2007 02:27 PM

        I stand admonished and firmly corrected. You're absolutely right, and while I try to avoid being myopic, sometimes my LA-nearsightedness does kick in, and for that I'll tuck my tail between my legs.

        It seems I've taken a bit more philosophical approach than others, though I still think that a melding of Korean and Mexican would be appropriate.

        My fun answer, then: a kim-chee burrito.

        1. re: SauceSupreme
          w
          will47 Jun 28, 2007 06:34 PM

          You know that Jose Bernstein has one, right?

          1. re: will47
            PaulF Jun 29, 2007 04:06 PM

            Weird that you mentioned JB's yesterday and I mentioned them today -- and when I did it today, I had no idea you did it yesterday.

            Jose Bernstein's for kim-chee burritos and (see other thread) pastrami with guacamole

        2. re: Erik M
          s
          surly Jun 28, 2007 08:21 PM

          erik, you're right that LA isn't the only city with authentic thai restaurants, but i'd be surprised if there's any city in north america that can match the sheer number of authentic and high quality (not necessarily high-end dining, mind you) thai eats that LA has. i'm from ny and we only have two thai restaurants that are even remotely in the same league as the restaurant row in LA's thai town, and to be honest both places would be below average if they were transported to LA. sripraphai (in queens), which gets tons of praise on the ny outer borough boards, zagat's, and every other ny-area food publication, is a far cry from what i could get in thai town or at wat thai. same with chao thai, also in queens, which isn't even all that consistent.

          and the rest of the thai food in ny? mediocre to horrendous, despite the fact that we have tons of thai restaurants. the overwhelming majority of thai food in nyc is overly sweet, not really fresh tasting, and americanized beyond belief (and usually not made by thai people, at that). i can only imagine how bad thai food is in most other cities in the country.

          having said that, i've never eaten thai food in chicago and am not disputing your assertion that there are several authentic, good thai restaurants in your area. or in portland or plano, since i've never even been to those cities. all i'm saying is that authentic AND good thai food is almost certainly most concentrated in LA, meaning that the overall quality is much higher than in other cities; that was probably what saucesupreme was trying to get at - that thai cuisine is generally better and more of a big deal in LA than elsewhere.

          to reference another one of saucesupreme's points, i disagree that korean food is hard to find outside of LA, but there's no disputing that the LA area has the best korean food in the country. we have tons of korean restaurants in the ny/nj area (the best being in flushing, queens and northeastern nj), but the overall quality is lower than the typical LA korean restaurant. over the years there have been individual korean joints in ny/nj that have exceeded their counterparts in LA, but those have been few and far between. still, i'd say that korean food isn't as big of a deal in LA as authentic thai or mexican food - at least not to me. mexican food in LA (and san diego) is so much better than what we have in ny (and anywhere else i've tried in the northeast or chicago) that i think it merits special attention. just the diversity of regions and subcuisines represented in greater LA is mindboggling compared with ny, where virtually all the mexicans are from puebla. and don't forget, the mexican population in most northeast cities has only been around for about 15 years, so we have a lot of catching up to do before we can even begin to compare southern california mexican vs. northeastern u.s. mexican.

          one last point on korean: i don't think any of the soondooboo (soft tofu stew) options in LA are all that good. i've tried several bcd branches, so kong dong, and beverly soon tofu, and none of them were particularly good. if i were to recommend something "special", if not unique to LA, and it had to be korean, i'd just pick a good bbq restaurant that also had good fish stews (jjigae, maeoontang, etc). or perhaps a good pocha (eating/drinking place) that serves korean comfort food dishes (many of which aren't available at "standard" korean restaurants) and plenty of soju.

          1. re: surly
            e
            Erik M Jun 28, 2007 09:11 PM

            Hi, surly.

            I don't disagree with you at all. Please see my reply in the thread which RFGS recently started as a result of my, ahem, "refutation."

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41618...

            I certainly meant no harm in my original response to SauceSupreme, and I certainly mean no ill-will towards LA or the LA Chowhound community. I have a seven year history at Chowhound and a simple keyword search should reveal the love that I have for your city, and especially for its Thai food scene. There is no better place to be for Thai food in America; from the restaurants to the raw materials, and to the Thai community and culture itself, LA is second only to the motherland.

            Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a big Ruen Pair post to finish, and it's going to take some time.

            ;

            )

            Regards,
            E.M.

            1. re: Erik M
              s
              surly Jun 30, 2007 12:08 AM

              no worries, and no offense taken, i see what you were trying to say and certainly respect your opinion on thai food. fwiw i went into more detail on the "is LA the center of the thai-am food universe?" post. oh and btw i'm a new yorker, but i do visit LA often and love the ethnic food scene there. hence my occasional presence on these boards.

          2. re: Erik M
            Mr Taster Jun 30, 2007 06:36 AM

            Although SauceSupreme has taken your admonishment, I read his (her?) comments with the intended ear... which is to say that I don't think anyone would call New York or Chicago a "destination city" for Thai food, anymore than LA would be a destination city for Vienna dogs or bagels. (sure, you can find 'em here, but that's really beside the point)

            Really since LA is the biggest port of entry for the pacific rim, it only makes sense that the biggest communities of Asian immigrants are found here. With big communities comes big demand for food. I really enjoy going to restaurants where I can count on being the only non-Asian customer. Seriously, every time I see a Thai restaurant in yuppie-LA serving $12 plates of pad thai, I think about the bustle at wat thai in north hollywood... the monks shuffling about in their saffron robes. The school kids running around in their cute uniforms. The street vendors selling the haw moek plaa, som tum, and kanom krok for dessert ($9). Somehow I just can't picture the same scene happening anywhere else in America but in LA.

            One thing I've noticed about ethnic restaurants in LA versus other US cities (Full disclosure: I'm mostly familiar with New York, Phoenix and St. Louis-- never been to Chicago) is that when you don't have as large an ethnic community, you tend to get the expensive yuppie trappings, high prices and inauthentic food, because a larger percentage of their customers will be Americans who have never been to Thailand, for example, and would demand a more decorated, serene, etc. dining environment with the buddha statues in the corner and the mood lighting and what-not. Puh-leez... I've been in many countries in SE Asia as well as China and Korea and most local people eat at dirty little feeding holes (Korea excluded), as did I, and I got sick not once and rarely had a bad meal... often costing me less than $2. Again... Korea excluded!)

            When these more "authentic looking" places with the best and most authentic food appear in ethnic enclaves in America, they often are exactly the kinds of places most Americans would avoid. In LA, that works, precisely because the Asian communities are large enough to support their own businesses. But in a place like Phoenix..... not so much. I mean, sure, they've got Korean barbecue there, but the meat is grilled over gas and pre-frozen and it kind of sucks, especially when compared to the luscious, succulent, char-grilled meat you can get at Soot Bull Jeep here in Koreatown, which is incidentally a dirty little hole of a place (which does seem to be attracting more and more non-Koreans these days).

            Mr Taster
            -------------------------------
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        3. Professor Salt Jun 28, 2007 12:03 PM

          Oki Dog

          3 Replies
          1. re: Professor Salt
            E Eto Jun 28, 2007 01:28 PM

            If not Oki Dog, then perhaps Dino's chicken plate, or even Tito's Tacos.

            1. re: E Eto
              j
              JeetJet Jun 28, 2007 01:49 PM

              Or then again,

              The Original Tommy's Breakfast sandwich -- Sausage, Egg, Chili, Cheese, Tomato, onion, pickle and mayo on a big English Muffin. Add two hands and about Twenty napkins and that’s what morning in L.A., and only L.A., is about.

              http://www.originaltommys.com/

            2. re: Professor Salt
              Curt the Soi Hound Jun 29, 2007 08:40 AM

              I really think the Oki Dog sums up LA!
              http://cheapeatsbangkok.com/sites/eat...

            3. ipsedixit Jun 28, 2007 12:10 PM

              California Roll.

              No longer "unique" to LA, but definitely representative of this city (although not necessarily in a Chowhound way).

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit
                n
                ns1 Jun 28, 2007 12:34 PM

                yup, exactly what I was gonna say.

              2. b
                Burger Boy Jun 28, 2007 01:07 PM

                Here is my 2 cents! http://www.calendarlive.com/dining/10...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Burger Boy
                  lil mikey Jun 29, 2007 12:31 PM

                  Outstanding, and a fitting reply from Burger Boy.

                2. d
                  Diana Jun 28, 2007 01:35 PM

                  Some food historians swear the fortune cookie was invented here, not San Fran.

                  Pink's, although I'm not sure why.

                  In N Out Double Double?

                  Victor Benes' Alligator? (sure you can get others, but VB is the kind people who moved away buy in bulk when they come back to visit.)

                  Wolfgang Puck's pizzas, but not anymore.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Diana
                    Clare K Jun 28, 2007 01:43 PM

                    Even at his Express restaurants, the Wolfgang pizza is the best representation of California pizza. A lot of places try to do the BBQ chicken, but there's too much sauce or it's too sweet; many attempt the smoked salmon/cream cheese blend but it just isn't the same as Puck's.

                    I agree that In N Out represents California well. As does the big sushi rolls like the Rainbow Roll.

                    Clare K.
                    http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...

                  2. PlatypusJ Jun 28, 2007 01:45 PM

                    I've only lived here for 4 years, but it seems to me that, more than a unique dish, the idea of maddeningly successful, privately owned, 1-note wonders are the truest cullenary representation of LA. Pinkberry, In N Out Burger, Sprinkles...Angelinos go CRAZY over the combination of hype and substance.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PlatypusJ
                      hrhboo Jun 28, 2007 07:42 PM

                      I've lived here for almost 6 years and fall for those one hit wonders every single time! I guess I can now officially consider myself an Angeleno.

                    2. Moomin Jun 28, 2007 02:25 PM

                      There are a staggering number of dishes that originated in or around Los Angeles, but most have permeated the national, and international market to the extent that nobody associates them with L.A. anymore (French dipped sandwiches, California rolls, flamboyantly topped pizzas, chili burgers, corn dogs, chili dogs, fortune cookies, sundaes, donut holes, Shirley Temples, deep fried crispy tacos, taquitos, smoothies the fast food drive through, milk shakes, Monte Cristo sandwiches, and the Cobb Salad to name a few that started in the greater L.A. area). Of course, those represent previous generations of Angelinos, and you want a dish that represents today's Los Angeles.

                      Dishes like the Oki Dog, or Dino's Day Glo Pollo Maniaco, or the Tandori Chicken Pizza at CPK, or the Ube Ice Cream at Fosslemans all represent Los Angeles as some sort of "all on the same plate" melting pot. No matter how much we wish that were true, it isn't. In L.A. many folks live in sheltered nearly homogenous enclaves and never experience the diversity that the city has to offer.

                      So... as far as I can tell... in Los Angeles, there is no single dish that represents the city as a whole. There are hundreds of dishes that are truly excellent examples of their kind, some that are the best of their kind in the country (possibly the world)... but none that captures the essence of the city in one big bite.

                      You could eat a dish that represents a segment of L.A. three meals a day, every day, for a month, and there would still be some significant group of Angelinos who felt left out. This Saturday, I had the papaya salad at the Wat Thai Temple for brunch, the Ghormez Sabzi and Shirin Polo at Shamshiri for lunch, and a combiniation plate at the Samosa House for dinner... then I stopped at Taqueria Sanchez with my sister and split a Gordita Rajas on the way back home. Four meals, four neighborhoods, four different ethnic cuisines. That represented Los Angeles to me.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Moomin
                        l
                        LisaStitch Jun 28, 2007 03:26 PM

                        I also heard that the godforsaken apple martini originated in LA...

                        And how about the "California burger" - usually a patty (beef, turkey, or, if you're really LA, veggie, hee hee) topped with several veggies, usually including avocado. Not one of my faves, but seems pretty "LA" with its intended healthiness.

                        I think the avocado is a nice respresentative of LA and southern CA in general. I don't see them incorporated in so many dishes and cuisines in so many restaurants anywhere else to the degree that they are here in LA. The avocados that I buy elsewhere tend to be of considerably lower quality and freshness. It's not a "dish" but I love them and won't eat them anywhere else except here in SoCal. Maybe other parts of CA, but that's a big maybe...

                        Oh and of course I second Tommy's, but for the chili cheese fries :)

                        1. re: LisaStitch
                          d
                          Diana Jun 29, 2007 08:30 AM

                          In LA, 'healthiness" is like "truthiness"-it may look super healthy, but then you think about it.

                          I mean, is a bun free in n out burger really healthy? It's still got losta red meat and fat and..well, not really healthy. Avocados, in large amounts, are still gonna pump up your fat intake. A good fat, but any kinda fat in huge amounts is not good.

                          You're right about "intended healthiness"!

                          So I guess A began the concept of "food that sounds healthy but isn't really"

                        2. re: Moomin
                          l
                          limaboy Jun 28, 2007 08:10 PM

                          nicely put...

                          LB

                        3. Porthos Jun 28, 2007 03:41 PM

                          I'd say the prevalence of the bluecrab hand roll at the end of an omakase. This definitely is not as common in NYC or SF (except Sasabune NYC) . It's unique to LA and reflects its sushi lineage.

                          1. Amuse Bouches Jun 28, 2007 04:18 PM

                            Probably not unique to L.A. but certainly more widely available here than I've seen it in any other city, and representative of L.A. in many ways is the Chinese Chicken Salad (in all its various incarnations). Includes the "health food" aspect (salad, grilled chicken) and Asian fusion, open to many interpretations. I would say a meal representative of L.A. would be Chinese Chicken Salad with an Arnold Palmer to drink.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Amuse Bouches
                              j
                              JeetJet Jun 28, 2007 07:29 PM

                              I have to agree with you. I understand that the Chinese Chicken Salad began in L.A. Also, so many places in L.A. have it on the menu because it is expected to be there. The debates on the L.A. board over who makes the "Best" version of the Chinese Chicken Salad are well established. I can only add that California Chicken Cafe has my vote.

                              1. re: JeetJet
                                b
                                Burger Boy Jun 28, 2007 09:28 PM

                                I thought CCS was a Hawaiin thing? I worked in Mammoth at Matsu Restaurant 1980, the had a CCS and one of the chefs left with a waitress and started Stanley's in Sherman Oaks, they were/are famous for their CCS, they barrowed the recipe from Matsu.

                                1. re: Burger Boy
                                  j
                                  JeetJet Jun 28, 2007 11:31 PM

                                  OK Burger Boy. This is the second time this week my respect for you has caused me to go surfing the net for over an hour searching for something I read before but failed to take better notes as to where. Anyway, the link below is to the page I read a couple of years ago about Madame Wong and Madam Wu, and their two versions of the Chinese Chicken Salad. The reason I say L.A. is the place of origin is because IMO the current recipes that most people follow (Or are inspired by to recreate their own impression of what a Chinese Chicken Salad should be like if such a dish really existed in China) are from these two versions which made the salad popular. I am sure other ideas may have come before but what I am focusing on is what became popular in the L.A. area (in the minds of those early eaters of the salad) and then inspired what followed from there.

                                  BTW, I never did find those pictures you wanted to see again and posted about concerning that recent Chowhound post of that crazy burger at Hawkins House of Burgers (over 2 hours and I am ashamed I could not find those pics).

                                  Madame Wong and Madam Wu.
                                  http://members.cox.net/jjschnebel/chc...

                                  1. re: JeetJet
                                    SauceSupreme Jun 28, 2007 11:36 PM

                                    Jeet, you're correct that the Madame Wong's rendition was the first one that wowed people. It's what inspired a young Wolfgang (at Ma Maison) to do his interpretation, and that's when CCS really hit the big time.

                              2. re: Amuse Bouches
                                j
                                JeetJet Jun 29, 2007 10:38 AM

                                Yes. The Chinese Chicken Salad is most representative of the L.A. experience – assimilation (fusion, to be hip). Even the debate over whether social harmony in our plural society is best achieved through a Mixing bowl method or a melting pot process is demonstrated and resolved in a Chinese Chicken Salad. The mixing bowl is filled with lettuce, slices of mandarin oranges, chicken, won-tons and maybe slices of almonds. The dressing comes from a melting pot that may include ginger, peanut, sesame and soy sauce. Put it all together and you have a little mixing and a little melting -- assimilation / harmony, L.A. style. Also, the degree of assimilation changes from place to place just like society. IOW, The CCS at Green Street is great, as is Feast from the East and California Chicken Cafe, but they are different and L.A. has so many good versions.

                              3. r
                                roasted138 Jun 28, 2007 04:26 PM

                                I would recommend the 'Mexican pizza' (I forget the real name) at Guelaguetza. If someone was coming into town and I had one place to take them to epitomize what eating in LA is like, I would say Guelaguetza. It's great authentic Oaxacan food in Korean town. I always felt that alone was very 'LA'. And their mole is pretty good, too!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: roasted138
                                  t
                                  tigercactus Jun 28, 2007 04:33 PM

                                  a clayuda?

                                  1. re: roasted138
                                    w
                                    wilp Jun 28, 2007 10:35 PM

                                    2 more Guelaguetza shops are open.. Huntington Park on Gage and Lynwood in the big shipping center off the 405. Both are pretty consistent with the Olympic local.

                                    1. re: wilp
                                      hrhboo Jun 29, 2007 08:46 AM

                                      There's one in Palms too. I wouldn't really call the clayuda an LA thing, it's Oaxacan.

                                      1. re: hrhboo
                                        r
                                        roasted138 Jun 29, 2007 05:03 PM

                                        No, it's not originally from LA. But Los Angeles is full of foods from all sorts of ethnicity, the result is exponential because this particular guelaguetza is in the Korean part of town, another type of food you'd be hard-pressed to find in 95% of the rest of the country. I find a visit to this part of town a lot more culturally enriching than standing in line at a Pinkberry or cruising through an In N Out in my car. No offense to either, they rock!

                                  2. riceflour Jun 28, 2007 06:53 PM

                                    Oki Dog's Pastrami Burrito?

                                    Or, my long-lost favorite: Kim chee spaghetti at a Korean place called "Point," which has since closed down then re-opened under a new name and with horrid food. Go figure--it's in a basement, specializes in bottle service (mostly Johnnie Walker Blue), and makes most of its money on noriban(sp?) room rentals/drinks/snacks.

                                    1. hrhboo Jun 28, 2007 07:45 PM

                                      I'm going to say gourmet burgers. They are more popular here than anywhere else I've been. I second the California roll and chicken salad suggestions too.

                                      Another thing common in LA is fad menu items. They sometimes taste great but are often poorly executed and appear on every menu in the most unlikely places. Current examples of this are the ubiquitous beet/goat cheese appetizer, tuna tartare, short ribs and some field greens salad containing some form of candied nut.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: hrhboo
                                        goodhealthgourmet Jun 28, 2007 09:47 PM

                                        i'll add a dessert to that fad list...molten chocolate/lava cake. everyone serves it, and no one does it well.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                          riceflour Jun 28, 2007 10:06 PM

                                          Oh, man. The first one I ever had was at the California Cafe at the ValleyFair mall in San Jose(?). It, along with some other good food places there, has been taken over by standard mall yuckiness. But, sad to say, no other molten chocolate lava cake has lived up to that very first one.

                                          The ones I've tried in LA have either been too thick, too gooey (and raw-tasting), or too sweet. Nothing compares to the first choco-lava magic of my childhood.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                            m
                                            maudies5 Jun 28, 2007 10:41 PM

                                            The first time I had molten chocolate lava cake was at Taillevant in Paris several years ago. It was the first and no cake has ever measured up to the magnificent experience.

                                            1. re: maudies5
                                              SauceSupreme Jun 28, 2007 10:59 PM

                                              Isn't Taillevant one of the top tables in the world? What LA restaurant would even get mentioned in the same breath?

                                              1. re: SauceSupreme
                                                rednyellow Jun 30, 2007 03:37 AM

                                                good point

                                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                              b
                                              bulavinaka Jun 29, 2007 10:22 PM

                                              Had a molten chocolate cake at Susina's the other day... I can't define "well," for you, but I thought this one was quite good to me...

                                            3. re: hrhboo
                                              Amuse Bouches Jun 29, 2007 11:33 AM

                                              That's hardly unique to L.A., though. Having lived in NYC for 5 years, you see the exact same fad menu items sweeping there. I think that's fairly common to any urban city with a big restaurant culture.

                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches
                                                goodhealthgourmet Jun 29, 2007 01:27 PM

                                                i didn't intend to imply that it was an item unique to l.a...i was just making an observation of its ubiquity.

                                            4. warrenr Jun 28, 2007 07:52 PM

                                              the burrito

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: warrenr
                                                Woolsey Jun 28, 2007 08:42 PM

                                                I think you might be onto something. Reading a long piece on Tex-Mex, the burrito was mentioned briefly as the exemplar of that cuisine's cousin, Cal-Mex. However, it probably qualifies more as belonging to California as a whole than just L.A.

                                                1. re: Woolsey
                                                  d
                                                  Diana Jun 29, 2007 08:32 AM

                                                  I think the burrito may have come from new mexico or texas..but the Baja Burrito is from baja, cali.

                                              2. e
                                                Erik M Jun 28, 2007 10:13 PM

                                                As an adoring fan and frequent visitor to LA (and as someone who soon intends to make it a permanent second home), here is my "outsider" opinion:

                                                In my book, LA is clearly tops for Burgers, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Middle Eastern cuisines (Arabic and Persian), Donuts, French Dips, the authentic cuisines of certain Mexican states, the authentic cuisines of certain Chinese provinces, Diners and (Diner-style cusine) d'un certain age (i,e, Googie), and all manner of Drive-Thru/Fast Food.

                                                Now, we can go 'round and 'round arguing the popularity and rightful berth of the various ethnic cuisines which are so well-represented in LA, as well as which one offers the foodstuff which most adequately represents LA, but I'm afraid that we'd still never really fairly and appropriately answer the O.P.'s question(s). So, instead I'd be inclined to stick to the good 'ol American stuff, the stuff which can reasonably be determined to have originated (or to have been most-widely innovated) in LA, namely Burgers, Donuts, French Dips, Googie-style/vintage Diners, and the DriveThru/Fast Food concept. At any rate, and with all of that said, I still couldn't pick just *one* thing...

                                                ;)

                                                E.M.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Erik M
                                                  m
                                                  maudies5 Jun 28, 2007 10:42 PM

                                                  Mozza Pizza is a thoroughly L.A. experience.

                                                  1. re: maudies5
                                                    e
                                                    Erik M Jun 29, 2007 12:13 PM

                                                    True. And, after only two visits I am probably as much a fan of Mozza's product as even the most rabid proponents on this board. But, let us be real: Mozza's pizza hardly represents the tastes and eating habits of a broad cross-section of the Los Angeles dining public. Frankly, I'd be much more inclined to nominate something like the hard-shell tacos at Jack In The Box. Seriously. I've seen Angelenos of every stripe and colour eat those things. And, even if you are one of the many Angelenos who fully refrain from eating such nasty kibble, you still *know* what a Jack In The Box hard-shell taco is. Try driving down to Koreatown sometime--or ThaiTown, or Little Armenia, or the Mexican Eastside--and take a survey. See just how many folks that you come across know about Mozza's pizzas. And, then try asking those same folks if they know about the tacos at JITB. I *know* that the difference will be startling. LOL!!

                                                    E.M.

                                                    1. re: Erik M
                                                      SauceSupreme Jun 29, 2007 12:21 PM

                                                      I prefer the hard shell tacos at Del Taco, but I get your point. Something representative of LA has got to be something accessible, and shared across all demographics. A taco or burrito, perhaps? Zankou?

                                                2. h
                                                  Hapafish Jun 29, 2007 01:17 PM

                                                  Sushi with jalapeno in it or better yet spicy tuna on a crispy rice cracker (these are usually topped with avocado). A wheat grass shot (as a snack, appetizer or dessert) This is more 90's LA but a "healthy" wrap sandwich. Visit a farmer's market where there are seasonal vegetables and fruit to offer. and I second the burrito vote. For dessert--
                                                  Pinkberry or other trendy frozen yogurt places seem to be the rage right now. Or go on a cupcake taste test. Most neighborhoods in LA have a popular cupcake shop.

                                                  1. m
                                                    mcoleman Jun 29, 2007 03:18 PM

                                                    I live in New York City but I've been spending 3-4 weeks a year in LA for almost 20. So I'll nominate, or second, the chinese chicken salad as invented by Wolfgang and imitated widely in California but amazingly not seen or heard of out here until recently.

                                                    1. m
                                                      miffy Jun 29, 2007 09:07 PM

                                                      Okonomiyaki-- never seen it outside Japan (maybe NYC but then NYC would have more Thai, more Korean etc)

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: miffy
                                                        gaylenwaydelich Jul 7, 2007 11:51 PM

                                                        In the food court at Misuwa in Torrance, there was a place that served it. I use to go a couple of times a month. I went a couple of weeks ago and it is no longer there.

                                                        1. re: miffy
                                                          Mr Taster Jul 8, 2007 12:06 AM

                                                          I know for a fact that in years past there was an okinomiyaki booth at the Little Tokyo Tofu festival. In addition I have heard that there is a cook-your-own type place in the Lomita strip mall where Chantilly Patisserie is located (though I have not checked it out...)

                                                          Mr Taster
                                                          -----------------------------
                                                          Protect Chowhound
                                                          Boycott Avatars!
                                                          -----------------------------

                                                          -----
                                                          Patisserie Chantilly
                                                          2383 Lomita Blvd., #104, Lomita, CA 90717

                                                          1. re: Mr Taster
                                                            b
                                                            BeachGrub Jul 9, 2007 12:03 PM

                                                            Gaja in Gardena is the only one I have tried but it was really nice. They have little built in tabletop grills and you make your own.

                                                            There is another one in Torrance that is supposed to be a bit more authentic but I haven't been yet. Called Restaurant Tombo.

                                                            1. re: BeachGrub
                                                              gaylenwaydelich Jul 9, 2007 12:49 PM

                                                              There is also a Gaja on Lomita Bl. just south of Crenshaw. I will be right there this afternoon so I will check it out. My tummy is growling as I type!

                                                          2. re: miffy
                                                            E Eto Jul 9, 2007 01:30 PM

                                                            I remember having okonomiyaki at restaurants when I was a kid in LA (from the 70s and 80s), but many of those places I remember are long gone. So, okonomiyaki has been around and available for decades in LA, but I guess it wasn't noticed by people outside the community back then. Maybe you haven't looked enough.

                                                            Also, you're mistaken if you think NYC has more Thai and Korean. LA is the place for those cuisines.

                                                            1. re: E Eto
                                                              gaylenwaydelich Jul 12, 2007 12:55 AM

                                                              NYC is definitely weak on Asian food. My kid attends NYU and straight from the airport we have to stop at Shisen Ramen in Torrance. I think the South Bay has the best overall variety Asian food in LA.

                                                              KTown in NYC is laughable at best.

                                                          3. b
                                                            bulavinaka Jun 29, 2007 10:23 PM

                                                            How's about avocado fries?

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: bulavinaka
                                                              r
                                                              running pig Jul 8, 2007 08:01 AM

                                                              Hey bulavinka- where can I get some?

                                                              1. re: running pig
                                                                Servorg Jul 8, 2007 12:26 PM

                                                                http://www.chow.com/topics/416532

                                                                1. re: Servorg
                                                                  r
                                                                  running pig Jul 8, 2007 02:38 PM

                                                                  THANK YOU! How could I not notice these on the menu? They look FAB!

                                                            2. o
                                                              Otius Gojius Jun 30, 2007 01:15 AM

                                                              Can the "Chili Size" be found anywhere except So. Cal?

                                                              1. r
                                                                running pig Jun 30, 2007 04:36 AM

                                                                The tofu scramble, or something really nice and vegan.

                                                                1. d
                                                                  Diana Jul 2, 2007 06:40 AM

                                                                  Follow Your Heart's Veganniase.

                                                                  Tofutti?

                                                                  Hot Dog on a Stick (but not corn dogs, those were from the texas state fair. Which came first, anyhow?)

                                                                  That salad from the Brown Derby?

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Diana
                                                                    riceflour Jul 2, 2007 08:49 PM

                                                                    You just reminded me of something. The Cobb salad from the Grille on the Alley (?) was invented in BH, which I guess counts as LA in the most general sense. That's an original LA dish, to be sure, if it was invented here. Kind of like the French dip at Philippe's...

                                                                    1. re: riceflour
                                                                      j
                                                                      justagthing Jul 9, 2007 07:08 AM

                                                                      Or would that be the French Dip at Cole's?

                                                                      1. re: justagthing
                                                                        riceflour Jul 14, 2007 01:47 AM

                                                                        I seem to remember a few stories on both Food Network and Travel Channel talking about the story behind the birth of the French Dip. Some guy (policeman?) walked in just as they were closing, and Philippe (or close to him) dropped the bread in some broth. Customer said he'd take it anyway, ate the roast beef sandwich with broth-soaked bread, and loved it. I don't know why it became known as the French Dip, but it did become a staple on the menu bearing that name. Maybe the networks' sources are incorrect, but that's the gist of the stories they told. I suppose I should do some research to check the veracity of this basic story...

                                                                        1. re: riceflour
                                                                          m
                                                                          mlgb Jul 14, 2007 06:33 AM

                                                                          That's the story that Philippe's tells, anyways.

                                                                          1. re: riceflour
                                                                            j
                                                                            justagthing Jul 14, 2007 01:37 PM

                                                                            Knew the former owner of Cole's. Told me the old story, but so long ago, I don't really recall. From what I have been told, the new owners aren't doing justice to what Cole's once was....oh well. At least there is consistancy with Phillippe's.

                                                                            1. re: riceflour
                                                                              l
                                                                              LisaStitch Jul 16, 2007 12:34 PM

                                                                              That's also the story on the PBS special "Sandwiches That You Will Like." (available on DVD). They also said it was a policeman.

                                                                        2. re: Diana
                                                                          choctastic Jul 8, 2007 11:22 PM

                                                                          Hot Dog on a Stick! We used to go to the one at Newport Beach, just off the pier. Ah, I remember when Orange County was just a sleepy suburb...

                                                                        3. m
                                                                          markethej Jul 8, 2007 09:27 AM

                                                                          On the more simple side, and not ehtnic, is the chopped salad which I think originated at La Scala. While traveling, I've ordered salads and asked for them to be chopped and tossed. What I have received looks like something someone whose never picked up a knife before would make. It's just been in the past year, that chopped salads have started to appear on menus in NYC.

                                                                          1. m
                                                                            mlgb Jul 8, 2007 03:37 PM

                                                                            Do people eat breakfast burritos anywhere else? Either those and/or chili fries. I never heard of the latter til I moved here in 1970.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mlgb
                                                                              d
                                                                              Diana Jul 9, 2007 06:22 AM

                                                                              Breakfast burritos are all over the southwest.

                                                                              Chili fries are just all over.

                                                                              What I wonder is if LA has an odd combo dish like chili on spaghetti, or fried baloney sandwiches, or cole slaw dogs, or poutine and such.

                                                                              Pity Santa Barbara..The egg mcMuffin is thier food claim to fame.

                                                                              Who first did sweet potato fries? Is that even an American thing?

                                                                              1. re: Diana
                                                                                r
                                                                                running pig Jul 9, 2007 06:44 AM

                                                                                I remember going to that restaurant DIVE (it was located in the Century City shopping center) and ordering carrot fries. They sounded gross but tasted WONDERFUL.

                                                                                1. re: Diana
                                                                                  m
                                                                                  mlgb Jul 12, 2007 10:07 AM

                                                                                  Sweet potato fries are common in New Zealand (kumara chips).

                                                                              2. g
                                                                                gsw Jul 14, 2007 12:11 PM

                                                                                How about bacon dogs, served from a street vendor in downtown LA?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: gsw
                                                                                  lil mikey Jul 14, 2007 06:48 PM

                                                                                  This one gets my vote, although I don't know if it's served in other cities. How ironic to have the least healthy food as the quintessential LA dish while LA is often touted across the country as being obsessed with healthy eating. For that reason alone I vote for this one. (Well actually I'm also voting for it because I love these.)

                                                                                  Along the same lines is the pupusa cart. Are there any other cities with as many pupusas, cart or otherwise?

                                                                                2. t
                                                                                  TastyMorsels Jul 14, 2007 05:39 PM

                                                                                  Wouldn't something in Persian cuisine be the most unusual for this country, given that we seem to have the largest population of Persians here? None of my friends from other cities ever mentions Persian food, but I can think of four different Persian restaurants I've tried in town off the top of my head. Maybe the rosewater ice cream...

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: TastyMorsels
                                                                                    d
                                                                                    Diana Jul 16, 2007 12:45 PM

                                                                                    Yes, but [Persian food originated in Persia. Most of it, anyhow.

                                                                                    1. re: Diana
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      roasted138 Jul 18, 2007 03:08 PM

                                                                                      The OP doesn't ask for a dish that 'orginated' in LA. I believe if it did, the discussion would be primarily focused on the indigenous Mexican cuisine, since they were here first.

                                                                                  2. h
                                                                                    Hapafish Jul 18, 2007 03:50 PM

                                                                                    How about whole grilled artichokes (you know where you dip the leaves) ? Alot of restaurants carry them now as appetizers since they're in season.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Hapafish
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      running pig Jul 18, 2007 05:26 PM

                                                                                      nope, this is from Castroville baby!!!

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