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unique only in LA regional specialty

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San Diego has the Fish Taco, Baltimore has the Crabcake, Philly has the Cheesesteak, Chicago has Deep Dish Pizza and Buffalo has the Buffalo Wing.
What unique reginional specialty does LA have? Or what does LA offer that no othe part of the country does better?

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  1. These are not LA inventions, but sushi and tacos are better in LA than any other city in America. Every other city has sushi and tacos, but none of them have the variety, quality, and convenience of the taco trucks and sushi spots all over LA.

    You could argue that the french dip sandwich at Phillippe's is an LA original. And it's very good -- I love Phillippe's.

    8 Replies
    1. re: glutton

      We specialize in taking other types of food and "LA'ing" it. Take a look at the creative sushi roll phenomena found at most sushi bars these days. Our little local place U-Zen has the JJ roll (for instance) that features jalapenos and hot sauce as part of the sushi.

      1. re: Servorg

        We do do the fusion thing--sometimes to good effect, sometimes not. Maybe it is more an approach to food, than a particular dish.

      2. re: glutton

        Definitely tacos are better in Santa Barbara than LA IMO. Sushi I agree on though.

        1. re: cls

          ...and they're better in Bakersfield then both of those places.

          1. re: heckonwheels

            Bakersfield, hmmm. I should try. I would guess San Diego too.

            1. re: cls

              Except for fish tacos, San Diego tacos are remarkably underwhelming.

          1. re: glutton

            I second the sushi and tacos. I'd bet that research would probably reveal that the foods other cities are known for weren't always invented there either. Sushi and tacos are ubiquitous (you can't turn around without running into either) and consistent here, and better than in any other U.S. city.

            Philippe's french dip is famous and original, but it hasn't really become an L.A. thing. How many other places here do it well? Not many.

          2. LA invented the taquito and, according to an article I read some time ago in either Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine, the pepper belly was invented in the snack bar of the South El Monte Little League at New Temple Park. I do find that last one a little hard to believe, but take it as you may.

            As far as fish tacos in San Diego, wouldn't that be more of a Baja thing?

            6 Replies
            1. re: heckonwheels

              I know Fish Tacos began in Baja, but they gained notoriety in San Diego

              1. re: heckonwheels

                The invention of the taquito is credited to El Indio in San Diego.

                1. re: monku

                  El Indio, since 1940. Cielito Lindo (Olvera Street), since 1934.

                  1. re: heckonwheels

                    All I know is what I read too.
                    So who was first with the French dip? Philippes or Cole's?

                    1. re: monku

                      You got me there, I prefer to think Philippes but I don't think anyone really knows.

                    2. re: heckonwheels

                      I love Cielito Lindo's guacamole sauce and I wish I had the recipe.

                  1. re: wienermobile

                    The OP is asking for regional specialties, which is not the same as ranking the best food in town. Just because Langer's pastrami may be the best anywhere does not make it a regional specialty. Truth be told, IMO very few places in LA make what I would consider better-than-average pastrami.

                  2. If you're only talking things that have been invented here (though I would argue that Baltimore did not invent the crabcake, but is famous for a good one)...

                    Invented here:
                    The French Dip at Phillippes.
                    The California Roll.
                    The Cobb Salad (at the Brown Derby)
                    The Shirley Temple
                    Nouvelle Pizza (started with Spago moved to CPK)
                    Hot Fudge Sundae (at the defunct CC Browns)

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Jennalynn

                      The Shirley Temple is an unique LA regional specialty? I actually thought that was invented in Hawaii.

                      1. re: creamfinger

                        It was invented at Chasens. Shirley would often go to grownup events there and the bartender came up with the drink so she could have something fun of her own.

                        1. re: Jennalynn

                          I had the Shriley Temple (as a child) at Chasen's and they were very good

                      2. re: Jennalynn

                        I agree about the Crabcake, however that's why I was wondering about regional specialties that were actually invented in LA or that may not have been invented in LA but that the best of the best can be found in LA

                        1. re: Jennalynn

                          Whenever I read about sushi, it seems every book has a different source or inventor for the California Roll. Somebody even made the argument that the California Roll originated in Vancouver.

                          1. re: Jennalynn

                            I believe the Chinese Chicken Salad was also invented here (at Ma Maison).

                            1. re: SauceSupreme

                              No Chinese Chicken Salad was invented at the now defunked Madame Wong's in Santa Monica. Waaaay before Ma Masion

                          2. The French dip.

                            The ghetto dog (bacon-wrapped hot dog).

                            The Oki Dog (Google it, it makes me queasy to write about it).

                            The Korean taco.

                            The main course salad (maybe not invented here, but about as LA as it gets).

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              I saw the bacon-wrapped dog in Tijuana way before it became popular here. I would say that L.A. popularized it, but did not invent it.

                              1. re: heckonwheels

                                There is a recipe for bacon wrapped frankfurter (aka hot dog) in my German cookbook. Their were German immigrants throught the Southwest so they may have brought it to Mexico

                              2. Arnold Palmers? (not all that worthy, but nonetheless....)

                                1. I think something uniquely LA a sandwich at "Philippe's French Dip Restaurant" downtown. Where else can you get a double-dipped lamb sandwich with some kick-ass, house-made mustard?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                    Yeah, I think the french dip and the California style pizza a la Wolfgang Puck are the only TRULY invented in California items. Other things, we got from somewhere else and just do well.

                                    1. re: WildSwede

                                      Ahhh...forgot about Ed LaDou's pizza (and his shop Caioti Pizza)....

                                  2. Authentic specialized Japanese like what you would get in Tokyo and other geographic regions of Japan. (Beyond Sushi) Go to Torrance and you will find japanese restaurants just focused on doing one thing well, whether it be soba, ramen, tempura, kaiseki, oden, yakiniku, yakitori, etc. Search the boards to read more. Besides LA, You would have to go to Japan to get this kind of quality and specialty.

                                    1. I think we could lay claim to our fusion style--which is as much bottom up as it is top down--Kogi, for instance, the California roll--other instances (and others could expand here) where we have come up with a whole new way of looking at what had been traditional foods. Purists might hate this--but it is certainly ours to claim.

                                      1. Yet, again, I chirp The Chili Size.
                                        BTW, I spotted (on line) a vintage Thrifty drug store counter menu with both The Chili Size and The Burger Size.

                                        9 Replies
                                        1. re: Otius Gojius

                                          I thought I had chili size back east...could that be?

                                          1. re: coffeebrownies

                                            You can get cheesesteaks here, but that doesn't mean they're a native food.

                                            1. re: coffeebrownies

                                              i would say the chili size too, or even chili cheese burgers, the chili-hot dog-burger-cheese combo. fast food burgers are something else altoghether in Los Angeles.

                                              the chili cheese dog (not to be confused with the style in detroit, the detroit coney, or Cinncianti 5-alarm chili).

                                              pastrami dips, aka dirty fast-food pastrami a la the hat and a bunch of small-operation fast food joints along with the french dips of course.

                                              california roll, for better or worse. i say worse.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                What about the bacon wrapped hot dogs we see here being sold by street vendors? Did they originate in TJ or up here?

                                                Oops - I see heckonwheels already weighed in on this up thread. In any case here is a photo to make everyone hungry: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/4/4009...

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  and what about the pastrami cheese burger a la the now shuttered hubba hubba or b and r burgers.

                                                  for all the hollwyood, chopped salad, fashonista health nut vibe that is supposed to be in LA we sure do have a hell of a lot of fatty, gut busting burgers.

                                                  also, we introduced the gourmet restaurant burger renaissance to the world.

                                                  think: prime beef, mixed with short rib trimmings, blue cheese, carmelized onions, some sort of sauce to bind it all up, and a truly gut busting lobe of sautee foie gras to top it all off.

                                                  1. re: kevin

                                                    The Pastrami Burger is Big in Salt Lake City. I had one there a while back.

                                                    1. re: ohso


                                                      "Manuel Katsanevas, 70, a founder of the Crown Burgers on North Temple Street, confirms the California origin tales. In the 1960s, while working in California, his late brother, James, learned to build pastrami burgers from a Los Angeles man of Turkish descent.

                                                      “But I don’t like to admit that,” Manuel Katsanevas said, referring to a long history of strife between Turks and Greeks. "

                                                      1. re: huaqiao

                                                        oh, yeah, i read that article, and i believed that the burger had to have got it's start in LA.

                                                2. re: kevin

                                                  I've had Chili Cheese Burgers and Burgers in general, but I don't they they're any better or worse in LA than you can find in any other part of the country. Wasn't the Chili Burger invented in Texas?

                                                  I respectfully agree with another poster that Pastrami really isn't an LA original.

                                            2. The maple bacon donut at The Nickel Diner.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: mc michael

                                                Evidence of prior art:

                                                From Salon, July 2008:


                                                "Out drinking at 3 a.m. a few months ago in Portland, Ore., a friend went foraging for sustenance and came back from Voodoo Doughnut with a box of maple doughnuts topped with strips of bacon."

                                                Nickel Diner opened in August 2008:


                                                No idea if Voodoo originated it, though.

                                                1. re: Peripatetic

                                                  In any case, other places copied the idea from Voodoo long before Nickel Diner even opened.

                                                2. re: mc michael

                                                  Originally from Voodoo Donuts, Portland.

                                                  1. re: mc michael

                                                    i am from Montreal, Quebec where Maple donuts rule the roost and i remember my grandmother puting bacon on the maple glaze when she made donuts.
                                                    Maybe she was ahead of her time? This was 30 years ago.

                                                  2. i don't think regional specialty necessarily means something that was invented here. i think of it as a food the city is known for making well and is widely available.

                                                    for LA, it would have to be tacos, in my opinion. there are a million places all over the city, they are fairly uniform (corn tortilla, meat, onion & cilantro) and most of them are pretty dang good.

                                                    1. When I was a kid (60s) I was always told the practice of putting lettuce and tomato on hamburgers started out here; probably because we had such things year-round. I remember the grownups from elsewhere complaining "What is all this garbage doing on my hamburger?"

                                                      I think the LA thing is process: recombining things to make them different, less stuffy, and easy to take out and eat on the go. We also take humble things and elevate them to levels Rococo (e.g. Pinks, CPK, Tepeyac).

                                                      It's not like any food is indigenous to around here except fish (yum), yucca (meh), and acorns (yuck). We've been importing and reinventing ever since we rounded up the natives and packed them into the missions.

                                                      Eating outside anytime (esp. in January because we CAN) is big to us; and whatever our local movie stars eat means a lot. It's appropriate that what makes LA cuisine unique is that it is transient, ethereal, and so subject to change.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: taoman58

                                                        Your first paragraph brought back memories of the first time I went to visit my brother in Wisconsin. We were driving back from the airport when he picked me up and stopped in this small town at the bowling alley/bar & grill. On the menu they had a Hamburger and they also had a California Hamburger. I asked the surly waitress what came on the Hamburger. Meat, bun. I asked her what came on the Califronia Burger. Meat, Lettuce, Tomato. I started laughing, which thrilled her to death. I told her that ALL hamburgers in California come with lettuce and tomato. So, yeah, maybe it was created here.

                                                        1. re: WildSwede

                                                          Don't forget the Bob's Big Boy from the 1930's.

                                                          1. re: wienermobile

                                                            but what is unique or original about that?
                                                            The burger was invented in Connecticut at the turn of the century?

                                                            1. re: ohso

                                                              In the 1930's a chubby youngster walked into Bob Wian’s restaurant in Glendale Ca.. “He was about six,” Bob recalled, “and rolls of fat protruded where his shirt and pants were designed to meet. I was so amused by the youngster -- jolly, healthy looking and obviously a lover of good things to eat, I called him Big Boy.” So why not name the new hamburger Big Boy? Wian did. That was the birth of the first double-decker hamburger.It was the burger that McDonald's used later to copy for the Big Mac.

                                                        1. Not to be overlooked but unnecessarily mentioned . . . the Oki Dog!

                                                          1. I think I have actually come up with one that really is a unique invention of Los Angeles. The Orange Julius! Man, I can't believe I didn't think of it before!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              Is the precursor to the "smoothie"? or was that invented elsewhere?

                                                              1. re: ohso

                                                                Maybe even more the precursor to the orangesicle or 50/50 drink that i see around these days.

                                                              2. re: Servorg

                                                                oh, man, i love that place, esp the strawberry cream supreme., though it has gone a little downhill in probably the past few decades.

                                                                1. re: mollyomormon

                                                                  Get out!

                                                                  ETA: Wow...it's true...from the SGV!

                                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                                    avocado on everything is so very LA.

                                                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                                                    But what's unique about that? Is there something different about the hot dog other than being on a stick?

                                                                    1. re: ohso

                                                                      Their first store opened at the original Muscle Beach location next to the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, in 1946. It's an LA original like it or not.

                                                                      1. re: wienermobile

                                                                        Wikipedia says:

                                                                        "A number of current corn dog vendors lay claim that credit for the invention and/or popularization of the corn dog. Carl and Neil Fletcher lay such a claim, having introduced their "Corny Dogs" at the Texas State Fair sometime between 1938 and 1942.[2] The Pronto Pup vendors at the Minnesota State Fair claim to have invented the corn dog in 1941.[2][3] Cozy Dog Drive-in, in Springfield, Illinois, claims to have been the first to serve corn dogs on sticks, in 1946.[4] Also in 1946, Dave Barham opened the first location of Hot Dog on a Stick at Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California.[5]"

                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                            Oh, it's a corn dog! I thought it was just a naked hot dog on a stick.
                                                                            I knew that either Texas or Minnesota laid claim to that.

                                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                                              actually hot dog on a stick doesn't use corn bread batter...

                                                                              from wikipedia: ""Hot Dog On A Stick, which serves a preparation similar to a corn dog, but with a non-corn breading"

                                                                              1. re: roxanner

                                                                                I don't think I said anything about them using "corn bread batter..." but just quoted Wikipedia.

                                                                                I always thought that this type of snack was named after its appearence (which looks like an ear of corn to me). Maybe not?

                                                                                Their own web published nutritional information lists the ingredients of their "party batter" into which their "stick based" products are dipped (and they say that all of their hot dogs on a stick are made of turkey) as consisting of:

                                                                                "bleached wheat flour, yellow corn meal, sugar, nonfat dry milk, soy flour, dextrose, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate), dried egg yolk and salt (CONTAINS EGG, MILK, WHEAT)"

                                                                            2. re: wienermobile

                                                                              Well, the uniforms are, er, um, original.

                                                                        1. Chicken plate at Dino's Burger.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. I just learned that the Cheeseburger was invented in LA. Lionel Clark Sternberger, who, at the age of 16, experimentally dropped a slab of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger while helping out at his father's sandwich shop in Pasadena, thereby inventing the cheeseburger. (from Wikipedia)

                                                                              1. re: orythedog

                                                                                Chickwen & Waffles originated in Harlem NYC during the Harlem Reniassance.

                                                                                1. re: SeaCook

                                                                                  I thought it was a Southern thing. =o

                                                                                  1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                    Chicken & waffles have *become* a Southern thing but it originated in Harlem during the Harlem Reniassance. It was created for jazz musicians who worked unsual hours. Too late for dinner too early for breakfast. So the fried chicken was dinner leftovers and the waffles were early breakfast. Together they are gastronomtic genius.

                                                                              2. has anyone mentioned the pastrami burrito?

                                                                                Also I agree SoCal is the home to fast food, McDonalds, Taco Bell, In-n-Out, jack-in-the-box, Carl's jr. Fatburger, all started in the southland.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jimdod

                                                                                  oh, yeah, oki dog's pastrami burrito is basically the creator of the newfangled burrito. a definitively three-fisted sandwich if you ask me.

                                                                                  1. re: jimdod

                                                                                    But there are fast food burger joints that began in other parts of the country too.

                                                                                  2. Chocolate covered frozen bananas ~~ Balboa Island