Fake Ethnic Tour of Los Angeles
- Steve Doggie-Dogg Sep 5, 2005 06:36 PM
The discussion of Chinese Chicken Salad got me to thinking... There are a lot of faux-exotic, Hollywoodized ethnic places in Los Angeles where they serve incredibly inauthentic foreign cuisine... "Hawaiian" ham and pineapple dishes, "Mexican" taco salads, "Chinese" chicken salad, "Italian" pizza buns on English Muffins, etc...
As a third generation Los Angeleno, I happen to believe that it is stuff like this that defines what Los Angeles is all about... recreating a fantasy version of some exotic place here in the arrid sagebrush of SoCal for plain folk with midwestern tastes. Disneyland and Forest Lawn are the ultimate examples of turning the blank slate of Los Angeles into an exotic concept that has been filtered through the sensibilties of "plain folks".
If someone wanted to take a tour "around the world (that doesn't exist)" in Los Angeles, what places would you recommend? The idea isn't that it's inauthentic/bad... but rather inauthentic/good for what it is. True Angelenos will know what I'm talking about.
I'll start the ball rolling...
Pinocchio's in Burbank on Magnolia has a deli with authentic cheeses and salamis, but the food cooked there strikes me as utterly American... tomato sauce, spaghetti and hamburger meat served from big stainless steel pans. The sandwiches are big and meaty with lots of "novelty meats". Salads are made by the vat. The walls are decorated with delightfully primitive paintings from Collodi and hundreds of thousands of moth eaten wine corks, and the booths are big, red and vinyl. You get the food at the counter and bus your own table. It reeks of white bread Italian. I love the place.
Great idea for a thread, Steve. As another native Angeleno, I hereby nominate the ever-controversial love-it-or-hate-it Tito's Tacos - specifically the tacos with cheese. What can be better inauthentic Mexican food - deep fried shells with nary a hint of corn flavor, 100% steer meat, a few shreds of iceberg lettuce, scads of orange cheese, all this topped with watery red not-even-slightly-spicy salsa. This delicious sin is compounded by the addition of the thinnest neon-green guacamole imaginable.
BAHOOKA - faux Hawai'in / Polynesian
YANG CHOW - Slippery Shrimp cum "real" Chinese
BENIANA - table side swordsmanship a la Japanese cuisine
As for the faux Asian tour, it must feature lots of California roll and dynamite and a meal at one of these "fusion" places where they mix your rice with mayonaise. (Yummy!)
Let's face it, sushi isn't just a mobile Japanese fish and rice snack anymore, it's a surefire way for a savvy restaurateur to add 50-75 bucks to your check.
But let's not get too uptight about this bastardization of ethnic dishes on our shores. Think of it as "intelligent creation."
Gee, I'm craving a steaming bowl of "Ooh-dawn" right about now.
"ISO Most Authentic Hard-Shell Tacos on the W-Side." Indeed!
GOHAN TABETAKUNAI YO!
If this thread is going to continue to spin off into a general discussion of fake vs. authentic foods, and leave the specific subject of LA area restaurants that fit this criteria, then you will all need to start a new thread on the General Topics board. Any futher messages that don't address LA restaurants that specifically fit this bill will be removed.
Thanks for everyones cooperation.
I forgot to mention...we could probably conduct the entire tour withi the grounds of food alley at the LA county Fair.
Actually, there ARE a few authentic dishes to be had there. we found last year that those are shoved off to the side to be ignored by the ever-widening attendees who pull perfectly healthy kids around in rented wagons and seek out fried things to suppliment their McDiet, but you can find them.
Definitely second Trader Vic's! Also right up there are joints like Baja Fresh and Rubio's and all other purported 'healthy' Mexican joints. Maggiano's probably qualifies as does Mr. Chow's and Eurochow, Geisha House, Dolce and you can sure make a good case for Jerry's being a faux deli!
Clearman's Village/"North Woods" Inn (I'm most familiar w/ the one in the unincorporated area of San Gabriel/Arcadia). Fake Swiss Chalet, assuming there aren't many Swiss Chalets serving steak fries and chili burgers.
Lots of fake German places have gone extinct (Bavarian Inn in San Gabriel), as have "Western"-themed places, which may be fakes-of-fakes, or meta-fake; like, what exactly is Chris 'n' Pitts re-creating? Perhaps an imagined "West" from old movies.
Back to Earth, if we can stretch the "exotic" requirement:
Colonial Kitchen (San Marino) - fake early American
Sir Georges (Arcadia) and other Smorgasbords - fake Swedish
Pioneer Chicken - fake Pioneer?? Naw, that's Pioneer Blvd., right? (but still, that covered wagon!)
Actually, I suppose fast food should just be disqualified (KFC - fake southern, Taco Bell, etc.)
To me L.A. is not just Hot Dogs, Pizza and maybe pastrami or Italian Beef as is Chicago and New York. L.A is more diverse ("fake" if you will) and it begins with breakfest.
Tommy's calls it a Sausage Breakfast Sandwich. A large "English muffin," sausage patty, egg, cheese, chili, tomato, onions, pickles, and mayo. To me that "Breakfast Sandwich" shines like an L.A. sunrise. I have not seen this English Mufin "sandwich" outside of L.A. (at least not with chili, pickles and mayo being standard) and I dought it will ever be served at Buckingham Palace. Now that is L.A.
The Original Tommys
1900 Lincoln Blvd.
Great topic, Steve.
Recently got into LA and want to check all of these places out, real, fake, authentic, or imagined.
I know this an old thread, but I just found it and had to add my 2 cents. I moved here from up north, having lived in SF for 5 years and Seattle for 2. You are addressing the biggest issue I have had with food in LA, which is how everything here seems like a facsimilie of the real thing. It took me 2 years to get over my depression, and to stop rolling my eyes every time someone told me about the greatest "insert ethnic decriptor" restaurant they had just been to. I finally lowered my expectations, and learned to love LA for what it is, and for the little gems that I have found on my own (no, I won't tell you where they are, cause I like to eat without waiting...)
So, my top vote for fake is the Tam O'Shanter in Glendale. It really gets at this idea of Hollywood recreating things that are fundamentally ideas, not real authentic items. The Tam is the oldest, continuously operating restaurant in LA, and it attempts to re-create an 'authentic' english country house restaurant. As absurd an idea as this is, it is now an amazing reservoir of LA history itself, being that stars from MGM and Disney used to drive up the dirt road to have lunch here in the 20's and 30's. what a trip this place is, with the average age of the diners, especially at lunch or Sundays, being at least 75, and all the waitrons in their kilts and goofy hats. the food is not terrible, especially the sandwich bar that spawned the Carvery concept (at South Coast plaza). great potato chips!
chefmigueito: You've got to be kidding me. I grew up in SF and miss the mission burrito like nobody's business. But have you tried to find authentic regional Mexican in San Francisco? For example, what passes for Oaxacan is generally a joke -- places like Monte Alban and Guelaguetza would make a killing. And Monte Alban basically exists in the LA equivalent of the Marina!
The Tam is a great example
Since Lowenbrau Keller is (temporarily?) out of biz, I'd say Alpine Village in Torrance. Top notch eisbein (pork shank with sauerkraut & mashed potatoes), on-site bakery, swapmeet, cuckoo-clock repairs, batting cages, Country AND Western dancing. When Heino is in SoCal, he parties here.
Well, Alpine Village isn't totally -fake-. Real Germans/Bavarians do work and shop there! The cosmetics shop is a perfect example. But yes..The Disney-esque decor can be a bit offputting..You KNOW your not really there!
My vote goes for Ports O' Call, in San Pedro. Wow, thinking About Pinnochio's in Burbank brings back memories! I was never really crazy about the food, but as a kid, I loved the look of it.
LA has a few too many of these types of places, IMHO. I think the influence of Walt Disney had alot to do with it, personally. The whole Disneyland concept of "hey, let's make a fake "____" for people to visit carries over to alot of other places.
Hey, it could be worse...It could be like how Las Vegas is!!*LOL*
I sort of bristle at the idea that Los Angeles is fake, and that you cannot get authentic ethnic cuisine here. It's true that some people are misled or living in a bubble. If you venture into an ethnic neighborhood or to an ethnic restaurant, then you might find what you are looking for. I mean us great many of immigrants from Asia, Europe, Africa, Mexico, and Central & South America who make up a large proportion of the population have opened a few shops, cafes, and restaurants. Anyways, the original poster was not posting that sentiment and in the heart of the thread I want to suggest:
Goa, a place so fake yet so earnest (speaking of living in a bubble), is someone's idea of what an Indian restaurant in the beach resort city of Goa is. They serve "Japanese" food, it's like exactly what Steve is describing. I wouldn't say the food is good or anything but it is a spectacular fake destination in the fake tour around the fake world.
There was/is a place in downtown LA, I cannot remember what the place is called but they were big in the old days and had a fake Asian feel to it but serve really plain food . . .
The OP's point and the thread point, I think is not that all of LA is fake, dining wise.. Obviously not. Howver, LA, being a movie town, has a sort of veneer on a lot of stuff. Not everything is really as it seems. Those buildings down the street in the cowboy town are just one wall sort of thing.
So there are also fake dining places.
Think of Chuck-e-cheezey. Is that really pizza? No. Is Medieval Times reasly Medieval. No. It The peroid depicted there is an anachronism; it never really happened. It is all a mish mash of history and fantasy from all sorts of eras. Of course, these are national chains.
LA is unique sort of in that we have a lot of non chain places that are fake. A good number of mexican restaraunts, like La Fogata. Lots of "English Pubs" or "Tea Rooms", "Chinese Restaraunts", and such are absolutley the American idea of what the stereotype should be
Who's OP? I wasn't arguing that the original thread point wasn't that, hence my Goa add to the list, just later criticism . . . Is the rest of America really that different? A great King of the Hill episode has Bobby Hill going to an "ethnic" restaurant, some Asian cuisine, however it's just the same as local food places with a theme, it's not a chain . . .
Also, you qualified, "dining wise", are we somehow fake in other manners?
Are tea rooms really fake? There is a Victorian Tea Room in Orange, and it was not really different from The Ritz's tea service in London . . . and if you go to England, there are plenty of "Irish" pubs and even the traditional English pubs are not so authentic themselves.
Also a lot of fake ethnic cuisine items are allowed because people are naive. Famous story (who cares if it's true) is that a Chinese cook served thrown out rubbish vegetables as a dish, and as white customers enjoyed it and asked what it was, he invented a Chinese name for it . . .
Anyways, I wanted to add more to the list El Cholo restaurants, they have serious authentic histories but they have become Disneyfied . . . are restaurants like these okay to add to the list? Once authentic, now inauthentic but fun for what they are . . .
"Also, you qualified, "dining wise", are we somehow fake in other manners?"
Apple7blue, if you don't see all the fake things in LA, you gotta be blind! LA is a paradox-it is full of utterly fake things, made up experiences and traditions, establishements ideas and people. It is also full of honest, real and true traditions, people, places , experiences.
Think of Universal Studios versus Griffith park or Huntington Gardens.
WHat other place would have a Theme park celebrating California Adventures" within the state lines. That always stuck me as odd. Wouldn't tourists do better to just, well, see actual California? Nope, out of towners and even locals spend way more to experience what Disney syas California is.
Then again, a trip to downtown, SGV, and other parts shows you REAL people who have contributed to LA.
I like to think of it as chipper Huell Howser (usually shows the real) versus Ryan Seacrest. Or Angelyne. Or Johnny Grant.
You know, Sabor A Mexico versus El Torito.
Regardless of whether there are fake things, to describe Los Angeles as fake irks me . . . it seems dubious to me to blame (and this is a metaphor or allegory of the whole argument) to blame California Adventures on Californians rather than the outsiders who come and view that as our representation. Also, isn't in California the most authentic place to have a California park? Are you some how saying that a California park in India would be somehow more appropriate? I think you are also missing the point of Universal Studios "fakeness", the sets are fake because building authentic buildings especially cost wise do not lend themselves to the fact that it is an authentic film studio. NBC Universal actually uses the studio lots, and it's a working studio. The amusements highlight, entertain, and to a very light degree inform outsiders how sets work and reveal the truths about movies that the rest of the country and the world love, as they love our culture. If you do not understand how film and Disney animation has contributed to LA, you will never get a true sense of authentic LA. I mean you claim a trip to Downtown will show what real people have contributed to LA, Disney Hall, the great building by Gehry was paid for by Disney money. What some people call fake is also the authentic culture that the rest of the world loves. Huell Howser usually shows the boring hahaha not authentic LA or California. (Unless you think that the dried up swimming pool at Manzanar and a rock collection 8 miles outside Barstow, California are places that really speak to people.) There are plenty of fake places, it's just a myth that LA is that.
I mean El Torito is horrible food, getting back to Chowhound material off of your tangent. Is it a great faux LA restaurant? I would not say so, it does not have the set quality of El Cholo and the servers do not great you with Que Tal? or what not as they do at El Cholo. That's why I recommended Goa, because it is a cinematic faux destination restaurant.
But it was the Hollywood studios and California tourism early on that created all that is fake in LA. There is a thin top layer of anachronisms, all the way down to Ramona. Tourists didn't bring it, we created it.
Metaphors and allegories are two distinct things, which do you mean.
California Adventures is a park celebrating california with not tremendously realistic imagery. But tourist can get the real state just by traveling a little in it. But they don't want to, they'd rather sit in an air-conditioned hotel and experience a totally created virtual reality when the actual truth is just a car trip or maybe a hike in the woods away. California adventure is like El Torito in that it is a sanitized, homogenized, gentled down and blander version of the real thing.
Huell Howser, although he is a goofball, has shown a large amount of the gritty and real California. He has revealed real people and places that make this state and LA in particular, amazing. He is a foodie friend, too, exposing amazing food in some of the less traveled parts of the city. behind the scenes, that man fights politically tooth and dagger to save some of the more important parts of our city and state. You must not be aware of all that he has done. Sure, there was fluff in the beginning. But I have found the most amazing Cobbler, was reminded of Philipe's, saw my first Ethiopian food, learned all about pig's ear, heard about Father Boyle and Homeboy industries and more because of Huell.
Do yourself a favor and watch more of his shows!
How dare you say Manzanar is not important!
El Torito is just really not good, period. It is not faux "LA." I emant it as an example of Americanized reality. Like the Holywood and Highland complex.
El Cholo HAS no quality. it's awful. the Formosa Cafe is faux, sort of.
Whatelse is faux? I guess Sushi dan Sassabune is. Anything on Universal Citywalk is.
I do not know what you mean by your first paragraph. Well, allegories and metaphors are closely related, but true are distinguishable. I meant the one that made the most sense. . . . I do not really know about California Adventures, but I really suspect you are right.
I have watched every single Huell Howser show since 1987 beginning with Videolog when I was a little boy. I remember seeing him on channel 2 before that also. I remember he made a show about lint, talk about fluff piece BAH-DUMP CHIINGG!!! (a rim shot) . . .
There is another place like Formosa Cafe closer to downtown, know what I am talking about?
I never said Manzanar was not important (so thanks for trying to attribute that to me, I really appreciate that), but it is not exactly riveting televsion to watch the interior of an empty pool. El Cholo has charm in my opinion, food aside.
Musso & Frank
Pacific Dining Car
Taylor's on 8th
Nate n Al's
Soot Bull Jeep
Rainbow Bar & Grill
Gilbert's El Indio
Mi India Bonita
Pollo Ala Brassa
Teresita's Family Restaurant
Beverly Hills Hotel Fountain Coffee Shop
Carney's on the Sunset Strip
And those are just off the top of my head. I'm sure that some of the other posters here can provide a heck of a lot more examples.
Which particular restaurant on Sawtelle are you referring to? A lot of the places in that area feature Japanese takes on Italian pasta dishes. Sawtelle Kitchen does a really nice version of Carbonara and Blue Marlin has quite a few including one with that is spaghetti with fish roe.
If those count, then there is a restaurant on Redondo Beach Boulevard across from the old Meiji Market shopping center and one in that shopping center also. However, that cuisine you can say has an authentic pedigree in the sense that a lot of European cuisine, like curry from India to Japan, was taken there and adopted into their own version. There has always been a dialogue in noodles between the Orient and the Occident also . . . anyone know the names of the two places I am talking about? I also love that "Italian" place at Mitsuwa Marketplace foodcourts, it's a famous chain from Japan . . . heh I suck at names, someone please enlighten us to the name of that place. I will do so myself, but probably a month or two after I look it up and remember to do so heh sorry . . .
I don't think so unless it's considered not faux cooking and we are sort of discussing that. Yes, I meant Italian Tomato. I love that place, less than $5 and get a filling meal. This thread has turned into a warehouse of chowhound information, thanks for the NY Times article (and the IL Chianti information bulavinaka)
I guess these "Japanese Spaghetti" dishes and places might fall under the category of fake Italian, but actually these are just Japanese interpretations of Italian cuisine. I don't think these dishes or places qualify as faux or fake ethnic tour locales, except for maybe Il Chianti (a Japan-based chain) in Lomita. But aside from their slightly over-the-top decor, even their dishes are quite good interpretations of Italian cuisine and the vast majority of folks who eat their are Japan expats. These places and dishes have been tailored and adjusted to the tastes of folks in Japan. As an example, the perfect tomato in the eyes of an Italian, might be considered a little too acidic and assertive for the tastes of many Japanese. Thus, the tomato variety, "Momotaro," was created with a lower acidity, milder taste, and sweeter finish to accommodate the Japanese palate. Like the Italians, the Japanese have a fondness for noodles/pasta and rice, and exquisite preparations of seafood. Embracing and interpreting other cultures' ways and methods have been a part of the Japanese psyche since Commodore Perry kinda forced the issue upon the Tokugawa shogunate around 1853. And since, say, 1975, the Japanese started to explore on a much broader basis, many of the world's cuisines - particularly those of Europe. France has the highest focus, but Italy is a definite second in European crossovers.
Akitist - you are correct. I had "pho" in Hayward, WI (not a culinary destination, by ANY stretch of the imagination) and it had tomatoes in it. Not a lime (or lemon), bean sprout, jalapeno or basil leaf in sight. They did have the hoisin sauce which they called "vietnam sauce". I attribute this to the fondness of bland, familiar food that I have noticed in the people who live there (sadly, my so-cal born and raised brother now fits into this category - he recently told me that he no longer can eat "California" food after he made linguini with clams and had horrible stomach upset afterwards). This is made by a woman from Vietnam. I think you definitely find cuisines suited to taste everywhere.
some of this stuff is fun, others just show how ignorant of the world and of la some posters are.
Go try pizza in Paris. go try what passes for Chinese food in Paris or in most of London or (god help me) the netherlands. Chow mein on chips - a fried egg atop it all.
Korean-chinese that people go crazy for is as fake as a hard-shell taco. some of it is tasty (the korean version of zhajiangmian is great) some of it is vile (the korean-chinese blend of liangmian and naengmyun(sp?) is horrible, imho).
Like many places, we have a large tourist component and as in Venice and Rome, the tourists/pilgrims have been segregated. I can easily get into MOCA or the MJT or the track or go to Mt Wilson or MT High ski resort or most beaches without fighting the tourist crowd. NY's MOMA, Churchill downs, the slopes at Vail, Mt Rainier, good luck.
Much of the six flags chain offers mediated "local" experience in themed rides, kings dominion, 6F over texas, georgia wherever. To some extent, Madurodam does too.
Americanized versions of "foreign" dishes are what they are. Chicago deep-dish pizza is fake? sure, if the only real pizza is Neapolitan pizza. Then some of the stuff in Milan is also fake.
I'm not interested in fusion "sushi". I have limited time and treasure. I'd rather be interested to learn something about a traditional cuisine than experience a chef's creativity ( in quotes or not). that's a personal choice. Let me try an aligot rather than foie gras with caramel glaze. Hoya or fresh sea urchin or namako sashimi rather than a dynamite roll. Guilin beef and tendon noodles (with those soft rice exuded things) or osmanthus-scented rice balls rather than "slippery shrimp" Yangchow style.
And I grew up here, so the SF Mission style burrito - wet and falling apart with eggs or wet wet beans is, to me, an abomination. But we have our food here, some of it adaptations, some local. Go have some sand dabs, or the tourist pleasing corndogs at hot dog on a stick near the S Monica pier with fresh lemonade, some fresh juices at that juice wall bar in the Grand Central Market - a place with as close to Brown Derby Cobb salad as you can find, a moscow mule, a (heaven forfend, blair's is closed where can i find a) date shake, or dupar's date nut bread.
Try and find a pounded breaded abalone steak - it's worth the trouble. Or a local style open pit bbq like the late harry's or stearns. Not texas, not kc, not carolina, simple and pretty close to santa maria style (there is that place in Culver City with Tri-tip, but i haven't been yet).
Cassell's 1/3 lb burgers on 6th st with potato salad instead of fries, or wolfe's in pasadena, there are plenty of things that emphasize the local. And the hard shell taco is one of them (although I love me some tacos de sesos, or lengua, or even tripas de leche if i can find them, ok all soft).
I really hope all the haters achieve their dreams, make their stake and get back to podunk or manhattan where they can be happy, and let the tourists drop their change and pay their taxes, and let me get back to enjoying this environment. Yesterday, drove up to placerita canyon for a hike - went to Valley Hungarian sausage, bought some cheese and disznosajt made on site
drove by the St Andrew's Benedictine Abbey in Valyermo (lunch can be free if you call, attend mass and join the monks, call for info - I don't really do mass so not for me), then up to Big Pines and Wrightwood where there were plenty of rustic bbq and burger joints to keep anyone happy - and great scenery.
So fake fake fake. Fine. Class issues and regional stuff seem to bubble up here and maybe there can be a new thread on not about food.
But unless you're eating the plastic sushi models in the windows, you're not eating fake anything.
>>And I grew up here, so the SF Mission style burrito - wet and falling apart with eggs or wet wet beans is, to me, an abomination.<<
Interestingly, structural integrity is one of my main complaints with LA burritos. My favorite burrito in SF (Taqueria San Jose) has no problem surviving a trip through security at SFO without breaking. My favorite burrito in LA (Eduardo's) has trouble making it to my table...
That was also "one of my main complaints with LA burritos," until I found Yuca's some years ago. Their burritos are both great-tasting and structurally sound, as compact as a Crêpe Bretonne folded for your knapsack. The properly juicy and subtly flavored cochinita pibil is my favorite. Across the parking lot from this tiny walk-up shack is a working liquor store that offers a diversity of beverages and, if you look like you have one at home, a bathroom.