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LA Cheap Eats Food Tour--The Aftermath...

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Well, the LA Cheap Eats Food Tour 2012 is complete, and it was pretty epic. The four of us hit more than 75 places(!!!) in three days and we even did sightseeing as well (walking around in Santa Monica on 3rd street and the pier, checking out the La Brea Tar Pits, going to Griffith Observatory, driving to right underneath the Hollywood sign, etc.)

The main thing that allowed us to eat at all these places was that the schedule was arranged so each place was only a few minutes drive to the next place (for the most part). Sometimes we’d get in the car and 20 seconds later we’d be at the next location. We intermixed every kind of food and interspersed savory with desserts (milkshakes are a big thing with us so you’ll definitely see a lot of those). We were also very strict about not over-ordering, and I also carried a cooler filled with ice in the back of the car to take home leftovers (otherwise, I feel bad about buying a whole plate of stuff and throwing half of it away). So, the participants knew not to overeat at any one place, even if it was good, in order to save themselves for future treats. And despite two minor instances of a participant feeling slightly not-so-great, everybody was at 100% for most of the tour (and some guys were still ready to eat more even after the whole day of eating).

We started about noon on Thursday (after everyone’s planes arrived). The other days we started around 9:30am. And pretty much every day we went until around midnight (except on Sunday because everybody left around 10am).

Of course, we didn’t stop at every possible place we wanted to because logistically it’s just not possible (like we missed a lot of Chinatown favorites because they were closed by the time we got there). But we really did hit about 85 percent of the places we wanted to go.

The hands-down favorites definitely included Dino’s Chicken, Porto’s, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, tarna sandwich at Zankou, Baklava Factory, Kogi Truck, the red velvet cupcake at Auntie Em’s Kitchen, Big Mista BBQ (and a big shout-out to Big Mista himself for treating us extra nice when we stopped at his place), Mexicali Tacos, Papa Cristo’s, the burger at Father’s Office, Pazzo Gelato, Brian’s Shaved Ice, The Godmother at Bay Cities, #7 Ramen at Santouka, assorted desserts at the Trails Café, and more.

We did have a few disappointments. Langer’s just didn’t deliver. We just got some really fatty pastrami and it just wasn’t great (and I’ve had it numerous times and know how good it can be). Similarly, the potato taco at El Atacor #11 just wasn’t great this time (and, once again, I’ve had it before and know that it can be good). That’s just the nature of this kind of thing. Sometimes, places are just gonna have an off-day for whatever reason.

And now for the list of every place we stopped and what we ate there (the guide to the assorted markings is at the bottom of the list).

THURSDAY: MAY 3, 2012

Dolce Monachelli (Italian butter rum bundt cake)

***Cemita Truck AKA Angelica Food Truck (milanese cemita [Mexican sandwich] with papalo)

***Zankou (tarna [chicken schwarma] sandwich, extra-crispy bread with extra garlic sauce
and mutabbal [baba ghanoush] with extra-crispy bread)

^^^###Rocket Fizz (Bacon Soda & Grapefruit Soda)

Diddy Reese (Espresso Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with White Chocolate Macadamia & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Kogi BBQ Truck (2 Korean short rib tacos)

Blockheads Shavery Co. (Strawberry Snow Cream with Fresh Strawberries, Almond Jelly, and Sweetened Condensed Milk)

Brian’s Shaved Ice (1/2 Passion/Orange/Guava, 1/2 Pina Colada Hawaiian shaved ice filled with Macadamia Nut Ice Cream Topped with Sweetened Condensed Milk and Li Hing Mui Powder)

^^^Beard Papa (Green Tea-Filled Cream Puff with Cookie Crust)

Huckleberry Bakery & Café (Maple Bacon Biscuit)

Bay Cities Italian Deli (Large Godmother Sandwich—1/2 mild peppers, 1/2 hot peppers)

^^^Hot Dog on a Stick (Hot Dog on a Stick & Mango Lemonade)

Cha Cha Chicken (Coconut Fried Chicken)

Mitsuwa Marketplace
Hamada-ya Bakery (chicken curry doughnut)
Santouka (#7 Special Pork Ramen)

***Father’s Office (burger)

Coolhaus (Molten Chocolate Cake Ice Cream Sandwich with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies)

Flavors of Belize (chirmole soup)

Umami Burger (Umami Burger and Manly Burger)

Jack in the Box (Large Java Cookie Shake with extra coffee syrup and extra Oreo cookies)

- - - - - - - - - - -

FRIDAY: MAY 4, 2012

Jack in the Box (bacon shake—stored in my freezer from a few months earlier)

Bob's Coffee and Donuts (glazed donut)

Papa Cristo’s (gyro sandwich and baklava + chocolate baklava)

***Dino’s Chicken and Burgers ($5.50 half-grilled chicken + French fry plate)

Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars (Mango Chili and Mamey Zapote Paletas)

***El Taurino (al pastor & carne asada tacos)

***Langer’s Deli (1/4 pound pastrami with slice of rye bread)

Berlin Currywurst (paprikawurst with Jambalaya Level 2 sauce)

Pazzo Gelato (hazelnut chip, salted caramel, and banana pudding raspberry gelato)

***Ricky’s Fish Taco’s (fish and shrimp tacos + hibiscus drink)

China Express (taro boba and mango boba)

The Trails (pear walnut scone, lavender vanilla shortbread cookie, apple pie)

Mush Bakery (lahmajun [Armenian pizza] and za’atar flatbread)

Zankou (soujouk [Armenian sausage] sandwich)

***Sapp Coffee Shop (Thai boat noodles)

Bhan Kanom Thai (taro corn fritter and grilled coconut sticky rice stuffed with banana)

101 Coffee Shop (Waffle Brownie Sundae)

Skooby’s (barbecue-spiced Fries with Red Pepper Aioli)

Street (Kaya Toast)

The Foundry (Grilled Cheese with Tallegio, Raisin Bread, Apricot Puree and Short Ribs)

Milk (nutella ice cream bar and Banana Peanut Malt [banana dulce de leche ice cream, malted milk, and roasted peanuts])

The Counter (Caramel Apple Crumble Shake)

***El Chato Taco Truck (2 al pastor tacos, 1 carne asada taco, and 1 chorizo taco + horchata)

***Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles (1/2 fried chicken and 2 waffles)

Jack in the Box (large strawberry Oreo ice cream shake)

- - - - - - - - - - -

SATURDAY: MAY 5, 2012

^^^Farmer’s Market at the Americana (Three Berry Agua Fresca)

***Big Mista BBQ (assorted meats, pig candy [caramelized and smoked bacon])

***Porto’s (cheese roll, guava cheese strudel, coconut strudel, medianoche sandwich with pickles)

Baklava Factory (baklava)

***Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine (falafel)

Auntie Em’s Kitchen (red velvet cupcake)

Cacao Mexicatessen (duck carnitas)

Oinkster (ube shake and sample of pastrami)

Huarache Azteca (huarache [flat, hard taco] with al pastor)

La Estrella Tacos Truck (carnitas taco)

Galco’s Soda Pop Shop (honey cream soda)

My Taco (barbacoa de borrego lamb tacos)

***El Atacor #11 (crispy potato taco)

###Grand Central Market (tamarind candy)

Wurstküche (Rattlesnake & Rabbit Sausage)

^^^Pie Hole (Mexican hot chocolate pie)

Mikawaya (mochi ice cream)

^^^Mitsuri Cake (red bean cake [imagawayaki]

Frances Bakery & Coffee (souffle cheesecake)

Phillipe’s (1 beef French dip with blue cheese, double-dipped and 1 beef French dip with Swiss cheese, double-dipped)

Olvera Street (champurrado—Mexican hot chocolate-type drink)

Mexicali Taco & Co. (vampiro taco [quesadilla-like with garlic sauce] & cachetada [tostada])

Churro Borough of Los Angeles (churro ice cream sandwich with vanilla custard and churro ice cream sandwich with mexican hot chocolate ice cream)

Fatburger (1/2 pound burger and strawberry/banana Oreo shake)

Oki’s-Dog (Oki Dog: two hot dogs on a flour tortilla, covered with chili and pastrami)

Crazy Fish (Kinta Sushi Roll)

Animal (Poutine with Oxtail Gravy and Cheddar)

In ‘N’ Out (1 cheeseburger and 1 cheeseburger with extra grilled onions)

- - - - - - - - - - -

SUNDAY: MAY 6, 2012

Bouchon Bakery (kouign-amann [caramelized buttery pastry])

^^^The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. (toasted marble bagel with cream cheese)

Primo's Donuts (buttermilk bar, maple donut, crumb donut)

Spudnuts (apple fritter, maple sour cream donut)

^^^Randy’s Donuts (buttermilk bar and jelly donut)

*** indicates one of my absolute favorite places
^^^ indicates this location was not a scheduled stop on the LA FOOD TOUR
### indicates a non-scored stop on the LA FOOD TOUR

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  1. impressive! thanks for the report back.

    1. Holy $%&* you did a ton of grubbing!

      1. glad you ended up going to phillipe's

        1 Reply
        1. re: emosbaugh

          +++1

        2. Great report! One question: The places marked with *** don't correspond with the list of "hands-down favorites". Is that because *** are your favorites and "hands-down favorites" are the group favorites?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Peripatetic

            exactly. The *** places are ones that I personally really liked (before we went on the tour). Most of them got really high scores but sometimes the other guys did like them but just didn't totally love them. And, then at some places (like Langer's and El Atacor), what we got didn't live up to what I had had in the past (just an off day or something).

          2. "We actually graded each place and assembled a list with all the scores so if you’re interested, pop me an e-mail and I will send you the Excel spreadsheet: "

            Why not just include the scores on your CH post?

            19 Replies
            1. re: Servorg

              Alright, I was worried the formatting wouldn't translate, but i guess it'll work.

              Here are the scores. Now, for a little explanation, the scoring is just for the food. Each participant gave each stop one score (even if we had multiple items of food at one stop). Then we averaged the scores.

              The score is basically for taste but it also is for things like uniqueness as well as desire to come back and have the food again. Basically, the score means how much do I really crave this food. Ambiance was not included in the score.

              I wouldn't take these scores as truly definitive of anything. Sometimes one item we had at a place was really good and another item was just okay, so even though we would really recommend a particular item, the overall score for the place got a lower score because of the other item.

              Similarly, some people sometimes gave a really funky score that would throw off the average of all the other scores. Like one guy (irrationally) hates any meat cooked with wine (things like beef bourguignon) so he did not like the poutine at Animal (which is topped with something similar) and gave it a 24, while the rest of us gave it a 99, 98, and 87. Now, he was being honest and the score reflected his taste. He just really didn't like it (but he was not saying it was badly prepared or anything--it just wasn't to his taste). But, as a result, the poutine got a much lower score than it "should."

              Anyhoot, so take all this with a grain of salt, but here are the scores.

              95.0 ***Dino’s Chicken and Burgers ($5.50 half-grilled chicken + French fry plate)
              94.9 ***Porto’s (cheese roll, guava cheese strudel, coconut strudel, medianoche sandwich with pickles)
              94.7 ***Ricky’s Fish Taco’s (fish and shrimp tacos + hibiscus drink)
              94.2 Baklava Factory (baklava)
              93.6 ***Zankou (tarna [chicken schwarma] sandwich, extra-crispy bread with extra garlic sauce and mutabbal [baba ghanoush] with extra-crispy bread)
              93.6 Kogi BBQ Truck (2 Korean short rib tacos)
              93.3 Auntie Em’s Kitchen (red velvet cupcake)
              93.0 ***Big Mista BBQ (brisket, pulled pork, pig candy [caramelized and smoked bacon])
              92.8 Mexicali Taco & Co. (vampiro taco [quesadilla-like with garlic sauce] & cachetada [tostada])
              92.3 Papa Cristo’s (gyro sandwich and baklava + chocolate baklava)
              91.3 Bouchon Bakery (kouign-amann [caramelized buttery pastry])
              90.2 ***Father’s Office (burger)
              89.8 Pazzo Gelato (hazelnut chip, salted caramel, and banana pudding raspberry gelato)
              89.5 Crazy Fish (Kinta Sushi Roll)
              88.8 Brian’s Shaved Ice (1/2 Passion/Orange/Guava, 1/2 Pina Colada shaved ice filled w/Macadamia Nut Ice Cream topped w/Sweetened Condensed Milk & Li Hing Mui Powder)
              88.8 ***Elena’s Greek Armenian Cuisine (falafel)
              88.3 The Trails (pear walnut scone, lavender vanilla shortbread cookie, apple pie)
              88.3 Jack in the Box (large strawberry Oreo ice cream shake)
              88.0 Bay Cities Italian Deli (Large Godmother Sandwich—1/2 mild peppers, 1/2 hot peppers)
              87.8 Santouka [Mitsuwa Marketplace] (#7 Special Pork Ramen)
              87.5 ^^^The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. (toasted marble bagel with cream cheese)
              87.3 Churro Borough of Los Angeles (churro ice cream sandwich with vanilla custard and churro ice cream sandwich with mexican chocolate ice cream)
              87.2 ***El Taurino (al pastor & carne asada tacos)
              86.5 The Counter (Caramel Apple Crumble Shake)
              86.0 Umami Burger (Umami Burger and Manly Burger)
              85.8 Skooby’s (barbecue-spiced Fries with Red Pepper Aioli)
              85.5 Jack in the Box (Large Java Cookie Shake with extra coffee syrup and extra Oreo cookies)
              85.5 ***El Chato Taco Truck (2 al pastor tacos, 1 carne asada taco, and 1 chorizo taco + horchata)
              85.3 Dolce Monachelli (Italian butter rum bundt cake)
              85.0 In ‘N’ Out (1 cheeseburger and 1 cheeseburger with extra grilled onions)
              84.8 Blockheads Shavery Co. (Strawberry Snow Cream w/Fresh Strawberries, Almond Jelly, & Sweetened Condensed Milk)
              84.5 ***Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles (1/2 fried chicken and 2 waffles)
              84.5 Pie Hole (Mexican hot chocolate pie)
              83.8 Coolhaus (Molten Chocolate Cake Ice Cream Sandwich with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies)
              83.8 Fatburger (1/2 pound burger and strawberry/banana Oreo shake)
              83.0 Zankou (soujouk [Armenian sausage] sandwich)
              82.8 Primo's Donuts (buttermilk bar, maple donut, crumb donut)
              81.8 ***Cemita Truck AKA Angelica Food Truck (milanese cemita [Mexican sandwich] with papalo)
              81.0 ***Sapp Coffee Shop (Thai boat noodles)
              81.0 101 Coffee Shop (Waffle Brownie Sundae)
              80.5 Oinkster (ube shake)
              79.1 Phillipe’s (lamb or beef French dip with blue cheese, double-dipped)
              78.3 Bhan Kanom Thai (taro corn fritter and grilled coconut sticky rice stuffed with banana)
              77.0 Animal (Poutine with Oxtail Gravy and Cheddar)
              75.5 Wurstküche (Rabbit, Veal, & Pork Sausage and Rattlesnake & Rabbit Sausage)
              72.5 ^^^Farmer’s Market at the Americana (Three Berry Agua Fresca)
              72.3 Spudnuts (apple fritter, maple sour cream donut)
              71.8 China Express (taro boba and mango boba)
              71.0 Cacao Mexicatessen (duck carnitas + horchata)
              69.1 The Foundry (Grilled Cheese with Tallegio, Raisin Bread, Apricot Puree and Short Ribs)
              69.0 Mikawaya (mochi ice cream)
              68.1 Berlin Currywurst (paprikawurst with Jambalaya Level 2 sauce)
              65.3 Huckleberry Bakery & Café (Maple Bacon Biscuit)
              65.0 Street (Kaya Toast)
              64.8 My Taco (barbacoa de borrego lamb tacos)
              64.3 Huarache Azteca (huarache [flat, hard taco] with al pastor + pineapple agua fresca)
              64.0 Diddy Reese (Espresso Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with White Chocolate Macadamia & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies)
              62.5 Mitsuri Cake (red bean cake [imagawayaki]
              61.3 La Estrella Tacos Truck (carnitas & cabeza taco + grapefruit drink)
              59.8 Milk (nutella ice cream bar and Banana Peanut Malt [banana dulce de leche ice cream, malted milk, and roasted peanuts])
              57.5 Oki’s-Dog (Oki Dog: two hot dogs on a flour tortilla, covered with chili and pastrami)
              56.5 Jack in the Box (bacon shake—stored in my freezer from a few months earlier)
              56.0 Bob's Coffee and Donuts (glazed donut)
              55.3 ***Langer’s Deli (1/4 pound pastrami)
              53.3 Flavors of Belize (chirmole soup AKA Black Soup of Death)
              53.0 Cha Cha Chicken (Coconut Fried Chicken)
              50.5 Frances Bakery & Coffee (souffle cheesecake)
              50.3 Randy’s Donuts (buttermilk bar and jelly donut)
              48.5 Hot Dog on a Stick (Hot Dog on a Stick & Mango Lemonade)
              44.5 Olvera Street (champurrado—Mexican hot chocolate-type drink)
              41.5 Mush Bakery (lahmajun [Armenian pizza] and za’atar flatbread)
              37.4 Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars (Mango Chili and Mamey Zapote Paletas)
              37.0 ^^^Beard Papa (Green Tea-Filled Cream Puff with Cookie Crust)
              36.5 ***El Atacor #11 (crispy potato tacos)
              35.0 Hamada-ya Bakery [Mitsuwa Marketplace] (chicken curry doughnut)

              NON-SCORED FOOD STOPS
              ^^^Rocket Fizz (Bacon Soda & Grapefruit Soda)
              Galco's Soda Pop Shop (honey cream soda)
              Grand Central Market (tamarind candy)

              *** indicates one of my absolute favorite places
              ^^^ indicates this location was not a scheduled stop on the LA FOOD TOUR

              1. re: film_score

                And, also, it should be noted that some things really split people. For me and another guy who really like boba, the bobas at China Express got pretty good scores (90 and 82). But two of the other guys just don't like bobas in general and as a result gave it a (55 and 60).

                Similarly, with the Jack in the Box bacon shake (no longer on the menu, but I had some stored up for this occasion), another guy and I liked it and gave it 86 and 89. But then the other two guys didn't like it at all and gave it a 14 and 37.

                But that's just the nature of this stuff. As a result, something with a medium score might have something really good that some people would like a lot but others wouldn't.

                Also, with regards to the scoring, here's a general guide:

                100-80 is very good
                80-60 is good
                60-40 is average/meh
                40-20 is not too good
                20-0 is pretty disgusting/inedible

                1. re: film_score

                  I think a rule in which you would recuse yourself from voting on any food item that you "don't like" and wouldn't order out at any other time under normal circumstances (that is - when not doing this type of "evaluation" eating) would be in order to keep from skewing the vote totals...

                  1. re: Servorg

                    Certainly a reasonable-seeming idea but the only problem is sometimes people have never had the item in question (like one guy had never had boba before). And, of course, it can work the other way as well (everyone but me had never had real "ramen" before besides store-bought, but they all ended up loving that). So, it is very hard to just subtract someone's score out because they didn't like it (for whatever irrational reason).

                    1. re: film_score

                      I think you could fairly ask (even if the person trying said item had never had it before) "Would you ever order this again if you saw it on a menu, given how much you say you dislike it?" and if the answer is "No" then they don't get to vote on that item.

                  2. re: film_score

                    It would be nice to see standard deviation and standard error for these scores too;) Seriously though, great job, looks like you guys were mostly on the west side, next time you'll have to incorporate other parts, sgv and south bay to your food romp. If you want to change cities, I'd recommend austin, tx. Having just come back from there, in my opinion, it could be one of the hottest if not the hottest city in the country for food right now.

                    1. re: chezwhitey

                      Other issues are the order or time of day various foods were sampled.

                  3. re: film_score

                    Which Roscoe's did you go to? I have been going to the LBC location for years but on my last visit (December '11) I thought the chicken (which I never was particularly impressed with) was mediocre and the waffles (which I had absolutely loved on prior visits) seemed much cheaper and made from less substantial (read fatty) batter than on prior visits. It was borderline microwave chicken with Eggos. Friends have echoed these feelings. Really surprised your group enjoyed it so much.

                    1. re: ndukka562

                      This was the Roscoe's at Pico/La Brea. Honestly, you basically are right in that the chicken is not the best fried chicken and the waffles aren't particularly good on their own. But, somehow, when you put it all together, the chicken, the waffles, the butter, and the corn-syrup-y maple syrup, there just is something good and satisfying about it. The sum really is greater than its parts...

                      1. re: film_score

                        I actually used to find their waffles, on their own, to be phenomenal. The batter was just so rich and heavy, the exact opposite of a Belgian waffle. I remember feeling full like 36 hours after a Scoe's special. But lately, I've heard (unofficial) reports that they are skimping on ingredients and that was confirmed on my last visit.

                    2. re: film_score

                      Porto's scored that high?

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Yeah, Porto's was no fluke. Now, it should be noted, that while in the past I have had plenty of stuff at Porto's and it's always good, not everything is the best. The cookies and brownies and stuff are fine but nothing particularly great or worth getting excited over. But when you get the particular items we had (cheese roll, guava cheese strudel, and maybe the coconut strudel), they truly are done to perfection. The texture of the pastry is just perfect. And it's pretty consistent since they are just constantly making them fresh because they have so many people going through there. And then the medianoche sandwich is always tasty as well. On top of all this, everything is totally reasonably priced...

                        1. re: film_score

                          The mango smoothie is also the best mango smoothie I've had.

                          1. re: film_score

                            Portos is one of my favorite places to take out of towners - they are always shocked by the quality/price ratio. And yes, when you get the right items (oh that cheese roll) - it's extra killer.

                            1. re: film_score

                              I will have to revisit porto's. I tried many of their items several times in the past - all that you highlight - and considered them to offer a great value but nothing destination-worthy. Maybe just not my bag.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                "Maybe just not my bag."

                                That's it..No vote for you! (channeling my inner soup Nazi) ;-D>

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Potato balls!!!!

                                  1. re: nosh

                                    I've been called worse.

                            2. re: film_score

                              Phenomenal!! I am incredibly impressed!! Thank you for taking the time to post your findings.
                              I SO love Dino's and am happy to see it top your list. Next time you do La Estrella, try their al pastor and their fish tacos... both are really good - much better than the other stuff. Also, at Papa Christo's, they have these custard phyllo dough desserts - they are amazing. My absolute favorite there. Also, their baguette is one of the best I have ever had.

                          2. Wow - you deserve some kind of CH award!

                            1. I bow to you, Madame or Sir. I would kiss the hem of your garment...especially if it had garlic sauce on it...

                              1. Good god, filmscore. I gained ten pounds just reading about all those places you went to. I'm definitely bookmarking this page to hit up some of those places. Thanks for the recap on your adventure.

                                1. o.h.d.e.a.r.l.o.r.d!
                                  Now that's a quest.
                                  Bravo!

                                  1. Thanks for posting a follow-up. I'm very impressed by the number of places you visited.