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Oct 19, 2012 01:00 PM

Quintessential "LA" Food?

So I've been on a food adventure with my pregnant wife, where I'm trying to get every possible type of food into her belly (the hope being that the kid will have a wider palette).

I've compiled a list of countries and food, as well as more localized stuff for the US.

So I've got Pizza, Hotdog, Soul Food and others for the US, but I simply can't think of anything for 'LA'.

I'm totally willing to subscribe to the idea that what we do is the mashup, it actually seems to fit nicely with my ideas on what LA is about, but maybe someone has a different idea?

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    1. re: wienermobile

      Yeah, I was looking at that, but again most of those places are 'italian' 'mexican' etc. What I'm having trouble with is thinking of a stereotypical food, not restaurant.

      I mean, New York can be snooty about Pizza, Chicago their hotdogs. What do we get to be snooty about?

      1. re: lokier01

        "I mean, New York can be snooty about Pizza, Chicago their hotdogs. What do we get to be snooty about?"

        Sushi and Hamburgers...without a doubt. For example, this thread started in 2006 and extends into 2012:

        1. re: Servorg

          Yeah actually. I think we can pretty much own burgers... thanks!

          1. re: Servorg

            Servorg speaks truth. However, the cheeseburger is a genuine LA invention - Pasadena, actually - and to many of us is THE typical Los Angeles food item. Few other regions have so many ongoing arguments about which burger is the best and how is defined; it is probably the most frequently debated subject on this Board. One major upside to this is that if you want a truly lousy burger you're pretty much stuck with McDonald's!

            If you check out any of the burger threads you'll see how many categories and subcategories are considered: chain, restaurant, bar, bistro, under $10, over $10, gourmet, etcetera. If that's not a sign of its special place in our local food culture, I'll eat my … buns.

          2. re: lokier01

            mexican and mexican-inspired food.
            my favorite being mexican seafood in the style of nayarit and sinaloa.

            1. re: westsidegal

              Agree, and especially the Chicano Mexican is uniquely LA.

        2. Okie Dog, Dodger Dog or Yuca.

            1. re: ozhead

              I think bacon-wrapped hot dogs are a ripoff from the northern NJ style hot dogs, so I don't think of them as quintessentially LA.

              1. re: E Eto

                The bacon dogs here seem to be a Mexican phenomenon. Those I've seen in markets are in a package that says, "Como en la calle!" - "Like in the street!" - which is ironic since regular street hot-dog vendors aren't allowed to sell them. They require special inspection and a permit.

                I'm going to reiterate something here: all the items proposed as especially significant to LA's food culture have been brought here from someplace else, EXCEPT for the Almighty Cheeseburger. The burger itself may have been hatched at Louis Lunch, out in New England, and it's possible that a few souls may have slipped a slice of cheese in there for the hell of it, but it was a long-gone drive-up at the edge of Pasadena on West Colorado that began to make, advertise and sell CHEESEBURGERS. And this one sandwich has become the default choice for walk-in, drive-in and drive-through diners throughout the length and breadth of LA County.

                  1. re: JeMange

                    Dang! You're right! Although I don't see cars lined up at all the French Dip drive-throughs ;-)

                    Seriously, although that is perhaps an item more closely identified with LA than any burger, the cheeseburger's very universality and availability are what makes it so very LA in nature: that's us. That's the Everyman's food. That's Julia Child keeping a list of In-N-Out locations in her purse; that's a local fancyburger joint posting a sign about how some idiot on Chowhound said theirs was "The Best in LA!!"; that's … how many threads on that one item here? Whereas the only real argument about French Dips is who did it first.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      No need to go agro, dude! :)

                      I agree about the passion thing and - as someone who has lived in LA for over a decade - I must sadly admit that I tend to prefer the way burgers are prepared in NYC than in LA. Up until relatively recently, burgers in LA were a fast food (meaning not cooked to order/to an internal temp) thing whereas burgers in NYC are more of a pub/bar food. A big, fist sized, fatty chunk of ground steak cooked the way you like it. Can't say as I'm much of a fan of In-N-Out or the lettuce sandwich that passes for a burger at Apple Pan or Pie and Burger.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Putting it differently. Say I were making a cartoon show where every character was their respective food. Broad strokes here. Italian Guy is a Ravioli, German's wurst. Of course there could be a general American Apple pie guy, but I feel like there are pop sub characters within the US. Would the LA 'surfer dude' be a cheeseburger? I mean, it sort of fits with car culture and drive thru's n' what not.

                      2. re: JeMange

                        I agree with the French Dip. When I moved out to LA as a kid in the 60s it was the only thing in LA that we didn't have in Chicago (home of the Italian beef sandwich). The only Mexican food I remember from back then was taco stand food not much different from today's Taco Bell.

                1. Taco trucks. Maybe the entire taco truck experience was born here in L.A.

                  Sure, we've got great dogs and burgers, Italian, hot exciting restaurants with celebrites dining, but other cities do too.

                  But pull over to a taco truck on a busy street after a Saturday night on the town and get a perfect tortilla stuffed with carnitas or lengua, walk over to the formica table lit by a bare bulb running off of a car battery, where you can add some onions, cilantro and home made salsa, take a bite and say, "I'm in LA."

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: EarlyBird

                    Would you say the experience is more LA than Mexican?

                    Plus its hard to convey to an unborn child the awesomeness that is this great night time experience. It's gotta be the taste.

                    1. re: lokier01

                      Yes. Tacos are quintessential LA.

                      1. re: lokier01

                        Surely the taco and taco stand is more Mexican than LA, but I would say the mobile taco truck is pure Los Angeles. Whenever I have friends visiting from out of town, I make sure we stop at a taco truck at night to experience a real LA thing.

                      2. re: EarlyBird

                        This is exactly what I was going to suggest as well. Some places aren't even a truck, just a table and grill set up on a sidewalk.

                      3. No place outside of Japan takes sushi as seriously as Los Angeles.

                        26 Replies
                        1. re: JeMange

                          yeah but if I were putting Sushi on an 'international food list' it would definitely go under Japan. The trouble I'm having, is what goes under the LA column.

                          1. re: lokier01

                            While sushi started in Japan, the fact that we find a "California Roll" everywhere these days speaks volumes about the effect that Los Angeles has had on sushi: (whether you think that's a good thing or a bad thing, the impact can't be denied).

                            Of course there is also "California Pizza" and it got its start here too (with a similar version up in SF about the same time) courtesy of Ed LaDou:

                            1. re: Servorg

                              So this means the California roll is a 'Quintessential "LA" Food'?

                              1. re: J.L.

                                More the whole crazy sushi roll genre...

                          2. re: JeMange

                            "No place outside of Japan takes sushi as seriously as Los Angeles."

                            Except maybe most definitely NYC. Especially on the high end and after we correct for the hot rice ponzu sauced stuff a la Nozawa/Sasabune.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              "correct for the hot rice ponzu sauced stuff a la Nozawa/Sasabune"

                              Not going to happen, already regarded as quintessential L.A. Sushi. Must've been a conspiracy by the ponzu makers to boost sales.....

                              1. re: AyrtonS

                                Shocking to think that sushi chefs and those that enjoy raw fish would think that a citrus taste works well with it. ;-D>

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Citrus yes. Ocean of ponzu soaking into the hot rice. Not really. Might as well omit the fish at that point since you can't even taste it.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    "Might as well omit the fish at that point since you can't even taste it."

                                    Don't give them any ideas! But isn't that the intention, to cover up tasteless inferior fish or fish that are past their prime?

                                    1. re: AyrtonS


                                      Guess we see eye to eye on sushi :)

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        Cheers.... With an uni shooter (uni swimming in ponzu of course)!

                                        1. re: AyrtonS

                                          Nao obrigado!

                                          Just some junmai daiginjo from Niigata for me ;)

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            "Just some junmai daiginjo from Niigata for me ;)"

                                            Hey, make sure to have them warm it up for ya! Who drinks their premium sake cold?!

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                "I do!"

                                                You savage! First you don't like hot rice with your fish, now you don't want your sake steaming hot?! What's next, asking for powdered wasabi when the chef offers you the fresh one?

                                              2. re: AyrtonS

                                                Just about all the connoisseurs of nihonshu (aka sake) say premium sake should be served cold. That is the best way to judge its complexity.

                                                1. re: E Eto

                                                  It's really nothing short of ironic and kind of amusing. I now like my sake cold and my sushi rice warm... ;-D>

                                                  1. re: E Eto

                                                    I didn't realize it until AyrtonS' last post, but I'm pretty sure AyrtonS was kidding around regarding hot sake...keeping in line with the hot rice and overly ponzu-ed sushi theme of how UN-traditional some places in LA have become while claiming to be "serious" about sushi.

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      "I didn't realize it until AyrtonS' last post, but I'm pretty sure AyrtonS was kidding around regarding hot sake...keeping in line with the hot rice and overly ponzu-ed sushi theme of how UN-traditional some places in LA have become while claiming to be "serious" about sushi."

                                                      Wow, we agree on our fish planks and you get my humor too!

                                                      Once a customer sitting next to me at the sushi bar wanted the chef/owner to recommend the best sake he had to offer and the chef proudly presented him with a bottle only available in Japan (near his hometown no less... seems like they always say that?) and was just brought back from Japan by his sister, but it would be $250. The customer said sure and asked the waitress to warm it up for him as he always drinks his sake warm! You know what kind of sushi he got for the rest of the night!

                                          2. re: Porthos

                                            Is that what you call "high per bo lee?" (the "oceans" of ponzu remark). Because I find that to be nearly totally untrue. And I like warm rice. I haven't found any "hot" rice yet.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Haven't found any hot rice sushi in LA?! Servorg, surely you jest. Always so punny.

                                              If you're serious, then get thee to Sasabune. They'll kindly add "puddles" of ponzu to your sushi.

                                              Bon appetite!

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                I'll admit I haven't been to Sasabune since they moved from their old Sawtelle adjacent location on Nebraska.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  Neither have I.

                                                  Don't go. I wouldn't wish that on my enemy :)

                                          3. re: Servorg

                                            Especially ponzu on tuna! Don't get me started on the mango combo.......

                                      2. re: JeMange

                                        I disagree.

                                        I am more consistently inclined to eat sushi in places like Seattle where fresh fish is bountiful and quality of that fish is not questionable.
                                        Several times in LA I've wondered about the quality.