In the time of an overwhelming number of lists, roundups, and reflections on 2013, I have no choice but to compile my own (and use it as an excuse to post a lot of the delicious photos/foodstuffs I consumed over the last year). Part 1 is more of an overall trend report for the year, and part 2 will be more personal memories and experiences. Without further adieu, let’s hop to it.
2013: Year of the Donut
Donut Friend, which opened in Highland Park this year, offered a donut-lover’s answer to the DIY fro-yo shop, complete with pre-suggested rock ‘n roll inspired combinations such as the Jets to Basil (pictured above), a traditional donut filled with goat cheese, strawberry jam, and fresh basil, topped with a sugar glaze and balsamic reduction. Sounds weird, but it was outrageously tasty.
(See also: Year of Bacon) Nickel Diner, while not new, was new to me this year, and became a beloved downtown breakfast destination. This maple bacon donut is seriously absurd, more of a “try it once just to say you did and then never again because you actually might die” kind of a thing.
2013: Year of the Ramen
Santouka Ramen - West LA/Culver City
Daikokuya - Little Tokyo
Tsujita LA Annex - Sawtelle
Why yes, these do all look startlingly similar! I will say that I am no ramen expert, these are literally the only three that I have tried in LA. They have the reputation for being among the best in the city. I have loved them all, finding the key difference to be that Daikokuya’s noodles are much more thin, like the ones you would find in an instant cup o’ noodles (albeit, far more tasty), while Tsujita has thicker noodles and broth, which I enjoyed.
2013: Year of Roy Choi
I don’t count myself among Roy Choi’s legions of fans, but I do have mad respect for the self-made Korean culinary tycoon who is taking over LA with his various establishments. It started with the Kogi truck, which essentially offers up Korean-inspired Mexican food, something I’ve never quite gotten into, but it’s cult following is admirable. In addition to A-Frame, Sunny Spot, and various other spots around LA, this year, the beloved Chego moved from its home in Palms to Chinatown. Chego’s indulgent rice bowls and ooey gooey cheesy fries are definitely worthy of the attention they receive.
2013: Year of Sqirl
Earlier this year Sqirl (yes, I’m sure I spelled that right) started as a cramped coffee shop with some small-batch goods in a random little area near Los Feliz/Silver Lake/who knows, where Jessica Koslow was basically cranking out some killer jams. Coffee makers G&B had a pop-up there for a while, which brought the obsession with the almond milk cappuccino. G&B then went on to open up their own shop on Larchmont, Go Get Em Tiger. Now, the shop has expanded (if only slightly) and has a menu full of healthy, gourmet breakfast and lunch dishes, like the Kokuho brown rice bowl with preserved meyer lemon, lacto fermented hot sauce (whatever that means), black radish, feta, and a fried egg on top. It’s so good that the LA Weekly restaurant critic gave it four stars, which is almost unheard of for such a low-key establishment. You go, Sqirl!
2013: Year of the Sandwich
I’m always on the hunt for a tasty sandwich. I wouldn’t say a Philly cheesesteak is something I regularly crave, but Boo’s, which opened it’s second location this year in Koreatown, I had to try it. I mean, look at. Definitely did not disappoint.
Fat Sal’s isn’t an entirely new phenomenon to LA, but this UCLA-area staple was clearly unknown to me since I try to avoid that area like the plague. But when I moved to Hollywood this year and found out there was a location to me, I had to get my hands on one of those gluttonous sandwiches. I give you, the Fat Texas BBQ, featuring BBQ pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon, grilled onions, melted cheddar and mozzarella, fries, mayo, and honey bbq, all on a garlic hero. I’m so serious right now.
Langer’s is not new either, but if you haven’t tried it, which I suspect many Angelenos have not (the same way New Yorkers have never been to the Statue of Liberty or something…yes, I did just liken this sandwich to a cultural landmark), then just go. Yes, it’s a $17 sandwich, but don’t question it. Just eat it.
2013: Year of the Pasta
I am definitely not complaining that homemade pasta restaurants are popping up all over town, although I do wish that people would stop being so stingy and offer up a decent portion size.
Factory Kitchen is a lovely warehouse-y space that opened in the Arts District of downtown a few months ago. I was able to go during its first week of operation to cover the opening for LA Weeky (shameless plug: http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2013/11/factory_kitchen_italian_pasta.php) The Paccheri (above) featured gragnano pasta with pork sausage, onion, and spicy tomato, passata, and the Mandilli de Seta (below) was a plate of billowy handkerchief pasta with almond basil pesto. *Cue motion of kissing my fingers and then spreading them out like an Italian chef*
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Maccheroni Republic is worth mentioning again. The most overlooked, underrated pasta in LA, for the most reasonable prices. I’m obsessed.
Tonight, I’m going to perhaps the hottest new pasta restaurant of the year, Bucato in Culver City, where they don’t technically allow photography of your food…rude. So, if I can sneak in a quick pic, I’ll add it to this list as well.
**Update: I was able to snap some quick shots at Bucato. A strong contender for best new LA restaurant this year. We ordered so much food I was actually in physical pain for a while after this meal because I just wanted to try everything. The pastas are all impeccably made in house, including the Cacio e Pepe, Tagliatelle with ragu bolognese, and I don’t even remember which other one we got it was all a blur.
2013: Year of the BBQ
I will say I only enjoyed one example of this, but LA had its BBQ moment this year, with new places opening constantly it seemed. Bludso’s sort of ushered in this movement, and while it is good, I am confident that there is plenty more delish BBQ I haven’t tried yet.